--Previously, the Researchers Found Gender Discrimination by Publishers and Indie Authors, but the Same Bias is Not Displayed by Consumers--
Queens, NY, October 15, 2019—Queens College professors Adam Kapelner and Dana Beth Weinberg examine consumer responses to author gender in evaluating books in a new study published in Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World. The randomized experiment involved surveys of 2,544 real people who didn’t know they were part of research into gender discrimination.
Kapelner, a statistician, and Weinberg, a sociologist, followed up on their findings from last year—published in from last year—published in PLOS One—that there is gender discrimination by publishers and indie authors. “…we expected consumers might show the same biases. We were wrong,” says Weinberg.
In their previous study, Weinberg and Kapelner found a gender-based price gap of 45% for books published by traditional publishers and 9% for those released by indie authors. However, the gap closed substantially when book prices for male and female authors were compared within genres. This new study addressed the unanswered question of whether the differential pricing by publishers and authors somehow reflected market preferences. Were consumers perhaps inclined to pay less or place less value on books by women, thereby in part explaining how publishers and indie authors set book prices?
In their new study, Kapelner and Weinberg presented respondents with one of two books published works by D.B. Shuster (Weinberg’s fiction-writing pen name), an erotica title and a thriller title. The professors randomized the first name of the author that respondents saw for each of the books, using ten identifiably female names, ten identifiably male names, and ten sets of initials with no identifiable gender. Respondents were then asked to rate the covers and descriptions on several different dimensions, including interest, quality of writing, and how much they would be willing to pay for the book.
“We crunched the numbers every which way, but we found that consumers just don’t care about whether the book was written by a man or a woman. The findings were incredibly robust,” says Kapelner.
“However, consumers did place greater value on thrillers than on erotica,” Weinberg adds. “This difference might reflect another kind of gender bias, since most thrillers are written by men while most erotica is written by women. This parallels what we found in our previous study, namely that less value is placed on genres written primarily by women.”
“We have more questions than answers,” Kapelner says. “Will this result hold up across other genres, like physics textbooks or cookbooks?” The researchers intend to continue pursuing this question and have recently received grant funding for an even bigger experiment.
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