Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More Bestseller List Shenanagans

Publishers Weekly reports this week on the case of Dave Zinczenko's Eat This, Not That, which is selling very strongly...but does not appear on the New York Times bestseller list. (It is on PW's list.)

The Times sniffed that Eat This "falls under the classification of of a calorie counter book, which the Times does not track."

Anybody else get the sense that the Times is just making it up as they go along? Has the Times ever explicitly deigned to say what categories they are willing to "track" and which they won't?

A bestseller list that ignores the books that actually sell the best is not just a bad idea -- it's a failure and a lie. The Times just keeps digging themselves deeper and deeper into their hole, as they gerrymander these books out of that list and dismissively decide not to track entire categories of books because they don't like them. Why do we still pay attention to these people?


Paul Weimer said...

Because we did in the past and have not learned better.

A bestseller list overly massauged is useless as a barometer of book popularity

Anonymous said...

Has the Times ever explicitly deigned to say what categories they are willing to "track" and which they won't?

The Times doesn't count romance novels or religious books in the bestseller lists (or at least, they didn't back when I read an article on it). The only reason they created the Children's list was so that Harry Potter wouldn't top the main fiction list.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Anonymous: I don't think you're quite right about romances, especially since the #1 hardcover right now is Janet Evanovich's Plum Lucky. The paperback fiction list also has books by Julie Garwood, Debbie Macomber, Catherine Coulter, and others at the moment.

They don't count religious books, or computer books. Some non-fiction is shunted off to "Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous," and other non-fiction (as we found out today) is ignored entirely.

But they don't ever explain all of that; they just pretend that their gerrymandered lists are the real thing.

David Carlton said...

Well, why do you pay attention to them? Sounds like you've got good reasons not to...

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