Sharks and Jets: By the Numbers

I've blogged before about how ridiculous I find the competition between knitters and crocheters. I accept that it's real; I just don't get it.

That said, there really do seem to be differences between knitters and crocheters – however ridiculous the competition and petty judgments. I'm asked about it more and more, and I make up my answers every time. I'm fascinated by this issue, though, and so I cooked up a little pseudo-experiment with the use of amazon.com stats, and I'd love to hear your ideas about it. (Note in advance that I haven't taken the time to work up actual stats of my own here, I'm just using the raw amazon.com data as is. Also, this is totally unscientific.)

If you've seen Cecily's and my book, you know it's part of a series of how-to books that's produced by a publisher that really knows how to put together how-to books. At the same time that we were contracted to write TYV Crocheting, another author was contracted to write TYV Knitting. The knitting book is 285 pages, and came out on December 19th, 2005. Our book is 280 pages and came out on January 4th, 2006. So, for the purposes of this “experiment,” the knitting book has in its favour 5 pages and 2 weeks, little enough that I'm comfortable calling it a wash. The marketing and promotion of the books has been the same. The layout and art direction of the books is the same. My point: These two books, assuming all things being equal between them (an assumption that, admittedly, can be debated), may provide an interesting illustration of the knitting vs. crochet thing. So, let's examine:

What you can't see from today's Amazon sales rankings (listed on the book's page on Amazon) is this: The books do a dance around each other — some days Crocheting has a higher rank than Knitting, and vice versa. Knitting does outrank Crocheting more often than the reverse. Something to consider, however, is relative ranking within category. For example, as I write this, Crocheting has an overall ranking of 9,059, and holds the #6 spot in the top 100 crocheting books. Knitting has an overall ranking of 4,335, and holds the #22 spot in the top 100 knitting books. Overall, knitting books are more highly ranked, so the generally higher-ranked Knitting has a lower knitting-only rank than Crocheting does in crochet. (I have no data about the total number of knitting books vs. the total number of crochet books, so I can't speak to that. My hunch is that there are more knitting books than crochet books.)

These numbers are used just to set the stage, as they have more to do with purchase histories than other consumer behaviour — and it's the other consumer behaviour that's the focus of this Sharks and Jets thing. The above numbers indicate to me that, relatively speaking, the books are similarly popular with their respective target audiences, possibly with the Crocheting book being more popular among crocheters than the Knitting book is among knitters. Here's where the behaviour confusion comes in:

As of today, the Knitting book has a consumer rating of 4.5 stars based on 24 reviews. The Crocheting book has a rating of 5 stars from four consumer reviews. Considering the Knitting book has only been out for two weeks longer than Crocheting, why does it have six times the number of reviews? Additionally, the oldest review of Knitting (dated January 20, 2006) has been marked helpful or unhelpful by 23 people, whereas the oldest review of Crocheting (dated January 9, 2006) has been marked helpful or unhelpful by 18 people. That's not a huge difference. What's a huge difference is that the most marked review of Knitting (dated February 1, 2006) was marked by 58 people, and the most marked review of Crocheting (same as the oldest) was marked by 18 people. That's over three times the number of marks for the Knitting book's review over Crocheting's, where it's not the case that the Knitting book sells three times the number of copies (I assume based on sales rank; I have no data w/r/t sales).

So. Not as many crocheters read or write reviews as knitters, and this doesn't seem to be explained by factors of length-of-time-on-shelves or disparities in popularity. Sales rankings make it apparent that knitting books sell more copies overall, but the Crocheting book is ranked closely enough to the Knitting book that this doesn't adequately explain the review differences.

I have no way of guessing the cause of these differences, but I think it's pretty fun mental calisthenics. Are knitters simply more familiar with Amazon's review feature? Do crocheters just not scroll down that far? Do crocheters not care about the reviews, nor care to share their thoughts? Are knitters generally more tech-savvy than crocheters? Is it stupid to even think about all this?

What do you think?

Technorati Tags: books, crafts, crochet, knitting

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