Tales of Two Markets: USA and UK Amazon Charts’ Year-Enders

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Newly instituted in the UK this year, the Amazon Charts for the first time offer year-end comparative top titles between the British and American markets.

Image – iStockphoto: SM Shoot

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

What Sold, and What Was Read
The arrival in July of Amazon Charts in the UK is providing an interesting point of year-end comparison. As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the States had had Amazon Charts since mid-May of 2017.

And while it’s good to remember that the 2019 summary for the UK doesn’t cover a full year, the contrasts in popularity and sales patterns are interesting.

The Amazon Charts, updated weekly, list the Top 20 digital titles in fiction and nonfiction by “most read” and “most sold,” which creates some interesting discrepancies in itself. You’ll find the Stateside regular edition of Amazon Charts here, and the UK edition here.

As the Amazon UK country director in books Simon Johnson recently said to The Bookseller’s Kiera O’Brien, the Charts’ “This Year in Books” reports provide the most comprehensive look at what their relevant markets have been “reading and loving in 2019” because the charts “take into account ebooks read on Kindle and audiobooks from Audio.”

It’s of course Amazon’s digital access, of course, that makes it possible for the Amazon Charts to reveal not only what’s being sold (in all formats), but also what’s actually being read, in digital formats.

To refresh you, here’s how Amazon described the key features of the charts in July as they were rolled out in the UK and in Germany.

Here are a few comparative notes.

Top of the Amazon Charts Fiction in the USA and UK, 2019

In the States, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Penguin Group / GP Putnam’s Sons, 2018) had the longest streak—16 weeks—of any book at No. 1 on both the most sold and most read fiction lists in 2019.

In the United Kingdom, we see a split, and a striking one.

In the UK, the most sold work of fiction per the Amazon Charts was Heather Morris’ The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Bonnier / Zaffre, 2018).

And in terms of most read work of fiction on the British Amazon Charts, our British friends are still just wild about You Know Who: JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Bloomsbury, 2003) topped the most read fiction chart, though it was originally published 16 years ago.

In fact, four of the Top Five most read works of fiction on the UK’s Amazon Charts are Rowling’s: Phoenix (No. 1), Philosopher’s Stone (No. 3), Goblet of Fire (No. 4), and Deathly Hallows. At No. 2, Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth is the one non-Rowling most read fiction entry, but it’s interesting to note that all five of the top titles in this category are in the young readers’ and YA sector.

Top of the Amazon Charts Nonfiction in the USA and UK, 2019

You can talk political divisiveness all you want this week, with the Donald Trump articles of impeachment and the UK’s general election coming into view. But when it comes to nonfiction, a person of the political realm pulls together a lot of buying and reading trends on the Amazon Charts in both countries in 2019.

In the United States, Michelle Obama’s Becoming became the No. 1 most sold nonfiction (Penguin Random House, 2018). The book held the longest run at No. 1 in both most sold and most read this year, 14 weeks.

In the most read category, however, Obama’s book was No. 2 overall. What was at the top in most read nonfiction? Dale Carnegie’s 1936 How To Win Friends and Influence People. The 80th anniversary edition is from Simon & Schuster. You wonder if Carnegie would have been happy with that ampersand in the title instead of the original “and.” But you also wonder what this says about our era. And who are so many readers trying to win over as friends and influence, anyway?

In the UK, the former first lady’s book is the No. 1 most read nonfiction on the Amazon Charts’ This Year in Books.

Dale Carnegie (1888-1955) does chase her at No. 2, though, so the Brits may want to be your influential friends, too.

But in most sold, Obama is seen Becoming the No. 3 title for the year, with Kay Featherstone and Kate Allinson’s cookbook Pinch of Nom: 100 Slimming, Home-Style Recipes claiming No. 1 (Pan Macmillan / Bluebird, 2019) and This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay (Pan Macmillan / Picador) in the No. 2 spot.

We’ll give you a look at the tops of the charts’ summations below, information with which to amaze your friends at holiday parties.

The current edition of the Amazon Charts for the UK in most-sold fiction show works by David Walliams, Charlie Mackesy, and Jeff Kinney in the lead

Amazon Charts’ 2019 Most-Read Fiction, USA and UK
Fiction, Most-Read: Amazon Charts USA, 2019 Fiction, Most-Read: Amazon Charts UK, 2019
1. Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens) 1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (JK Rowling)
2. The Guardians (John Grisham) 2. The Secret Commonwealth (Philip Pullman)
3. The Institute (Stephen King) 3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (JK Rowling)
4. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling) 4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (JK Rowling)
5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (J.K. Rowling) 5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling)
Amazon Charts’ 2019 Most-Sold Fiction, USA and UK
Fiction, Most-Sold: Amazon Charts USA, 2019 Fiction, Most-Sold: Amazon Charts UK, 2019
1. Where the Crawdads Sing  (Delia Owens) 1. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
2. The Silent Patient (Alex Michaelides) 2. The Rumour by Lesley Kara
3. Treasure Island: An Audible Original Drama (Robert Louis Stevenson, Marty Ross) 3. The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay by Nicola May
4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (J.K. Rowling) 4. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
5. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) 5. Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry
Amazon Charts’ 2019 Most-Read Nonfiction, USA and UK
Nonfiction, Most-Read: Amazon Charts USA, 2019 Nonfiction, Most-Read: Amazon Charts UK, 2019
1. How To Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie) 1. Becoming by Michelle Obama
2. Becoming (Michelle Obama) 2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
3. Take Control of Your Life: How to Silence Fear and Win the Mental Game (Mel Robbins) 3. The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson
4. Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know (Malcolm Gladwell) 4. Take Control of Your Life by Mel Robbins
5. Educated (Tara Westover) 5. This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay
Amazon Charts’ 2019 Most-Sold Nonfiction, USA and UK
Nonfiction, Most-Sold: Amazon Charts USA, 2019 Nonfiction, Most-Sold: Amazon Charts UK, 2019
1.  Becoming (Michelle Obama) 1. Pinch of Nom by Catherine Allinson, Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone
2.  Educated (Tara Westover) 2. This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay
3.  Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals  (Rachel Hollis) 3. Becoming by Michelle Obama
4.  Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be (Rachel Hollis) 4. Hinch Yourself Happy by Mrs. Hinch (Sophie Hinchcliffe)
5.  Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds (David Goggins) 5. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Publishing Perspectives has asked if similar comparative data will be made available from the German edition of Amazon Charts.

The current edition of the Amazon Charts for the UK in most-sold fiction show works by Brandon Sanderson, John Grisham, and Nora Roberts on top


More from Publishing Perspectives on the UK market is here, on the USA is here, on Amazon is here, and on bestsellers is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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