Photo: Nielsen Bookscan
Yesterday Amazon announced a big milestone: In the last month, Amazon’s e-book sales outpaced its hardcover sales on Amazon.com nearly two to one.It’s a nice stat, but what does it actually mean? How big are hardcover sales, anyway?
According to Nielsen Bookscan, only 23% of total dead-tree book sales this year come from hardcover books. The rest are from paperback books. In other words, assuming Amazon’s book business reflects the overall industry, Amazon is still probably selling twice as many paperback books as Kindle books.
In its announcement yesterday, Amazon said it sold 143 Kindle books for each 100 hardcover books last quarter. (Last month alone, it sold 180 e-books sold for every 100 hardcover books sold.)
If we use the ratio from the last quarter, it implies Amazon has sold around 22 million Kindle books so far this year. That’s just the equivalent of 6% of the total print book market, which remains tiny.
Another factor that Amazon doesn’t mention is that it makes less money per e-book than it does on print books, and in some cases is losing money on e-books. It’s good for Amazon to attack the e-book market and try to own it, even if costs a little early on, but let’s not forget that e-books don’t generate the same income or sales.