Top 10

I’ve often thought that the idea of a “Top 10 Chart” is somewhat poorly-thought out. Inevitably it will start to drive itself along; a book which hits the number one spot may sell twice as many copies and stay there for twice as long. Thus less popular books won’t make it into the chart and won’t get the same recognition.

I don’t know whether the idea is good or bad; there’s lots of different points to make.

As a consumer, how do I cope with a bookshop? I may well ask friends what books they like. I might look at a chart. Both of these systems are very similar, except that the chart will use a bigger group of people, not all of whom will be my friends. Thus charts are useful to consumers in informing their choice of which book to buy.

Charts stifle innovation. A popular book will stop others reaching the chart and a wider readership. Not only this but charts will be driven towards a mean population, and the sort of books or music that a mean population would enjoy. Driving everything towards a lowest common denominator with the aim of increasing sales cannot be good for the world of literature as a whole.

As a consumer, I’m not entirely likely to always enjoy books which others do. Perhaps there’s a point of view that charts can never entirely work as people’s opinions differ too much.

On balance, I think that charts are here to stay, but I’m not convinced they’re a good thing. The biggest blow to their credibility, in my opinion, came when The Da Vinci code by Dan Brown hit the top of the charts and seemed to stay there forever. I’ll never get back the hours of my life I wasted reading it, but perhaps I won’t make the same mistake again.

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  1. serena
    Posted March 27, 2006 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    I tend to ask around a little, although not much, then browse online – where helpful things like Amazon show you what customers who bought this or that book also ordered. I might also go to somewhere like the college library, which isn’t too daunting, and only THEN will I hit one of the Big Chain Bookstores, where I will browse a bit more, possibly fall prey to a 3 for 2 or similar stupid deal, and buy the book I knew all along I wanted anyway.

  2. Oliver Hall Esq
    Posted March 28, 2006 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    It is amazing how many people have suddenly decided that they didn’t like the Da Vinci code after all – it seems to be all the rage to criticise it at the moment.

    Don’t be swayed by the hype Mr Simpson – admit that you actually rather enjoyed it, otherwise why did you bother finishing it?

    You don’t have to hold it up as a literary classic, but why pretend that it wasn’t jolly good fun to read, when we both know that it was?

  3. simple57uk
    Posted March 28, 2006 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Hall,

    I’d like to point out that I’ve never liked the Da Vinci Code. Discussions on an email list of which we are members can provide evidence of this.

    As a thriller, it’s slow paced. It might have been almost believable, but he made too much up.

    I don’t know why I finished reading it. Maybe I just wanted to find out the ending.

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