E-book Bestseller Lists from New York Times Coming in 2011

In What's the Buzz by Hannah Johnson

By Hannah Johnson

The New York Times announced yesterday that it will begin publishing e-book bestseller lists for fiction and nonfiction titles early next year. The Times created and verified its e-book tracking system over a period of two years, says Janet Elder, the editor of news surveys and election analysis.

Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus said the addition of e-book bestseller lists in the Book Review section will provide readers “the fullest pictures we can give them about how a book is doing week to week.”

This announcement comes on the heels of several reports predicting huge growth in e-book consumption and sales over the next several years.

Publishing Perspectives wrote yesterday about a study from the Forum d’Avignon which looked at the international trajectory of e-books. Reading devices “could be in the hands of 15 to 20% of the world’s population by 2015,” and e-book sales could represent “20 to 28% of industry profits in the medium to long term.”

Forrester Research predicts that e-book sales will hit $1 billion in 2011, and says that readers who’ve bought an digital reading device consume 41% of their books in digital form.

However, Carolyn Kellogg of the LA Times echoes some of publishers’ apprehensions about increased e-book sales: “A billion looks good if it’s a bonus; if it’s just a new slice of the same pie, well, it’s slightly less delicious.”

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) reported that in September, e-book sales increased by 158% over the same period last year. This increase coincided with a 40% decrease in adult hardcover sales, leaving overall book sales down by 12.1%. Read the full report from the AAP.

Tim Coronel of Australia’s Bookseller+Publisher magazine wrote about e-book bestseller lists for Publishing Perspectives in October, saying “While individual retailers and publishers, and groups such as Association of American Publishers, Book Industry Study Group and Nielsen BookScan are reporting some sales stats, no-one can yet provide comprehensive figures for how many e-books are being sold, to whom and for how much.”

While the New York Times lists will only apply to US book sales, it could persuade other organizations around the world to begin compiling this data as well.

By 2015, the publishing industry might have the data to prove whether recent predictions about e-book sales were right or wrong.

About the Author

Hannah Johnson

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Hannah Johnson is the Publisher of Publishing Perspectives. Before joining PP in 2009, she worked as Project Manager at the German Book Office New York.