July 28, 2007

"Rich people read."

Glenn Reynolds writes:
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.
I'm skeptical. What's the correlation between buying hardback books and actually reading serious writing? A few thoughts:

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.


Anonymous said...

Well whaddya know? I'm in 100% agreement with you on this post. Martin Amis, it happens, got to this before any of us. There's a mordantly funny passage in his novel "The Information" in which the protagonist, after visiting a "friend" (actually a bitter rival) in the first class section of a flight, makes a mental inventory of the books he sees passengers reading; in first class it's junky self-help bromides stuff along the lines of "How to Swim WIth the Sharks" etc., and back in economy it's (softcover) philosophy, physics, lit...

Laura Reynolds said...

I think you are right. My beloved godmother, who was quite wealthy, always sent my sister and I lots of books, all hardcover.

amba said...

Absolutely. The VAST majority of that is crap reading -- people who are addicted to the latest mystery or forensic series installment, or the latest James Patterson or woman-in-jeop romantic suspense. The hardbacks are big and glossily jacketed but very poorly made, so that they're almost disposable. They are most of what turns up in every church fund-raiser book sale, like discarded candy wrappers. They're the books that are sold at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. The people who buy them obviously aren't dirt poor, but they aren't "rich" either. They're probably mostly middle-class high school and state-U grads with blue-collar parents who do very well selling real estate, insurance, or cars.

I don't doubt that Stever's rich grandmother sent hardcover books -- and probably good ones -- but that's a wee drop in the bucket of "hardcover" sales.

amba said...

His grandmother didn't teach he grammar, however.

What is this thing about "she threw a party for my husband and I?" It's all over the place -- nothing personal, Stever. Just an old grammar grouch. I have a theory that it's not just because nobody gets taught about the nominative, dative, and accusative of pronouns anymore, but because the word "me" sounds selfish -- "me, me, me" -- and people think "I" sounds more dignified.

Anonymous said...

Some rich and educated people read and others fake it. Here’s a fun article on Pierre Bayard’s essay “How to discuss books that one hasn’t read”: link.

“he divides the works he mentions into four categories: “LI” indicates “livres inconnus” (books he is unfamiliar with); “LP” “livres parcourus” (books glanced at); “LE” “livres dont j’ai entendu parler” (books he has heard discussed) and “LO” “les livres que j’ai oubliés” (books he has read but forgotten).”

“(to) read a volume for review would be considered humiliating – it’s a task best left to one’s mistress” (Lucien de Rubempré, Balzac)

“Wilde (the patron saint of non-readers) recommended six minutes as the proper time to spend reading a book for review, and advocated reviewing as a good way of talking about oneself.”

amba said...

Saying "sent my sister and I lots of books," in other words, is exactly the same as saying, "my grandmother sent I lots of books."

I'll shut up now.

Bissage said...

Dear Amba,

Maybe you could explain to a dunderhead like me what happened to the word "who"?

An example: All the people that left early missed out.

That "that" seems very common on teh internets and even at Althouse.

Have I been evidencing my inferior breeding all these many years?

What's going on?



Laura Reynolds said...

Amba: I have been posting here for awhile and have been more than upfront about poor spelling and grammer. I get paid quite well for using mt intellect in other ways. But you're in good company with my unemployed but well written sister, at pointing it out. Aside from my poor grammer, I think you know what I meant. More to Ann's #4 and #5

Laura Reynolds said...

And by the way while we are being critical, reading comprehension is a good skill to have and it was my GODMOTHER not my grandmother who supplied the books. Both my grandmothers died many years prior to my birth, hence the adjective (is that right?) beloved.

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Gahrie said...

I am a very avid reader. When I was struggling financially, I bought paperbacks. Since I have become more financially secure, I buy mainly hardbacks, and have gone to the trouble of replacing many of my paperbacks with hardbacks when possible.

Laura Reynolds said...

