Ask a Book Question: The 30th in a Series (Lists of Books)

October 21, 2004 | 2 min read

Jason writes in with this question:

Is there a single site just listing new releases from a wide range of publishers?

Oh, how I wish there were. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why no one seems to keep lists like this. There are scads of places you can find new music releases, but websites that do this for books are basically non-existent. After I started working at the book store I realized why, 99.9 percent of new books do not have a “hard” release date. That is, publishers do not tell everyone in advance that a book will be out on a certain date. Instead, they just ship them out when they’re ready. Usually the best information you can get is that a book will be out some time during a certain month. Sometimes you can go to Amazon and see this in action. They might list a release date a couple of weeks from now, but you will see that the book is already in stock. This is because Amazon.com sets the release date towards the end of the expected release window so that customers will not be disappointed by a book that is past its release date and still unavailable. At the brick and mortar stores, you will sometimes find that one store has gotten a given book in before another store because the publisher takes its time getting the shipments out. There are, of course, exceptions to all of this. Any major book, say something by a bestselling author or an ex-President or maybe the next Oprah book, will have a “street date” dictated by the publisher. Bookstores often receive the books prior to the street date, but they can get in trouble for selling them too early. The big books are released on a specific day so that publishers can get the most out of the highly concentrated media blitz that they orchestrate for them. Because of these irregularities it’s impossible to put together a weekly list and very difficult to put together a monthly list. When you consider that 175,000 books were released in 2003 (according to Bowker), the possibility of any sort of comprehensive list is daunting. Having said all that, there is one website that manages to produce a decent list, which I use from time to time. You’ll find that it only lists the most prominent couple of hundred fiction books in a given year. But it gives you a good idea of what’s on tap. It’s called Overbooked.org. If anyone has come across a better site please enlighten us. Thanks for the question, Jason!

created and edits The Millions. He is co-editor of the collection of essays The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books, called "funny, poignant, relentlessly thought-provoking" by The Atlantic. He and his family live in New Jersey. If you'd like to correspond, please don't hesitate to email.

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