New Accurate E- Book Best Seller List ~ Or Big 6 Manipulation & Trickery?

Digital Book World, in partnership with Iobyte Solutions, has gone on record describing some of the methodology they have developed to produce a more accurate E-Book Best Seller List to provide a better perspective about what is occurring in the e-book marketplace.

Dan Lubart, author of the original article, stated that they have addressed some of the problems with current e-book best seller lists such as, one hit wonders, no differentiation between $0.99 e-books and $12.99 e-books and no accounting for which publishers are selling the most e-books.

Without disclosing all their methods, Digital Book World has shared some of what they do every week to determine Best Sellers:

1) Best-seller rank observed from five of six top retailers (Kindle, Nook, Google, Kobo, Sony)
2) Lists observed for seven consecutive days (Sat. – Fri.)
3) Each appearance on a list gets an unweighted score based on the ranking
4) Ranking scores are logarithmically determined (i.e. top scores are much more valuable than lower scores)
5) Each retailer weighted by approximate market share as determined by the editors of Digital Book World and Iobyte Solutions
6) Additional appearance credit is awarded for appearing on multiple lists
7) Combined scores for the week determine final score for each title
8) Titles are ranked by final scores and also grouped into sub-lists by price (four separate price-band lists: $0 – $2.99; $3.00 – $7.99; $8.00 – $9.99; and $10.00 and above)
9) Minimum price that appeared at any point during the week on any retailer is used for determine price band (assumption that low price is an important driver of ranking)

The debut list includes only 3 titles priced for less than $3.00, and only four from publishers other than the Big Six — the six largest publishers: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House and Simon & Schuster.

And now for the New Best Sellers List by Digital Book World –> The Top 25 E-Books for the Week Ending 8/18/12

The list is also divided by price categories, creating four separate lists that look at books priced:

Seems to Good to be True

I was pretty excited while researching material for this article. An accurate Best Seller List! Just what I have always dreamed of. Then I looked closer and found some issues. My enthusiasm promptly shifted into trepidation.

The Digital Reader raises some interesting questions. They claim as fact that 2 of 5 e-book stores are global – even though this new list is intended to represent the US e-book market. The other 3 e-book stores are the US-only branches of the respective e-book stores. If 2 of the 5 stores are including global sales data and the other 3 are pulling US sales data – that’s a problem.

Another issue lies with the source of the data itself. Digital Book World gets their information from the official best seller lists put out by each e-book store. Is that data reliable? Amazon has had their hands caught in the cookie jar best seller lists before.

Back in 2009,  Amazon started filtering their best seller results, by excluding “adult” material from appearing in some searches and bestseller lists.

Earlier this year in March, the Fifty Shades trilogy was still not quite legitimate, but after it had already become a bestseller – everywhere but Amazon that is. Amazon was filtering that trilogy out of their most visible best seller list. Amazon doesn’t want to offend the sensibilities of their customers, so the official “Best Sellers in Kindle eBooks” list is set up to exclude erotica. I don’t know what happened – but they reversed their policy at some point because I certainly see the Fifty Shades trilogy in the top 5 on their Best Seller lists now.

Amazon has been misleading in their bestsellers list before – how do we know they’re not manipulating it now? How does Digital Book World know? They don’t. If Amazon is, it makes the data that Digital Book World receives questionable and unreliable. If they’re not – I still wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them.

Drum-roll Please

Now I’m going to open a can of worms.

Iobyte Solutions is the company powering the raw data behind the new Best Seller List at Digital Book World. Dan Lubart is a Managing Partner of this company – in fact he founded the company. Dan has an impressive background. He’s been an IT consultant for 20 years, has experience with software development, data center strategy, etc. etc. etc….  Prior to founding Iobyte, Dan’s clients included Citibank, IBM, SAP, Universal Music Group, Scholastic, etc. etc. etc…

The one thing that his bio at Iobyte failed to disclose — Dan Lubart is currently employed as Senior Vice President of Sales Analytics and Pricing at HarperCollins.

Here’s the relevant snippet from an article covering a Harper Collins restructuring in July 2012 -

 Dan Lubart SVP, Sales Analytics and Pricing will continue his work analyzing how pricing affects sales, developing tactics to maximize revenue and author exposure and creating interfaces to help his colleagues access complex data quickly and easily.”

What better way to maximize revenue and author exposure than to set up your own ebook bestseller list and manipulate it to your ends.

Conflict of Interest? You Betcha

So, we have one of the Big 6 (publishers) who also happened to have developed the logarithms and methods for this new Best Seller List and most likely using this “method” and possibly this data for HarperCollins. Dan is the Man Behind the Curtain, pulling all the knobs and levers like the wizard in the Wizard Of Oz.

And here I was worried about Amazon manipulating data.

In the meantime, I’m going to click my heels three times and go home.

Sources:
Digital Book World
The Digital Reader
Forbes
Gizmodo
Iobyte Solutions
Shelf Awareness

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