Print is dead: Kindle books rule total sales

Ronny Kerr · May 19, 2011 · Short URL:

Amazon says it sells 105 Kindle editions for every 100 print books

Ding-Dong! The book is dead! (Well, the physical thing filled with sheets of paper is dying, anyway.)

Amazon announced Thursday that its customers are officially purchasing more Kindle books than all print books, hardcover and paperback included, combined.

Since April 1, Amazon has sold 105 Kindle books for every 100 print books, including sales of print books where Amazon offers no Kindle version. Additionally, free Kindle books are excluded.

Basically, this isn’t a fluke.

“We had high hopes that this would happen eventually,” admitted Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, “but we never imagined it would happen this quickly - we've been selling print books for 15 years and Kindle books for less than four years.”

The giant e-tailer first started selling hardcover and paperback books in July 1995, and the Kindle came out in November 2007--twelve years later. Since then, in less than four years, the Kindle has basically served to accelerate the death of physical books.

Kindle book sales first beat hardcover book sales in July 2010 and Kindle books became a more popular format than paperback books in January of this year. Now, the print books defeat is final.

Though Amazon isn’t citing specific numbers, it says the rising sales of Kindle books has helped the company achieve the fastest year-over-year growth rate for its U.S. books business, in both units and dollars, in over a decade. (Again, free books are excluded from these calculations, so unit shipments are not being inflated.)

Basically, Amazon wants everyone to know that they are trying to rule book sales. No wonder they’re launching all these publishing imprints.

While Amazon and its Kindle were killing physical books, you may remember hearing about one of the casualties of war: Borders. The book retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this past February, a couple months after posting third quarter sales that plummeted 17.6 percent to $470.9 million, versus the year before. Web sales fell 8.6 percent.

To compare, Borders’ primary brick-and-mortar competitor Barnes & Noble only suffered a 4.9 percent decrease in total retail sales, year-over-year, from $975.2 million to $930.8 million. But
online sales actually rose 46.7 percent to $176.7 million from $120.5 million. Barnes & Noble has so far weathered the digital storm, in sharp contrast to Borders, thanks in no small part to the Nook, an e-reader going up against Amazon’s Kindle.

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