Amazon is strutting around like the cat that ate the canary today, releasing figures that indicate that Kindle books are outselling hardbacks sold on Amazon’s site. While the numbers may not be suspect, the inferences are certainly something to be looked at closely. Amazon is only releasing certain bits of information, hoping we won’t notice that they are sinning by omission. For one thing, wouldn’t it be interesting to see the selling difference between Kindle books and paperbacks? And between Kindle books and used books?
I know the last time I bought a hardback book on Amazon. That would be never. If I need a hardback book for a class or some other purpose, I usually head either to the local Barnes and Noble, where I have a discount card to use to take 10% off, or if it’s available used, I buy it from half.com or another used retailer. This is not because I have any particular dislike of Amazon, it’s just that I have a particular affinity for hanging onto my money. I admit it, I’m cheap. And one of the reasons I don’t buy a whole lot of books for my Kindle is because I’m cheap. I usually can get the books I want to read for less than the 9.99 or 12.99 Amazon wants for it, if I’m not afraid to buy used (and I’m not).
Even if we move away from the hardback vs. Kindle debate, what are the other figures? What about Kindle vs. paperbacks, Kindle vs. used books of any type from Amazon, or Kindle vs. other eBook readers? I have five friends with eBook readers. Only one of those friends has a Kindle.
And to add more fuel to the fire, adult hardcover book sales were on the rise in May and grew by 43.2 percent for a total of $138.5 million in sales. There were also $58.1 million worth of children’s hardcover books sold, and hardcover sales from university presses account for another $4.1 million for a total of $201 million in hardcover sales during that sales period. eBook sales for the month of May totaled just $29.3 million. That’s a big gap there, which means that Amazon’s pride over these figures is just a little misplaced. Maybe it means their hardbacks are overpriced. Or that they don’t have as big a share of the print book market as they would like us to think.