September 23, 2013

Read. Review. Rate?


So, I was recently talking with Cass about how we rated books, what ratings meant to us, and the advantages/disadvantages of having a rating system. As a result of that conversation, she wrote an excellent discussion post on those tricky 3 star ratings. It's a number that means different things to every reader! I encourage you to check out her thoughts and the responses for some insight into how this simple number can be interpreted in so many different ways.

To Rate Or Not To Rate?

I've never used an official rating system on So Obsessed With, but I've debated it for months. As a blog reader, I love when there is a rating system. With one quick glance, I can get an overall impression of how the blogger feels about the book. Then, I read the full review with that knowledge to inform my reading of their review. 

How so? Well, I've noticed that sometimes in a review a blogger might spend a paragraph talking about what they didn't like in a book and yet they've still given it 4 stars. That helps me because I'm able to tell that what they disliked didn't really detract too much from their overall enjoyment of the book. 

My Problem With Stars

Once I realized how often I refer to the ratings on blogs, I realized that I wanted to incorporate something like that into my reviews. I use ratings on Goodreads, but I honestly hate being restricted to a 5 star system. At least let me use half stars! 

Even then, I struggle with stars because they don't necessarily convey everything I want them to convey. For example, I gave Les Miserables 3 stars and Vampire Academy 4 stars on Goodreads. Does that mean I think that Vampire Academy is a better piece of literature than Les Miserables? Or does it just mean I liked it more? For me, it's the latter. But that's not how everyone views stars! So, with that, I've always shied away from using a star-based rating system.

The Wide World of Ratings

But... there are other options. Three of my FAVORITE blogs use a rating system that doesn't involve stars AND is personal and unique to the way they read and review. It's one of the things I've come to love about each blog. I know what to expect with each review, and I'm easily able to get a general sense for how they felt about a book. Take a look:


Books With Cass:

• Uses a letter grade scale
• Includes a descriptive phrase
• +/- system allows for the equivalent for ".5 stars"


Book Rock Betty:

• Uses a shelf scale with six options
• Description indicates where she'd put a book on her shelves
• Rating describes her feelings/emotional attachment to a book


Rather Be Reading:

Uses an action verb scale with four options
Description indicates what action the reader should take (buy it, borrow it, etc.)
• Rating essentially tells you whether a book is worth the investment

See what I mean? I just love how unique the ratings are to each of them, but I also know that an A from Cassie is like getting a Top Shelf from Betty. And a Buy It from Magan or Estelle? Well, on the other blogs, that book would be Fireboxed or getting an A+. The rating is different, but it still conveys a similar sentiment to me. There's no confusion over whether a certain book is BETTER than other. It's all just a matter of their personal reaction to the book.

The Scale of Obsession

So, that led me to brainstorm how I could incorporate what I loved from the other blogs into my own personal rating system. That's when it hit me - the name of my blog is in and of itself a rating! If I ADORE a book, you better believe that means I'm so obsessed with it. So, I decided to come up with a rating system based on that phrasing device.

I knew a wanted six options for a "rating." Why? Well, for me, my rating for a book I disliked is pretty clearly a 1 or a 2. I don't think I've ever felt the need to give a book 1.5 stars. But books I liked? That's trickier! I often wish I could give out 3.5 or 4.5 stars in the Goodreads system. There's more variation in how much I liked a book than there is in how much I disliked it.

So, here's what you'll now be seeing at the bottom of reviews on So Obsessed With:

I didn't hate it, but I came pretty close. My feelings for the book overall were pretty negative.
Not Recommended / Equivalent to 1 Star

By the end of the book, I was ready to be done. I disliked more than I liked in the book.
Not Likely to Recommend / Equivalent to 2 Star

This book was just okay. To be honest, I don't have strong feelings about it one way or the other.
Might Recommend / Equivalent to 3 Star

I liked reading this book! I may have had a few issues with it, but my feelings are mostly positive.
Probably Recommend / Equivalent to 3.5 Star

I really liked this book! It was an enjoyable read - so much so that I'd even read it again!
Likely Recommend / Equivalent to 4 Star

This book was a great read! It was almost perfect, and I would definitely say it's a new favorite.
Recommend / Equivalent to 4.5 Star

I can't get this book out of my brain! I loved everything about it, and I want everyone to know it.
Highly Recommend / Equivalent to 5 Star

As a reader, do you care about ratings?
As a blogger, do you ever struggle with ratings?
And what do you think about my new rating system?

