Purchase Vs. Knowledge

I’m late on commenting about this, but that actually ties in with this topic neatly.

Relatively recently there was an article about the most well-read places. I saw it here:

http://io9.com/these-are-the-most-well-read-cities-in-america-accordi-480776448

The thing about that article – it’s all about purchases. If you own something, does it mean you know it? If I pick up a copy of The Hobbit and put it on my shelf, does that make me a Tolkien Scholar? Can you even prove I’ve read the book? I wish I could find the story I once heard about a publishing company that tested this little article’s assumptions. It was in the days before e-books, so tracking was different. The book was a large, dense coffee table kind of book (kids, ask your parents). People loved to have this book and put it out where folks could see it. Made them feel… clever I guess. The important part of this was the coupon the publishing company placed deep inside the book. This coupon allowed the purchaser of the book to mail in for a return of a significant portion of the books purchase price. I don’t remember the exact statistic – but it was somewhere below 5% of the coupons actually got mailed back. Nobody read that far. They didn’t even flip past that page and have it drop out. They just wanted to look smart.

So, I said that being late in commenting tied into this. Many years ago I fell into this trap. At that time I was the proud owner of every album ever put out by Led Zepplin. A guy I knew was talking to some girls about the music of Zepplin. I jumped in, without listening to what they were talking about or any consideration at all really, and explained that I owned all the albums they had put out to date. The guy (a musician) then proceeded to point by point embarrass me as completely as he could by asking me specifics about the drum solos from Physical Graffiti and the production value of one album vs. the other and any other point he could dig up. I had no answers for any of it. I am not a musician. I have zero talent or knowledge in that area – none – BUT I did own all the albums.

My point is this, I take the time before commenting on this sort of thing (or any sort of thing) to be sure what the topic is and that I’ve got a clue about the conversation and its content.┬áThe “best read” cities list should more accurately be called “the places where we registered the most sales” list. Has nothing to do with what was actually read. It shows nothing of the retention of that knowledge or application of the ideas from those books.

Hopefully this surge in “reading” will lead to better ideas and thoughtful dialog… What do you think?

One thought on “Purchase Vs. Knowledge

  1. Well, one can hope. Just remember folks that the people who read things like The National Inquirer are among the elite who actually read. Take it for what you will.

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