The article's writer suggests that the reason we have so much hair-splitting scholarship is because the academic world puts great pressure on the publication of original ideas as a way of identifying who should and shouldn't be on the university payroll. The "publish or perish" imperative also drives the competition for tenure or job security. The question of actual teaching ability, of course, is rarely if ever discussed in these matters. Very few university-level instructors have taken many courses in how to teach (applicable Greek-derived polysyllable: "pedagogy"), which many people who've sat through some entry-level undergraduate courses could tell you explains an awful lot.
Some of the listed books do indeed sound ridiculous. Of course the subject matter of Empire of Dogs: Canines, Japan, and the Making of the Modern Imperial World is of interest to someone. But of equal course, the set of "someone" is exactly the same as the set of "the instructor and any students assigned readings from the book for the course." Tack on the $40 price tag ($30 on Kindle) and you pretty much ensure that only those people will ever be interested in how Spot helped Western culture take over the world -- beginning with Japan.
And some sound like things that might be interesting to skim through, like Blue Jeans: The Art of the Ordinary. But for $25 in paperback, $60 in hardcover or even $9.99 in Kindle? Not that interesting. Especially when you read the cover description, reproduced on Amazon: "... Drawing from intensive field work in a highly diverse North London neighborhood, Daniel Miller and Sophie Woodward focus on an everyday item--blue jeans--to learn what one simple article of clothing can tell us about our individual and social lives and challenging, by extension, the foundational anthropological presumption of 'the normative.'"
Only one of the books sounds like one I'd pick up unless I saw it on the shelves at Half-Price Books. Since I'm a baseball nut and I particularly love the nooks and crannies of the sport's history, I'd be tempted to check out The Kings of Casino Park: Black Baseball in the Lost Season of 1932, especially since Amazon lists some used copies for under $25. In fact, I stuck it on my wish list to see if the price dips some more, because I may wind up buying one myself. People who read the poll seem to agree with me -- that book is in second place (to "none of the above") as of this blog entry on Monday morning and it's the only book to be within shouting distance of 100 votes.
It's kind of interesting -- if you write a book about an esoteric slice of any particular field that interests just you and a few other people and you ring up some self-publishing house to get a couple hundred copies run off, we say you've been published by a "vanity press." Do the same thing but instead those same copies are run off by a press hooked up to a university, and you're a scholar. There's a racket in there somewhere.
(ETA: Someone pointed out that "pedagogy" has Greek roots, not Latin ones. Correction made)