IN LIGHT OF YESTERDAY'S POST ABOUT TV, ARNOLD KLING SENDS THIS:I'm skeptical. What's the correlation between buying hardback books and actually reading serious writing? A few thoughts:Back when I had my relocation web site, we got hold of some zip-code level marketing data. When I looked for purchases that correlated with affluence, hardback books was one of the strongest.Rich people read. Books.
I'm not surprised to hear that.
1. People with less money use the library, swap books with friends and family, and buy paperbacks.
2. Look at the hardcover bestseller lists. Most of this is junk reading. People who go for hardbacks tend to be people who want the latest thing. It's not especially deep. "The Secret" and "21 Pounds in 21 Days" are typical popular hardcover books. Cookbooks tend to be purchased in hardback form. Books that you look at but don't really read -- coffee table books and art books -- also tend to be hardbacks.
3. Most of the serious literature out there is available in paperback: All the classic novels and nonfiction are going to be in paperback. Take a trip to Borders. Are the most serious readers the ones at the front tables full of new novels and political books that will be gone in 5 years or back in the shelves labeled "History," "Philosophy," and "Science" -- which are full of paperbacks?
4. Hardcover books make nice gifts. You may buy them, but are they for you? And will the person who receives your gift ever read it?
5. Lots of children's books come in hardcover. Of course, rich people delight in supplying their children and grandchildren with copious quantities of books -- and in telling others about what readers the little angels are.
6. When you have the money for it, buying books can be a satisfying pastime. You pick up one book because the cover expresses who you like to think you are. There's that guy with "How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency." Go ahead, pile on another. "Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy." A couple more and the cute girl at the checkout will surely glow with admiration.