Home » Bestsellers, Big Publishing, Ebooks, Non-US » Ranking e-book sales

Ranking e-book sales

30 July 2013

From The Bookseller:

Last week The Bookseller announced that it would begin running monthly e-book rankings, with data supplied direct to the magazine by all the main trade publishers. The initiative builds on what we’ve done with The Bookseller’s annual, and quarterly market analyses, where we’ve integrated publisher supplied e-book data with stats from the physical book market supplied by Nielsen BookScan.

We first begin having a conversation with publishers in December last year, as I felt that attempting to analyse the publishing market only through the prism of Nielsen BookScan data was becoming untenable (at least for the commercial end of the market).

. . . .

The e-book market has grown to near 30% some trade publishers’ business but there is no third party monitor of it, or its “behaviour”. In the US, where the e-book market is bigger, the data sources are no better. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both run e-book charts (the latter supplied by Nielsen BookScan, and based on sales from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Google, Sony and more with Kobo joining the panel shortly), but without numbers.

. . . .

Yet nearly everything we know about the e-book world is based on publishers’ financial statements, analyses of relative movements of titles on various e-book bestseller charts, or consumer surveys.

. . . .

So The Bookseller will begin running a monthly ranking with publisher supplied volume data.

. . . .

As with the BookScan charts we’ll focus on volume, but will eliminate titles that are so heavily discounted that their sales figures become meaningless. The Bookseller’s BookScan charts exclude titles that have an actual selling price that represents a 75% discount or more on the rrp. There is no clear way of making this calculation for e-book sales, so in the e-book ranking we’ll exclude titles that sell below £2.

. . . .

The publishers in the launch panel are Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan Bloomsbury, and Simon & Schuster.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller and thanks to David for the tip.

We can’t have any riff-raff on the bestseller lists.

Bestsellers, Big Publishing, Ebooks, Non-US

35 Comments to “Ranking e-book sales”

  1. “We can’t have any riff-raff on the bestseller lists.”




    You are a card:)


  2. No riff-raff and no self-published ebooks either apparently.

  3. This is the same magazine/blog that runs those AuthorSolutions shill pieces, right?

  4. Translation: “We’re going to ignore self-published works because everyone knows that books on sale at $.99 or free are absolute drivel.” *sticks fingers in ears* “LA-LA-LA-LA! We can’t hear you!”

  5. I like it. “We’re going to rank ebook sales, only we don’t really care which ebooks are selling.”

  6. Am I the only one who eventaully sees this type of tracking leading to a “Big 5 Dominates All E-Book Sales!” article? Most likely in PW or NYT. Granted, the mega selling print authors usually have the top spots anyway but once indies are completely removed from the scale, what then?

    Oh yeah, the people who matter, readers, can still go to Zon and see top selling indies listed fairly on the worlds biggest book selling site. Nevermind. Would have been a nice try.

  7. To be fair, Amazon don’t give out sales data (and, I assume, other retailers too?), so the only way to get it is to go to publishers direct. But difficult to ask every indie publisher.

    The Bookseller serves the existing book industry, it is likely to make slow changes. This list to be welcomed. A step in the right direction.

    The Bookseller needs to strive to continue to reflect the new world, while maintaining its dealings with the ‘big’ publishers.

    Or am I being too generous?

    • Too generous.

      difficult to ask every indie publisher.

      Why? They’re inviting corporate publishers to submit; why not indie authors, too? Amazon might not give out sales data, but a lot of independent authors would if asked.

      The existing book industry

      Has changed. The existing publishing industry (is that what you mean by “book industry”) should include Kindle and iBookstore at least.

      I think you mean the Bookseller serves the existing corporate publishing industry, which it invited to self-report sales data.

  8. Contrast with this article, which has self-published (digital) bestsellers FOURTH ranked among all publishers: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/ebook-publisher-power-rankings-hachette-still-on-top-through-q2-2013/

    • That’s particularly amazing because DBW cook their “bestseller” list in similar ways – they penalize 99c books with a weighting, they give bonus points for appearing on all retailers (equally, so appearing on a Sony bestseller list is weighted the same as an Amazon list) and so forth.

