Thursday, May 6, 2010

Five Million is a Failure

I just logged out of my email account and saw an article on the yahoo web page discussing TV shows at risk of cancellation. It mentions certain shows, like Cold Case, which average as much as 10 million viewers a week. And by industry standards, that's a failure!

I knew there was a disparity in the size of audiences drawn by books and television, but frankly I had no idea that the difference in audience size was that large. The List of best-selling books on Wikipedia only lists a few hundred titles that have managed to sell upwards of 10 million copies. In other words, only a few hundred different books IN THE HISTORY OF PRINT have managed to capture audiences of the size captured by a failing television show EACH WEEK!

I realize that numbers sold doesn't equate to numbers of people who have read a book--especially when you consider books bought by libraries and then potentially read by dozens of people--but I also feel like there are plenty of copies that sell and then aren't actually ever read. The Bible, for example, is the greatest selling book of all time, but I'm pretty sure that the number of copies that are sold and then actually read cover to cover is comparatively small. I also realize that one episode of a TV show isn't easily equated to one book--books generally take longer to get through than an hour. Even with those thoughts in mind, these numbers are boggling.

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