Kindle Unlimited Titles Off the DBW Ebook Best-Seller List

the heistKindle Unlimited’s effect on the best-seller list has indeed grown.

Kindle Unlimited titles have been removed from the Digital Book World Ebook Best-Seller list due to an inability to sort out retail purchases from Kindle Unlimited “reads” when creating the list.

After discussing several possibilities with Amazon as to how to include titles that had robust sales but also had reads on the new ebook subscription platform counted toward Amazon Kindle sales ranking, no solution was found. The conversations were constructive and amicable but, ultimately, not successful.

The issue is that the DBW Ebook Best-Seller list draws data from other best-seller lists, including the Kindle best-seller list. The list is meant to be an index of what book buyers are purchasing most and how much they’re spending each time they do so. If “reads,” where the user isn’t paying to purchase a book each time, are counted toward best-seller rankings on the Kindle list and they are unable to be separated out from regular purchases, then it would be unfair to include those titles on the list.

Had those titles been included, they would have elevated several Amazon Publishing, self-published and back-list ebooks onto the best-seller list, including Mockingjay, The Giver, Rhett by J.S. Cooper, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and more.



The Fault in Our Stars is No. 1 on the DBW Ebook Best-Seller list for the twelfth week in a row. According to Pearson’s latest financial report, Green sold nearly 5.5 million copies of his books in the U.S. alone in the first half of the year.


Best-Seller Prices

Because of the kinds of books available in Kindle Unlimited that had to be removed from the DBW Ebook Best-Seller list, the average price of a best-selling ebook has shot up this week to $8.45, an increase of almost $1 from last week’s $7.57. All of the books on the DBW list are currently “big five” titles.


Top 25 Ebook Best-Sellers
Week Ending 7/26/14
Rank* Title Author Publisher  Price**  Change
1 (1) The Fault in Our Stars John Green Penguin Random House  $    4.99
2 (7) The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) Donna Tartt Hachette  $    6.99 +5
3 (4) Invisible James Patterson; David Ellis Hachette  $    8.99 +1
4 (3) The Heist: A Novel (Gabriel Allon Book 14) Daniel Silva HarperCollins  $   13.99 -1
5 (2) The Book of Life: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy) Deborah Harkness Penguin Random House  $   11.99 -3
6 (6) Gone Girl: A Novel Gillian Flynn Penguin Random House  $    8.52
7 (8) Act of War: A Thriller Brad Thor Simon & Schuster  $   12.99 +1
8 (5) Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Laura Hillenbrand Penguin Random House  $    4.99 -3
9 (10) Chill Factor: A Novel Sandra Brown Simon & Schuster  $    1.99 +1
10 (21) If I Stay Gayle Forman Penguin Random House  $    4.99 +11
11 (11) Orphan Train: A Novel Christina Baker Kline HarperCollins  $    6.99
12 (9) Top Secret Twenty-One: A Stephanie Plum Novel Janet Evanovich Penguin Random House  $   10.99 -3
13 (12) Insurgent (Divergent Book 2) Veronica Roth HarperCollins  $    6.99 -1
14 (14) Allegiant (Divergent Series) Veronica Roth HarperCollins  $    6.99
15 (19) Divergent Veronica Roth HarperCollins  $    4.99 +4
16 (16) The Husband’s Secret Liane Moriarty Penguin Random House  $    9.99
17 (18) Plain Truth: A Novel Jodi Picoult Simon & Schuster  $    1.99 +1
18 (13) Power Play (An FBI Thriller Book 18) Catherine Coulter Penguin Random House  $   10.99 -5
19 (15) The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike Series #2) Robert Galbraith Hachette  $    8.99 -4
20 (n/a) Outlander: A Novel Diana Gabaldon Penguin Random House  $    4.99 New
21 (n/a) One Plus One: A Novel Jojo Moyes Penguin Random House  $   10.99 New
22 (24) All Fall Down: A Novel Jennifer Weiner Simon & Schuster  $   10.99 +2
23 (n/a) Mr. Mercedes: A Novel Stephen King Simon & Schuster  $   11.99 New
24 (n/a) Cut and Thrust (Stone Barrington) Stuart Woods Penguin Random House  $   10.99 New
25 (n/a) A Perfect Life: A Novel Danielle Steel Penguin Random House  $   11.84 New

* Previous week’s list rank in parentheses.

