Critical Linking: July 8th, 2014

Young adult novels reigned over the top halves of the print and Kindle bestseller lists for the first six months of the year. John Green’s unstoppable The Fault in Our Stars was the bestselling e-book on Amazon from January to June, and its various editions occupied three spots on the print list. Green shared the leaderboards with Veronica Roth, whose novel Divergent, the first book in her enormously popular trilogy of the same name, hit #1 on the print list for the year to date.

I wasn’t super interested in this list of 2014’s 20 best-selling books until #20.

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What makes Amazon’s dispute with publishers different from a typical battle between a retailer like Walmart and a supplier, of course, is that books are not toothpaste or toilet paper. They are a cultural artifact that brings all kinds of emotional baggage with it, involving the struggling author, the nature of the creative impulse and other intangibles.

It’s hard to know if these intangibles cloud the issue or justify the high anxiety about Amazon’s effect on the publishing industry.

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Turning a book face out is the micro version of Stephen Colbert bestowing likely bestsellerdom on a debut novel caught in the Hachette/Amazon crossfire. Collectively, bookstores can do quite a lot by getting behind certain titles, whether it be via the IndieNext list or the Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers program, but even those titles are among a chosen few. 

I would LOVE to see data about the sales of books turned out versus those that aren’t. I’m seeing control groups, random sampling, the works.

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