New York Times Teases Kindle’s “Best-Sellers” — Most Of Them Are Free


In today’s New York Times, writer Motoko Rich is surprisingly rough on Amazon’s Kindle, bullying the e-reader by analyzing its best-sellers list – and finding that more than half of them are available for free. Ostensibly, the piece is about how publishers are working to spur sales by giving away titles, hoping “that customers who like what they read will go on to obtain another title for money.” But dare we say, this Times piece sounds like it was written by… a blogger.

The “snark,” as it’s often referred to, is most egregious up top, as Rich leads with a sharp trick question:

Here’s a riddle: How do you make your book a best seller on the Kindle?

Answer: Give copies away.

That’s right. More than half of the “best-selling” e-books on the Kindle,’s e-reader, are available at no charge.

A bold(-ish) lead, to be sure, but the piece soon steadies, becoming a standard, but fascinating look into the world of e-book sales as pricing continues to be an issue. But before the newspaper standard practice of back-and-forth quotes from people with differing viewpoints, how about one more dose of sass from Rich?

Earlier this week, for example, the No. 1 and 2 spots on Kindle’s best-seller list were taken by “Cape Refuge” and “Southern Storm,” both novels by Terri Blackstock, a writer of Christian thrillers. The Kindle price: $0.

The rest of the piece is packed with spokespeople company-fed lines and observations that hold true when it comes to selling any art. Articulating an issue that has been analyzed and re-worked in the music industry, Rich writes: “Free e-books are also a way of distinguishing a less-well-known author from the marketing juggernauts of the most popular books.”

And Brian Murray, chief executive of HarperCollins, comes in hard for those trying to make dollars: “free is not a business model.”

In all, the article functions as an interesting take both stylistically and content-wise in the lead-up to the Apple Tablet, which may very well upend the entire e-reader game. You can read the rest here.

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