No problem *Jane. :)

Gahrie said...

amba: Absolutely. The VAST majority of that is crap reading

There is no such thing as crap reading. All reading has some value. For instance, wouldn't it be better to read a James Patterson novel than watch a movie based on one?

My friends and family are bemused at my reluctance to go see movies. When I tell them that if I have 2 to 3 hours to go see a movie, I would much rather read a book (even a "trash" book,) their reaction drops to disbelief.

Anonymous said...
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knox said...

There is no such thing as crap reading. All reading has some value. For instance, wouldn't it be better to read a James Patterson novel than watch a movie based on one?

ugh, having suffered through a Patterson novel years ago, I'd have to say NO.

knox said...

... and I am no book snob. I am currently enjoying "The Devil Wears Prada."

Anonymous said...
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Christy said...

Knoxwhirled, I don't know about you, but my sympathies were entirely with the "Devil" in that novel. *Jane, I haven't seen the movie but I understand Streep was likeable. The boss was not portrayed that way in the novel.

I'm with Gahrie, I'm lazily replacing well loved but crumbling paperbacks with hardcovers.

As regards that over who, I suspect many of us so fear the "who/whom" grammar that we steer clear of who even when whom isn't at issue. We'd rather be thought careless than ignorant. (And I'm twisting myself in knots trying to stay away from scare quotes.)

Bissage said...

My 11:00 was a sincere question. I'd like an answer from amba, but I'd also like an answer from anyone. Please?

Bissage said...

Hey! Wait a minute!

I can ask Althouse!

(She knows everything!)

reader_iam said...

"That" v. "Who":

My theory is simple: Microsoft Word. Its spell/grammar-checker always flags the "who" and suggests "that" (this is also frequently true with "which," even "which" is what's wanted).

People assume that if MS says so, it must be right!

(I'm less than half-kidding about all this, by the way. I can't tell you the number of times writers have used that precise argument while tangling with me over various types of edits. In fact, it happened again just this week.)

reader_iam said...

Perhaps I should make my theory more generic: "Word processing programs with spell/grammar-checkers." It's just that Microsoft's is the one people mention by name. But thinking back over a quarter century of editing (and years of reading before that), the eschewing of "who" does seem to coincide with the widespread, general adoption of word processing programs, 15 or so years ago.

Bissage said...

Reader, thanks!

BTW, I've changed a "which" to a "that" many times because of the grammar-check.

I'm a sheep.


Oops, I mean, "Baaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

Anonymous said...

A primer lesson from Blue book:

1. Who refers to people. That and which refer to groups or things.

2. That introduces essential clauses while which introduces nonessential clauses.

3. If this, that, these, or those has already introduced an essential clause, use which to introduce the next clause, whether it is essential or nonessential.

reader_iam said...

"Rich people buy. Books. In hardback.

There--that's more like it.

reader_iam said...

Jean: Of course! But I don't believe most people think through those choices anymore--even when they know them.

Bissage said...

FWIW, "group of people who" got 2,000,000 Google hits while "group of people that" got 807,000 hits.

P.S. Thanks, Jean.

reader_iam said...

My own experience with books, being a buyer and not a borrower, is that for most of my life, I simply could not afford to buy in hardback the number of books required to sate my appetites. Thus, while there are many thousands of books stuffed into my house, a relatively small percentage are hardback.

I do appear to be buying more in hardback than I used to, however.

Synova said...

I think that the "books make acceptable gifts" reasoning is likely. Also "books as props" reasoning is quite likely.

The hard cover books on my shelves are nearly all genre fiction. After that there are a few hardcover reference (stuff like books on dragons or _The Art of War_, since I write SF) that I bought from clearance racks. After that are a few "collectible" books and coffee table volumes. After that I have a very few non-fiction biography types and even fewer political books which I buy extremely rarely, but not never.

I'm not counting children's books but we've got bunches of those. And a couple closets full of paperbacks.

I have e-books too. :-) About a dozen genre titles that aren't in paper at all, much less hardback.

knox said...

It's (usually) much more comfortable to read a paperback. Easier to hold in one hand, etc.