      • Incorrect on the first point, David.

        The list does not penalize .99 books. The #3 book this week was .99 and I don’t think it’s hard to fathom why it didn’t beat out Rowling or Brown. What DBW does is create sub-lists so you can see what the top books are in several pricing categories if you choose so that you can compare ranking of similarly priced ebooks.

        The additional appearance credit for appearing on multiple retailers is small but reflects that these books are visible and available to a wider audience. That was a well-intentioned editorial choice which you are certainly welcome to object to but most seem to be comfortable with.

        Might be worth revisiting the methodology page here: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/digital-book-world-e-book-best-seller-list-methodology/

  9. Actually, I’m with Jane. Unless there’s something I am missing, I think this article is trying to be upfront.

    It states the need for tracking, but it also acknowledges that previous data was partial, and non-inclusive. Getting data about indie publishing is not possible. Amazon doesn’t release the data. It also says upfront that the data will rely on Publisher honesty.

    My problem with previous statistics about digital books sales is most pretend they are accurate and inclusive.

    So, I think they are being transparent, and they are right about the need. How useful the data will be is questionable, given the above gaps, but it’s a start.

    Now, if they don’t do a similar disclaimer whenever they report the data, then I’ll take issue, but for now, I think this is reasonable.

    • It states the need for tracking, but it also acknowledges that previous data was partial, and non-inclusive.

      Which its data, too, will be. Amazon may not release data, but you know what? I’m on Amazon. I’d submit data. Maybe if they opened data submissions to people who weren’t actually corporations we’d actually get some meaningful data.

      But they don’t want to hear that. Nobody talking about data does.

      • @ Will – Unfortunately getting partial data from random indies would not be helpful. The sample is self-selected, most likely very small and there’s no way to verify accuracy. That type of data is not reliable and couldn’t be used in any useful fashion.

        You would have to get the accurate information from Amazon, since it’s the largest digital retailer for indies, and Amazon isn’t talking.

        • It wouldn’t need to be random indies, or even all indies. Those that reckon they could qualify for the Top 20 for that week/month could submit their sales data. The information is the exact same as that publishers would be submitting – self-selected, self-reported and unverified.

          Ideally, Amazon would share the relevant data, but I can’t see that happening.

          • Well, I hear you David, I’d love to see some numbers, but I’m not sure it’s possible.

            In terms of what you suggest, I’m hesitant to back Big Pub up in any way, but I would trust the data from businesses to be somewhat in the ball park. They do have quarterly reports, etc., so they could smudge, but they can’t just completely make up figures without getting caught out on some level. Whereas including a lot of different individuals is just really unreliable.

            Also, I think you would have to collect from the indies who actually did make the top 20, and be sure you got all of them, while the lists change so frequently…

            If someone was really motivated they might be able to come up with an (unreliable) system, but – also – this would only measure the top sellers, not the digital field as whole.

            I’m not saying it wouldn’t be interesting to look at, as long as you didn’t take the data very seriously. I think it really depends on what your goals are, and why you are collecting the data.

            For reliable data, I think we are stuck, until or if Amazon shares.

            • Yeah, I have to put in my 2 cents here. If you’ve ever tried to compile a rankings list based on raw data (I have, just not for books), you’ll have some understanding of the real and immediate “translation” compromises involved. It’s very seldom just a matter of compiling raw numbers.

              I thought the article did a fair job of laying out some of their considerations and choices. I’d also have to say it’s probably more useful to have a separate list for cheap ebooks, otherwise it could be quite impossible to have a picture of the rest of the market.

              Lastly, compiling these stats is going to be a significant investment of time and resources. Can’t really blame them for taking care of their existing customer base first, before branching out into the unknown.

              • Hiya, thanks for the picking up on the new initiative.
                We are deliberately calling it a ranking, rather than a bestseller chart, because we know it’s limitations. At the moment we are open to all publishers, big and small (Faber, Canongate etc submitted to the first ranking), as well as intermediaries such as Faber Factory, or ePub Direct (both of whom have been invited to join). These latter two companies service hundreds of small to medium-sized publishers, for example.

