The Top 100 list

It’s really surprising. Amazon’s just announced which books (and which ebooks) were their best-sellers in 2011. And it turns out the two lists are entirely different!

To see Amazon’s lists, just point your computer’s web browser to tinyurl.com/2011Amazon – or browse both lists on a single page here. But just look at the the top ten ebooks of the year. Three of the 10 best-selling Kindle ebooks didn’t make into the top 100 bestselling printed books of the year — because they’ve never even been released in a printed edition! And that includes the #1 and #2 best-selling ebooks of the year…

      The Mill River Recluse (#1)
      The Abbey (#2)
      Caribbean Moon – A Manny Williams Thriller (#10)

And meanwhile, four of the top 10 best-selling printed books didn’t even make it into the top 100 best-selling ebooks of the year.

      Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever
      Go the **** to Sleep
      A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
      Bossypants by Tina Fey

The “Wimpy Kid” book is only available for the Kindle as an audiobook, and “Go the **** To Sleep” is a parody of children’s picture books, so it’s understandable that more people would want the print edition. But the other titles are available in both ebook and print editions — and they seem to prove that Kindle owners just buy different books than the people shopping for print editions!

Look again at the the top ten ebooks of the year. Only three of them also appeared on the list of the ten-bestselling printed books.


      Steve Jobs

      A Stolen Life by Jaycee Lee Dugard

      In the Garden of Beasts:
      Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin

And even if you look at the whole top 25, there’s still only four more printed books which also made it onto Amazon’s list of the 25 best-selling ebooks.


      The Paris Wife: A Novel
      The Litigators by John Grisham
      The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
      Dead Reckoning: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel

It couldn’t be more clear that Kindle owners are choosing their material from an entirely different universe of books. Stephen King’s new novel, 11/22/63 — is the #11 best-selling printed book. But it didn’t even make it into the top 25 on Amazon’s list of the best-selling ebooks. (Maybe because its $14.99 price tag made it less competitive against other ebooks.) On the ebook list, King’s new novel only ranked #32,and ironically, it placed lower than another Stephen King tale — Mile 81 — an 80-page short story about a haunted highway rest stop that King released exclusively as a Kindle Single for just $2.99. Now at the end of the year, it’s become the #26 best-selling Kindle ebook.

The signs are everywhere that it’s an entirely different set of books which are becoming popular in print. In fact, even if you look at the top fifty best-sellers, there’s still only eight more ebooks which have also made it onto both lists.

      Explosive Eighteen: A Stephanie Plum Novel

      The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus Book 2)

      Inheritance (Inheritance Cycle, Book 4)

      The Throne of Fire (the Kane Chronicles, Book Two)

      Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that
      Changed America Forever
(co-authored by Bill O’Reilly)

      State of Wonder

      Smokin’ Seventeen: A Stephanie Plum Novel

      The Affair: A Reacher Novel

And nothing changes if you expand your focus to the top 100 best-selling books of the entire year. Even then, there’s just 24 more books that both lists have in common.


      Full Black: A Thriller (Scot Harvath)
      V is for Vengeance (Kinsey Millhone Mystery) by Sue Grafton
      The Land of Painted Caves: a Novel by Jean M. Auel
      The Tiger’s Wife: A Novel
      SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper
      The Night Circus
      Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography by Rob Lowe
      Against All Enemies by Tom Clancy
      The Marriage Plot: A Novel
      Caleb’s Crossing: A Novel
      Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
      The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
      Now You See Her by James Patterson
      The Drop (Harry Bosch) by Michael Connelly
      A Discovery of Witches: A Novel
      Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson
      Before I Go To Sleep: A Novel
      The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly
      Zero Day
      Buried Prey
      The Next Always: Book One of the Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy
      Portrait of a Spy (Gabriel Allon)
      Tick Tock by James Patterson
      Shock Wave (Virgil Flowers)

That means that of the 100 best-selling ebooks of the year — 60 of them didn’t even appear among the top 100 best-selling printed books. And the same is true in reverse. Just 40 of the top 100 best-selling printed books even made it onto Amazon’s list of the top 100 best-selling ebooks.

What’s going on? Five of the best-selling ebooks were “Kindle Singles”, short “idea-sized” ebooks between 5,000 and 30,000 words, which aren’t available in print editions.

      Second Son (Kindle Single)

      Mile 81 (Kindle Single) by Stephen King

      No Time Left (Kindle Single)

      Leaving Home: Short Pieces (Kindle Single) by Jodi Picoult

      Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson,
      Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way (Kindle Single)

And at least five of the best-selling ebooks are by authors who earned their popularity in ebooks, like Amanda Hocking and John Locke. (Both authors sold over one million ebooks in Amazon’s Kindle Store before they received publishing deals this year to release their novels as printed books.) Amanda Hocking’s Ascend (A Trylle Novel) was the #14 best-selling ebook of the entire year, but it still won’t be released in a print edition until late April of 2012. And Locke’s Vegas Moon — the Kindle’s #25 best-selling ebook of the year — won’t even be available in print until the end of next July.

