The statement touts the following facts:
- Over the past three months, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 143 Kindle books.
- In the past month, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 180 Kindle books.
- Charlaine Harris, Stieg Larsson, Stephenie Meyer, James Patterson, and Nora Roberts have each sold more than 500,000 Kindle books.
For example, it is not clear which titles consumers are buying as book selections vary between formats. A large percentage of eBooks for sale at Amazon.com have never been published in hardcover format. Romance novels, which account for a large number of Kindle eBook sales, are generally published as paperbacks. Additionally, readers who already own hardcover books from powerhouse authors may be purchasing their old favorites in the eBook format. Furthermore, Amazon’s consumers are immediately more inclined to purchase eBooks over those who prefer brick-and-mortar stores or other online venues as Amazon “attracts an online audience that is more inclined to be early adopters of new reading technology” (Gonzales, 2010).
However, even as eBooks are gaining ground over hardcover on Amazon.com, print editions of books are still far from losing their major place in the market. According to the American Publishers Association, industry-wide sales for print book editions are up, with hardcover books up 22% year-to-date and adult paperbacks up 16%¹. And according to Sarah Weinman at the Daily Finance (as cited by Gonzales), on average, eBooks make up for less than 1% of any given title’s total sales². For example, Gonzales cites Publishers Lunch stating that James Patterson has sold 1.14 million e-books to date worldwide. Of those, 867,881 were Kindle eBooks. However, in comparison to the more than 205 million print copies sold, Kindle eBooks only account for roughly 0.4% of overall sales³. Looking beyond Amazon’s press release, it’s clear that largely consumers still purchase print books.
As Gonzales shows, companies—via press releases and reports—can selectively share data to shape public perceptions and thus support their sales goals. Luckily, the continuing dominance of print books allows ample time for libraries to research and develop digital platforms before altering their core format preferences.
What do you think of Amazon’s recent press release? What research has your library done on eBooks? What is your library doing with the new format?