Wednesday, December 02, 2009

On Books and Popular Books

Lately I've taken on the task of finally organizing my library. I've been using LibraryThing[1] and have been very happy with it, even though I've only had time to enter a small portion of my books. Nevertheless, it's intoxicating to discover all the books I'd forgotten I owned, and even more so when I discover books I'd bought to read and then lost track of them in the shuffle of life. So I've been thinking a lot about books, the book, electronic books, and all that sort of stuff.

I came across this remark on book popularity in The Economist which struck me as worth repeating:
In “Formal Theories of Mass Behavior”, William McPhee noted that a disproportionate share of the audience for a hit was made up of people who consumed few products of that type. (Many other studies have since reached the same conclusion.) A lot of the people who read a bestselling novel, for example, do not read much other fiction. By contrast, the audience for an obscure novel is largely composed of people who read a lot. That means the least popular books are judged by people who have the highest standards, while the most popular are judged by people who literally do not know any better. An American who read just one book this year was disproportionately likely to have read “The Lost Symbol”, by Dan Brown. He almost certainly liked it.[2]
No doubt book snobs get quite a thrill from such research.[3]



[image] Kevin Keenoo blogsite

[1] LibraryThing is nicely over-viewed here in Wikipedia. I can't recommend it too highly. I have deduced that if you have so many books that you need a cloud-based computer program to keep track of them all, then you have too many books. Of course there's strong counter: it's impossible to have too many books. I'm currently agnostic regarding this dichotomy. Perhaps its a paradox. At any rate, I've been initially entering books that are loose or weirdly located into my library database.

[2] "A world of hits" The Economist Nov. 26, 2009. (Accessed Dec. 2, 2009)

[3] I know I did.

Labels: , , ,


At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is really cool! I may get a start on LibraryThing while I don't have too many books... sounds like a really neat system.


Post a Comment

<< Home