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Which Publishers Do Best at Ebook Sales?

6 November 2012

From Forbes blogs:

Everyone has heard of Penguin — its Penguin Classics brand is thought to be among the strongest in publishing — but who knows just how successful the publisher has been this year in selling ebooks?

And we all know that self-publishing is growing by leaps and bounds, but just how well do you think those scrappy upstart authors are doing against the big publishers in sales?

To answer these questions, we at Digital Book World created ebook Publisher Power Rankings, to rank just how well each publisher is doing against the other. Our methodology was simple: Look at our top-25 Ebook Best-Seller list since we launched the thing over the summer and see how many titles each publisher had on the list each week and then add them up.

. . . .

Here are our top-5:

1. Random House: 85 appearances
2. Penguin: 62 appearances
3. Scholastic: 35 appearances
4. Hachette: 29 appearances
5. Simon & Schuster: 18 appearances

. . . .

If combined, as is intended, Penguin and Random House would have more top-25 ebook best-sellers than all other publishers put together — and all the No. 1 titles since we’ve started tracking.

Link to the rest at Forbes and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Bestsellers, Big Publishing

15 Comments to “Which Publishers Do Best at Ebook Sales?”

  1. This is going to sound strange, but take a look at the list on DBW’s site:

    Take out self-published and Amazon, so all you have left is trad pub.

    Look at the numbers (starting from the bottom);


    Does that remind you of anything? It looks a lot like a Fibonacci series. Starting with 1 and 2, each number in a Fibonacci series is the sum of the previous two numbers. Here’s how the DBW list compares. The list below has the DBW number first, the sum of the previous two DBW numbers in parentheses, and then the Fibonacci series number in curly braces {}.

    1 ( ) { 1}
    3 ( ) { 2}
    4 ( 4) { 3}
    8 ( 7) { 5}
    10 (12) { 8}
    18 (18) {13}
    29 (28) {21}
    35 (46) {34}
    62 (74) {55}
    84 (97) {89}

    Sometimes I see patterns and can’t get them out of my head…

  2. This speaks to the clout the merged company will have with Amazon in negotiations. When you combine the two numbers together, you get 147 titles/slots out of a total of 229 listed. That’s barely over 64% of the slots filled by those two companies.

    Don’t think Amazon will flinch if the new company threatens to not sell there when it will represent way over half of the best selling titles falling off of Amazon’s “shelves”?

    While the newly merged company won’t have a monopoly on the total book market (estimates I’ve seen range from 25% to 35%), they obviously will when it comes to best sellers, which is where a retailer like Amazon earns its best sells and customer satisfaction. Customers would not only buy best sellers elsewhere, but other books and products while there they might have picked up at Amazon. For Amazon, that scenario wouldn’t just translate into loss of profits on those books (we know they tend to sell those pretty close to cost anyway), but loss of customers, which Amazon has centered their whole business around.

    As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the new company decides to not sell to Amazon for the sole purpose of attempting to bring them down, negotiation or not. The big if on that would be, could the company, which would still be under the shadow of Penguin’s anti-trust suit (if they lose) afford to have a monopoly abuse suit stacked on top of it? Especially if, as would be expected, we’d see prices rise as a result of the abuse.

  3. So…..

    You have this theory that a particular publishing line is the top. You test it by looking at numbers that pretty much exclude that particular line.

    If you want to know the most successful publisher, you have to look at total sales. Best sellers doesn’t tell you anything. Classics never appear on best seller lists, but they have huge sales.

  4. What I liked was this part:

    “2. Self-published authors, if taken as a group, hold their own against many large, sophisticated publishing operations (didn’t make the top 5 but are somewhere in the middle of the pack).

    3. You don’t have to be “big six” (the name given to the six largest trade publishers in the U.S.) to have an impact. The Hunger Games propelled Scholastic to No. 3 on our list.”

    Pretty impressive, self-published authors!

  5. With regards to the clout/monopoly question, how would that work? Brick and mortar bookstores are going out of business/declining. So how does it actually work out if you block the largest online retailer? Is it a given that people will blame Amazon for the book not being available? Or will they blame the author? In her post last week, KKR mentioned readers writing to HER about their inability to find her books, as if she had anything to do with it. I’m skeptical that the blame will fall where the publishers want it to, if this is their strategy. How do you game who will be the bestseller if the main outlet for getting the book is excluded?

    Also, how did things work out for artists who didn’t want their albums or singles on iTunes? Did people dutifully trek to the stores instead? Did they ignore the artist? Or did they go to one of those file sharing sites?

    • Oh, if they did withhold sales from Amazon, it would hurt them some. They would be betting not as much as it would hurt Amazon, though. There are other online venues people know if they want book X to go there if Amazon isn’t carrying it. And while bookstores are declining in sales, they still sell the bulk of hard backs and paperbacks for traditional publishers.

      But I don’t think for Amazon it would be a matter of who the customer would blame. But a matter that a customer who wants that best seller will go to B&N to get it because Amazon isn’t carrying it. No matter who they blame, the result is Amazon loses customer loyalty that they’ve invested so much in building over these past few years.

      While I don’t know if the merged company could successfully pull off an Amazon weakening to a significant degree to make their losses pay off if they went through with it, it would certainly be a strong negotiating stance on the next contract.

      • But I don’t trust Barnes & Noble. I have years and years of history with Amazon, whereas B&N is that store that couldn’t even stay in business at the mall. I bought a Kindle because I trust Amazon, whereas I’ve bought exactly one audiobook from B&N online. (And only because it was out of print otherwise, and because I don’t like to pirate. I mean, there were plenty of pirate copies in print.)

        And I suspect I’m not alone.

        Now, I used to trust Waldenbooks, back in the 80’s, and I used to trust my big local bookstore, before it got bought out and moved to a store designed to give people acrophobic attacks. But I do trust Amazon. Mostly I trust it to want to make money and good business decisions, but nowadays, any sane business with a sense of self-preservation is a business you trust.

        I don’t trust any of the publishers, except Baen.

        • So, if Amazon wasn’t carrying a best selling book you really wanted to read, you wouldn’t search elsewhere for it, but give up on ever reading it?

          I’m not saying the customers would be happy about it. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be more inconvenient to find it at B&N or Kobo, etc. Only that if Amazon didn’t have it and customers really wanted it, they’ll find another site or store to buy it. And that is what Amazon doesn’t want.

          Any store’s success, I don’t care who you are, is to please customers. And one of the key ways a retailer has to do that, is being able to have what you need or want, and/or be able to get it to you very quickly. Why Amazon doesn’t have a book someone is looking for isn’t nearly as important to the customer as the fact that you don’t have it when they want to buy it.

  6. Compare trad pubs publishing thousands of books with Indie pubs publishing one or two books each? Ridiculous.

  7. The Big 6 strategy still seems to be about control, while Amazon is about customer service and data mining. Guess who will win that fight.

    Amazon wouldn’t go out of business without Random Penguin, but I wonder if RP can say the same. On the other hand, if Amazon wants to be a credible bookstore, they have to carry the top books. But on the third hand, can you be the top book with zero Amazon sales?

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