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Monday, May 09, 2005

Eloisa plays with the Amazon's Flesch-Kincaid Ratings

Here's how to tell whether a book has a "text rating": if it has a little banner that says "Search Inside," it will have text stats. If it only says "look inside" or nothing, it won't have text stats. I think this has to do with whether publishers gave permission for the book to be scanned and searchable. The Harry Potter books are not searchable but fascinatingly, in ancient Greek The Philosopher's Stone is searchable and received...ta-da...a 6.2 (you'd think ancient Greek would count a bit higher on the difficulty scale). That 6.2 made me suspicious of these ratings. My speciality as a professor is Shakespeare and I was truly surprised to find that Romeo and Juliet is only 4.6. But I was even more surprised when I discovered that the Cliff Notes version of the play is a 11.1!

I thought I'd check and see how some of the other classics did. Oliver Twist seemed to live up to students' groans: 9.2 with 10% complex words. BUT that rating came from the Tor edition. The Signet Classic edition only ranked 8.3, though still with 10% complex words. The highest rating I could find came from a classic author about whom students rarely complain: Jane Austen was really daunting: 11.5 on the Flesch-Kincaid scale.

I checked one Nora Roberts book, as a contrast to the classics: the difference between Nora's 4.4 with 6% complex words, and Jane's 11.5 with 12% complex words suggests there is some factual basis to the ratings.
Eloisa James, 8:20 AM