The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture


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Having already called “bullshit” on the Long Tail, Professor Anita Elberse argues that recent acquisitions by Hachette’s Grand Central and Little, Brown & Co. show publishers will continue to make “outrageous” bids for new books despite the recession in (a much linked to) article for the WSJ:

Blockbuster strategies are certainly not free of risk, but, in the long run, they beat the alternative of more balanced investment strategies. That explains why, even when the book industry struggles with the effects of the economic downturn, publishing houses won’t steer away from big bets. Publishers may be even more determined to land such projects in tough times… Are there breakout hits that no one sees coming? Sure. And do media companies sometimes pick the wrong titles to focus their attention on? Absolutely — no one in the industry has a perfect record, and the process of picking winners remains “an informed crapshoot,” as one executive put it. But given their recent performance, it is hard to argue against the approaches taken by publishing houses like Grand Central and Little Brown.

I’m not sure I completely agree with her reasoning–and it’s certainly a lot less warm-and-fuzzy than either the Long Tail or Tipping Point models–but it’s still an interesting argument and I think there’s some truth to her suggestion that consumers prefer blockbusters because, in the end, they “find value in reading the same books and watching the same movies that others do.”

GalleyCat has some thoughtful criticisms of Elberse’s article here and here,  but the shriller, teeth-gnashing responses  make me think she might be on to something…


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One Comment

  1. Aaaah! I posted about this book acouple of weeks ago. Great book on Barney Bubbles.

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