Weekly E-Ranking: The force awakens

We charts geeks are blessed in the UK: thanks to Nielsen BookScan, this country is the world leader in print-book sales data. BookScan’s UK reach covers most of the country’s physical market and has a forensic level of detail unmatched in even the other international markets Nielsen covers.

Yet owing to a number of factors (mainly, one dominant e-tailer reluctant to share data), the full UK market digital sales figures and e-book bestsellers lists have been blind spots. There is more than a bit of irony that there is a paucity of digital data widely available at a time when e-tailers know not just how many units are sold, but where, when and for how long customers are reading. Kobo, for example, recently released a slew of analytics around the Man Booker International Prize 2016 shortlist, including that customers averaged 13 minutes per reading session for Ohran Pamuk’s A Strangeness in My Mind (Faber, trans. Ekin Oklap) and a whopping 70 minutes per sitting for the prize’s winner Han Kang’s The Vegetarian (Portobello, trans. Deborah Smith). My favourite stat was that readers took just three sessions to finish Robert Seethaler’s A Whole Life (Picador, trans. Charlotte Collins, and 43 to get to the end of Elena Ferrante’s (admittedly much longer) The Story of the Lost Child (Europa, trans. Ann Goldstein).          

But those blind sports are why, almost four years ago, The Bookseller launched a monthly E-Book Ranking. That ranking is excellent, barring one key respect: immediacy. So, after months of planning and with the help of participating publishers, we are launching our first-ever weekly E-Book Ranking.

You will note a big difference between our two digital charts in that, unlike in the monthly version, the weekly ranking reports no volume figures. Audited e-book sales figures are released monthly by e-tailers to publishers. Weekly figures are given to publishers, but are unaudited.  Therefore, we have a positional-only chart, based on unaudited numbers publishers have revealed to us; our monthly ranking will continue to show full, audited volume figures. Owing to the e-book sales reports timeframes, the weekly E-Book Ranking will run one week behind Nielsen BookScan’s print data (for example, this week’s chart is for the seven days to 7th May; BookScan’s is for the week to 14th May).

Our initial ranking kicks off with Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan, Simon & Schuster and Bloomsbury. 

We are fully aware this does not encompass the whole digital market, leaving off, well, all other publishers except these six and, of course, misses the self-published market. 

The Bookseller, it should noted, has tried to make in-roads into the independent author market, creating a tracker for self-published writers to confidentially input their sales data. The take-up for this has been underwhelming thus far, to say the least. But we are not giving up hope and any indie authors who wish to participate can do so here

At any rate, our current group of publishers is a good starting point for the weekly ranking, as the six publishers represent about 60% of the physical market—and arguably a greater slice of the digital pie. But we are not stopping there. Our monthly ranking launched with a similar-sized cohort and, as with that chart, we will continue to expand with other publishers in the fullness of time, and consequently expand the trade’s understanding of this part of the market.

Those wanting to participate in The Bookseller’s digital rankings can contact Tom Tivnan (tom.tivnan@thebookseller.com) or Kiera O’Brien (kiera.o'brien@thebookseller.com) for more information.