Here are the ten books that were the most popular among readers buying through our U.S. and U.K. Amazon links in 2009.
It's not easy to count, but I would guess that you—a collective "you"—bought roughly 5,000 different titles in 2009. By far the lion's share of those titles sold between one and ten copies each. A few, however, mainly because of reviews we published, far outpaced the average.
Don't think, however, that we can necessarily drive sales on purpose. Some of the books I "plugged" in 2009 didn't do well with readers. To give you a concrete example, of the four books I recommended two days ago, on Tuesday, Thomas Ruff's jpegs sold six copies, and First Light sold 54 copies. Your collective taste and interests play a big part in what does well.
In general, less expensive books tend to sell more than more expensive ones; technical books tend to sell better than picture books, because they're seen as being more practical and taste plays less of a part; and there are some cultural variations: Simon Roberts' We English and Jane Bown's Exposures sold much better in the U.K. than in the U.S., and books of U.S. western landscape photography, beloved of Americans, generally leave European readers unimpressed.
The number of copies sold follows each title. The number should be considered approximate, because I got lazy and did not check sales of these titles from Amazon Germany and Amazon Canada.
1. Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art by John Szarkowski (Museum of Modern Art) (U.K. link) (466 copies purchased). By far our best-selling title, probably because I named it as one of my all-time favorite photography books and the "basic primer" that I think anyone who is seriously interested in photography should own. A fine, simple, discursive introduction to the history of accomplishment in the medium, effortlessly (and painlessly!) incorporating a great number of accepted critical principles, and providing a de facto object lesson in how a great connoisseur approaches fine photographs.
2. Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Lightroom (2nd Edition) by Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe (Peachpit Press) (U.K. link) (203 copies purchased).
3. On City Streets: Chicago, 1964-2004 by Gary Stochl (Center for American Places) (U.K. link) (138 copies purchased). Brought to your—and our—attention by Ken Tanaka, this modest little book was extremely popular with our readers. Gary Stochl worked for many decades in complete obscurity before being discovered and championed by photographer Bob Thall of Columbia College Chicago.
5. Eye Mind Spirit: The Enduring Legacy of Minor White by Minor White, Peter Bunnell, and Nathan Lyons (Howard Greenberg Gallery) (134 copies purchased). Now out of print.
6. Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting (3rd Edition) by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, and Paul Fuqua (Focal Press) (U.K. link) (118 copies purchased). Longtime classic that is probably the top-ranking basic text about the fundamentals of lighting.
7. Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography by our friend Kirk Tuck. (Amherst Media) (U.K. link) (116 copies purchased in 2009). The only repeat champion on this year's list, Minimalist Lighting was also one of 2008's top sellers.
8. The Printed Picture by Richard Benson (Museum of Modern Art) (U.K. link) (114 copies purchased). Our Book of the Year 2008. A great basic introduction to the many types of photographic prints and reproduction methods, notable for its abundant illustrations.
9. PHOTO:BOX by Roberto Koch (Thames & Hudson [U.K.] / Abrams [U.S.]) (U.K. link. Note that you have to search "Photobox" in the U.K., with no colon.) (91 copies purchased). A particularly fine—and inexpensive—sampler of excellent photographs by many different photographers, with commentary of a surprisingly high standard. Translated from the Italian.
10. Photowisdom: Master Photographers and Their Art by Lewis Blackwell (PQ Blackwell) (U.K. link) (77 copies purchased). Another, more sophisticated sampler, featuring more "hot right now" photographers, who made their own selections from their own work. The most deluxe of the books on this list, and a good bargain for the asking price.
Hard to know when to stop the festivities—the next ten titles on the list are as interesting as these. But we gotta stop somewhere, and I'm a base ten kinda guy. Happy New Year's Eve to all, and please drive carefully tonight whether you imbibe or not!