Saturday, September 20, 2008

Blogs vs Books

According to the s17.sitemeter.com report, in the history of this blog there have been a total of 389,670 visits, with an average length 1:48 each. That adds up to about ten thousand hours.

Writing books is an alternative way of spreading ideas. If we assume that, on average, each copy sold represents two hours of time reading--allowing for some buyers who stop at the first page, others who spend much more than two hours reading and perhaps rereading--that corresponds to sales of about five thousand copies. A book that sells a total of five thousand copies isn't a flop, but it isn't doing terribly well. While I don't have figures readily available, my guess is that all of my nonfiction books, with the probable exception of my one textbook (Price Theory), have done substantially better than that.

On the other hand, time I spend making blog posts mostly is not time I would be spending writing books instead.

14 Comments:

At 12:44 PM, September 20, 2008, Blogger blink said...

Site visits probably substantially underestimates your readership and, thus, the reach of ideas posted via your blog. I read your blog via a feed reader, for example, and visited your blog for the sole purpose of leaving this comment.

 
At 3:18 PM, September 20, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog is fun but not as exciting as your books. Maybe you should spice it up with more current events analysis, or a WoW section?

 
At 3:32 PM, September 20, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet you get a lot more feedback from the blog and Usenet posts than from your print publications.

My experience is only with magazine articles, not books, but personally I think print is dead dead dead. The "reach" of electronic publishing is vastly greater, and growing all the time thanks to better search engines, permenant archiving, etc.

 
At 4:22 PM, September 20, 2008, Blogger Adam Ruth said...

I wouldn't trust that time per visit. It's notoriously difficult to measure that on the web.

It's not possible for a stats program to know when a person leaves a site, only when they arrive and when they change pages. Anyone who comes to the page, reads for 10 minutes, and then leaves would appear as 0 seconds as far as the server is concerned. So some kind of guess needs to be made about them.

Plus it doesn't count all of the offline readers (including those who only read the RSS feed).

 
At 4:32 PM, September 20, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7:05 PM, September 20, 2008, Blogger dWj said...

I picked up that Price Theory book in a used bookstore somewhere and I love it. In fact, it's listed on facebook as my favorite book. (Really; I just checked to make sure.)

I've not been accused of being terribly normal, though.

(Incidentally, Law's Order is the only other book I have by you.)

 
At 7:07 AM, September 21, 2008, Blogger Joe Bingham said...

I enjoyed that textbook and cited it several times in my senior thesis, and I'm not even an econ person.

 
At 9:07 AM, September 21, 2008, Blogger Milhouse said...

Register another vote for your textbook. I devoured it (skipping the maths sections - thank you for segregating them) and still quote examples from it 20+ years later. It makes a lot of things clear that are often just assumed in the background.

 
At 10:26 AM, September 21, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

"It makes a lot of things clear that are often just assumed in the background."

One advantage, I suspect, of writing a textbook from scratch rather than doing a new version of a standard model.

When I started writing it, if someone had asked me how long it would take to explain price theory to an intelligent student I would probably have put it in hours, and if I had tried to guess the number of pages to explain the ideas, it would probably have been well under a hundred.

But in writing it, I had to figure out at each point how I knew things I knew, which forced me to think through much more of the foundations than I realized was there. The book ended up at a lot more than a hundred pages.

 
At 4:03 PM, September 21, 2008, Blogger fmb said...

ditto what blink said.

 
At 4:10 PM, September 21, 2008, Anonymous severin said...

I tend to hit your site often, but often leave immediately as you haven't posted anything new since my last visit. I don't know how that skews the numbers.

 
At 3:11 PM, September 22, 2008, Blogger Giles said...

+1 to what blink said, +1 to what adam ruth said. Web server stats are notoriously unreliable, especially in these days of RSS feeds and news aggregators.

 
At 11:16 AM, September 24, 2008, Blogger Justin said...

One datum to consider: according to LJ, you have 109 people following the blog over there. Presumably none of them are counted in those stats, except when, eg, I come here to the blog itself to comment.

That's just one example of the multiplicative effect of RSS. Personally, I read very nearly nothing on blogs themselves -- virtually everything gets indirected through LJ or Google Reader...

 
At 5:37 AM, February 17, 2010, Anonymous Gloria Shern said...

I like both.Reading books is great, but i spend at least a few hours online every day on blogs.

 

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