Amazon’s Best Selling E-Books of 2011

Amazon has just announced its lists of the best-selling books of 2011 in print and e-book formats. Looking at the e-book list says a lot about the reading choices that booklovers made this year. The winning e-books fall into three major categories; there are the big name mystery authors we couldn’t get enough of, the non-fiction books that gave us a look inside the lives of others and then three inexpensive self-published e-reads. 

We weren’t surprised to see some of the household mystery author names that topped this year’s stack of bestselling e-books. James Patterson’s Now You See Her finished out the year in the top five. Several slots behind that is The Litigators by John Grisham and Janet Evanovich’s Smokin’ Seventeen, in spots eight and nine. These authors may be familiar faces, but we’re always happy to see them because we know we can count on the quality of the tale that they will tell.

This year’s nonfiction stories serve as a look back at some of the items that made headlines across the nation. A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard tells the tale of the 18 years she spent as a captive, the abused slave of a twisted man. With our nation’s fascination of this young woman’s tale of survival — and the healing process that has only just begun, it is no surprise that this story is the third bestseller of the year. (It is also the first book on the list priced over $2.99, at $11.99 it is approximately four times the price of the books that made spots number one and two.) The next nonfiction to make the list is Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Rushed to print after the brilliant Jobs’ untimely death in mid-October, the book includes interviews with the man and his loved ones. The third highest non-fiction bestseller creeps up right behind Job’s biography, to take the seventh place on Kindle’s e-bestsellers list. It’s In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson. This book gives the true account of the first American diplomat to Germany, who took the position in 1933 at the cusp of Hitler’s rise to power. Kidnappings, computer moguls and the most loathed dictator of all time, it’s easy to see why these true stories captivated America’s e-book readers.

The list’s big shocker was how well self-published digital releases did. In fact, the number one bestselling e-book in 2011 is the self-published e-book The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan. This mainstream fiction tale revolves around an old woman who has become a recluse in her beautiful mansion that presides over a small Vermont town. But when newcomers begin to wonder about her, it becomes clear that the elderly woman has a secret that could change the town forever. The tale has an element of mystery that can not be denied and Gothic overtones that catch at the imagination. Combined with the book’s low price of 99 cents and it is easy to see why it took the year’s top spot. The year’s second e-bestseller is a straight mystery by Chris Culver. Titled The Abbey, the story follows hero Ash Rashid, a homicide detective in his last year before he retires. The man is already burned out but when his niece is found dead in the home of one of the city’s wealthiest citizens, he starts a crusade to uncover the truth. However, it soon becomes clear that the young woman isn’t the only member of Ash’s family who is in danger. The third self-published book on this list is Caribbean Moon by Rick Murcer. This story takes tenth place on the Kindle bestsellers list and is the first novel in the author’s series of thrillers following Manny Williams. This book features a long-awaited cruise, a fellow officer’s wedding and a tropical paradise that is much more deadly than advertised.

In contrast to the trends we see in the Kindle Bestsellers this year, the list of traditional print book bestsellers has a very different look. Although the nonfiction books on the e-book list are also in the print lists’ top 10 — with Steve Jobs being the bestselling print book and the overall top book sold by Amazon all year — the rest of the list is noticeably different. In particular, children and YA authors come out to play in print. Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever, Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansback are in the list’s top five slots. (The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan was edged out by the newest George R.R. Martin in the author’s Song of Ice and Fire series.)

It’s clear by looking at the two lists that the traditional print and e-book buyers (and readers) are different. And although there is quite some overlap of titles, the sales figures are simply reflecting buying patterns that are similar but not the same. Here at RT we are looking forward to seeing how these lists grow closer together — or further apart — as more people embrace reading e-books and the devices, like the new Kindle, become more affordable for readers of all ages.