A study of more than 2 million books has revealed that titles by female authors are on an average sold at just over half the price of those written by men, the media reported.
The research, by sociologist Dana Beth Weinberg and mathematician Adam Kapelner of Queens College-CUNY, involved titles published in North America between 2002 and 2012, the Guardian reported on Monday.
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 an average 45% 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 per cent lower than for male authors.
“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,” Weinberg said.
“We expected that taking account of the first two discrimination patterns would knock out any remaining differences in prices within genre.
“The within-genre price difference (9 per cent for traditionally published titles) was extremely robust across various analyses. In retrospect, perhaps we should not have been surprised about this difference, since this pattern also mirrors the wage inequality within jobs that we see in the larger economy.”
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 per cent, the Guardian reported.
Inequality was also seen within genres for self-publishers, at 4 per cent compared with the 9 per cent for traditionally published books.
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