26 comments:

  1. I actually do care about ratings when reading blogs but I know that everyone has their own opinions on what rating styles are and I don't love the "star" system.

    My struggle with rating things is constant... Between what Cass was saying over on her blog and this, I've been thinking about it even more. For now I have a "bottom line" which basically is just a simple sentence or two about why I would or wouldn't recommend a book. I'm not sure how efficient it is yet but I guess it's worked for me.

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this rating system. So adorable and FITTING to your blog! It really lets your personality and opinion shine!

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  2. Your rating system is fantastic!

    I do care about ratings. I refer to other bloggers' rating a lot when deciding what to read next. I do feel like too much emphasis can be put on the "star rating" of a book, though. Reviews are, after all, our opinions. A three-star rating could mean something wildly different to one blogger than it does another!

    Right now, I use a rating scale of 0-100%, based on the average of 5 different factors. It's not perfect, and I'm still playing with it a little bit, but for now, I'm happy with it!

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  3. I like your rating system - although I wouldn't really be able to differentiate between so liked it, and so enjoyed it just by looking at the graphic. I don't use a rating system myself - one less thing to stress about in my opinion. But my favorites have been the buy it/ borrow it type.

    Tanya Patrice
    Girlxoxo.com

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  4. Excellent rating system!! I ended up changing mine a while back too. I started out with stars but I realized that my star ratings didn't jive up with Goodreads or really anyone else's haha! So I did something which actually turns out to be similar to Rather Be Reading. Since my blog is all about being a "book addict", I decided to judge my ratings on how I would recommend them and my personal "buying" opinion. It's so much nicer having words instead of numbers! I think it's a lot easier for people to understand my feelings that way.
    Lovely post!

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  5. I love your new rating scale idea. I have been a fan of Rather Be Reading's Buy It/Borrow It because that is how I usually think about books. Should I spend the money myself? or wait for someone I know to buy it then steal it from them? I agree that stars can leave something to be desired that's why I try to get in all my key decision making points within the base of my review and just have the stars as a final line. I have considered the letter grading scale for my own blog but since Goodreads and Amazon both use stars I have found it is easier to just keep them consistent for now.
    You mentioned how you ranked VA over Les Mes and I cannot agree with that sentiment enough! I get crap from people a lot for some of the books I hold near and dear and it is tough to explain to them that a higher rank has nothing to do with literary prowess. My friends and family see me as fairly intelligent and they are always surprised at what books excite me. It is hard to explain that I read for entertainment and the highest ranked books are usually the ones that make me squeal the most.
    Excellent post topic : )

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  6. I think about adding ratings to my site all the time! I like how Cassie, Estelle/Magan and Betty do their ratings also because it really conveys how they feel. I agree that being restricted to a 5 star rating is SO difficult. On Goodreads, I'm always adding my "real rating" to the review, saying it's really 4.5 for me or sometimes even 3.75 (yes I get that specific lol). That said - I love the ratings system you came up with! It's perfect for your site.

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  7. LOVE ITTTTTTT. I'm so happy you are implementing this system! I love all the words/graphics. You know how I feel about ratings! Now I get to see EXACTLY what you feel in a graphic ;)

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  8. First off, I think your new rating system is awesome. It's unique and very YOU:) That's important:)

    I used to rate my reviews on my blog, but towards the end of last year I stopped. I found that I often struggled with the 2-4 star range. It was easy for me to rate a book I didn't like (1 star) and easy for me to rate a book that I absolutely adored and worked for me one very level (5 star) But it was everything that fell in between--which is actually about 90% of my reading-- that was tough to categorize. Especially in the very shady 3-4 star range. In the end I just did away with it altogether (though I do still give star ratings on my GR reviews.) I've been happier not having to stress about justifying--even in my own mind--a rating I give for a book. I talk about the good things and I talk about the not so good things in my review. And that pretty much rates the book in and of itself. Does that make sense?

    But I think that your rating system is better than the traditional star system. It leaves you more freedom. I hope it works for you, Hannah!

