Age ranging on children's books • 9 June 2008 • The SnowBlog

Age ranging on children's books

I'm a bit behind the curve here, but wanted to draw your attention if you hadn't seen it in every blog, paper, and place of news: publishers are pushing on with proposing age banding on kid's books. My view is similar to that of many - it's a foolish, simplistic idea, which will stifle a love of reading and is a symptom of the nanny state. Do take a mo to subscribe to the petition at Vanessa has a good write up of the issues, and some good links. Aside from my common-sense reaction that this is a stupid, limiting idea, one of the aspects I find most disturbing is the market research that underpins this move. Market research can be so elegant, so sophisticated - and so dangerous if misused. Out of interest, the company who ran the research promise to 'use no business jargon or so called TM processes', although I filled my bingo card in a few minutes' browsing (noteworthy examples include 'inter-dependent strands', 'language leaks'; oh, and they 'give ... consumers... a tangible voice inside organisations... which in turn creates a platform for more effective strategic decision-making.' Catchy.) Anyway, sniping aside, the first rule of market research is that it should never be used as a way to force a decision through. It's a data point - not tablets of stone. Methodologies are *never* foolproof. There is always some degree of leading the witness. I haven't seen the full methodology but if the overwhelming result was that age ranging is a good thing, then there will have been a question on the questionnaire or in the interview raising the subject of age ranging - respondents won't just have magicked the idea up, individually. So once the idea is in people's heads, they just have to say whether it would be a good or a bad thing. If the question is pitched just so - 'If a book was stickered to indicate which age group it was suitable for, would that make your purchase decision easier?' for instance - chances are people will tick the box without stopping to think about whether a 7 year old will be mortified at reading a book marked as suitable for a 5 year old. I have witnessed countless reports being prepared to act as some pseudo-science - often from a statistically insignificant sample size - to support an idea a company's board has already decided upon. I bet this is no different. Anyway. Go sign up. You'll be amongst excellent company - look at the list of people who've already signed.


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