Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kindle Sales Percentages: A Query

Jeff Bezos said, in a recent interview with The Washington Post:
today, for titles that have a Kindle edition, Kindle book sales are 48 percent of the physical sales.
From the Kindle numbers I have seen -- admittedly, those are still somewhat scanty, and come substantially later than physical books-sales data -- I would not characterize that to be the case, and I work in business books, supposedly one of the hot areas for e-books. (Not to say that e-book sales aren't growing well; they are.) Are any of you seeing Kindle editions selling at close to half the sales of the paper book?

I just did a spot-check on my long-time bestselling book on Amazon, which is on a wonky topic that I'd expect would appeal to early adopters and business road warriors -- for the past few weeks, Kindle sales seem to be rising as a percentage of print sales, but only in the 10-12% range.

And the essay question is, of course: how much of that sales growth is entirely due to Amazon's very aggressive Kindle pricing strategy for bestsellers? If they sell Under the Dome for $14.00 in hardcover and $7.99 in Kindle, isn't it surprising that they're still selling fewer of the Kindle editions?


S.M.D. said...

Honestly, I've had a hell of a time just getting Survival By Storytelling (a fiction mag/journal I just released) formatted for the Kindle so it doesn't look absurd. The auto formatting they offer for all that is...ridiculous.

But, I don't know if SBS would be big in the Kindle market anyway.

Having said that, I find the whole 48% claim somewhat odd. Maybe for certain kinds of books, but I can't imagine that Kindle sales are beating out physical sales, unless people who buy hard copies aren't getting them from Amazon now.

Are ebook sales up significantly this year alone? I know they're up, but they still only make up about 10-15% of the overall book market, right?

Mike G. said...

Under the Dome is cheaper on Kindle, sure, but it's also not available until Thursday :(

The Brillig Blogger said...

I don't know if I trust much of anything in the way of mysterious Kindle stats that emerge from Amazon. That being said, he is saying 48% of their sales of the book, and not of total sales, so if a title Wiley published is selling 10% of its copies in e-book, and that means 6% or 7% of the sales are for the Kindle, that means Amazon is selling 12% of 15% of the print copies. That doesn't strike me as being impossible on the face of it. 100 copies total sell, 90 of those print and 10 e-book, and Amazon accounts for 6 of the e-book and 13 of the print copies.

Andrew Wheeler said...

S.M.D.: The kindle format is indeed persnickety; I work at a big company, and we have plenty of headaches with it. (And, to be fair, pretty much every other e-book format.)

The 48% number is a bit misleading, like many of Amazon's statements about Kindle sales -- it's not that Kindle editions are 48% of all sales, but that if printed books sales were at 100 units, Kindle books were at 48. All of their Kindle numbers are similarly massaged and carefully framed, which is why I always poke at and doubt them.

S.M.D. said...

Andrew: I think if you consider it the way Mike has, it makes some sense, but the quote you gave is very misleading indeed. I still don't know if Kindle sales were 48% of Amazon's book sales, though...

Andrew Wheeler said...

I should be more precise -- I looked up sales for one of my books by Amazon, using their online tool, in both print and Kindle formats. If the print book was selling 100 copies in a week (for example), the Kindle edition was selling around 10.

Amazon, or Bezos (if the two can be separated) is saying that the average of that second number, across all Kindle editions, is 48 -- that Amazon sells 48 Kindle editions for every 100 print books, across the universe of books available in Kindle format.

The numbers I've seen from my company are not at that level, which leads me to wonder if 1) there's some deeper finagling with the numbers I'm not catching, or 2) that big bestselling fiction is selling 60, 70, or 80 copies in Kindle format for each 100 copies Amazon sells in print.

Brillig: If I were you -- or any agent with authors selling large numbers of print books this past season -- I'd be urging publishers to get me a good accounting of Kindle sales with the next royalty statement. (Not that I need to tell you any such thing!)

The Brillig Blogger said...

Don't get me started on e-book accounting with the major publishers.

Some companies like Macmillan (Tor, SMP, FSG) aggregate all the e-book sales into one line, so there's no format information.

Penguin gives a separate page for each ISBN, meaning each e-book format, but doesn't tell you what ISBN is what format. You guess that the page with the big shitload of sales is the Kindle, that the next biggest is Sony, and that after that life is too short. And since Amazon doesn't attach an ISBN to its Kindle pages, it really is a guess. Since these statements are six or eight highly uninformative pages, I end up aggregating the sales onto my spreadsheets.

Harper also has separate pages, but also has a summary section, and does list formats. But none of these formats are Kindle; you need to know or ask to find out that those sales show up on the MOBI line.

Random House doesn't give entire separate pages, so less paper waste, but does print out e-book sales in ISBN lines, again with no format information attached.

& how much more helpful are the Wiley statements, Sr. Hornswoggler?

Ray said...

We all know why Bezos would lie about this, so is there any reason for him to tell the truth? Are Amazon sales by format ever going to be audited?
Sure, each publisher will know their own sales by format, but they don't know the aggregate, and they've no reason to pick a fight with Amazon.

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