And the least-read political book is …

posted at 4:01 pm on July 7, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

I’ve always suspected that most political books go largely unread, and that people buy them either for the fad factor or to serve as reference material for later use. We finally have a measure to test that hypothesis, the Wall Street Journal reports, developed by University of Wisconsin mathematics professor Jordan Ellenberg. Ellenberg calls it the “Hawking Index” in honor of physicist Stephen Hawking, whose book A Brief History of Time is reportedly “the most unread book of all time.” Ellenberg lays out his method:

How can we find today’s greatest non-reads? Amazon’s “Popular Highlights” feature provides one quick and dirty measure. Every book’s Kindle page lists the five passages most highlighted by readers. If every reader is getting to the end, those highlights could be scattered throughout the length of the book. If nobody has made it past the introduction, the popular highlights will be clustered at the beginning.

Thus, the Hawking Index (HI): Take the page numbers of a book’s five top highlights, average them, and divide by the number of pages in the whole book. The higher the number, the more of the book we’re guessing most people are likely to have read. (Disclaimer: This is not remotely scientific and is for entertainment purposes only!)

Be sure to bear that disclaimer in mind. For instance, I make frequent use of highlights in books for study, but less so with books I read for entertainment — which are few and far between these days, alas. The Kindle system also provides rough measures of farthest spot read, but that’s (a) not readily available to outsiders and is used more for synchronizing between devices, and (b) is also deceptive, because it will mark a “farthest read” point when just looking up a passage. Ellenberg’s Hawking Index is probably the best we’ll get as a metric for actual reads, at least in the near future.

Hawking’s book does indeed come in near the bottom of Ellenberg’s list, but not dead last. That honor belongs to this year’s fad read, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, with a Hawking Index of 2.4%. The deepest penetration of the top five most popular highlights comes on page 26 … out of almost 700. The issue with Capital might be that the discovery of serious flaws in Piketty’s data discouraged people from bothering to read the book even after they spent money on it.

What happens when applying the Hawking Index to books written by political figures? The Washington Post’s Philip Bump takes a look, and the results aren’t exactly flattering to Hillary Clinton:

wapo-hawking-index

So, naturally, we decided to apply this methodology to “Hard Choices” and other recent or comparable political books. And we have our own ranking, which we now present in order from estimated-least- to estimated-most-read.

1. “Hard Choices,” by Hillary Clinton. Hawking Index: 2.04 percent.
Well, there you have it. The deepest into Hard Choices the popular highlights get is page 33, a quote about smart power. Three of the five most-popular highlights occur within the first 10 pages. We will note the same caveat that Ellenberg applies to Piketty. “Hard Choices” is fairly new, and fairly long. Still, though, one would think more people had made it past page 33.

The most popular quote? “Do all the good you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” Which, like several of the top quotes from the authors listed below, isn’t actually a quote from Hillary Clinton. Instead, it’s a mantra from her family’s Methodist faith.

That’s actually a worse score than Piketty’s book gets, although the penetration is a bit deeper. George W. Bush’s Decision Points gets a 19.1%, if I’ve done the Hawking Index math correctly, which outdoes everyone on this list except Robert Gates. Two of the five most popular highlights land on pages 190 and 195 of the 512-page book, with the latter being the most popular — and a quote from Abraham Lincoln. Interestingly, it outperforms both of the original Clinton memoirs, too.

All that said, don’t read too much into this. It’s likely that some of the book sales (especially Kindle) have been for the purpose of reference material for the upcoming presidential election, and reviews have already noted that there isn’t much worth highlighting in this latest memoir from the former Secretary of State. The bigger problem for the Clintons is the book sales themselves, which have plummeted in week 2 and again in week 3:

Do you own a hard copy of Hillary Clinton’s book Hard Choices? If so, you’re in exclusive company. According to data provided to the Post by Nielsen BookScan, a little over 26,000 more copies of the book were sold in its third week — down almost 46 percent from the week prior, which was down 44 percent from the week before that.

It has sold about 160,000 copies in hard cover, total — just a little less than the population of Salem, Oregon. It’s sold one book for every 411 Obama voters in the 2012 general election, fewer copies than there were Obama voters in every state besides the Dakotas, Alaska and Wyoming. If every Obama voter in Idaho had bought the book, it would have done 32.5 percent better. Enough people bought Hard Choices that they couldn’t all fit into Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, but only 50,000 people would have to have someone sit on their laps. …

Other things that went down 46 percent: Target’s stock price, after a massive security breach was discovered. Viewership of golf’s U.S. Open in 2014, without Tiger Woods. Nielsen ratings between Obama’s first and second inaugural addresses.

