Kindle’s tipping point – e-books outsell hardbacks

20 Jul 2010

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Even though Amazon.com says its hardcover book sales are continuing to grow, Kindle e-books have accelerated to surpass hardback sales, proving the new format is here to stay.

Amazon.com last night announced that Kindle device unit sales accelerated each month in the second quarter – both on a sequential month-over-month basis and on a year-over-year basis.

“We’ve reached a tipping point with the new price of Kindle – the growth rate of Kindle device unit sales has tripled since we lowered the price from US$259 to US$189,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com.

“In addition, even while our hardcover sales continue to grow, the Kindle format has now overtaken the hardcover format. Amazon.com customers now purchase more Kindle books than hardcover books – astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months.”

Number of books in US Kindle Store

The US Kindle Store now has more than 630,000 books, including new releases and 106 of 110 New York Times best-sellers. More than 510,000 of these books are US$9.99 or less, including 75 New York Times best-sellers. More than 1.8 million free, out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books are also available to read on Kindle.

Over the past three months, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 143 Kindle books. Over the past month, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 180 Kindle books.

This is across Amazon.com’s entire US book business and includes sales of hardcover books where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher.

Amazon sold more than three times as many Kindle books in the first half of 2010 as in the first half of 2009.

The Association of American Publishers’ latest data reports that e-book sales grew 163pc in the month of May and 207pc year-to-date through May. Kindle book sales in May and year-to-date through May exceeded those growth rates.

On July 6, Hachette announced that author James Patterson had sold 1.14 million e-books to date. Of those, 867,881 were Kindle books.

Five authors – Charlaine Harris, Stieg Larsson, Stephenie Meyer, James Patterson and Nora Roberts – have each sold more than 500,000 Kindle books.

Weighing 10.2 ounces, Kindle can be held comfortably in one hand for hours, has an e-ink display that is easy on the eyes even in bright daylight, has two weeks of battery life, lets you buy your books once and read them everywhere – on your Kindle, Kindle DX, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, Mac, PC, BlackBerry and Android-based devices – and has free 3G wireless with no monthly fees or annual contracts.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com