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From the Kindle Nation Mailbag: Understanding the Kindle Store Bestseller Lists

Thanks to Kindle Nation citizen Matt for this email with questions about the mysteries of Amazon’s famous sales rankings as they are played out in the Kindle Store:

Mr. Windwalker,
I’ve never concerned myself with how the New York Times or American Top 40 tabulated their “top sellers” or “Top 10”.  But, having just recevied a Kindle, the Bestsellers list has made me almost obsessively aware of these types of lists. 
Are these lists compiled hour-by-hour (like it says they are updated)?  Are they listed by number of units “sold” (since some are free)?  Are they really updated daily instead of hourly like it says?
I mean, you can’t tell me that “Male Call” – presently STILL ranked #1 in the Kindle store has been downloaded by the MOST people every HOUR for the past 3 or 4 DAYS.  There are only a finite number of Kindles out there and many guys like me who would NOT buy this book.  I seems logistically flawed that the top 5 Kindle sellers don’t move/have not moved hour-by hour in the past 3 days.
Could you please shine a little light on how these lists are compiled?  Thank you
Matt C.
Matt, although Amazon has very little to say officially about the exact formulas behind its sales rankings in the Kindle Store or anywhere else on its website, some of us who have been paying close attention to these matters for over a decade have developed some general expertise in these matters. A fellow named Morris Rosenthal has written extensively on the inner workings of the sales ranking over the past decade on his website. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • Although the sales rankings are, for the most part, updated hourly, this does not mean that they reflect sales for only the past hour at any given time. They actually reflect a balance of sales over the past hour, the past day, the past week, the past month, and longer, but Amazon does not reveal the weighting given to these different lookbacks.
  • The sales rankings reflect all transactions involving each item regardless of its price, whether the price is zero or over a hundred dollars. Consequently a free book that slightly “outsells” a $9.99 book over the weighted past periods will lead the $9.99 book in the bestseller list.
  • It is not uncommon to find that the listings near the top of the bestseller lists remain fairly consistent for days or even weeks at a time, in part due to the fact that, by definition, incrementally larger daily (and weekly, and monthly, and so forth) sales volumes are necessary to sustain each new step up the ladder. Just as a hypothetical model, here might be days on which it would take recent daily sales of 800 copies to earn the #4 position on the Kindle Store bestseller list, when it might require double that recent daily sales volume to get to the #1 position. Movement is more volatile at the other, “long tail” end of the sales rankings, a title that had sold one copy in the past six months might be ranked 260,000 in the Kindle Store, but if it sells a second copy in the next hour, its next sales ranking adjustment could vault it into the top 25,000, only to fall back a few thousand rungs with each passing hour until it settles back somewhere beyond the 100,000 mark.
  • The last point worth making is that it takes a long time and a lot of sales to saturate the customer base in the Kindle Store, and I don’t think there has been an instance yet where it has happened.  My Kindle guide was the #1 book in the entire Kindle Store for the entire year (taken as a whole) for 2008, including one run of 15 out of 21 weeks, but there were still about 90 per cent of Kindle owners who, much to my chagrin, had not purchased it. So the fact that the Male Call freebie shows some staying power as #1 does not necessarily mean that there are tons of “guys” making surreptitious purchases of a book that seems aimed at another demographic. Not that there would be anything wrong with that.
That’s my little light, Matt, and I hope it helps.

From the Shameless Plug Department: Using Kindle for Mac or PC to Get the Most out of The Complete User’s Guide To the Amazing Amazon Kindle

Earlier today as I was composing a post on how to create a picture album on your Kindle, it occurred to me that it would be silly of me not to suggest to Kindle Nation readers that you try the same process that I was using at the time, which was to use my Kindle for Mac app to look at The Complete User’s Guide To the Amazing Amazon Kindle 2 as I followed some of its step-by-step user “recipes” on my Kindle. (The truth, of course, is that I am well aware from hundreds of emails that many readers have already tried this with the Kindle for Mac, Kindle for PC, or other device apps, or even with the old-school paperback app of The Complete User’s Guide To the Amazing Amazon Kindle 2).

So, let me just say here that, if you have yet to pick up the applicable Kindle guide for you — either the Kindle 2 guide referenced above or the Kindle 1 guide that was the #1 bestselling book in the Kindle Store for the calendar year 2008 — it’s now more convenient than ever to buy these guides and open them right on your computer screen with the Kindle for Mac or Kindle for PC app, then work alongside the screen in trying things out on your Kindle. And unlike the $10-$15 paperback editions shown in the graphic, the Kindle editions are priced at just $2.99 and available for reading within 60 seconds on your Kindle, Mac, PC, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPod Touch, or (in just 13 days) your new iPad.

