Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ratings System

This is a post I've been meaning to write for a while since I know everyone has a different view of what constitutes a specific number for a rating. Some people may consider a 6 good while others may consider it bad or mediocre. I did write a post like this a long time ago, but considering my husband may have very well been the only person who read this blog at the time, it's time for a new one. Also, I think I've been able to figure out which one means what to me better than back then. I think I will start linking to this post in each review in case anyone is wondering the basic idea behind the number given to a book.

To Rate or Not to Rate

One of the reasons I've put off writing this for so long is that in spite of the fact that I do use them, I think the contents of the review itself are far more useful and important than the rating. After all, tastes differ - I'm not (too) delusional and realize I'm not the sole authority on what makes a good book. Just because I liked or disliked a book does not mean you will have the same experience with it I did. So it's more important to read the specifics of the review and see if it sounds appealing to you or not.

There have been many posts on various blogs about why or why not to rate and a lot of people believe they are useless. Honestly, I can't say I disagree with any of the points that are brought up against using a numeric ratings system. They do vary because sometimes I am torn between whether or not to rate based on actual writing skill or how much I personally liked the book, and sometimes after some time passes, I may decide a book should have been one point lower or higher than what I gave it depending on how much it did or did not stick with me (which is one of the reasons I do the end of the year favorites list). Sometimes I do worry that some people put more emphasis on them than the review, and then I obsess over the number too much when it's not the most important component of the review.

In general, I now try to rate mostly based on what I thought of it just so people with similar taste can get a better overview of just how much I liked it (when this blog was in its early stages, I couldn't make up my mind so I did not always do it that way). I know that there are some reviewers whose taste is similar enough to mine that if I see they gave a book a rating of 9 or higher, I snap that book up and don't tend to be disappointed.

There have been a couple of times I've considered getting rid of ratings, but I've always decided to keep them for three reasons:

1) It's fun even if I do get neurotic about what to rate a book sometimes. I like seeing a general measurement of how much someone did or did not like a book when I visit other blogs.
2) I think it is helpful in cases of extreme ratings. For instance, if a book is rated 9 or 10 I really loved it no matter what quibbles I pointed out (and I do try to point out areas that others may have issues with even if I personally was not all that annoyed by them so sometimes I'm afraid of making it sound like I enjoyed a book far less than I did). That may not be useful to some people, but to others who tend to enjoy the books I really love, seeing a very high number may be.
3) If you do happen to find them useful, ratings are there. If not, you can always ignore them.

So that is my (rather long-winded) view on ratings. Essentially, I think they are subject to slight changes over time and not nearly as important as the written part of the review, but they may be helpful to some people if they are extreme enough.

Decoding the Numeric Ratings

Here is the basic logic behind what the numbers I give a book mean.

10 - This is without a doubt one of my very favorite books I have ever read. (I believe I have only given out two 10s - one to The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit by Storm Constantine and The Virtu by Sarah Monette.)

9 - Loved it.

8 - Great.

7 - Good. I consider 7 to be the average good book. It's one that I liked well enough to want to read more in the series/by the author but I'm not head-over-heels in love with it.

6 - Somewhat good. It had some good points but on its own it didn't make me want to read more in the series/by the author (which doesn't mean I won't, particularly if it is by an author who has written other books I've enjoyed - just the individual book didn't quite meet "average good" for me).

5 - It's ok. Can't say I liked it but can't say I actively disliked it either. (Since I tend to be able to see the good and bad points to most things, I give this one a lot more than a rating meaning I outright didn't like it.)

4. Slightly disliked it.

3. Didn't like it.

2. Hated it.

1. Despised it with every fiber of my being. (This is the only rating I have never given out.)

If I'm torn between two ratings, I rate it somewhere in the middle; i.e., 7.5 means pretty good, somewhere between good and great. Basically, if it's at least a 7, I thought it was worth spending time and money on.

