New York Times bestseller analysis February 2015

New York Times bestseller analysis February 2015

I do a big analysis of the USA Kindle store every month in my Snapshots.

From time to time, I also do a bestseller analysis, but that tends to focus on the Kindle store bestsellers.

Today, I thought I’d look at the New York Times bestsellers…which is quite a different list from the Kindle store bestsellers.

I’m going to keep it down to just hardback equivalent fiction.

First, let me note this. Of the top twenty from the NYT, only three of them appear in the top twenty in the USA Kindle store:

  • The Girl on the Train (#1 at NYT, #5 in the Kindle store)
  • Big Little Lies (#13 at NYT, #12 in the Kindle store)
  • All the Light We Cannot See (#2 at NYT, #13 in the Kindle store)

Why the difference?

Part of it is the power of Amazon’s Kindle First program, where eligible Prime members get to get one (or two) soon to be published books for free each month…books published by Amazon, by the way. Those books dominate the Kindle list.

Another thing? There are three “Fifty Shades” book in the top twenty at the Kindle store. One reason people say they like their Kindles is that someone else can’t tell what you are reading unless you choose to show it to them. It may be that people are more comfortable reading a book like Fifty Shades of Grey on an EBR (E-Book Reader) or a tablet than in paper.

Here’s the analysis of the New York Times bestseller hardback fiction equivalents, from the most popular on down (they list twenty):

Title Price HB Price HB List Publisher KU TTS X-Ray Word Wise Lending Stars Reviews
The Girl on the Train 8.99 16.17 26.95 Penguin No Yes Yes Yes No 4.2 1807
All the Light We Cannot See 11.99 16.20 27.00 Scribner No No Yes Yes No 4.6 7209
The Nightingale 14.99 16.79 27.99 Macmillan No Yes No No No 4.8 229
Trigger Warning 14.99 17.17 26.99 HarperCollins No Yes No No No 4.5 19
Private Vegas 9.99 21.17 28.00 Hachette No Yes Yes No No 3.7 158
Gray Mountain 9.99 14.18 28.95 Random House No Yes Yes Yes No 3.7 10411
Crash & Burn 11.99 20.93 27.95 Penguin No Yes No No No 4.4 96
Saint Odd 9.79 16.80 28.00 Random House No Yes Yes No No 4.6 571
Funny Girl 11.99 16.77 27.95 Penguin No Yes No No No 3.7 56
The Boston Girl 11.99 15.60 26.00 Simon&Schuster No No Yes Yes No 4.0 412
The Escape 9.99 17.45 28.00 Hachette No Yes No Yes No 4.6 3,046
First Frost 12.99 14.29 25.99 Macmillan No Yes Yes No No 4.5 190
Big Little Lies 3.99 16.16 26.95 Putnam No Yes Yes Yes No 4.6 5706
Hope to Die 5.99 14.50 29.00 Hachette No Yes No No No 4.6 1874
Descent 9.43 19.68 25.95 Algonquin No Yes Yes No No 4.2 197
Cold Cold Heart 11.99 18.02 27.95 Penguin No Yes Yes No No 4.3 128
Leaving Time 10.99 14.00 28.00 Random House No Yes Yes Yes No 4.3 3978
Everything I Never Told You 10.99 15.22 26.95 Penguin No Yes Yes Yes No 4.1 1045
Insatiable Appetites 8.99 20.47 27.95 Penguin No Yes Yes No No 3.5 177
The Goldfinch 11.89 18.00 30.00 Hachette No Yes Yes Yes No 3.7 19876

The Kindle versions average $10.69, and range from $3.99 to $14.99.

The average hardback price at Amazon is $16.98 (more than half again as much…and more than $6 more), and the average list price (the price the publishers puts on the book) is $27.63.

The average savings of the e-book over Amazon’s discounted hardback price is $6.28…and the biggest one is $12.17!

I think you really have to consider the relative values to spend that much more for the p-book, assuming you already have a device on which to read it (or are comfortable using a free Kindle reading app).

No book which was in the NYT hardback fiction top twenty is not available through the Kindle store…but none of them are available through

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

though. That’s not a ridiculous thing to check…there has been a New York Times bestseller which was also available through KU, Amazon’s “all you can read” subser (subscription service).

In two cases, the publisher (Simon & Schuster…Scribner is an imprint) has inserted code to block text-to-speech access**. That means that 90% of the books do not block it.

19 of the books are from the Big Five US trade publishers (Putnam is an imprint of Penguin Random House)…Algonquin is an imprint of Workman. That certainly wouldn’t be the case on the  Kindle store bestsellers! Amazon as a traditional publisher is responsible for many of those, and at least one appears to be independently published.

Fourteen of the NYT titles have X-Ray (Amazon’s onboard background information feature). Not quite sure why one book has that and another one doesn’t.

Nine of the books have Word Wise. That’s a relatively new feature, which explains “difficult words” in situ. I think all tradpubbed (traditionally published) books will likely have it, at least those with text (as opposed to words in images, like a graphic novel or an illustrated children’s book).

None of the books are “lending enabled”…you can’t loan them to someone not on your account, without lending a physical device. That can work well: we keep a “guest Kindle” for that purpose, when people are visiting. You can share books with people on your account, and with some people not on your account (by using the “Family Library”).

Overall, this seems pretty good to me, but the Kindle bestsellers have it all over the NYT bestsellers in terms of enabled features. The NYT books probably account for a bigger chunk of revenue (and possibly, but not necessarily, higher unit sales), but this again gets around to the question: does Amazon need the tradpubs?

For now, the answer is probably yes. Just as Amazon spends millions of dollars getting well known movies and TV shows for Prime video (while still developing their own), the presence of the best-known books not only gives them credibility and keeps their regular customers happy, it attracts the occasional book buyer…with the opportunity to turn them into Prime members (which is what I think Amazon wants…that, and it wants to be the “infrastructure of retail”, connecting customers to everything they buy…regardless of from whom).

As Amazon needs the tradpubs less and less, though, it gives them more and more bargaining power…which could help us readers in the long run.

I don’t think that particularly makes Amazon too powerful…people could still buy those tradpubbed books from other sources, so it wouldn’t be like it was a “monopoly” on books.

What do you think? Why are the NYT bestellers such a different list from the Kindle store bestsellers? Why aren’t the Fifty Shades books (at least one of them) on the NYT list? Is it maybe just because the Kindle store list updates more quickly, and that at least one of the books will be on there next week? If so, how important is that…Amazon’s ability to not only have a book while it is hot, but not need to invest in stock before you know the value (a big problem when I was a brick-and-mortar bookstore manager)…and then to promote it without potentially waiting a week like the NYT? Has the presence of “Word Wise” affected your buying decision on a book? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

** A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


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