Amazon has launched a new service called Charts that does two things. The first isn’t all that interesting, a list of the Top 20 books that have been sold. But the second is that Charts offers a Top 20 list of books being read.
Good News and Bad
This is surely a case of mixed news, and I’ll dispense with the bad news first. Charts are a stark reminder that Amazon is tracking what you do with your books after you read them. Regular TMO readers know that I’m
a bit of a zealot on the subject of surveillance capitalism, and a company being able to follow along as I read is just plain wrong.
This is the sort of thing I wish Apple would do because I trust Apple not add such information to a dossier on me.
But there’s good news with this service, too. Discovery—the art of learning about new products—is hard, and it’s harder online, still. Amazon has long been the king of online discovery, but it sucks there, too.
By going beyond what people are buying and showing us what people are reading, Amazon Charts gives us a new avenue for discovering books that people love.
Because a lot of these books—Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire—are books that people buy once and read over and over again. Never before have those re-reads been reflected in best seller lists.
OK, but we’re back to the dark side of this information. Amazon Charts Most Read will only reinforce already-popular books staying popular. This greatly benefits mega-selling authors while making it harder-still for new authors to crack their way into the best seller charts.
J.K. Rowling and James Patterson, for instance, currently occupy seven of the Top 20 Most Read Books.
This seems likely to exacerbate a trend in publishing where fewer resources are devoted to developing new authors. It used to be that profits from the top were used by publisher to nurture the next generation of authors. With increased competition for entertainment dollars, publishers are focusing more on those already-established authors bringing in the dough.
Still, despite my reservations, this is an interesting move by Amazon, one sure to be popular with readers and increase Amazon’s power in publishing.