Over the past few months, Amazon.com has been adding new features to their book pages that are of great use to the consumer – but also turn out to be very revealing and helpful to publishers and authors. One recently-added feature is the “category ranking” of books. This can be found just under the “Sales Rank” section of a book’s page, and usually has several sub-categories that get progressively narrower.
For instance, click on the book page of any book about a Gettysburg subject. Below its overall sales rank, you see a horizontal line of categories (each of them linked to pages of ranking lists). The first is “Books,” and after that would be – History – United States – Civil War – Campaigns – Gettysburg. You can click on each of these sections, and the particular book you’re looking at will be ranked within each section. Each category is updated, according to the website, every hour.
It’s obviously useful to the consumer, because now instead of just seeing how a particular book ranks among the over 4 million books on Amazon, one can see how it ranks among progressively narrower categories. You can now, for instance, find the “best sellers” among the Civil War, or Gettysburg or Antietam, etc. in particular. And the benefit and interest to the publisher and author is obvious.
As for the Gettysburg category, I’ve been finding it interesting that over the past few months since this feature has been available, that Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels and Newt Gingrich’s Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War have been pretty consistently #1 and #2. What this says about the public wanting to get its history from fiction instead of non-fiction, I’m not sure. But as I’ve long said, if such works lead folks into reading non-fiction works on these subjects, then all the better. I suspect (and I see this in local schools in my area) that many of our young people’s first introduction to subjects such as the Civil War and Gettysburg in particular is Killer Angels. Hopefully, of course, if they wish to further their interest, they will take up non-fiction historical works.
Regardless, these new features, some of several that the site has instituted recently, are very helpful and interesting to all – and, I’m sure, a great marketing tool for Amazon. They provide very interesting snapshots as to what the public is reading in various categories.