Skip to Content

September 2014

Star-Speak: What Those Amazon Stars Mean To Me

At long last, I finally got around to reviewing a few of the many books on Amazon that various writers I follow on Twitter have written. For some, I know why I bought the book. For others it was just a whim. They cover a variety of genres, from chick-lit to fantasy, from scifi to how-to's, and even some true-story-based fiction. Some are books I never would have read because of their genre but enjoyed anyway, and some were of the genres I adore most and, well, I didn't enjoy. Writing what I thought about the books was fairly easy. What wasn't easy was choosing the all-important star-rating I was required to give them.
 
I really don't like what those stars are supposed to mean in Amazon-speak. I mean, I guess I see what they tried to do. I would sum up "how I felt about this widget" with only five choices rather like schooling grades:
 

1 = fail     2 = poor     3 = average     4 = good     5 = great

 
But Amazon, at least when it comes to books (I've never bought anything else from them to review) has for their meanings of the stars the following:
 

1 = I hate it     2 = I don't like it     3 = It's okay     4 = I like it     5 = I love it

 
For books, these just don't work for me.
 
Gold starFirst of all, "hate" is a pretty powerful word that is difficult not to take personally. I don't think I've ever hated a book in my life. What did it ever do to me? I may not have enjoyed the story, but there are very few books I disliked so much that I never even finished reading them. (Oddly, they tend to be either great classics or otherwise traditionally admired stories by famous authors, for which many others might be dropping their jaws in amazement at my lack of recognition of their prowess.) Second of all, just because I love a book doesn't mean it's good. I've loved some terribly flawed books in my past, and was surprised to discover just how flawed they were once I started writing.
 
So I came up with my own star-system. Here is how I break down what those five all-important stars mean to me. Because this is my own system, I'll have to start noting these explanations in my reviews.
 
1 - It was so awful, I finished it just to see how bad it was.
2 - I tried but just couldn't finish it because I didn't care for the characters.
3 - I enjoyed it enough to get through it, but won't read anything else by this author.
4 - I enjoyed it and will buy other books by this author.
5 - I couldn't put it down, would read it again, and will definitely read other books by this author.
 
I know, having the "I couldn't finish it" rating more stars than "it was so awful" seems backwards, but as a writer I try to make every reading experience a learning experience as well. My 'one star' review is rather equal to watching a train wreck in slow motion. I'm afraid, but I just can't look away!
 
Do you like the system Amazon uses to explain what the stars mean? If not, how would you break them down?