Friday, November 12, 2010

E-Wars: The New York Times and the 'E List'

Well, by now you've heard. It's official; the New York Times will begin rating eBooks starting in January '11. An 'E' best seller list, (henceforth known as the 'E List') similar to the present one for print books, will now appear in the NYT. Left unanswered is whether they plan to aggregate E and print book sales to determine an overall best seller. Given the mad growth in eBook sales, and the flat performance of print books, an E List seems almost inevitable. But it was only a year or so ago the whole topic of eBooks was highly controversial.

What does this development mean? I think the answer lies in one word. Legitimacy.

Of course the publishing industry will now be watching the Times E List along with the print book list. Perhaps that will draw the more reluctant publishers into the eBook arena. But more important for the marketplace, readers who may have dismissed the idea of a 'real' book not being in print will be drawn to eBooks and eReaders. People on the verge of accepting eBooks will now have the cover they need to take the plunge. Look to the other 'Best Seller' lists, like the LA Times and USA Today, to quickly follow suit with their own version of the 'E List.' As a result eBook sales will surge in 2011.

The Big Dog has spoken: eBooks have gone legit.

The Digital Revolution rolls on.


  1. Bart, I too have been thinking about this announcement and what it means. We all know this is where the industry was headed, but I was honestly surprised to see it happen now. For some reason I though an E list was a product of the future (near future yes, but 2-3 years from now). That being said, I think it's great for writers and I agree it will lend an aura of legitimacy for those people who don't equate electronic books with "real" writing. Yay!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Rosalie. Something I did not discuss is if 'e only' books will be included in the list. I don't know the answer, but it will make a big difference to authors and the industry. I have assumed they are, but if they are not, I will have to revise my analysis.

  3. I think it's a very significant, albeit quiet, announcement. I'm wondering if they'll consider ebooks across the board or ebooks released by the big NY pubs only. Or will this continue to be an evolving work in progress - which is what I anticipate.

  4. Hi, Julia, thanks for the comment. Yes, those are all pertinent questions, but in the long run I don't think it will matter. It's the law of unintended consequences. The mere presence of the NYT E List will tend to legitimize ALL eBooks, regardless of publisher, source or availability of print versions. People will be made curious, and the curiosity will bring them to Amazon and the other big on line retailers. Once there, they will inevitably discover other eBooks and other publishers.

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