From Inwood said...


Thanks for referring me to that TLS article.

The author refers to Milton’s "Paradise Regained" as an example of unread “classics”. I did read it, admittedly while nodding. I do remember (I’m looking at the text now) The Third Book lines 348 ff as sounding suspiciously like The Godfather when the Don advises Michael.

Once upon a time when I was on a committee trying to set up a decent law library for us lawyers (before the ‘net, of course), one guy insisted that we buy used books because it would look better to the clients; they’d think that we had actually opened some of the books!

So too with some friends. Some have shelves with a lot of books, almost all hardcovered & any paperback of some quality edition; some are arranged by size & color and all interrupted by expensive tschochkes (books as props as Synova says), but, other than the potboilers & what look like their college textbooks, no, shall we say, substantive book looks like it’s ever been touched. And some classics are untouched book club special editions. (Note to myself: get that Jane Austen book club edition of Pride & Prejudice & Sense & Sensibility & bounce it off the wall or spill soda on it! Or better still, reread both novels! And resist misspelling her name as "Austin"!)

Cedarford said...

Note that book reading is part of a concretion of who a person believes themself to be or choses to project to others to show their "social status".

A nice example is the "NYTimes Crowd" - that read the Times, discuss it's articles, regurgitate opinions, adopt fashion, patronize restaurants, and read books favorably reviewed and endorsed by the "trendsetters". If you read the NY Post, you are and outsider - but may be accepted as simply strange if you say you read the Times AND also the NYPost for more local news...
"Ahhh, the locals, do you work with them????" might be a response.

Aside from cliques, people do notice what people may have read from others thoughts or quotes. "Ahhh, a Tom Clancy reader, I notice". "I see you read Hayek!" "What was that from, part 9 of the Talmud?" "The Uppinshads?" "My, what you are saying is just what the NYTImes book review/Cliff Notes said!"

For me, once I find an author I like I want to read all their work until I see they are in real decline or backtracking their earlier work is only a journey of discovery of painfully inferior stuff. Read all the Melville, read all the Twain. Did Hemingway. Just finished John Steinbeck's collected works.
Read "Harry Potter" out of curiosity and found it a good enough read as an adult, something that would have been incredibly good when I was a kid, that I read all the other ones - except the last one and the new one just out (pending).

I don't know if it is a "rich people" thing. I'd like to think that regular readers are those that are imaginative enough to allow their mind to fill out the details and curious enough to know and learn new things. And those that are not regular readers of anything? Well....

From Inwood said...

Answer to one correspondent who caught me in a misspelling & to another who caught me in a Pecksniffian grammar lapse:

Ah, you have found a gotcha.

But you have the following (misspelling or grammar lapse, as the case may be) in your e-mails in this thread. So it's the kettle….

FYI, Misspellings & poor grammar are a bit tricky in the ideal vs. the real world

In formal writing, they must, of course, never occur.

In informal writing, like these e-mails, the Principle of Proportionality would seem to apply. People are not going to be as careful as they would in formal writing. And ordinary readers are not going to read e-mails with a mental “blue pencil”.

Obviously an informal note with a ton of misspellings & illiteracies, having no punctuation, particularly capitalization, is off putting.

So, Gower’s grammar rule would apply to spelling as well as grammar/syntax in an informal e-mail: avoid “lapses from what for the time being is regarded as correct [which] irritate the educated reader and distract his attention, and so make him the less likely to be affected precisely as you wish”.

Note: I’m not excusing violations of basic immutable rules which when violated show one to be semi-literate (or a Freudian delight, or too lazy to use spell-check or read over his/her note before pressing the “Send” button).These include sentence fragments, misspellings/typos/malaprops (e.g., the variations of “its” or “to”), plural subject/plural verb (a person should watch their…. And perhaps, more important are grammatical constructs which, like a Mark of Cain, tend, fairly or unfairly, to put one in one’s place on the educational or social scale (e.g., “he don’t” “lie/lay”, “hang/hung”, “imply/infer”, “irregardless”, "this applies to John and I," & "Joe and myself proceeded to”).

