“Where is your old release section?”

“Where is your old release section?”

For many decades, there has been a basic assumption in retail: “new” matters.

It’s been considered one of the most powerful words you can pick in an ad…or on a package. You’ll see it underlined, in bigger font, with an exclamation point.

When I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore, no question: we promoted new titles.

We put them in the window.

We had “wishing wells” (those carefully arranged essentially circular stacks of one titles with a hole in the middle) of new titles.

Publishers set higher suggested retail prices (“list prices”) for new titles, and even with discounting, you would expect to pay more for a new Stephen King than for one that was ten years old.

I’ve seen people really upset when a thirty year old book was set at, say, $9.99 as an e-book on Amazon.

Certainly, there were some reasonable factors involved.

One was the desire to read something you hadn’t read before. You might have read every Stephen King book published so far…that gives you a higher desire for a new book, and more demand can equal higher prices.

Another one was wanting to avoid spoilers. People were in line at midnight to read the new Harry Potter (or a century earlier, they wanted to be the first to get the new Oz book) in part so they could read it before they heard about some essential plot point.

All of this has meant that a list like the New York Times bestseller list would reliably almost always be comprised of new titles.

What I’ve noticed, though, is that may not still be the case…at least for e-books, and especially for one way of getting them.

As a hypothesis, that make some sense to me.

The USA Kindle store averages more than a 1,000 books added a day. You can’t possibly have read everything out there…so you aren’t caught up. You can no longer read all of the new books in a topic you like…almost regardless of topic.

Similarly, for spoilers, they are just less likely to happen…with this many books available, the plot points of any given novel are less likely to be discussed.

The rise of the indie (independently published) book is yet another point. Tradpubs (traditionally published) books are a tiny minority of the books being published today, but they still dominate the p-books (paperbooks). The paperbook sales are what people see on bestseller lists (at least that’s what most people notice)…and those tend to be the new releases from the tradpubs, just as they have been for a very long time

How important is newness for the USA Kindle bookstore bestsellers? How does it compare to p-book bestsellers in the USA Amazon store?

The place where it really stood out to me (prior to analysis) was in

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

I was looking for a KU book for my Significant Other in a hurry, so I went to the KU storefront…and noticed that the top books were older.

As is my tendency, I didn’t want to just go with my “feel” for it…I decided to do an analysis to see how “newness” might vary between the USA Kindle store, p-books at Amazon.com, and KU.

Before I actually do this analysis for you, I’m sure one factor might mess it up…the dominance of

Kindle First books (at AmazonSmile*)

on the bestseller list.

I’ve asked Amazon if the free books in Kindle First available to Prime members affects their bestseller rankings…I haven’t gotten an answer yet, so I think I may run it with and without them.

Okay, let’s take a look.

I’m only going to look at paid bestsellers, not free ones.

I think I’ll go with the publication date given on the Amazon product page. That will not correlate to the original publication date, but I think makes some sense. When an older book is first published in Kindle format, I think it’s often treated by readers as though it was a new book…even if it was first published in paper half a century or more ago.

USA Kindle store

Rank Months old
1 -1
2 37
3 57
4 4
5 -1
6 -1
7 -1
8 10
9 -1
10 5
Average 10.8

USA Kindle store without pre-publication (Kindle First)

Rank Months old
2 37
3 57
4 4
8 10
10 5
11 3
12 24
13 0
14 0
15 0
Average 14

Most popular in Kindle Unlimited (they don’t give ranking numbers, but this is the order they displayed)

Rank Months old
1 1
2 4
3 8
4 48
5 1
6 48
7 5
8 14
9 29
10 16
Average 17.4

Overall Amazon.com books (may include Kindle format sales)

Rank Months old
1 14
2 60
3 6
4 0
5 0
6 9
7 78
8 6
9 65
10 34
Average 27.2

New York Times fiction hardback bestsellers

NYT Ranking Months old
1 0
2 12
3 20
4 3
5 11
6 3
7 2
8 2
9 6
10 4
Average 6.3


I knew there would be some older books on the New York Times bestseller list, because books can stay on that list for some time.

KU books were somewhat older, but not as much as I had anticipated. I suspect that what I saw before was “featured” titles (which featured Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings) rather than “most popular”.

The overall Amazon bestsellers were older than I would have guessed…there were a couple of particularly older ones which pushed those back…and they weren’t popular fiction or non-fiction. I hadn’t counted on that.

I do think backlist (older books), indies, and even public domain will tend to claim more of the market over the next ten years or so, and that subsers (subscription services) may also influence that.

What do you think? What’s your intuitive sense of your own reading? Do you place a higher or lower premium on buying a book to read, or is it about the same? Have you found yourself reading more indies and public domain? This may also have an impact: are you now more likely to buy a book and then read it later (perhaps much later) than when you bought primarily p-books? I do think that has been true for me…I might buy a book on sale (although I tend now to go with KU and books given to me as gifts), and then it would be in the TBR (To Be Read) “pile” for some time. 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! :) 

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.


