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Amazon Sells Many More Digital Books Than Hardcovers

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Posted on Jul 20, 2010

It looks like Amazon’s e-book strategy is paying off. CEO Jeff Bezos revealed Monday that, “even while our hardcover sales continue to grow,” his company sold 180 Kindle edition books for every 100 hardcovers last month. That figure has accelerated since Amazon dropped the price of its best-selling product, the Kindle e-book reader, by $70.

Full press release here.

Clearly e-books are cheaper to produce and distribute than their physical cousins, but, as the Los Angeles Times points out, there is some skepticism about whether Amazon keeps e-book prices low to help Kindle sales:

“We don’t know the economics of these e-books,” said Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC Financial. “In our opinion, they are losing money on a lot of the bestsellers sold as e-books.”

The site has about 630,000 e-books for sale, plus numerous titles that are available as free downloads. About 80% of the priced e-books go for $9.99 or less, according to the company, significantly lower than the approximate $25 average for hardbacks.

[...] The company is much more likely to be making a profit on sales of its Kindle device, he said, even with the price cut. “There’s one thing that we’re pretty certain on,” Gillis said. “They’re making a lot of money on the hardware.”

Amazon says it excluded free Kindle books from its sales comparisons.

Whatever Amazon’s motives, consumers clearly expect a discount when buying digital media. And why not? Digital books don’t have to be made from trees and inks, shipped half way around the world and moved from warehouse to store to home. Why shouldn’t the publisher pass on the savings to the consumer?  —PZS

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, July 22, 2010 at 7:05 am Link to this comment

Kindle has many defects, but it does point the way to devices that will be easy to read and under the users’ control rather than Big Brother’s.  It will not only be possible to download texts for a lot less than $9.99 but you will be able to share them freely with your friends.  These devices will not replace books—the book technology is admirable and it will be a long time before they are displaced.  However, the new devices are going to radically transform the publishing of new material because the cost of publication has dropped to nearly zero, and most of that is prepaid by the consumers.  Authors will be able to sell directly to the public without intermediaries if they wish.  (Some are doing this successfully already.)  The traditional publishing business is doomed, but I imagine some of them will adapt and finagle something in the new world.

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By samosamo, July 21, 2010 at 11:34 pm Link to this comment


Hopefully I’ll be dead before books just ‘disappear’. That and my
penchant now a days to NOT use anything with plastic, I’ll stick
with books as I also don’t want any unwanted advertizing getting
in my way. There also seems to be a problem with copyrights on
some titles that may not make them available.

If what I read at USAToday happens and Oakland, CA becomes a
major center for hemp which will hopefully be used to make
paper, then books shouldn’t just ‘disappear’ no matter how
many new age people want to them to ‘disappear’.

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By Richard Nixon, July 21, 2010 at 8:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think buying a used book or even better checking it our from the library would
be the best, but whatever floats thee boat.

Personally I couldn’t stand reading on that screen.

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By gold, July 21, 2010 at 8:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

And it’s green. Totally green.  No paper, no presses, no ink, no shipping costs in trucks belching smoke. 


I’m guessing the electricity used to charge it is made of magical green fairy light and the materials used to make it are plastics mined from the green fairy’s platinum / kindle mine. Oh, and the transport of the Kindle by truck was run on green fairy gas. 

This is the problem with the entire green / renewable energy / green technology club. They don’t realise that it doesn’t solve the problem, sometimes it’s even less efficient than the old system once you work it all out - but it doesn’t stop them feeling good about their ‘green’ consumerism’.

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By Inherit The Wind, July 21, 2010 at 8:31 pm Link to this comment

I’m sure one could hook up a solar charger to the Kindle and then it would be charged by sunshine.

Nit-pick away.  The environmental cost of producing a kindle has got to be easily offset after one buys 20 eBooks, books that don’t have to consume massive amounts of trees and energy.

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By samosamo, July 21, 2010 at 2:30 pm Link to this comment


Want to go green with out the forests? Hemp. But until everyone
goes to their representative in their state legislatures and in
congress, and tell them to legalize hemp as a viable source from
which to make top grade quality paper, we will still be left with
the old pollutants and technologies that are in use today but it
will save trees and the logging industry is the numero uno
reason for the laws against hemp which fits in line with an
industry becoming so powerful in influence peddling that it will
do what it can even to a point of destruction and ill health to
maintain their industry even when another less detrimental
source is available. But there by the grace of bribery(lobbying)
there they go.

And not to leave it unsaid, converting hemp to paper would
probably be as poisonous as making trees into paper.

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By Sally G, July 21, 2010 at 4:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Green?  Yes, in production, in many ways.  But every time one reads an E-book, one is using electricity.  Books, once produced, consume no energy.  And, as miller has pointed out, one becomes dependent on the particular E-reader that one uses (it will be interesting to see if someone produces a “translator” between systems).

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By miller, July 21, 2010 at 3:04 am Link to this comment

I have a Kindle, but I am not yet leaping onto the bandwagon. When I pay that $9.99,or whatever it is, I am merely renting that book. That book is only ‘mine’ as long as I have access to Kindle and use Kindle.  If I start using, say,the B&N Nook, those books that I purchased at Amazon are gone. My view is that once I ‘buy’ that book it should truly be mine, to use or lend as I see fit. As things now stand, I think that the Kindle is a con game.

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By Richard Nixon, July 21, 2010 at 1:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Also I would question how green it is to make a kindle and the kind of toxic
activity that goes on to make it.

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By Richard Nixon, July 21, 2010 at 1:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

‘It is totally green.”

Yeah except for the part when you charge it and they it uses coal energy and they
blow up mountains in west virginia.

Real green. It is always a trade off. Remember that.

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By Sally G, July 20, 2010 at 7:38 pm Link to this comment

What about paperbacks?  A major part of the book market, I would think.

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By samosamo, July 20, 2010 at 6:31 pm Link to this comment



Interesting. But I am too settled in with books because I have
tried to read or have read too much from computers inducing
the especially ‘DES’ which still from time to time irritates my
eyes, be it from computers or books.

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By Inherit The Wind, July 20, 2010 at 5:57 pm Link to this comment

I was just given a Kindle for my birthday (“39” again!) and it’s marvelous!  I have eyes that are long beat up from nearly 30 years of computer screens.  It’s NOTHING like any electronic device.  I’ve tried reading books on my PC and on my PDA and it’s painful.  The Kindle is like reading a book.  It emits no light, it doesn’t flicker.

And it’s green. Totally green.  No paper, no presses, no ink, no shipping costs in trucks belching smoke. 


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By samosamo, July 20, 2010 at 3:37 pm Link to this comment


It should still take awhile for the foolishly technologized
humans to realize that ‘electronic’ books won’t stay around as
long as printed book. Probably a lot harder on the optic nerves
when they are turned on to read. Which also means the ministry
of truth can ‘streamline’ what they want.

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