Friday, August 17, 2012

Bestsellers May Get Purchased, But Not Read

Bestselling books have a way of becoming their own self-propelling machines. Once readers hear that other readers are in love with a certain book, they run out to buy it. Everyone has bought a book simply because everyone else was talking about it. But the question is: did you read it? 

Are People Really Reading Bestsellers?

Some books have a way of becoming fashionable. Right now, the book everyone's talking about is Fifty Shades of Gray. Some swear it's the greatest piece of writing ever produced by the hand of man, while many critics have deemed it practically unreadable. The point is, they all bought it. When it seems like everyone's got a certain book, it's the in thing to go out and get that same book. How else can you join the conversation? 

Some studies suggest that bestsellers may get inflated sales numbers for just this reason. Instead of being read, bestsellers are getting purchased to serve as shelf and table decoration. One bookstore that wanted to test the theory stuffed coupons, redeemable for $5 cash, inside 70 of the store's most popular books. 

Not one of those coupons was turned in. In 1985, when the test was conducted, $5 was nothing to throw away -- and if I got a coupon for five bucks today I'd run right down to the bookstore with it in my hand. So why didn't those coupons get redeemed? 

One theory is that the books didn't get read -- but they did get bought.

Sales feed sales, but that doesn't mean those sales are firing up more readers. Some bestsellers absolutely inspire new readers and introduce people to books they've never before considered...but those big bestselling numbers night not reflect total readers.  Have you ever bought a bestseller because everyone said you should but never finished it? 

Haven't we all?

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