But all that being said, calling one misspelling/grammar lapse to the writer’s (here my) attention is generally used by a reader(here you)as one upmanship or a gotcha to avoid such reader’s having to address the substance of the violator’s argument, as you have done. And, again, if a reader attempts to use a single insignificant, non-Freudian misspelling against me, or an expert quoted by me, it's delicious if he/she has had a misspelling or a grammar/syntax mistake in his/her correspondence as you have.

Adrian said...

remember how Gatsby had a library full of hardcovers, all uncut (i.e. unread)?
or so i've been told. don't do much in the way of book larnin' meself.

knox said...

Knoxwhirled, I don't know about you, but my sympathies were entirely with the "Devil" in that novel. *Jane, I haven't seen the movie but I understand Streep was likeable.

The book is a fun read (so far), but the movie is better.

reader_iam said...

I am in the process of transferring a whole bunch of books into bookshelves. I guess I should be glad to report that most have obvious signs of having tangled with a human. But mostly I'm irritated at my own--and others', but mostly my own--cavalier attitude. There's an invention known as bookmarks, after all, and another called Post-Its, and goodness knows I have a store of both. So what the hell IS my problem????????

LoafingOaf said...

I was gonna buy Andrew Sullivan's book in hardcover until Hugh Hewitt found some errors in it. So, I'm waiting for the paperback that'll have those errors corrected.

In the meantime for Sullivan, he's been upping his personal attacks on Hewitt.

In the meantime for me, I paid modestly for some paperbacks with lil penguins on them. Those are usually the best. At the moment it's The Book Of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa, which is like a fictional blog written long before blogs existed (early 1900s). Perfect for opening randomly to any page and browsing in bed before falling asleep.

Dave said...

You're making a very weak argument here. There is no connection between income and the depth of the material published in bestseller lists. Neither Paris Hilton nor Nicole Richie read either Shakespeare or Dostoevsky.

Galvanized said...

All of those reasons -- AND the fact that personal libraries in affluent homes are of aesthetic value and are made up of many hardback (and even gold-leaf) books. Just having the collections of literary classics accounts, I'm sure, for most hardback copies sold.

And hardbacks as gifts? My mom, knowing that I love the classics and those collections but have other priorities, buys me a couple every birthday, which I love.

His theory just doesn't hold up on hardbacks. There are just as many brilliant people carrying curled-up paperbacks as hardbacks on any subject. He would, however, be correct in saying that the affluent and gift-givers are, of course, the buyers of hardbacks.

Revenant said...

Wealth is positively correlated to both intelligence and education. Reading is *also* positively correlated to intelligence and education. It would be surprising if rich people *didn't* read more than poor people do.

I find it interesting that Ann and others have assumed that classic works are "better" reading material than modern works. Really, though, "21 Pounds in 21 Days" has more practical utility than the works of Shakespeare. Maybe the poor *are* hitting the libraries to devour works of classic literature, although I find that incredibly unlikely. But even if they are, they'd be better served if they left the fiction, philosophy, and theoretical science books behind and read something that would help them improve their lot in life.

lee david said...

Books. I love the feel of em. I love the look of em. I love the smell of em. Hardback, paperback it doesn't matter. I'll never be able to read enough of em, so I try to read the better ones. an impossible task, but I'll die trying.

The "Friends of the Library" here have a little shop in the main library where they sell used books. 1.00 for a paperback, 2.00 for a hardcover. I've gotten some real gems out of there.

Chip Ahoy said...


English pronoun declension collapsed and is now considered extinct. It's been replaced with subject/object construction. "I" is subject, "me" is object, "who" is subject, "whom" is object.

I kicked the dog.
The dog bit me.

Ok, who bit whom?


Books on Amazon "new and used" and Abebooks (+others) make it possible to buy new books at deep discounts. They're brilliant. I just checked, 26 from Amazon and 10 from Abebooks in the last 6 months. I'm a very serious reader. I have the most amazing pop-up book collection EVER and I study them intensely. I love this thread.

