I do a good amount of shopping for books, and looking at reviews, and reading about books, and I've noticed something.
I really, and I mean REALLY like when the review averages are flipping me off.
Here's what I mean.
Suppose you see a book review average graph at GoodReads that looks like this:
Compare that to a ratings review that looks like this:
Now THAT is a book I'm interested in. See how the green lines sort of look like a hand that's flipping you the middle finger?
I like it even more when the 3 stars are more represented:
And this is not just because my fourth finger is longer than my index finger (which I think is normal in the scheme of fingers but I don't study phalanges as a rule).
Even this type of middle-finger layout makes me more curious about a book:
Though I prefer the former bird-flipping-review layout for maximum interest.
I like when there's some disagreement about a book, with some people going, “YAY!” and other's saying, “AW, NO.” That kind of review disparity does two things for me as a buyer:
1. It makes me wonder where I fit into the divide.
Would this be a YAY or an AW, NO book for me? I should read it and find out. (Seriously, nothing makes me get all up in the clicky-buy-buy like review disparity.
2. It makes me trust the set of reviews as a whole.
When there's a range of ratings, I trust that the reviewers as a whole are honest. When every single review is squee-tastic five-star OMG SQUEE A++++++++ USER I back away slowly.
This kind of rating average:
holds no interest for me as a reader.
It makes me think someone set the squee-cannon to STUN. I don't believe any of it, except maybe the low-star reviews.
First, because not every book I read is a 5-star book. Most of the time, the books I read, I'm hoping will be four-star books. Many are 3s. It's rare for me to be laid out in post-reading-euphoria by a book. Maybe that happens once a year, or twice. It's rare for me.
I don't presume that every reader is like me, but I have read enough reviews and looked at enough averages to know that all-fives is most likely hype, bother, and likely bullshit. Have you seen how divided people are on things like how to hang toilet paper? Forget universal agreement about a book.
And this kind of review average:
STOP THE PRESSES because that looks like a trainwreck in green, and makes me think, “Dude, I need to spend the next six hours reading that page and possibly the book, too, because what the HELL happened there? Did somebody piss off the internet?”
Which brings me back to point the first: disparity in reviews makes me more curious than anything else, especially if the largest number of reviews are in the 3s and 4s, because I want to know what my review will be. How do I fit in the green fingers flipping me off?
The more reviews of varying types there are, the more I as a reader trust the average of those reviews. Disagreement to me seems more likely to be honest instead of a hype bomb from the squee-cannon. As I said before – it's easy to fake hype. It's much harder to fake anger or the process of working out how one feels about a book through a thoughtful discussion of pros and cons.
What about you? Do you pay attention to how many reviews of which type there are when the stars or ponies or rainbows or beer steins of measurement are averaged out? Do you like when the reviews are flipping you off?
Which of the above review averages makes you the most interested (and yes, I wrote down which screencap was for which book, mwahahah)?