Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The W's of Reading: Best "Seller" Lists--An Argument for Good Reviews

As with many ebook fans, I often go through various book sellers to look for their "free" or discounted books.  If you've ever sorted through those lists before, you start to realize that the same ones pop up over and over again.  Why is that?  Are they really the best, and what does that even mean? 

For the purpose of this conversation, I want to focus on in particular, because I noticed something else that made me reconsider what these lists represent.  If you go from the "Top 100 Free" to the "Top 100 Paid," you'll start to notice that some of the books that were on the free list a week ago or more, are now on the paid list.  Do they garner some attention on the free list for a week or two (or sometimes months), then switch over to paid and rank higher than they would had they not started out free?  Could some of these sellers be bumped up because they were once free?

Now I'm not knocking the value or credibility of a Best Seller list that is really just based on "traffic" so to say, but I am curious about what the list really tells us.  I will admit to being one of those people who likes to take a look at the hot new sellers, but maybe that list is not as much a reflection of the books that people are talking about, passing along, and recommending to friends.  Yes, sometimes it might be best to just get books into the hands of people so they will at least read and review the book, thus creating a buzz so it will sell?   I wonder though if maybe some of these online lists are reflecting "opportunity" more than content?

Honestly, I don't know the real answer here, but I've found myself being a bit more skeptical of ebook Best Seller Lists now.  This doesn't seem to be an issue with hardback and paperback books, although I do know that companies and schools often buy large batches of books from online sellers.  How much does that influence the lists they create? 

If Best "Seller" Lists are mainly influenced by economic theories, it stands to reason that recommendations are more invaluable than ever!  How can you wholly trust a recommendation that is based on numbers, which is based around too many variables to list? I'm now realizing that the value of recommendations through thoughtful reviews and comments is more important than ever.  Maybe it stands to argue that book bloggers really do fill an invaluable place in the market for readers who want more than end price?

Listen, I've picked up many free ebooks or bought a book on sale because of the end price, and that doesn't necessarily mean it will end up being a bad reading experience.  It just seems to me that what we see reflected on Best Seller Lists might not be what it once represented--people passing along a book because they loved it.  I will continue to buy books, as well as sort through those free offerings, but I now value great reviews more than ever.  So, thank you to all those bloggers and writers who have given honest and timely reviews of books they've read!

How influenced are you by Best Seller Lists?


  1. Personally, I don't pay any attention to best seller lists. I know what I like and I know that most of the books I like have never never made it on a list.

    I've wondered the same thing about those free eBooks. I know I've downloaded books I never would have just because they were free or cheap.

  2. I never pay attention to the best seller lists either. They normally aren't the books I like to read. I depend quite a bit on the reviews of bloggers I trust; people whose reading tastes are similar to mine. I've learned about so many books that way; how did I ever get along without book bloggers?

  3. Really? I must be weird then. I get most of my recommendations from other bloggers, but I do still look at what is hot on those bestseller lists. I'm just noticing though that ebooks are going up for free, and then crossing over much higher on the paid list. It looks a little fishy to me!