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Cooking the Books – The New York Times and Nook Ebook Bestsellers

12 February 2011

It’s interesting to compare the new New York Times Ebook Bestseller lists to Amazon’s.

With its traditional bestseller lists, NYT has slanted the lists toward books that are sold by the right sort of people to the right sort of people.  If your paperback is outselling grits, chewing tobacco and dog food in grocery stores across the South, that’s not going to help you with the Times.  The NYT has always been very secretive about exactly how it compiles its hardcopy rankings, but no one believes they will match the total sales numbers publishers see.

Yesterday, NYT ebook bestseller lists were released for the first time and the books-cooking was even more obvious.  Amanda Hocking, indie phenom who is beating all the big names from the big publishers in ebook sales?  Nowhere to be found.  Why not?  Well, you see, she doesn’t have a publisher, which, of course, means she can’t be the right sort of author and couldn’t possibly be recognized by the NYT.  For NYT books-cookers, Ms. Hocking doesn’t pass the smell test.

It’s fascinating to compare the ebook fiction list from Amazon, which is generated by a computer in Seattle based on actual sales, with the ebook fiction list from NYT, which is blended, spiced and simmered by tasteful persons in Manhattan.  It’s the difference between the world as it is and the world as The Gray Lady believes it ought to be.

Which list is more tasteful?  Ultimately, that’s a question for the world of readers vs. the ever-diminishing number of NYT subscribers.

This blog post also lead me into Nook’s bestseller list where I thought I could smell a faint scent of books-cooking as well. As a premise, I don’t believe Nook readers are that much different than Kindle readers, particularly when it comes to price-sensitivity.

Amazon’s top 10 fiction bestsellers include three books selling for 99 cents and one book at $3.99. Nook’s top 10 bestsellers include no 99 cent books and only one book under $5.00.  In fact, I checked all of the Nook top 100 bestsellers and none are selling for 99 cents.  On Amazon, 10 out of the top 40 ebook fiction titles are selling for 99 cents or $1.00.  I quit counting at that point.

One more data point from Nookville, Tick-Tock by James Patterson, which is #2 on Nook has 239 customer ratings while Switched, a 99 cent ebook by Hocking, has 2001 customer ratings.  Switched is #2 on Amazon and doesn’t appear anywhere in the Nook top 100 bestsellers.

Maybe Barnes & Noble is working to make its bestseller list more tasteful too.  It certainly smells that way.

See the links below.

Amazon Ebook Fiction Bestsellers

NYT Ebook Fiction Bestsellers

Nook Top 100 Bestsellers

I’ve done an update with best-seller data on February 25 HERE

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Bestsellers, Ebooks