When the Kindle bestseller list has been brought up here or elsewhere, one of the most common complaints has been that it lists both free and paid books in the same list without distinguishing which is which. This means it is harder to get a picture of what people are downloading just because it’s free versus what they actually want enough to shell out their hard-earned money.

However, Publishers Weekly reports that in coming weeks, Amazon will be separating the list into two distinct lists, for the top sellers and the most popular giveaways. Predictably, some people are saying that they will be sorry to see the list change.

Richard Curtis, founder of Richard Curtis Associates, was more pragmatic about Amazon’s current list, and will even miss the fact that it’s a unique collection of free and pay-for content. He said he still believes that promotions drive Kindle sales more than price, and that the list as it is now doesn’t do any disservice to customers looking for popular titles. “Amazon has decided to measure the velocity of e-books passing through its store without distinguishing which are free and which are for sale. That information is still very revealing,” he said, noting that what people buy versus what people download may not be a distinction the industry should be concerned about right now.

I’m not entirely sure I can agree with that position—I think people are more likely actually to read something they had to pay for. I’ve downloaded a number of Amazon freebies but never gotten around to reading any of them yet. I did buy a Kindle title and read it immediately, however.

At any rate, I think anything that increases the level of information about e-book marketing and sales is a good thing.


  1. One of the great perks that the Kindle offers — a clear competitive advantage — is a sample of virtually every e-book, for free, delivered instantly via 3G, anywhere in the world, direct to your Kindle home page.

    Yes, most other devices have a way to get a sample onto your e-reader or let you preview on your computer. But the Kindle does this so effortlessly. And then, once you gotten round to the sample, it’s a couple of clicks away and you can purchase the whole thing and carry on reading in seconds.

    In this way, the samples elegantly serve three needs: the reader, for a no risk preview; the author and publisher, for a cheap promotion; Amazon, to make an impulse buy even more impulsier.

  2. Compromise would be easy. All Amazon needs to do is add a third list that doesn’t distinguish between freed and paid. They might even add a fourth with the most popular sampler downloads ranked. Since people don’t necessarily buy a book as soon as they hear about it, a sampler list might prove good at predicting future sales.

    And long term, a high sampler to purchase ratio would suggest that a book isn’t as good as it is being hyped to be.

  3. I’m glad Amazon finally did the right thing and seperated paid content from free content. It makes no sense to have freebies included with paid content. Even Apples App Store has a seperate chart list for both paid apps and free apps.

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