Even Howard Fineman noted that the book sales are eating into the “Inevitability v2.0″ argument for Hillary Clinton.

Addendum: On the other hand, if you want a real page turner, there’s always

Bias-cover-2a

 

Regnery has a new paperback edition release out today, with a new foreword written by me (and with a nice cover credit, too). If you read this back when it was first released 13 years ago, pick up a fresh copy — and if you’ve never read it, you owe it to yourself to do so now. (Note: My foreword does not appear in the Kindle version.)


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Big Shocker…

OmahaConservative on July 7, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Hillary’s face at the Costco Table looks dramatically different than the face on the 100 books stacked behind her.

portlandon on July 7, 2014 at 4:05 PM

“Ha Ha!” — America

Tard on July 7, 2014 at 4:08 PM

I’d say the percentage of papers ever put to use would mightily depend on paper quality. Is it soft enough?

Rix on July 7, 2014 at 4:10 PM

All this means is pretty soon, the politicians will learn from their Presstitute Organ cousins and put the real juicy stuff near the end.

Steve Eggleston on July 7, 2014 at 4:10 PM

The comparison I would like to see is Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue.” She had people driving hundreds of miles and camped out in freezing weather.

bw222 on July 7, 2014 at 4:11 PM

Of the books that have sold, I bet most were bought by unions, schools, and government agencies.

Where did you dig up that bad photo of The Hildabeast? She sure looks someways taaaard.

ConstantineXI on July 7, 2014 at 4:12 PM

We were in Walmart the other day, in the book aisle, and both Hard Choices and Blood Feud were 30 percent off.

Ward Cleaver on July 7, 2014 at 4:13 PM

I’d say the percentage of papers ever put to use would mightily depend on paper quality. Is it soft enough?

Rix on July 7, 2014 at 4:10 PM

The “Pulp Fiction” Index?

Steve Eggleston on July 7, 2014 at 4:14 PM

Is that her “confidant” Yummy, standing to her left?

BobMbx on July 7, 2014 at 4:16 PM

I’d say the percentage of papers ever put to use would mightily depend on paper quality. Is it soft enough?

Sorry Rix, I dont want that stuff anywhere near my b….

book case.

Lord Whorfin on July 7, 2014 at 4:16 PM

OT: McDaniel will challenge MS Senate election…thousands of ineligible voters and will review absentee ballots today….per press conference.

d1carter on July 7, 2014 at 4:17 PM

Costco fired its employee today for forgetting to cover up its marquee in this photo.

22044 on July 7, 2014 at 4:17 PM

(Note: My foreword does not appear in the Kindle version.)

Thanks for letting me know before I looked for the Kindle link.

Guess paperback it is.

Steve Eggleston on July 7, 2014 at 4:17 PM

We were in Walmart the other day, in the book aisle, and both Hard Choices and Blood Feud were 30 percent off.

Ward Cleaver on July 7, 2014 at 4:13 PM

It can be had for under $20 around here. It will be in the $5 bin before the end of summer.

ConstantineXI on July 7, 2014 at 4:18 PM

OT: McDaniel will challenge MS Senate election…thousands of ineligible voters and will review absentee ballots today….per press conference.

d1carter on July 7, 2014 at 4:17 PM

Time to send him another donation.

ConstantineXI on July 7, 2014 at 4:19 PM

Of the books that have sold, I bet most were bought by unions, schools, and government agencies.

Where did you dig up that bad photo of The Hildabeast? She sure looks someways taaaard.

ConstantineXI on July 7, 2014 at 4:12 PM

L. Ron Hubbard got busted pumping the sales of his books. He would instruct his drones to go out and buy as many copies as they could find, and then ship them back to “home base”. When more orders arrived to replace the “sold” inventory, he would ship the “old” ones.

One bookstore got a box of them and was thrilled to discover that they already had price stickers on them. From another store.

Hubbard would have say, 100k books printed, and then “sell” millions of copies.

BobMbx on July 7, 2014 at 4:19 PM

Thanks for letting me know before I looked for the Kindle link.

Guess paperback it is.

