Books rate more negatively after winning award, study finds

February 13, 2014

Looking for a good book? Stay away from the award-winning section of the bookstore or library.

New research from Amanda Sharkey of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business finds that a book read after winning a will likely be judged more negatively than if it's read in its pre- days.

In "The Paradox of Publicity: How Awards Can Negatively Affect the Evaluation of Quality," to be published in the March issue of Administrative Science Quarterly, Sharkey and colleague Balázs Kovács of the University of Lugano analyze thousands of reader reviews of 32 pairs of . One book in each pair had won an award – like the Booker Prize, National Book Award or PEN/Faulkner Award – while the other book had been nominated but hadn't won.

"We found that winning a prestigious prize in the literary world seems to go hand-in-hand with a particularly sharp reduction in ratings of perceived quality," Sharkey says.

The researchers theorize that a book's audience increases considerably after an award is announced, as do the diversity and personal tastes of readers. Therefore, a larger sampling of readers is drawn to a prize-winning book, not because of any intrinsic personal interest in the book, but because it has an award attached to it.

To test this theory, Sharkey and Kovács created "predicted" ratings for each book based on the readers' past ratings of books in the same genre. They then studied the how a book's predicted ratings change after an award is announced by comparing earlier predicted ratings to post-announcement predicted ratings.

They found that before an award is announced, the predicted ratings of a book about to win are equivalent to the ratings of a book about to lose. But after an award is announced, that shifts and award-winning books have lower predicted ratings than books that don't win.

"This is direct evidence that prizewinning books tend to attract new readers who wouldn't normally read and like this particular type of book," Sharkey says.

These results are likely applicable to other media, including film, according to the researchers. "The types of movies that win Oscars may be very different from the types of movies we watch and like during the nine months of the year when it's not awards season," says Sharkey.

Explore further: Harry Potter breaks e-book lockdown

More information: papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2350768

Related Stories

Harry Potter breaks e-book lockdown

March 27, 2012

(AP) -- The Harry Potter books are finally on sale in electronic form, and they have a special magical touch to them: In a break with industry practices, the books aren't locked down by encryption, which means consumers ...

Barnes & Noble takes Nook e-reader to Britain

August 20, 2012

Barnes & Noble on Monday announced it will release Nook tablets in Britain in the first move by the world's largest book seller to sell the e-readers outside the United States.

Recommended for you

Just how good (or bad) is the fossil record of dinosaurs?

August 28, 2015

Everyone is excited by discoveries of new dinosaurs – or indeed any new fossil species. But a key question for palaeontologists is 'just how good is the fossil record?' Do we know fifty per cent of the species of dinosaurs ...

Fractals patterns in a drummer's music

August 28, 2015

Fractal patterns are profoundly human – at least in music. This is one of the findings of a team headed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen and Harvard University ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.