Jeff Faria said...

Well-reasoned, Ann.

Schorsch said...

I've often thought that buying books is the post-modern substitute for reading books. Put that little beauty up on the shelf, and everybody thinks you know what's inside it.

Ron Coleman said...

There is no such thing as crap reading. All reading has some value. For instance, wouldn't it be better to read a James Patterson novel than watch a movie based on one?

Why? "All reading has value" in the sense that "drinking milk has value" -- till about age 10. At least watching the movie you're done in two hours and maybe you'll actually go do something productive.

Lou Minatti said...

Is anyone else skeptical that a very famous blogger actually reads all of the "In the mail" books he's hawking via his Amazon account? Perhaps it's rude of me to question this, but I just don't see how he has the time to read them.

Regarding Prof. Althouse's comment, I am reminded of people poking fun at pretentious yuppies 10 years ago who would buy "A Brief History of Time," not to read it, but to place on their coffee table to impress their friends.

<> said...

hard cover books is a archival thing. when i have more money than i can use i plan to buy all things i've read in hard cover and put in my den if merely to intimidate my grandchildren, but also to feed my ego. i agree, poor people borrow books, buy used paperback, etc. but it doesn't really matter b/c the larger, point, rich people are more knowledgeable than poor people is certainly true.

Christy said...

This article in Slate several years ago convinced me of the silliness of the best seller lists. Jane Eyre may sell more copies in a year than a book that makes it to the list. It just isn't tracked because it's not new.

Couple of years ago friends moved into a new development of $800k homes and immediately joined the community book club. The first book they read was Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. Am I evil for finding that funny?

I'm of the opinion that readers are about as rich as they want to be. Which doesn't mean that rich people read. I do remember, however, drooling over the description of Bill Gates' library.

reader_iam said...

For the record, I read my books. Sure, I'm behind (and wouldn't like it if I weren't), but I've never bought a book I didn't intend to read** at least once.

**Obvious exception: books purchased as gifts for others, in accordance with their tastes, my own opinions notwithstanding.

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amba said...

Gahrie: I would rather not see a movie based on a James Patterson book, but I would rather see a movie based on one than read the book. At least it might have Morgan Freeman in it.

James Patterson's prose is a factory product and it greatly offends me.

SteveR: sorry about reading quickly and carelessly and mistaking your godmother for your grandmother.

Believe it or not, I do not mean to inhibit anyone by carping about grammar, and I do think that the thought is more important than the finicky correctness of its expression.

That said, common grammar mistakes (and they are so common they are becoming universal, which means eventually they will no longer be mistakes) rub me the wrong way, almost physically. I was drilled in grammar and I sorta feel it in my body, which is what makes me a good copy editor and a pain in the ass commenter. When you say "gave it to my sister and I" you are saying "gave it to I," and me go "ouch!"

amba said...

God, I hate MSWord and its assumption that it knows better than you do what you meant to do.

"That" is more impersonal than "who" (which makes me like "who" better). "That" is a thing word and tends to reduce objects and beings to the same status, which is creepy. I'm with you, Bissage, and who/whom is not one of the grammar imprecisions that bothers me (in fact sometimes using "whom" overcorrectly sounds pompous and stuffy). I also use "whose" for things and organizations rather than go through the contortions of "the ___ of which."

Joseph said...

No doubt there's a strong correlation between being rich and buying hardcover books, but I'm skeptical there's a very strong correlation between buying hardcover books and reading.

amba said...

FWIW, "group of people who" got 2,000,000 Google hits while "group of people that" got 807,000 hits.

"People who," but "group that." So it would depend on the meaning of the sentence. Toldja, I'm a copy editor.

KCFleming said...

I dread the thought of losing my vision, because I am in love with (or addicted to) reading. Some people know it's me at a distance because I always have a book with me, usually nonfiction. I bring them to high school basketball games, plays, recitals, and church (well, religious ones). I have learned to read while walking. hell, I've learned to underline my book while walking.