Steve Eggleston on July 7, 2014 at 4:17 PM

At the rate the hardback isn’t selling one wonders if they will NEED to print it in paperback…

It might end up buried in that landfill where millions of unsold ET Atari cartridges were buried after the videogame crash of 1983.

ConstantineXI on July 7, 2014 at 4:20 PM

Guess paperback it is.

Steve Eggleston on July 7, 2014 at 4:17 PM

Cheer up. You can probably pay a sickly child from Nicaragua to turn the pages for you. I’ve already got 6-7 doing my yard work.

BobMbx on July 7, 2014 at 4:21 PM

It might end up buried in that landfill where millions of unsold ET Atari cartridges were buried after the videogame crash of 1983.

ConstantineXI on July 7, 2014 at 4:20 PM

Send them to power plants to be burned.

BobMbx on July 7, 2014 at 4:22 PM

L. Ron Hubbard got busted pumping the sales of his books. He would instruct his drones to go out and buy as many copies as they could find, and then ship them back to “home base”. When more orders arrived to replace the “sold” inventory, he would ship the “old” ones.

One bookstore got a box of them and was thrilled to discover that they already had price stickers on them. From another store.

Hubbard would have say, 100k books printed, and then “sell” millions of copies.

BobMbx on July 7, 2014 at 4:19 PM

The whole reason L. Ron Hubbard, 3rd rate sci-fi author invented scientology was as a tax dodge.

None of the GIANTS of the genre who were his contemporaries, such as Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury, Heinlein, etc, had to resort to such tricks to secure their fortunes… Then again, if any of those masters of the art decided to invent a religion based on space aliens they would have come up with a MUCH better story than Hubbard…

ConstantineXI on July 7, 2014 at 4:23 PM

At the rate the hardback isn’t selling one wonders if they will NEED to print it in paperback…

It might end up buried in that landfill where millions of unsold ET Atari cartridges were buried after the videogame crash of 1983.

ConstantineXI on July 7, 2014 at 4:20 PM

I was talking about Goldberg’s page-turner coming out in paperback today (or more specifically, Ed’s foreward in that version).

As for Clinton’s book, I’m thinking more along the lines of the landfill holding the Tengen version of “Tetris” for the NES.

Steve Eggleston on July 7, 2014 at 4:25 PM

The comparison I would like to see is Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue.” She had people driving hundreds of miles and camped out in freezing weather.

bw222 on July 7, 2014 at 4:11 PM

Yup, I wonder why there’s almost no comparisons with Palin.
You’d think someone from the right would do that.

the_nile on July 7, 2014 at 4:26 PM

Cheer up. You can probably pay a sickly child from Nicaragua to turn the pages for you. I’ve already got 6-7 doing my yard work.

BobMbx on July 7, 2014 at 4:21 PM

If I had money,…

Actually, not even if I had money. Yard work is hard, but not hard enough to pay illegal aliens to do.

Steve Eggleston on July 7, 2014 at 4:26 PM

It can be had for under $20 around here. It will be in the $5 bin before the end of summer.

ConstantineXI on July 7, 2014 at 4:18 PM

It belongs in the outhouse with the old Sears and Roebuck catalog.

But I don’t know if I want Hildebeast that close to my privates.

txdoc on July 7, 2014 at 4:27 PM

We were in Walmart the other day, in the book aisle, and both Hard Choices and Blood Feud were 30 percent off.

Ward Cleaver on July 7, 2014 at 4:13 PM

Kroger here had it in the 25% off bin today.

Johnnyreb on July 7, 2014 at 4:27 PM

Monica Lewinsky’s ex-boyfriend’s wife asks:

What difference, at this point, does it make?

Galtian on July 7, 2014 at 4:29 PM

In reality, one reviewer from NYT read to page 99, the other two people who bought the book have not opened the book yet.

Snowblind on July 7, 2014 at 4:30 PM

Man, I’m looking at that picture of bitter Pillary at the book-signing and all I can think is … when did Dr. Evil start sporting a rug?

M240H on July 7, 2014 at 4:33 PM

Hard Choices was used to level my camping trailer this 4th…….

Electrongod on July 7, 2014 at 4:36 PM

With Piketty, the leftists bought it up because it pretended to justify their socialist schemes, albeit with phony data and flaw methods. They never intended to read it, just wave it at conservatives.

Economics gives Democrats headaches within the first two pages, it’s like a foreign language spoken by an unfavored minority.

~

Hillary’s book is different. Political books actually measure fandom, and hers has faded away. She inspires distrust in the left and yawns among the young.

