The Sword and Laser discussion

312 views
On book reviews: Is Goodreads that bad?

Comments (showing 1-50 of 118) (118 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1 3

message 1: by Silvana (last edited Aug 27, 2017 12:01AM) (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) | 895 comments This is a continuation of a discussion at the Quick Burns thread, since in this following article http://www.pajiba.com/book_reviews/di... there is a bad stigma for Goodreads as being unreliable when it comes to reviews.

I know reviews can be very subjective, fake/fabricated, uninformed, full with annoying gifs (for some), and people here can even rate books even though they have not read them. I stopped relying on ratings years ago, but not on certain reviews from many, abundant users who I know are reliable and/or have similar tastes. However, after reading that article and listening to a recent (?) interview with John Kessel whose wife (also an author) warned him not to check Goodreads reviews on his latest moon book, I became curious.

Is Goodreads really that bad? In comparison with other user-based review sites (Amazon? what else?) Are authors really encouraged not to check GR reviews? How bad is the site perceived by the publishing world?


message 2: by Lena (new)

Lena I enjoy gif reviews and often include them in my reviews. Like you I place more stick in my GR friends opinions on books than on ratings and reviews in general above rating.

I prefer longer reviews where people state specifically why they liked or disliked the book. It was awesome!/It sucked! doesn't help me much.


message 3: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (JohnTaloni) | 2533 comments Amazon will delete reviews if you're connected on Facebook, which many authors are with their fans. Both Amazon and Goodreads allow reviews from people who haven't read the book, which allows both well-meaning (and wrong) upvoting and malicious downvoting. Paying for reviews happens on the amateur side with small sums for generic reviews, and on the pro side with spiffs and gifts for positive reviews. I read the description and pay little attention to the number.

I'm also lucky in that I know which older authors I like (although I've largely read their entire oeuvre) and routinely harvest newer authors right out of the "What are you reading" thread right here on good ol' S&L.


message 4: by Dean (new)

Dean | 3 comments I agree with Lena above; generally it pays off to be critical when you read a review. And I usually like to compare good--bad reviews of a book to see what people liked/disliked about it and see if it suits my taste--or whether I have an accurate (more or less) idea about what the book is about (I quite like goodreads and amazon since they have a lot of reviews to sample for that reason). Also, some of the bad reviews out there are hilarious ; )


message 5: by David (new)

David H. (farrakut) | 719 comments Are we sure we're not misreading the Pajiba article?

The two lines say: "The book currently has 9 Goodreads reviews, all of which are 5 stars and some of which are duplicates. If you know anything about Goodreads, you’ll already hear the bullshit alarm."

I considered the article to be warning about the particular types of reviews for this book (i.e. these reviews look fake, bad pattern of reviews, etc.).


message 6: by Rick (last edited Aug 26, 2017 10:33PM) (new)

Rick | 2117 comments Authors... they shouldn't check review sites (GR or other) unless they can deal with the fact that some people won't like their books and some of those people won't be 'fair'. And they shouldn't reply.

On review quality - I find that 1 and 5 star reviews are usually not worth much. Five star reviews are too uncritical (things like 'the best SF book I've ever read!!!") and 1 star reviews usually are irrationally negative ("I hated every word and this author can't write at all... "). I check 2 star reviews to see if things that those people disliked are things that also bother me.

I wish GR wouldn't allow reviews from before the book is published or even ratings. However, I don't see how they can know programmatically if someone read the book or not.

PS: All reviews are subjective and the scores really don't mean anything - the problem is that people are terrible at using them in the same fashion so one person's 2 star might match the official GR use (it's OK) but another person might mean "not reccomended." And then there are the people whose review praises a book highly and gives it 3 stars.


message 7: by Silvana (last edited Aug 27, 2017 12:04AM) (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) | 895 comments David wrote: "Are we sure we're not misreading the Pajiba article?

The two lines say: "The book currently has 9 Goodreads reviews, all of which are 5 stars and some of which are duplicates. If you know anything..."


Yes, those too!

