That’s Just Rotten: Why Isn’t There Rotten Tomatoes For Books Yet?

It’s not so much to ask, is it?Imagine, you’re walking down the aisle at your favorite bookstore. You pick up a book and read the back cover…then you read the first few pages, but you’re still on the fence about it? What’s a self-respecting bibliophile to do? Well, you may just buy it on the hope and the prayer that the book is actually good and not the snooze-fest it could turn out to be. Or you could look up the book on the Rotten Tomatoes for Books app. One problem: there isn’t one.

Now some of you may read this and think, “That’s what GoodReads is for!” But I disagree. Rotten Tomatoes brought out a new kind of rating system for movies and it’s high time there was something like it for books! For those of you who aren’t entirely sure how Rotten Tomatoes works, it’s a rating system but not a ranking system and that’s an important distinction.

Look at the current box office hits for an example. Right now, Taken 2 is No. 1 in the box office but has a 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I used to think having a low Rotten Tomatoes score was a good thing—it’s not. When you rate something on Rotten Tomatoes you are simply saying whether you liked it or not. The 21% means that 21% of Rotten Tomatoes users liked the film (this includes professional critics and Rotten Tomatoes users), but Taken 2 had a 60% audience rating. This means that critics didn’t really like the film, but audience members were generally happy to see Liam Neeson kicking butt and taking names. Will I see Taken 2 based on this Tomatoes score? Yes. Will I wait for it to come out on DVD? Most definitely!

Granted, book buyers don’t have the same “I’ll wait for it to come out on DVD” option, but they can certainly say “Hey, I think I’ll just get this from the library instead of paying for it.” I also know that many times I’ve put a book back on the shelf because it didn’t catch me enough in the store, but for all I know I could have really liked it. The problem with reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and even GoodReads is that largely people only comment on a book if they really hate it or really love it. Amazon has even started an author ranking system which adds a new source of anxiety for authors and no real help for readers. What I want is a service that says “Yeah, critics didn’t really love it, by and large, but the audience had a good romp with it.”

I don’t always need to read the best sellers and the award-winners—and for the most part I don’t. But what if I’m missing out on a decent book, or at least an awesome no-brainer romp (the Taken 2s of the book world) because all I see are good or bad reviews?

What do you think? Are you satisfied with the rating systems out there or do you want something a little different?


  1. Nicholas Winter

    The problem is unlike films that get dozens of reviews from critics for most releases, books rarely get mre than a few reviews for a given, say a mid list mystery, unless it’s the latest Rowling tome. Rotten Tomaoes works because that system aggregates as many re Jews as possible.

  2. Clare 2e

    Interesting idea, @Jenn, and maybe it could kick in only after a certain number of reviews..but then, would it just cause more review-gaming.

    @NicholasWinter Good point. Also I hope that strange typo in your last sentence is AutoCowrecked.

  3. Nicholas Winter

    Yeah, it was AutoCowWrecked.

    Turning off autocorrection has its own side-effects. TANSTAAFL.

  4. Matt Dorville

    Hi Jennifer, have you tried Critics and Writers at We’re unloading our marketing strategy soon but we’ve just reached over 15,000 reviews!


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