I was perusing the New York Times' Books section on the web yesterday. I try to do this at least once a week, but don't always manage it. There are only so many hours in a day and I already have trouble fitting all of my obligations into a tight schedule, but I like to stay current on what's happening in literature and the NYT is one of the better venues for doing that. I bring this up because of this article, by Julie Bosman.
As I've already stated here on the blog, I have mixed feelings about the move to a digital format for the reading of books, but I have trouble seeing this announcement, that the NYT is going to track e-book sales and publish an e-book best-sellers list, as anything but a universal good. I'm certain that the best-selling e-books mirror in many ways the best-selling mass market paperbacks and hardbacks (if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that the list would be mainly made up of new hardcover releases and those mass market paperbacks which stay on the list for weeks and weeks), but it's heartening to me that the NYT finds the adoption of this technology to be significant. It's as heartening to me as the addition of graphic novels to their list in 2009 because it means they're paying attention to the trends in book-buying and not just printing a list blindly based on a formula.
One thing I wonder about is how sales tracking will be done. I know the Best Sellers List is calculated by some kind of voodoo, and I'm sure that there will be even more calculated algorithms involved in tracking e-book sales, but it's a concern of mine. For instance, will free e-books be disqualified from the competition? Will there be a price threshold for what constitutes a sale? I'm sure most of my questions won't be answered, as the NYT has a stake in keeping their system opaque, and that's really fine with me. I don't make purchases based off of best sellers lists any more than I make purchases based on the "you might also like..." portion of Amazon.com. Still, it's exciting that this is happening. The article states that the first e-book best-seller lists will show up in early 2011 and I'll be looking forward to seeing that list appear.