The #24 best-selling ebook is also another book in Locke’s “Donovan Creed” series — A Girl Like You — but there’s not even a release date listed on Amazon for an upcoming print edition. Two other Locke ebooks were also among the top 100 best-selling ebooks this year — The Love You Crave (another Donovan Creed novel) and Follow the Stone (an Emmett Love Western). But while those two books are also available in print editions, neither print edition reached the top 100 on Amazon’s year-end best-seller list.

Heather Killough-Walden also landed two ebooks in the top 100 from her “Big Bad Wolf” paranormal series — The Spell and The Strip. The first one is only available as an ebook, and second one isn’t even available as a printed book or an ebook. (Though Amazon shows plans for an audiobook to be released at the end of December.) And I was surprised to see a familiar name among the best-selling authors of the year. Kindle Blogger Michael Gallagher wrote one of the 100 best-selling ebooks of 2011 — titled Free Kindle Books and How to Find Them.

So what print books are readers buying that didn’t become also become Kindle best-sellers? There’s celebrity memoirs by Ellen Degeneres, Steven Tyler, and Chelsea Handler, plus a backstage look at ESPN — and several political books, including Dick Cheney’s autobiography, Ann Coulter’s Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America and After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. But print buyers also made a best-seller out of Neal Stephenson’s new novel Reamde, a techno-thriller about a multiplayer gaming universe which surprisingly didn’t appear among the 100 best-selling ebooks (though it’s been available since this September).

Amazon’s 2011 lists are sending us a very clear message: the world of publishing is changing. People who own Kindles are just reading different books than the people who buy printed books. But what’s really interesting is those books are being written by different authors.

2011 may be remembered as the year that hundreds of new voices finally found their audiences…

9 Responses to “Which eBooks Were Amazon’s Best-Sellers for 2011?”

  1. Craig MacKenna Says:

    The differences between the two lists might be more clear if you consider the price of the various books in the two formats. Probably the Kindle market is more cost-sensitive than the print market.

  2. Jörg Mayer Says:

    IMO, there is a rather trivial explanation why George R.R. Martin’s book did not make it onto the kindle list: It’s the fifth of a series where the first books were released way before the Kindle came into existence. And if you have the beginning of a series as paper books in your bookshelf then you are likely to buy the remaining volumes in dead tree format as well (at least that’s what I do).

  3. Tony McNamara Says:

    I’m with Craig. I buy mostly Kindle, some print. Too often the Kindle version costs the same as the print version, which means that the incremental cost of printing, distribution, shipping and storage of the print is pure fat on the price of the ebook. Taking a non-bestseller, why should Bunnicula cost the same for print and ebook, 30 years after release?

    I’d like to see the revenue (as in movie sales) rather than unit numbers, because the real question to me is, does pricing a new book at $4.99 Kindle and $9.99 print generate more revenue than pricing it at $9.99 for both versions. I would bet the answer is it would.

  4. How Legacy Publishers Are Killing the Future of an E-reader Market | Dreams of a Lego Spaceman Says:

    [...] actually e-books that have never been published as hard copy books. As a matter of fact, in 2011, only 3 of the top sellers actually were originally published as “normal” books. The rest were dedicated e-books only. What this means is that more and more books are being sold [...]

  5. Bent Schmidt-Nielsen Says:

    After struggling to read technical books and some PDFs while enjoying a novel on my eBook reader, I have concluded that eBooks are only for easy reading fiction!

  6. Branden Says:

    Price is the missing factor in this article. Not sure about Kindle, but on the Nook, “The Abbey” was a free or $0.99 download when I got it. If you price an older book from an established author very low, you will get a spike in downloads/sales.

  7. eBook Readers Live in a Different Universe of Books | Disinformation Says:

    [...] #1 and #2 best-selling ebooks of the year weren’t even available in print editions, while four of the top 10 best-selling print books didn’t make it into the top 100 [...]

  8. Riddle Me This Says:

    [...] an elucidating, or perplexing, depending on your point of view, little article. The piece is a bit long, full of facts/comparisons and is just a wee bit confusing, to be honest, [...]

  9. Print Books and Ebook Steady Growth in 2011: Why This Is A Remarkable (And Marketable) Time For Indie Authors To Publish | Yaminatoday - A Literary Blog That Entertains & Educates Says:

    [...] to an Amazon report of their best-sellers in 2011, (and according to a report I read Beyond-black-Friday.com) three of the 10 best-selling Kindle ebooks never even made into the top 100 bestselling printed [...]

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