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Kindle eBook Sales Overtake Paperbacks

David Gilbert


Kindle eBook Sales Overtake Paperbacks

In terms of literary milestones, this moment could be right up there with the invention of the Gutenberg Printing Press as landmark days in how we consume literary texts.

Amazon has announced that it has sold more ebooks for its Kindle e-reader than it sold paperbacks in 2010. Announcing Q4 financial results, founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos said: “Kindle books have now overtaken paperback books as the most popular format on Amazon.com. Last July we announced that Kindle books had passed hardcovers and predicted that Kindle would surpass paperbacks in the second quarter of this year, so this milestone has come even sooner than we expected.”

For every 100 paperbacks sold since the beginning of 2010, 115 ebooks were sold. This is on the back of the hugely successful third generation Kindle which was launched during the year. Though Amazon are not releasing sales figures for its handheld device, reports estimate that it could have shipped eight million units since launch in the middle of 2010. Amazon also confirmed that the Kindle had overtaken Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as the single biggest selling item on the site.

The fourth quarter results overall for Amazon show sales increase by 36 percent to $12.95 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with $9.52 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009, with net income increasing by 8 percent to $416 million. Bezos also pointed out that as well as the milestone of ebooks overtaking paperbacks, it was also Amazon’s first ever $10 billion quarter.

With the launch of it “Buy Once, Read Everywhere” Kindle apps for the iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, PC, laptop, Windows Phone 7 and Android mobile devices, Amazon is clearly looking to confirm its place as the most dominant force in the ebooks sphere. Looking forward, Amazon are predicting sales of $ $9.1 billion and $9.9 billion in Q1 2011 which would see growth of between 28 and 39 percent compared to Q1 of 2010.

Source: Amazon


January 28, 2011, 4:34 pm

Good stuff. E-Ink is the way to go for books now. Even my (60+ year old), Dad has a Kindle and he's not exactly a tech geek. Amazon are going the right way and reducing prices on digitally distributed books. Now the industry has to catch up and realise people won't pay over a fiver for a new e-book.

All I have to do is convince the missus my Sony E-Reader needs replacing!


January 28, 2011, 6:17 pm

Well I used to Buy 2-3 physical books a month - since I got my kindle a year ago I have bought 2 and only because I got a gift card for christmas :)

The best thing that could happen to ebook sales <in the UK at least> is to give them the same VAT status as print books

Brian Carter

January 28, 2011, 6:26 pm

I'm pleased to see ebooks getting such momentum and for amazon to be lowering prices to a reasonable cost but the discounts certainly don't apply across the board - seems to mostly be headline books so people think that it's not going to cost an arm and a leg to buy new books.

I also wonder how many free books have been counted in their sales.


January 28, 2011, 6:59 pm


Amazon's figures exclude all the freebie downloads.

Totally agree about the VAT. The application of some common sense wouldn't go a miss.


January 28, 2011, 9:51 pm

I love my kindle but I am frequently disappointed to find that books I want are not available electronically. Most older classics seem to be available (free!), and most new titles, but I quite often find I'm searching in vain for more modern classics (James Salter and Bret Easton Ellis titles spring to mind.

Hopefully some time soon they will catch up!


January 28, 2011, 11:32 pm

@purephase - I think most Bret Easton Ellis titles are on Kindle and there is certainly at least a selection of James Salter on the e-book store too. I'd expect they're working very hard to increase the coverage of the Kindle store.

Agree on the VAT point - e-books should be zero rated. Surely there's a petition for this somewhere?


January 29, 2011, 7:32 am

Hate to ask this question, someone may actually know the answer.

What percentage of total paperback sales does Amazon achieve ?

The headline is a bit misleading but if we start to hear of major closures of printers maybe it will be a prophetic one.

I also agree with Keldons' suggestion about VAT, it's morally correct but the goverment is not in a giving mood today.


January 29, 2011, 3:28 pm

First, these were US figures. Second, it includes 'sales' of free books and therefore isn't a fair comparison.

Marketing spin - he wants us to buy ebooks because Amazon gets a bigger margin on them.


January 29, 2011, 6:26 pm

JDunn, yes the figures are US but the free books are excluded from the figures, it also takes into account all books including ones which are not available on the kindle. if they had done a like for like comparison, or included the free books the number would have been a lot higher. Yes its marketing spin

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