Five star ratings are becoming increasingly meaningless on Amazon and GoodReads.
Every writer loves five star reviews, and I’m certainly no exception. There’s no doubt, five star reviews sell books, but how accurate a measurement are they of a quality to be found in a story?
The problem is… how can you compare WOOL by Hugh Howey with THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA by Ernest Hemingway?
WOOL is a wonderful story and has proven popular to a wide readership, gaining a phenomenal 7000+ reviews, but it is yet to have the longevity or literary impact of the Old Man.
On the surface, WOOL is a better story than THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, but is that really the case? Or have we exposed how star ratings fail to adequately capture the essence of a book?
You see, the problem is we’re comparing apples and oranges. Both books are wonderful, but to make any kind of comparison between them is shortsighted. Ever tried orange pie?
The rating system on Amazon is structured like a footrace, ignoring the subtleties of literature.
I’d like to suggest we need an alternative means of rating books, one that perhaps runs in parallel with the star ratings, but one that categorizes content rather than judging enjoyment.
I’d recommend Amazon explores the possibility of developing a Briggs/Meyer style rating system where books are grouped by opposing characteristics, where no one characteristic is either good or bad. In this way, we can get honest representations of a book’s content. I’ll kick the discussion off with a few suggestions…
And then books that are AAA would be great for action/adventure, while DDD would be Proust, Hemingway, etc. In this way, people could match themselves with the writing styles they enjoy, and a five-star ABC book would not be confused with a five-star DDD, etc.
It may take a little more thought than clicking on a star, but if a reader really loves a story enough to leave a review, I think they’d like the opportunity express their estimation of the content accurately.
There is a world of difference between enjoying a book you read over the Christmas holidays and recognizing that a book transcends time and genre. Amazon’s current rating system doesn’t allow that distinction.
Come on, Amazon. Innovate!
PS: This doesn’t mean I don’t want reviews 🙂 Please, please, please leave honest reviews for everything you read regardless of the author. Your thoughts and opinions as a reader are invaluable to writers.