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DISCUSS: Should Bestselling Books Be Awarded Sales Certifications?

By Edward Nawotka

certificateAt PubCamp@SXSW, discussed in today’s feature story, Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books suggested that what the book industry needs is to award sales certification status to bestselling titles. “I know how much the book industry rejects comparison with the music industry,” she said, “but wouldn’t it help customers is books were awarded something like Platinum and Gold status just like bestselling music albums?”

She argued that the honorifics would help customers know what books had sustained long-term interest with readers and would, ultimately, aid in discovery and spur even more sales. Certainly sales figures offered by publishers for their top selling titles are amorphous at best and fictitious at worst, but with services like BookScan, the numbers are becoming easier to ascertain. Provided the actual sales could be certified in some way by and authoritative source, the idea could work.

But do you think it is a good one for the book business? Is there a risk that labeling books based entirely on sales — beyond the moniker “bestseller,” which is itself a slippery one — that it might spur even more sales of bestsellers to the detriment of other books, thus making the industry even more dependent on just a handful of books? Or is the risk overstated…or even non-existent. How do you envision such a system working?

What are the upsides? Downsides?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted March 14, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I believe this is a bad idea. Sales does not equal quality and sales can be forced into the marketplace. Front window space is purchased, along with the valuable end caps.

    Consumers are much better served by actively associating with those with shared interests, not on some falsely created list. Authors and publishers will *eventually* figure out what this means. -Steve

  2. Jem
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I’m unsure if this would be good or not. I am sure that the “bestseller” thing needs to be fixed, or don away with. It seriously ticked me off when the New York Times created a separate Children’s List for bestsellers because she (and later Stephanie Meyer) were keeping publisher darlings out of the top spot. Either a book is bestselling, or it’s not. Especially when said books are being purchased as much, if not far more, by adults – to be read by adults.

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