When did 3 Star Reviews become a bad thing?

So this might be completely my impression but a little while ago I was submitting some feedback on Netgalley and it was a 3 Star review. When I saved the edits I noticed that 3 Stars = “Maybe”.

Bit of backstory, my kindle fried (the connection port fused and melted) a few months ago so I’ve not been doing much eGalley reviews. For all I know this rating has been there for ages and I just didn’t see but it just made me pause.

Because 3 Stars for me isn’t a “maybe” book – it’s a good book. A book I’ve enjoyed. There are plenty of 3* books I recommend to other people and/or re-read.

It’s not just the Netgalley rating, that is just the latest instance. There’s been other stuff online. Also each review website has its own definition for what 3 Stars are: Amazon thinks 3 Stars means “it’s ok” while Goodreads says “liked it”.

I’ve been quite happily dishing out 3 Star reviews on books I’ve enjoyed. Now I’m wondering if others look at these reviews and skip to another book based purely on the 3 Star rating?

I still think 3 Star reviews are good books but…

  • What do 3 Star Reviews mean to you?
  • Do the number of stars influence your decision about reading a book or is it more about the content of the review?


Let me know in the comments. 🙂


EDIT: I wrote this post prior to going on holiday & before the thing (you know the event I mean) so now I’m even more muddled.

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13 thoughts on “When did 3 Star Reviews become a bad thing?

  1. I think 3 stars started out meaning ‘average’ and has come to mean ‘meh’. There are some major distribution/sharing websites in the US that claim in their Ts and Cs that they don’t look at books with less than 4 stars as an average from reader reviews. So it’s possible a 3 star review can, in some cases, actually be damaging. Which is absurd. But there it is.

  2. 3 is good for me. Means I liked it but found some flaws or some things annoying me. Not a bad thing at all.

  3. I always refer to a 3* rating as liked/good, which I use on Goodreads, my blog etc. In fact, it is only Amazon that gives me difficulty with them regarding 3* as ok. So when I upload my 3* review from Goodreads to put on Amazon, I put a note in the review to say it is based on my own rating system which is different from Amazon and I indicate what 3* means to me. It is a pain but I’m not going to have the same book rated 3* on one site and 4* on Amazon. That would be really annoying.

  4. I thinks no netgalley it’s more of a would you recommend this book type thing, but like you my 3 star ratings are the same ‘level’ as goodreads.
    In regards to buying books, I don’t really use ratings for a judge, I read reviews if I am torn about a book, but generally the books I buy are ones with authors that I aiuto buy for, or I’ve read a sample and fell in love.

  5. I’m really glad you wrote this post! I think it’s a valid issue because for me, a three star rating isn’t bad by any means! It’s right in that sort of in-bewtween space of yes, I enjoyed it, but I it didn’t blow me away. But not every book is going too! I think a three star review is plenty strong enough to recommend and/or try a book based on. I think ratings are getting over-inflated and three stars are no longer enough in the big marketing scheme of things. Which is sad, because just because a book isn’t 5 stars for everyone doesn’t mean it’s not a good, strong story. Also, I wish there was more variation in the traditional rating scale so perhaps starred ratings wouldn’t be so polarized. I really wish that, for instance, Goodreads allowed you to do half-star reviews, because I do a lot of 3.5/4.5 reviews on my blog!

  6. I agree. I used to do 3 stars all the time till I noticed a lot of people apologised for doing so. It’s like anything OK or average is bad, which it isn’t, it’s like the scale is polarized between GREAT and BAD.

  7. Yeah, I’ve noticed this. But I don’t know why 3 star reviews are seen as a bad thing. It’s 3 whole stars! I have LOVED some books that I’ve rated 3 stars.

    Hm. Maybe it shouldn’t be a ‘maybe’. Maybe it should be a ‘ok’, or something less negative feeling.. I dunno.. I’m rambling..

    Great post though!

  8. To me, three stars is a “meh” or an “okay”. It means I liked it but I probably won’t read it again. It’s still a positive rating in my eyes though.

  9. This is a good question. Personally, I consider 3 stars to be an in between book. Not ‘maybe’–I would recommend a three stars book–but to me it means that there are some things that could have been better. Lovely post!

  10. For me a 3 star book is an okay book. It usually means I did enjoy it, but it wasn’t a great book, there were enough things that bothered me as well. The higher end of the 3 star spectum are books that I would recommend or continue the series, while the lower end of the 3 star spectrum is more a disapointed okay. 3 star books are books that could be better, but they aren’t bad books, I did enjoy reading them.
    I do think that often 3 star books are viewed too negatively, not sure why. Maybe it’s just because reading a recommendation or review for a 4 or 5 star book is prefered as it’s more on the good side?

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