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Grading Confusion

16 Jan

Ramblings ahead. I’m just trying to work things through for myself.

100px_cartoon_sitting-angel

The larger picture

At first, I didn’t grade the books I read here on the blog. Grades seem to imply some kind of objectivity and comparability that’s not there, IMO; grades relying on numbers (which I use) probably even more than letters (A, B,…) or stars, hearts, and dancing ants. But soon, I started to use them with my posts because it provided a kind of orientation at one glance, which is the way I used grades in my offline journal when I didn’t feel like writing even one sentence about a book I had read. I tried to differentiate between a more emotional influenced grade or a more “objective” grade with the questions at the end of the blog post about enjoyment and recommendation but I was not happy with that solution.

Some weeks ago, I got into serious trouble with my (review) writing. I questioned all and everything – categories, grades, how to write. Now, this is nothing new. In fact, I like to take a step back and look at things anew. I thought I had kind of sorted it out again: less grades – I mean, natural numbers, (+) and (-) and halves = too much – or maybe even leaving grades behind completely, and then

The smaller picture

some days ago, I wanted to assign some grades at Goodreads and Shelfari because the blank stars mocked me.

I really liked that I was forced to choose between only 5 possible options. I went blithely along, following “my” interpretation of only to realize – rather early, thank you – that both accounts associated somewhat different interpretations of, say, three stars than I did with “my” corresponding 3/5.

Here’s the breakdown (LibraryThing doesn’t give an interpretation):

5 stars:
Goodreads – it was amazing
Shelfari – I loved it
My Grades – wow/really, really liked it (or something like that)

4 stars:
Goodreads – really liked it
Shelfari – I really liked it
My Grades – a good read/liked it

3 stars:
Goodreads – liked it
Shelfari – I liked it
My Grades – an ok/average read

2 stars:
Goodreads – it was ok
Shelfari – I didn’t like it
My Grades – some (serious) flaws

1 star:
Goodreads – didn’t like it
Shelfari – I hated it
My Grades – don’t bother

Things of note:

  • Both Goodreads and Shelfar have “really liked it” as four stars whereas “really liked it” would be a 4,5/5 (four and a half stars) for me.
  • 3/5 (my “ok” grade) is “I liked it” (three stars) on both Goodreads and Shelfari
  • An “ok” read is two stars on Goodreads; Shelfari doesn’t have this option (which I find really irritating)
  • I like the Goodreads system but it would mean that what I think of as an average grade (ok) wouldn’t take the middle position which it should, IMO
  • Translated into numbers, “it was amazing” would have a higher value than “I loved it” in my view; also, I associate a bit more objectivity with it.
  • Looking at my grades, it seems like the lower the grade, the more important more “objective” reasons for a grade become – 2/5: some (serious) flaws; 4/5: liked it.
  • I don’t think I could ever say “hated it” about a novel. Certain elements – yes; the whole thing? – no, I don’t think so (and I hope I don’t have to find out I’m wrong).

Questions

  • Go with 5/5, 4/4, 3/3,…?
  • Go with 5/5, 4/4, 3/3,… and using (+) and (-)?
  • Go with 5/5, 4,5/5, 4/5, 3,5/5,…?
  • Let go of the grades completely?

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Conclusion

Huh?

I like to make a mountain out of a molehill.

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Books I Would Buy Again

8 Jan

I’ve yet to see a dedicated e-book reader in RL. Just walking into a store and looking at the thing is out of the question here. The closest I came to it was a few days ago when I saw this leaflet:

sony-leaflet

in a book store, announcing Sony’s Reader to be available in spring (no price announced…). There is also talk about the Kindle coming to Europe.

Anyway, with all the talk about readers and Christmas recently on some blogs, I thought about which romance novels I would buy again if I had a device for reading ebooks (disregarding DRM for now). The titles I came up with are not necessarily all books I consider “perfect” or 5/5 but all are books I would want to have with me for some reason.

Here’s my list of books I would probably buy first for a second time:

  • Judith Ivory – Black Silk
  • Laura Kinsale – The Prince of Midnight
  • Stephanie Laurens – A Secret Love
  • Linnea Sinclair – Gabriel’s Ghost
  • J. R. Ward – Lover Eternal

I wanted to keep the list short. I mean, paying for those five books is quite some money already. And most of all, I would want to get “new” books.

Of course, there are other books that came to mind. Some other titles, like Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows, for example. But I read this one only recently and I need some more time. Or authors: Megan Hart’s novels; Linnea Sinclair’s other novels; Meljean Brook. Some more – all? I know myself, I would want my collection to be as complete as possible if I had several titles by one author – novels by Judith Ivory and Laura Kinsale. Or Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters trilogy or George R. R. Martin’s hope-it-ever-gets-finished “A Song of Ice and Fire” series (for something non-romance).

Just to name a few.

Would you do this, too? Which books would be on your list?

One Post, Two Things

14 Dec

Some days ago, I read a post on Dear Author about the pricing of ebooks. I actually don’t want to write anything about the stupidity to set a higher price on an ebook than on a mmp. It’s so self-evident that it’s a VERY BAD IDEA, I don’t know what to say further.

