Thoughts on Book Prizes

Elaborate on the merits of specific tournaments or have general theoretical discussion here.
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Cheynem
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Thoughts on Book Prizes

Post by Cheynem » Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:23 pm

I know there is a thread on finding book prizes, so maybe this is redundant, but I do have some thoughts on the nature of book prizes that I didn't want to get buried in a thread about finding the right bookstores:

So, here's a disclaimer. I generally do not like book prizes. I've won a few books here and there at tournaments and they mostly just sit on a shelf and do nothing. I read the first chapter of The Mayor of Casterbridge once. This is just me, I know--I typically don't read fiction and I always have a backload of books that I picked out myself, so I don't need a copy of Silence or Another Part of the Forest to read.

Keeping that in mind, here's four thoughts:

1. Book prizes should include more non-fiction selections. Mike Bentley always picks out interesting books for his prizes, for example (I did read through a CULT prize on great film actors, and I might have read a David Halberstam book if the font wasn't Herve Villechaize-size). Since literature only makes up a fraction of the quizbowl distribution, they shouldn't totally dominate book prizes. Books on history, film, the arts, etc. should be included. Biographies.

2. Building off of that though is the awareness that (sometimes) it can be hard to get inexpensive non-fiction books (although this isn't true, particularly at goodwill stores). More specifically, it can be hard to get GOOD inexpensive non-fiction books. It's easy to find classic literature for a quarter or if you want to find 29 copies of Mike Huckabee's 2008 book, but sometimes it can be a crapshoot. I wonder if perhaps slightly more coin should be set aside for a "prestige" book prize for the top scorers or winners or top young scorers or what have you--i.e., books that were recently on the best seller's list or "notable" book lists. That said, I think you could get these books pretty inexpensively too if you checked.

3. I'd also like to see more non-book things as prizes. Trash tournaments give out neat prizes--I won a LEGO prize at CO Trash as well as a Blu-Ray version of The Silence of the Lambs. Amazing! Maybe that's too junky, but what about CD's of classical music/soundtracks/operas ("CD's?" questioned the millennials), books on tape (do these even exist?), and quasi-academic films?

4. Finally, I don't know if the idea that books-as-prizes needs to be reexamined. Chris Ray mentioned in the EFT thread that one of his teammates was upset about not getting any prize for a first tournament win. We obviously can't expect every school to shell out the $$$ for a trophy, but I wonder if the nature of quizbowl professionalism means rethinking the idea that "winning a tournament = getting an used copy of Gideon Planish" is the best way.
Mike Cheyne
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Re: Thoughts on Book Prizes

Post by Muriel Axon » Mon Oct 23, 2017 7:16 pm

I agree with much of this post. Hentzel-run NAQT tournaments in Minnesota have often had a wide selection of books to choose from, including lots of non-fiction -- and while many of those are not the sorts of books I would choose, I've been trying to follow that spirit by bringing books on philosophy, science (technical and popular), history, and social sciences to some Minnesota-run tournaments.

I do feel like the way we often award book prizes -- by calling people up and having them pick something after just a few glances -- makes it such that people just end up taking books they've heard of, which usually includes a lot of literature and a lot less of nearly everything else. I'm sure the excellent David Quammen book at Minnesota's Penn Bowl would have gone a lot faster if people had time to figure out what it was about. I don't know that there's a good solution, but I think this might cause some inertia in favor of the predominance of literature.
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Re: Thoughts on Book Prizes

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Mon Oct 23, 2017 8:58 pm

Cheynem wrote:I generally do not like book prizes. I've won a few books here and there at tournaments and they mostly just sit on a shelf and do nothing.
Don't forget that you got a David Lodge question from reading the cover of the David Lodge collection I provided as a prize once!
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Re: Thoughts on Book Prizes

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Mon Oct 23, 2017 9:26 pm

Cheynem wrote:3. I'd also like to see more non-book things as prizes. Trash tournaments give out neat prizes--I won a LEGO prize at CO Trash as well as a Blu-Ray version of The Silence of the Lambs. Amazing! Maybe that's too junky, but what about CD's of classical music/soundtracks/operas ("CD's?" questioned the millennials), books on tape (do these even exist?), and quasi-academic films?
I'm glad this was appreciated; we consciously tried to provide a decent variety of prizes, and spent more than we ordinarily might to do so. If I recall correctly, we had a couple of books, a couple of movies, some gift cards for music and video game services, and a toy or two--basically an attempt to capture the idea of the tournament's distribution in its prizes. I certainly don't expect every tournament to do that (or to spend that much money), but Mike is definitely right that providing prizes you think the people who win them might genuinely appreciate having is always a nice gesture.
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Re: Thoughts on Book Prizes

Post by Cheynem » Mon Oct 23, 2017 10:41 pm

Not only did I get the David Lodge question by reading the cover but it was the difference in a game against Alabama.
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Re: Thoughts on Book Prizes

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region » Wed Oct 25, 2017 9:04 am

This is a neat thread and as a frequent TD it's made me think about book prizes and prizes in general. I'm a big fan of book prizes. When I was in college, they weren't really a thing. We usually got individual trophies, which were appreciated, but I would have rather gotten books. I've won books at open events since then, and I enjoy them. One thing I like about books is that they're easily transportable and storeable.

