Bestseller list

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A bestseller list lists books whose sales are above average, so-called bestsellers .


In order to enable a precise and clear comparison of sales data, the American literary magazine The Bookman launched the first bestseller list as early as 1895. The book trade in North America in the 19th century began to deal with the active control of the sales market. As bestseller titled works were brought to the audience with targeted marketing strategies. The quality of the content of a book faded into the background, while the quantity was seen as a success. Best seller lists not only served to provide an overview of newly published literature, but were also intended to stimulate the sale of the titles published on them. The term bestseller remained unrecognized outside of its use on the Bookman lists for a decade. Even the two major English dictionaries of the time, the American Dictionary of the English Language and the Oxford English Dictionary , did not include the term. In 1905, the first official entry on bestsellers , outside of the Bookman lists, can be found in the literary magazine The Athenaeum .

Two decades later the term found its way into German usage and the center of public interest. In 1927, for example, the magazine Die literäre Welt published its first list, which was much discussed at the beginning. The first three titles were Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf , Alfred Neumann's Der Teufel and Gunnar Gunnarsson's Die Menschen auf Borg . However, there was little interest in such a list; the Börsenblatt für den Deutschen Buchhandel called it “a further narrowing and flattening of intellectual life”, so that the project was abandoned in early 1928. Nevertheless, at the end of the 1920s, all the prerequisites for the bestseller culture that still dominates the book market today were in place. This is nothing new with regard to Erich Maria Remarque's 1929 bestseller Im Westen . This was, published by Ullstein , "advertised with all available means" and "accompanied by a hitherto unknown media attention, as well as quick translations, a film adaptation and many imitation and counter-products". In a very short time the book achieved a circulation of millions.

Further bestseller lists did not establish themselves again until the beginning of the 1960s, when Die Zeit published a seller plate and a short time later the magazine Der Spiegel introduced a similar list. In the years from 1961 to 1971 the Institute for Demoskopie in Allensbach collected the data necessary to compile the bestseller lists, but was replaced in this task by the industry magazine Buchreport . The so-called mirror list has become an important tool in the book industry when it comes to directing customer interest. The SWF literary magazine's best list , on which literary critics cast their votes, has existed since 1975 . There is now a separate list for audio books.

In Munich there is the book advertising instrument of the nine , which summarizes the literary recommendations of the nine largest bookshops. As an alternative to the Spiegel bestseller list in the Buchreport , the magazine Buchmarkt publishes what is known as market information, which is based on data from the Umbreit bar and the Karstadt department store . The bar assortment supplier Libri compiles a list of the 3000 best-selling titles every six months, although this is more of interest to booksellers. Others followed suit, and so there are a multitude of bestseller lists today, especially in the field of fiction. The magazine Eltern now even publishes a separate list for children's and youth literature, which is determined by Buchreport , Libri has its own list for theology and Amazon has a bestseller list for advice.

Subdivision of the bestseller lists

The most common subdivisions are non-fiction and fiction , each for paperback and hardback editions. Over the decades, however, separate lists for audio books , crime novels , children's and youth literature , picture books and business literature have also become established on the book market.

Since October 2007, a new bestseller list with advisory literature has been appearing alternately every two weeks in the news magazine Focus and the Börsenblatt für den Deutschen Buchhandel . This corresponds to a new product group system of the Börsenverein, which now distinguishes such books from non-fiction books. The media control GRP captured this week's sales in Germany 750 range bookstores, department stores and the Internet trade.


Sales to bookstores

Various bar retailers publish the exact numbers of the titles and the copies sent to the bookstores. The magazine for booksellers Der Buchmarkt publishes a monthly list of the 20 best hardcover and paperback titles delivered by Umbreit that have achieved the most sales. Libri does a similar thing, its list containing the 3,000 best titles of the past six months.

Sales at the counter


buchreport has been determining the bestseller lists for Spiegel since 1972. Thebestseller lists for Spiegel (hardcover titles) and Spiegel Online (paperbacks)determinedby buchreport are officially based on actual sales figures . Since 2001 are sales data from more than 400 representatively selected bookstores in Germany at the end of a week directly from the ERP system transmits the bookstore to the Spiegel bestseller server. There the reported sales figures are assigned to the respective titles. The bestseller rankings result from the sales per title. Since October 2012, the Spiegel bestseller lists have been expanded to include a third paperback categoryfor softcover titles. In July 2017, however, the Spiegel editor-in-chief announced that in certain rare cases it may delete books from the list because of their content, regardless of the actual sales figures. The trigger was the book Finis Germania , which was initially secretly and completely deleted from the list by the Spiegel editors-in-chief without further comment, as it considers its content to be anti-Semitic and does not want to support its distribution.

Scanner data

The magazine Focus competes with the Spiegel bestseller list and has Media Control create the data for its own bestseller list . This receives the exact sales figures directly from the scanners in the sales outlets. This is new in that the exact and real sales figures are now used to create a list.


To be distinguished from the actual bestseller lists are so-called best lists, which only refer to the recommendations of a jury and not to actual sales figures. The SWF literary magazine's best list, for example, used to be drawn up by 15 literary critics, and today by 36 literary critics. They name their personal favorites and award points. They can also take turns making a specific recommendation. Since the SWF leaderboard is very popular with literature distributors and private households, it has a significant influence on the formation of opinion in society.


  • Werner Faulstich : Inventory of bestseller research. Approaches - Methods - Income . Wiesbaden 1983, p. 70-193 .
  • Werner Faulstich, Ricarda Strobel : Bestseller as a market phenomenon. A quantitative finding on international literature 1970 in all media . Wiesbaden 1986.
  • Wolfgang Ehrhardt Heinold: books and bookmakers . CF Müller, Heidelberg 2001.
  • Burkhart R. Lauterbach: bestseller. Production and sales strategies . Tübingen Association for Folklore Castle, Tübingen 1979.
  • Ingrid Tomkowiak: Focal points and perspectives of bestseller research. In: Swiss Archives for Folklore. 99, 2003, pp. 49-64.
  • Winfried Wehle (Ed.): Italian bestsellers. In: Italian . No. 34. Frankfurt a. M. 1995

Web links

Wiktionary: bestseller list  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Ernst Fischer: Bestseller in the past and present. In: Joachim-Felix Leonhard u. a. (Ed.): Media Studies. A manual for the development of media and forms of communication. Berlin 1999, p. 771.
  2. ^ David Oels: Bestseller. In: Erhard Schütz u. a. (Ed.): The book market book. The literary business in basic terms. Reinbek 2005. p. 49.
  3. Susanne Beyer: "Finis Germania" and the SPIEGEL bestseller list., July 25, 2017, accessed on July 25, 2017 .
  4. Jan Drees in conversation with Stefan Fries: "Spiegel" bestsellers are not the best-selling books., July 25, 2017, accessed on July 25, 2017 .