Charting progress

<p>We need an e-book chart. Could someone please get a bloody move on?</p>
<p>The emergence of digital sales as a viable revenue stream has been the most exciting thing to happen in our industry since Headline introduced the Super A format (sorry, couldn't resist it). But we will lose the initiative if we don't emerge from behind this curtain of secrecy. We have the opportunity to create genuine excitement about the book world, something that has been the joint responsibility of J K Rowling and Dan Brown in recent years, but there isn't time to fart around.</p>
<p>I realise there are hurdles to overcome such as convincing online retailers to reveal their sales (and presumably making their market share obvious at the same time), tracking numerous formats across several platforms, creating guidelines regarding territories (does a Kindle download from Amazon US count as a UK sale?) and pricing (free e-books shouldn't count, but what about those at 99p?) but the music industry faced the same issues and addressed them quickly. We need to do the same.</p>
<p>If we don't then it may be taken out of our hands. The waterstones.com e-book bestseller page is already the unofficial industry chart, checked regularly by publishers. And when the iBooks store kicks off it could quickly become the chart readers trust. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sunday Times going to Apple for its e-book chart for want of an official version before very long.</p>
<p>But that would only address the need for an e-book chart. What is actually required is for digital sales to be combined with those of print books and the sooner the better. We should reward innovation and the sales it brings. If a publisher can double the sales of a book by publishing exciting digital formats then every single one of those purchases should count towards that book's chart position. Innovative digital publishing would then have as much impact on a book's chart position as the cash you bung the high street retailers for an offer of the week slot.</p>
<p>When the singles chart started including all downloads in addition to physical sales it revolutionised the Top 40. Album tracks and really old backlist started appearing. Songs made it to number one without any CD version being released. The changes won't be as dramatic for us but I wouldn't be surprised if, in the next three years, we have books entering the top 10 on downloads alone.</p>
<p>That is something that would be genuinely exciting. I just hope we are able to create a place where it would be allowed to happen.</p>