Absolutely agree with non-fiction selections. I'm cool with giving away trash books (you might find out who Herve Villechaize is!). I'm lucky in that we have a great local library book sale that has lots of quality, cheap bargains for non-fiction. I've done prestige books in the past for the winning teams; definitely an idea to think about if you have the ability to give away premium books.

I also agree with quality selections. I pride my events in having high quality book selections. Most events I've been to have pretty good quality books, but I'm sure there are events that give away something like the 2002 Nashville Yellow Pages or How to Use Compuserve as a book prize. That should be avoided.

Non-book prizes are hit or miss in my experience. I've won cassette tapes, VHS tapes, and vinyl records at trash tournaments. Basically, I won a trip to the e-waste center. I gave a CD away as a prize at practice last year and the winner didn't have a CD player. Millennials, am I rite! Say what you want about books, but everyone in quizbowl can read them, most people in quizbowl like books, and good books are a lot of what quizbowl is all about. Gift cards, Legos, and some of the other stuff mentioned by Mike and Rob are great ideas for prizes too. It's just a matter of not using the prize ceremony to get rid of junk around your house, I guess.

Books as prizes seem professional enough to me.
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Re: Thoughts on Book Prizes

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Oct 25, 2017 9:31 am

As a TD or tournament staff member I've certainly been guilty of providing crappy book prizes: books taken from the "free bin" outside the used bookstore (essentially a glorified trash can), old textbooks on esoteric subjects that nobody wanted, realizing that the tournament was starting in an hour and nobody had acquired any book prizes, etc. I've also been guilty of the opposite, spending literal hours in the used bookstore searching for just the right books that an ACF audience might appreciate, hours that probably could have been better spent editing the question set or randomizing packets at times that were not "half an hour before Round 1". I also have experimented with cheap trophies. At Chicago Open History Doubles 2008, I gave the winning team two decorative turtles made out of some shiny white stone; it was in reference to the fact that "turtle ships" (as in, from the Battle of Noryang Point) were at that time an omnipresent clue/bonus part: if anything, quizbowl was suffering from turtle ship fatigue. I picked them up for $3 from a discount store in River Grove, IL.

Part of why I used to enjoy writing questions so much is because I loved sharing new and wonderful facts with people. When I found a good lead-in that hadn't been used before and was interesting or amusing, I got really excited about using it in a tossup. I would literally imagine the smile on Jerry or Yaphe's face when they heard this new clue, or the excitement of somebody buzzing on it and feeling happy that their knowledge of this thing has finally been rewarded. If done well, book prizes can be a similar act of loving knowledge transmission.

The best tournament prize I ever got was at a VCU tournament, and it was a book called "The Ecological Indian", about trying to piece together from scarce evidence what North America was like before the arrival of Europeans. I knew nothing about this subject before, and reading this book sparked a months-long binge during which I read multiple books on the subject, eventually leading me to become a hardcore "high-counter". No trophy has ever had that kind of impact on me.

EDIT: Also, there was one tournament where the book prizes were awarded at the end of the prelims (based on prelim stats). This led to an awkward situation where there was a tossup on the book that I had won as a prize. And I buzzed in and answered this tossup while holding a copy of the book, which I had been thumbing through just minutes before. I'm sure this looked super sketch to the other team.
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Re: Thoughts on Book Prizes

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Wed Oct 25, 2017 2:51 pm

Pro-tip: hop on Amazon Prime and buy new copies of Dover thrift books since they're the same price as the crappy paperbacks you find at the book store but they're not crappy, they're new. Also, their selection has some really unusual stuff in the mix.
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Re: Thoughts on Book Prizes

Post by Peter13 » Wed Oct 25, 2017 4:21 pm

As a person who has been a TD for a couple years at rather low level tournaments, I think I can put my two cents in. I always try to provide interesting non-fiction books about different countries (so these books can safely fit in the geography or history category) and have been dismayed to find tournaments that don't do this. I think everyone here are generally in agreement of that. One thing that has not been mentioned though is science books (preferably popular science). While I don't think the majority of people would want to read a textbook on the curvature of wing segments in Drosophila melanogaster, I do think there are many science writers that bridge the gap between useful information and interesting facts for laymen. I always find it odd that I have been participating in quizbowl for a while, and can't remember the last time I saw a book prize in the hard sciences (people's old textbooks don't count).
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