September 16, 2009. Sales for Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol sold more copies for Amazon’s Kindle than in hardcover. This fact was interesting but not so surprising. The book was the much anticipated sequel to the popular The Da Vinci Code. It was just faster to download Kindle copies than print ones. Print sales caught up later in the week.
July 18, 2010. Amazon announced that its overall e-book sales topped hardcovers. For the previous three months it sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books. Amazon only offered relative numbers not actual sales figures. Totals included the very inexpensive Kindle books, bought more easily than read, limiting any implications for understanding literacy. The announcement was interpreted as marketing in anticipation of the Apple iPad.
January 2011. Amazon sells more e-books than paperbacks in the US during the final three months of 2010.
May 19, 2011. Amazon announces that it has sold more e-books than hardcover and paperback print books combined. Sceptics like me are slack-jawed.
May 27, 2010. “E-book sales grew exponentially in the first quarter of 2010, jumping from just 1.5% of total US book sales in 2009 to 5% of the market in the first quarter of 2010.” “Among e-book buyers, 25 percent said they bought fewer print books than before.” Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publishing services at R.R. Bowker, speaking from BISG’s Survey of Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading.
January 28, 2011. “In 2010, e-book sales rose by around 400% and pulled in almost $1 billion in sales.” Madeline McIntosh, Random House’s president of sales, operations and digital.
June 27, 2011. “The share of adults in the United States who own an e-book reader doubled to 12% in May, 2011 from 6% in November 2010.” Pew Internet.
July 25, 2011. “Sales of print books in Canada dropped dramatically in the first quarter of 2011” …. “BookNet CEO Noah Genner attributed the drop to a combination of factors, including the sale of digital books ….”
August 9, 2011. “E-book net revenue increased by 1274.1 percent between 2008 and 2010, to $878 million. E-book net sales increased by 1039.6 percent between 2008 and 2010, to 114 million.” BookStats.
September 12, 2011. “E-book sales rose 167% in June, to $80.2 million, at the 15 houses that reported figures to AAP’s monthly sales report and closed the first half of the year with sales up 161%, to $473.8 million.” “Trade paperback sales had the largest decline, down 64%, while children’s hardcover sales were off 31%. Adult hardcover sales fell 25%, mass market sales were down 22% and children’s paperback was off 13%.” Publishers Weekly.
Conclusion. The overall book sales pie may be getting larger but it is due to increased e-book sales while print sales drop. In general people are switching from print books to e-books. There are important exceptions to this pattern that I will discuss in my next article.