Is the GR-is-bad stigma is only about fake reviews etc or quality of reviews in general? Or both? As in the case of Kessel's wife's concern on GR (I think it is less about fake reviews and more on bad reviews), why there is a sense of dread from authors/whoever?


message 8: by Imbunche (new)

Imbunche | 12 comments I often check out Goodreads reviews if I'm not sure a book is worth reading, and I don't really think they are bad reviews. Of course it's not a place to find professional reviews, but I usually read a couple of high rating reviews and a couple of low rating reviews (of course one's that say more than it was awsome/it was terrible) and draw my conclusion of whether it's a book for me or not from there. Usually it works out fine for me.


message 9: by Sanasai (new)

Sanasai | 74 comments I'm with David here, I believed it was saying that if you're experienced goodreads user, you'll instantly spot that this review pattern does not match what you would expect from a book that has sold enough actual copies to have made it honestly to the top of the NYT best seller list.

9 reviews says almost no one has heard of this book.

Duplicate text between reviews says some of those were written by the same person who was too lazy to even do a good job of pretending to be different people.

By comparison, the book it temporarily bumped in front of, The Hate U Give, has over 40k ratings, over 9k reviews, and while it skews heavily toward the top end of ratings, there are numerous 1, 2, and 3 stars. This is a book that is being bought, read, and reviewed like one we might expect to see on the list.


message 10: by Bill (new)

Bill | 72 comments I never read reviews before reading a book. If I remember after reading a book I will read some friends reviews to see what they thought. This happens very rarely. I'm much more likely to pick up a book based on what people I interact with say in different group threads.


message 11: by Allison (new)

Allison Hurd | 191 comments I think there's some give and take to GR reviews in particular. Because it is a combination organizational tool and social media platform, Goodreads I think tends to see more ratings/reviews than say Amazon, but they tend to conform less to the rating systems outlined on the site (for example I've known people to 5 star books they really want to read even though they haven't read them yet, and then adjust later. Or who rate only the sneak peak and then shelve books that pique their interest, etc.) So I think the number of people who've marked the book read mean more on GR, and the actual ratings are likely a little more consistent on Amazon.

But I agree that GR users are likely a bit more sophisticated than the average bear in being able to determine how biased or honest a review/rating seems.


message 12: by Curt (new)

Curt Eskridge | 90 comments Knowing your reviewers is important. In the old days of Siskel and Ebert reviewing films i knew that there were types of movies i would like better if one of them hated it and one loved it.

Number reviews are what they are. I read the two, three and four star reviews on AZ/Goodreads if I am iffy on something. The ones and fives are just too extreme.


message 13: by Lena (new)

Lena I also check the reviewers profile. If their average rating is over four stars then I disregard everything they say because they are too easily pleased. A lot of authors have numbers like that.


message 14: by Rick (last edited Aug 27, 2017 10:12AM) (new)

Rick | 2117 comments A key thing here is to follow people if you seem to agree with them a lot (and if they review or rate a lot). Fakes aren't an issue for me in that I disregard 5 star reviews and most fake positives are too stupid to use 4 stars. Same for fake negatives - they're 1 star people.

Lena wrote: "I also check the reviewers profile. If their average rating is over four stars then I disregard everything they say because they are too easily pleased. A lot of authors have numbers like that."

I'd agree with this, but they have to have rated enough books (rating 5 books isn't a good sample). My average is just under 4 but that's because of how I rate (to me 3 stars is OK, 2 is not good, 1 is avoid) since that seems more in line with how people here really rate vs the definitions GR uses. Also, I don't read a lot of unknown authors or books so I tend not to have many 2 stars which skews things.

Finally, I'd LOVE a way to exclude rating only reviews (reviews with a star rating but no written comments). I do this but honestly I think it's far less informative and says something about the seriousness of the rating.


message 15: by Rob, Roberator (new)

Rob (robzak) | 5139 comments Mod
I find the Goodreads compare my ratings feature useful when deciding how much to trust the review of someone you don't know. In general though I put more weight on people I already know whose opinion I trust.


message 16: by Tal (new)

Tal M. Klein (talmklein) | 8 comments As an author I take more issue with the star rating system than the quality of reviews. If someone goes through the effort of writing up their thoughts in a thoughtful, coherent manner, even if it's a bad review, I'm fine with it. I just hate that someone who may not like my book's cover or my ethnicity is just one ⭐️ review away from lowering my book's score.

