18 JANUARY 1975, Page 5

Best sellers

Sir: Beforerushing into libellous condemnation of booksellers, you ought to. have read what the Sunday Times said about its year-end list of bestsellers.

Because we began our weekly list Only part-way through 1974 we made it quite clear that our year-end lists were based on six months' returns.

The "Observer," on the other hand, uses lists provided by the Gee Report, Which have been in existence longer. It therefore had access to information covering the full year. We compile our weekly lists from actual sales figures returned, by a large and representative sample of booksellers and we keep a close check on the situation in bookshops both by making random, unannounced visits and by talking to the booksellers and, as a further check, to publishers.

It would require a very large conspiracy to "cook the books" and, because our compilers know what kind of books sell well in particular shops, would soon be spotted. Peter Harland Chief Assistant to the Editor, Sunday Times, 200 Gray's Inn Road, London WCI