If I know I'll be idle for more than 10 seconds, I bring something to read (e.g. an elevator ride, stopped in traffic waiting for a train). I even pick up bits of discarded paper to read them (saddest find: My Dad is gone in a childish scrawl).

This habit has not made me Bill Gates, but neither am I poor. It is, to say the least, an annoying habit of egregious proportions, and should not be taken up by anyone with even a modicum of sense.

But how wonderful to find a religion where The Word was made flesh. God as a librarian of men. I was enthralled to see Emma Thompson in Wit being read a child's book, as she lay dying, by an old mentor and friend:

'lf you run away,' said his mother... 'I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.'

'lf you run after me,'said the little bunny... I will become a fish in a trout stream... and I will swim away from you.'

'lf you become a fish in a trout stream,' said his mother... 'I will become a fisherman, and I will fish for you."'

Look at that.
A little allegory of the soul. Wherever it hides, God will find it.

I love that part.

amba said...

Revenant: wealth is correlated to education: hmmm. I suspect there's a point of diminishing returns. I imagine that the children of the wealthy do get more and better education, but the first-generation wealthy . . . educated, but not over-educated. Aside from specialties like law and medicine that all but guarantee a minimum level of upper-middle-classness, too much education can be a hindrance and ill-fit you for success.

amba said...

The first book they read was Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. Am I evil for finding that funny?

If so, I and probably a lot of other people here are evil right along with you.

"Heaven for climate, hell for company." ~ Mark Twain

amba said...

At the risk of being a thread-hijacker because of scratching my grammar itches . . .

Here's an interesting one: "it's" as a possessive automatically bothers me, but outside of of formal writing/editing, I leave it alone . . . because it actually makes more sense than the correct version!

If you form possessives with apostrophe-s, why should that not also be true of the pronoun? So what that it's the same as the contraction for "it is"? We distinguish between homonyms all the time. Every peer of the realm is not automatically a peeping tom.

This is one mistake that I think might as well become standard usage sooner rather than later. It would make English that tiny bit more logical. (I love the fossil spellings, though, the wonderful Anglo-Saxon "oughs" that silently rasp in our throats as we read, in a kind of ancestral haunting.)

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Fritz J. said...

Ann; You seem to have made a leap of logic that I find unwarranted. There was never any mention that the wealthy buy books on the best seller lists. So to base any part of your argument on that would require some proof that in fact the rich do buy only those books on the best seller lists, or at least don't differ from the norm.
I would argue that the best seller lists are more a reflection of the largest segment of the population and its tastes in literature rather than a reflection of what the wealthy read, who are a much smaller segment.
Based upon the limited number of wealthy people I know, their reading tastes do differ in that they are more inclined to read books which might be considered intellectual by some. On of my more wealthy friends offered this observation. He said that he tried to learn and understand people and how they think, so he tended to read books that would help him do so and that understanding helped him become wealthy. To be honest, some of the books he liked I found rather hard sledding. But then he is wealthy and I am not.
The post that Glen originally linked to, which started this whole discussion, was on how watching television wastes time that could be more profitably spent on other things and at a savings to the individual.
This is not to say that the wealthy do not read best sellers, but perhaps their reading tastes extend more to other material and you didn’t take that into consideration.
On the differences between hardcover and paperback, the wealthy tend to buy goods which last and hardcovers stand up better over time than do paperbacks.

Nulovka said...

My local bookstore sells hardbacks in a program called "books by the yard." Quote: "Books By The Yard is a unique product that Half Price Books offers to designers, retailers and individuals across the country. It's approximately three linear feet of books for $17.50 plus tax and shipping. ... Measure the amount of display space you would like to decorate with books. Take the number of linear feet and divide by three. This will give you the approximate number of boxes of Books By The Yard that you will need."

Do poor people decorate with books like this and how much does 'decorating with books' skew the numbers?

hdhouse said...

