Evolutionary Psychology

We’ve been discussing the need for publishers to put a best foot forward with a well-designed, maintained and informative web site, even if it is not a lucrative sales portal.

When I was working in computer sales next to the trade books section of Portland State Bookstore, advance reader copies and uncorrected proofs were my lifeline to not-so-great literature. One of my favorite scores was a book called Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters. It’s authors strove, by referencing quantitative scientific data, to explain the odd reasons some people succeed against the forces of natural selection to become progenitors of the next generation. It was like Freakonomics by Darwin, with a touch of Freud.

One study suggested that children who grow up in households with well-stocked bookshelves have better chances of scholastic triumph. Another suggested that people who hang out with friends, have more sex and smile live longer.

The cruel irony of such studies is that people with a genetic predisposition for intellectual pursuits will naturally pass it on to their children. Such parents just so happen to also be fans of books. Likewise, unhealthy people need not strive for friends, sex and laughs, healthy people naturally have all three. The cause/effect relationship can be easily misconstrued.

Similarly, great companies naturally develop dynamic, useful web sites to pimp their goods. Fledgling publishing houses may polish their public image with a great site, but should not be confused with what matters most. Be a great company first. The sales may follow. Who wants bombastic sales of lousy books anyway? All the polish in the world won’t wipe the stink of a poor product line.

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