It turns out that people really do love to read. Not only do people love to read, but they want to read what they want to read when they want to read it — and that means that digital book, or ebooks, which can be downloaded instantly from the Internet, are taking off even faster than anyone could have predicted as recently as six months ago. Now Amazon.com has announced that Kindle books are selling much faster than ordinary hardcover bound books. (Kindle books are books that can be read by the Amazon Kindle ebook reader, the Amazon Kindle 2, Apple’s iPhone or iPad, Blackberry and Android devices, and PC and Macintosh computers.) The statistics do not include free ebooks offered by Amazon, of which there are more than a million.
Between the ebooks offered by Amazon and other booksellers, and the ebooks available through Google Books, the world of book publishing is about to go through a dramatic change. If you are currently choosing between getting rid of hardcover books that are in good condition, or putting them in a self storage unit, this may be the time to consider preserving those bound books — a few years from now, they may indeed have become collectors’ items. Paperback books are still outselling ebooks, for the moment — but the day is coming when paperbacks may be collectors’ items too.
“Monday was a day for the history books,” wrote Claire Cain Miller in The New York Times today, “if,” she continued, “those will even exist in the future.”
Over the last several months, Amazon has been pushing to make Kindle books available to anyone, even people who do not own a Kindle. Kindle books can now be read on a PC or Mac computer, a Blackberry or Android phone, or an Apple iPad or iPhone, as well as on Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader. A few weeks ago Amazon announced that it was also going to start offering its free book previews to anyone, not just Kindle owners, using new software called “Kindle Previewer for HTML 5.” All Amazon’s Kindle products are synced for each user across all the platforms used by that individual, so a person who starts to read a book on a PC at work during a coffee break, or on a Blackberry device during a bus or train commute, can pick up a Kindle at home and continue reading directly from the last page read on any device.
Amazon is also planning to offer ebooks that are embedded with audio and video. First generation Kindle readers have always had the capacity to play audio files — apparently future devices will be able to play video as well.
Now, it looks as though Amazon’s Kindle marketing efforts have paid off — for the last three months, Amazon has been selling 143 Kindle books for every hardcover book sold. If the statistics are run for only the last month, the number rises to 180 Kindle books sold for every 100 hardcovers. Amazon offers 630,000 books in Kindle format, but offers millions of books in hardcover and paperback versions. These number are especially amazing, says Amazon’s CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos in Cain Miller’s Times article, “when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months.” Most Kindle books cost less than $10, while hardcover books, on average, cost $26.
The statistics do not include free ebooks offered in Kindle format by Amazon. Amazon offers 1.8 million free Kindle books — books which are in the public domain because their copyright has expired.
Amazon is not the only bookseller to experience increased sales of ebooks over the last few months. According to the Association of American Publishers, ebook sales quadrupled this spring.