There. I hope that was not too painful. And now, since I’ve given the Shameless Plug Dept. of Kindle Nation Daily an opening here, let me say a few words about it. As many of my readers are aware, my books about the Kindle came first, with excerpts like this one that appeared just five days after the original Kindle’s launch in November 27 and the first full book in the Spring of 2008. That book rose to the top of the Kindle store bestseller list and, along the way, I began to develop Kindle Nation in email and blog formats to maintain my connection with existing readers, build new connections, find out what was on the minds of other Kindle readers, and let everyone (or everyone I could reach) know about my books and other books, blogs, podcasts, and other content that I like. When it works, and I manage to keep it all in useful balance, it is a pretty neat loop that keeps me busy, keeps the wolf from the door, and — I am led to believe by the thousands of emails and comments that I receive and read every one of — keep Kindle Nation citizens feeling informed and connected. So, yes, I do need you to keep buying my books, subscribing to the blog, and all of that sort of thing, at whatever levels you can manage. I try to keep the crass hucksterism under control, and I appreciate you, among many other things, for putting up with a certain amount of it.

Thank you. 

And now, back to the program you were watching….

From the Kindle Nation Mailbag: Creating a Picture Album on Your Kindle

Thanks to Kindle Nation citizen C.A. for this recurring question about how to create an album of photos (or other graphic files) on your Kindle:

Hi, Mr. Windwalker. I bought your Complete User’s Guide To the Amazing Amazon Kindle 2 and followed the directions for putting pictures on my Kindle, but the “book” does not show up. Is there something I’m missing here? I made a directory called “pictures” that sits next to Audible, documents, etc., and yet it does not show up in the home menu. Can you help me?
C.A., thanks for buying the guide, and for your question. This question comes up from time to time and it’s usually a simple matter of slowing down and making sure that you follow each step one at a time and in detail, which can be hard when you can’t wait to get those pictures onto your Kindle! So here are those steps again:
  1. Connect your Kindle to your computer via USB cable and navigate through “Finder” or “My Computer” to your Kindle. On a PC, the Kindle will probably be recognized as an “E” or “F” drive by your computer, depending on your hardware configuration. When you click on your Kindle to open it you will find that its memory is already configured with folders such as audible, documents, music and system.
  2. Add a new folder called “pictures” alongside the existing folders (unless you have already done this in a previous session. Important note: You must follow the exact instructions here and call the folder “pictures.” If you call it “photos,” for example, the Kindle will not recognize it.
  3. Within the new “pictures” folder, create a subfolder for any group of pictures you want to be able to browse through. Important note: this is an important step that people often skip. Without the named subfolder, you won’t be able to view your pictures.
  4. Create as many subfolders as you wish within the “pictures” folder, but be aware that graphic files, like audio files, can eat up a lot of your Kindle’s storage capacity, far more than most book files. 
  5. Name the subfolders so that you will recognize them when they show up on your Home” screen’s list of titles. 
  6. Copy the applicable pictures — they must be formatted as .jpg, .gif or .png files — into each folder from your desktop computer. 
  7. Disconnect your Kindle from your desktop after you have finished copying pictures, and press the “Home” button to return your Kindle to your Home page.
  8. From “Home,” type “ALT+Z” to prompt your Kindle to recognize the new subfolder as a “Book.” 
  9. If you created a subfolder called “Rover,” you should be able to find the title “Rover” on your Home scteen. Select the title — “Rover,” in this case — and use “Next Page” and “Previous Page” to browse through your Kindle photo album. 
  10. Once you have opened the photo album, press the “Menu” button on the right edge of your Kindle 2 or Kindle DX for additional options. Several commands on the local menu at the bottom of the screen will allow you to adjust your view. You can also type “F” to set or leave “full screen mode,” or use the 5-way to move the cursor over a picture to bring up the “magnifying glass” icon and zoom in by pressing down on the 5-way.
I hope this helps!

Kindle Nation Daily Free Book Alert for Sunday, March 21, 2010: Pre-Order of Melissa Marr’s Bestselling Urban Faery Debut, Wicked Lovely with Free Bonus Material

Related post: Kindle Nation Daily Free Book Alert for Saturday March 20, 2010: Dozens of Free Promotional Titles, and a “Free Book Collections” Gateway to Over 2 Million Other Free Books!

Click here (or type “kindle nation daily” in your Kindle’s Kindle Store search field) to have Free Book Alerts pushed directly to your Kindle 24/7 with a 14-day free trial to the Kindle edition of Kindle Nation Daily, the #1 bestselling blog in the Kindle Store

“Free” in the Kindle Store refers, for now, to the price for download to US-based Kindles. Amazon adds various charges for Kindles based beyond US borders. However, you can scroll down to Free Book Collections for over 1.8 million titles that can be downloaded free from the internet to Kindles anywhere in the world (use USB connection to avoid wireless charges.)