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  9. I really appreciated this post, Hannah, as I've been doing some serious thinking about my own rating system lately as well. As I mentioned to Cassie last week, there seems to be a lot of confusion about how to interpret 1-5 star ratings without some additional description as to what they mean to you, as everyone seems to perceive them differently. For example, I recently rated a good, solid novel that I enjoyed and reviewed on the blog three stars, and someone commented that they were sorry I didn't enjoy it. Since when did 3 stars equal a negative reading experience!? Now I feel the need to qualify my ratings with some sort of general statement (i.e. Somewhat like Rather Be Reading's 'Worth It', 'Borrow It', etc) but I haven't yet come up with an idea as to how to approach this for my own blog. It's certainly comforting to know that I'm not alone when it comes to confusion and mixed feelings about rating systems, though! :)

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  10. Love this post, Hannah. I think ratings are important too. I think it's nice to know what a person would officially say about a book if they HAD to say yes or no to it. Sometimes I feel people are trying to be too proper (maybe not the right word) in their reviews and they don't give me any idea of whether or not it would be something I'm interested in. (I think what I was trying to say before is they don't want to step on any toes if they're critical, and I like to know what I might be getting myself into.) That being said, I really appreciate ratings because I can visually see what a person thought and then read to find out more (hopefully) about why they had concerns or love, love, loved something. Your new ratings are awesome! xo

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  11. I've been back and forth on ratings for awhile. I think they are really important because they have the potential to say so much in just a glance, but it can be really hard to rate a book overall when it is actually comprised of so much. Ultimately, I'm all about numbers. I think that is just ingrained in me due to school? I guess I like averages and figure out the percentages. For me I think I want to continue to have an assigned number, but I just haven't completely figured out how I want that number assigned. This post is really making me realize that this is probably something I should sit down and really think about. Great post!

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  12. Great post! i can totally understand you frustration with the 5-star system and it's something I struggle with too, even though it's the system I employ on my blog. I love your new rating system! It's informative and cute and fits your blog so well! :)

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  13. I love hearing what people think of this topic. Personally, like you, as a blog reader I need some kind of rating. I like going into a review already knowing the author's overall impression. I'm totally fine with stars, numbers, letters, etc. or something more creative (I love seeing the creative things people come up with because my creativity blows).

    To me, part of the great thing about having a book blog is that it's my personal book blog so my reviews and my ratings reflect my personality and my likes and dislikes. Someone writing reviews for a newspaper or even a trade book publication doesn't get that luxury. I like books that are character and plot driven, I'm not much for fancy writing and crazy symbolism and I write my reviews and give my ratings with that in mind and I sometimes get those weird Les Mis/VA situations that you describe, but I think people understand that and I think (hope!) the personality that's infused in my reviews is part of why people like reading my reviews. It's definitely a big part of why I read blogs.

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  14. When I first started blogging, I was completely under the impression that I didn't need to have a rating system. Rating systems are difficult - as you said, they mean something slightly different to each person. I was worried that people would see my rating and then not care about the contents of my review. But then I realized that I do value reviews where there is a rating - I still read the actual review but, as you said, knowing the overall opinion of the reviewer helped me to better understand their reviews. So I started a rating system a few months ago and I think it's working. I love yours, though! I wasn't creative when it came to mine. Maybe I'll rethink it someday. And I agree that the degrees of positive ratings are the most difficult to distinguish. This is a cute idea and I look forward to seeing this put into action!

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  15. It's funny you wrote this post today. I wrote three reviews and there were a few that I was really stuck on. Ratings, like reviews, are so subjective and sometimes it's hard for me to pick between Buy it and Borrow It so I fall to Worth It. Which feels like cheating. I always wonder if we should have something in between (but what? but what?) I love that you covered every angle with your new ratings.

    I, for one, really like having some kind of summary at the end of the reviews. Whether it is a post it like Jamie or a rating like ours, Betty's, or Cassie's, it's nice for your eyes to just glance down and get the gist. There are too many reviews that are muddy and drawn out and just say nothing. If you strip away all the words, there's no meat there and instead, I feel very wishy washy about books. I like reviews that are honest and straight to the point. The ratings definitely help A TON. I prefer them.

    Great post! You got so many awesome comments today.

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  16. I love the rating system you came up with! It's descriptive yet original and fun! ♥

    Personally, I still use star ratings (complete with half stars) for my own OCD purposes. I am all about lists and ratings and straightforward things like that. I rate keeping enjoyability as the primary factor, but there are other factors as well, such as the strength of the writing, etc. But I know people rate based off different things, so no two ratings are exactly the same. BUT mostly, I found that I apparently rate a little differently than the majority of the blogging community. I didn't go out handing out 5-star ratings left and right. Not counting re-reads, I have literally read ONE 5-star book since I started blogging over a year and a half ago. And I’ve read some pretty mind-blowing books. I just don’t want to give the 5 star rating unless a book really is flawless.

