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Amazon's top titles go mainstream

The online bookstore's top-selling list from 1997 reflects the influx of general-interest customers shopping online.

2 min read
After a bumpy start, online shopping may be going more mainstream. Just ask online bookseller (AMZN).

Last year, techie books were the online bookseller's hottest commodity. But amazon.com's top 10 bestsellers this year, the online store's top ten titles more closely resembled the legendary New York Times best-seller list.

"Our top-selling title in 1996 was David Siegel's Creating Killer Web Sites. In 1997, our No. 1 best-seller was Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, an anguishing personal account of an ill-fated Mount Everest expedition. I can think of no better illustration of the changes in Internet shopping over the past year," Amazon.com senior vice president David Risher said in a statement.

In the span of 12 months, Amazon.com's No. 1 best-seller has gone from the high-tech Web page guide to a nonfiction book that has been on the Times' list for 36 weeks. The trend may confirm analysts' predictions that an increasing number of mainstream consumers are shopping online.

Although Creating Killer Web Sites is still high on last year's list, many of Amazon.com's more than 1 million unique visitors were depleting its virtual shelves of titles such as Songs in Ordinary Time, which is offered in Oprah Winfrey's popular book club, and Cold Mountain, which is the current reigning champ on national fiction book lists.

However, online shopping comes with risks consumers won't find in brick-and-mortar stores. For example, last week, Amazon.com's site was inaccessible for nearly 12 hours due to a technical problem.

Still, analysts are closely watching the online bookstore industry, as it was one of the first traditional retail segments to succeed in e-commerce. Most online bookstores have low overhead, easy-to-use search engines, and lower prices than offline shops, making books great products to push on the Net.

Amazon.com was the first out of the gate, but the competition is growing. Barnes & Noble came online last year, and has been sealing partnerships all over the Net with players such as the New York Times. Other booksellers include BookServe.com and Book Stacks Unlimited. Borders also said it would launch an online bookstore this year.