Bestselling teen author Melissa Marr has been dabbling in the territory of promoting her other books by offering free promotions in the Kindle Store, and it has been working very well for her:

  • Her story Stopping Time (Part One), currently free, is #15 on the Kindle Store bestseller list as I type this, and Stopping Time (Part Two) is free for pre-order to be released on Tuesday.
  • Her Wicked Lovely series of three other books, Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange, and Fragile Eternity are each in the top 1 percent of all books on the Kindle Store bestseller lists.
  • Unbound, the HarperCollins anthology in paperback and Kindle edition that features Marr along with Kim Harrison, Jeaniene Frost, Vicki Pettersson, and Jocelynn Drake, is currently the #1 title on the Kindle Store’s fantasy anthology list.

Today, as readers await the release of Radiant Shadows, the fourth book in her Wicked Lovely series, the series debut novel Wicked Lovely has been set up as a free pre-order “with free bonus material” in the Kindle Store, *although as I type these words the release date is set for April 6 and the Kindle price has yet to be reduced from 99 cents to free:

 (Or type “wicked lovely free” in your Kindle’s Kindle Store search field)

With publishers spending way too much time trying to figure out how to raise ebook prices and/or suppress Kindle sales in order to keep hardcovers on life support, it’s nice to see Marr’s HarperCollins marketing staff figuring out and doing what it takes to make her next novel a lucrative bestseller.

Radiant Shadows (Wicked Lovely) is set for hardcover release between April 20 and May 1 depending on your source, and the discounted hardcover pre-order price is $11.46. No pre-order page for the Kindle edition yet, and consequently no indication of how it will be priced.

*(Ordinarily in such cases Amazon will lower the pre-order price to zero and honor the zero-price for all pre-orders in accordance with the pre-order price guarantee in spite of the fact that there is no reference to a pre-order price guarantee on the Kindlepage, but if you don’t want to risk the 99 cents, you should find the pre-order page price adjusted down to zero soon.)

Kindle Nation Daily Free Book Alert for Saturday March 20, 2010: Dozens of Free Promotional Titles, and a "Free Book Collections" Gateway to Over 2 Million Other Free Books!

“Free” in the Kindle Store refers, for now, to the price for download to US-based Kindles. Amazon adds various charges for Kindles based beyond US borders. However, you can scroll down to Free Book Collections for over 1.8 million titles that can be downloaded free from the internet to Kindles anywhere in the world (use USB connection to avoid wireless charges.)

 Product Details
Available for Pre-order. This item will be released on Mar. 23, 2010.

Available for Pre-order. This item will be released on Mar. 23, 2010.

Stopping Time, Part 2 by Melissa Marr
Available for Pre-order. This item will be released on Mar. 23, 2010.

A Passion Most Pure (Daughters of Boston, Book 1) by Julie Lessman

A Rush of Wings (A Rush of Wings Series #1) by Kristen Heitzmann

and …

“Warning: Contains explicit sex, some graphic language, and mild violence.”

It’s no surprise that — in addition to all the other wonderful benefits of the Kindle — the ereader is bringing plenty of attention the Kindle Books>Fiction>Erotica category in the Kindle Store. This latest free title is currently #347 overall in the Kindle Store, but it will probably make the top 10 before the sun sets tonight. Two other titles, Carolyn Faulkner’s Kept and our own Rena Diane Walmsley’s literary erotica novel Girl on Fire, have recently cracked the top 100 in the Kindle Store with prices under $3.

For a while there we were concerned that religious titles were dominating the free book listings in the Kindle Store. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But apparently it’s no longer the case!

Here are the rest of the freebies in the Kindle Store:

Product Details
from Touchstone Pictures (Kindle Edition – Mar. 15, 2010)Kindle Book

Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows, Book 1)

In addition to the several dozen free promotion books listed below, Amazon has just created a new direct gateway to over 2 million other free books that you can download easily to your Kindle. Here’s what you’ll find there:

