Amazon Sales Ranking: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

by Dan Blank on August 7, 2007

The New York Times looks into the affect that Amazon’s sales ranking has had on the book publishing industry:

“When Amazon created the system 10 years ago, it could hardly have known how greatly its list would change the dynamics of the publishing business (much the way the company itself did) or how hard writers and industry executives would work to game the system.”

In one sense, it offers something that the publishing industry was lacking, a sense of empowerment for authors, and a transparency of information:

“In the old days, an author had to wait six months or more for a royalty statement. Today the rankings provide a quick, albeit crude, way for an author to keep tabs on book sales. ”

In another sense, it represents the worst aspect of online engagement, overshadowing the value of the relationship with readers, with a marketing circus:

“For most books, it does not take many orders to increase rankings. Knowing this, authors, publishers, even nonprofit organizations like MoveOn.org will send out e-mail blasts asking people to buy a book at a set time, or buy up copies themselves. Some authors get their friends to write reviews or even write a positive review for a rival book and mention their own title.”

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