eBook Business – New York Times Bestseller List Evens the Field

The New York Times will be including non-fiction and fiction electronic books, or eBooks, in their lists. Why has the most famous of lists taken the electronic plunge? According to Janet Elder, who is the editor of News Surveys for the NY Times, “It was clear that eBooks were taking a greater and greater share of total sales, and we wanted to be able to tell our readers which titles were selling and how they fit together with print sales.”

For those who don’t know, the bestseller list is put together by the editors of the “News Surveys” department, and not by the NYT Book Review department. The list is compiled from weekly sales reports from a number of independent and chain bookstores, as well as from certain book wholesalers across the United States.

Including eBooks in the NYT bestseller list is fundamentally important for two reasons:

1- It recognizes the seismic shift the publishing world is currently undergoing from print to digital. Again, according to Ms. Elder, “We’ve had our eye on e-book sales since e-books began,” Ms. Elder said. “It was clear that e-books were taking a greater and greater share of total sales, and we wanted to be able to tell our readers which titles were selling and how they fit together with print sales.”

As sales of ereaders skyrocket, not including electronic books on the NYT list offered skewed information about a book’s popularity. According to the Association of American Publishers, eBook sales in the first three-quarters of 2001 shot up $199 million from the same time frame the year before, from $105.6 million to $304.6 million. eBook sales are expected to rise even more in 2011, with predictions of sales in excess of $1 billion.

Richard Tanenhaus, editor of the Book review, said, that the choice was made to include eBooks on the New York Times Bestseller List, “To give the fullest and most accurate possible snapshot of what books are being read at a given moment you have to include as many different formats as possible, and e-books have really grown, there’s no question about it.” The new listings will give readers “the fullest picture we can give them about how a book is doing week to week,” he added.

Amazon, the world’s largest book seller, reported that sales of eBooks more than doubled sales of printed books.

2- Inclusion of eBooks in the New York Times Bestseller List evens the playing field between traditionally published authors and self-published digital authors. While the Times did not make it clear if they will be including self-published eBooks at this time, it is certain that they will have to as soon as a couple of self-published digital books go viral.

Self-published books, either the old “vanity pressed” books of a decade ago, the more recent print-on-demand books, or self-published eBooks used to receive bad press. Their authors were considered inferior than those who managed to land a traditional publisher, mostly because all it took for someone to self publish was the ability to afford the printing costs (rather than quality).

Just as numerous singing careers have been launched by self-promoted musicians on YouTube, there are bound to be writing careers launched by eBooks gone viral. With the chance to be included in the NYT Bestseller List, it is now even more important for eBook authors to learn the ins-and-outs of self-publishing, promotion and marketing.