December 17, 2005

Judging a Book by Its Cover

According to British statistician Atai Winkler, the likelihood of a novel's success can be predicted with about 70% accuracy by a simple analysis of its title, reports the Vancouver Sun. You can try out a computer program that implements his algorithm. I tried it on a few titles, a number of which, to be fair, are not the titles of novels.

The Da Vinci Code10.2%
Guns, Germs, and Steel10.2%
Lincoln's Doctor's Dog14.6%
Debbie Does Dallas14.6%
War and Peace31.7%
Principia Mathematica37.0%
The Tale of Genji41.4%
The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language41.4%
The Sound Pattern of English41.4%
The Way of Analysis41.4%
Southern Cross41.4%
Gone with the Wind44.2%
Rising Sun55.4%

Geoff Pullum will no doubt be delighted to see that his grammar's chances are markedly better than those of The Da Vinci Code, but disappointed that it isn't quite up there with Gone with the Wind. On the other hand, I am disappointed that Guns, Germs and Steel doesn't score higher. I like the title and the book. None of my examples get close to Winkler's best scorer: Agatha Christie's Sleeping Murder at 83%.

The article doesn't explain what factors contribute to success, but one could figure them out by experimenting with the web interface.

Posted by Bill Poser at December 17, 2005 06:33 PM