Real numbers for bestseller lists

Good WashPo story on the use of Point-of-Sale scanners to gather and report sales figures for books, as opposed to soliciting subjective data from booksellers on their sales to compile bestseller lists. The story talks about an Aussie genre publisher whose fantasy novels never showed up on the bestseller lists until quantative measurement was introduced, whereupon the Australian penchant for fantasy novels was revealed.

This cultural landscape could change dramatically under Bookscan data — particularly when you consider the enormous impact its sister company, Soundscan, created in the music industry. When Billboard adopted Soundscan’s high-tech tracking information of CD sales in May 1991, the Top-40 charts were transformed in a single evening. Country music and hip-hop, which elite trendsetters had previously regarded as backwaters, suddenly shifted far higher up the list, reflecting their previously unrecognized popularity among the rural and urban populations who had gone unpolled in Billboard charts.

Reminds me of the shift in Nielsen data-gathering from journals to set-top boxes, and the dramatic new importance of trash TV — Springer, WWF, etc. Link Discuss (via /.)