The Great Jeffrey Archer Mystery

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RW01 man & paperCasting my usual dyspeptic glance over the list of this week’s best-selling books – Jeffrey Archer, James Patterson, Clive Cussler, Danielle Steel – I wondered, in all seriousness, who actually buys these books.  I ask not with a dismissive sniff at those all too familiar names, but because these unashamedly one-time reads are bought in hardback.  Or are they?  Do these books really sell tens of thousands in doorstop size – to the general public?

The books can’t – I hope – all be bought by libraries.  Indeed (a digression here) should libraries be buying such stuff at all?  Yes, I know these are the books we are told borrowers want to read, but don’t libraries have a duty to tempt frequenters towards better works?  If the trimmed-down budget is blown on tens of thousands of Archer/Patterson books, there can be little left for more deserving volumes.  Should the tax-payers’ money (as theMail and Telegraph might ask) be spent on titles that, whatever their merits, can be bought at knock-down prices throughout the country?  W H Smith has famously been offering such material at an astounding ‘pound a pop’ – so why should libraries buy even more?

Are ordinary people buying them?  I ask because there’s a mystery here I can’t explain.  The normal fate for read and no-longer-wanted hardbacks is the charity shop, which are given more copies than they can sell of last year’s celebrity biographies and such titles – yet the apparently mass-selling Archer/Pattersons do notflood into charity shops.  So what happens to them?  Are we to believe they are kept and dusted in people’s homes?  Why would they be – so they can be re-read in years to come, passed on in legacies, or hoarded for kindling in wood-burning stoves?

I have, in my explorations, entered many a domain of the ordinary people, and I have to say that I have never stumbled across collections of these cherished tomes – so what has happened to them?  Did they ever exist?  Or were they, perish the thought, phantom sales?

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