July 20, 2010, 3:17 PM

Amazon sells more e-books than hardcover volumes

In the past 30 days, Amazon sold 180 Kindle books for every 100 hardcovers it sold.

Mark Brohan

Research Director

Lead Photo

The sale of all things Kindle is exceeding expectations—at least those of Amazon.com Inc.

Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, announced yesterday a number of Kindle-related statistics, including:

  • Over the past three months, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon has sold, it has sold 143 Kindle books. In its Kindle update, Amazon did not offer any comparison between the sales of paperbacks and e-books.
  • Over the last 30 days, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 180 Kindle books.
  • Author James Patterson had sold 1.14 million e-books to date. Of those, 867,881 were Kindle books.
  • Five authors—Charlaine Harris, Stieg Larsson, Stephenie Meyer, James Patterson, and Nora Roberts—have each sold more than 500,000 Kindle books.
  • The U.S. Kindle store now has more than 630,000 books available, including new releases and 106 of 110 New York Times best sellers.
  • About 510,000 books available for Kindle are priced at $9.99 or less, including 75 New York Times best sellers.
  • Over 1.8 million free, out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books are also available to read on Kindle.

Amazon, which has not said how many Kindle electronic books reader it has sold, says sales of Kindle are now at “a tipping point,” especially since the world’s biggest online retailer lowered the price on the 3G Kindle e-reader from $259 to $189 on June 21.

"The growth rate of Kindle device unit sales has tripled since we lowered the price," says CEO Jeff Bezos. "In addition, even while our hardcover sales continue to grow, the Kindle format has now overtaken the hardcover format. Amazon.com customers now purchase more Kindle books than hardcover books—astonishing when you consider that we've been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months."

Amazon observers say the statistics Amazon released show there’s great potential for growth in electronic books.

“Historically Amazon hasn’t released much data around the performance of the Kindle and it’s interesting to see them getting more transparent,” says Scot Wingo, CEO of online marketing service provider ChannelAdvisor Corp. “By lowering the Kindle to $189, the volume has shot up for the devices and appears to be a key driver of why the sale of e-books have surged past hardcovers. There’s a tipping point where a product’s saturation rate accelerates dramatically. It seems that Amazon believes the new Kindle price point has caused that to happen for the e-book market.”

The disclosure of some Kindle-related sales is a precursor to Amazon’s full second quarter earnings report, which will be released after the stock markets close tomorrow afternoon.

In April, Amazon said it expected:

  • Q2 sales to be between $6.1 billion and $6.7 billion, or to grow between 31% and 44% compared with the second quarter of 2009.

Operating income was expected to be between $220 million and $320 million, or to grow between 39% and 102% compared with last year’s second quarter.

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