New split bestseller lists live in the Kindle Store

It’s a beautiful day (or night?) as the Bestsellers List in the Kindle Store has been split into Top 100 Paid and Top 100 Free.

This gives me a disproportionately high amount of joy – even more than the LadyBird that is walking all over my Kindle and bringing good tidings of something yet to arrive.

Top 100 Paid Books List

At #3 we see a great deal – The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen with bonus content for just $1.99. It’s rated 4.5 stars on 173 reviews.

A serial killer is on the loose in Boston. The victims are killed in a particularly nasty way: cut with a scalpel on the stomach, the intestines and uterus removed, and then the throat slashed.

The killer obviously has medical knowledge and has been dubbed “the Surgeon” by the media.

Detective Thomas Moore and his partner Rizzoli of the Boston Homicide Unit have discovered something that makes this case even more chilling. Years ago in Savannah a serial killer murdered in exactly the same way. He was finally stopped by his last victim, who shot him as he tried to cut her.

The only independent novel in the top 100 at the moment is Containment by Christian Cantrell. Rated 4.5 stars on 25 reviews.

Arik Ockley is part of the first generation to be born and raised off-Earth. After a puzzling accident, Arik wakes up to find that his wife is almost three months pregnant. Since the colony’s environmental systems cannot safely support any increases in population, Arik immediately resumes his work on AP, or artificial photosynthesis, in order to save the life of his unborn child.

Arik’s new and frantic research uncovers startling truths about the planet, and about the distorted reality the founders of the colony have constructed for Arik’s entire generation. Everything Arik has ever known is called into question, and he must figure out the right path for himself, his wife, and his unborn daughter.

Finally, 100 books that fully deserve the ‘bestseller’ title – well, at least in my opinion.

Agency Model doing terribly

It’s interesting to see the break-up of the Top 100 Paid books list –

  1. Books at or below $9.99 – 17 in the Top 25, 32 in the Top 50, 74 in the Top 100.
  2. Books at $12.99 – 7 in the Top 25, 13 in the Top 50, 16 in the Top 100.
  3. Books at $14.99 – 0 in the Top 25, 2 in the Top 50, 5 in the Top 100.

It’s amusing that even in a ‘paid books only’ list there are just 5 books priced at $14.99 in the Top 100 and none in the Top 25. Only 21 out of the top 100 paid books are above $9.99. Things don’t look good for the Agency Model.

Not going to buy the new Robin Hobb because it’s $14.99 – It might not matter in the greater scheme of things but there’s definitely one sale lost from someone who’s bought 5 Robin Hobb books so far.

Note that there are several newspapers and one unavailable book in the Top 100 which accounts for the totals not being 100.

Top 100 Free Books List

The break-up between free book offers and public domain books in the Top 100 Free Books List is interesting –

  1.  Free Book Offers – 19 of the Top 25, 32 of the Top 50, 41 of the Top 100.
  2.  Public Domain Books – 6 of the Top 25, 18 of the Top 50, 59 of the Top 100.

As we step out of the top 50 we simply run out of free book offers and public domain books take over. It’s great because there are lots of amazing public domain books amongst the lower 50 –

The Prince, Dorian Gray, Alice, The Odyssey.

Lots of Sax Rohmer, Common Sense, The Illiad.

H. G. Wells and Charles Dickens, Dostoyevsky and Swift.

In some ways it’s one of the most amazing things in the world – all these classics available for free – including the wireless delivery.

Looking forward to the Benefits of Split Bestseller Lists 

It’ll be good to see all the positives –

  1. More exposure for deserving authors. Now instead of 20-30 paid books we get a full 100.
  2. More exposure for deserving public domain books. The bottom 50 of the Free Books List is full of books that wouldn’t get enough attention earlier.
  3. A chance for indie authors to get more publicity. There’s already one indie author on the list and one book related to finding kindle books.
  4. 100 extra books that can be easily found. It’s much easier for readers.
  5. A clear demarcation between free and paid. People who think free books should be considered bestsellers too are catered to since the lists are on the same page.

Amazon has finally taken this big important step and they’ve come up with a remarkably elegant solution that straddles the fence on what should be considered a bestseller.

