One of the hazards of being an economist is the tendency to constantly make economic observations. Take the Borders Going-Out-of-Business sale, for instance. By observing what’s on the shelves now – about a month after the sale began – I’ve confirmed my suspicion that outside the D.C. Beltway, political books don’t sell terribly well.
At this stage of the sale, Borders has cleared out their warehouse and is putting everything on the shelves; hence those stacks of Glenn Beck’s ‘Christmas Sweater’ and boxes of oddball holiday cards. But while the fiction, mystery, romance, and sci-fi sections are thinning out (great beach reads all), the government and politics shelves are still stuffed with books at the Borders on Concord Pike. It’s only two hours from the Beltway, but psychologically it seems a world away.
Let’s go to the numbers: the winner at 57 copies was George W. Bush’s ‘Decision Points’! No others came close, but some are worth noting.
Newt Gingrich had 31 copies of his books on display: 14 of ‘A Nation Like No Other’ plus 17 of ‘To Save America’. I tallied 17 copies of Sarah Palin’s book about her ‘Going Rogue’ book tour, ‘America by Heart’. A sign of Palin fatigue or just boring writing?
Good news for Rick Perry, though. Two copies of his book, ‘Fed Up’ (which seems to be causing him some heartburn lately), were nestled safely out of sight behind copies of ‘America by Heart’. Rest easy Rick, it will be awhile before anyone spots ‘em.
Speaking of Glenn Beck, there were a baker’s dozen of his oversized ‘Broke’ on the top shelf. Ditto for the late Ted Kennedy’s ‘True Compass’ (hardbound or paperback, your choice).
And there are those titles that make me wonder, “what were those publishers thinking?” To my economical mind, it should surprise no-one that imprints of Walter Mondale’s ‘The Good Fight’ or Deval Patrick’s ‘A Reason to Believe’ sit patiently awaiting Borders’ next price chop. But somewhere in the bowels of a publishing company somebody thought we just couldn’t wait to read the life story of a New England governor or a guy who was Jimmy Carter’s vice president. Uh, no thanks.
So here’s my warning to scribbling politicos: to keep your ego properly inflated, steer clear of the back shelves at Borders!