| Sales Rank Express |

An Eye on Amazon

Aaron Shepard’s Blog for Sales Rank Express

S.R.E. to Be “Deprecated”

Jan. 25, 2020

Amazon has announced a mammoth upgrade to Product Advertising API, the digital platform that supplies data to Sales Rank Express. According to the official announcement, “You may continue to use both PA API 4.0 and PA API 5.0 without disruption through March 9, 2020. After that date, we will deprecate PA API 4.0.”

Unfortunately, the changes in version 5 are so great—including a complete change of language for data delivery (from XML to JSON)—that adapting Sales Rank Express would take almost a complete rewrite. At this point, such a job would be impractical for either Aaron or Mario. At the same time, version 5 lacks some book-specific features that S.R.E. depends on. So, we have made the difficult decision not to update Sales Rank Express.

It remains to be seen exactly what Amazon means in this case by “deprecate.” With luck, Sales Rank Express could continue to function into the foreseeable future. Without luck, it could stop working at any time after March 9. Or we may see something in between: Sales Rank Express limping slowly, but with dignity, into the sunset.

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S.R.E. Limits Charts

Sept. 13, 2019

With Amazon’s most recent restrictions on data access, and with the excessive, unwelcome use of Sales Rank Express by book spammers—a.k.a. “Kindle entrepreneurs” or “Kindlepreneurs”—the rank tracking operation for S.R.E.’s charts has become overloaded. To restore a better level of functioning, books not viewed within 30 days in any country will have tracking automatically deactivated, and books with no listed publishing company name will not be eligible for tracking at all. S.R.E.’s other data, though, including current sales rank, will remain available for all books.

Update, Nov. 11, 2019—Following the success of these measures in reducing the load on rank tracking, the grace period for titles not viewed has been extended to 45 days.

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S.R.E. Falls Back

Nov. 8, 2018—Updated Jan. 19, 2019

Due to another couple of rounds of rule-tightening by Amazon, Sales Rank Express has lost access to data from most countries and has therefore fallen back to just two—the U.S. and the U.K. No restoration of other countries is likely.

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S.R.E. Adds Australia

Oct. 16, 2018

At long last, Sales Rank Express has been able to add Australia to its roster of countries. Also, Japan has been restored. Mexico and Brazil may be added in the future, if there is enough interest.

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S.R.E. Bounces Back

Sept. 18, 2018

Sales Rank Express has managed to regain most of the functionality it lost recently due to changes in Amazon policies. All previously available countries are available again, with the exception of Japan. Weekly charts have been restored, though without the link to NovelRank for more historical reporting.

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S.R.E. Hunkers Down

Sept. 1, 2018

Due to changes in Amazon policies, Sales Rank Express will no longer be able to offer weekly charts or, for most countries, to offer data at all.

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S.R.E. Goes Mobile

June 11, 2015

Sales Rank Express has been entirely re‑engineered to adapt itself to tablets, phones, and other mobile devices. Now you can rely on Sales Rank Express wherever you go!

Some of the adaptation is automatic, depending on your screen size. But the S.R.E. search form now also gives you a choice among three distinct views:

Standard. This view, the default, gives you all the info that Sales Rank Express can offer. It is especially suited to desktop and laptop computers.

Lite. This view omits two special features that are inserted from outside sources—tracking charts and review stats. These features can significantly slow down Sales Rank Express, so you might choose this view if you’re on a slow connection or an older device. It’s especially suited to tablets.

Mini. This view, the fastest and most compact, leaves only enough data for rank checking. It’s especially suited to smartphones.

Though each view is optimal on a certain kind of device, any view can be chosen for any device. You can even use Standard view on a smartphone—especially when rotated to landscape mode—if you accept the extra scrolling and the slower performance.

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S.R.E. Adds Kindle A/V, Comics, Board Books

Oct. 17, 2014

Sales Rank Express has three new options on the Format menu for all countries.

Kindle with Audio/Video is an “enhanced” Kindle book with audio or video embedded. Though these books are included when you choose “Kindle,” this option lets you search for them alone.

Comic is the staple‑bound format that’s traditional for comics. Though this search may bring up other bindings too, such as graphic novels in paperback, that’s generally because of mislisting.

