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23 August 2007 Blog Home : August 2007 : Permalink

Iz It Coz Repubelicanz Kan't Rede?

This story seems to have got a lot of play from a whole list of literate, bibliophile right wingers because the premise is so silly. To recap there was a survey of 1003 Americans with this result:

The AP-Ipsos poll found 22 percent of liberals and moderates said they had not read a book within the past year, compared with 34 percent of conservatives.

Among those who had read at least one book, liberals typically read nine books in the year, with half reading more than that and half less. Conservatives typically read eight, moderates five.

By slightly wider margins, Democrats tended to read more books than Republicans and independents. There were no differences by political party in the percentage of those who said they had not read at least one book.

It should be noted that there is a considerable potential difference between "liberal" and "democrat" or "conservative" and "republican", although the AP summary seems to be confusing the two. I found it interesting to read the survey summary and find on page 4 that 38% were republican, 46% democrat yet 25% called themselves liberal and 36% described themselves as conservative. Anyway that is perhaps by the by.

To go back to the article, the controversy is about the first few paragraphs (I quoted the end of the story first):

"The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: 'No, don't raise my taxes, no new taxes,'" Pat Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers, said in a recent interview. "It's pretty hard to write a book saying, 'No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes' on every page."

Schroeder, who as a Colorado Democrat was once one of Congress' most liberal House members, was responding to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll that found people who consider themselves liberals are more prodigious book readers than conservatives.

She said liberals tend to be policy wonks who "can't say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion."

The book publishing industry is predominantly liberal, though conservative books by authors like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and pundit Ann Coulter have been best sellers in recent years. Overall, book sales have been flat as publishers seek to woo readers lured away by the Internet, movies and television.

What is interesting is that this comes out just a few days after Toni Weisskopf, head of Baen books, wrote at Baen's Bar:

Other than a huge spike for Harry, sales are down from last year industrywide; Baen goes against the trend and is showing modest increases.--Toni

(My underline)
Now I'm not totally clear if Toni is refering to SF, fiction sales or all sales, but one suspects all sales in that the Harry Potter spike should be what permits overall sales level as reported in the original article. Either way the fact that Baen is growing sales in a declining market indicates that Baen is doing something better than other publishers. One difference between Baen and other publishers is that it is rather more right wing than others - indeed it has authors in its stable (e.g. Tom Kratman to pick a name not at random) who make Ghenghis Khan and Attila the Hun seem like socialists.

Of course there may be other reasons - Baen is the only thriving eBook fiction publisher, the only one to have a free electronic library where you can try before you buy and so on - but it is not impossible that one reason why Baen is growing where others aren't is that it is publishing what people want to read. Or to put it another way there is possibly an untapped demand for books from the right of centre crowd which is being ignored.