Also, what I like about Amazon vs Goodreads is the "Verified purchase" filter.


message 17: by Mark (new)

Mark Lawrence (MarkLawrence) | 12 comments Lena wrote: "I also check the reviewers profile. If their average rating is over four stars then I disregard everything they say because they are too easily pleased. A lot of authors have numbers like that."

A lot of authors only review the books that please them, to avoid backlash from outraged "fans" of the books that don't. It doesn't necessarily mean they over rate the books they do review, just that the ones they didn't like aren't present to lower the average.


message 18: by Lena (last edited Aug 27, 2017 10:15AM) (new)

Lena "Verified Purchase"

By that you mean, have made your Sacrifice to Godmazon?


message 19: by Tal (new)

Tal M. Klein (talmklein) | 8 comments I'm not saying "verified purchase" should be mandatory prerequisite for review, merely that it's useful as a filter.


message 20: by Brendan (new)

Brendan (mistershine) | 904 comments Rob wrote: "I find the Goodreads compare my ratings feature useful when deciding how much to trust the review of someone you don't know. In general though I put more weight on people I already know whose opini..."

The Compare button is great and the only useful thing about goodreads reviews.


message 21: by Rob, Roberator (last edited Aug 27, 2017 10:50AM) (new)

Rob (robzak) | 5139 comments Mod
The value of reviews are always going to vary from person to person.

Personally, I write reviews for myself.

I've been fortunate to have built up a small following on goodreads, and I share my reviews in a few different clubs as I post them, but I don't have the sort of popularity of any of the top reviewers on the site.

I was surprised to find I got a bunch of new followers because someone had mentioned me on Reddit, in particular because I listen to so many audiobooks and make it a point to review the narrator.

All of that has been great, and it's always nice to see someone find my reviews useful. But it's all bonus as far as I'm concerned.

There are so many places to see book reviews these days. Some of my friends have gone so far as to making their own book blogs, but I stick to goodreads because of the variety of other features they provide.

That and it's way easier to follow someone here and see new reviews pop up in your feed than it is to go to a bunch of separate book blogs to read reviews.


message 22: by Rick (new)

Rick | 2117 comments Lena wrote: ""Verified Purchase"

By that you mean, have made your Sacrifice to Godmazon?"


God I hate gifs... Now I have to watch that thing every time I see this page...


message 23: by Lena (new)

Lena Lol, love them.


message 24: by Trike (new)

Trike | 4667 comments Is there a way to see a reviewer's aggregate ratings? Or are you just looking at the list sorted by rating?


message 25: by Lena (new)

Lena


message 26: by David (new)

David (davidh219) Every review platform open to the public is going to have problems, obviously, but goodreads is the best as far as I've seen. Amazon reviews are completely and utterly worthless. Two reasons. One is that, for however much people like to whine about goodreads reviews filled with gifs, at least this is a site full of book lovers. The average goodreads review is far smarter and more discerning than the average amazon book review, including goodreads reviews full of gifs (which isn't necessarily mutually exclusive with intelligence anyway). Second reason is that amazon reviews are like 100x more likely to be paid for, as it's the direct point of purchase. I have some behind the scenes knowledge in this regard as I briefly was a paid reviewer when younger (I'm sorry, don't hate me). If this is the thing you're worried about, amazon is definitely not your solution.

The only thing you could do is use one of the goodreads-like sites that are less popular, but less popularity has it's own problems (fewer reviews due to smaller user base, more obscure books unlikely to have been added to the database meaning more work for you if you want them on your shelves, more likely to get shut down one day, etc.) Also personally I've tried them all and don't care for any of their designs. Goodreads I just find very intuitive to use.

