the complete review Quarterly
Volume IV, Issue 1   --   February, 2003

State of the Site - page 2

Annual Report for
complete review - 2002

page 1 | page 3

II. Popularity and Interest

        i. Reviews

       In 2001 Robert Burton's 17th century classic, The Anatomy of Melancholy, was the clear book/review of the year -- not the most popular (though the most-purchased), but an unlikely book that did phenomenally well. No such book emerged in 2002; in fact, despite many successful additions, it was a year of the old and familiar.
       The 2001 top-30 list contained three completely new titles and seven that had finished outside the top-100 the previous year. The 2002 top-30 list contained no new titles, and the worst placing of any of the titles from the previous year was Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections (already a respectable 89th in 2001).

       The top ten reviews for the year hardly changed, with Lolita (or rather: Lolitas) dominating. The thirty most popular reviews at the complete review in 2002 were:

       (2001 ranking in brackets, with "-" meaning review was not in the top 150 and "n.a." meaning review was added in 2002)
  1. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (1)
  2. Lolita, Richard Corliss (7)
  3. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (10)
  4. King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild (6)
  5. Arcadia, Tom Stoppard (4)
  6. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (3)
  7. Big Women, Fay Weldon (2)
  8. The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton (9)
  9. Proof, David Auburn (21)
  10. 'Art', Yasmina Reza (8)
  11. The Professor and the Madman, Simon Winchester (11)
  12. Am kürzeren Ende der Sonnenallee, Thomas Brussig (23)
  13. Marat/Sade, Peter Weiss (13)
  14. The Shawl, Cynthia Ozick (15)
  15. Lolita: A Screenplay, Vladimir Nabokov (20)
  16. The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin (12)
  17. Eucalyptus, Murray Bail (70)
  18. The Story of the Stone, Cao Xueqin (17)
  19. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (89)
  20. The Discovery of Heaven, Harry Mulisch (16)
  21. The Real Thing, Tom Stoppard (30)
  22. The Invention of Love, Tom Stoppard (5)
  23. Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges (24)
  24. Amsterdam, Ian McEwan (25)
  25. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson (45)
  26. Collected Fictions, Jorge Luis Borges (22)
  27. The Flight of Icarus, Raymond Queneau (14)
  28. Zazie in the Metro, Raymond Queneau (18)
  29. Spinning into Butter, Rebecca Gilman (27)
  30. The Elementary Particles, Michel Houellebecq (38)
       Only one top-30 review from 2001 showed a significant drop -- the loss of a foot-fetish-site link led to Geoff Nicholson's Footsucker tumbling from 19th to 115th in 2002. The three other top-30 reviews that didn't make the list again each dropped only a few places (and all remained in the top 40).

       Nabokov's Lolita was by far the most popular review, quite literally in a class of its own. For every 100 hits that review received the other top-15 received the following:
  1. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov - 100
  2. Lolita, Richard Corliss - 67
  3. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser - 60
  4. King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild - 43
  5. Arcadia, Tom Stoppard - 42
  6. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving - 38
  7. Big Women, Fay Weldon - 33
  8. The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton - 30
  9. Proof, David Auburn - 26
  10. 'Art', Yasmina Reza - 25
  11. The Professor and the Madman, Simon Winchester - 24
  12. Am kürzeren Ende der Sonnenallee, Thomas Brussig - 24
  13. Marat/Sade, Peter Weiss - 22
  14. The Shawl, Cynthia Ozick - 20
  15. Lolita: A Screenplay, Vladimir Nabokov - 18
       (The 50th ranked review got about 8 hits for every 100 Lolita gets, the 100th about 6.)

