While Amazon already has a number of hourly bestseller lists across a broad range of genres, this list will provide a more stable snapshot of the weekâ€™s bestselling and best-read books. The list will be broken into two broad categories: the top 20 books read and purchased in fiction and the top 20 in nonfiction. The list will incorporate data from three places: physical books bought through the siteâ€™s storefront, Kindle books, and Audible audiobooks. The list will track the sales, borrows, and preorders, in an attempt to present a look at what Amazonâ€™s customers are reading.
The team stressed that this list wasnâ€™t going to replace the numerous hourly lists present on the site that get broken down by category. Rather, this new list will provide a week-long snapshot of sales and reading data.
Bestseller lists are a huge tool used by readers and publishers alike. Major lists like those found in The New York Times, LA Times, and other publications can lead to huge exposure and new sales for authors. These lists are important, especially in specific categories, because of the exposure they bring. The New York Times recently culled its bestseller lists down to 14 categories, prompting outcry from authors and publishers alike. The team behind Charts notes that Amazonâ€™s list will likewise be useful to publishers, and includes some specific data, like an authorâ€™s agent, alongside the books on the list.
Charts is also an opportunity for Amazon to utilize what it describes as a purely data-driven list, eschewing the editorial latitude that some lists have by presenting a list thatâ€™s driven entirely by sales and reading data, compiled from the data the Kindle and Audible users generate. The list wonâ€™t pull information from the book social network Goodreads, which Amazon owns. Charts also wonâ€™t work with existing systems that track sales data, like Nielsenâ€™s BookScan, instead opting to use its own data. â€œMany well-known bestseller lists today add, remove, or re-rank books based on editorial considerations and customers have asked for a bestseller list that is based on reading engagement and sales data,â€ David Naggar, Amazonâ€™s vice president says, â€œrather than an opinion-based list of what books they should be paying attention to.â€
Removing the editorial consideration out of the list could have its drawbacks, however. Thereâ€™s been examples of where lists dependent upon data have backfired, such as what happened to Facebookâ€™s Trending Topics after the company fired its editors for the section last year. Amazon appears to hope that the sheer volume of data will make gaming the list difficult, but itâ€™s not clear if thereâ€™s safeguards in place for identifying obvious attempts to artificially change the listâ€™s rankings.
The raw-data approach means that Charts will look slightly different from other bestseller lists out there: it wonâ€™t include the broader snapshot of sales across the bookselling ecosystem, such as what are sold at physical brick-and-mortar bookstores like Barnes & Noble. There are some usual suspects present on the list at launch: Atwoodâ€™s The Handmaidâ€™s Tale, J.K. Rowlingâ€™s Harry Potter series, Stephen Kingâ€™s IT, in addition to the current hot books, like Paula Hawkinâ€™s Into the Water. But Amazonâ€™s data picked up Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan, which appeared on Charts, but not others.
The data also allows Amazon to insert some features that are pretty unique. Some entries on the list will be labeled as â€œunputdownable,â€ based on how fast readers read the entire book relative to the others on the list. Other labels include where a book is most popular, and itâ€™ll also provide the bookâ€™s customer rating and links to reviews, sample chapters, and of course, an option to add the book to your shopping card.