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Why do we keep buying cookbooks?

Only 10 to 25% of cookbook recipes get used,
and virtually any recipe (with every variation) is on the internet anyway, and SO many cookbooks still get published every year! Do they all make money, do you suppose? I don't get it.

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  1. I have no idea if they make money, but when I buy cookbooks it rarely for specific recipes, it is more about wanting to "get into the head" of a particular chef or kitchen staff, learn some new combinations and techniques, and generally be inspired to get in the kitchen.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Grubbjunkie

      Cookbooks are one of the biggest money makers for publisher. Why? Great gifts (few don't appreciate it and there's one for everyone, even dumb guys who can't cook), everyone eats, and food porn is universal.

      In a historical sense, once quality color photography became much more affordable...cook books took off. Looking at old school cook books, some don't even give an ingredient list, let alone quanity.

      1. re: ML8000

        HHmmmm. I'm not sure if you're right on this one...Food photographs are actually very expensive. A good photographer and person to set-up the photo cost *a lot* of money, as does the ink and paper to print those glossy, beautiful food porn shots.

        1. re: christinea

          My point is that color photography (regardless of recent or past) has help popularized cookbooks like never before. Can you imagine any modern cookbook without photos? Yes there are many but my guess is they don't sell quite as well to the mass market (non-cooks, foodies).

          You're right that food photographers (and stylists) do cost a lot. Off shore printing and new printing technology (computers) has brought the price down although I couldn't tell you anything specific.

    2. I buy new cookbooks mostly when I want to learn more about cuisines I don't know well. I don't necessarily expect to cook anything from them.

      1. I am addicted...just bought 5 more recently. I love cookbooks and I read em like novels, front to back.

        1. I'm pretty sure it's related to the reason I keep buying more lip gloss.

          2 Replies
          1. re: danna

            This made me laugh, danna--an astute observation!

            1. re: danna

              LOL! My SO is going to laugh at this post... this is ME... although I should also add purses and shoes along with lipgloss and cookbooks... ;)


            2. I am also addicted to buying cookbooks. I chalk it up to the fact that cooking is a hobby of mine and we all know someone who spends way too much time and money on their hobbies, don't we (i.e. golfing, skiing etc.)?
              Lately, though, I'm finding that I'll put off buying a cookbook if some of the recipes look like I might find them or something similar in something that I already own. I study the book in the store and make adjustments to the recipe that I have.

              1. I love to by cookbooks and read them as a source of entertainment. It is a cheap date. Most of my cookbooks fall into theory/history catagory and I read them to learn and sometimes cook. I don't buy 49 ways to cook a chicken breast, etc.

                1. I wish I knew. I love the excitement of opening a new book and diving into the recipes. But after a while I realize that I have so many books already that not much is really novel. My passion is finding new cuisines to explore. This year I've had great fun learning about Middle Eastern and Indian vegetarian cooking.

                  Agree that the internet is replacing a lot of what used to be only in books. I look forward to the all-electronic cookbook library.

                  1. Today, I prefer recipe sites over books but a well designed cookbooks, picturing each recipe, can be so seductive.

                    1. Cookbooks are an ineresting way to learn about different cuisines, cultures, and people. Like others - I read through them not only for recipes, but for stories - like a novel. It is so relaxing to curl up with a cookbook when I get into bed!

                      I do not like cookbooks that have no commentary about the recipes. I like learning the history of a recipe, proper techniques described well, etc... Since there are so many books out there, that is how I start to discriminate on which ones I will buy...

                      You can find just about any recipe on the internet, but it doesn't compare to having something more sentimental and tangible.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: akp

                        My friend Foodzot calls this cuddling with a cookbook.

                        1. re: akp

                          ditto. i don't even cook and i have quite the collection.

                        2. I rarely buy new cookbooks. I either try to get something extremely informative in terms of ingredients or method, the definitive book on a subject, some authentic look at a particular cuisine or something bizarre and old. But I'll hunt the used book stores forever before buying one new. I've gotten Vegetable Love, Cookwise and the Food Lover's Companion all for less that 10 bucks each.

