A finalist in Chanticleer's prestigious CLUE awards contest!
I've spent some time thinking about this relatively new phenomenon. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? I've pretty much decided it's a product of this age of instant communication and our reliance on the Internet. It used to be we decided where to eat based on a recommendation by someone whose judgment we trusted. Now we check Yelp to see what everyone has to say about that restaurant. It used to be we browsed through a bookstore, picking up books, reading a little, discarding them, and going on to the next one until we found one that interested us. Now we look to see how many stars a book has on Amazon or Goodreads.
There may have been earlier entities rated by the star system, but the one that comes readily to mind is Michelin's rating of restaurants. A five star restaurant? Almost unheard of - and they started doing it in 1920. They were way ahead of the Internet Age. They used a book to rate the restaurants, and if a restaurant received even one star, it was considered a huge success.
Now we feel that anything less than five stars isn't worth our time or money. But the downside to all of this rating hoopla is that it can easily be skewed. Competitors of a company can give it very low ratings and the consumer doesn't know that's why the rating is low. The same thing holds true for books. I've been told by very sophisticated readers that they throw out the five stars for books, figuring friends and family members of the author probably posted them, and throw out one star reviews as well, figuring that enemies or writers jealous of another writer's success posted those. Who knows? But the problem is that many people don't know that these practices exist and spend their money according to how many stars have been given to something.
I live in Southern California and remember being at the beach after the movie "10" came out in 1979. Young men would stand in a group and every time a young woman walked by in her bathing suit, they would rate her, from 0 to 10. How debasing!!! That's a practice that might take some years on a psychiatrist's couch to mitigate. And while almost everyone has heard of the movie, guess what? According to the Internet it has a rating of 3. And what about Inferno by Dan Brown? It's been on the best seller book lists for quite awhile. According to Amazon, around 13% of its reviews are one and two stars. And yet it's been ranked #1 on three Amazon best seller lists.
So, to pay attention to them or not? There's no easy answer. Some of the ratings are valid and some aren't. I think the best way to determine if the stars are meaningful is to look for a majority. If there's a majority of ones and twos, probably not something I'm going to buy. If the majority are fours and fives, very well might.
Will it ever get to the point where we're given stars and rated? How many stars would you give yourself? And how many stars would others give you?
And remember, the March madness giveaway is still going on. You can enter to win and maybe even use the Amazon gift card to buy one of Dianne's books!