Once again Amazon confuses "bestseller" with "most downloaded"

Over at Jacket Copy we learn that the top 10 Kindle downloads are free. And, look, as someone who regularly creates free content (that is read by people who regularly create free content) I'm not saying there's anything wrong with offering an e-book for free. I think it can be a savvy publicity tool, and a nice boost for your numbers (clearly). But I will say that these are not bestsellers because they're not being sold.

So, yes, these are the top 10 Kindle downloads. But they are not the top 10 sellers. As the Jacket Copy post says, other titles by the same authors that are being sold (as opposed to being given away) are ranked in the mid-thousands, which really makes you question how good a sense you can get of what people like and what people take because it's free.

I vote we actually make a distinction between "most sold" and "most downloaded." Because most people I know stream movies they would never pay for, use Pandora to listen to music they would never buy, and, oh, use the Kindle to download books they would never purchase.


  1. I love getting free things, but yeah, that really screws things up, doesn't it?

  2. Uh, does it really matter? Take a look at the main Kindle book page. It features their $9.99 titles that are on the NY Times Bestseller list or a major new release. Yes, in the left hand corner there is a category of "Kindle bestsellers" and right below is the NY Times Bestsellers and several other categories.

    The free book that was published after 1923 (still has a copyright) is used mainly as a promotional tool to promote an unknown author or long stopped selling first book of a series. China Melville gave away "Perdido Street Station" awhile back to attract new readers the Melville's Bas-Lag series (the book is now $6.39 on Kindle). There have been many others.

    Does it help authors? I think so. But you could read Eric Flint's "Introducing the Baen Free Library"

    Not all publishers agree as many series such as Carol O'Connell's Mallory series and Kage Baker's The Company series have later books available for e-readers but not the first.

  3. Well... I can't really speak for Amazon or about the Kindle, but the main reason I decided to get a Sony Reader was because it allowed me to download free classics. I planned on reading all these books anyways, and spent hundreds of dollars on buying books which I could otherwise get for free. I've saved quite a bit of money through downloading free eBooks and I suspect many others view it the same way as well.

    Yes, people might be a little freer with downloading something that costs them no money, but that doesn't necessarily diminish the worth of the download. Michael's China Melville point is excellent - "Perdido Street Station" was freely available just around the time I bought my Reader and I am now, after reading it, quite looking forward to his other works.

    Your point is semantically correct - these aren't "bestsellers". However, I would not necessarily agree that people aren't reading these books.