E-book reading is becoming more common, and one way publishers are trying to take advantage of the growth in the use of digital readers is by plumbing their backlists, refurbishing classic and forgotten literature with new digital editions. But how much backlist is still there for the picking? As it turns out, a fair amount, especially in the case of nonfiction.

Looking through PW’s archives at the top 25 bestselling books of both 1992 and 1982 in fiction and nonfiction (100 titles total), we found 56 books that had Kindle e-book editions. Between fiction and nonfiction, the former fared much better: 39 of the 50 fiction titles had e-book editions, compared to 17 of the 50 nonfiction titles.

A few factors contributed to the disparity. Illustrated books like James Gurney’s Dinotopia and Nick Bantock’s Sabine’s Notebook simply wouldn’t transfer over as EPub files and would be more suitable as apps. Other absences—like the lack of e-book editions for big names such as Clive Cussler and James A. Michener—will no doubt be rectified soon. Many of Cussler’s recent titles have e-book editions, but his 1992 bestseller Sahara has not yet been moved into digital. Random House, Michener’s publisher, is in the process of bringing most of the author’s many novels to digital.

The bestselling nonfiction books from 20 and 30 years ago include several of-the-moment books that wouldn’t have a market today as e-books. Cookbooks like Weight Watchers 365-Day Menu Cookbook (#11 bestselling nonfiction title of 1982) and health and science titles like Life Extension by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw (#5 bestselling nonfiction title of 1982) have long since been replaced by more up-to-date books on similar topics. And while, of course, some fiction bestsellers from 1982 and 1992 have gone out of print, an especially large number of nonfiction bestsellers from these years are no longer in print—a clear sign that creating digital editions of these books might not be a worthwhile undertaking.

There are some previous bestsellers still in print that have yet to release digital versions, including Robert A. Heinlein’s Friday, Where Is Joe Merchant? by Jimmy Buffett, Benjamin Hoff’s The Te of Piglet, and Richard E. Burke’s The Senator. Of the 100 books in the lists we compiled, only one out-of-print title is currently available as an e-book: Open Road published the e-book edition of Howard Fast’s Max in 2011, but no print edition is currently available.

