05 August 2010
Amazon's latest financial results show that it is selling more ebooks for its Kindle reader than it is hardbacks. Specifically, Amazon says it sold 43% more Kindle books than hardbacks over the last quarter, and 80% more in the last month. Ebooks sales in the first half of 2010 were triple those in the same period last year.
The ebook and hardback figures aren't necessarily directly comparable. Firstly, hardbacks tend to be much more expensive than ebooks. They're premium products marketed to those who are willing to pay a bit more for a luxury copy of a book by a favourite author. The stat released by Amazon refers to quantity sold and doesn't make reference to total ebook and hardback revenue, but ebooks tend to be cheaper. Secondly, hardbacks are limited run products while ebooks will stay in the catalogue permanently. The catalogue from which Amazon can sell ebooks is likely to be much wider than the catalogue of currently available hardbacks.
That said, the figures do show how the industry is changing. They prove there is an appetite for ebooks, and that Amazon has had great success in exploiting it with its Kindle device. It will be interesting to see whether this momentum can be sustained, or whether it is driven by the novelty value and people re-buying much loved titles in a new format.
For authors, it represents a great opportunity. Amazon has a programme that enables authors to self publish their work for Kindle. As I said in my article about how to self-publish with Lulu, distribution is not the same as promotion, so you'll still need to do some legwork creating demand. But these latest stats suggest the market might be large enough to justify your time targeting it.
Update: When I blogged about ebook buying behaviour around the Kindle launch in 2007, I said that I suspected ebook sales would be existing customers buying in a new format. I wonder whether the hardback sales are down because the Kindle sales are up? Amazon doesn't report any trend details for hardback sales.