Study: Winning award has negative impact on perception of book's worth

Feb. 14, 2014 at 6:28 PM
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CHICAGO, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- A book read after it wins a prestigious award will likely be judged more negatively than if read in its pre-award days, a University of Chicago study found.

Amanda Sharkey of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business analyze thousands of reader reviews of 32 pairs of books.

One book in each pair had won a significant 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 said.

The finding suggests a book's audience increases considerably after an award is announced, Sharkey said, but that brings an increase in the diversity and personal tastes of readers which may not match the subject matter of the book.

A larger sampling of readers is drawn to a prize-winning book -- not because of any intrinsic personal interest in the book, but rather because it has an award attached to it.

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

The findings are likely applicable to other media, including film, Sharkey said.

"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," she said.

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