Discussions · The Reading

Average Ratings: Do They Matter?

With the end of the year and the beginning of a new one, I’ve been seeing plenty of posts around the blogosphere where readers recap their reading year in beautiful charts and graphics. I actually really wanted to join in on the fun but I didn’t because my reading year really wasn’t worth mentioning. But this will be my year! I just know it!

Anyway, back to the topic, I’ve noticed that most of these posts include an average rating of all the books read and reviewed throughout the year and it got me thinking. What does this number really mean? What conclusions can you draw from this number and what’s so important about it?

So here I am, trying to dissect the meaning of the ‘average rating’ and hopefully find out what it all means.

Of course, all the opinions in this post are entirely my own and not referring to anyone in particular. It’s just going to be a general observation based on my own experience and what I’ve seen on the blogosphere and also Goodreads (which shows a member’s average rating on their profile). And for this post, I’m only talking about a user/blogger’s average ratings, not the average rating of any book in particular.

Before I started my blog (in 2016), I actually read a LOT more than I do now. It’s weird, I know, but that’s a story for another time (the short version is simple though: I just had more free time in high school and it all went away the moment I started university). The point here is, back then, I know that my average rating on Goodreads was very high. I rated a lot of books 4-5 Stars and I rarely gave bad ratings.

I’m pretty sure that not all my ratings back then were my ‘real’ opinions. I remember having this irrational fear that if I rated a book differently from the majority of people, haters would be mean to me and I didn’t want that. Having said that, I also know that my younger self was very easy to please and I wasn’t in the habit of really thinking deeply about the books I read. I would just zoom through a book, like/dislike the story and call it a day.

Then, came the time when I thought having a lower average rating was a good thing. I thought it would make me look like I have higher standards and isn’t easily pleased with everything I read.

I like to think I’ve grown since then.

But the question remains: Whose opinion is more reliable? Is it the person with the high average rating, or the one with the low average rating? Really, you can argue for both sides.

If a person who has a lower average rating rates a book 5 stars, it could mean that that book must be really, really good because they are usually hard to impress. And the same goes for the person who has a higher average rating. If they suddenly rate a book 1 star, then it could mean that the book must be really, really bad because they usually enjoy most of the books they read.

I asked my sisters a question before writing this discussion: ‘If two reviewers read 20 books and one has an average rating of 3.5 while the other has an average rating of 4.2, without knowing their tastes, preferences, reviewing style, etc, whose opinion would you trust more?’

They both said, and I’m paraphrasing, they would trust the one with the lower average rating more because they think it shows that the reviewer is more picky and has higher standards. I used to think the same way, but I’ve changed my mind about it.

Other than the obvious ‘everyone has their own different preferences’, there could be any number of reasons why one person has a higher / lower average rating than another. Here are a few I could think of:

  • The reader selectively reads books that they know they have a higher chance of loving – Maybe they don’t read books that aren’t as well-known because there isn’t enough information/reviews about that book? Or maybe they avoid authors they know they didn’t like in the past? There are many ways to avoid reading books that you have a higher chance of hating and reading books you know you’ll like. Sure, it’s not guaranteed 100%, but it helps 🙂
  • The reader doesn’t rate/review books they don’t like – I know there are people who don’t post negative or DNF reviews on their platforms, I used to do that. And while there isn’t anything wrong with that, it also affects their average ratings.
  • The reader rates 0 or 1 star for their DNF reads – Which is the opposite of the previous point. Having a lot of 0-star ratings would definitely bring down the average rating.
  • They just had a really good or really bad reading year – Maybe it all depends on luck. Maybe one person just had the best luck and all the books they picked up ended up really good while another person had the opposite experience. Who knows? It could happen.

Personally, I don’t really pay attention to a reviewer’s average rating. I think it all comes down to whether or not we trust the reviewer’s opinions and if we have similar preferences.

BUT. Seeing this particular statistic shown on Goodreads profiles as well as yearly recaps make me wonder, is there something here that I’m not getting?

I’m thinking that the average rating is for the reader themselves to see how much they enjoyed the books they’ve read, but that would be a personal thing. So I really want to know if a reviewer’s average rating is important to others and if it affects their opinion on the books that reviewer reviews.

Please let me know in the comments what you think about the average rating. Do you think it affects the reliability of their reviews? Would you rather have a high or low average rating? Do you actually check a reviewer’s average rating before reading their reviews? Tell me what you think! 😀

12 thoughts on “Average Ratings: Do They Matter?

  1. Very thoughtful post! I can see why your sisters would go for the lower average rating but I tend to ignore this stat for all the reasons you’ve outlined. Reading choices are all personal so I think I’d pay more attention to their backlist before taking average rating into account.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I totally agree, there are so many books people loved that I don’t and vice versa, so I don’t think it’s fair to judge their reviews based on the average rating.
      Thanks for the comment 🙂

      Like

  2. This is a really interesting post! Before I started blogging, my average rating was much higher than it is now. I think that was due to the fact that I read basically what I knew I’d like.