** Price reflects minimum price across all retailers throughout the week. Price may vary between retailers and may change throughout the week. Contact Iobyte Solutions for more information on ebook pricing. Methodology available here.

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16 thoughts on “Kindle Unlimited Titles Off the DBW Ebook Best-Seller List

  1. Chris @ Publishing Hero

    There’s a unnecessary line being drawn here. Are you more interested in finding which books are being read, or simply in seeing how much best-sellers are making in a given week? Were it a library system you were eliminating, that might make sense – no one’s paying to use the library (except in an abstract, ‘it’s part of our taxes’ sort of way).

    As much as I dislike the notion of being part of the exclusive KDP Select to join the Kindle Unlimited program, those KU reads should be counted as sales. They’re paying money for access to books – just not one at a time. By restricting your list of books to those a readers pays to purchase a book, you eliminate any legitimate numbers coming from KU, Flipkart, Oyster, and Scribd – places that a growing percentage of readers are turning to.

    This backwards type of thinking is not unlike the decision by some list-makers to only use sales from physical bookstores. We know how out-of-touch those lists can be – and how those lists lose credibility as people have realized what they leave out.

    I’ll presume your incentive remains to have a best-seller list that accurately reflects what people are reading, be they books sold or books rented. As the ‘books rented’ percentage continues to grow, however, your list risks its credibility at being an accurate reflection of the much larger book world.

    1. Jeremy Greenfield Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Chris. What we’re looking to provide isn’t what people are reading, per se, but what they are purchasing and at what prices. So, it’s very important for us for this particular list to make it all about individual purchases. If we were going after “books read,” we’d consider other data sources like Goodreads and libraries, too. But that’s not our aim.

      However, we’re considering ways we can track the impact of the rise of ebook reading through subscription ebook services, too. Stay tuned and keep in touch!

    2. Bev

      In that respect, Chris, then you may as well include all the freebie downloads. Whether the downloader “reads” the book or not is immaterial.

      At least with purchased books, whether they read it or not, they paid the money to get it.

      Counting free or borrowed books in bestseller lists is wrong on so many levels. It creates a playing field that is as uneven as you can get.

      I’ll tell you a reader is invested in a book when they put down cold hard cash to purchase said book. There’s truth to the saying, “Put your money where your mouth is.”

  2. Michael W. Perry

    Many thanks for keeping your bestseller lists about ebooks that actually sell. The commitment that actually paying requires keeps the playing field level.

    Free and downloaded aren’t the equivalent to read. I’ve got a host of ebooks on my Kindle 3 that I downloaded when they were briefly free. But I’ve noticed that I’m far less likely to read a free book than one that I paid for. I suspect that, if I were a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, I’d have those ten titles it supplies sitting there all the time, but only a couple would be actually read. The others would be dumped when I needed to get a new title.

    I might add that, as Jeremy mentions, there’s nothing wrong with maintaining multiple ‘best’ lists including most checked out in Kindle Unlimited and–far more significant–those titles that are checked out in Kindle Unlimited and are actually read to the end.

  3. Pippa

    Amazon knows when to pay the author (after 10% of the book is read) & pays the author accordingly. This should count as a sale. It’s pretty simple, folks.

    1. Jeremy Greenfield Post author

      Perhaps authors don’t notice a difference (although there are many who would disagree with that — here’s one: But the retailer does. And so does the buyer.

      This list is about measuring which books were bought and paid for on a one-off basis. We maintain that this is what “best-sellers” is. For us, price is also a very important part of the list — it’s always been a key component for us. Because publishers are interested in knowing about ebooks selling at different price points.

