Amazon: Downloads now exceed printed book sales

Posted on by Mike Evans

Amazon are now selling 183 ebooks for every 100 printed books. The figure is for the past month. It is accelerating rapidly: over the last three months the rate has grown from 143 percent to 183 percent. The results are even more staggering when you bear in mind they exclude free books. In the first half of 2010 Amazon sold three times as many ebooks as in the same period last year.

According to Amazon, the Association of American Publishers' latest reports show that ebook sales grew 163 percent in May and 207 percent in the year to May. Amazon's recent price reduction on the Kindle to $189 has resulted in a "tripled growth rate" for the device, although the company still don't announce sales figures. Despite this, the major growth in book sales must have come from other devices such as the iPad and the Kindle applications on smartphones. 

Until the iPad came on the scene there was definite resistance to the idea of buying an expensive device just for reading books. Now, millions of people have bought iPads primarily for other uses and have discovered that they can buy books on line from the Kindle store and the iBookstore. I suspect this is the real story behind the Amazon announcement. 

I have no doubt that electronic book sales will continue to boom at the expense of the printed book. Within ten years, I predict, printed books will be a rarity. Already high street bookstores are feeling the pinch and many will be hard pressed to survive the next five years unless they can offer some unique attractions.

CORRECTION: Tony Cole of has pointed out, rightly, that Amazon's press release stated that downloads had exceeded hard cover rather than "printed book" sales. I interpreted "hard cover" as referring to all printed books, possibly because in British English we use the term "hardback" to distinguish paperbacks from traditional hard cover books. So the comparison is not quite so impressive but, nonetheless, I think my predictions for the demise of printed books is still accurate.

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