Amazon ebook sales pull ahead of traditional books

A Kindle eBook reader


Bill Radke: The big online retailer Amazon yesterday announced that sales of digital books are pulling ahead of the old paper-style information transfer devices. Here to talk about it live is Marketplace's John Dimsdale. Good morning, John.

John Dimsdale: Good morning, Bill.

Radke: So we've been hearing more and more about ebook readers. What's this latest tidbit?

Dimsdale: Well Amazon says for every 100 hardcover books out the door over the past three months, it sold 143 books electronically. Now Amazon is famously very secretive about the exact numbers of Kindles and the ebooks that it sells. But faced with all the headlines of how Apple's iPads are taking over the market, Amazon did release a few tantalizing tidbits about what's going on in the ebook industry. And you know, there's a price war going on right now among ebook readers, and Kindle sales tripled when the price dropped below $200.

Radke: And why are these book and ebook lines crossing now?

Dimsdale: Well, in an word, competition. Not only are there iPads and Kindles, but several other ebook readers are either on the market now or planning to come to market in the near future.

Radke: So are people buying ebooks instead of hardcover books, or are they just buying more books?

Dimsdale: Well, that's not clear. Traditional book sales are also increasing. Amazon's comparison is only between hardbound books and ebooks. It doesn't take into account sales of much more popular paperback books. The experts say they need several more months of data to know whether ebooks are cutting into the popularity of traditional books.

Radke: OK. Marketplace's John Dimsdale joining us. Thanks, John.

Dimsdale: Thanks, Bill.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.
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As a bookseller, it's clear that ebooks are creating market pressure. In fact, paperback books were created to recover losses during down-times. Ebooks will soon recover more of that níche. Add that ebook being are now require by the State of California, and you have even more market pressure.

Market pressure will continue, and oversized "too big _not_ to fail" vendors will continue.

I've been to a dozen sites reporting this story and I'm thrilled to see that John Dimsdale sees through Amazon's stunt and notes that more data is needed. Amazon is past-master of the headline-grabbing non-event, and too few reporters have the intelligence of Mr. Dimsdale. Well done!

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