The moment she drops out of the 2016 race, or announces she will not run, will be sweetest because I can finally get relief from this years-long drumbeat of the inevitability which isn’t.

Adjoran on July 7, 2014 at 4:37 PM

The whole reason L. Ron Hubbard, 3rd rate sci-fi author invented scientology was as a tax dodge.

ConstantineXI on July 7, 2014 at 4:23 PM

Actually, it was to get the FDA off his back. He had claimed a scientific/medical background for Dianetics at first. Then the government began investigating him for practicing medicine without a license. So he recast it as divinely-inspired and turned it into a religion — protected by the First Amendment.

No Truce With Kings on July 7, 2014 at 4:37 PM

Hard choices my a$$, America faces some very real hard choices, Killary Klinton has nothing to do with any of them.

oscarwilde on July 7, 2014 at 4:40 PM

Actually, not even if I had money. Yard work is hard, but not hard enough to pay illegal aliens to do.

Steve Eggleston on July 7, 2014 at 4:26 PM

Lollipops are pretty cheap. And amazingly enough, they think candy is US currency. I have no idea where they got that idea.

BobMbx on July 7, 2014 at 4:41 PM

I’ve always suspected that most political books go largely unread, and that people buy them either for the fad factor or to serve as reference material for later use.

Or large buys to funnel money into the hands of these nearly-illiterate criminals. Most of Shrillary’s sales were probably to corporations run by Shrillary, people who want to suck up to Shrillary, or the Clinton Slushfund Liberry.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on July 7, 2014 at 4:41 PM

Can we be frank? The folks who are prone to vote Shillary can’t read to begin with. Democrat voters are of the most ignorant on the planet.

hawkdriver on July 7, 2014 at 4:44 PM

Now that this “measure” has been out there a while you can expect manipulation of this by the poor performers who will artificailly bump their ratings by pulling and posting quotes from later pages.

phaedruscj on July 7, 2014 at 4:45 PM

The issue with Capital might be that the discovery of serious flaws in Piketty’s data discouraged people from bothering to read the book even after they spent money on it.

Same thing with hildebeest’s book. People know it’s B.S. and aren’t wasting their time and money on it.

Is the Goldberg book the book on media bias, or was there another one published that was also fairly well know?

MisterElephant on July 7, 2014 at 4:45 PM

*known

MisterElephant on July 7, 2014 at 4:46 PM

Readers made easy choices by putting down “Hard Choices”.

And we still don’t know what happened to Chris Stevens, or where Hillary was when he died. But what difference does it make?

Steve Z on July 7, 2014 at 4:47 PM

But what difference does it make?

Steve Z on July 7, 2014 at 4:47 PM

Funny thing is, I bet if Killary had been ambassador to Libya instead of Chris Steve’s, it would have made all the damned difference in the world.

oscarwilde on July 7, 2014 at 4:49 PM

And now that this is a “thing”, you’ll see Dems of all flavors and Ron Paul disciples gaming the system to invalidate the HI.

Immolate on July 7, 2014 at 4:50 PM

Welcome to Costco…

forest on July 7, 2014 at 4:52 PM

Getting a root canal or reading Hard Choices.

BigAlSouth on July 7, 2014 at 4:54 PM

Ellenberg calls it the “Hawking Index” in honor of physicist Stephen Hawking, whose book A Brief History of Time is reportedly “the most unread book of all time.”

I read it. Didn’t understand all of it, but I did read it. What I couldn’t get through was a book titled “The Story of the Square root of Negative One.” Got through the part dealing with trigonometry, but once the author hit calculus I was finished.

rbj on July 7, 2014 at 4:56 PM

Clinton will no doubt blames the poor sales on a vast, right-wing conspiracy….

zoyclem on July 7, 2014 at 5:01 PM

The comparison I would like to see is Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue.” She had people driving hundreds of miles and camped out in freezing weather.

bw222 on July 7, 2014 at 4:11 PM

Not to mention the fact that she MET WITH the people waiting in freezing weather WHILE they were waiting. Hillary’s minions handed out rules for your 2.8-second audience with Her Majesty.

CurtZHP on July 7, 2014 at 5:03 PM

All the Hawking Index shows is that it’s one of the least highlighted books.