                But of course, that is not everyone, and yes we’d love to reflect the wider reality of authors not published by the traditional publishers, or publishing through a trackable third party. As I wrote in the article, we’ve already chatted to the Alliance of Independent Authors to see if we might work on something together; we first need to come up with a methodology and then figure out if that is workable with our current resources. Getting data from Penguin RH, or even Faber Factory, means we are tracking 1,000s of titles each month, with two points of contact, and we need to work out if we can replicate that in the indie world.

                It’s absolutely in our interests to get more data into the marketplace not less. This is just the starting point, but I wanted to get it out there quickly so we could begin building on it.

                Others may also take up the idea, of course, and run with it. Or it might persuade Amazon to make its data publicly available. Either way we know a little bit more today than we did yesterday about the e-book market.

                If you want to receive the first ranking, feel free to email ebookcharts@bookseller.co.uk (and put Free Charts in the subject line). You will then receive an automatic reply with the the PDF download.

                Would welcome any additional comments.

  10. Why can’t they just have multiple lists, cooked and uncooked, and let readers make up their minds as to what lists and books to look at?

  11. “Why can’t they just have multiple lists, cooked and uncooked, and let readers make up their minds as to what lists and books to look at?”


    I expect that’ll be the case in time.

    I hope it doesn’t do the same as the music industry lists of best sellers.

    They are so individually classified that if you sell two copies of some dreck or other, you’ll be on top of THAT chart.

    I’ll be happy if someone manages to stop the boring tide of Vampires and Zombies:)


    • Hey, zombies are not boring! They can be many things, dear sir, but NEVER boring.

      Now, if you want to mock sparkly vampires… 😀

      • “Hey, zombies are not boring! They can be many things, dear sir, but NEVER boring.”


        Madam…I accept your challenge.

        I have read a number of Zombie offerings, all have bored me to tears. The same with the celebrated TV series, The Walking Dead.

        All suffer the same frightful lack.

        Almost no serious exposition on how the dreaded epidemic occurred. Zip, nada. The anatomical impossibility of, “re-animation,” is just glossed over. The Sci-Fi equivalent of the, “Warp Drive.”

        Then to the action, which is a comic re-run of chasing around. Kill a few Zombies, one of your lot dies. Drama while they turn into Zombie…cry a few tears, off we go again.

        It’s an endless circle of nonsense, substituting real story- telling and drama through characters and action with Hemingway deaths and gore. You’ve seen one, read one, no need to do more, they’re all exactly the same.

        In TWD, you ever see anyone do any farming? They’re still driving around in cars, two years after the gas stations all died, and the Zombies are still running around. They never address real questions of an apocalypse.

        “Now, if you want to mock sparkly vampires… :grin:”

        These pages do not deserve the vitriol I have for Vampires and Hairy-Men-in-Spanx. For now I will simply stamp on the ground loud enough to make the cats scarper! (hurls handbag toward the sky!)

        Git the vamps and zombs OUTTA sci-fi 🙂


        • Almost no serious exposition on how the dreaded epidemic occurred. Zip, nada. The anatomical impossibility of, “re-animation,” is just glossed over. The Sci-Fi equivalent of the, “Warp Drive.”

          Here now! No need to go insulting warp drives like that. See this for example, or this NASA paper (pdf).


          (And while I generally agree with you wrt zombies, you might take a look at Mira Grant’s multiply Hugo-nominated trilogy Feed/Deadline/Blackout for a non-standard twist on the whole thing.)

          • Alastair,

            Oddly enuff, I knew of the NASA paper. Obviously, I’ve been told off for ranting about that before:)

            I’ve got the sample of, “Feed,” by Mira Grant. 609 pages, and two further books on Zombies?

            Jeepers…my ghast is flabbered.