With over 420,000 titles, the Kindle Store contains the largest selection of the books people want to read including New York Times® Best Sellers and most new releases at $9.99, unless otherwise marked. And Amazon provides thousands of the most popular classics for free including titles like The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesPride and Prejudice, and Treasure Island with more coming.
But of course, the Internet is huge and there are lots of older, out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books online. We wanted to make it easier to find these collections, which today represent nearly 2 million titles. See the sites and instructions below to download free classic and other out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books and transfer via USB to your Kindle device or read on Kindle for PC.
Note that these large collections of older free books are typically created from scanned copies of physical books and can have variable quality.
Amazon Kindle Store – Thousands of the most popular classics for free
The Amazon Kindle Store lets you choose from thousands of popular classics all available for free wireless delivery in under 60 seconds with Whispernet.
  1. Visit Kindle Popular Classics
  2. Search or browse for a title just like a normal Kindle book.
Internet Archive – Over 1.8 million free titles
Internet Archive is a non-profit dedicated to offering permanent access to historical collections that exist in digital format. Provides over 1.8 million free books to read, download, and enjoy.
  1. Visit archive.org 
  2. Search for a title or browse one of the sub-collections like ‘American Libraries’
  3. When viewing a title, click the link on the left labeled “Kindle (beta)” to download the file to your computer
  4. Attach your Kindle to your computer using your USB cable and drag the file to the “Documents” folder on your Kindle. You can also e-mail the file to your Kindle using Whispernet for wireless delivery (charges apply).
  5. Open the book from your Kindle’s home screen and enjoy.
Project Gutenberg – Over 30,000 free titles
Project Gutenberg, one of the original sources of free electronic books, is dedicated to the creation and distribution of eBooks.
  1. Visit gutenberg.org 
  2. Search for a title or browse the ‘Book shelves by topic’
  3. When viewing a title, scroll down to the ‘Download this ebook for free’ section and click the download link for ‘Mobipocket’ or ‘Mobipocket with images’ format.
  4. Attach your Kindle to your computer using your USB cable and drag the file to the “Documents” folder on your Kindle. You can also e-mail the file to your Kindle using Whispernet for wireless delivery (charges apply).
  5. Open the book from your Kindle’s home screen and enjoy.
Have you seen another great collection of free Kindle books on the web? Drop us a line.
© Kindle Nation Daily 2010

A Heads Up on Some Great Kindle Blogs

It will probably come as no surprise to many Kindle Nation Daily readers that I pay close attention to some of the good work that my  colleagues in the Kindlesphere do in writing and researching about  what’s going on in the world of ebooks. Some of them have been working  hard at this for years, and while of course I want to keep each and  every one of my readers and subscribers, I hope you will also check out any of these that interest you:

  • Andrys Basten’s A Kindle World Blog had a thoughtful piece this week on media coverage of the “negotiations” around ebook prices
  • Paul Biba’s TeleRead blog has been covering ebook matters intelligently for nearly two decades
  • Bufo Calvin’s I Love My Kindle posts mix wit and wisdom with the occasional flash
  • Abhi at Kindle Review spends more time immersed in deep and interesting thoughts about ebook readers than anyone else I’ve observed
  • Seth’s Blog by Seth Godin is a great inspiration to free and creative thinking
  • Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits is a wonderful calming influence
  • Len Edgerly‘s eponymous blog opens the curtain wide to reveal a Kindle wizard’s inner thoughts

Cheers to my colleagues and comrades!

Lest you think I’m trying to get you to spend your money unwisely, let me remind you that with all of these blogs, as well as Kindle Nation Daily, there’s  always the option of a 14-day free trial if you’d like to try out the  convenience of having a blog pushed directly to your Kindle with each  new post.

From the Kindle Nation Mailbag: Printing a Recipe from Kindle for Mac

And thanks again to Kindle Nation’s own Al M. of Bardstown for another Kindle for Mac app challenge:

Steve, I have installed the Kindle for Mac on my MacBook and tried it out. The font size adjustment is really good with huge fonts and the highlights from the book that I downloaded has yellow highlighting where I had underlined on the Kindle version. However I cannot print or select anything, so if I want a recipe for example, I have to highlight it on the Kindle and then print if from My Clippings.

Al, I doubt that we will see any simple, straightforward print-enabling with the Kindle for Mac or Kindle for PC apps any time soon, but if all you are looking to do is to print out a recipe now and then for your strictly personal and non-commercial use, this should work pretty well.

Find a recipe in like the recipe for Sangria at locations 1,245-1,258 of the Kindle edition of my former college classmate Martha Rose Shulman’s Mediterranean Harvest cookbook. Position it appropriately on your Kindle for Mac screen and use the COMMAND+SHIFT+4 command to capture a screen shot of the area that you want to print. Once you initiate the command you’ll see an icon that lets you know you can press down on your mouse in one corner of the capture area and release the mouse when you have moved it (and the shaded area that you are creating) to the diagonally opposite corner. When you release the mouse you’ll hear a cool little sound like the one made, I think I recall, by a camera shutter.

Then just use the Mac’s Preview application to locate and open the screen shot and you’ll see something like this:

From within Preview, you should then be able to select “Print” from the File pull-down menu, make sure that you’ve chosen Landscape orientation (I always like a nice landscape with my Sangria), and in a moment or two you should have a printed copy of the recipe, for your personal and non-commercial use only, of course.