Many kinds of best-sellers in 2011
Updated: 2011-12-20 09:38
Copies of the new biography of Apple CEO Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson are displayed at a bookstore in New York October 24, 2011.[Photo/Agencies]
NEW YORK — There were many kinds of best-sellers in 2011 and they sold in different ways.
Some were meant for success, such as Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" or Tina Fey's "Bossypants" or Stephen King's "11/22/63." Some were surprises, such as Todd Burpo's "Heaven Is for Real" and Adam Mansbach's "Go the (Bleep) to Sleep."
Some books thrived on the Internet alone. Amanda Hocking's vampire romance novels were self-published, ebook million sellers. So were John Locke's crime novels and Darcie Chan's small-town story of a secluded widow, "The Mill River Recluse."
Ebooks have grown to around 20 percent of the market and the percentage should keep rising in 2012 as millions of ever-cheaper devices are purchased. The e-pull proved strong enough to persuade a famous holdout, J.K. Rowling, and a nearly as famous resister, Ray Bradbury, to go digital. The e-library of older works expanded greatly in 2011, with additions including Alice Walker's "The Color Purple," Joseph Heller's "Catch-22" and Jim Collins' business favorite "Good to Great." Expect digital versions of Tennessee Williams' plays in the near future.
But the e-revolution remains in its early stages and books can still sell big through paper alone. Mansbach's "Go the (Bleep) to Sleep," the summer's forbidden pleasure, was a sensation before an e-edition was available. Jeff Kinney's latest "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" sold 1 million copies in its first week, all on paper.
Meanwhile, some key works remain untouched by digital times, including a few likely to appear on reading lists for the foreseeable future:
"The Catcher in the Rye": J.D. Salinger's death nearly two years ago has yet to unlock any mysteries about his life or his career. No new Salinger works have been authorized and his published works remain available only in paper. Literary agent Phyllis Westberg of Harold Ober Associates, which helps manage Salinger's literary estate, says no e-editions are planned.
"To Kill a Mockingbird": Harper Lee's only novel is a favorite of reading groups and civic programs, but don't look for it on your Kindle. Lee's publisher, HarperCollins, said in a statement: "Currently there are no plans to release it as an e-book, though conversations are ongoing about doing so."
"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian": Sherman Alexie has said a lot of nasty things about ebooks, worrying especially about piracy, the power of Amazon.com and the decline of independent stores. Much of his work is unavailable for downloads, including this popular young adult novel, winner of the National Book Award in 2009.
"Gravity's Rainbow": Thomas Pynchon is an avatar for the Information Age, but his books must be read the old-fashioned way. A spokeswoman for his publisher, Penguin Group (USA), said she had no information on any ebook plans. Messages left with Pynchon's agent, Melanie Jackson, were not returned.
"Where the Wild Things Are": An e-book from Maurice Sendak? Why not ask him to dance in "The Nutcracker"? Or as he told The Associated Press in September: "It's not a book. It's a tchotchke. It's a toy."