Board Book is a picture book printed on cardboard for very young children.

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S.R.E. Adds Audible

Oct. 4, 2014—Updated Oct. 14, 2014

Sometime when I wasn’t looking, Amazon began sending data on Audible Audio Editions to Sales Rank Express. To take advantage of this, I have now added “Audiobook—Download” to the format menu, so you can search for these audiobooks on their own. This is for the three countries where Amazon currently sells these books—US, UK, and Germany. If there’s another country I should add later, please let me know.

Sales Rank Express has been labeling these books with “No Length.” I've now replaced that with running time in minutes. Note, though, that all info on linked versions is missing, since Amazon still doesn’t send that.

Update—I’ve continued to refine the display of data for Audible Audio Editions and audiobooks in general. For instance, Audible sales ranks now specify that they are in a separate ranking for audiobook downloads (just like the separate rankings for Kindle books).

I’ve also added a new audiobook option to the Format menu for all countries: “Audiobook—Player.” Amazon’s official name for this format in English is “Preloaded Digital Audio Player.”

Unfortunately, S.R.E.’s partner, NovelRank, does not at this time support historical tracking of audiobooks, so Sales Rank Express cannot offer the charting available for other kinds of books.

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S.R.E. Adds India

July 15, 2013

Amazon’s India store has become more independent, and data is now available to Sales Rank Express. Just click the “India” tab.

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S.R.E. Charts Now Logarithmic

July 15, 2013

Over the past few weeks, you may have noticed a change in S.R.E.’s sales rank charts. We’ve been experimenting with logarithmic charting instead of linear. Basically, this means the values are spaced farther apart toward the top of the chart than toward the bottom. This compensates for Amazon’s sales ranks, which change in smaller increments as books reach higher ranks.

The overall effect is that, when the chart shows a wide range of ranks, movements at the top are not so hard to pick out. The downside is that these charts make it harder to gauge numerical positions—though you can still cursor over the line to see ranks at specific points.

It took me some time to get used to the new charts, but now I wouldn’t want to go back. Hope you feel the same.

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S.R.E. Adds Kindle in Japan and Canada

Dec. 10, 2012

Sales Rank Express can check Kindle Books in the new stores for Japan and Canada. (Checking in Japan has actually been available since late October.) On the country’s tab, just select “Kindle” from the Format menu.

With this addition, Kindle stores and Kindle checking in Sales Rank Express are available for all Amazon countries except China.

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S.R.E. Adds Kindle in Spain and Italy

Dec. 1, 2011

Amazon opened new Kindle stores today in Spain and Italy, and both sites can already be checked with Sales Rank Express. On the country’s tab, just select “Kindle” from the Format menu.

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Nov. 17, 2011

The rebuild of Sales Rank Express is now out of its Beta period. Of course, that means something major is sure to go wrong right away, but at least now you’ll have someone to blame!

There’s still work I want to do on this—especially, making search settings sticky on Apple mobile devices. I also have some ideas for speeding up the site. But major projects like that will take me a while.

Remember, if the new offerings of Amazon Customer Reviews data and NovelRank tracking slow you down too much, you can always turn them off with options on the search form.


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Tracking Comes to Sales Rank Express

Oct. 1, 2011

Though Sales Rank Express is still in the middle of its rebuild and update, there is one new feature I couldn’t wait to make public. Limited tracking is now available on books in all countries!

Thanks to my new partner, Mario Lurig of NovelRank, you now have the option of seeing a chart of a book’s sales ranks for the entire past week. Not only does this mean you can see what your book was doing all the time you weren’t checking S.R.E. hourly, but for most books, you can actually see a book’s sales as spikes on the chart. Curious how many copies a book sold in the past week? Just count them. Want to know when those sales occurred? Just mouse over the chart to get the date and hour.

To activate tracking for any book, follow its “Start Tracking” link. This opens a new window or tab at NovelRank, where you can click a single button to add all countries at once. Within a few hours, Sales Rank Express will start showing a chart for that book, and a week later, you’ll be seeing a full seven days of sales ranks at a time.

