Amazon seems to have a way with presenting information about its ebook sales in a way designed to mislead people into thinking it's more significant than it really is. You may remember last year, when Amazon announced that on Christmas day, for the first time ever, ebooks outsold regular books
. That got a lot of press coverage. But it was somewhat meaningless. That's because on Christmas, plenty of people who received a Kindle probably decided to buy an ebook or three. And it's also a day when fewer people have reason to go to Amazon and buy a physical book, since they may have just received some books as gifts (though, to be fair, some may have received Amazon gift cards too, but you don't necessarily need to use them that same day).
The latest is Amazon's recent claim that ebooks are outselling hardcover books 180 to 100
. Another nice headline that the press picked up, with various stories suggesting that ebook sales are now really significant. This bothered some folks who dug much deeper into the numbers
over at the MeAndMyKindle blog:
So what happens if you ask how many "printed books" Amazon sold, instead of using the smaller number of "hardcover books"? Following the same ratio, Amazon would be selling approximately 334 paperbacks for every 100 hardcover books -- or a total of 434 printed books for every 180 ebooks. That would mean over 70% of the books Amazon sells are still printed books -- 180 out of 614 -- with ebooks accounting for just 29.3% of all the books that Amazon sells.
Add to that the twin facts that Amazon covers 90% of ebook sale and that it only represents 19% of the overall book market, and you get an estimate that ebooks represent about 6% of the total market. This is certainly a non-zero number, and there's no doubt that it's growing, so it's a trend to watch out for. But we're a long, long way from ebooks really being a majority of the market. As the blog points out, even Amazon admits that no ebook has sold more than a million copies
According to Amazon's own figures, no ebook has ever sold more than one million copies. (Though Stieg Larsson's three ebooks, added together, total one million in sales -- an average of just 333,333 per book.) PC World reports Stephenie Meyer is close to selling one million ebooks -- though she's sold over 100 million printed books.
This isn't to say the ebook market isn't important, but Amazon's statements promoting ebook sales seem purposely designed to pump up the significance of ebook sales, which still represent a much smaller proportion of the market than the company would have you believe.