       Established reviews did extremely well, making it hard for new reviews to break in (and since many of the biggest books were only added very late in the year they had little chance to crack the top 30). The best placing of reviews added in 2002 were:
       The performance of Prey -- the number three title in December -- is, of course, by far the most impressive (ranking so high, despite being available for just over a month), and it looks to make the top 15 next year. Interest in The Emperor of Ocean Park waned strongly by the end of the year, and of the other titles The Little Friend and Copenhagen look like the only sure bets to make next year's top-30 list.
       (We made some predictions at the end of last year's State of the Site round up, as to which titles we expected to break-out. None of those we guessed did -- Yasmina Reza's Life x 3 was only the 103rd most popular review, and Wittgenstein's Poker ("a sure bet to make a mark") finished 120th. Still, those results were respectable compared to Alan Ayckbourn's twin-bill of House and Garden -- badly beaten (unexpectedly) by his own Comic Potential and finishing way back in the middle of the review-field. The closest thing to a break-out title was Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, which has continued to do very well.)

       Outside links to individual reviews had only a small effect on total review page-views -- and the review that had the highest one-day page view total (Cyril Connolly's The Unquiet Grave, which had 238 hits on 10 May -- most sent there from an outside link) didn't even finish in the top-200.

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        ii. Links to Amazon

       Many users continued to use the links provided at the complete review to the page for the books under review (and, where available, the British, German, and French pages). Some -- though still a very small percentage -- also purchased titles via these (and the other links on the site. Click-throughs and sales were up over 2001 -- the increase about in line with the increased traffic at the site.

       (Note that many titles under review are out of print, or unavailable at one, several, or all of the sites, meaning they could not be clicked-through to nor purchased through This does not mean that there was no interest in these titles, nor that users were unable to purchase them by other means.)

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               1. - US

       As expected, of the Amazon sites the American one,, received the greatest amount of traffic from the complete review.

       Overall, users only purchased 2.29 percent of the titles they clicked onto; this is a statistically insignificant rise from the 2001 rate of 2.23 percent. Interestingly, more than a quarter of purchases -- several hundred -- were so-called "Marketplace" items -- generally used (or otherwise discounted) books sold by third parties via The spectacular rise in this sector looks to be a bright spot for, since it involves almost no work, investment, or inventory for them -- they just get a cut of the proceeds.

       The vast majority of items purchased from via links at the complete review were, of course, books -- but users were often then led to consider other items. Among the most unusual items purchased for which we received a commission (thank you very much) were:
       The most purchased titles among reviewed book were:
  1. The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton
  2. Proof, David Auburn
  3. 'Art', Yasmina Reza
  4. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  5. Copenhagen, Michael Frayn
  6. Comic Potential, Alan Ayckbourn
  7. Arcadia, Tom Stoppard
  8. King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild
  9. Spinning into Butter, Rebecca Gilman
  10. Life x 3, Yasmina Reza
       Special mention must also go to Orlando Figes' Natasha's Dance -- a book we did not even review. We mentioned it several times on our Literary Saloon-weblog, and included the link for the book there. With seventeen sold copies (twelve of which apparently went to a single bulk-buyer) it would have cracked the top ten .....
       Playscripts again were the most popular purchases -- as in 2001 seven of the top ten titles were plays. And, as in 2001, The Anatomy of Melancholy was far and away the most popular item (which pleases us no end). Still, overall, it's a very mixed lot that people purchased. Our reviews, for the most part, don't seem to weigh heavily in the purchasing-decisions -- or at least our opinions don't (the Burton is a rare if emphatic exception). But the existence of our reviews does seem to have helped raise awareness of certain of these titles, and we're pleased to have helped lead readers to them.
       Somewhat surprising was the sales-success of Lolita -- not quite commensurate with its review-popularity, but at least finding some buyers (it didn't make the top best-sellers in 2001). Also surprising: the failure of the very popular Fast Food Nation -- only a single copy sold via our site.

       The reviews that users clicked-through to most frequently were:
       (For purposes of this list all click-throughs for separate editions of the same title have been lumped together.)
  1. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  2. Lolita, Richard Corliss
  3. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
  4. The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton
  5. 'Art', Yasmina Reza
  6. King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild
  7. Big Girls Don't Cry, Fay Weldon
  8. The Golden Days - the first volume of The Story of the Stone
  9. The Shawl, Cynthia Ozick
  10. Arcadia, Tom Stoppard
  11. The Flight of Icarus, Raymond Queneau
  12. Proof, David Auburn
  13. The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin
  14. The Professor and the Madman, Simon Winchester
  15. The Discovery of Heaven, Harry Mulisch
       The list of most clicked-through titles barely differs from last year's -- and is very close to that of the list of most-popular reviews.