As an added bonus, you can click the book’s “See More” button to go to the book’s page on NovelRank, where you can view extended tracking info. Note, though, that NovelRank checks ranks at most once an hour, and less often for less active books—so, for up-to-the-second sales ranks, you’ll still need Sales Rank Express!

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S.R.E. Web Widget to Disappear

Oct. 25, 2010—Updated Dec. 8, 2010

Due to new limits and requirements from Amazon, the S.R.E. Web Widget will be discontinued. I’ll keep it working through the rest of the year to provide time for replacement, but I plan to disable it in January. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Update—Recent changes at Amazon have unexpectedly removed much of the widget’s functionality, and trouble at my Web host has broken it entirely. Rather than get it fixed so it can limp along a few more weeks, I have shut it down early. Again, sorry for any inconvenience this might cause.

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Amazon in Italy

Nov. 24, 2010

Amazon has launched a site in Italy, Amazon.it. No data is yet available to Sales Rank Express for that site, but the word from Amazon is that it’s coming. I will update this post as needed.

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Big Changes #2: New Links and Button

Nov. 12, 2010

Sales Rank Express has a new button and new links—partly in response to Amazon’s latest bout of destruction (see part 1 of this post, below), and partly to take advantage of new resources.

Though it doesn’t make up for the loss of data on ratings averages and reviews totals, there’s a new “See Reviews” button to the right of each book listing, right under “Fix Data.” This takes you to an Amazon page that does show that info, along with the reviews themselves in newer-to-older order—the same page that Sales Rank Express used to link from the book’s reviews total.

Meanwhile, the S.R.E. home page has two new links to Amazon.com, both to new and impressive features of Author Central (a program that’s really doing things right). The first is a “Sales Rank” page that provides rank tracking for all of an author’s books, nicely complementing the rank checking you do in Sales Rank Express. The second is a “Customer Reviews” page, with consolidated reviews for all of an author’s books, in newer-to-older order. For some of you, this could even be more useful than S.R.E.’s now‑defunct reviews reporting, because you don’t have to carefully scan data to discover new reviews.

Of course, both these pages can also be reached with tabs within Author Central itself, but hopefully the S.R.E. links will make them a bit more handy, if you’re already here. Note that you’ll need to sign in to Author Central before reaching one of these pages—but you’ll automatically be asked to do that and then forwarded.

So far, these Author Central features are U.S.‑only. If you notice them elsewhere before I do, please let me know!

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Big Changes #1: Amazon Drops a Bomb

Nov. 12, 2010

The program that delivers data to Sales Rank Express used to be a golden child of Amazon’s. But nowadays, it’s more like an unwanted stepchild. Instead of spending effort on improving and expanding the program, Amazon seems only intent on trimming resource usage, while letting functions deteriorate in ever-decreasing usefulness. Even when Amazon does add a feature, it does so indifferently and incompetently, as in the case of restoring Kindle data.

So it happens that, while economizing on sending out reviews content, Amazon has also (and without proper notification) carelessly removed all summary data about reviews and ratings. That’s why Sales Rank Express can no longer report a book’s average customer rating, or the total number of its reviews, or the date of the most recent one—info that I and many others have felt to be among the most vital the program provided. And the current overseers of this program are so callous that they literally have left no reliable, publicly known way to communicate to them about it.

As usual, though, I’ve made the best of what is offered with a new button and new links. I’m writing about those in part 2 of this post (above).

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Kindle UK, Tags, and a Widget Update

Aug. 8, 2010

There have been a number of changes at Amazon lately, with reflections in changes at Sales Rank Express. Perhaps the most important has been the opening of a new Kindle Store in the United Kingdom. Though I admit it took me by surprise, I’ve quickly added a Kindle Book option to S.R.E.’s Format menu for the U.K. So, you can now check your Kindle Books there as easily as in the U.S.

I had also planned to update the Web Widget for Kindle Books to include a U.K. option. But after looking things over, I felt it made more sense to merge that widget with the regular S.R.E. Web Widget. So, that widget has now been updated to 3.0, with a Kindle option added and a slight redesign as well. This is not at all a required update, unless you want to report Kindle U.K. sales. The previous versions of both the Web Widget and the Web Widget for Kindle Books should continue to work just fine. Just be aware, though, that you can’t mix different versions of either widget on the same page.

