Atlas Sales Track With Government Interventions

A recent article in The Economist discusses the rising sales of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, and shows how they have been spiking when the government makes an assault on the free market.
Tellingly, the spikes in the novel’s sales coincide with the news (see chart). The first jump, in September 2007, followed dramatic interest-rate cuts by central banks, and the Bank of England’s bail-out of Northern Rock, a troubled mortgage lender. The October 2007 rise happened two days after the Bush Administration announced an initiative to coax banks to assist subprime borrowers. A year later, sales of the book rose after America’s Treasury said that it would use a big chunk of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Programme to buy stakes in nine large banks. Debate over Mr Obama’s stimulus plan in January gave the book another lift. And sales leapt once again when the stimulus plan passed and Mr Obama announced a new mortgage-modification plan.
The accompanying chart is perhaps even more compelling because the spikes are so pronounced:The article also mentions that Atlas briefly surpassed Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope in the Amazon best seller rankings. Right now, Obama's book is #49 and Atlas Shrugged is #61. But I wonder if these figures are truly indicative the the popularity of either book. They only rank specific versions of a book.

It is only the mass market paperback version of Audacity that is ranked #49. The hardcover edition is #1,017. The "nice paperback" edition (the bigger, nicer edition) is #4,087.

It is the nice paperback version of Atlas that is ranked #61. The hardcover edition is #130, and the mass market edition is #203. Think about that. Three different versions of the book are in (roughly) the top 200 selling books on Amazon. That is amazing.

I would be very interested to see Amazon combine the sales numbers of all the different formats for a book -- print, audio CD, Kindle, etc. -- because I think it would be a much more accurate accounting of the relative popularity of each title.

Amazon also has best-seller lists for different categories of books, and the "classic fiction" category is amusing. Three print versions of Atlas Shrugged are numbers 1-3, the Atlas Shrugged (Cliffs Notes) (by Andrew Bernstein) is #20, and yet another paperback version is #44. The Fountainhead is #6, #27, and #76.

It is a great testament to the ideas presented in these novels that not only are the sales of the books still so high (and they continue to climb) over 50 years after they were published, but also that people are turning to those ideas to understand what they sense is going wrong in the world. Perhaps they will learn that the dangers they see aren't new, but that they are the same destructive forces that have been plaguing mankind for millennia -- namely altruisim, mysticism, and statism -- and that any hope for a solution relies on the ideas of reason, self-interest, and laissez-faire capitalism.

[HT: Boaz Arad]

No comments: