Do digital ostriches dream of electric sand?


There can be a certain hilarious magnificence to denial – the huge popularity of the Bruno Ganz Downfall meme is ample testament to that.

Downfall does I am afraid rather spring to mind when considering this piece in Publishing Weekly which lists the “Bestselling e-books of 2012”. It’s an impressive list – there are some huge numbers on there (oh to be working in a market five times the size of the UK…).

However, in the week that Jennifer L Armentrout became the first self published author to be the No. 1 ebook bestseller in the US the fact that this list doesn’t include self published authors smacks of bizarre levels of denial.

These are NOT 'the bestselling e-books of 2012'. They are 'some of the bestselling e-books of 2012'.

PW attempts to justify this by saying that’All the publishers that shared digital information were houses that rack up enough print sales to compete in the bestseller race.’  Which is a bit like having a singles chart in which only artists with bestselling albums can take part: it is simply a distortion of the realities of the market.

Except of course that would simply be arbitrary. For PW not only to not include self published authors, but to make no reference to them whatsoever raises the suspicion that they think and hope that if they ignore self published ebooks they will somehow go away.

The fact that Jennifer L Armentrout has just signed a huge deal with Harper Collins only adds to the absurdity of the situation. It is good news for author and agent, not good news for publishing. Denial and overcompensation are not happily linked in psychoanalytic terms.




Philip Jones's picture

To be fair to PW, The Bookseller's e-book charts faced the same problem, and that problem is Amazon. Until Amazon starts to release e-book sales figures, it is almost impossible to produce statistically valid e-book charts that are equivalent to the good work Nielsen do with physical sales. Our approach was slightly different to PW's in that we used the print charts as the anchor, meaning that our combined list of print and e-book bestsellers was unlikely to have missed off any big e-book only bestsellers that ought to have been in a combined chart. But I couldn't guarantee it. And that anchor is rooted in the traditional publishing sector. But I don't feel much like an Ostrich, and I doubt PW does either. I expect like us, PW wanted to put a marker down and can now work at improving its approach to chart data to take into account the changing landscape.

Nice headline btw ;-)


Agent Orange's picture

I take your point Philip - my issue isn't with the validity of the data set it is the way in which the data is presented. To make no mention of self published e-books and to headline the piece 'The Bestselling E-books of 2012' is misleading.

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