On a hunch I ran a Scarborough research (medai tool) that goes down to zip codes. Books purchased in last year and compared it to the location of bookstores such as Borders, Walden, etc.

Interesting. Bookstores tend to place themselves in educationally dense areas (college grad or equiv.) which usually yields higher income. Book "sales" fall drammatically in C and D counties (rural) that are not proximate to Bookstore placement and although college graduates populate these areas in sizeable numbers their per capita sales was significantly lower due perhaps the proximity factor.

When run strictly against wealth the same general statistics turn up.

There are three reasons:

Education (interest in reading or ability to read fluently and for pleasure)
Wealth (the ability to purchase at will)
Proximity to Bookstores (where these mega chains locate themselves)

The bookstores obviously do better research than "Rich people read" and place themselves accordingly. For the large part, they determine book buying habits. As libraries are everywhere they cater to the crowd who likes libraries and their offerings.

Besides if Rich people read .... explain Mr. Bush to me.

KCFleming said...

...explain Mr. Bush to me

Some people, rich or not, read things that you don't like. Such as Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom instead of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, The WSJ, not the NYT, Instapundit, not KOS.

That is, fact, not fiction.
Heh. You pitch too easy, house.

Rockport Conservative said...

I just skimmed through the comments but I think the idea that rich people read more is not exactly correct. They definitely buy more expensive books, but the lower class often frequent the USED BOOK stores and libraries andread just as much as the rich. Time to read is the essential part of the deal and the rich probably do have more leisure time to read. I have had for the past four years a cleaning lady who has kept me supplied with her used books for reading. She was into herbs, mysteries, and Native American lore. I'm not sure if she had a high school education but I'm sure she read a lot.

From Inwood said...


I commented in an earlier post:

"So too with some friends. Some have shelves with a lot of books, almost all hardcovered & any paperback of some quality edition; some are arranged by size & color and all interrupted by expensive tschochkes (books as props as Synova says), but, other than the potboilers & what look like their college textbooks, no, shall we say, substantive book looks like it’s ever been touched."

Real Estate people & furniture retailers often arrange books on shelves which they think will be pleasing to the buyer’s eye.

I once saw some law school textbooks of the same vintage as mine used this way in a furniture store.

An old Eye doc I used to go to had a trompe l’oil wall of book spines, which was pleasing to look at. Maybe he thought his patients were too nearsighted to spot the illusion!

From Inwood said...


Good comment about softball pitching.

If memory serves, based on Exit polls (no longer a representative sample under Stats 101 due to early voting, methinks) showed that the more educated (judging by degrees awarded, that is; um “educated” I do not think that you know the meaning of that word”) & the less educated favored Kerry whereas the middle, i.e. those with some college & those college grads w/o advanced degrees, favored Bush.

Such voting pattern I suspect with the rich also. Some of my friends who have retired don’t seem to mind taxes on the “rich” & love to pose by decrying “tax cuts for the rich”, because, though they are multi millionaires, they don’t consider themselves rich & anyway they don’t have enough annual income now to be in the top bracket (almost $300,000).

Moreover, they see any increase in their taxes as being offset by Medicare and, to a lesser extent, Social Security. One guy told me that he believes that after ’08, the Dems in power in both the Executive & Legislative branches will ignore their socialist supporters & leave the Estate Tax exemption at $5,000,000 which is just about right for him.

My rich friends who don't think themselves rich (they hate the super-rich) are also affected by books like "Nickel and Dimed" (tho I don’t know anyone who’s actually read it) & affected by the poor report of the day in the MSM (which has existed since Bush was elected & which will stop when a Dem President is elected). And some of them were once poor as I was & have a guilty conscience about not being poor, refusing to see that we rose out of it, as do most, by hard work. (No comments from the usual suspects that I’m not compassionate about the few who are incapable of rising out of poverty, please. Of course they should be taken care of, by the government if necessary.)

From Inwood said...

The words "showed that" should've been removed from the third line of the second paragraph of my note to Pogo.

