Why Do You Buy What You Buy?

Ta-Nehisi Coates (if you’re not already a fan of his work, head on over to The Atlantic) runs an occasional feature on his blog called “Talk to Me Like I’m Stupid.” He admits to his ignorance on a very specific topic and asks his readers to enlighten him on everything from why the military put so much emphasis on marching in formation during the Civil War to what financial derivatives are.

There’s a great community here at Book Riot, so I’m hoping you’ll be willing to do something similar here. Because I’ve just been reading The New Republic‘s profile of Jeremie Ruby-Strauss, who’s edited Snooki and Tucker Max. His books, as the article points out, sell.

So does the Duck Dynasty book that kept Billy Crystal from topping the NYT bestseller list when his memoir debuted. So does Chelsea Handler. And I Could Pee on This has been camped out on the bestseller shelves for months now. These are not books I would buy, but clearly they have an eager audience.

I don’t understand why, but I’d like to.

If these were cheap books, under $10, I wouldn’t be wondering, but Happy, Happy, Happy has a list price of $24.99. Even Darth Vader and Son and Go the F**k to Sleep, at $14.95, aren’t something you toss into your cart like a pack of gum.

I sell books, so I want to understand why people buy books. This is one segment of the market I don’t have figured out, but I’d like to.

There are lots of people who buy celebrity novels, pet poetry, and blog-based books. If you’re one of them, tell me about it. Do you buy the books for yourself, or for other people? Do you reread them? Do you keep them when you’re finished, or give them away? In data-nerd terms, how do you decide you’re going to get $25 of utility–or more–out of a $25 book?

Am I overthinking this? It’s entirely possible. But I’d prefer to overthink your comments than my questions, so please, talk to me like I’m stupid.


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