There is a Difference Between 5 Stars on Amazon vs Goodreads


Goodreads vs Amazon Stars

Back in April 2017, I originally wrote this post regarding the difference in star rating definitions between Goodreads and Amazon. Perhaps little has changed.

There is certainly a difference between most of the major book retailers (and I’ve since taken note of the star rating definitions in Barnes & Noble as well as Kobo). As I’m sure you’ve no doubt noticed if you’ve ever moused over the stars on Amazon and Goodreads–there is a difference in the star ratings between the two. Are you one who thinks the star rating is equivalent to personal perception? Or have you read and understood the star definitions of both? I’ve run up against this before, debating what to do; set my star ratings the same on both websites–or change to more closely indicate my objective opinion on each.

A Goodreads five star indicates you thought the book “amazing.” I don’t consider that the same as, “I love it.” So what is the difference between the two? Note the graphic above.


Star Rating

1  Did not like it

2  It was okay

3  I liked it

4  I really liked it

5  It was amazing


Star Rating

1  I hate it

2  I don’t like it

3  It’s okay

4  I like it

5  I love it

Really, neither of the two asks your opinion regarding the plotting, dialogue, characterization, grammar, or level of typos. It’s a matter of how much you liked the book–what did you like–what did you dislike. Perhaps that makes sense considering the reading levels of the average reader.

Does the average reviewer actually use the website assigned stars or simply judge based on the use of their own system?

In a 2015 study by McGill University, it was found that Amazon has higher average ratings compared to Goodreads and Goodreads users gave four stars more often than Amazon users (36.26%). That translation bears exactly how I would interpret the meaning behind the stars of those two websites as well. How many times does a conscientious book reviewer look for a compromise and assign a half point–4.5 stars, but are then forced to round up or down–well, THAT’s subjective then, not objective!

They maintain, therefore, that the Goodreads ratings fall in the range of 3 to 4 stars while Amazon ratings fall between 4 and 5 stars. Their argument extends to a higher average for some genres (i.e., biographies) on Amazon than are found on Goodreads. Makes sense if you consider Goodreads basically shifts one point lower, making only one a negative, one a neutral, and three more positive. That makes your four-star rating on Goodreads equivalent to Amazon five.

Their additional argument extends further in the propensity of Amazon reviewers to help “sell” the book, whereon Goodreads tends to more journalistic attributes, concentrating on the book’s content.

Also surprising, the study found that Amazon reviews tend to be a greater length, which flies in the face of that which I was taught–keep it short on Amazon–expand on the description on Goodreads–and just have fun with it on your own website. Indeed, I’ve been asked to keep my reviews short on Amazon to allow for more visible reviews on the landing page.

Kristen Twardowski in her recent WordPress post, “What to do with Goodreads,” says “Goodreads is the largest book review website on the internet.” She goes on to cite April 2017 statistics that show over 55 million members wrote an astounding 50 million reviews.  (And you thought your book was being buried on Amazon!) A quick search on Amazon shows print title totals vary, although if we use Amazon best sellers rank numbers, there are over 13 million–and over 800,000 ebook titles.

Amazon gobbled up Goodreads in March 2013. There have been a number of arguments regarding the star ratings disparity since then. Wikipedia noted, “Some authors, however, believe the purchase means that the “best place to discuss books is joining up with the best place to buy books.”

The updates to the Kindle app requesting a star rating at the end of the book you are reading begs an additional argument. If you hit the star rating link without consideration of the rating definition differences and the site links to Amazon as well as Goodreads, in my mind, the ratings become skewed.

I like the breakdown that Greg Zimmerman showed on his blog post appearing in June 2011 in which he whittled it down further: 4 and 5 stars==liked it, 3 stars=neutral, and 1 and 2 stars=don’t like it. He then compares Amazon stats to Goodreads stats and in the end concluded there’s a good reason for Goodreads reviews being lower. There continues to be skepticism for Amazon reviews on many of the forums, which agrees with my own perception and that I posted here. Two of my favorite reads this year (reviewed on this blog) with 15 or more ratings in GR’s also reflect McGill’s consensus.

