Saturday, June 13, 2009
Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything."
Homer Simpson, author of above quote, went on to say that, "14% of people know that."
I thought of this quote yesterday when I was doing some data entry for late summer/early fall titles and saw that "Freakonomics" was finally coming out in paperback. At one time, not so long ago, that book needed no introduction or explanation. It was at the top of the NYT bestseller list, the authors were being interviewed seemingly everywhere and people were(mostly) in love with their quirky math. But, in the book world, that was eons ago. So let me step back a moment.
The book was published originally and quietly in April of 2005. It quickly picked up steam and, what followed, was all the aforementioned success. Crazy findings coupled with "sound" numbers became the 'it' thing. So the book sold and sold and sold...So much that when the normal time arrived for a paperback to release--generally one year--the publishers said, "Aw, forget it. We'll keep selling this thing until it dies." Reports are that 3 million copies were sold. That comes from their own website http://freakonomicsbook.com .
I wasn't down on the decision to keep it going until they made one mistake. A new edition was planned and put together to revise some mistakes, update some data and make it a little spiffier. The problem was they did this in another hardcover--published in 2006 and more expensive than the original at $29.95 For on-line and other discount retailers this might not have made a difference. But for normal bookstores it was quite odd and required lots of explaining to customers who were surprised by the lack of a paperback and the increase in price.
So, now, we come to the paperback which is due in August and will retail for $15.99 The word is also out that they're working on a new book, "Superfreakonomics." Books are like movies in that anything that does well must be copied and pushed to its furthest logical point so I certainly don't begrudge the new book or their overall success. I, in fact, really enjoy lots of the pieces. But why wait so long? I wonder if, in the end, the book wasn't done a disservice. Is it possible that the book and its ideas have been forgotten--even by the reading public? I don't know the answer to those questions and I'm no publisher or economist--so the answers, very well, could point to the opposite of my thoughts.
In a time when publishers and readers are feeling an economic crunch from all sides is it better to offer more for less? I think so. So here's to hoping for great things from their new works--and a more sensible paperback release time frame.