eBooks: Are They Poised to Take Over the Industry?

The question facing the publishing industry is not if ebooks will ever outpace the sale of print books, but when.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, recently stated that he believes ebooks will soon outsell print books on Amazon.com.

What does he mean by soon? Does soon mean within one year, two years, or a decade?

What exactly is Mr. Bezos basing this statement on? I believe he is basing it on the rapid growth of Kindle ebook sales after the release of the Kindle. Early last year, Amazon reported that over 10 percent of their total book sales were Kindle unit sales, just 14 months after the release of the Kindle. Mr. Bezos compared this to the 14 years it took to build Amazon to what it is today.

According to TechCrunch, Amazon recently released the statistic citing that for those books on Amazon that are available both in print and Kindle form, 26% of the total units of the book sold (print and Kindle) are ebooks for the Kindle. Mr. Bezos attempted to hype this statistic claiming that 35 percent of sales of these books were for the Kindle, but that was only if you compared the number of Kindle sales with the number of print sales for the same book, not the number of Kindle sales compared to the number of total sales units (print and Kindle combined), which is the more accurate way to report percentage of sales.

Amazon.com’s 26 percent ebook sales is only for those books offered in Kindle format as well as print format and does not take into account print books for the same title being sold elsewhere. I also suspect this figure is only for best-selling books offered in print and Kindle format.

I think Mr. Bezos is trying to hype Amazon.com’s Kindle and ebook sales through his statements, including the recent statements that Amazon sold more digital books than print books on Christmas day (who buys books on Christmas day?).

Remember, we still have not been given the sales figures for how many Kindles Amazon has actually sold. I don’t believe the industry is on the brink of the shift of selling more ebooks than print books.

Think about it. Yes, the number of ebooks for sale is growing along with the number of various types of e-readers. However, how many people do you personally know who own an e-reader like the Kindle? How many people do you personally know who have actually purchased an ebook? What about you? Are you reading more ebooks than print books yet?

Consider the recently released bestselling book, The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown. The Los Angeles Times reported that ebook sales had represented only 100,000 of the first two million copies of sold of the book. That is only five percent of total sales.

Industry statistics show that ebook sales currently make up somewhere from two to four percent of all book sales in the United States. Soon does not seem soon when you consider these figures.

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1 thought on “eBooks: Are They Poised to Take Over the Industry?

  1. Interesting article, Sarah. I think Kindle e-books might be a more valuable market for smaller writers and presses than for larger ones. (Although 100,000 sales is nothing to sneeze at!) Since there are not so many books available for Kindle, yet, it is easier to get in front of people looking for specific genres/subjects. Especially if one effectively “tags” their book – readers who are looking for that subject will find the book in the Kindle store, in time.


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