One more change you may notice is that S.R.E.’s tags reporting is gone. Amazon announced that not many Web sites use the tags data that Amazon sends out, so it will soon stop sending it. It could be worse.

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New S.R.E. Widget for Kindle Books

June 6, 2010

The S.R.E. Web Widget is now available in a version that’s optimized and simplified for your Kindle Books. As with the original S.R.E. Web Widget, you can display Amazon sales rank, customer rating, and more, right on your own blog or Web site, and also include your Amazon affiliate ID for commissions.

Please get in touch if you’d like to volunteer to adapt the S.R.E. Widgets to Facebook.

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Kindle Books Are Back!

May 5, 2010

Sales Rank Express can once more supply info on Kindle Books, courtesy of Amazon, which shut off the data last August.

Why the change of heart? Last year, Amazon apparently figured it was so far ahead of the game in ebooks that it didn’t need its loyal Associates to help the Kindle along. So it stopped all commissions on Kindle Books and with no notice or good reason whatever halted the flow of data that helped Associates link to them.

But guess what? Amazon was more vulnerable than it imagined. Now, with Apple and Google being chief among the wolves at the door, Amazon has decided it needs its friends after all. So, it’s trying to make up and play nice.

Yes, that’s exactly the kind of “friend” Amazon is.

By the way, you may notice that the Kindle data is incomplete. At this writing, the list price is given, but nothing else appears in the Offers row. That’s because Amazon has forgotten to include the rest. Hopefully, they’ll correct the oversight—but I’m not counting on it.

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New Book on Lightning Source

Mar. 17, 2010

POD for Profit, my new book on working with Lightning Source, is now on sale at Amazon.com and elsewhere.

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S.R.E. Loses Kindle Books

Sept. 20, 2009—Updated Sept. 29, 2009

Sometime in August, Amazon’s Web Services stopped including Kindle Books in results it sent to Sales Rank Express. They still show up as “Linked Versions,” but you can’t search for them or display them with the “Get Versions” button.

This is a known problem that has been widely reported on the related Amazon forum. Though it took weeks to get a response from Amazon, a staff member has finally said they’re investigating.

My guess, though, is that the loss is permanent. The branch of Web Services used by S.R.E. has now been given the horrendous name Product Advertising API and has been moved to Amazon Associates. The message has been that the only purpose of this service is to sell Amazon products for sales commissions—and no commissions are provided on Kindle Book sales. So, those books were probably removed on purpose, even if some Amazon staff members aren’t yet aware of it.

Of course, if I get confirmation of that, I’ll remove the menu items relating to the Kindle. Until then, I’ll probably leave them as is, in hopes that Amazon really hasn’t gone out of its way again to screw its loyal developers.

Update—In a forum post, though giving no reason, Amazon has officially confirmed that the removal was intentional and permanent.

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The Saving of a Widget

May 25, 2009—Updated June 18, 2009

The original title of this post was “The Death of a Widget,” because that’s what I was expecting on August 15. That’s the day Amazon Web Services will begin requiring a complex authentication scheme for the kind of data requests sent by Sales Rank Express. This proved possible for S.R.E. proper, thanks to the heroic efforts of a volunteer programmer I know only as fractalnavel. But I didn’t believe the S.R.E. Web Widget would be so lucky.

I was wrong. Further effort by fractalnavel led to a scheme I was able to develop into a 2.0 version of the widget. It’s not as fast or versatile as the original widget, but it works and should continue working beyond Amazon’s deadline.

You’ll find it on the regular S.R.E. Web Widget page. If you have an older version installed on your blog or Web page, you have until August 15 to replace it with the new one.

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S.R.E. Adds Format Searching

Mar. 13, 2009—Updated June 13, 2009

Sales Rank Express has reached a new level of power with the addition of format searching. You’ll find the new Format selection menu just under the usual fill‑in boxes on the S.R.E. form.

