“Lovers of print are simply confusing the plate for the food.”
― Douglas Adams
This week Amazon released a new feature: Author Rank. Updated hourly, it ranks authors based on the sales of each author’s books. Amazon’s marketing copy argues that Author Rank will function as a discovery engine, helping readers make “reading choices with confidence.”
Publishing as Ecosystem
Given Amazon’s role as the largest eBook retailer, authors and other bookfolk have been anxiously discussing the impact of this new ranking system on the publishing industry. There’s no doubt that Author Rank will magnify the divide between successful and struggling authors. Indeed, the general consensus is that these rankings will generate snowballing effects: like the iTunes ecosystem, Billboard music charts, or NY Times Bestseller lists, once you make the cut, you’ll attract more readers, which will keep you on the list, which will attract more readers, and so on and so forth. Network theorists call this process preferential attachment; business types might call it a variant of first-mover advantage.