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               2. - UK

       There were again several hundred titles purchased through, but only The Anatomy of Melancholy and each of the three volumes of Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia had double-digit sales. Still, there were some nice surprises -- like six people buying David Jones' In Parenthesis.
       In 2001 only 1.70 percent of click-throughs had resulted in a sale at, in 2002 the figure was 2.01.

       The reviews that users clicked-through to most frequently were:
       (For purposes of this list all click-throughs for separate editions of the same title have been lumped together.)
  1. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  2. Lolita, Richard Corliss
  3. Lolita, Stephen Schiff
  4. Big Women, Fay Weldon
  5. Blue Remembered Hills, Dennis Potter
  6. The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton
  7. 'Art', Yasmina Reza
  8. Marat/Sade, Peter Weiss
  9. The Great Fire of London, Jacques Roubaud
  10. The Coast of Utopia (all three volumes), Tom Stoppard
  11. Death and the Dervish, Mesa Selimovic
  12. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
  13. The Discovery of Heaven, Harry Mulisch
  14. The Flight of Icarus, Raymond Queneau
  15. Atomised, Michel Houellebecq
       The list is, again, very similar to the previous year's -- along with the same odd surprises (Schiff, Selimovic) and some new ones (Roubaud).

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               3. - France

       There were only a limited number of purchases at -- less than a hundred. In 2001 only 0.78 percent of click-throughs resulted in a sale, while in 2002 this rose to (a still feeble) 0.90 .

       The reviews that users clicked-through to most frequently were:
       (For purposes of this list all click-throughs for separate editions of the same title have been lumped together.)
  1. Stupeur et Tremblements, Amélie Nothomb
  2. Zazie dans le métro, Raymond Queneau
  3. La Place, Annie Ernaux
  4. Le Sabotage amoureux, Amélie Nothomb
  5. Mercure, Amélie Nothomb
  6. Art, Yasmina Reza
  7. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  8. Un barbare en Asie, Henri Michaux
  9. Cosmétique de l'ennemi, Amélie Nothomb
  10. Les Catilinaires, Amélie Nothomb
  11. Au bonheur des ogres, Daniel Pennac
  12. Métaphysique des tubes, Amélie Nothomb
  13. Allah n'est pas obligé, Ahmadou Kourouma
  14. La Petite Marchande de prose, Daniel Pennac
  15. Passion simple, Annie Ernaux
       This list too strongly resembles last year's -- and, not surprisingly, Amélie Nothomb again dominates it.

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               4. - Germany was just a bit less popular than, and also had slightly fewer sales. The percentage of users who clicked-through the links and actually purchased books was a very impressive 2.74 in 2001 but the novelty seems to have worn off: in 2002 it was a mere 1.02 (Arguably this might be because we have added many more links to, especially to books originally written in languages other than German, and users are possibly less likely to purchase such titles. However, such links were also added to, and there the percentage of book purchases (as a percentage of click-throughs) actually increased over the same period.)

       The reviews that users clicked-through to most frequently were:
       (For purposes of this list all click-throughs for separate editions of the same title have been lumped together.)
  1. Am kürzeren Ende der Sonnenallee, Thomas Brussig
  2. Geschichten vom Herrn Keuner, Bertolt Brecht
  3. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  4. Unvollendete Geschichte und ihr Ende, Volker Braun
  5. Die Entdeckung des Himmels, Harry Mulisch
  6. Kunst, Yasmina Reza
  7. Das Attentat, Harry Mulisch
  8. Zazie in der Metro, Raymond Queneau
  9. Die Ermittlung, Peter Weiss
  10. Helden wie wir, Thomas Brussig
  11. Abschied von den Eltern, Peter Weiss
  12. Die Ästhetik des Widerstands, Peter Weiss
  13. Die Vertreibung aus der Hölle, Robert Menasse
  14. Mit Staunen und Zittern, Amélie Nothomb
  15. Die Verfolgung und Ermordung Jean Paul Marats, Peter Weiss
       This list, too, has not chaged much from 2001 to 2002 -- the only major difference being (as on the French list) the addition of Lolita (to which we had previously not provided a link).

