Ayn Rand

Running the Numbers on the Atlas Shrugged Revival

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David Boaz at Cato's blog thinks he's found the Fountainhead of the recent and much-noted spike in sales of Ayn Rand's libertarian saga of death by overregulation, Atlas Shrugged, by analyzing Bookscan figures. His conclusion?

One Atlas Shrugged fan suggested to me that the real boost came in January, with a Wall Street Journal article by my former colleague Stephen Moore. So I decided to investigate, using the sales figures in Nielsen's Bookscan. And indeed those figures seem to point in a different direction. The boom in sales of Atlas Shrugged really took off in mid-January, after Steve Moore's essay "'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years" appeared in the Journal on January 9….

[S]ales started to diverge after January 9, suggesting that it was in fact the Wall Street Journal essay that kicked them into high gear. Then they slowly fell, and then there was an even bigger peak in early March. Why? That's not so clear. Perhaps it's a case of self-fulfilling prophecy and the accumulating effects of media buzz. ARI put out its press release about soaring sales on February 23, and the Economist picked up the idea five days later, as did many bloggers. Then on March 2 and 5 the popular blogger Michelle Malkin talked about the idea of "Going Galt" — pulling back on work and investment in response to projected tax increases and regulations — in her blog and syndicated column, and the New York Times picked that up…..On March 14 the Wall Street Journal ran another op-ed on the contemporary relevance of Atlas Shrugged, this one by Yaron Brook. There's a reason that publishers put "bestseller" on their book covers — people like to read what other people are reading. And there's no question that once this media buzz got started, the sales have remained much higher than last year.

Previous Reason blogging on the Atlas resurgence from Katherine Mangu-Ward and Damon Root. A long essay by me on Rand's enduring appeal to American entrepreneurs and doers.

NEXT: Reason Writers Around Town: Jacob Sullum on Britain's Surveillance State

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  1. Isn’t this all just pettifogging of the real truth? Buyers have been responding in mass to Rand’s godlike powers of metampsychomesmericism, which of course extend beyond the grave and are not susceptible to natural explanation. As for why this year rather than last, it makes sense that Rand would return to us in our hour of need. (Or would that constitute altruism on the part of transfigured Rand?)

    There might be something in superstore placements too. Every time I go to Borders or B&N I see Atlas Shrugged in a position of honor, with a Bestseller tag.

  2. Those sort of Bookscan figures don’t take account of used sales at all. Used bookstores are a good source for Rand. They are usually piled up next to the stack of never-read Battlefield Earths and dozens of copies of Outward Bound by Juanita Coulson.

  3. They are usually piled up next to the stack of never-read Battlefield Earths and dozens of copies of Outward Bound by Juanita Coulson.

    Don’t forget everything by Marion Zimmer Bradley or Piers Anthony, dude.

  4. This should bring a flood of royalty payments into Peikoff — or what/whom-ever the Objectivist(tm) powers-that-be are.

    This will then be used to 1) bring out a new 1100-page book explicating John Galt’s Speech(tm); and 2) a newsletter to pronounce all the new reader’s of Rand’s works(tm?) unworthy of reading her works and they’re misinterperting it and… and… [spittle-flecked:] Mystics!! Mystiiiics!!!

    Thereby alienating a new generation. Who will switch to — I dunno — Jerry Tuccille or something.

    Which just goes to show it’s not just markets that are self-correcting.

    Note: I love Ayn Rand’s works; they changed my life. But you need to stop once you need glasses, before you go blind.

  5. what, no need to reference Maggie Roark? Come on, I expect better.

  6. TAO, you should know that Simpsons references are totally passe and gauche. Even NutraSweet understands this, of the few things he can wrap his twisted mind around.

  7. Evil Dead Ayn Rand Seeks Followers

    “I can’t beleive those seances worked!” exclaims Libertarian Party representative

  8. As for why this year rather than last, it makes sense that Rand would return to us in our hour of need. (Or would that constitute altruism on the part of transfigured Rand?)

    Nope. They’re charging for these books, so there’s no altruism involved.

  9. TAO, that’s great! Thx for the clip.

  10. Someone should investigate what percentage of the books were purchased by the Ayn Rand Institute and then freely distributed to students.

  11. There might be something in superstore placements too. Every time I go to Borders or B&N I see Atlas Shrugged in a position of honor, with a Bestseller tag.