12 Responses to ““Where is your old release section?””

  1. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I think the current popularity on the Harry Potter books might stem from the fact that they were only recently made available directly from Amazon. Before that, you had to go to Pottermore to buy them.

    There is a new release that I’d really like to read. It’s a nominee for the Edgar award in the Biographical category. Unfortunately, the current price for the Kindle edition is $19.25. Sorry, but I am NOT going to pay almost $20 for a Kindle book. The title is “Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald.” The “list price” for the hardback edition is $35, but it’s available from Amazon for $23.49.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      On Harry Potter, that might have affected it in some places, but they have been in KU for a long time.

      I’d put the Welty/Macdonald book in


      so you can be notified when it drops in price.

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        The Welty/Macdonald book is in ereaderiq, but I fear it’s not going to come into my price range in my lifetime. I’m a fan of both Welty and Macdonald, and I loved “84 Charing Cross Rd,” which unbelievably STILL is not available for Kindle!

        I checked to see if the paper version of “Meanwhile there are Letters” was available through my local library, but no luck there. I’m going to look for “second hand” copies of the paperbook. If I find one at a reasonable price, I’ll go that route. I think this is the type of book I could read in spurts. I can read short amounts at a time from paper books before my vision doubles up on me. If not, I can always check with my university library. Surely they will get a copy.

        By the way, the local news informs me that today is National Hug Day, so big hugs for
        {{{{{{ I Love my Kindle Blog }}}}}}

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        As to 84, Charing Cross Road not being available…it fits a profile which may make it unavailable for some time.

        Welty died in 1997…e-book rights weren’t commonly being negotiated at that point (the Kindle was first released in 2007). When a publisher licenses the p-book (paperbook) rights, and they likely would have had to mention hardback and paperback both, they don’t automatically get e-book rights. Random House tried to assert that at one point, but it didn’t work.

        When the market was jumpstarted by the Kindle, the publisher (actually, any publisher) would go back for a new negotiation with the author, or the author’s estate.

        In Welty’s case, I don’t know who would manage the estate. I checked: never married, and as far as I can tell, no known children.

        If the author hadn’t provided for someone who could negotiate rights for a new version, it would be stuck…a “ghost orphan” (the e-book version being a ghost, since it has no physicality).

        For a used copy of the p-book of Letters, Amazon is not a bad bet…but you can also list it at Alibris and they’ll notify you. Right now, it’s nt available very inexpensively through Alibris (about $14), but it doesn’t hurt to do that.


        As to

  2. D. Knight Says:

    I’m certainly reading a lot more indies now. Not that long ago I didn’t think very highly at all of indies, but now I’m actually find myself on the lookout for “good” indies. I wouldn’t be surprised if that became a trend for bookish people with e-readers: trying to find and read the indies that are going to make it big before they make it big.

    That idea came to me when looking at “The Martian” (which I’ve already read; I was looking for ideas for other books) and I glanced at some of the reviews. Some of the oldest reviews are obviously talking about an indie. Wouldn’t it be fun to have written a review for an indie and a couple of years later it’s being published by a tradpub and being made into a movie.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, D.!

      Certainly, the publishers are looking for those books as well. 🙂 I’ve said before that I think they may move away from taking as many chances on their own and treat indies as a “farm team”.

      Think about how Andy Weir must feel having published an indie that was made into a movie!

  3. Man in the Middle Says:

    The only books I now feel pressure to read promptly are (in priority order): 1 Amazon Vine books I’ve chosen to review (must be finished within a month), 2 KU books I’ve downloaded (limited to 10 at a time between myself and my wife), 3 books I’ve paid money for apart from our KU subscription.

    We actually have more of a problem getting books we already read and didn’t like, or now never intend to read, out of our Kindle library. We have 3,000 books there now, far more than we can choose among easily from our Kindles. Thankfully, Amazon now allows us to delete the clunkers, so I’m doing that occasionally. We’ve also avoided the differing tastes problem by my wife getting her own Amazon account to use when getting Kindle books. That way I don’t see those books in my Kindle library unless I want to do so.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Man!

      Oh, I do have books I want to read with more urgency, but it’s not typically because they were published recently…two very different things. KU book represent one category of those, especially if my Significant Other is also reading it.

      I’d never get rid of any books from my “Cloud”. 🙂 That’s just me, though…even if they are of lesser value, I want them available to future people who might be on my account. I like to give options.

  4. Lady Galaxy Says:

    Is it perhaps time to give ereaderiq another mention in the main blog for new readers who don’t see the comments? Since you brought it to my attention, I’ve saved a total of $35 on 5 books because I got notification of the price drop. Three of the books have since gone back up to a higher price point, so I’m glad I grabbed them up quickly.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      Probably good to do another post on it. I mention it in terms of the searches every Snapshot…but I do think that a lot of people skip those…

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        I was thinking of those who subscribe to the Kindle version of ILMK. The snapshots are really hard to read on the Kindle version of ILMK, or at least on the Kindles I own. You also never get to see the comments on the Kindle version.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        That’s a good point…

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