    I think it’s lower now both because what you said, that I’m reading more critically, but also because I’ve widened the selection of what I’ll read. I’ll pick up books now that I wouldn’t have five years ago, because I’m either trying to broaden my tastes or because someone whose opinions I trust is really raving about it. It doesn’t always translate into me loving the book though, so my average goes down.

    It’s be interesting to see a survey for this: average rating vs age or gender or favorite genre. Stuff like that. This is such a neato post you made, I loved it. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah, I think before blogging I didn’t really pay much attention to what I was reading beyond the general storyline and pretty easy to impress.

    I agree, I still tend to stay away from contemporary novels because I know that it’s not my favorite genre, but I’m not opposed to reading them like I used to be. I’m also trying to broaden my reading selection and branch out from my go-to genres, but it’s usually hit or miss, just like recommendations. But that’s not a bad thing, I guess. If nothing else it will make our average ratings more neutral haha 🙂

    That’s a really interesting idea! I’d love to read a post like that.

    Thank you so much! 😀

    Like

  4. I don’t really pay much attention to a reviewers average rating other than to think hmm that’s interesting, it’s a bit higher/lower than mine and then instantly forget it. The only exception would be if it was really high, like a 4.9 average, then I’d maybe be a bit suspicious. I can accept that you may have had a good reading year or you’ve gotten better at picking books but I do find it difficult to believe every single book could be worthy of a 5 star.

    For me though the rating given is less important than what’s said in the review. What they liked or didn’t. If you follow reviewers you very quickly get a sense of how their taste compares to yours. Something they may hate you may love so a 2 star from them could easily be a 4 star read for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! The only time I even see a reviewer’s average rating is when I’m reading their recap posts. Yeah, that would be funny 😀
      I also think it’s nearly impossible to have so many 5-star reads within a period of time, I totally agree with you.

      Exactly! I would rather read the review instead of looking for the star ratings. It’s why I never bother with half-star increments. I think the Goodreads star system is pretty straightforward, ‘it was amazing’, ‘I really liked it’, ‘I liked it’, ‘it was ok’ and ‘did not like it’. And when it’s backed up with reasons why the reviewer liked/disliked the book, I can easily make comparisons and read the book for myself. Of course, it’s still a hit or miss, but it usually works 🙂

      Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can totally see why your sisters would choose the one with the lower rating average.

    I trust reviews and ratings of reviewers who I share tastes with, since I know we like the same kind of books, I tend to trust them more

    And I understand you, when I started bookstagramming and blogging I was afraid that if I didn’t have the same opinion as the majority people would hate me and I was not grow but as I have gotten more experience and gotten to know the community better I’ve realised that not the case and now I’m more honest about my reviews and opinions

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you agree with me!

      That’s true about trusting reviewers with similar tastes more. That being said, I’m also not opposed to taking a leap and reading a book recommended by a new-to-me reviewer. It could end up being my next favorite book 😊

      Totally agree with you. I used to feel this way specifically towards hyped/popular books with very vocal fans. Example: The Fault in Our Stars. I’m pretty sure I fall in the minority with my unpopular opinion 😅

      But I’ve grown since then and I’m pretty confident expressing my opinions, both good or bad, on my blog.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Really interesting post to do! I think that cos ratings are personal, I only think it’s worth comparing averages with your own standards, rather than seeing it as reliable or unreliable. Although I still have generally average ratings, since I’ve gotten better at choosing what I like, I’ve found my ratings have gone up- so I can definitely relate to the people with higher ratings now, cos I can see that they’re just better at picking books they enjoy. At the same time, I still relate to people who skew lower, cos like you said people can just have a bad reading year (or bad luck with any given book). I also think different reviewers have different standards- so like you said, some people give 0 as a rating for DNFs and some people won’t include those as read- which can make a difference to them and might mean they never end up using 1-2*. That’s fine to do, cos it just shows that they like having a rating system that’s more 3*-5* (or effectively 1-3) and it’s upto the individual what scale they use.
    Sorry for rambling a little! Really interesting discussion to have!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I agree with you. I also think that average ratings are personal, but I always wonder if including it in yearly recaps would affect the readers’ opinion on the reviewer. My average rating is a little above average, I think ( 🙂 ) because like you, I’ve been choosing books I have a higher chance of liking, although sometimes I get disappointed by hyped books 😦
      Exactly! Sometimes I don’t add books I’ve read to my Goodreads account for one reason or another, so that also affects my average rating. Which is why I don’t think that average ratings actually matter much to anyone other than the reviewer themselves because they’re the only ones who can know what it really means if that makes sense?
      Thank you so much! 😀

      Like

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