    I noticed the same thing at the local Borders. Yesterday they had two different copies of it on two separate prominent displays. Before a few months ago I had never seen a single copy on display and now they have two.

  12. Forget Borders or Amazon.com. When ordering books about liberty, free market economics, and the like, first check out Laissez Faire Books. [lfb.org] Now owned by International Society for Individual Liberty, its small profits go to boost libertarian groups around the world.

  13. Let’s see… from January until March…. yep, about the time it takes to trog through the tome. Enough time to get the recommendation reflexation bounce from the new converts.

    I know I recommed it to friends that have suddenly opened their eyes to the new Democratic Socialist Party here in the US. It’s amazing to me (IF they even get through it) how much recognition of our current affairs they grasp. More troops! More troops from freedom!

  14. Ayn Rand’s libertarian saga of death by overregulation

    Oh, come on. That’s totally not Randian. What about something like, “Ayn Rand’s Objectivist saga of a rebellion against the collectivist soul, that views with contempt and hostility men of objective values qua man, capable of creativity and happiness.”

  15. ChrisH @ 2.20 : so true!

    My favourite example of scraping the bottom of the barrel is “Ayn Rand’s Marginalia: Her Critical Comments on the Writings of over 20 Authors”

    http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/prodinfo.asp?number=AR22B

    Literally, her scribblings in the margins of books she had read.

    Coming next: Ayn Rand’s Grocery-Lists

  16. Ayn Rand’s Grocery-Lists

    – 5 cartons of Viceroys
    – 1 case Finnish (NOT RUSSIAN) vodka
    – 2 bottles vermouth
    – 1 cape

  17. NEXT FROM URKOBOLD PRESS, LLC: Screams During Coitus: A Loving Transcript of Ayn Rand’s Rape-Like Encounters.

  18. Ayn Rand’s Grocery-List

    You forgot Cheetos and an economy-sized box of super absorbent tampons.

  19. oh and:

    – New marble for the fireplace (again!!!)

  20. Great link, Tom Harrington. The best thing is that it really says “over 20 authors.” Would it hurt to give us an exact number? Or how about “fewer than 30 authors,” so you can be sure the book won’t take too long to read?

  21. When I was young 40 years ago, Miss Rand’s book was gigantic and her skewered detractors screamed in pain. Gee, look at that, forty years later…

    Back then there was a popular equation to wit:
    “East Minus West Equals Zero.”

    On the assumption that the poorly thunked and stupidly parroted comments in this thread are indeed the giggles of envy turned to pukish smarm they appear to be, I’ll just say…

    “Libertarianism/ReasonMag – Atlas Shrugged Equals Negative A Lot.”

    John Donohue
    Pasadena, CA

  22. I can’t say that I’ve read it. But I remember looking through the reviews on amazon.com and it seems Ms Rand made a bit of an arse of herself when casting her critical eye over “Human Action”.

    Not so much her fault, she probably never imagined her doodlings would see the light of day.

    Not till her “intellectual heir” got a brainwave for a new publication.

    Most hiliarious of all, is that Ayn Rand’s Marginalia apparently includes “her response to a questionnaire called “What is Your Love Quotient?”

  23. On the other hand, if you are just being totalizingly sarcastic, then never mind.

  24. On the other hand,

    Too late, John. Far too late.

  25. Laissez Faire Books does not currently have Atlas Shrugged in stock.

    Atlas Shrugged is available in trade paperback, mass market and sometimes hardcover @ http://www.renbook.com – also a libertarian bookseller.

    When I get an order for the hardcover, it is a struggle to stuff it into a mailing envelope. If only she had stopped after 800 pages.

  26. John, the Hit & Run crowd is pretty much known for being totalizingly sarcastic.

  27. How’s The Turner Diaries selling?

    There’s your barometer.

    available free online though

    PDF format here

  28. Funny, my used bookstore can’t keep Rand in stock.

  29. Why would the liberal nuts be out using Alinksy tactics to attack AS.

    Oh, I get it, they are afraid that people don’t like their pres and might want to not support his crazed policies which are bankrupting the U.S.

    So the obots attack AR just like they did Palin, and Hillary…idiots.

  30. Everybody is totally ignoring the biggest reason. The Course in Political Miracles specifically urges students to do whatever it takes to get people to read Atlas Shrugged.
    http://libertydiscourses.blogspot.com/

  31. Someone should investigate what percentage of the books were purchased by the Ayn Rand Institute and then freely distributed to students.

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