The Fifteenth of JuneThe Fifteenth of June

Amazon – 15 ratings (average 4.7) 94% 4 stars or better

Goodreads – 24 ratings (average 4.0) 80% 4 stars or better

So Much Owed-#1 Amazon BestsellerSo Much Owed

Amazon – 268 ratings (average 4.7) – 94% 4 stars or better

Goodreads – 616 ratings (average 4.29) 86% 4 stars or better

There is credibility with Goodreads reviews. As a reader, have you performed review searches on Goodreads? Did you find they closely followed your own opinions? Did you compare the two? Judging by the number of review requests I receive, it would appear authors are still seeking strong Amazon authentication. I get it–lots of five stars on your Amazon book helps to spread the word (not so much the algorithm, which is based on sales). I hope you feel good about your Goodreads reviews and continue to press for Amazon reviews as well. Do you search for reviews before you purchase?

©2017 Virginia Williams I Love Likes and Comments--Please Share!

Author: Rosepoint Publishing

I am the granddaughter of Patrick John "Stanley McShane" Rose whose books including "Cocos Island Treasure" I've recently published. My time is now spent in reading, reviewing, and writing bookish articles. I'm looking forward to sharing this social media odyssey with you!

32 thoughts on “There is a Difference Between 5 Stars on Amazon vs Goodreads”

  1. I realize this post is from several years ago, but I really enjoyed the comparison. Most people don’t understand the differences in the star rating scales on Amazon and Goodreads. Your chart helps. The key is a 3, 4, or 5 on Goodreads is a positive review while only a 4 and 5 are on Amazon. Neither site really shows what the star rating means. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the comment. Yes, I discovered there was a difference between those two and also between Barnes & Noble and others but with no explanation. I see many reviewers create and explain their star ratings. I do as well on my submission page but as always the weight is thrown to the giants of the industry.


  2. What an interesting post! I hate the star ratings in general but do them because so many people only look at them, not the review itself. However, I have found that Amazon’s reviews and ratings tend to more closely mirror my own. Perhaps it is the genre and not the site itself, but Goodreads’ reviewers appear to be more likely to “love” a book even if their reviews say otherwise. This always has boggled my mind. It is as though admitting that a book was “okay” or a 3 star read was just too profoundly terrible. the fact is, most books I read are just “okay.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes I found such a dichotomy between the two I finally started rating according to the site which meant many times GRs were lower than Amazon. Weird since GRs was bought by Amazon. I see why so many declare their own star system. Appreciate your comments.


  3. I’m glad to read this as it’s something that has been bothering me for years. I also rate on NetGalley as their ratings are more akin to Amazon’s: No-Not really-Maybe-Yes-Strongly. I tend to rate the same on NetGalley and Amazon and one less on Goodreads as I stick to the individual sites’ rating definition. I do feel mean on Goodreads sometimes as I am aware that others are either going by Amazon’s definitions or their own system so my ratings seem low. I find the 4 and 5 ratings on Goodreads, ‘Really liked it’ and ‘It was amazing’, hard to distinguish between.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Exactly, Val. I’ve wrestled with it as well, and finally just decided to go with the definition of the website–if Amazon, then yes, seems one star higher. There are few that are actually “amazing.” I can love it on Amazon, but don’t find it amazing on Goodreads–but I still loved it. I see some bloggers using their own system, but then I think it must not jive with the other websites. Barnes & Noble (I think) most closely approximates Amazon (not Goodreads), and Kobo? (Not sure) So if I just gave it a blanket 5 stars that skews the ratings across the platforms. Thank you so much for your comment!


    2. I tend to rate the same on both platforms and with my rating system if I rate it two stars then I didn’t like it at all be that on goodreads or Amazon.
      To me three stars is my middle of the road this was an enjoyable read rating whatever Amazon implies.
      Mind you I do round up on Amazon with half stars which I rarely do on Goodreads.
      It’s ridiculous that both platforms are owned by the same company but there star rating system is so different especially as you mentioned the kindle itself linking to ratings at the end of each book.
      I just feel it becomes so complicated changing my rating depending on platforms so just stick with my own system which anything a three and above is a thumbs up from moi.
      To me if I finish a book it at least deserves a two.
      I think it is in Amazons beat interests to leave it how it is as higher ratings which is what it’s system encourages means greater sales for them so really can’t see it changing anything soon, there not going to shoot themselves in the foot intentionally.
      Me I will just stick with my own system.
      This is such an interesting dilemma though and we all tackle it so differently.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for that very thoughtful comment! It IS a dilemma, and one I noted we all handle differently. I, too, have resorted to 1/2 stars, but then must confront whether or not to round up or down. On Goodreads, I generally round down. Amazon is the elephant and can do whatever they choose, tho their algorithm seems to change with the wind so you never really know to what degree your star rating means what you wish. Perhaps the best thing is just to post your own star-rating system on a page of your blog. I’ve neglected to do so, but did write the article to voice my confusion with the whole system.


