How many books should you start?

So few other people sample books en masse, yet the practice strikes me as trivially correct.  If I buy a book the odds that I finish it are reasonably high, certainly above fifty percent.  Why spend the money on a longshot?  (Btw, "What I’ve Been Reading" is almost always books I have finished, otherwise why report them?)  But when I troll a public library for free books, which I do virtually every day, should I pick up only those books I expect to finish?  No, I slide further along the marginal benefit curve and that means I grab lots of books with relatively small but positive expected values.

Yesterday’s haul from Arlington Public Library included You Never Call! You Never Write!, and Otherwise Normal People: Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening, neither of which I expect to finish (though I will if I love them).  The real question is should I read more on-line book reviews (which are free), or do my own "reviews" by pawing the free book for a few minutes? 

What are other reasons not to sample?  Are library trips so costly?  Are you so confident in social filters relative to your own judgment/pawing?  Have blogs outcompeted book pawing?  Is the goal of reading simply to share impressions with other people, and there is little uncertainty about what are the hot-selling books?

I say go and grab, go and grab, go and grab.


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