Thursday, May 24, 2012

Internet literary prize, take 2

In a previous post, I tackled the issue of the feasibility of creating an internet literary prize, addressing the main obstacle of having a finite number of readers read an (also finite) number of books but having insufficient time to read all-the-books. My solution was to divide the reading world into user groups, then allowing each group to push books forward.

I’d go to further subdivision, say allow book categories: per genre, per year, per decade, per  century, per language, per country. Any category (or set of categories, for that matter) could give rise to a prize.

Now, imagine we’ve opened a category: best English-language novel about supernatural athletes written in 2012. Let’s further imagine that you have a group of users prepared to read a fixed number of the novels on the list. What we want to do is prevent the tournament from being “gamed” by the supposed worth of books being hyped by their publishers and allow un-hyped books the same consideration as their better-known brethren.  We know that the un-hyped books will be readily read by the author’s friends (who will therefore not be objective) and maybe not at all by others.

What I would like to do, as a designer of this algorithm, is propose a system wherein the author’s friends can propose un-hyped book X but have it cost them, so that they will only vote for their friend’s book if the book is truly worthwhile.

What can it cost them?

My clue to the pursuit of my thought on this is that I’ve introduced the notion of cost, hence currency. I can even make a game of this! Imagine that readers are a kind of investor in this game. I want to design the game so that investing in a little-known book that eventually makes it will be more interesting an investment than a better-known book that makes it as well.

So, not a tournament of books, but an *economy* of books.

Here, I hit a snag, admittedly. In this system of comparison I’m creating, the investors are the same as the consumers, so investors will consume their own product. This precludes objectivity, and I want to preserve objectivity.

Could I then create a system in which you can’t promote (vote for) a book in which you are an investor? That’s a possibility. Of course, there’s nothing to prevent relationships arising between investors and consumers, and negotiations taking place, etc.

This is not simple, but I’m not about to cede to the sirens of “select juries” and elitist closed-door selections.

More thought is necessary on the subject.

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