I’ve bought and read dozens of books and Kindle and read them cover to cover, but haven’t highlighted a single passage in a single one.

bgoldman on July 7, 2014 at 5:07 PM

The excess copies of Herself’s book should be sent to Venezuela, -those poor people can’t get toilet paper.

slickwillie2001 on July 7, 2014 at 5:12 PM

Cankles is going to fire her ghost writer. Should have bought Bill Ayers.

jukin3 on July 7, 2014 at 5:24 PM

Meh, people will now simply game this now that it’s known. Hillary’s people are busy now working on making sure some of the ‘top highlights’ from ‘readers’ are taken from near the end of the book.

Midas on July 7, 2014 at 5:24 PM

Ellenberg calls it the “Hawking Index” in honor of physicist Stephen Hawking, whose book A Brief History of Time is reportedly “the most unread book of all time.”

I read it. Didn’t understand all of it, but I did read it. What I couldn’t get through was a book titled “The Story of the Square root of Negative One.” Got through the part dealing with trigonometry, but once the author hit calculus I was finished.

rbj on July 7, 2014 at 4:56 PM

I bought ABHOT, read it cover to cover. He made some mistakes, but thats ok. I didn’t point them out because he he gets upset when you tell him he’s wrong, and his little voice box makes him sound like a modem when he yells.

BobMbx on July 7, 2014 at 5:38 PM

I don’t believe the first premise. My copy of Hawking was read by several people. My local public library system had dozens of copies and had a waiting list for a couple of years which is why I bought my own copy.

burt on July 7, 2014 at 5:41 PM

Loved the Costco pic at the start. Last week a copy of the lovely Hillary’s book had been misplaced in the frozen fish section of Costco. Now I wish I would have thought to take a pic.

arnold ziffel on July 7, 2014 at 5:45 PM

The best political book I’ve read in its entirety recently (last 20 years) was Dick Cheney’s In My Time I found the book extremely enlightening. It also reinforced my dislike for Colin Powell. Bush’s book was ok. After reading it I think Dick Cheney was the best VP this Country has ever had. Too bad the president he served under sucked.

Conservative4Ever on July 7, 2014 at 5:49 PM

The comparison I would like to see is Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue.” She had people driving hundreds of miles and camped out in freezing weather.

bw222 on July 7, 2014 at 4:11 PM

My wife rarely reads books. She is totally disinterested in politics. However, she loved Sarah’s book and finished it which surprised the hell out of me.

Conservative4Ever on July 7, 2014 at 5:52 PM

BREAKING:

Amazon to develop new bookstore category to help increase sales of “Hard Choices”, by Hillary Clinton. Amazon spox says “the new category, “Hypocrisy” fills the much needed gap between fiction and non-fiction.

BobMbx on July 7, 2014 at 5:53 PM

…who cares?

JugEarsButtHurt on July 7, 2014 at 5:54 PM

God, she’s one ugly broad.

lostmotherland on February 26, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Schadenfreude on July 7, 2014 at 5:58 PM

Costco now admits all the welfare kings and queens.

The CEO swine made a deal with obama, ahead of 2012.

Send Costco to Hell.

Schadenfreude on July 7, 2014 at 6:01 PM

The comparison I would like to see is Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue.” She had people driving hundreds of miles and camped out in freezing weather.

bw222 on July 7, 2014 at 4:11 PM

Another comparison I’d like to see is Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny. Sarah’s Going Rogue was the number one selling book of 2009 – and Levin’s book was number two.

TarheelBen on July 7, 2014 at 6:02 PM

“Do all the good you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

That must be a progressive mantra. Only they would say to do good to people instead of for people.

That’s because anything good is only for them.

NOMOBO on July 7, 2014 at 6:42 PM

Way too funny!!!! The New York Times has it a Number ONE!!!!!

phoebe1 on July 7, 2014 at 6:43 PM

NEW YORK TIMES SAYS IT IS NUMBER ONE!!!! LOL!

phoebe1 on July 7, 2014 at 6:45 PM

I read Goldberg a couple of years ago, and it was great (will look for the new one just to read Ed’s forward).
Waded through Hawking some time ago, because I keep a physics or math book for bedside reading: one chapter and I’m out.

Hey, HA, could we get Goldberg to write a couple of guest posts in return?

AesopFan on July 7, 2014 at 6:50 PM

Costco has also just removed Dinesh D’Souza’s new book, America, from all of it’s stores.

I am currently tearing up my Executive Membership card and sending it back to them, with a note that they have just lost my $10,000+/year account.

NOMOBO on July 8, 2014 at 10:55 AM