Amazon.co.uk has said that sales of its Kindle ebooks are now outstripping its sales of printed books.
Underlining the speed of change in the publishing industry, Amazon said that two years after introducing the Kindle, customers are now buying more ebooks than all hard-covers and paperbacks combined. According to unaudited figures released by the company, since the start of 2012, for every 100 hardback and paperback book sold on its site, customers downloaded 114 ebooks. Amazon said the figures included sales of printed books which did not have Kindle editions, but excluded free ebooks.
In a surprise move in May, the company went into partnership with theUK’s largest bricks-and-mortar books retailer, Waterstones.
The company said its figures also showed that British Kindle users were buying four times as many books from Amazon as they were prior to owning a Kindle, a trend it described as a renaissance of reading.
“As soon as we started selling Kindles it became our bestselling product on Amazon.co.uk so there was a very quick adoption … [And they] are buying four times more books prior to owning a Kindle,” an Amazon spokeswoman said. “Generally there seems to be … a love of a reading and a renaissance as a result of Kindle being launched.”
Despite revealing that more than half a million Kindle books are priced at £3.99 or less, Amazon said a boost in ebook sales was not just about cheap books and argued that much of its printed range was also sold at a low price.
Ebook sales have been given a boost by the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James, which has sold two million copies in the past four months.
Three of the top 10 most popular Kindle authors of 2012 – Nick Spalding, Katia Lief and Kerry Wilkinson – were published by Amazon’s own Kindle Direct Publishing.
Jorrit Van der Meulen, vice-president of Kindle EU, said: “Customers in the UK are now choosing Kindle books more often than print books, even as our print business continues to grow. We hit this milestone in the US less than four years after introducing Kindle, so to reach this landmark after just two years in the UK is remarkable and shows how quickly UK readers are embracing Kindle. As a result of the success of Kindle, we’re selling more books than ever before on behalf of authors and publishers.”
Well, as buyers of paper books know, purchasing and reading are two different things. What Amazon have is evidence of increased levels of purchase. Purchasing ebooks is easy, a matter of seconds: consequently, it’s more at the mercy of impulse. Reading, on the other hand, requires a serious commitment of time regardless of the medium. Won’t the temptation be much stronger to digitally hoard books that you mean to get round to reading one day?In a recent interview with the New York Times, Colin Powell, the former US Secretary of State, confessed that his Kindle was full of books he hasn’t read:
I keep sending new books to my e-reader, and I don’t know which one I’ll read next. Electronic books have become such an impulse and instinct purchase that I buy them constantly and can’t remember what’s on my e-shelf. When I do look, I often see titles I don’t recognize or don’t remember wanting or buying.
That sounds more like the truth.
Also the ability to read what you want, without having to worry about the cover giving your preferences away, is leading to a real change in reading habits. The Kindle and other ereaders allow this.
Fifty Shades is likely to be only the first of a stream of new stories, which more closely reflect our fantasies, our curiosities, and our renewed desire to be entertained by the written word as a result of these devices.