"Read twice; send once", to paraphrase "This Old House"

Kev said...

"Note: I’m not excusing violations of basic immutable rules which when violated show one to be semi-literate (or a Freudian delight, or too lazy to use spell-check or read over his/her note before pressing the “Send” button).These include sentence fragments, misspellings/typos/malaprops (e.g., the variations of “its” or “to”), plural subject/plural verb (a person should watch their…."

This is just one guy's opinion, but, looking at the paragraph above, I find it much more cluttered to read "A person should watch his/her..." rather than "A person should watch their..." in a sentence. Using "their" in this case may not have started out grammatically correct, but it's certainly less controversial than choosing one gender pronoun over the other and much more streamlined than having to use "his/her" all the time.

From Inwood said...


The shelf life of this thread seems to have expired, but it's a lazy Sunday afternoon & I am not reading any books, hard or soft, so one last reply, here to you. (BTW, I just finished reading “The House That George Built” about the Great American Songbook. Rambling & badly in need of editorial focus, but incisive & fun all the way. Trying too hard to be Highbrow about the Middlebrow?)

Anyway, you contrast the NYT with the NYPost.

Some years ago a now forgotten “with-it” guy or whatever the “in” word for such was then or now (Russell Lynes) wrote an essay dividing us all by Highbrow, Middlebrow, & Lowbrow. It was big stuff while I was in college so maybe I’m just showing my age. I think that the terms still have some resonance but perhaps I’m just not with it. Anyway, the NYT would have itself as Highbrow & the NYPost as Lowbrow, as would NYT readers.

But it always amuses me that the NYT manages somehow to cover what its self-styled Highbrow readers would consider Lowbrow news. It does this in a roundabout way, making such coverage acceptable to even its Highbrow (here, snob) readers.

For instance, it never covers the latest Paris Hilton or Britney Spears hijinks directly, but after a few days of NYPost/NYNews frenzy, the stately NYT comes out with article, with Highbrow analysis, entitled "Tabloid Frenzy About ____________", in which it looks down zee nez with much disdain on such detailed coverage, which it, unfortunately of course, must cover in some detail so that one is in on the condescension & aware of the Lowbrow news. On some level, then, it’s still correct for a NYT would-be Highbrow to be judgmental & a voyeur while looking down on the rest of us.

And as for local news, the NYT has no idea of geography. To its writers & editors the outta boroughs & Manhattan north of W120 & E 96 is drive-over country on the way to Tanglewood or The Hamptons. It’s always publishing a correction about Inwood being in Manhattan, not the Bronx. It recently had an article about a new development in the Eastern Bronx, in which the PR flack for the developer is quoted unchallenged as saying that the development is “nearby” two subway lines. Um, depends on the meaning of “nearby” as someone might say. But the devil is in the details & passing the Hee Haw test as TNR can tell you.

Revenant said...

Besides if Rich people read .... explain Mr. Bush to me.

Well, he's rich, and he reads... which part of that was the confusing bit?

hdhouse said...

Pogo said...
...explain Mr. Bush to me

Some people, rich or not, read things that you don't like.
That is, fact, not fiction.
Heh. You pitch too easy, house."

Well then Pogo, why do you keep striking out?...You know those old Bush reading jokes of course...."All my books start with the words 'The End' printed upside down so I just tell Laura that 'yep, i finished another one...heh heh heh'.

Michael J. Farrand said...

Best thing to do, rich or poor, is start with a list of classic novels. Great reading!

Paul said...

A couple of the types of books Ann lumps under the "hardcover" category based on the physical composition of their covers are probably not what was being reported to Kling in his sales figures.

Bookstores classify hardcovers as new edition adult fiction and non-fiction -- cookbooks yes, children's books no; diet books yes, coffee-table books, no (they're called gift books in the trade, and usually go for $50 or more).

This strips out some of the noise Ann throws in, but her point is valid: most of the hardcover bestsellers are in the faddish diet, cookery, self-help, and business categories.

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