I like goodreads reviews in general. There are a lot of smart people on here writing very helpful reviews that are often entertaining in their own right. I find like 90% of the books I read through this site just by seeing what it recommends me or what my friends or reviewers I'm following are reading, and then reading like 10-15 reviews to get a sense of what people do and don't like about the book.


message 27: by Trike (new)

Trike | 4667 comments Ah, thanks Lena. Apparently I don't go to people's front pages much, I just go straight to the reviews they link, then on to their book lists.

Clearly I am using Goodreads completely incorrectly, and I'm also not writing enough fake reviews. I ned to get with it and hip!


message 28: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 755 comments Several authors have said they have a policy of not posting a review if their rating would be less than four stars, because they'd feel like they were "punching down." So it doesn't mean they're too easily pleased, just selective about what they post.

And I agree that the original article didn't say anything bad about Goodreads, just about the pattern in the fake reviews. Nine reviews, all five stars, several dupes for a real book that's on the bestseller list? Not in a million years.

Don't know about the John Kessel thing.


message 29: by Rob, Roberator (new)

Rob (robzak) | 5139 comments Mod
Trike wrote: "Ah, thanks Lena. Apparently I don't go to people's front pages much, I just go straight to the reviews they link, then on to their book lists.

Clearly I am using Goodreads completely incorrectly, ..."


If you click on that part of the link it gives you stats (count/percentage) of their ratings as well.


message 30: by Trike (new)

Trike | 4667 comments Rob wrote: "If you click on that part of the link it gives you stats (count/percentage) of their ratings as well. "

Ooh, neat. It's so... quanty! Thanks. :)

I really should click more things, obviously.

::: runs off to click all the things :::


message 31: by Trike (new)

Trike | 4667 comments I am a tough but fair grader, it seems.


message 32: by Lena (new)

Lena Trike wrote: "I am a tough but fair grader, it seems."

I was just about to call you a tough cookie!


message 33: by Rob, Roberator (new)

Rob (robzak) | 5139 comments Mod
I've found that the last years my ratings have skewed upwards. I'm very stingy with 5 star ratings, but I'm even stingier with 1 star ratings. In fact I've only given 1 book that rating. I probably should re-evaluate a few of my 2 stars books, but In general I have to really hate a book to find no value in it at all.

I think the main reason for my ratings skewing upwards though are that I'm better informed before picking up a book, and tend to enjoy the stuff I read more frequently than in the past where I'd just pick something up because the cover caught my eye or the blurb sounded interested.

I think that's mainly due to Good Reads.


message 34: by Joseph (last edited Aug 28, 2017 06:51AM) (new)

Joseph | 1853 comments I just checked and my average is currently sitting at 3.98. But that's because I'm not a paid professional reviewer who gets a set of books and has to review all of them -- I read for my pleasure, so I'm naturally going to be doing a lot of self-selection and if something looks like it'll turn out to be a 1- or 2-star review, I probably won't even start reading it, barring some very specific scenarios.

(edited to add: The best way to evaluate a reviewer, for me at least, is to check their reviews for books I've read and see how their opinions stack up to my own, and how well they're expressed.)


message 35: by Silvana (last edited Aug 28, 2017 07:46AM) (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) | 895 comments Yep, history of the reviewers, how they write the reviews, interests, and I think mileage too, should be taken into account.

Serendi wrote: "Several authors have said they have a policy of not posting a review if their rating would be less than four stars, because they'd feel like they were "punching down." So it doesn't mean they're to..."

I heard the interview at Coode Street Podcast, he was promoting this book The Moon and the Other (which I think really fascinating and should be a future S&L pick *wink wink*). His wife is Therese Anne Fowler who might have bad experiences/know someone with bad experiences with Goodreads reviews/reviewers.

Mark wrote: "Lena wrote: "I also check the reviewers profile. If their average rating is over four stars then I disregard everything they say because they are too easily pleased. A lot of authors have numbers l..."

Tal wrote: "As an author I take more issue with the star rating system than the quality of reviews. If someone goes through the effort of writing up their thoughts in a thoughtful, coherent manner, even if it'..."

