I think we all agree that Goodreads isn’t perfect. The app is clunky, heck, the website is clunky. Even though as stats nerds, we all use and love it. But there seems to be one specific feature missing the entire book community agrees on: Goodreads doesn’t allow half stars.
And to an extend, I agree. How often does it happen to you that you read a book, and it’s more than a three star rating, but definitely not a four star rating? It happens to me a lot. And these are the moments that I despise Goodreads’ star rating. Because damn, why wouldn’t you allow half stars?
This will be a fairly practical answer. And although Goodreads has never put out a specific statement on this matter, goodreads founder Otis Chandler is among the people who are not fans of half stars.
From a marketing standpoint, half stars are usually not a good idea. The more choices you have, the more you will feel confused about what it is you have to choose – it causes a specific type of stress. Humans will mostly describe thing as something that they disliked, liked, loved or hated. Now categorizing those emotions so clinically into numbers isn’t such an easy feat. For a site to be popular and widely used, it needs to make the user access as convenient as possible. It needs to please the general masses. And there are people who don’t care about cumbersome rating and review systems.
Yes, even a website like Goodreads consists mostly of people that love books in a low key way. You and I are in the minority – loving books so much that we spend a lot of our free time reading and writing about them. And for those masses, the rating system is fine as it is. Adding half stars would just add another layer of stress for them.
When a user experience causes more stress, that usually means the person is less likely to click. Which means less interaction for Goodreads, and less data to collect.
Another thing to point out is that if Goodreads were to suddenly add half stars, all the ratings given to books up to this date would look vastly different from the ratings these books would get in the future, thus screwing with the ratings in general..
Although I sometimes miss half stars, I’m not as bothered by it as I used to. Now, when I want to rate a book 3.5 stars for example, I just rate it three stars and specify my rating in the review section. I always rate down, becuase if I rate up (giving it 4 stars) that would inflate the rating unfairly.