    1. Many times my star ratings do not match. Goodreads has a more conservative approach to stars and unfortunately we cannot award half-stars as there are times when realistically the review would fall right between the definitions. Then it becomes subjective whether or not you go up or down. But nothing but five stars? No…you might want to rethink that one.


  4. It seems the big “A” is growing more haughty all the time. Lately their trend is not to even list reviews unless they are from a “verified purchaser” or whatever they call it. Nevermind the time and expense authors spend marketing their books to bloggers and other reviewers in hopes of having reviews posted on Amazon. The ten-ton eleph”A”nt can do as it pleases.
    I really enjoyed this post. Thanks!


    1. Yes, we’ve worked on making the reviews “official” so they’d get into the algorithm as I tend to get books in a lot of ways. Goodreads is a good vehicle since they were bought out by Amazon. Google is working on it, but has a LONG way to go. I liked your ten-ton-eleph”A”nt analogy. Glad you enjoyed the post, love your comments, and happy you stopped by! Hope to see you again!


  5. I had never actually considered it before and use their star systems the way I would use my own without really noticing that the three don’t match.The truth is I review on several sites and now that I think about it, I don’t know how the ratings compare across any of them off the top of my head. It should probably be something I pay more attention to, since I do go to the trouble of tagging those sites on my blog posts.


    1. thank you for the comment! you are right, since I also rate and review on NetGalley. it can be a problem with some authors who have never noticed the difference. i’m just trying to be consistent across the different venues.


  6. reblogged this on The Page Turner. I find the difference a little daunting when I go to review. I do not want a bad review, but sometimes a book isn’t a full four stars. Yet, if I place it as a three it appears as if I did not like the book. I have not up to this point given different star ratings, but I have been tempted.


  7. Reblogged this on The Page Turner and commented:
    This is great information and something I had noticed. I am not sure if I should put a different star rating on amazon than Goodreads. I struggle with the Amazon rating for both which means many books I loved appear to be amazing. To me, maybe they are. 🙂 Enjoy this post! I got from Rose Point Publishing.


    1. It’s been a conundrum for me and I’ve struggled with it, but got to reading various forums regarding the subject and discovered I wasn’t alone in the struggle. Also, apparently justified in thinking a 4 on Goodreads approximated the 5 on Amazon. Thanks so much for the comment–I love hearing from you!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ll take an Amazon review any day. That’s where people shop, not Goodreads which is for readers who are savvier than regular readers who may love to read but don’t think about needing to review the books they love.


  9. Hi Gin,

    I got the email notification that you had published this post, and I just had to click over.

    Didn’t realize you had used my book as an example. That’s awesome! Thanks.

    Yes, from speaking with other indie authors, the general consensus is whatever our rating is on Amazon, subtract one and that will be our rating on Goodreads.

    (If we’re a 4-star read on Amazon, we’re a 3-star read on Goodreads)

    I don’t know how much of that is based on what the stars represent, though. (Until you told me, I didn’t even realize the stars meant something different between the two platforms) I was under the impression that Amazon users represent more general traffic—they use Amazon to buy a book, but also a new blender and a bike helmet—whereas Goodreads users are only interested in the books. They, therefore, are more avid readers, and more critical about what they read.

    That’s just my theory though. 🙂

    Great post. I shared it on Twitter.



    1. Hi Brent! You are always so on top of things; and love it that you take the time to write a comment. Really appreciate that! I thought you would be a good example for my article–and it looks like the stats proved the point. That was a good debate point; how many people use their own system. I think most people reviewing on Amazon do try to be positive with a book. Keep up your promos–you are doing well! And thank you for sharing on Twitter!


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