Wednesday, November 02, 2005

NPR : 'Elements of Style' Goes Beyond Words

I heard this story on the radio this morning, about Maira Kalman's illustrations for The Elements of Style. I want it, I want it! The (verbal) illlustrations of principles of clear writing (and, often, unclear writing) are such a joy in this book; it's brilliant of Kalman to have thought of illustrating it visually as well.

Interestingly, recommends Joan Didion's latest, The Year of Magical Thinking to purchasers of the Kalman book. I want that, too, but I'm still trying to think of why customers who bought one bought the other.

(P.S. There's also an opera! We missed the concert performance, though...)


Jody said...

That's why Amazon's recommendations are typically unhelpful. NPR listeners are buying the illustrated Elements of Style because they heard an NPR report about it and thought, collectively, COOL.

They're buying Didion's book because it's getting good reviews in the publications that NPR listeners read.

These recommendations don't tell us anything about the books, they tell us about the cohort of people buying them.

To put it another way, a small subset of people buy both the latest best seller and a smaller, niche book. The niche book will always generate recommendations for the best seller. Amazon needs to write an algorithym that removes best sellers from the recommendation lists, or at least bumps them down a notch or three.

Libby said...

You're right of course, Jody. I am always amused to find myself "sorted" into a cohort so easily.