                          Ooh, that's given me an idea for a post to my local board. Thanks!

                          1. Really, I think it is the lifestyle I'm trying to buy. The glamour of ritzy restaurants,jet-set world travel, talent and tv (Food Network) Old world sumptuous-ness, Europe, Chicago, San Fran. Having a book in my hand a glossy book gives me a piece of that, deep down I want to BE that. A new brownie recipe I saw today (on this site? not sure) from a new cookbook is SO LIKE the 1950 recipe in my ol' Betty Crocker. I defy you to taste the difference. Yet I keep buying cookbooks. Must start using the internet sources more.

                            1. I am just a recent cookbook lover. I never had many, but I love to get a new infusion of ideas and to have a nice reference manual. Like others have mentioned, I am picky about the books I buy and like to keep it based on a genre I am unfamiliar with or want to learn.

                              Also I'm lucky in that SO on occassion gets cookbooks for free... like last week he came home with a copy of America's Test Kitchen's Family Cookbook (I was SO happy about that! :)) and inorder to make it up to the publishing goods, I bought King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain cookbook on Sunday! :)


                              1. I like to look at the pretty pictures and drool... I have so many cookbooks (that I hardly ever use!) that I have resorted to buying them on the sly as my DH thinks that I have too many (surely not!).

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Foodrat

                                  Tee hee! I do this too! Or I'll say something like, "Oh, I thought you would really like this cookbook... I just thought of you when I saw it!" Yeah right! ;-)

                                  1. re: Katie Nell

                                    Katie...that is exactly what I said to my husband when I brought home HEAT by Bill Buford.

                                    1. re: melly

                                      I got around this by giving DH a copy of Heat on his birthday. He likes to watch Mario Batali so this seemed to be a good excuse.

                                2. I buy many cookbooks, and I am not much of a cook. But Mrs. judge dee is, and I am just doing my best to make sure that she always has delicious and interesting recipes to try.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: judge dee

                                    I'm not sure who's luckier in this arrangment - the cook who keeps getting new cookbooks, or the designated eater!

                                    I think the best marriages work that way, when you can't figure out which partner has the good end of the deal :)

                                    1. If a book is not from a celebrity chef or a known source then what makes a person buy it? The cover, the pictures, or perhaps it falls into the food fads for that year, like this year Spain is in. So when the average cookbook lover enters a store he falls in love with what first?

                                      1. Must be the same reason I keep buying lipstick, pens and perfume. The search for Platonic "perfection"...LOL

                                        1. I agree but even when you buy lip gloss something attracts you, so what is it that you love in a cookbook, or is it just the fact of buying anything? I personaly have way to many cookbooks and dont use them but love books they are beautiful even if i dont use them. I think we all need psychological help but at least we are happy in our buying and we can surely say we are normal cause everyone seems to have this problem in one area or another :)

                                          1. Because a cookbook is easier to bring into the kitchen than a computer?

                                            For the most part I get most of my recipes out of my cookbooks. If I can't find what I want I then look on the internet. The problem with that is when I am having printer problems (which is too all to often) and I can't print out the recipe it becames a hassle trying to figure out should I writing down all of it? part of it? or try to run back and forth between the study and the kitchen.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: viperlush

                                              I have my laptop set up on a counter when I'm cooking. It takes up far less space than most books and can be closed to avoid spatter. I much prefer using it to a book.

                                            2. Because they have pretty (color) pictures in them. Also, for ease of reference; especially if you don't have internet access in your kitchen. Oh, and they LOOK good in your kitchen library.


                                              1. I like them to learn about new cuisines. I could do the same by using online recipe sites but similar to newspapers I prefer the hardcopy much more than the online versions. I have to read for my job everyday science papers on my computer and I am more than happy if I don't have to do the same for my recipes (and news).