Just: I don’t have an ebook-reader and I won’t have one for a very long time if the prices don’t come down and the DRM business is solved. I’m much too scared of the possibility that I’ll have to flush my library of ebooks down the drain in a few years time because I can no longer read the books.

But the post made me think about two other, slightly connected things.

1. The price decides if I buy a book not exactly on my wish list

Examples? Recently, I bought Deanna Raybourn’s Silent in the Grave and Jo Beverley’s Christmas Angel because I could get them for much less than their usual price. Raybourn is a historical mystery and I seldom buy mysteries. I buy Jo Beverley’s books when the story sounds interesting. But with a Christmas-related title, I wasn’t so sure. Right or wrong, my impression of Christmas-related stories is that they tend to be too sugary and sweet for me.

I now have both books and I know I won’t regret buying them even if I end up not liking them. Heck, because of the price, I very nearly bought Nalini Singh’s Hostage to Pleasure even though I’m not a fan of this series. I appreciate and like the world Singh has created, but the first three books I read didn’t convince me to stay with the series.

The slight connection to the post on Dear Author?

The obvious conclusion is that pricing ebooks higher than the print editions will never get me to buy them even if I had an ebook reader. But that’s just me.

2. Reminder of a draft I wrote about DRM in games back in October

Angie’s comment (number 18) on that post reminded me of a draft I wrote in October about DRM in games. Until then, I thought I was a somewhat educated buyer of PC games. I knew about copy protection. I didn’t buy games I wanted because I knew of the heavy restrictions they came with. Spore, the game Angie wrote about in a post on her blog, is the most famous, I think.

So, I thought I was informed. I thought I did my duty by not buying games like BioShock, Mass Effect or Sacred 2. I’m not sure what I thought the copy protection on other games did, check for a not copied disk in the player probably. I never bothered to think about how they do that. I found out.

In October, I stumbled upon a blog post about DRM in Fallout 3 (sorry, no link). There I learned some interesting things about copy protection and SecuRom and followed a link to Reclaim your Game, a website informing about games with SecuRom.

SecuRom is basically a third program that comes with installing SecuRom protected games on your PC. There are different versions of it according to the restrictions imposed on the use of the game (see Spore) and I don’t pretend to understand it all, but:
I don’t want software installed on my PC WITHOUT ASKING ME before.
Which is exactly what SecuRom protected games do. Not all of them want to “call home,” but all install unwanted and sometimes even invasive software. ME DON’T WANT!

Currently, there are over 100 games listed on the website. Of course, my PC has SecuRom on it. It came with the very first game I installed on it when it was new: Jade Empire: Special Edition (which has a lesser version of SecuRom).

The slight connection to the post on Dear Author?

The advice on the website what to tell the publishers:

“I am a customer, not a pirate. Don’t treat me like one!”

About Writing Reviews

16 Nov

After I no longer write my blog just for myself, I thought I should post my take on reviews and grades again.

Where I’m coming from

I wrote book (and game) comments for a long time in an offline journal. Then I started to write them in English because I started to read more and more books in English and I thought it a good way to practice. At that stage, they were mostly a few sentences long. Then, in 2004 I think, I started to read a few blogs and in August 2005, I decided to get my own blog (with blogger then) but I kept it private. The comments got longer and some day, I added grades (see below). At the end of May this year, I decided to go “more public” with my blog.

How I write reviews

Actually, I think of my posts about books as “comments” rather than “reviews.” Mainly because with the word “review” I think of some kind of “overview” that I have no interest in delivering and also not the knowledge for. You know, compare it to the author’s other novels and other novels in the genre. So I tend to think of my posts as comments. But it’s only this way with my posts. I don’t even blink at amazon reviews (you know, the one or two sentence kind). Anyway, that is semantics and not really important here.

I’m not really big on detailing plot developments, I’m not really good at gushing about characters, and I’m not much for giving “warnings” about possible offensive content. It’s a result, I think, of writing comments for myself so long (I know this so I don’t mention it) and that I’m not really looking for these things in reviews in read myself (= they alone don’t make me buy/not buy a book).

I know I have a tendency to list the things I liked and didn’t like, what worked and what didn’t work, and sometimes even what would have worked better for me. But that’s not meant as me “telling the author how to write” and I hope that’s not the way it comes across. I know I have things to learn about writing posts others might read, so I wanted to say that just in case.

About grades

I’m not really sure about the whole grading thing but in the end, I went with it. I wrote a bit more about grading here. This is the short version.

I went with a 5-points grade system (inspired by amazon’s 5-stars). The grade is my first answer / short answer when asked how I liked a book or game:

  • 5 / 5: wow – there’s something more/something that grabbed me
  • 4 / 5: good
  • 3 / 5: okay/all right (also: flaws and good things balanced; “meh” books)
  • 2 / 5: some serious flaws
  • 1 / 5: don’t bother

My grades are not comparative grades. It’s a grade for just one book. The questions about recommendation/enjoyment are there to give an indication if or how much my grade was influenced by my enjoyment of the novel (the subjective element). It’s never a clean cut (I don’t think that’s possible) although I believe there are things that constitute “good” writing, even though they are highly debatable (and subjective), IMO.

About subjectivity in reading

That’s for a separate post. And I don’t think I’ll ever go there.