Leave the menu choice at “Any,” and you’ll get the same results you always have, with Amazon determining the featured format. Or set it to one or a combination of specific bindings or other formats for more focused results. Now you can make sure that the sales ranks you check will be all for trade paperbacks, or all for Kindle Books, or even all for audiobooks—with a total of 17 possible choices in the U.S. and 11 elsewhere.

A few tips for using this new feature: Since the set of choices differs by country, your selection applies only to the country you’re searching in at the time—so, make sure you check on your selection if you switch countries. (Of course, Sales Rank Express will try to remember what you chose for that country last time.)

Also, specifying a format affects only what appears in S.R.E.’s primary search results. Sales Rank Express will still include links to related versions in other formats as reported by Amazon, just as before. (But Amazon will not report such links for Kindle Books.)

Keep in mind that the search is conducted not among all books actually in your specified format but among books that Amazon says are in that format. If a particular book doesn’t show up in results, this may mean that Amazon’s data needs correcting.

For more tips and explanations for format searching, be sure to read the new entry in the S.R.E. FAQ, “What are all those book formats I can choose from?

Update—Japan was originally excluded from format searching because of the uncovering of a longstanding incompatibility between S.R.E. memory functions and non‑Latin characters. This has now been fixed, and all format searching—as well as all memory functions—work as they should.

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Aiming at Amazon 2.0 Is Here!

Jan. 5, 2009

Aiming at Amazon 2.0 is finally on sale—but it may not be what you expected! For details, please see my Publishing Blog.

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“The Most Useless Widget Devised by Human Hands”

Jan. 17, 2008

GalleyCat has once again honored Sales Rank Express, this time by dubbing its new Web Widget “The Most Useless Widget Devised by Human Hands.” Thanks, GalleyCat, for another great plug!

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S.R.E. Web Widget 1.2 Now Available

Nov. 17, 2007—Updated Jan. 18, 2008

The S.R.E. Web Widget is now available. Here’s your chance to display Amazon sales rank, customer rating, and more, right on your own blog or Web site. Show one item or many, including any book, CD, DVD, or anything else listed on either Amazon.com or any other Amazon site worldwide. Your Amazon affiliate ID can be included for commissions, too. The widget is easy to install and won’t ever slow down your page.

After this, who knows? Maybe there will be S.R.E. widgets for your desktop and iPhone.

Update—Version 1.1 improves compatibility with Blogger and other blogging environments, and also with Web pages using DTDs for HTML 4 Strict and XHTML. Version 1.2 improves compatibility with Blogger when not placed in the sidebar.

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S.R.E. Does Tags

Nov. 12, 2007

All of you Web 2.0 social networkers know that tags are hot. Users get to identify sites, products, and just about anything else by applying their own words or short phrases, to help themselves and everyone else find them. Amazon.com introduced its own tagging feature earlier this year and has shown increasing determination to use the tags to market similar products. But where has Sales Rank Express been?

Well, we’re finally catching up. Starting now, Sales Rank Express has a new entry in the Scores column of its results page: “Taggings.” This tells you exactly how many times a book has been tagged by Amazon customers. And guess what? You can’t get that ready‑made figure on Amazon’s own site! Yes, Amazon will tell you how many unique tags have been applied to a book, and how many customers have applied each tag to it. But you can’t get the book’s total number of taggings without counting them up yourself—or, now, getting it from Sales Rank Express.

I figured you wouldn’t want the S.R.E. results page cluttered up with every detail about tagging, so the total number is all I’ve included. But of course, that number includes a link to the full listing on Amazon.

Due to Amazon’s implementation, this feature of Sales Rank Express does have limitations. (Which is why I’ve been dragging my feet about adding it.) The tagging number is not available yet when you search for paired titles with the “Get Pairings” button. Also, tags are so far part of Amazon.com only, not Amazon sites in other countries. I’ll try to keep an eye on that to show the info for other countries as they come on board—but if you notice tags on those other sites before I do, please let me know!

By the way, if you’d like some fun, first check a book’s taggings on Sales Rank Express, then go to Amazon.com and add a tag yourself, then come back to Sales Rank Express to check it again. Unlike most S.R.E. data, which is updated by Amazon hourly, the tagging number changes at once!

