Summary:

Today marks the official launch of USA Today’s new books site, books.usatoday.com. The most noticeable changes are to its bestseller list, w…

USA Today bestseller list
photo: USA Today

Today marks the official launch of USA Today’s new books site, books.usatoday.com. The most noticeable changes are to its bestseller list, which now has a more colorful interface and for the first time, features buy links. It’s another way that USA Today’s bestseller list is trying to set itself apart from those of the New York Times (NYSE: NYT), whose book bestseller lists are the most influential in the business. While USA Today’s list doesn’t have the same prestige, it is important in part because of its large circulation.

USA Today has been tracking bestselling e-books for a year longer than the New York Times (since February 2010, compared to February 2011 for the NYT), and takes a more transparent approach to its lists. While the NYT doesn’t reveal the sales outlets whose data it uses for its lists, USA Today publicly lists its sources.

USA Today also takes a more aggregated approach to compiling its lists. While the NYT publishes 20 weekly bestseller lists and three monthly lists, USA Today publishes a single list that includes all categories–fiction, nonfiction, children’s books–and lumps hardcover, paperback and e-books together. If a title is available in all three of those formats, its sales in all three are combined to calculate its rank. The entry for each title mentions which format it sold the most copies in that week. The number-one title on the list this week, James Patterson’s Now You See Her, sold the most copies as an e-book (it is also available as a hardcover).

USA Today’s new book site aims to make it easier to discover and buy books. Each title on the new digital bestseller list–and all of the other 14,000 titles included on the list since 1993–is accompanied by an image of its cover, “which makes browsing the titles more like being in a bookstore or library,” Anthony DeBarros, USA Today’s senior database editor, told us. The titles are clickable and each has a detail page that tells you how long the book has been on the list, and includes the paper’s previous coverage of that book and reader reviews pulled over from Goodreads. Each book has buy links to Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS), Apple’s iBookstore and independent booksellers association Indiebound.

The list has been revamped not just for the web but for tablets and smartphones, DeBarros told us. The paper offers a separate, mobile version of the list. As of March, the AP reported that USA Today’s mobile apps had been downloaded over 8 million times, compared to the NYT’s 11 million.

in compiling its bestseller list, USA Today gets book sales data from the following sources:

Amazon.com, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble.com, Barnes & Noble Inc., Barnes & Noble e-books, BooksAMillion.com, Books-A-Million, Bookland and Books & Co., Borders Books & Music, Davis-Kidd Booksellers (Nashville, Memphis), Hudson Booksellers, Joseph-Beth Booksellers (Lexington, Ky.; Cincinnati, Charlotte, Cleveland, Pittsburgh), Kobo, Inc., Powell’s Books (Portland, Ore.), Powells.com, R.J. Julia Booksellers (Madison, Conn.), Schuler Books & Music (Grand Rapids, Okemos, Eastwood, Alpine, Mich.), Sony (NYSE: SNE) Reader Store, Target, Tattered Cover Book Store (Denver), Waldenbooks.

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