Every year a certain book-rating website holds what they call the Choice Awards where millions of members vote to let you know which books they have read.
Of course, this is presented as an award for ‘best’ book in a given category, but in reality, it is simply an award for being the most read.
With twenty(!) books in each category of the semifinal round, there is little chance that anyone is picking the ‘best’ book after having read them all. The vast majority of the nearly 3 million voters (so far) will be choosing between 3 or 4 books, or will simply click on the one book they’ve read, or heard of, in each group.
So what is this award for? Well, for being popular, clearly.
At the end of this very long and involved voting process we will finally know which book the most people have read or heard of this year. Which we probably could have easily done just by looking at whichever book got the most ratings this year.
But voting is fun, right? And everyone gets to feel validated that a book they read got an award.
But should that be the point of an award? From a marketing standpoint, sure, I suppose. An award-giving organization wants to award books that people have heard of, otherwise no one will care about the award. It’s a sort of catch 22 in our profit-driven world, where even the awarding entity needs to make money and have name recognition.
But as a reader, I have zero interest in the winner of a ‘most popular’ award. If I’ve already heard of a book because millions of people are talking about it, I don’t need to see an award telling me that millions of people are talking about it. Awards should exist to raise awareness of quality things that people might not have heard of, not to congratulate things for being well known.
Of course, an awareness raising award is much more difficult to put into practice than crowdsourcing your awards. Awards based on merit would require a person or group of people to read a large number of the books coming out that year, and pick out not only the best of the best, but specifically the best ones that flew under the radar.
But wouldn’t that be so much more interesting, and exciting to look forward to?
Instead we get the equivalent of an award for the most awards. And who cares about that?