Amazon’s Kindle Versus Hardcover Numbers Confuse

Yesterday Amazon came out with its big press release claiming that Kindle eBooks are outselling hardcovers on and announcing that five authors have already sold more than 500,000 Kindle books.
While this is impressive news for the eBook business, it does come with some questions. Amazon continues to dance around hard numbers, such as how many eBooks the company has sold or how many Kindles they have sold. Instead they share more elusive facts like for every 100 hardcovers sold, they sell 180 Kindle books.
This is a slightly confusing metric, as it doesn’t say if the titles are available as paperbacks, eBooks and hardcovers, or one of these various formats. As Digital Book World points out: “A significant percentage of the eBooks Amazon offers for sale were NEVER published in hardcover format.” It would be more interesting to see how these various versions compete against each other for titles based on which releases are available.

As CNET points out, self-published titles play in here. “Just how many e-books sold are self-published titles? The Kindle Store is literally flooded with self-published titles and many of them sell between 99 cents and $3.99. Some self-published authors are doing very well because they’ve written a decent book or books that are priced cheaply. Cheap sells these days.” Perhaps Kindle owners are taking a chance on some unknown authors at cheap prices and purchasing a number of cheap eBooks. This might not be affecting their hardcover buying habits and is instead just growing eBooks sales.
The Wall Street Journal examined what this means for paperbacks: “As for the effect on paperbacks, Madeline McIntosh, president, sales, operations and digital at Bertelsmann AG’s Random House Inc., said: ‘Our conclusion is that there’s no data to prove any connection—good or bad—between growth in e-books and the growth or decline, in trade paperback sales. … If anything, we may be seeing a positive effect in which the steady pace of e-book sales helps to keep a book in front-of-mind for a growing number of consumers after hardcover momentum slows.'”