Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Amazon Reports E-Book Sales Outnumber Print

According to the New York Times yesterday, "Amazon.com, one of the nation’s largest booksellers, announced Monday that for the last three months, sales of books for its e-reader, the Kindle, outnumbered sales of hardcover books."

The article said that for every 143 e-books sold, only 100 print books sold. Amazon has been selling print books for fifteen years; Kindle e-books for only 33 months.

What's your take? Purchased an e-book reader already? Considering one? Or are you one of those people (like I used to be, before I got--and fell in love with--my Kindle) who just loves the heft and the smell of a "real" book?

""Book lovers mourning the demise of hardcover books with their heft and their musty smell need a reality check," said Mike Shatzkin, founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, which advises book publishers on digital change. "This was a day that was going to come, a day that had to come," he said. He predicts that within a decade, fewer than 25 percent of all books sold will be print versions."
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  1. Not a surprise really. Music on MP3 has always been popluar, not sure what the ratio is but record shops are closing down. I'd love one...

  2. Wait, that's not quite what it says. It says that e-books are outselling hardcovers, not print books. I can believe they're outselling hardcovers, which have been ridiculously high priced for a very long time. There's no way they're outselling paperbacks, though.

    On e-readers, I haven't gotten one yet, and won't until the industry shakes out a few issues. First, the current jumble of file formats is just a money sink. There's no way so many formats are going to survive, and I don't want to be left with $$$ or $$$$ worth of e-books I can't read ten or twenty years from now. Plenty of folks ended up with a pile of useless software after the format wars of the eighties, so you'd think we'd have learned something from that.

    Also, no one would be using a word processor from 1986 today even if the Atari hadn't lost the war. (And the Commodore, and the Osborne, and the Amiga, and the TRS-80, and, and, and....) The loss of old software was mitigated within a few years by technological progress anyway. There are some games I wish I could still play, but that's it. On the other hand, there are plenty of books from 1986 (and 1960, and 1860, and the Renaissance, and the Middle Ages, and Antiquity) that I'm very glad we still have and can still read. There's something to be said for paper (and parchment and clay and stone).

    Consider all the music that's unplayable now without expensive niche or antique equipment. Sure, the really popular or milestone stuff has suvived the transition from vinyl to eight-track to cassette to CD to MP3, but a lot of stuff didn't. I predict we're going to lose a lot of books that are coming out only in electronic format right now, but won't be considered popular enough or important enough to make the transition through the next two or three or six formats. And that's going to suck.

    Right now, I buy e-books in PDF format. They might not be the prettiest in the world, but they can be read on anything. No proprietary format, no requirement for a specific reader (or specific software based on that reader), none of that annoying and useless DRM garbage -- just a very basic file. I'm hoping they all last through the shake-out. [crossed fingers]


  3. Thanks for the intelligent--and informed--response. You're right, I should have said hardcovers. But still, I think it's encouraging news for those of us who see a bright future for electronic publishing.

  4. I'm (pleasantly) surprised to read this. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Oh, definitely encouraging. [nod] All my published fiction is e-book only so far; I'm happy to see that format growing in popularity. I just wish the publishers, vendors and hardware people would learn a thing or two from history. [wry smile]