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S.R.E. Comes to Large (and Small) Screens

Oct. 20, 2007

Sales Rank Express was initially designed the way most Web sites are: to look best on an average desktop monitor set at average resolution. The problem with this approach is that more and more people are viewing the Web on screens that depart farther and farther from that average.

The change is hitting Web designers from two directions. On the “large” side, screens are getting bigger with denser resolutions. On these displays, the standard Web page looks too small. And this will get much worse in the coming years, with monitors taking advantage of “resolution independence” such as is being introduced by Apple this month in its Leopard update of Mac OS X.

Ironically, the strongest challenge in the other direction comes also from Apple: the use of a standard Web browser on a handheld. Won’t people want to use Sales Rank Express in Safari on the iPhone? You bet! And don’t I want them to? Right again!

If you’ve already tried to use Sales Rank Express on a much larger or smaller screen, I probably don’t need to tell you that the results have not been pretty. So, this week I took up the challenge and overhauled the code that controls S.R.E.’s screen layout.

The result (I believe) is that Sales Rank Express now scales fairly gracefully to any screen on which you would find a standard Web browser. The effect isn’t perfect, and on small screens you will still need to scroll sideways for some functions, but I doubt you’ll have many complaints. (If you’re curious how I did it, I specified nearly all linear measurements with CSS using ems, a typographic unit that the browser will scale along with text.)

To take advantage of this site’s new adaptability, simply use your browser’s text size or zoom commands to shrink or enlarge the display. Internet Explorer has both kinds of command—neither of which work as well as on the other major browsers—but the zoom command will probably work best for you. Just don’t use both kinds of command on that browser together, or you’ll get a real mess!

Oh, and no, I haven’t yet redesigned this page for scaling, or any of the other subsidiary S.R.E. pages. But I’ll try to get to it soon.

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Author Videos on Amazon

Oct. 9, 2007—Updated Oct. 16, 2007

If you want to know what the next big thing will be in Amazon promotion, I’ll tell you right now: author videos. Amazon has already introduced video into customer reviews. It can only be a matter of time—and not a very long time, I’m guessing—before video becomes an option for AmazonConnect.

To get ready for that day, I’ve already purchased a Flip Video Camcorder, which Amazon has been pushing for use on customer reviews and is now selling for $150 or less. This beauty and other devices like it are going to blow the lid off online video. In ease of use and quality of output, it is nothing less than a revelation.

If you’re already handy with a conventional camcorder, forget everything you know. This thing has just four controls: a red on–off button, a play button, a delete button, and a circular direction pointer. There’s no manual, and you hardly even have to read the quick card that comes with it. Super simple.

The camcorder has a built‑in USB plug, and the camcorder itself acts as an external USB drive. Its editing software is on the camcorder itself. You can run it from there, or just pull the AVI files onto your computer for editing with other software. There’s no tape, no discs, nothing but flash memory. Neat!

But what truly amazed me was that this camcorder produced video of decent quality that was ready to go, right out of the can. Sure, you can compress it further to save space and transmission time, but it already comes in a somewhat compressed, computer-ready format. If your videos are under a few minutes, you can send them as is. And even if you wind up compressing them further, the computer-ready format means you don’t have to be super careful about your settings to avoid ruining them, as I’ve discovered is easy to do with video from more expensive camcorders.

The big test, of course, is how it looks online. So I uploaded a video to YouTube. The video certainly doesn’t look as good there as it does on my computer, but it’s still very acceptable—and this is on a video that was shot without a tripod (which would have helped a lot).

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. The bottom line is: If you’re going to be promoting on Amazon, you’re going to need one of these things—or something very like it!

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Faster Checking with Save and Recall

Oct. 9, 2007

It’s been quite some time since I’ve had to type anything for my main search on Sales Rank Express. I used to have a private version of the S.R.E. form on my computer with my entries built in as defaults—but with all the tinkering I do with the form, maintaining a version with permanent differences got to be a hassle.

Then I figured, why don’t I add a button that fills in the fields for me automatically? So, I did that—but again, it was a difference between my private form and the public one. I finally solved the problem by adding a secret button to both forms. (Can you can guess where it is?)

