Ebooks have wings. Sales soared from 1.5% of total US book sold in 2009 to 5% of the market in just the first quarter of 2010. An increase of over 250%.
In more recent months, in certain genres – specifically suspense and romance - publishers are reporting electronic sales escalating exponentially with ebooks accounting for as much as 30% to 50% of totals.
These are serious numbers. Authors aren’t ignoring them. Agents
aren’t. And publishers certainly aren’t.
But the Gray Lady is.
As a result, the List, as the industry refers to the New York Times Bestseller List, is not reflecting what readers are really reading and so is in danger of becoming obsolete.
“The NY Times Bestseller List is, for good reason, the nonpareil, go to, unimpeachable authority on what America is reading,” says über agent, Simon Lipskar of Writers House. “Which is why it is urgent that the NYTBR address the problem of not accounting for the growing percentage of digital sales of high velocity titles.”
On a week-to-week basis, readers are being seriously disadvantaged. “It's obvious that the consumer isn't getting a clear picture of what's really selling when so many people are choosing to purchase the most desirable titles in electronic form,” Lipskar said.
The value of a bestseller list is in reporting and highlighting for readers what books other readers are most enthusiastic about on the basis of sales volume. “If it's not reflecting a reasonable image of those sales, then the list is no longer serving that need for consumers,” said Lipskar.
Without ebook sales being counted, weekly multiple authors not only miss out on unparalleled exposure that can’t be bought but loose out on bonuses based on list placement as well as how long they remain there.
Bestselling author Joe Finder noted that the Times does respond to changes in the marketplace, albeit cautiously and slowly. “The first NYT bestseller list ran in 1942, but their first children’s bestseller list didn’t come out until 2000, and that was in response to all those Harry Potter books taking up valuable real estate on the regular fiction list.”
One of the worries Finder and many authors, publishers and agents have is that when the Times does recognize ebooks they are going to do it with a stand-alone list. “To most readers, a novel is a novel and a bestseller is a bestseller, whether it’s made out of cardboard or bytes,” he said.