Everyone has probably heard about or read the press release from Amazon announcing that the online bookseller reached a point at which they sell more Kindle books than hardcover books. In reading and watching much of the media coverage you’d think the printed book was on the way out.
Interesting. More interesting though are a number of items that much of the media coverage missed.
“… hardcover books.” – Hardcover sales only represent about 22% of the total dollar sales of books in the market, and they are by far an even smaller portion of unit sales – my guess based upon research is that they represent about 12% of the units. Also considering that Kindle books have a significantly lower retail than hardcover, I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison.
What is considered a Kindle ‘purchase’? – A tremendous amount of free Kindle product is available on Amazon.com – are these books being counted in the equation? Of the top 50 bestselling Kindle titles, 33 of them were available for download for free. Hmmm… they say “Free” Kindle books are excluded…
“…hardcover sales continue to grow…” – This is good for all of us that love the tactile feel of ‘real’ books. Industry-wise, hardcover sales were up almost 43% in April and total book sales were up nearly 25%. Great news considering the state of the economy.
“…tipping point…” – I agree with Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com, we have reached a tipping point of sorts, but not one that heralds the death of the printed book. Rather, I believe we’ve reached the point where all books should be released in all formats… where it’s really nicely crafted ‘content’ that has the ability to be delivered in any number of formats. Publishers need to learn that each format has it’s benefits - and we just might arrive at a point where different portions of a ‘book’ are delivered in different ways…
E-books are an amazing product – and Amazon has done an incredible job of nearly single-handedly building momentum for the category. One of the most surprising things we’ve seen at Dog Ear is that e-books actually help grow sales of our print product. I can’t yet explain THAT one, but it certainly points to the e-book as a book marketing tool as well as a revenue generator.
I wonder about the revenue model – the cost associated with delivering an e-book is, well pretty much zero (not counting the development team that builds and maintains the system…) Amazon keeps 30% of all e-book sales – so I wonder how the reduced retail stacks up against a lower cost to deliver…
Another interesting fact – particularly to me, since I own the self publishing company Dog Ear Publishing – would be the number of Kindle titles that are self published. We produce all of the e-book formats for our authors – and e-books are very successful platform on which to publish. Self published authors with a well crafted (and targeted) book do quite well.
A big question for Amazon is whether or not Kindle as an e-book format is losing market share. Apple with the iBook app and B&N with the Nook are also creating big growth – but their preferred file format is epub not Kindle. My guess is that there are a far greater number of titles being read that AREN’T Kindle than are… If you look at Apple’s press, in just a few months they claim to have grabbed nearly 1/5th of the market, add in Nook and Amazon may be looking at a shrinking market share.
I’m not sure that the PR from Amazon is all ‘doom and gloom’ for the print industry – as I outlined above. It does, however, beg the question of why a reader would purchase a hardcover when a paperback is less expensive – and still preserves the tactile experience of reading… I think the book industry will continue to grow – thanks in many ways to e-books and self published authors – but the formats we all ready may change, and certainly the composite experience of the book will continue to change.