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More on book sales . . . and reflections on the disappearance of millions of copies of the once-ubiquitous “Alive!”

From Anthony Burgess’s review of “Best Sellers: Popular Fiction of the 1970s,” by John Sutherland, I learn that The Godfather sold 300,000 hardcover and 13 million paperbacks during that decade, and Fear of Flying, the book at the bottom of the New York Times’s bestselling list (#10? #15?), sold 100,000 hardcover and nearly 6 million in softback. Comparing to the list from 1965, we see that absolute sales increased rapidly. And the numbers have shot up still more if it’s true what they’re saying about James Patterson.

What I want to know is, what happened to all those copies of “Alive!” Back in the 1970s, you used to see copies of that book everywhere. Did everyone who owned that book throw it out? Or was it printed on some sort of special disintegrating paper guaranteed to fall apart after twenty years? I guess I should also ask what happened to those two hundred million Perry Mason books. Are they all in Grandma’s attic somewhere?


  1. jonathan says:

    All the copies of Alive! were burned for fuel by the next Uruguayan team to be stranded in the Andes. They were carrying all the remaindered copies. Fortunately. I believe the sequel was Warm!

  2. Andrew Gelman says:

    I'm so glad to know that somebody reads the non-statistical entries here!

  3. Woodchopper says:

    I prefer them as I don't understand statistics.

  4. Alex Tabarrok says:

    I recently came across this rather bizarre promotion for organ donation:

  5. Nameless says:

    Perry Mason books are easily available on the cheap on eBay. You can buy them in bulk lots (10-20 books) as low as $1/novel.

  6. Jeremy Miles says:

    Amazon has 55 used copies for sale: