According to Amazon.com, the Kindle edition e-books have outsold hardbacks for the last 3 months. During this period Amazon said it sold 143 Kindle edition books for every 100 hardbacks. These figures don’t include the hundreds of thousands of public domain kindle downloads that are given away for free.
This is a pretty impressive figure and is indicative of the meteoric increase in e-book sales. The Association of American Publishers has stated that e-book sales are up 400% through May over same period last year.
There appears to be a little spin going on. Amazon’s earnings are due out this week, so the company is putting forward an optimistic report. What isn’t mentioned is the number of Kindle editions sold relative to sales of paperbacks. One can only assume that paperbacks continue to outsell the e-books. But one must still be impressed about the growth of e-book sales.
On another note, there is an extremely thought-provoking article in The Nation by Colin Robinson, co-founder of the progressive publisher OR Books Robinson argues that the vast selection of books on Amazon has the paradoxical effect of reducing choice. He cites the book, The Paradox of Choice, by Barry Schwartz which argues that when consumers are faced with too much choice they tend to fall back on what is safe and what is being highly promoted. Robinson believes that this, in part, is what is causing publishers to abandon the mid-list books to focus on the siren song of the blockbuster bestseller. Robinson has been a major figure in progressive publishing, first as publisher of Verso Books and then New Press. His new venture, OR Books, is one of the few publishers that does not sell through Amazon. This article is worth thinking about.