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Do Amazon Kindle Bestseller Lists Promote Authors or the Kindle?
The Amazon Kindle bestseller list is to be split between the top 10 paid and the top 10 free eBooks downloaded from the Kindle Marketplace. Is this to offer people a larger view of the most popular paid and free eBooks and to help promote authors and publishers, or is it to help sell more Kindles? The evidence is strongly pointing in one direction.
It has been said that the Amazon Kindle bestseller list is to be split into paid books and free eBooks. It has been said that there is to be a separate bestseller list of Kindle titles for paid and free eBooks. This is a departure from the current situation where the top 10 list of Kindle titles contains both free giveaway eBooks and those that are paid for, whether that price is 99 cents or $9.99.
Do Bestseller Lists Influence Readers?
The Kindle bestseller list has been used by many people, including publishers, to determine what people are reading on the e-reader platform, and while many contend that it makes no difference whether an eBook is offered free of charge or is paid for, other believe that free books confuse the issue of which are the most popular authors and genres.
The former state that readers will not download a book in which they have no interest, whether it is offered free or not. Similarly, a reader that follows a particular author will not desist from downloading a new work just because it has to be paid for. Even when the lists are split by Amazon, what is the reason for the position of each book on each list going to state? Are readers downloading free books because they are free or because they are popular? The same question still exists - it doesn't go away just because the two are split into different lists.
By measuring the number of titles being downloaded from the Amazon store to Kindle Amazon can get a feel for which titles to stock in regular printed format. Publishers and booksellers use the same information for much the same purpose: which authors are popular and which should be stocked in what volume. The change will do nothing to change that, nor will it change the fact that it is still to Amazon that these interested parties will look for this information.
Barnes and Noble do not offer data on eBook downloads, and neither does Apple. Though the statistics would be very interesting: according to the review "Additions to the e-Reader Lineup: Barnes and Noble's Nook", the device allows users to download at least the half-million titles in the Google Books library (Digital Book Readers). The only other source of similar information might be Fictionwise, but Amazon is the widest used by publishers, booksellers and writers. The latter might find it more difficult to get to the top of the free list, although even this free list is contentious to many independent writers.
The Suggestion of Kindle Promotion
There is another side to the free list or to the free content in the current Kindle bestseller list. Recently, the bestseller list was topped by two books from author Terri Blackstock, both free. They were offered for a specific period after which they were to revert to the standard maximum Amazon price of $9.99 for the Kindle.
The reason given by publishers of best-selling authors such as Ms. Blackstock is that free books can promote the author - however, they can also promote the Kindle, the view being that books are available free, but if you don't have a platform on which to read them then the free offer does not apply to you. So you purchase a Kindle to take advantage of the offer. Good psychology, and it is known to work.
Amazon, naturally, does not promote this as a reason for their free eBooks. If that is so, then why are new authors and independent small publishers unable to set a zero price to their eBooks on Kindle? Apparently it is only established publishers that can offer eBooks free on Kindle. When you consider that many more people are liable to download free books from established authors and publishers than from relative unknowns, then the Kindle promotion aspect of the freebies would appear to be a valid interpretation.
This is reinforced when you consider that those in most need of the publicity are the less well-know authors and publishers. So where does the 'publicity' aspect of free prices come in when the zero price is not available to those that need the publicity most?
Now, when we consider that the individual best-seller lists are going to give even more reasons for people to purchase the Kindle, the cynical among us might wonder at the thinking and motives behind separating one list into two that will result in even more free eBooks being offered that need the Kindle to read them. This shortly after the iPad release!
a) Free eBooks are offered
i. to promote the author and publisher OR
ll. to promote the Kindle.
b) Splitting the Amazon Kindle bestseller list into two;
i. Improves promotion of authors and publishers, OR
ii. Sells more Kindles against iPad competition.
c) Does allowing only recognized authors and larger publishers to offer eBooks free:
i. Promote all authors and publishers, or
ii. Sell more Kindles to read them?
The answer is obvious, and is likely why lesser authors had to price their eBooks at a minimum $0.99 in order to have them promoted in the Kindle Marketplace. This was true before splitting the Kindle bestseller list and likely will still be so after.
This appears to be a more believable explanation than that which is being promulgated on some blogs, that Amazon is offering specific types of eBook free in order to promote its own views on the world, such as promoting Christianity or any other such ideology. However, this type of manipulation does little to persuade those that have noticed this little-known inconsistency to believe in the impartiality of Amazon.
If Amazon is allowing free eBooks to be listed in a Kindle bestseller list, then Amazon should allow all authors or publishers that request it the facility to offer their books free on the Kindle Marketplace. Only then will it be seen to be impartial and fair.
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