So that's my view on ratings and why I use them even though I completely understand where the people who are dead set against using them are coming from. Hope that is helpful to at least some people!


hwm said...

I'm glad you stuck with ratings. For me it's an important tool for interpreting the review and comparing my tastes with those of the reviewer.

Cindy said...

I think ratings can work only if the reviewer and the reader know what scale the reviewer is using. Is the reviewer rating it compared to all their books or just in fantasy?

Another thing is the reviewer themselves have to be consistent in the scale they are using. And a lot of them aren't so it's sorta pointless. If it's consistent and the readers know what you are comparing it to then I don't see a problem with ratings.

I personally will never use rating systems, and I don't really look at others. I read the content of the reviews and that's it. If a reviewer is good then I should know if they liked the book or not without having a number to tell me. But in the end it's all what the reviewer is comfortable with and what they feel is best. If a reader doesn't like it they can either skip over it or find another blog they like ;)

Kristen said...

hwm - Thanks for the feedback - I'm glad you find the ratings useful. So many people talk about how useless they are that sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one who thinks they can be helpful.

Cindy - Thanks for stopping by. I understand what you mean and completely agree that the review itself is far more important since it lays out the good and bad of a book. Knowing just what they thought was good and bad about it is far more helpful. And those are good points about consistency and what you are comparing it to. I still like to see them for those books that are unusually highly rated so I keep them around even though there have been a few times I've been tempted to get rid of them. Like you said, it is easy enough for people to just ignore them if they don't find them useful, though.

orannia said...

Thank you Kristen. I must admit to also looking mainly at the content of a review, but the ratings do help (as long as the reviewer is consistent(, particularly because it means I can compare books :)

Kettricken said...

You make a very good and clear argument why your choice is to use ratings. I think I agree with every word in it.

I like ratings, mainly for the second argument you make in favour of rating books. It's the same reason I stuck with ratings on my (Dutch-language) blog. I usually
have some issues with a book, despite really loving it. A rating can give a good measurement of the
enjoyment I've had reading the book.

I do agree that content of review should always be more informative than a rating, and I always read content as well. I must admit, extreme ratings do make me read a review sooner than an average rating (esp. with books/authors still unknown to me).

Harry Markov said...

I have a problem with rating myself, because I am not good at weighing what annoyed me or not to make varied grades... But if you can do that, then that is so good. :)

Benjamin said...

Hey Kristen. Your rating system is pretty much an exact match for the one I use on my own blog (back when I still was blogging). I like ratings as they give a clear, concise number you look at quickly. I also admit I sometimes skim a review just to look at the rating. On the other hand, I understand how important it is to explain all your feelings beyond just using a number.

From reading your own reviews, I think you strike a very good balance all all aspects of a book review. :)

Mari - Escape In A Book said...

Hi Kristen! Just wanted to say hello, I discovered your blog today and I like what I see!

I like ratings as a supplement to the review.

Kristen said...

Orannia - I'm glad you find ratings at least somewhat helpful.

Kettricken - Thanks, I'm glad to hear someone else feels the same way about using ratings. And you're not alone on how you react to extreme ratings - sometimes when I don't have a lot of time to read everything in my feed reader, I might skim or skip over a review if the book isn't rated highly.

Harry - It is tough to do and I have to admit that in spite of trying I'm not always quite as consistent as I would like to be. One of the books on my favorites list was only rated 8 because although I really enjoyed it a lot, I had a couple of issues with it and thought it wouldn't actually stick with me for long after reading it. It turned out I was wrong and it ended up in my top 10 over higher rated books. And it kind of irritated me because I really do try to be consistent. ;)

Benjamin - Thank you very much! It really made my day to hear you thought I struck a good balance in book reviews. :) I'm glad to hear someone else say they like ratings, too. And I admit that when reading other reviews, I sometimes skim to the rating too and then read the whole review based on that.

Ladybug - Hello and thank you for your comment! Glad to hear you like what you see so far and hope you'll stop by again. :)