Random Quotes — Best Sellers

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.

— The Economist

Author: Atanu Dey


7 thoughts on “Random Quotes — Best Sellers”

  1. Is this theory valid? Since bestseller readers do not read anything else, the recommendation to read a particular bestseller must come from voracious readers. So coming a full circle, the judgement that makes books popular comes from voracious readers after all, not bestseller-only readers.

    I rather think readers are better classified not as single-book readers and voracious readers, but as pulp fiction readers, literary fiction readers, non-fiction readers etc. These categories do not generally overlap. There are voracious readers in the pulp fiction category too, and they are the ones who decide which novel gets to become popular, much the same way as your Bollywood film junkie gets to decide which flick becomes a hit (and then the rest of us go watch it).


  2. This is true not just for books but for movies and music as well. A large majority of the audience for either media is made up of casual viewers/listeners and are either easily entertained or just do not wish to have to think too hard while being entertained. This results in the most popular movies being the ones with the best visuals in lieu of poor storytelling (avatar, anyone?) and the most popular music being the ones with a simple hummable tune with nonsensical lyrics (pick any hip hop song). The movies/music that have challenging themes/arrangements are judged by the small group of people who have really high standards. And if you belong to that small group of people, boy, is it hard to find quality entertainment.


  3. I understand the argument but applying one premise to all groups of readers won’t work. People who only read best sellers probably don’t have the same standards as those who read obscure books but that doesn’t mean best sellers are necessarily not as good. Nor does it mean that those who only read popular books have lower standards.

    I don’t read anywhere near as much as I did when I was younger, having developed into a real movie junkie over the years, and I find many treasures in relatively obscure movies and almost unknown foreign films. That doesn’t mean I don’t also enjoy popular films like Avatar and 2012.


  4. Hey Atanu

    I have been reading your articles for a long time and you offer an interesting perspective into various issues. Keep up the good work.

    As for my two cents on this article, all I have to say is this: Marketing makes all the difference. How else can there be multibillion dollar enterprises selling caramelized caffeinated water?



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