Kindle to finally get separate paid and free bestseller lists

Publishers Weekly brings confirmation that Amazon are finally splitting out free books into a separate Bestsellers List

A representative at the e-tailer has confirmed that the company will be splitting its Kindle bestseller list, creating one list for paid books and another list for free titles.

The date for the switch is vague—the rep would only say it will happen in “a few weeks”—but the switch will certainly be noticed.

That would mean that free books would no longer be stealing spots from deserving paid books.  

What people are saying about it

Publishers Weekly’s Rachel Deahl provides a very Publisher centric view –

 many industry members interviewed said Amazon’s Kindle bestseller list remains the one they examine to get a feel for what e-books are selling

Her concern that free books will not be as valuable a tool to promote authors and books doesn’t make sense. Nearly everyone will check both lists (free and paid) and now Publishers have 100 slots to use for their free book promotions.

The Free Bestsellers list is going to be very popular – perhaps more so than the Paid Top 100.

L. A. Times’ Jacket Copy blog talks about the change too –

All of us were a bit perplexed about the use of “bestseller” to designate book that are not, well, sold. Grammarians, at the very least, will welcome the change.So, too, will major publishers. Amazon is doing the right thing, an executive at HarperCollins told Publishers Weekly, which reports “consumers ‘want to know what books everyone is reading, and buying,’ and that a list which combines free downloads and books for sale doesn’t deliver this information.”

L.A. Times thinks that independent publishers will be hurt by this change – However, it’s underestimating the draw of the Free Bestsellers List.

Here’s Deb Smith, Publisher and Editor of independent publisher BelleBooks, with her thoughts –

The giveaway DOES produce real sales both on the promoted title and the authors’ backlist. More important, it highlights small press titles and gives them a chance to find the readership they deserve. My tiny press can’t begin to compete with the big pubs in terms of advertising, but via Kindle we accomplish a similar level of publicity and results.

There are big financial rewards for getting to the top of the ‘paid’ list and paid independent books are probably not going to make it to the top for the first 6 months or so. However, they have bigger problems than that.

The biggest problem for Independent Publishers and Authors is getting publicity. They can’t even get into stores. A spot on the Kindle Free Bestsellers list would be hugely important.  

Reasons putting free books on a bestseller list doesn’t make sense

Lots of reasons a combined list was unoptimal –

  1. It’s much tougher to get people to pay for a product than to give it away free. 
  2. It’s basically letting some authors/publishers get free marketing at the cost of other more deserving authors/publishers.
  3. Lots of people download free books and never read them.  
  4. There is no ‘selling’ in free books.
  5. Readers were only finding 30-40 paid books in the Top 100 Bestsellers List. There were 60+ other books they wanted to find and had no easy way to.

At the moment there are 38 paid books in Top 100 Bestsellers List. That means there are 62 paid books (that people are paying good money for) losing out to $0 public domain books and to $0 books being used as promotional vehicles for other books.

It’s pretty unfair and it’s good that Amazon are ending it. 

There are also some benefits of having two lists –

  1. You get 100 extra spots. Currently 101 through 200 are virtual unknowns. Now they’re there for everyone to see.
  2. People can go find what they want. The bargain hunters can go to the free books list. The people looking for the best new books can go to the Paid Bestsellers list.  
  3. You don’t have two completely different categories of books competing against each other.  

What would a Top Bestsellers List made of Paid Books look like?  

Currently we have 39 paid books of which – 26 are at $9.99 or less, 9 are at $12.99, and 3 are at $14.99. Scale that up and we’re looking at approximately 68 books at or below $9.99, 24 books at $12.99, and 8 books at $14.99.

We might see more than just 8 new books priced at $14.99 make the list because people who don’t want to wait will buy them when they are initially released. Also preorders all show up on the same day making it likelier that newer books hit the top of the charts. In a way a separate paid bestsellers list helps the Agency Model.

We’ll also get the occasional low-priced independent author’s book sneaking on to the list. In fact, if the boycott of the Agency Model continues we might see 5 or more independent authors on the Top 100 Paid list soon.

Overall, it’s a very good change and it will give a lot more authors exposure and lead to good things for books.

Trying to bypass the Kindle Store? Odds are against You.

There has been some recent interest in bypassing the Kindle Store and selling directly to Kindle owners –

  1. Some company named PressDisplay sent out a Press Release that hardly anyone picked up on – They say they let Kindle owners access 1,500 newspapers in Kindle format. 
  2. There’s an article at TeleRead talking about Press Display and also about how O’Reilly sells direct to Kindle Owners. The article also wonders why Publishers don’t do it.

