Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date



The publishing industry shows marked evidence of both gender and racial discrimination. A rational explanation for this difference in treatment of both female and Black authors might relate to the taste-based preferences of book consumers, who might be less willing to pay for books by such authors. We ran a randomized experiment to test for the presence of discriminatory preferences by consumers based on authors’ race, gender and/or age. We collected ratings of 25,201 book surveys across 9,072 subjects on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, making this study the largest experimental study of the book market to date. Subjects were presented with mocked-up book covers and descriptions from each of 14 fiction and non-fiction genres, with one of three possible titles per book randomly assigned. Using author names and photographs, we signaled authors’ race, gender, and age and randomly assigned these combinations to each book presented to our subjects. We then asked subjects to rate their interest in purchasing the book, their evaluation of the author’s credentials, and the amount they were willing to pay for the book. The experimental design of this study strived to eliminate the potential for proxy-based discrimination by providing book descriptions that detailed the authors’ relevant professional experience. The large sample allowed for exploration of various types of taste-based discrimination observed in the literature, including discrimination against particular groups, homophily, and pro-social behavior. Overall, book consumers showed a willingness to pay approximately $0.50 or 3.5% more on average for books by Black authors and little, if any, practically meaningful discrimination based on age or gender. In other words, our study finds no and even contrary evidence of taste-based preferences by consumers that would rationalize the historic discriminatory treatment of Black or of female authors by publishers nor of discrimination based on an author’s age.


Originally published as: Weinberg, Dana B. and Adam Kapelner. "Do Book Consumers Discriminate against Black, Female, or Young Authors?" PLoS One, 2022, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0267537

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.