Why I Think Star Ratings Are Pretty Much Pointless

 

 

star-rating system

I think just about every book blogger & reviewer includes a star rating when writing reviews. I do too, but I have to admit: I think star ratings are almost pointless.

I get that they’re an easy way to show how much you enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) a particular book. Loved it? 5 stars. Thought it was the worst thing you ever read? 1 star. People can get a general idea of your thoughts by looking at a star rating.

The problem is that everyone uses ratings a different way.

I personally tend to give pretty high ratings. Almost everything I read is rated 3+ stars. A book that I found enjoyable and didn’t think had a ton of problems is generally 4 stars. It takes quite a bit for me to give a book 5 stars but it also takes a decent amount of flaws for me to give it less than 3.5 or 4 stars.

That’s how I personally rate books. But go to a different blogger and they’ll use star ratings completely differently.

There are people who almost never give a book 4 or 5 stars because for them, those ratings indicate a much higher quality than it does for me. A 4 star read for them is something that was really good, had great writing, kept them entertained throughout, but just lacked something that a 5 star book would have. It just means something different to them than it does to me. Even for the same reviewer, they may go back and forth on what a certain rating indicates.

Because of the fact that nearly everyone has a different way of using a rating system, I think it’s very difficult for that system to have any real value. If people can’t agree on a set of rules or criteria for a certain rating, how can it be used consistently and reliably? I don’t think it can.

Now, in the beginning I said I think the star rating system is pretty much pointless. It can be helpful. Once you get to know how a certain blogger uses it, it can be more meaningful for you. If you know a certain blogger tends to rate books pretty harshly, then when you see they’ve given a 4 or 5 star, you know that book is probably pretty damn good. Additionally, if you don’t have the time to read a full review, but still want to know what someone thought of a book, you can just skip to the rating and be done with it. So giving a star rating may not be completely pointless, even if it isn’t the best system.

I highly doubt that people are going to ever agree on what a specific star rating means but I also don’t think star ratings will ever stop being used. All in all, I think if you truly want to know what someone thought of the book, you should read the whole review rather than just relying on a star rating.


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17 thoughts on “Why I Think Star Ratings Are Pretty Much Pointless

  1. Great discussion! I totally agree that you need to read the whole review and not just go off someone’s star review. I do use them though. And I feel pretty confident about using a books Goodreads rating because it’s pooled from a large group. Great post!

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  2. I mean, all rating systems are pointless if you think about it that way. because ratings are always going to be subjective. reviews are going to be subjective. When you read a review, you’re not reading a definitive, absolute review of that book, you’re just reading someone’s thoughts on it. So a star rating isn’t pointless at all. Not unless you think any and all reviews are pointless, in which case, I can’t argue with you.

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    • I think it’s different for a simple star rating though. When I read a full review, yes it’s subjective, but I’m getting to see their actual thoughts on different aspects of the book and that can be incredibly helpful and will actually help me understand what about the book they did and did not like. But if I just look at a star rating, it’s a lot harder to know for sure what that person thinks because as I said, a 3 star review for one person could mean a book was really good but for another person mean it was okay, but nothing great. Fleshing out your thoughts in a full review is a lot more helpful in my opinion.

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      • Well, obviously something more detailed is going to be more helpful. But that rings true for any kind of rating system. And the GR system is a pretty good one, since every star has a label attached to it (I liked it, I loved it, it was awesome, it was okay, I did not like it). So you know, as far as rating systems go, it’s as good one. But yeah, I mean whatever rating system you would devise would still have this problem.

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      • Oh I know any rating system would have the same issues. Trust me, I’m not clever enough to even try to come up with a different one haha It’s just something that annoys me a bit so I figured I’d write a post about it. 🙂 I do agree that it’s a lot better when a website labels what each rating means. Goodreads and Amazon both do that and I find it quite helpful. But when it comes to people’s blogs, what a particular rating means is a lot more variable so I tend to just ignore it and focus on their actual review.

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  3. I completely agree with you. That was the reason I decided to either Rant or Rave about a book. I also tend to rate 3 stars and up on Goodreads and Amazon. I’ve only given one book 2 stars and 1 star for all three 50 Shades books, but I also feel they earned that one star. I just want to know if the person would recommend the book or not. I can tell how much they liked it by their review. Good idea for a post. I often read reviews and wonder about the star ratings. I also find them pointless.

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  4. Completely understand what you mean. It’s sort of why I put my star rating right at the end of my reviews. My review will (obviously) explain my thoughts, and by the time you read it all, then you’ll know how I got my rating. I also have a little chart in my sidebar (on laptop, at least) that quickly sums up how I use my star ratings, so people will know quickly what they mean to me. But like you said, they’re a quick way to judge how good a book is!

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