Top Fiction: PW 1982 Bestsellers
✪ No Kindle edition ◆ Out-of-Print

1. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial Storybook by William Kotzwinkle (Putnam) ✪ ◆
2. Space by James A. Michener (Random House)
3. The Parsifal Mosaic by Robert Ludlum (Random House)
4. Master of the Game by Sidney Sheldon (Morrow)
5. Mistral’s Daughter by Judith Krantz (Crown)
6. The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel (Crown)
7. Different Seasons by Stephen King (Viking)
8. North and South by John Jakes (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich)
9. 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke (Del Rey/Ballantine)
10. The Man from St. Petersburg by Ken Follett (Morrow)
11. The Prodigal Daughter by Jeffrey Archer (Linden Press)
12. Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov (Doubleday)
13. Crossings by Danielle Steel (Delacorte)
14. The One Tree: Book Two of the Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson (Del Rey/Ballantine)
15. Spellbinder by Harold Robbins (Simon & Schuster)
16. The Case of Lucy Bending by Lawrence Sanders (Putnam) ✪ ◆
17. Eden Burning by Belva Plain (Delacorte)
18. Second Heaven by Judith Guest (Viking) ✪ ◆
19. Cinnamon Skin by John D. MacDonald (Harper & Row)
20. Friday by Robert A. Heinlein (Holt, Rinehart and Winston)
21. Lace by Shirley Conran (Simon & Schuster)
22. Thy Brother’s Wife by Andrew M. Greeley (Warner/Bernard Geis)
23. Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams (Harmony)
24. Celebrity by Thomas Thompson (Doubleday) ✪ ◆
25. Max by Howard Fast (Houghton Mifflin)
Top Nonfiction: PW 1982 Bestsellers
1. Jane Fonda’s Workout Book by Jane Fonda (Simon & Schuster) ✪ ◆
2. Living, Loving and Learning by Leo Buscaglia (Holt, Rinehart and Winston/Charles B. Slack)
3. And More by Andy Rooney (Atheneum) ✪ ◆
4. Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (Meredith)
5. Life Extension: Adding Years to Your Life and Life to Your Years—A Practical Scientific Approach by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw (Warner) ✪ ◆
6. When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner (Schocken)
7. A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney by Andy Rooney (Atheneum) ✪ ◆
8. The Weight Watchers Food Plan Diet Cookbook by Jean Nidetch (NAL)
9. Richard Simmons’ Never-Say-Diet Cookbook by Richard Simmons (Warner) ✪ ◆
10. No Bad Dogs; The Woodhouse Way by Barbara Woodhouse (Summit)
11. Weight Watchers 365-Day Menu Cookbook by Weight Watchers International (NAL) ✪ ◆
12. The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia (Holt, Rinehart and Winston/Charles B. Slack)
13. The G Spot and Other Recent Discoveries about Human Sexuality by Alice Kahn Ladas, Beverly Whipple, and John D. Perry (Holt, Rinehart and Winston)
14. An Uncommon Freedom by Charles Paul Conn (Revell) ✪ ◆
15. Megatrends: Ten New Direction Transforming Our Lives by John Naisbitt (Warner) ✪ ◆
16. The One-Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson (Morrow)
17. Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President by Jimmy Carter (Bantam)
18. Jane Fonda’s Workout Book for Pregnancy, Birth and Recovery by Femmy DeLyser (Simon & Schuster) ✪ ◆
19. Having It All, Love, Success, Sex, Money by Helen Gurley Brown (Simon & Schuster) ✪ ◆
20. Growing Up by Russell Baker (Congdon & Weed)
21. The Path to Power: Volume I of the Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro (Knopf)
22. Betty Crocker’s Microwave Cookbook by General Mills (Random House) ✪ ◆
23. Indecent Exposure: A True Story of Hollywood and Wall Street by David McClintick (Morrow)
24. Princess by Robert Lacey (Times Books) ✪ ◆
25. In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. (Harper & Row)
Top Fiction: PW 1992 Bestsellers
1. Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King (Viking)
2. The Pelican Brief by John Grisham (Doubleday)
3. Gerald’s Game by Stephen King (Viking)
4. Mixed Blessings by Danielle Steel (Delacorte)
5. Jewels by Danielle Steel (Delacorte)
6. The Stars Shine Down by Sidney Sheldon (Morrow)
7. Tale of the Body Thief by Anne Rice (Knopf)
8. Mexico by James Michener (Random House)
9. Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan (Viking)
10. All Around the Town by Mary Higgins Clark (Simon & Schuster)
11. Scruples Two by Judith Krantz (Crown)
12. Sahara by Clive Cussler (Simon & Schuster)
13. Hideaway by Dean Koontz (Putnam)
14. The Road to Omaha by Robert Ludlum (Random House)
15. Star Wars: Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn (Bantam)
16. Where Is Joe Merchant? by Jimmy Buffett (Harcourt Brace)
17. Rising Sun by Michael Crichton (Knopf)
18. The General’s Daughter by Nelson DeMille (Warner Books)
19. Driving Force by Dick Francis (Putnam)
20. Bygones by LaVyrle Spencer (Putnam)
21. Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time by James Gurney (Turner)
22. Sabine’s Notebook by Nick Bantock (Chronicle Books)
23. Terminal by Robin Cook (Putnam)
24. Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams (Crown)
25. Sweet Liar by Jude Deveraux (Pocket)
Top Nonfiction: PW 1992 Bestsellers
1. The Way Things Ought to Be by Rush Limbaugh (Pocket) ✪ ◆
2. It Doesn’t Take a Hero: The Autobiography by Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf (Bantam)
3. How to Satisfy a Woman Every Time by Naura Hayden (Bibli O’ Phile)
4. Every Living Thing by James Herriot (St. Martin’s)
5. A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson (HarperCollins)
6. Sam Walton: Made in America by Sam Walton (Doubleday)
7. Diana: Her True Story by Andrew Morton (Simon & Schuster) ✪ ◆
8. Truman by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster)
9. The Silent Passage by Gail Sheehy (Random House)
10. Sex by Madonna (Warner Books) ✪ ◆
11. The Juiceman’s Power of Juicing by Ray Kordich (Morrow)
12. Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book by Harvey Penick (Simon & Schuster)
13. More Wealth Without Risk by Charles Givens (Simon & Schuster)
14. I Can’t Believe I Said That by Kathie Lee Gifford (Pocket) ✪ ◆
15. Creating Love by John Bradshaw (Bantam)
16. Family Circle Cookbook by David Ricketts and the Editors (Simon & Schuster) ✪ ◆
17. Magic Johnson: My Life by Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Bill Novak (Random House)
18. Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Ballantine)
19. Revolution from Within by Gloria Steinem (Little, Brown)
20. The Senator: My 10 Years with Ted Kennedy by Richard E. Burke (St. Martin’s)
21. Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit by Al Gore (Houghton Mifflin)
22. The Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff (Dutton)
23. JFK: Reckless Youth by Nigel Hamilton (Random House) ✪ ◆
24. The Frugal Gourmet Whole Family Cookbook by Jeff Smith (Morrow) ✪ ◆
25. The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours by Marlan Wright Edelman (Beacon Press)