      Similarly, we don’t count library purchases or borrows on our list.

      As I wrote above, we are exploring ways to track titles that are accessed through ebook subscription services.

      1. Pippa

        Kindle Unlimited titles are still for sale, for real $, the same as any other book. By removing them from the best-sellers list, you’ve skewed your figures.

        1. Jeremy Greenfield Post author

          That’s also true. We tried to work with Amazon, as we’ve stated on multiple occasions, to find a way to filter out the “reads” from the sales. We offered three different possible solutions. Together with Amazon we decided that there was no real way to do it.

          Not that this makes a tremendous amount of difference, but there are likely not too many books that would have appeared on the list without this change. There are a few big, big self-published titles that are probably not appearing that should appear. This is just conjecture, however. I bet Rhett by J.S. Cooper would be on the list if not for this change.

          Also, let’s not forget that being in KU and then appearing in the Kindle 100 likely boosts actual sales. So, it’s a very complicated issue. We’ve tried to solve it and this is the best solution we’ve come up with.

  4. Brian D. Meeks

    I’ve been reading elsewhere about this move and people seem upset.

    I don’t think it matters. The only lists that are relevant are the Amazon lists, NY Times, USA Today, and LA Times.

    Nobody brags about being ranked on the DBW list. I think DBW is well within their rights to publish any sort of list they want.

  5. Aaron Shepard

    I’d just like to point out that the rise of Kindle Unlimited books on Amazon’s bestseller lists does NOT indicate “reads” as you’ve stated. It only indicates downloads. Whether these books are even being opened is another question entirely.

    But you are quite right that sales rank is now skewed in a way that makes it much less meaningful. And there’s no way for you to get better figures without access to the sales records provided to individual KDP publishers. Amazon itself separated paid and free sales rank scales some time ago to avoid a similar problem, but this time the distortion probably works to Amazon’s advantage.

    1. D. Nathan Hilliard

      I’m not sure that’s true. Amazon has already set it up that the book doesn’t count as a sale unless the downloader reads ten percent of it. I know as an author, that’s when the download is recorded as a purchase on my records from them. So it seems that the problem is already solved, and that she should simply ask for a list that reflects downloads in the same fashion.

  6. Toni Kenyon

    Surely “reads” are an indicator of popularity. Purchasers have paid a fee to read a book (or multiple books in some cases).
    Not including the popular read titles leaves your list lacking.

    1. Jeremy Greenfield Post author

      Library checkouts and waiting lists at libraries indicate popularity, too. So does social media buzz. Goodreads has an “added to shelf” list. Popularity isn’t the goal of our list.

      This best-seller list is about just that: ebooks that are selling best. People can look to other lists to see what is “popular” to read. (Though, I would argue downloads from KU doesn’t represent books that are being “read”…so too with the other signals I mentioned above.)

  7. Chris @ Publishing Hero

    At least with KU a ‘sale’ only occurs after some portion of the book is read (e.g. 10%). No best-selling list can track that in the physical world – and there’s no way to know how much of a ‘best-seller’ is ever read, by this list.

    OK, so the ‘bestseller’ list remains a list of books sold, regardless of whether they’re actually (or ever) read. Perhaps a ‘heat index’ type of list would make up for this shortfall – an algorithmic look at what’s being read, ‘shelved’, ‘talked about’, borrowed, and the like. You have access to that data from KU, and presumably could acquire it from Oyster, Scribd, and the like. For want of a more sophisticated scale, an idea:

    A book ‘shelved’ is one point.
    A book reviewed is one point.
    A book borrowed for free (e.g. from a library) is one point.
    A book borrowed as part of a membership service is two points.
    Books purchased proper, being covered in the best-seller lists, may or may not factor into this index, though it should for the sake of completeness.

    And so on. Much like Facebook’s and Amazon’s algorithms reward indicators of interest along with affinities and sales, this heat index would aim to balance out the single focus on ‘books sold’.



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