IDR there being any difference in say elves, gnomes and halflings through 3E. Just exapnded on things here and there. Operative words being I dont remember so they may have but it was subtle at best. In 4E and 5E those changes were more apparent right? Is it a case of changing things for the sake of change to cater to the new edition?Wild! My players all have copies of several books, including a few adventures. Definitely into the lore and thinking about their character between sessions.
I think the hobby in general is a mix of your players and mine, but enough are like mine that these books keep topping the book sales charts on Amazon, flying off FLGS shelves, etc. IMO you can’t explain that as just DMs.
also, the lore for gnomes was actually decent. They’re the only one, I think, but it’s something! (Okay, really it’s just elves and dwarves they messed up, and the Halfling stuff is...kinda meh and unnecessary)