[UPDATE FOR MIDWINTER 2013: This is last year's post, but the principles of the exercise are the same. Just didn't want to reinvent the wheel.]
As the ebooks in libraries war rages on, we’ve been having a tough time putting our money where our mouths are. In my last post, I talked a bit about our’ struggle to prove their worth to a publishing industry that’s less than receptive to emotional appeals. As long as publishers see library loans as “lost sales,” it’s going to be incredibly difficult to convince the Simon & Schusters and Penguins of the world to sell us their eBooks on mutually beneficial terms.
So much of what we do to fuel the engine of book discourse is intangible by nature. As a profession that holds quantifiable information so dear, it’s a sad irony that we’re unable to document just how much we’re able to contribute to book sales, be they e- or p-.
But an opportunity to do just that is just around the corner.
After all, Midwinter is coming.
At Midwinter, ALA gives out awards for notable books in a host of categories. For awards like the Newbery or Caldecott, this can mean immortality. Children’s titles are notorious for having short shelf lives. Getting that silver or gold medal on your cover ensures that your title will be noticed (and purchased) for years to come. But we haven’t really been able to quantify how much of a bump these awards provide.
I suggest we do that this year.
Here’s my cockamamie idea: I’d like to get a snapshot of where the award-winning book in each category currently stands sales-wise, and then compare that to its sales after the award announcements. We can take a look at how the title’s Amazon ranking is affected, and use this to get a rough idea of just how much a library-given award can contribute in terms of added sales.
Of course, in order to get a snapshot of a book’s pre-award sales, I’m going to need to know who’s going to win. Good little librarian that I am, I don’t want to compromise each committee’s commitment to secrecy. So I’m going to need someone from each award-bestowing body to take the snapshot, and share it with me after the fact. Call it a white-hat black op. Are you in?
How you can help:Do you belong to one of the committees listed below? Send me an email (theanalogdivide at gmail dot com) to let me know you’re willing to rise to this challenge.
Once your group has selected its award winner, go to Amazon and take a screenshot of its Amazon ranking (here’s an example, for 2004’s Newbery winner, The Tale of Desperaux.) If you want extra credit, find its position on the Amazon Top 100 list for its main category (such as Children’s Books, Teens, or Mystery), and take a screenshot of its ranking.
After the announcement has been made, we’ll go back and see whether these titles move up or down on the list.
I’ll update this as volunteers come in. If there’s an award that I’m missing, please let me know.
- Alex Awards – CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
- Andrew Carnegie Medal
- Coretta Scott King Book Awards
- Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement
- John Newbery Medal – CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
- Margaret A. Edwards Award
- May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture
- Michael L. Printz Award – CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
- Mildred L. Batchelder Award
- Odyssey Award
- Pura Belpré Awards
- Randolph Caldecott Medal – CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
- Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal
- Schneider Family Book Award – CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
- Stonewall Book Award – Barbara Gittings Literature Award – CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
- Stonewall Book Award – Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award – CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
- Stonewall Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award – CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
- Theodore Seuss Geisel Award
- William C. Morris Award
- YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
CODES Reading Lists – CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
There are probably too many titles on these lists to measure everything. But if we can pick a couple of titles off of each list, it might serve as a good sample. It’d be nice to have at least one title from each category:
- Historical Fiction
- Science Fiction
- Women’s Fiction
Additional categories (and volunteers) are trickling in.
- Listen List (audiobooks) – CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
- YALSA Great Graphic Novels List – CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
I hope you’ll join me in this crazy experiment. Questions? Comments? Suggestions for better data? Let’s talk in the comments below.