Having a button like this turned out to be tremendously useful, because I could change my entries to check other books, then revert to my main search with the click of a button. In fact, it was so useful, I started feeling guilty that other S.R.E. users didn’t have the benefit of it.

So, now you do. The new Save buttons on Sales Rank Express enable you to take a snapshot of your entries at any point. You can then make any changes you like for a different check, then revert to your saved entries by clicking a Recall button. And, going one up on anything I had devised for myself, you can save and recall two distinct sets of entries. I’m already finding that extremely useful!

A couple of caveats: The entries saved are only those that apply to all countries—author, publisher, title, ISBN, and availability. Also, make sure you’re reaching Sales Rank Express by the exact same address each time. As with S.R.E.’s other memory functions, your browser will store settings differently for “salesrankexpress.com” and “www.salesrankexpress.com.”

Of course, if you never vary what you check, you won’t need these buttons, since Sales Rank Express will remember your settings anyway. But if, like me, you often switch from one check to another, this should speed up your work quite a bit.

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N.Y. Times Redux

Sept. 3, 2007

Sales Rank Express today made The New York Times for the second time in a month as Lyndon Stambler published a follow‑up to his Aug. 6 feature on Amazon sales ranks. The new article is “Amazon Drops Inventory Data, Irking Writers.”

It’s actually about the withdrawal by Amazon Web Services of the stock numbers featured mostly on Sales Rank Express—a withdrawal that apparently occurred in response to the first article. But since The Times had already given us a big plug, they wanted the S.R.E. angle played down—which perhaps leaves some readers scratching their heads as to what it all means.

Anyway, the article still gives our address, so hopefully it will bring more traffic. And my redesign of the S.R.E. form came out just in time for it. (What a coincidence!)

By the way, the article also gives a very nice plug to our friend Steve Weber and his wonderful Plug Your Book! Congratulations, Steve!

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No More FTP Info!

Aug. 28, 2007

Still smarting from the loss of Amazon’s stock numbers, S.R.E. must now also withdraw its Book Covers FTP Request Form. This form automated your requests to Amazon for FTP info from all six Amazon sites, for submitting book cover images. Sadly, the automatic responses from Amazon’s email addresses no longer return FTP info but simply provide links to the site’s Publishers and Authors Guide, from which FTP info was removed months ago.

But even though Amazon no longer tells you how to access them, most of the old public FTP accounts are still active, if you can just get hold of a username and password. I’m not going to jeopardize Sales Rank Express by posting any here, but you still find some on the Web by searching on “ftp.amazon.com” and “ftp-1.amazon.com” (with or without the quote marks).

Is this latest loss more fallout from the recent publicity for S.R.E.? Maybe, but I doubt it. It’s more likely just the inevitable final step in Amazon’s process of hiding this info from the public.

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A Measure of Fame

Aug. 12, 2007

I finally got my Web site traffic stats for the past week, so I can now tell you the immediate effect on Sales Rank Express of the week’s publicity in The Times, Seth Godin’s blog, GalleyCat, and elsewhere.

Total visits for the week—that’s visits, not hits—was 10,043. That’s over ten times the past month’s weekly average of close to a thousand. Twenty‑eight percent of that traffic was on Monday (the day of the Times article and the GalleyCat posting), and 34% was on Tuesday (the day of Seth Godin’s posting). After that, it trailed off, but after a week, it’s still several times higher than in the past.

Below are the week’s top referrers (sites from which visitors followed links), with the number of visitors sent. These are all the sites that sent over 5% of the week’s traffic. Note that GalleyCat doesn’t show up, because it linked only to the Times article, not to Sales Rank Express.

Did Sales Rank Express have trouble keeping up with demand? Nope. The site is designed for minimal bandwidth requirements. It could have taken a whole lot more activity without a shudder. And hopefully, that’s what it will eventually be doing!

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Say Good‑Bye to Stock Numbers!

Aug. 10, 2007

The biggest downside to this week’s publicity for Sales Rank Express—at least, so far—is that Jeff Bezos was perusing The Times over breakfast, came across the phrase “whose Web site can tell authors how many of their books Amazon has in stock and track sales,” and freaked.

