Tuesday archive: The importance of being negative

From 25th March, 2006.

The British edition of my book, The Undercover Economist, is out soon, so I won’t be able to keep my eyes off Amazon.co.uk. The function of Amazon is to allow people to buy your book, but it also provides a “sales rank” showing how many books are selling, and it collects readers’ reviews. The sales rank changes every hour and it’s a drug. The reviews, whether good, bad or crushingly indifferent, are nearly as addictive.

The Undercover Economist in me wonders why anyone would write a review and, given that people do write reviews, why anyone would pay attention to one. Writing a review takes time and effort and appears to offer no reward. At the time of writing, about one in 500 buyers of the American edition of my book had left a review. The other 499 hadn’t bothered. This is as economic theory would predict.

Continued at timharford.com.

Tim Harford’s blog

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Tim, also known as the Undercover Economist, writes about the economics of everyday life.