Sunday, 4 December 2011

What People Actually Read

If you look at the Kindle chart and the traditional charts, you’ll notice something quite interesting. They aren’t at all similar. The UK Kindle chart today is topped by Phil Rickman, who is hardly a household name, followed by Damon Galgut and Kerry Wilkinson. The physical chart is led by the latest Wimpy Kid, followed by Jamie Oliver, Lee Evans and Michael Connolly.

Why is that, I wonder? After all, these are all books. Of course you can probably discount Wimpy Kid and Jamie Oliver. Most kids don’t have e-readers yet and cookbooks aren’t a natural for the Kindle. Even so, if you look at the Kindle charts, the ‘big authors’ don’t do so well. PD James and Kathryn Stockett are in the Top 10 and Patricia Cornwell in the Top 20. But heavily hyped writers like James Paterson don’t really do that well. In my own corner of the market, military adventure, I don’t sell as well as Chris Ryan and Andy McNab in the bookshops, but on Kindle I am regularly out-selling them.

One reason might be that the Kindle audience is slightly different from the mainstream audience. It is probably slightly more male – hence the number of thrillers in the chart – and a bit more techie. It may also be more adventurous in its taste.

But the real reason, I suspect, is because it is a much more level playing field. Some books get more push than others online of course. But going into the Kindle store is nothing like going into a bookshop, and nothing at all like the books section of a supermarket. The choice is vast, there are no in-your-face promotions, and word-of-mouth (in the form of reader reviews) is everywhere.

So what we see on the Kindle chart may well be a far better guide to what people actually want to read. I’m not sure the publishers have quite realised that yet though.

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