Saturday, January 19, 2008

Watching Your Numbers

Another post from (a very nice site for publishing matters)

The Most Useless Widget Devised By Human HandsSome time ago, GalleyCat reported on the timesucking properties of Sales Rank Express, a company whose reason for existing was, as reported in the NY Times, "[letting] authors check their Amazon rankings instantly." Never mind that those sales rankings are widely acknowledged to be meaningless for all but the steadiest of high-selling properties, and even then not much of a reliable guide for actual sales numbers—for that, masochistic authors beg their editors or agents to run Nielsen Bookscan searches—or that even staffers were willing to concede from the onset that the rankings were implemented as attention-grabbing bells and whistles, not conveyors of genuine information. (Full disclosure: I was an employee at the online bookstore when the sales rankings were introduced to the site. Oh, how we laughed and laughed.)

Now the company has introduced a free widget that people can stick on their websites that will automatically display the Amazon sales rank of any book, CD, or DVD, with constant updates. No, really, that's what it does. The company presents itself, and the widget, as "the premier sales rank tool for authors and publishers," which, personally, seems like claiming to market the most prominent earwax removing candle: Sure, it looks like you're being productive, but it's all just smoke and mirrors. But if you really need to know there's 810,811 items selling better than your book, knock yourself out!

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