Monday, June 16, 2008

So many books, so little time

This past weekend, I took Josiah with me to an annual used book sale and we picked up a box of books. And then we went to the library and checked out a bunch more. And then we stopped at a comic book shop for some comics. And the next day, a Barnes & Noble, and another used book shop. That's my idea of a great weekend.

Now that it's summer, I'm ignoring my piles of serious non-fiction books and catching up on some fiction. I just read Gregory Maguire's Wicked, which was pretty dark and not nearly as fun as the musical version (I just got the soundtrack for Father's Day). I skimmed through For One More Day by Mitch Albom - I expected it to be kind of fluffy but it was surprisingly moving. I read through Stephenie Meyer's sci-fi novel The Host, about human survivors of an alien invasion. The aliens, called "souls," physically implant themselves into human hosts, but sometimes the human's consciousness isn't completely erased, leading to interesting situations of two beings inhabiting the same body (and all sorts of potential for unusual love triangles and quadrilaterals). I've read Meyer's Twilight series of vampire novels, which are not my usual cup of tea but came highly recommended by a friend, so I got into them. And I just cracked David Guterson's new novel The Other. He's best known for his Snow Falling on Cedars, and I've continued to follow his work.

Of the making of books there is no end. Since it's summer and I'm lazy, the following is a repost from IVP's Behind the Books blog from a few weeks ago.

The June 2 issue of Publishers Weekly reports that the number of new books has shot up to over 400,000 a year, but a quarter of these, well over 100,000 of them, are print-on-demand titles, most of which are self-published. The stats:

In 2002:
Traditionally published books: 215,138
Print-on-demand books: 32,639
Total: 247,777

2007 (projected):
Traditional: 276,649
POD: 134,773
Total: 411,422

And if you look at religion books in particular, it's grown from 12,253 new religion titles in 2002 to 18,956 in 2007. (Perhaps 6000 or so of these are from specifically evangelical Christian publishers.) No wonder none of us can keep up with all the new books out there.

The same issue of PW also reports the following on what influences people's book purchases:

60% are swayed by recommendations by friends or family
52% are swayed by cover art
49% are swayed by reviews
35% are swayed by a blurb/endorsement on the cover

Also, 43% of people go into bookstores looking for a specific book, and 77% make additional purchases while looking for a specific book.

This is interesting to me because I've been wondering how many people care about endorsements. I can only think of one instance when I've bought a book because of an endorsement on the back (a blurb by Anne Lamott on the book Expecting Adam by Martha Beck). But I've picked up countless books because I saw them mentioned on people's blogs (which could count as either friends' recommendations or reviews). What makes you buy a book? Do blurbs matter?


Dianne said...

Interesting, I just started reading a book you mentioned here (Coming Home . . . by Fr. Albert Haase) on the way home from vacation. Most of the books I read lately are either recommendations from friends or ones I've read about on blogs.

Sally Ferguson said...

I love hearing from people when they find a good book. It motivates me to put it on my wish list...either for a treasure hunt at the library or for a birthday suggestion.
I recently read "The Shack," by William P. Young. Outstanding!

Pilgrim said...

I don't buy based on blurbs. I've made too many wrong assumptions based on them, in the past.

I usually stick with authors I've read before and trust, when buying Christian nonfiction. I prefer older writers, because I'm older now. They don't tend to be just entering the market--but have written before. I have sometimes purchased based on blog recommendations. The last book I read was Frank Schaeffer's memoir, and I got it from the library because of a blog reference, which followed some reviews I'd read online.

Otherwise, I buy books on health and cooking. I buy books on health based on people I've seen on television, usually. I buy cookbooks based on cover, quality of directions, area of focus.

Fiction, I get from the library.

Ally said...

Stephanie Meyers is the most surprising author I've run across lately... Neither the Twilight series nor The Host would normally be my kind of book, but I could not put any of them down... The Host definately has to be the best fiction I've read in a long time (But then I don't normally read a lot of fiction - I'm more a non-fiction person)

DMR said...

You and I are not friends, but after reading your book and your blog, I would consider many of the books, fiction, sociological and religious that you recommend.

As an unpublished author...I see from your stats that it is more important to give out a few free books to some blogs...

Apostle to Suburbia said...

I most often buy books based on blog recommendations or Amazon recommendations. I rarely buy books in person anymore, unless I am at the homeschool convention or a library sale and then--watch out!--the impulse purchasing drive takes over.

I am one of those who is reading about five different books at once. I keep them in different places in the house to pick up and put down as I'm doing daily tasks.

Al Hsu said...

Thanks for commenting, everybody! In addition to all the various factors that make me pick up a book, there are also all the various categories of books: those I am so excited about that I buy it new right away, others that I wouldn't mind owning but will wait until I can find it for cheap or used or whatever, others that are strictly library books, and those that I wouldn't mind picking up if I find it at a thrift shop or book sale for a quarter. I haven't tallied up actual totals recently, but I get hundreds of books every year through various means, dozens of which I start on but still have bookmarks a few chapters in...