Bestseller Lists and the Economics of Product Discovery

Posted: 14 Aug 2017

See all articles by Alan T. Sorensen

Alan T. Sorensen

University of Wisconsin - Madison

Date Written: August 2017


Innovations in information technology have increased the prevalence of markets with large numbers of products. Each week, for example, an average of over 800 books are published, and an average of over 1,100 iOS apps are released in Apple's App Store. This review summarizes existing research about how consumers learn about new products in such markets, focusing on mechanisms like bestseller lists and user-generated product reviews. In addition to reviewing research findings about how these mechanisms directly influence sales, this article also discusses how these mechanisms affect broader market outcomes, such as the shape of the success distribution and the likelihood that good products are discovered.

Suggested Citation

Sorensen, Alan T., Bestseller Lists and the Economics of Product Discovery (August 2017). Annual Review of Economics, Vol. 9, pp. 87-101, 2017. Available at SSRN: or

Alan T. Sorensen (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )

716 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

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