    Therefore, while I do still use ratings for myself, I don’t put them on my reviews anymore. I made up a system where I basically rate how addicting the book is. From “Stash in the Glove Box” to “Stay Up ’til 2 AM” and other things like that. I thought it was a fun way to share a big element of the book without fixing a number to it.

    I do prefer to see some sort of rating on other blogs. Whether you use a simple system like Rather Be Reading, the straight-up 1-5 rating, or something else. Even something like the post-it reviews on The Perpetual Page-Turner . I just want a way to see your overall thoughts in less than 5 seconds. If someone uses stars, I want a little key on the sidebar with a short summary of what the ratings mean. That way I can determine if you’re one of those people that use 5 stars to mean “loved it” or “HOLY CRAP I WOULD READ THIS BOOK 50 TIMES AND WALLPAPER MY ROOM WITH ITS PAGES.”

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  17. I LOVE this post Hannah! As a reviewer, I have a hard time with a rating system too. I finally decided to rate my books on Goodreads based on my enjoyment of the book alone, not on what I think it's literary worth should/will be. UGH but it is SO HARD to give a book a rating sometimes (like ME BEFORE YOU... I still can't decide how many stars to give that book!)

    I think your new rating system will work perfectly. As a blog READER, the first thing that I look for is the rating. I love all ratings when I'm not the one deciding on them! haha

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  18. What I love most about this is that you found a system that works for YOU and that totally represents your outlook and theme with the blog. You continue to have a unique voice and I will continue to think you're the best.

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  19. As a reader and blog follower, I love ratings. But it is hard to rate books. The other day I added a half point to my system.

    I LOVE this scale/rating system btw.

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  20. I think about ratings a LOT and it's something I've always struggled with on my blog. Currently, I don't have a rating system because I can't think of what I like! I LOVE Rather Be Reading's rating system because like you said, it's personable and informative. I LOVE yours too! It fits your blog so well. I hope I can finally find a rating system that suits me one day!

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  21. Oh ratings! I struggle there. I love seeing them on blogs because they're a concrete reaction to a book. BUT that was the number 1 thing that stressed me out when I used to use them. I felt so much better about blogging when I cut them out. Though I still try to rate on Goodreads. I also felt like my ratings would waffle all the time. I love the idea of non number ratings, and your system is perfectly you and makes me very happy! I'm still thinking that it would stress me out, because I'm horrible at decision making. BUT I'm so happy you've found a method that works for you.

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  22. I personally like all blogs I read to have some sort of rating scale. If they don't have one, it turns me off. But that being said, I don't care what the rating system is. It can be stars, or letters, or word ratings (like your new ones!).. it doesn't matter to me. I just want to be able to look at SOMETHING that will very quickly and clearly tell me how the reader felt about the book!

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  23. Rating are tricky. I haven't found my perfect system yet, but like yourself, I tend to review based on how much I enjoyed reading the book at the time. I'm coming to realise that not everyone does this, so more thought is needed, I think. Great post.

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  24. I like the rating system! I find it important that a book review has a rating system. It makes it easy for me to see in one picture how the blogger felt about the book. It makes it easier to understand where they stand :) I hope this one works for you! :D

    Mel@thedailyprophecy.

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  25. I do like rating in theory, but too have my issues with them. I think it's a little weird reading a negative review and then seeing the blogger still gave the book 4 stars. Or the opposite where they rave about a book, and yet only gave it 3.

    With me, I keep things pretty single and give a single rating up to 5 stars (including halves on m y review). Of course that means when I add it to goodreads I have to round it up or down. I did actually read that one of the reasons goodreads doesn't do half stars is because they found when people have so many different options, and have to really think about their rating, they're less likely to review it. Which I think makes sense in a way.

    And finally, I think the system you came up with is perfect for your blog!

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  26. Thanks for this! I too have a really hard time with 5 star ratings and my book shelves on Goodreads full of 3-4 star books, because I have no real idea how to assign ratings for books that I really liked but weren't 'OMG THIS IS THE BEST BOOK EVER' quality. I found this post when I was trying to come up with my own ratings system and I've borrowed a bit from Cass....hope she doesn't mind! :) I have to say I really love your ratings system, using the 'so' phrases and incorporating the brand of your blog is genius!

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