At least, that’s how I imagine it. But however it happened, the Amazon E‑Commerce Service of Amazon Web Services ceased to supply stock numbers on the evening of Aug. 8, two days after the Times article. And today, in response to inquiries about this in the ECS forum, “Matt@AWS” wrote, “For business reasons, we can no longer return the Quantity for Amazon offers. While this is certainly an interesting piece of data it is not core to promoting products on Amazon, which is the primary intent of Amazon ECS.”

So, this extremely helpful data is no longer available in Sales Rank Express or anywhere else outside Amazon. I can’t say I’m shocked—I always figured it was some kind of oversight that Amazon would reveal it. Still, I wish they’d given me notice before pulling the plug!

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S.R.E. Hits the Big Time

Aug. 10, 2007

Sales Rank Express hit the Big Time on Monday, Aug. 6, when The New York Times Business section ran Lyndon Stambler’s article “The Highs and the Lows of Rankings on Amazon.” Not only did the article mention S.R.E., it placed it in the first paragraph and ran with a picture of yours truly gazing lovingly at an S.R.E. results page!

The story was almost immediately picked up by GalleyCat, an influential publishing industry blog. They even ran the photo from The Times. (Huh?)

To capitalize on the publicity and spread the word farther, I sent out a press release on Monday and Wednesday. This made its way to Seth Godin, founder of Squidoo and legendary author of Unleashing the Ideavirus, who mentioned S.R.E. on his blog.

I don’t have traffic figures yet—I’m only set up for a weekly report—but there certainly has been enough email flurry to convince me that S.R.E. is getting a lot of extra visitors.

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Tracking Sales by Sales Ranks and Stock Numbers

May 9, 2007—Updated May 10, 2007

I’ve heard a lot of questions and speculations over the years about how soon a book’s Amazon sales rank will jump in response to a sale. I finally decided to find out for myself, and also to compare that with how soon Amazon reports a change in the stock number. Sales Rank Express has made that easy!

I tested by purchasing several low‑cost Dover books on Amazon.com—two in stock at Amazon, two not in stock at Amazon but ready for drop shipping from Ingram, one sold by Amazon but not in stock either there or at either Ingram or Baker & Taylor, and one sold only on Amazon’s Marketplace. (If you’re not familiar with the various permutations of the Amazon stock number displayed by Sales Rank Express—and how to recognize them—please see the S.R.E. FAQ.) I then checked Sales Rank Express after each of Amazon’s regular hourly updates of both sales ranks and stock numbers.

I’ve already worked the most important results into the S.R.E. FAQ, but here they are in a nutshell: In each case, the jump in sales rank came about two to three hours after the sale. The stock number change for Amazon’s own stock came more quickly—in about one to two hours.

For the books stocked only at Ingram, the stock number change was quicker still, coming within the first hour—and actually, since I purchased one book shortly before an hourly update, I can say it came in this case within minutes. On Ingram’s ipage, the same stock changes took two to three hours after the sale to show up in a “Real Time Stock Check.” Sales rank and stock number timing remained the same when I ordered one of these books outside Ingram business hours—around 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time for a book in Ingram’s Pennsylvania warehouse.

As Morris Rosenthal gently pointed out to me, these results apply to the time of testing and may not be valid generally or for long. Still, I hope this gives ballpark help to those of you who hover over your computers trying to follow your book sales minutely from numbers dancing on a screen.

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Welcome to the New S.R.E. Blog!

May 9, 2007

I decided to offer this blog in place of the “What’s New?” page. Seems a bit cooler, yes? And it lets me discuss things in more depth.

This is my week for adding support features to the site. Besides this blog, we just launched SRE‑Talk, a discussion list for Sales Rank Express and related issues on Amazon. I’ll be active on the list, of course, and my wife, Anne L. Watson, will moderate. I’m happy to say that initial invitations are already bringing in some heavyweight list members, the very first being Morris Rosenthal—author of Print-on-Demand Book Publishing, founder of pod_publishers, prominent blogger, and influential Amazon sales rank analyst—who hasn’t been on a publishing list himself for maybe a couple of years. We hope you’ll join us too!

Also, please check out the revised and reorganized S.R.E. FAQ, especially the new separate sections on Amazon sales ranks and stock numbers.

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