The ‘Betascore’ of a book

Over the past few decades, consumers have become familiar with the concept of judging somethings worth, significance or quality with the help of rankings, scores and reviews from independent sources. A popular example of this is the International Movie Database (IMDb). Here you can take two different scores into account before making that all important decision whether to watch a movie, or not. Firstly, the star rating shows an average of how people, who’ve seen the movie, rated it out of 10. Secondly, the ‘metascore’, weighs opinions from well respected critics. This is displayed out of 100. In short, the higher the metascore, the more positive reviews a movie has.

For the purposes of assessment in education, there is a desire amongst academic tutors to be able to see what a student’s ‘best thinking’ is at any one point, and where it’s come from. Traditional referencing goes some way to providing information along these lines, but in a one dimensional format, without considering the amount of reading that didn’t make the final cut for a piece of writing (eg. an essay).

We all highlight, underline or bracket text when reading so we can refer back to it in the future. I started to number these highlights to speed up this process, which upon finishing a book left me with a number. It’s just the number of times I highlighted something, but this total isn’t insignificant. It’s the number of times I deemed something profound, significant, inspiring, useful, compelling etc. in a specific text, based on my current knowledge. This makes this number both personal and potentially very telling.

In the world of computing, the ‘beta’ version is something that is made available for testing before the final version is released. So for now, taking inspiration from IMDb, I’ll call this number the ‘betascore’ of a book. Plotting these numbers on an appropriate data visualisation paints a far deeper picture of a student’s reading list in terms of personal importance, inspiration or influence. The betascore is therefore not out of 10, 100 or anything else. It alludes to the person doing the reading and how much the text relates to their work and thinking, not their assessment of the book itself.

IMDb (2017) Available at