Bestseller Lists and Product Variety: The Case of Book Sales
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.
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