Kindle Books Now Outselling Print Books

Kindle with Special Offers - ChaseIt was probably just a matter of time, really, but Amazon is now selling more Kindle books than print books, no doubt bolstered by the outstanding sales of the recently released $114 ad-supported Kindle.

From the press release:

  • Since April 1, for every 100 print books has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books. This includes sales of hardcover and paperback books by Amazon where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher.
  • So far in 2011, the tremendous growth of Kindle book sales, combined with the continued growth in Amazon’s print book sales, have resulted in the fastest year-over-year growth rate for Amazon’s U.S. books business, in both units and dollars, in over 10 years. This includes books in all formats, print and digital. Free books are excluded in the calculation of growth rates.
  • In the five weeks since its introduction, Kindle with Special Offers for only $114 is already the bestselling member of the Kindle family in the U.S. Amazon sold more than 3x as many Kindle books so far in 2011 as it did during the same period in 2010.
  • Less than one year after introducing the UK Kindle Store, is now selling more Kindle books than hardcover books, even as hardcover sales continue to grow. Since April 1, customers are purchasing Kindle books over hardcover books at a rate of more than 2 to 1.

This Isn’t Déjà Vu, Is It?

It was only a few months ago that Amazon announced Kindle ebook sales surpassing paperback sales. Barely a year ago, in July 2010, Amazon announced that Kindle ebook sales surpassed hardback-only sales at a rate of 143 to 100 over a period of 3 months. Back then, Walt Shiel, Publisher at Slipdown Mountain Publications LLC, asked “Where Is the Kindle Killer?“:

Will the iPad result in fewer eBooks being sold by Amazon? I sincerely doubt it.

Amazon has such a head start with its digital catalog, sales platform, and brand loyalty that I’d be surprised if Apple can overtake them. Oh sure, iPad sales will almost certainly continue to accelerate and saturate the tablet computer market (with some much-needed improvements, I hope), but the iPad is really only peripherally an eBook reader.

That prediction seems to be true: the iPad doesn’t seem to have affected the growth of Kindle sales, especially given that “40% of iPad owners have not read a book on the device, with 45% of survey respondents saying they instead read e-books on the PC or Mac,” as The Bookseller summarized a report from Simba Information, a media forecasting firm.

In July 2010, in response to Amazon’s announcement about Kindle surpassing hardback sales, Guy Gonzalez crunched the numbers in a press roundup that brought together quite a few ebook milestones. Let’s see where we are today:

The Association of American Publishers’ latest data reports that e-book sales grew 163 percent in the month of May [2010] and 207 percent year-to-date through May. Kindle book sales in May and year-to-date through May exceeded those growth rates.

The most recent report from AAP (for the month of March) states that ebook sales grew 145.7% in comparison to sales in March 2010. Overall year-to-date revenue for all categories (both print and digital) was around $1.7 billion, representing a 2.5% decline against year-to-date revenue in 2010.

On July 6, [2010], Hachette announced that James Patterson had sold 1.14 million e-books to date. Of those, 867,881 were Kindle books.

In April 2011, Random House announced that Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had sold 1 million digital copies, the first single title to surpass the million-copies-sold mark. At the time of this writing, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is still #43 on the Kindle Bestseller list for paid titles.

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

Four out of the five authors are now in the “Kindle Million Club” after a span of 10 months. Only Stephenie Meyer, author of The Twilight series, is not a member of the Club. The most recent addition to the Club is Charlaine Harris, who became the 4th author to pass the 1-million copies sold mark a little over a week ago.

While the jury is still out about whether Amazon’s latest announcement represents a “tipping point” in the book publishing industry, looking back at the scant 10 months since Amazon announced a sales milestone for the Kindle, the need to adapt quickly seems pretty clear. After all, in a Digital Book World Executive Survey conducted with Forrester last October, publishing executives from major houses representing a sizable portion of the total market believed that the “50% of total sales” point would not be reached until 2014.

With Amazon’s announcement, that estimation seems more conservative than ever.

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