This afternoon, someone commented on my Amazon review of Stealing Jake wondering why I gave the book four stars. He (or she?) said that I seemed to really enjoy the book, so why not give it five stars?
That caused me to think. When I assign a star rating to a product, what exactly does that mean? According to Amazon, the stars have the following meanings: 1--I hate it. 2--I don't like it. 3--It's OK. 4--I like it. 5--I love it. Those are basically the meanings I'd assigned to the stars without ever knowing what Amazon's standard was, so that's good! For me, the hardest ratings to assign are 4 and 5 stars. If I dislike something, I'll probably give it 2 stars (I've actually never used 1 star on a product I've reviewed ... although in retrospect, there are a few books I could have given 1 star to!). If I'm ambivalent toward something, it gets 3 stars. But how do I decide between 4 and 5 stars? It usually comes down to emotion. If I've emotionally connected with a book or movie, it'll likely receive 5 stars. If I enjoyed it but didn't love it, it will probably get 4 stars. (This theory doesn't work all the time though--I gave my Gain detergent 5 stars, and I certainly didn't emotionally connect with it!)
After pondering my ratings and the rationale behind them, I decided to see what the norm for my reviews is. I looked back at all 79 of my Amazon reviews, and I learned something about myself--I've become a pickier (or perhaps more discerning?) reviewer. If I were to assign a star rating to my first ten Amazon reviews today, four of the ten would get at least one fewer star. (Field of Blood, I'm looking at you!) I also tallied up the number of reviews I have for each star. The number of positive reviews didn't surprise me, as I usually only pick products to review that I think I'll enjoy--why would I torture myself with a book that I know won't interest me?--but what surprised me was how close my 4 and 5 star reviews were. 5--29; 4--28; 3--15; 4--7. I'm sure that if Amazon had a 4.5 star rating, I would have far fewer 5 stars.
I'm grateful for the commenter who caused me to think through my ratings. And while I stand by my 4-star rating for Stealing Jake, I know I'll put more thought into my ratings in the future.
If you're a reviewer, what is your thought process behind your ratings?
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