Contrasting the Kindle Store Experience with non Kindle Store.

Getting a newspaper via the Kindle Store

You subscribe to a newspaper.

  1. Everyday around 5/6 am you get your copy of the newspaper sent to your Kindle wirelessly.

That’s it.

Getting a newspaper via PressDisplay

You subscribe to PressDisplay’s newspaper Subscription service.

Option 1:

To download your favorite titles directly from, simply connect your Kindle to your pc or laptop via USB cable,

click the “Export to eReader” option (identified below) from the front page of any paper and then 

follow the instructions.

Option 2:

install our PressReader application on your computer,

download your favorite titles from and then

transfer them to the Kindle via USB cable (although this approach does add an extra step).

the Path of Least Resistance Vs the Path of Most Resistance

Choosing Press Display over a Kindle Store subscription is extremely inconvenient.

First, subscribing –

  1. You have to figure out what the subscription options are.
  2. You have register and enter credit card information and subscribe to a separate site.
  3. You have to figure out how the new site works.

With the Kindle you already know how the site works, there’s 1-click buying, and the subscription options are standard and clearly spelt out.

Next, getting your newspaper –

  1. Find your PC.
  2. Navigate to the Press Display Site.
  3. Navigate to the Newspaper you want.
  4. Plug in your Kindle into the USB.
  5. Click on ‘Export to eReader’.
  6. Follow the Instructions.

There are three huge problems here –

  1. The first time when a user decides to subscribe – she/he has to figure out how the site works and trust the site with credit card information. 
  2. The first time that a user download a newspaper – she/he has to figure out how the whole process works.
  3. Every time a user downloads a paper – the kindle must be plugged into the computer plus there are 5 steps to go through (possibly more).

There are lots of decisions and lots of steps.

You just can’t compare with the Kindle experience of – snap the Kindle out of sleep mode and your paper is waiting for you.

Buying a Book outside the Kindle Store is pretty inconvenient

Here are all the steps you have to go through to get a book from a store other than the Kindle Store –

  1. Navigate to the Store. 
  2. Get familiar with it. 
  3. Find the book you want.
  4. Register.
  5. Enter credit card information.
  6. Buy the book.
  7. Pick out the right format.
  8. If they have crazy DRM then do the crazy DRM stuff.
  9. Download the book.
  10. Plug your Kindle into your PC and do a USB transfer.

Contrast that with buying on the Kindle –

  1. Go to the Kindle Store.
  2. Find the book.
  3. 1 click buy – get it in 60 seconds.

Plus it makes things extremely convenient that you can do this from within your Kindle and from anywhere you can get a cellular signal.

‘We can bypass the Kindle Store’ is a pipe dream

There are a few prerequisites before users will even consider going outside the Kindle Store –

  1. The prices have to be at least 20% cheaper or The book has to be not available in the Kindle Store.  
  2. The user has to be confident enough with tech. 
  3. The user has to value their time less than whatever 10-20% savings they’ll have.  
  4. The user has to be near a PC.

After that point we still have some big stumbling blocks to navigate –

  1. User should not be in a lazy mood.
  2. The User should be able to find and understand a new site.
  3. Getting the user to trust a new site with their credit card information. 
  4. The User making their way through the whole process without help.

And at the end of it the user might feel their 10-20% savings just weren’t worth it. There are very few people for whom 15 minutes of their time is worth less than the 10% savings they’d have on an eBook. 

Perhaps the biggest barrier – Kindle Store beats nearly every other store on price.

How the heck is any store going to get a foothold?

Closing Thought – It’s a pipe-dream only tech publishers can indulge in

PressDisplay and O’Reilly are deluding themselves.

  1. It’s not harmful to O’Reilly since their users understand tech and are very religious about openness.
  2. It would work for other tech-oriented Publishers.
  3. It’s not going to work for PressDisplay.
  4. It’s certainly not going to work for main-stream Publishers.

It’s impossible for any store selling to Kindle owners to be as convenient and painless as the Kindle Store.

If all things are nearly equal, people will always, always prefer the option that is more convenient. It’s madness to take on the Kindle Store in an area of such obvious strength.