Last year, when we asked publishers for their five bestselling e-books over Christmas, we received lists full of frontlist bestsellers, with a handful of backlist hits in the mix. This year, we again approached publishers for the same lists—in most cases sales are only for December 25 and 26, though in some instances sales are for the entire holiday week—and results are similar. While a number of expected bestsellers drew consumers who were given a tablet or e-reader, or a gift card to one of the e-book storefronts, there were also a healthy dose of backlist titles being downloaded.

Four titles from last year’s lists again topped the charts. At St. Martin’s, in 2011, as in 2010, Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key was big in digital. At Penguin, it was Kathryn Stockett’s unstoppable hit The Help that once again topped the chart, likely benefiting from the Oscar buzz swirling around the novel’s film adaptation. (The film The Help hit theaters in August and is just now available on DVD.) For Random House Stieg Larsson still dominated the top five, with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest both making its list. (Like The Help, the Larsson books may have gotten a boost from Hollywood, as director David Fincher’s adaptation of book one in the Millennium Trilogy was one of the heavily promoted, if slightly underperforming, holiday movies.)

Simon & Schuster received not one but two bumps from Stephen King—the author’s recently released 11/22/63 made the house’s list, as well as his digital short Mile 81, a $2.99 e-book that S&S initially released as a free teaser for 11/22/63 in August. (The digital short went on sale in September.) Hachette’s list contained two books from the Twilight saga—last year Stephenie Meyer was absent from the house’s top five—helped, we assume, by the success of the latest Twilight film, Breaking Dawn, at the box office. Overall, film adaptations currently in theaters spurred e-book sales for a number of houses—note the showing in HMH’s lineup of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and of Benjamin Mee’s We Bought a Zoo in Perseus’s list. And Hyperion continues to see success from its not-quite-adaptation-or-tie-in novels associated with ABC’s TV show, Castle. (The books are “written” by the show’s title character, a novelist, who is following a sexy female detective as inspiration for a new detective series he is writing. In other words, it’s more meta than tie-in.)

Promotions were also helpful. Two of St. Martin’s top sellers, both of them backlist—Kristin Hannah’s True Colors and Lisa Kleypas’s Smooth Talking Stranger—benefited from a promotion and a low price point. Both e-books were discounted to $2.99 as a push for forthcoming books by their authors.

Perseus Books Group

We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee
Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin
Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy
Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger

Random House

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Litigators by John Grisham
Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich
Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

Simon & Schuster

11/22/63 by Stephen King
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Mile 81 by Stephen King
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
Dork Diaries 3 by Rachel Renee Russell

St. Martin’s Press

True Colors by Kristin Hannah
Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Destined by P.C. Cast
Bonnie by Iris Johansen

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco
Throw Them All Out by Peter Schweizer


Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva
Pretty Little Liars #10: Ruthless by Sara Shepard
Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow
Imperfect Justice by Jeff Ashton and Michael Crichton
Micro by Michael Crichton

Hachette Book Group

Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson
• The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
The Drop by Michael Connelly
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer


Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy
Heat Wave by Richard Castle (book 1 in the series)
Heat Rises by Richard Castle (book 3 in the series)
Naked Heat by Richard Castle (book 2 in the series)
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Penguin Group USA

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell
Locked On by Tom Clancy
The Next Always by Nora Roberts
V Is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton