Interesting essay on why “serious” books usually have fewer readers.
Does this mean that a “serious” work can never also have a wide audience? No. Clearly, this is not the case. But it might mean that the size of a work’s audience is an indicator of the amount of thought required to process and appraise the decisions that work has made. The fewer such decisions, the easier it is to appraise that work, the more often it will be appraised. (And please note that this changes over time, as conventions change.) However, it might instead suggest that “serious” works that are also popular have made the process of appraising the decisions the author has made interesting, that those works make the process of learning how to approach the work itself appealing. I think here of House of Leaves—innovative in certain ways, conventional in many others—popular possibly because considering its innovations is a pleasurable activity (and not itself overly complicated or requiring much attention).