She's popular, sure. But not as popular as flat-screen TV sets.
It's Black Friday, and the malls are full of shoppers. Meanwhile, online, to close


What Amazon's Bestselling Items Say About America

She's popular, sure. But not as popular as flat-screen TV sets.
It's Black Friday, and the malls are full of shoppers. Meanwhile, online, to close off an already strong year for Seattle-based, the Internet retailer announced on Monday a special Black Friday Deals Page. The company says the page will feature special "lightning deals," changing daily, on selected items like the Twilight movie Bella Swan doll at $89.99 (35 % under list price). The online discounts continue through Nov. 30, which Amazon has helpfully renamed "Cyber Monday."

You don't need Amazon to tell you that The Twilight Saga: New Moon (review) is huge with tweens. But the interesting data the company does provide, updated hourly, are its bestselling items across all categories of merchandise. This is where Amazon has its finger on the pulse of our great shopping nation, methodically tracking the consumer desires that define us...

Thus in Books, one of two dozen categories Amazon tracks on its bestsellers page, the ghostwritten Sarah Palin "autobiography," Going Rogue is flying off shelves at a hugely discounted $14.50. (The American Booksellers Association has asked the justice department to investigate the price war among Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target on such high-profile titles, one reason local bookstores like Bailey/Coy and Elliott Bay are struggling.) So with Obama nearly a year into his first term, with health care still not a done deal, the GOP base is rallying around its queen. Even if she never again runs for public office (as seems likely), the success of her book helps pave the way to hosting a TV talk show.

Let's quickly scan some of the other Amazon bestsellers and parse their meaning:

Cell Phones The iKross 3-Pack Premium Reusable LCD Screen Protector ($2.56) shows that because we love iPhones and iPods so much, we hate fingerprints. Let the lawn grow long and unruly; let bird poop go unscraped on our cars; cell phones are closest to our hearts.

Video Games New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo, $49.99) is both new and reassuringly retro. One of the oldest console games, with roots back in the drop-a-quarter '80s arcade era, Mario Bros. represents comfort gaming that you can play in sweatpants on the couch. None of that Wii jumping and leaping around. Especially not after all that turkey.

Movies/DVD/TV The new Star Trek movie (review) is a Black Friday special at $9.00. It's young, it's sexy, and thanks to J.J. Abrams' reboot, it fills the future with avatars as we'd like to see ourselves--thin and trim, not like William Shatner.

Kitchen & Dining The Keurig My K-Cup Reusable Coffee Filter ($8.99) has held its commanding position for 445 days! Surely this is one reason Starbucks sales are flat. In a recession, more of us are brewing our java at home.

Music Another special at $9.99, Susan Boyle's I Dreamed a Dream is comfort music that also offers hope for the humble. Her sudden reality TV stardom is a wish-fulfillment dream come true, celebrity laid on the shoulders of one of us in the common herd. Maybe it'll be our turn in 2010.

Industrial & Scientific (We can't believe this is a category, either.) At $32, the Donegan OptiVisor Headband Magnifier is a bargain, but for what purpose? Are people using the magnification device to repair watches, tend their stamp collections, or build ships in bottles? Are those without health insurance resorting to at-home dental care and surgery? Or perhaps the trend merely confirms that aging baby boomers need extra help to read their books, cell phone screens, and Kindles.

Electronics The Kindle ($259), because you can always trust the manufacturer's own sales figures, right?

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