The books above are books on my shelves that I bought at some point in the distant past (each probably more than five years ago) thinking at the time they would be interesting books to read. And I never have. The question I ask myself as I get older is whether I will, and should I purge these from the shelves? So far they have escaped.
Turns out I am not alone. A study by Kobo (and this is in reference to e-books), cited by Andrew Rhomberg, found that only 60 percent of books purchased are ever opened! I do think e-books are a special case. When I first got my e-reader, I downloaded all sorts of books, especially those available for free. Then I found some sale sites that usually sold books $2.99 and under. I kind of wonder if the decline in e-book sales this past year (down 10 percent by some reports) reflects e-reader owners with e-readers full of books they haven’t read.
You wouldn’t think this a problem–a sale is a sale whether the book is read or not. What Rhomberg would say is that a sale is only a sale if the book is not read. If it is read and liked and talked about, it may lead to other sales. What is interesting is that through Advanced Reader Copy programs and digital tracking, publishers are learning about how far readers are getting into books, or whether they are reading them at all. And they are tailoring their marketing to what they learn.
One thing they found is that the more one paid for a book, the more likely they were to start it. Kind of makes sense, really. They also found that plot-driven books were completed far more than more “literary” works. Generally, if a reader made it half way through, they were pretty likely to finish.
One of the most interesting things to look at are the books that sell really well, and yet are finished by few. Often, a celebrity figure has endorsed it, perhaps without finishing the book. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century appears to be one of these (this is one I can say I actually finished and reviewed here). Bill Gates talked about this book, Piketty was featured on Charlie Rose, and many of us marched out and bought the book!
What about those books in the picture? I’ve always been interested in military history, especially British and American military history. I always thought Wellington would be an interesting figure to read about. Still do. Just might pull this one out. Sometime.
The book, Jesus and the Kingdom of God is still available in print on demand. As I recall, reading and teaching the Gospel of Mark intrigued me with this whole idea of the kingdom of God, kind of a foreign concept in our democracy where we don’t talk about kings and kingdoms. I think I found this at Eerdmans bookshop in Grand Rapids in their seconds shelves for a bargain. Since then, I’ve read other books on the topic and suspect I probably won’t read this one.
The True and Only Heaven was referenced in a talk that caught my attention. I picked it up for a bargain at Half Price Books back in 1992 for $2 according to the price sticker that is still on the book. The book is about the idea of progress and the opposition of anti-materialists to this idea. Sounded interesting at the time, probably not so much now, despite the very erudite tone of the book. Another for the purge pile.
I picked up the Time Reading Program version of Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler’s fictional account of Stalinist Russia in the 1930’s. I have collected the Time Reading Program editions when I come across them and have come across many references to Koestler’s work. May try to read this sometime if I can do so without destroying the stiff binding that characterizes these books.
So that I don’t feel alone, name one book that you bought that you thought you’d really like to read that you’ve never opened.