Sunday, May 21, 2017

UnCHARTed Waters

Amazon has just thrown another rock in the pond of bookselling. 
It announced this week that it will begin publishing a weekly list of bestselling titles. Sound familiar?
Publishing bestseller lists since Rip Van Winkle was young.
Amazon will chart its top twenty bestsellers in fiction and nonfiction. This sounds similar to the NYT, or USA Today, or other such lists. But Amazon has a whole other level of data at its dot-com fingertips. It’s “Most Sold” list will include titles purchased or pre-ordered through,, and Amazon physical bookstores, as well as titles borrowed through Prime Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and Audible. That’s a heck of a lot more sales points than what other bestseller lists have access to.
But that’s not all. Amazon also will have a “Most Read” list, that tallies the average number of daily Kindle readers and Audible listeners for that week. Yeah. Back to that whole other level of data. No one else can compile that. Not even close.
This is particularly interesting to me in terms of pre-orders. Authors are told that pre-orders are extremely important – they gauge advance interest in the book. Now here’s something that will, theoretically, tell the world in real time (well, weekly time) how those pre-orders are coming along. This raises some questions for me. If a book that hasn’t even come out yet generates enough pre-orders, will it sail to the top of the list, thereby bumping off a hardworking, already released title? Will those books, likely by big-name authors with good name recognition, now gobble up list spots before and after they’re released, instead of just afterward, like with the already existing lists? Or will more bestseller real estate mean more spots for everyone? My cynic’s heart tends to think the former, but we’ll have to wait and see.
The New York Times recently eliminated its mass market bestseller list, which disproportionately impacts certain genres, like cozy mysteries and romances, that are published primarily in that format. No matter how many an author sells – oftentimes a lot more than a hardcover title – there’s no getting on the NYT any more. So will Amazon’s new Charts be a chance for those kinds of books to regain a bestseller crown?
Only time will tell. I, for one, will be watching closely.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Until Amazon stops allowing bogus reviews to impact books on their website, I cannot take anything they do in terms of lists seriously.

Claire Booth said...

Good point, pattinase!