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11:10am on Saturday, 10th October, 2020:
The votes from round 5 are in and it's a tie between FELL/Ruby/White and FELL/Ruby/Buff.
That being the case, I thought I might put them to Pick4U, a web site which for mere money will allow you to ask a question of random Americans. I was originally intending to ask which cover they preferred, but it occurred to me that first I should perhaps ask whether they liked the idea at all.
I therefore stumped up $65 and asked for 50 responses to the question "Would you buy a book with this cover?". I narrowed it down to people interested in non-fiction who had a college degree. The cover I gave them to look at, decided by a coin toss, was FELL/Ruby/White.
Of the 50:
21 said yes, they would.
9 said they liked the cover but not the content
5 said they didn't like either the cover or the content
4 said they wouldn't buy it on the basis of the content alone
3 said they wouldn't buy it on the basis of the cover alone
3 said they liked the content but not the cover
5 said they'd maybe buy it
The reponses weren't simply checking yes/no checkboxes: the respondents had to write a couple of lines freeform indicating their view. They were all anonymous, so I have no idea who wrote them, but the respondents did all seem to treat their task seriously.
The ones who dismissed the book outright based on the content were the most dogmatic in their reponses. Here they are:
#7 No. There is only one god and even a book giving the implication of something otherwise or
suggesting otherwise is not something I would ever buy.
#12 No. Not without being able to read the back and see if it were humerous. I'm an atheist so
I'm not drawn to anything that feels even partially religious.
#13 I would not buy it because I am a Conservative Christian and would find it blasphemous.
#47 No, I would not.It just seems like a wrong book to buy. Maybe because I am a Christian and
learning how to be a God is a sin.
I particularly like #47, as it illustrates a point I make in the book about whether creation is actually a sin (for followers of the Abrahamic god). The dominant theological arguments seem to suggest that if God created mankind in his image, and God can create realities, then by creating realities itself mankind is fulfilling God's plan. I'm definitely giving #47 a footnote!
I'm also amused by the idea that Christians and atheists might both refuse to buy the book based on the idea that it's about gods.
Three of the comments seemed to think the image was vikingesque. Here's an example:
#49 I probably wouldn't pick this book up at all, it doesn't look like something I would enjoy reading,
like about a viking or something, it's just not for me.
So much for the college degree.
Many comments wanted more information. The back of the book would indeed have this, but I'm thinking I should maybe put it on the front. Here's a quite nice example:
#22 Yes, but I am a role-playing gamer, and at times would have the opportunity to roleplay a
"god" in a fantasy environment. Otherwise, the book needs more information — either a
sub-title, or a summary blurb on the back or inside splash page to give me more details
on what the intent of the author is in writing this book.
Overall, I'm pleased with the results of this exercise and may fork out another $65 to ask more random Americans to choose between FELL/Ruby/White and FELL/Ruby/Buff. Before I do, though, I'm considering putting a strapline at the bottom to make it clearer what the content is. The opening line of the book's introduction is: "This is a book about philosophy, theology and computer games.", which I could use if I dropped the "This is". Do you think that would work?
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