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The Market for Happiness

In response to:

Are You Happy? from the April 3, 2008 issue

To the Editors:

In her stimulating and thought-provoking essay on human happiness [“Are You Happy?,” NYR, April 3], Sue Halpern finds it “disconcerting” that “get happy” books sell extremely well even though global surveys show high levels of reported happiness—a seeming contradiction which she dwells on throughout the review. However, this apparent paradox melts away when a few elementary mathematical considerations are applied.

Suppose, for example, that as few as 5 percent of Americans are unhappy, and suppose that only 10 percent of them buy books. This still leaves a target readership for “get happy” books, in the US alone, of 5 percent x 10 percent x the US population of 300 million. This equals 1.5 million books without even considering sales in the rest of the world.

A large potential market, I’d say!

Paul Epstein

Singapore

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