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Bestseller Lists and Product Variety: The Case of Book Sales

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  • Sorensen, Alan T.

    (Stanford U)

Abstract

This paper uses detailed weekly data on sales of hardcover fiction books to evaluate the impact of the New York Times bestseller list on sales and product variety. In order to circumvent the obvious problem of simultaneity of sales and bestseller status, the analysis exploits time lags and accidental omissions in the construction of the list. The empirical results indicate that appearing on the list leads to a modest increase in sales for the average book, and that the effect is more dramatic for bestsellers by debut authors. The paper discusses how the additional concentration of demand on top-selling books could lead to a reduction in the privately optimal number of books to publish. However, the data suggest the opposite is true: the market expansion effect of bestseller lists appears to dominate any business stealing from non-bestselling titles.

Suggested Citation

  • Sorensen, Alan T., 2004. "Bestseller Lists and Product Variety: The Case of Book Sales," Research Papers 1878, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:stabus:1878
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    File URL: http://gsbapps.stanford.edu/researchpapers/library/RP1878.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Clerides, Sofronis K., 2002. "Book value: intertemporal pricing and quality discrimination in the US market for books," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 20(10), pages 1385-1408, December.
    2. David A. Reinstein & Christopher M. Snyder, 2005. "THE INFLUENCE OF EXPERT REVIEWS ON CONSUMER DEMAND FOR EXPERIENCE GOODS: A CASE STUDY OF MOVIE CRITICS -super-," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(1), pages 27-51, March.
    3. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 297-308, June.
    4. Alexander, Peter J., 1997. "Product variety and market structure: A new measure and a simple test," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 207-214, February.
    5. Steven T. Berry & Joel Waldfogel, 2001. "Do Mergers Increase Product Variety? Evidence from Radio Broadcasting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(3), pages 1009-1025.
    6. Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "The Economics of Superstars," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 845-858, December.
    7. Abhijit V. Banerjee, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817.
    8. Lancaster, Kelvin, 1975. "Socially Optimal Product Differentiation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(4), pages 567-585, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Subir Bose & Gerhard Orosel & Marco Ottaviani & Lise Vesterlund, 2006. "Dynamic monopoly pricing and herding," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(4), pages 910-928, December.
    2. Timothy Perri, 2013. "A Competitive Model of (Super)Stars," Eastern Economic Journal, Palgrave Macmillan;Eastern Economic Association, vol. 39(3), pages 346-357.
    3. Michel Clement & Dennis Proppe & Armin Rott, 2007. "Do Critics Make Bestsellers? Opinion Leaders and the Success of Books," Journal of Media Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(2), pages 77-105.

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