HOT INK AUGUST 2, 1997 HANDICAPS

h = o = t   +   i = n = k         [   Bestseller Article   ]

Cyber Breakdown
(hot ink handicaps the book race)

e veryone who sells online does this weird thing of not discriminating between Mass Market paperbacks, Nonfiction, Trade paperbacks, Hardcover Fiction, or hell, comic books (more on that later).

One really interesting thing about this jumbling of categories is happy accidents like the near-juxtaposition of Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software and Pynchon's Mason & Dixon. Seems highly appropriate to me. Next will we see Kurt Vonnegut's newest novel next to ActiveX & Ice Nine?

At the top of the cyberland list, Amazon's selling Patricia Cornwell, a nonfiction Outerbridge-Reach-type sea book called The Perfect Storm, and then Mary McGarry Morris' excellent third novel Songs in Ordinary Time in the third hole (even Oprah-recommended, if you like that sort of thing).

Then we have much more nonfiction, and Sagan's Contact. Finally, just before Number Ten-ranked (The God of Small Things), the top ten finishes out with this intriguing pattern:

    7     The Gift of Fear
    8    Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion
    9    The Church of Dead Girls (by poet Stephen Dobyns)
The pattern seems pretty obvious to me. If you're online, you're afraid. You're afraid of being influenced, or you're afraid of death, or you're afraid of something. I know I am. The Church of Dead Girls scared the hell out of me; I recommend Dobyn's poetic masterpiece of terror. After all, people don't seem to buying it in "meat-n-paper" bookstores. They're too afraid.

For something truly scary, check out the "Best Seller Lists" of some of the smaller Internet booksellers. The U.K.'s Internet Bookshop is a good example. Sandwiched between Number One-ranked Inside Com and Number One Hundred-ranked Writing Multithreaded Applications in Win32 are several Bibles, Sagan's Billions and Billions, Arthur C. Clarke's 3001 (are they really still printing that?) and - surprise, surprise! - Neil Gaiman's Sandman: The Wake graphic novel between. Also included are several RedWall (adolescent fantasy) novels, and a Doctor Who and a David Eddings novel.

How do I read this list? You should still be afraid. Apparently, the readers who drool over Number Four-ranked Dynamics of Software Development are a bunch of 13 year old fantasy reading religious zealots who enjoy Gaiman's surrealistic visions of Death enough to catapult it onto a bestseller list. And these are the people running the digital revolution? Be very afraid.
AMAZON.COM BESTSELLERS 7/28

1 UNNATURAL EXPOSURE Patricia Daniels Cornwell
Amazon Price: $15.57

2 THE PERFECT STORM : A True Story of Men Against the Sea Sebastian Junger
Amazon Price: $14.37

3 SONGS IN ORDINARY TIME Mary McGarry Morris
Amazon Price: $8.37

4 INTO THIN AIR : A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster Jon Krakauer
Amazon Price: $14.97

5 CONTACT Carl Sagan
Amazon Price: $4.19

6 MIRACLE CURES : Dramatic New Scientific Discoveries Revealing the Healing Powers of Herbs, Vitamins and Other Natural Remedies Jean Carper
Amazon Price: $17.50

7 ANGEL IN THE WHIRLWIND : The Triumph of the American Revolution Benson Bobrick
Amazon Price: $21.00

8 THE GIFT OF FEAR : Listening to the Intuition That Protects Us From Violence Gavin De Becker
Amazon Price: $16.07

9 INFLUENCE : THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PERSUASION Robert B. Cialdini
Amazon Price: $10.40

10 THE CHURCH OF DEAD GIRLS Stephen Dobyns
Amazon Price: $16.10

--   Weekly Analysis and Commentary
by Robyn Taobene


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