The concept of the bestseller is ubiquitous not only for traditional books, but for digital media like e-books, apps, games, and music. A book or a game appears on the App Store’s “Top Charts,” or on a bookseller’s “bestseller” page so that more people see it, more people download it, and it maintains its rank — or at least stays on the chart.
E-books, as an increasingly popular form of media, seem especially susceptible to the bestseller cycle. People generally browse and buy e-books on the device where they’ll read them, and make those purchases through an app or media store, which gives them recommendations in terms of bestseller lists, category pages, and sometimes curated sections.
In January, a Pew Research report found that 28 percent of U.S. adults read an e-book in 2013, up from 23 percent at the end of 2012. Almost half of readers under 30 read an e-book in 2013. While they read e-books on a wide variety of devices — e-readers, tablets, computers, and cell phones — only 4 percent read e-books only. (That’s in spite of that fact that 42 percent of adults own tablets and 32 percent own e-reading devices like a Kindle or a Nook.) Even those who own a device dedicated to reading e-books still read print books as well.
So, given that people have a wider array of reading platforms than ever before, what do they read? Pew reported that the “typical” American adult read five books in 2013, while the average for “all adults” came out to twelve books. While many people choose those five to twelve books based on recommendations from friends, websites, or other sources, many casual readers look to bestseller lists that catalog the most popular books in print and digital formats. Perhaps going with books chosen by consensus for their accessibility, or the assurance that they must of decent quality, readers who choose to read a bestseller choose to read a book that everyone else is reading.