The Problem with Star Rating Scales on Book Review Sites

Are star ratings arbitrary?

I think they are.  I have a feeling that many folks have their own idea of what the star rating scale represents when they assign a score to a book.  I think they do this regardless of the metric values of the review service they’re using and I think it’s because of two things.  First, the review services don’t agree on the rating scale.  Second, those services/sites don’t make the values of that star rating scale immediately obvious.

For example, here’s the scale from Amazon.com:
1 star: I hate it
2 stars: I don’t like it
3 stars: It’s OK
4 stars: I like it
5 stars: I love it

But here’s the scale from GoodReads.com:
1 star: didn’t like it
2 stars: it was OK
3 stars: liked it
4 stars: really liked it
5 stars: it was amazing

These are vastly different scoring systems!

What do I do when I score a book? I don’t even pay attention to each sites established scale because it requires more consideration than I want to give. Plus, I believe that a significant portion of the people scoring the books are doing it without regard for the sites supposedly accepted and established scale. I think it’s arbitrary.

When I score a book, it’s far more simple and very personal. If I loved the book and would shout that from the rooftops to anyone who will listen— regardless of topic or genre, that’s 5 stars. If I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it to friends who have an interest in the subject matter or that specific genre but I don’t feel that it fits my criteria for 5 stars, it gets 4 stars. If I liked it but don’t feel inspired to comment on it or share my feelings with friends, family, or the interweb, I’ll go with 3 stars. If the book doesn’t warrant 3 stars, it would need it to really irritate me or wrong me in some way before I will rate or review it at all. The old adage applies: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all…

What do you do? Are you a stickler for following the accepted rules for each service/site? Do you score your reads the same across Amazon and GoodReads (if so, which scale do you use)? Or do you have your own personal scoring system? Do you think I’m a heretic and wrecking the establishment with my maverick methods? Please, share your thoughts!

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