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        iii. Indices

       The most popular indices at the complete review of books under review -- suggesting what users were looking for (and not necessarily what the site could provide) -- were:
       (Note that this list only includes genre/nationality/language indices -- and not those listing the most popular, underrated, worst books etc. -- or indices for author pages and other non-review pages.)
  1. Biography and Memoirs
  2. Contemporary British Fiction
  3. Literary Essays
  4. French Literature
  5. Poetry
  6. Drama
  7. Contemporary American Fiction
  8. Real People in Works of Fiction
  9. Foreign titles (not yet translated into English)
  10. Latin and South American Literature
       Interest in biographical works continued to be great; the index was again by far the most popular (and the rise of the Real People in Works of Fiction-Index suggests even fictional biography is of great interest to users).

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        iv. Author Pages

       The complete review's Author Pages continued to be very popular, with many achieving page-view totals nearly as great as that of the most popular reviews.
       The top ten (of thirty-seven) in 2002 were:
  1. Amélie Nothomb
  2. Harry Mulisch
  3. Murakami Haruki
  4. Cynthia Ozick
  5. Antonio Tabucchi
  6. Annie Ernaux
  7. Patrick White
  8. Zbigniew Herbert
  9. Geoffrey Hill
  10. Iain Sinclair
       The list remained almost entirely unchanged -- except for Murakami Haruki's excellent showing; added late in 2001 he shot to number three in 2002.
       Of the author-pages added in 2002, Tom Stoppard's did best (15th), while Jonathan Franzen's (only added 7 October) also proved very popular.

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        v. Articles from the complete review Quarterly

       There were several additions to the cr Quarterly in 2002 that attracted considerable user-interest -- though, somewhat surprisingly, older articles still proved the most popular.

       The most popular articles in 2002 were:
  1. Borges under Review - Critical Responses to the Collected Fictions
  2. A Book, an Author, and a Talk Show Host - Some Notes on the Oprah-Franzen Debacle
  3. Withering Reviews - an editorial wondering Where have all the book reviews gone ?
  4. Whoa Nelly ! - Real Life, Lucky Girls, and Advances in Non-Fiction -- a Literary Saloon dialogue
  5. Literary Weblogs - An Overview
  6. Considering B.R.Myers' Reader's Manifesto
  7. Survey of Book Review Sites - the cr Quarterly surveys twelve leading book review sites
  8. Harry Who ? - the complete review takes on Harry Potter ?
  9. Looking for Ayi Kwei Armah
  10. Socialist Magical Realism - a review of Irmtraud Morgner's East German classic, Trobadora Beatrice
       The Borges-piece continues to be by far the most popular, but otherwise the list has changed considerably from last year's. One thing that hasn't changed: our annual surveys of the site (like this one) remain very unpopular. No one seems much interested in all this information !

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        vi. Other Information-pages at the Complete Review

       The complete review also offers a number of pages that provide additional information about the site, including listing the best, worst, most unusual, most popular, etc. reviews. Many of these pages received a large volume of page views. In 2002 the most popular were:
  1. The top rated books under review
  2. Editors' Choice
  3. The most underrated books under review
  4. Recent bestseller list
  5. Current bestseller list
  6. Recent publications under review
  7. The lowest rated books under review
  8. List of literary links
  9. Bestseller list for 1999
  10. Notable new releases under review
       This list also remains much the same as last year's. There are a few surprises -- such as why people are more interested in what our most popular reviews were in 1999 than in 2000 -- but no great ones.
       We are a bit surprised that our useful links-pages don't receive more traffic: even the links cover page is the least popular of all our main pages.

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© 2003 the complete review Quarterly
© 2003 the complete review