Print Edition - 2018-05-03  |  Life & Style

Books by women priced 45pc lower, study finds

  • Analysis of more than two million titles shows that on average, male authors’ work is strikingly better valued

May 3, 2018-

A study of more than 2 million books has revealed that titles by female authors are on average sold at just over half the price of those written by men.

The research, by sociologist Dana Beth Weinberg and mathematician Adam Kapelner of Queens College-CUNY, looked titles published in North America between 2002 and 2012. The authors analysed the gender of each author by matching names to lists of male and female names, and cross-referenced with information about price, genre and publication.

Books by women released by mainstream publishers, they found, were priced on average 45 percent lower than books by men. In a paper published in the journal PLOS One, the academics point out that there are more female authors writing in genres such as romance, which are generally priced lower than male-dominated genres such as science. But even after accounting for these differences, they found that prices for authors with identifiably female names were 9 percent lower than for male authors.

Weinberg said the study was inspired by the VIDA counts of book reviews, which have shown the skew towards reviews of books by male authors, written by male reviewers.

“Our study looked at all three types of discrimination—the gender segregation by book genre, the different value placed on these genres, and then finally the difference within the genres,” she said. “VIDA has been very good about calling attention to the first issue, namely the lack of representation of female authors in certain genres, and others have emphasised how books written predominantly by women and for women such as romance and women’s fiction do not receive the recognition they deserve.”

It was little surprise to see evidence of segregation by genre and the differing values placed on each genre, Weinberg added, but the researchers were very surprised at how clear this discrimination was.

The study also looked at self-published, or independently published, titles over the same period, finding that when authors priced books themselves, there was far greater equality between the genders—although there was still a price

gap of 7 percent.

Author Samantha Shannon said she was “disappointed by this statistic, but not surprised”.

Novelist Joanne Harris said she had not previously noticed the discrepancy in pricing, “but in an industry where women’s work is generally seen as of less value and relevance, for it to be literally priced lower seems to make a twisted kind of sense”.

“It needs to be looked at in detail, as every case of this kind of thing adds subliminally to the general perception that books by women are disposable, forgettable and less worthy of attention,” she said.

Published: 03-05-2018 07:46

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