Good points. I see the rating system can be really confusing, as also raised by previous commenters. Not everyone can conform with the classification given by GR.

I do know follow some users (e.g. BookRiot) who do not give rating but gives reviews. Therefore you need to read what's it about.

Anyway, I just feel sad that authors feel they don't have the right to vote freely, but that's another topic.

Trike wrote: "I am a tough but fair grader, it seems."

You are. I am reminded of a friend here, whose four stars are sooo rare it would create an uproar among her friends. Mine stands at 3.29 and I do give lots of five stars.


message 36: by Silvana (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) | 895 comments So, where do authors go when they want to check reviews (assuming they are curious)? Look for the professional ones like in the media? Trusted reviewers with book blogs? Any priority sources?


message 37: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (SeanOHara) | 2334 comments The problem with Goodreads (and pretty much every site that lets Joe and Jane Reader post their own reviews) is that a lot of people default to 5-stars, and only go lower if the book did something to irk them. You end up with people giving the same rating to a perfectly average beach read as a work of great literature.

What people should do is make 3-stars their baseline. Every book starts out with that, and the author has to go above-and-beyond to earn a fourth. 5? It should be one of the best books you've ever read. And contrariwise for ratings under 3-stars.


message 38: by Lena (new)

Lena No. I don't do it that way. I will give out best of genre five stars. If I think it's the best of beach reads, the best of erotica, the best of military science fiction, the best of high fantasy etc. I do not compare every book I read to Lonesome Dove. I make this clear in all my reviews - why the book got the stars it got.


message 39: by Phil (last edited Aug 28, 2017 11:07AM) (new)

Phil | 979 comments Yeah, a "beach read" can get 5 stars from me if it made me happy to have read it, I stayed up way too late to finish it and/or I immediately recommend it to friends.
The reviews I don't trust are the ones for YA books. If a 14 year old reads a book that has ideas they've never seen before it becomes "THE BEST BOOK I'VE EVER READ!!!". Even 10 or 20 years later it'll still be "the book that changed my life!!!". I call this the Eragon effect.


message 40: by Rick (last edited Aug 28, 2017 11:10AM) (new)

Rick | 2117 comments Sean points out another reason star ratings are useless in consumer reviews. Aside from the issue of people meaning different things with each star level they rate differently. Some start at 5 and remove stars. Some start at 1 and add them. Some pull stars out of thin air (as in "Yeah, I think this is about 4 stars..." while others have a rigorous system.

Then there's Lena's issue vs others - she compares within genre. Others compare across genres.

Really, I want a review site that does what Ars Technica (https://arstechnica.com) does with comments - you can up vote and downvote and readers see the number of each and the current score (so 5 up votes and 4 down votes would result in a score of 1 and would show as "(+5/-4/1)".

Because really, do you CARE if I like a book as a 4 star or 5 star? IF you want my opinion of the book it's really at two levels. First, "Does Rick think this is worth reading?" and second "What does he like and dislike about this book?" For the second point, you have to read the review. For the first, you don't need a graduated scale, you just need a Yes/No choice. "Yes, I think you should read this. No, I do not."


message 41: by Trike (new)

Trike | 4667 comments Yeah, art is pass/fail for me, too. I give stars because I like the relativism within certain parameters, but those are personal criteria for me.

I used to have this exact argument with a film critic I worked with. He would try to grade movies against some kind of platonic ideal, but you simply can't compare The Goofy Movie with Citizen Kane. They have different goals and vastly different target demographics.

Comparing The Lorax to Silent Spring is an impossible task, despite the fact they both share a pro-environment message and serve as a warning against pollution and over-consumption. I mean, come on, Silent Spring has no fun cartoons in it at all!


message 42: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (SeanOHara) | 2334 comments Phil wrote: "Yeah, a "beach read" can get 5 stars from me if it made me happy to have read it, I stayed up way too late to finish it and/or I immediately recommend it to friends."

