cover image Super Crunchers

Super Crunchers

Ian Ayres, , read by James Lurie. . Random House Audio, $29.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7393-5472-8

An introduction to econometrics may not seem like the stuff that would keep listeners riveted—much less awake—during a long car ride, but Ayres’s provocative audio does just that. Ever wonder how an airline decides to lower its prices? Or why businesses have preferred shopper cards? The answer is data, gigabytes upon terabytes of data. Companies are increasingly relying on data and number-crunching statisticians to make decisions, like how much money they can extract from consumers while still retaining their loyalty. Ayres’s exploration of “super crunching” and its influence makes up the bulk of the audio, but listeners needn’t navigate a sea of numbers. The discussion is illustrated by eye-opening examples such as how Continental Airlines took customer service to a new, personalized level and how Mexico instituted an innovative pay-for-performance parenting program. The final chapter on standard deviations may have some longing for the printed page or a PDF file with a graph or two, but overall, Lurie’s mellow reading will make listeners firm believers in Ayres’s refrain: “in a super crunching world, consumers can’t afford to be asleep at the wheel.” Simultaneous release with the Bantam hardcover (Reviews, June 4). (Sept.)