Monday, February 14, 2011

More bestsellers

I don't suppose I'm the only person who gaped in horror when he opened up this week's NYTimes Book Review and saw this.  It's the new and improved bestsellers, divided into physical books, e-books, and then recombined, along with special charts indicating the differences between the two.

I don't mind that the New York Times is compiling this data; after all, it is of some use to some people.  Publishers, I guess.  People who market and publicize books.  Jeff Bezos.  But am I mistaken in believing that most people who read the Book Review do so in order to read about the contents of books, not their sales patterns?  And honestly, what normal reader cares what percentage of book sales are electronic?  Unless you are a dedicated technophile or luddite, it's all the same.  A certain number of Steig Larsson books have sold, a high number.  That information alone is more than most of us need.

It reminds me a bit of the shock--shock!!--that pundits and congressional Republicans profess when polls show, again and again, that no normal people give a rat's ass about deficit spending.  It's blindered insider baseball--people in authority mistaking their own concerns (or, in the case of the Republicans, feigned concerns) for those of the people they serve.  I can't imagine that the Times has been suffering under the weight of letters from readers, demanding more lists indicating who is making the most money in the publishing industry.  I didn't send one, anyway.


Russell said...

Mild horror, yes. With some gaping of the mouth. Maybe the NYT wants us to know how savvy they are. How very "now." A symptom of the industry's vertigo. An e-book isn't a "real" book, is it? Or is it? Is book publishing dead? And with it, the NYTBR? Who would want that? Our kids? On the other hand, it's reassuring. E-books, as you say, are just books. And amen for that. This reminds me of a scene in the minor classic "Duets" from the year 2000. A woman is sitting at her desk and using what looks to be an ancient Macintosh portable. Her husband tries to talk to her. She says "Not now, I'm online." Remember those days? When you had to go online to be online? To dial in (or dial up)?

Dave Madden said...

Is it a factor of the loss of publicity when a book is no longer selling well in hardcover, and thus is dropped from the big list? Now nothing need be dropped except when people stop buying it. What this means, then, is that six-year-old books can now get free advertising while newer books struggle to get known.

There's always been the paperback sales list, where Gladwell's books racked up 100+ week presences, but this was placed on a separate page spread---after the hardcover list. It didn't seem to detract from what was going on in new books.

Now it's like looking at Hollywood box office tallies that have incorporated video rentals. As a service to the industry, maybe it's great. But as a service to readers, not so much.

Anonymous said...

I've never understood the Hollywood box office tallies, either. Why does any normal person want to know?

rmellis said...

More filler, I guess. Fills up the page real cheap.