        • Brendan,before you hurt somebody with that handbag, may I respectfully suggest you try Dana Fredsti’s “Plague” series, starting with “Plague Town”? http://www.amazon.com/Plague-Town-Ashley-Parker-ebook/dp/B005C5M4MU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1375227161&sr=8-2&keywords=dana+fredsti

          The reviews specifically call out the gore/gruesome factor. Not being a fan of zombies, I haven’t read them, but knowing Dana as I do, the sex factor is likely equally as high. Also, they are intentioanlly funny. The author is a true Zombie fanatic from way back and will engage you in endless discussions of every type of zombie, various movie directors, and in-depth critique of all things zombie.

          • Kat,

            Thanks, I’ve got the sample, but the gore factor seems high. Weirdly enough, I’m okay with it in the flesh, but dislike it on screen or prose.

            I’ll give the sample a try. Thank you.


  12. None of the best seller lists are “complete.”

    Back in 2011 and 2012, my ebook made it to the top of of several best seller lists at Amazon. The “paid” when it was 99 cents, and the “free” (#13 in the whole free Kindle store, thank you to Michael at Free Kindle Books & Tips for that one), and slid into the paid rankings quite high (after the free run), yet books that are only available as eBooks and not for sale at other vendors, won’t qualify for any other lists, which is okay.

    Thank God that movie producers do pay attention to the Amazon lists though.

  13. I’ll echo the others–there are some really good zombie books, where the emphasis is on a new world arising from the shattered ruins of civilization. Mira Grant’s Feed series is absolutely brilliant as science-based SF/apocalypse literature/conspiracy literature. I really enjoyed JR bourne’s Armageddon series. Max Brooks World War Z was GOOD (have no idea what the movie is like). It’s not the zombies that matter but how the characters respond to utter disaster. Your rant sounds like those who hate hate hate romance, when they haven’t read any. I’ll remind you of Theodore Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of EVERYTHING is crap. Including literary books.

  14. Oh! And not to mention Justin Cronin’s brilliant The Passage and the Twelve. Kat–tried to order Plague Town but the system won’t let me buy it. I live in Italy, could it possibly be restricted to only NA? That’s not smart.

    • “Your rant sounds like those who hate hate hate romance, when they haven’t read any.”


      Unfair, especially when my rant states that I have done so. There’s about 30 Zombie books in my audible and kindle accounts. Not one of which I have finished due to boredom with the similarity of the plots and the action.

      I’ve got World War Z, and thought not a lot of it. I will give Armageddon a look along with Passage and the Twelve.


  15. Brendan–fair enough. De gustibus…

  16. Suburbanbanshee

    Recommending zombie books by Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant does not prove that zombies are interesting. It proves that Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant is an interesting writer who writes interesting books. (Which she does.)

    Traditional Haitian zombies at least had the horror of slavery and poison, plus voudoun and Haiti. Chinese hopping vampires/zombies at least have the cool outfits, the powers, the restraint spell-papers pasted on their faces, and the relentless hopping.

    But American zombies are nothing but a bizarrely excessive fear of one’s fellow man and of death. They’re only horror stories for people who don’t themselves have a life. Sometimes there’s some warmed-over post-nuclear apocalypse for people who can’t believe in nuclear war anymore, and sometimes they throw in stuff stolen from other horror genres.

    But in the end, it’s painfully clear that American zombies basically do nothing that’s really scary. They are the least scary, least charismatic horror monster ever. They exist only to serve as a “safe” target for aggression. It’s like trying to be afraid of hair clippings or dust bunnies rising up to attack you.

  17. Now, see, you PVers are not up to par this morning. You’re disappointin’ me. Where’s the comment drawing the obvious parallel between Zombie death anxiety and the fear of Zon as the Great Slobbering World Eeevil? C’mon, folks, time’s a’passing.

  18. Great change of direction on this thread. My own viewpoint on the current wave of zombie stories is are they really that different from some of the classic sci-fi stories/movies of the 60s-70s?

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (original please)
    Stepford Wives (original please)
    Omega Man (based on the novel I am Legend)

    Granted the method of ‘conversion’ is different in each story, but the basic premise is very similar. This isn’t a new phenomonon, just the pendulum swinging back.

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