Yet Another Example of Statistical Lunacy

A blog/site called Asymco that calls itself ‘Curated Market Intelligence’ exhibits its special brand of intelligence with a claim that ‘Apps are 15 times more popular than ebooks’.

It throws in a few more gems –

Books are a 400 year old medium. Songs only 100 years old and apps a mere 10.

For three centuries, the book medium had a monopoly on solitary entertainment. The download data shows how quickly new media displace the old. Therefore, in this context, it’s perhaps fair to say that Steve was right three years ago when he said “People don’t read anymore.”

My brain is overwhelmed by the number of mistakes –

  1. Songs are only 100 years old? Guess all the people singing songs through the centuries had no idea they were just imagining things.
  2. Books are a 400 year old medium. Obviously. The Bible really wasn’t a book. Neither was the Aeneid or the Bhagvad Gita or The Art of War.
  3. Apps are a 10-year-old medium. Really? What about software – If you remove the ‘lication’ from application does that make it something else entirely?
  4. Books had a monopoly on solitary entertainment for three centuries. So true. It’s not like you could walk down to the park or watch the waves or go fishing or hunting or paint something or write.
  5. People don’t read anymore. Yes, that would explain why over 10 million people have already bought a dedicated reading device. It makes a perfect paperweight. It would also explain why Apple is trying to kick out other reading apps – it wants to keep the zero book sales to itself.

Luckily for us we can focus on the most beautiful mistake of all, for else we would be stuck here all day discussing Asymco’s special brand of intelligence.

Comparing iBooks sales with iApps sales is lunacy

Surely, even for Apple fans, it’s a bit hasty to assume Apple is the whole wide world.

Apple isn’t the biggest ebook retailer. That would be Amazon. It isn’t the second biggest ebook retailer. That would be B&N. Apple isn’t even the biggest ebook seller on its own platform – that would be Kindle for iPhone.

Apple probably has 5% or so of the ebook market. So, it makes perfect sense to compare 5% of the ebook market with the Apple App Store which is the largest app store.

To confuse things further, a large percentage (somewhere between 10% and 20%) of apps in the App Store are books. What percentage of app downloads are book apps? Perhaps 5% to 10%.

There’s absolutely no way to make this comparison with a straight face.

Let’s make our own illusions

Let’s assume there have been 1.25 million Kindle Apps sold since launch of the Kindle App Store. In the same time period 375 million Kindle books were sold. That means that eBooks are 300 times more popular than apps.

That sounds pretty stupid doesn’t it. Perhaps we should put up some charts to make it look less stupid.

What about time and money?

Surely, we have to figure out amount of time devoted and amount of money spent.

A typical app is $1 or $2 and is discarded after 30 minutes. The 30 minutes average is after including the really good apps that give people 20 to 30 hours of playing time.

A typical song is $1 and lasts 3 minutes. If we assume it’s listened to 20 times, that gives us 1 hour.

A typical books costs between $5 and $10 and takes 3 to 6 hours to read.

How can you compare the three?

If someone pays $20 and spends 15 hours on Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy – Is that the same as buying 3 Tower Defence apps for $1 each and playing them for 3 hours?

Obviously, in Asymco’s world it is.

Apple sure isn’t behaving like a company that thinks people don’t read any more

Let’s look at all the ways Apple is displaying its strong conviction that people don’t read any more –

  1. Introducing iBooks software.
  2. Touting 100 million book downloads. Note that Apple doesn’t mention whether it’s paid downloads or not.
  3. Kicking out Sony.
  4. Getting ready to levy a tax on Kindle and Nook reading apps.
  5. Getting Random House on board.

Wow – that’s exactly what we would do if we thought a market had no future. Not.

People who don’t read LOVE to pretend that everyone else doesn’t read either

If there’s any sure sign that playing apps all the time, and not reading books, leads to a special type of intelligence – it’s this article by Asymco.

You can imagine the author taking a break from Angry Birds and thinking – Throwing birds at pigs is getting boring, let’s throw some mud at books instead.

It’s not enough for people who are not into books to spend their time developing special intelligence from apps – they also need to demonstrate how apps are so much better, so much more popular, so much more artistic, and so much more fulfilling than reading.

While we readers are wasting our time reading Virgil and Shakespeare (we are obviously under some sort of delusion since books didn’t exist until 400 years ago), the true Renaissance men of our age are discovering new ways of throwing Birds at Pigs. They are floating in the sea of perfection that is apps, savoring these delicious little morsels of special intelligence, while we waste our brains reading and thinking.

It’s rather strange, isn’t it. There are never any articles from people who read, attacking people who play apps. We readers don’t really care – Reality is far too interesting to worry about what the price of corn is in Farmville. But there is something about reading that upsets people who don’t read – something that forces them to constantly attack anyone who reads, and reading itself. It’s almost as if in the midst of feeding candy to monsters and bypassing the laws of physics with birds the appficionados worry that all the unreality they are swimming in might pull them under.


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