Monday, June 20, 2011
So, this "more is better" idea is why I've been looking at the ratings for books on Goodreads much more than Amazon or B&N to vet potential book purchases. But the switch got me thinkin': Is there a difference between the three in terms of how each site's users rated novels? More fundamentally, is there a huge difference between average book ratings between sites? If so, what might account for such a difference?
So I thought I'd spend a post and take a look. Now, what follows is hugely unscientific. It's just a random sampling of five novels. But the interesting thing to me, and hopefully to you too, is the conclusions that can be (however tenuously rooted in logic) drawn about the ratings, both on a book-by-book and also on a sitewide basis.
(Liked = Four- and five-star ratings, Neutral = three-stars, and Didn't Like = one- and two-star ratings.)
1. Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
Amazon: 895 total ratings. Average: 3 stars. Liked: 365 (41%). Neutral: 113 (13%). Didn't like: 417 (47%).
B&N: 2,143 total ratings. Average: 3 stars.
Goodreads: 19,079 ratings. Average: 3.66 stars. Liked: 11,627 (61%). Neutral: 4,494 (24%). Didn't like: 2,783 (15%).
My thoughts: I picked this one to look at because it of its huge hype — and the resulting push-back against Franzen for having the temerity to write a very good, popular literary novel. Looks like the push-back was most pronounced on Amazon. The percentage of "didn't like" ratings compared with Goodreads is astounding. My opinion is that this was a very good novel, and therefore Goodreads is far and away the most accurate here.
2. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
Amazon: 3,435 total ratings. Average: 4.5 stars. Liked: 3,132 (91%). Neutral: 120 (3%). Didn't like: 183 (5%).
B&N: 6,911 total ratings. Average: 4.5 stars.
Goodreads: 123,656 ratings. Average: 4.46 stars. Liked: 111,937 (90.5%). Neutral: 8,760 (7%). Didn't like: 1,827 (1.5%).
My thoughts: Yep, everyone loved it — but, again, the same rating over more than 120,000 ratings is much more statistically relevant than only 3,400.
Amazon: 880 total ratings. Average 3 stars. Liked: 419 (47%). Neutral: 67 (7%). Didn't like: 394 (45%).
B&N: 1,407 total ratings. Average 3.5 stars.
Goodreads: 5,696 ratings. Average 4.0 stars. Liked: 4,271 (75%). Neutral: 1,128 (20%). Didn't like: 282 (5%).
My thoughts: As Goodreads' ratings show, when people actually rated this novel on its merit, it did well. This analysis shows how much the deplorable practice of rating a novel poorly to protest its eBook pricing can affect a novel's rating — when Fall of Giants came out last fall, it was ground-zero for this type of idiotic protest. Please, if you're one of the offenders, stop doing that.
4. Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart
Amazon: 166 ratings. Average: 3.5 stars. Liked: 93 (56%). Neutral: (17%). Didn't like: 44 (27%).
B&N: 229 ratings. Average: 3.5 stars.
Goodreads: 4,592 ratings. Average: 3.44 stars. Liked: 2,355 (51%). Neutral: 1,415 (31%). Didn't like: 787 (17%).
My thoughts: I was pretty lukewarm on this book, so I wanted to see if that lukewarmness carried over in all three sites. It did — and surprisingly consistently. Just about as many people liked it as didn't on both Amazon and Goodreads, and it got the lukewarm 3.5 on B&N.
Amazon: 443 ratings. Average: 4 stars. Liked: 312 (70%). Neutral: 31 (7%). Didn't like: 100 (23%).
B&N: 113 ratings. Average: 4.5 stars.
Goodreads: 9,455 ratings. Average: 4.29. Liked: 7,643 (81%). Neutral: 926 (10%). Didn't like: 805 (9%).
My thoughts: Of course, I wanted to find out how one of my favorite novels of all time did. And again, Amazon raters were the most critical (read as: Didn't get it), and Goodreads raters were closest to my own feeling about it. What sticks out here is the very low number of raters on B&N. I have no idea why that'd be the case.
Conclusions: This mini-analysis seems like good justification for continuing to use Goodreads. It has the most comprehensive, and in my view, most accurate cumulative ratings. I'll continue to be skeptical of (Read as: avoid) Amazon ratings. Raters there seem to rate books on lots of tangential issues like eBook pricing, slow shipping and cynicism, which drives the rating down. Boo. B&N to me is sort of a non-factor for ratings, as they don't give you an easy-to-read breakdown of the different ratings.
(Final Disclaimer: I'd never advocate that you pick books solely on these sites' ratings. Just making sure we're clear on that.)
What do you think? Any surprises here? Any of these three sites you tend to rely on more than the others?
Posted by Greg Zimmerman at 12:17 PM