What you're describing is a four star book for me. An author should have to work at least twice as hard to earn that last star. (Personally I think the system should be asymptotic -- no book actually deserves five stars, and going from 4.5 to 4.6 stars should be twice the leap as 4.4 to 4.5.)


message 43: by Allison (new)

Allison Hurd | 191 comments Sean wrote: "Phil wrote: "Yeah, a "beach read" can get 5 stars from me if it made me happy to have read it, I stayed up way too late to finish it and/or I immediately recommend it to friends."

What you're desc..."


You would very much like the old school French grading system then, I think. Everything's out of 20 points, and the best you can ever get is 19/20 "because only God is perfect" ;-) Which, as you might guess mean most of us mere mortals didn't actually get to 19, either. They must have been using similar math to yours. :-)


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2273 comments It's rare for me to give a book 5 stars, but I recently gave 5 to When Dimple Met Rishi because it was perfect candy in the candy YA genre.

I don't really care what people's rating scales are but if they rate something low I expect to see why in their review. What they hate might be something I love, and vice versa. What I get sick of are the gif-laden overly effusive reviews from people who seem paid to review pre-published books, and they are not teenagers but rather women older than me. Ugh. Unfollow.


message 45: by Rob, Roberator (new)

Rob (robzak) | 5139 comments Mod
Yeah, personally any reviews with gifs in them are an instant no for me. But they obviously seem popular, so I guess some folks like them.


message 46: by Joseph (new)

Joseph | 1853 comments I don't think I've ever used a gif in a review, although once I did include a couple of static images from Thundarr the Barbarian.


message 47: by Poonam (new)

Poonam | 17 comments I'm definitely a lazy reviewer (only rating) and a lazy consumer of reviews on goodreads. I guess my reviews tend to me more for my own remembering to tell other people.

In terms of reading reviews, I look at the rating+the number of rating. What's a 4+ star rating with 100 reviewers? Not much to me. Doing it this way helps decode on which not mainstream books might be wortht consuming. Other wise word of mouth, whether in person or in groups on goodreads is what really drives what I'll end up reading. So many books, too little time


message 48: by AndrewP (new)

AndrewP (AndrewCa) | 2143 comments Sean wrote: "What people should do is make 3-stars their baseline. Every book starts out with that, and the author has to go above-and-beyond to earn a fourth. 5? It should be one of the best books you've ever read. And contrariwise for ratings under 3-stars. ."

That's exactly what I do and my Goodreads average comes out at 3.32 with 1228 ratings and 883 reviews. I think most people should average above a 3 because we tend to read books by authors we like. If I only read books picked at random by a bookclub, then I think my average would probably be much lower. When I get time I will test that theory by taking an average of just S&L picks. There have been a couple of 4s and 5s there but also a lot of 2s.


message 49: by David (new)

David H. (farrakut) | 719 comments I've never been a fan of number ratings, and (no offense!) it makes me roll my eyes when people want to move to 10 stars or to decimal ratings. ("This book is really a 3.4, but this one is 3.7!") Why try to rate so granularly?

Goodreads' own star ratings have specific statements associated with them: 1 (did not like it); 2 (it was OK); 3 (liked it) ; 4 (really liked it); and 5 (it was amazing).

And those statements are what I try to think about when I try to rate things because (in my mind) books are things to rate qualitatively, not quantitatively.

Everything I rate is tend to rate it from a perspective of "did I enjoy it?" That's why Ready Player One ended up being a 5-star book for me--when I read it, I had a great time. Is it an objectively great book? Yeah, probably not, but I'm rating my experience and that's all I'm doing.


message 50: by Trike (last edited Aug 29, 2017 09:08AM) (new)

Trike | 4667 comments Ready Player One is a really good example. It's super dumb and wildly implausible, existing purely as a vehicle for 80s pop culture nostalgia. But as I've said a few times, hating the book for that reason is like hating cotton candy for not being nutritious. So for me it's a 3-star book, because it fulfilled its cotton candy mandate well.

I just watched Kong: Skull Island last night and I liked it for the same reason: it's a giant monster movie that showed giant monsters. That's a solid three stars. As opposed to Godzilla, which refused to show Godzilla. Your movie is already silly because of the concept, so lean into it.


« previous 1 3
back to top