Kindle Books Hit New Milestone: Beating Out Paperbacks

So, as I recall it was last summer when Kindle books began beating out purchases of Hardcovers on the Amazon site.  This was a big deal because it illustrated for people that eBooks were pretty clearly here to stay in a way that previous announcements of numbers (not that Amazon was the company making any involving numbers) and vague statements about the future of the industry couldn’t do.  Now, Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has issued a release announcing that in addition to achieving their first ever $10 Billion quarter, Kindle books are now outselling paperbacks by a fair amount.

Specifically, there are 115 Kindle Editions going out for every 100 paperbacks.  There’s really no way to significantly top that as a milestone, that I can think of.  From here on out, it’s all going to be iterations of the same.  “Twice as many as paperbacks” and that sort of thing.  A similar bit of info was put into the press release to tell us that over the same period as that being measures for that comparison with paperbacks, Kindle books outsold hardcovers by a factor of three.  So, yeah.  Big year.

Now, Amazon has a reputation for only giving us rather fuzzy numbers when it comes to anything having to do with the Kindle.  We know that Kindle device sales numbers for the most recent generation are in the millions, but no more than that other than that they’re a bigger seller than the ever popular Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Nice to have some sort of reference point, of course, but hardly anything you can do specific analysis with.

Overall, good news, but it’s hard to say how good.  We know that Kindle sales, and therefore almost certainly Kindle book sales, are up.  The apps that they release for practically every possible platform with a screen, portable or otherwise, are ever more available and easy to use.  This is good news for Kindle Edition sales as well.  The only thing that we’re vague on right now is how good.  No word if part of it involves a decline in paperback sales, or if half the sales for the year were immediately post-Christmas.  There’s simply no way to determine if there was something huge making this possible.  Was it, however unlikely, the announcement of Kindle for Windows Mobile 7 that put sales over the edge?  The world may never know…

Regardless, some other points of fun information were included as well.  There are now over 810,000 Kindle Editions for sale through the Kindle Store(and that excludes all free books, since that would bring it up into the millions).  Of those books, over 670,000 are available for under $10. While I would love to have solid numbers on the Under $5 range, that’s still encouraging.  Wider acceptance means better selection and hopefully more opportunities for readers.  Maybe next year, Amazon won’t have any reason to point out that their sales number comparison didn’t exclude books with no Kindle Edition counterpart because that will be so rare as to not be an issue.  Ok, yeah, that one’s probably a good way off yet, but it’ll be nice when we do see it.

Library Books and the Kindle, What’s the Deal?

When the Kindle vs Nook competition began, a lot of those of us who take an interest in such things were making a fairly big deal about the advantages of the Nook’s EPUB compatibility.  This remains an advantage for the Nook and any number of other eBook readers to this day, oddly enough.  This, when it comes down to it, is really what’s behind the inability of the Kindle to pick up books at your local library.

Most of you will know what I’m talking about.  For those who don’t, here’s the basic situation as I understand it.  The standard in eBooks is currently the EPUB.  What Amazon is using for their Kindle platform is a variation on the Mobipocket format which is basically the generation previous to that.  For whatever reason, some people think it’s because it keeps the Kindle platform the focus of Kindle devices and software rather than give up any potential control over distribution, the most up to date distribution systems just don’t quite click with Amazon.   Sadly, these are the very systems in place for libraries around the country to take advantage of!

Library services, for example Media on Demand, tend to use Overdrive Inc’s software.  It’s a way to distribute their books in EPUB format, using the Adobe Digital Editions DRM (which is distinct from Amazon’s proprietary right’s management methods), in order to give people copies of eBooks that will become unusable after a set period of time. It’s a neat concept, since it allows for a single “copy” of an eBook to be sent to people without the usual risk of unauthorized copies.  It’s understandable that publishers would be somewhat concerned about that, since there’s nothing to stop people from just holding on to the files themselves, but libraries are awesome and should be supported even as the digital text option takes off.

So, for the moment, Kindle owners are still stuck waiting on the sidelines when it comes to borrowing books from libraries.  Not really surprising since we’ve only in the past month or so seen the activation of even single lending enabled Kindle Editions of books, but still more than a little disappointing for new owners who want to get the most out of their purchase or gift acquisition.

Is there hope for the future?  Of course!  Look forward to new and interesting options when it comes to book borrowing.  Eventually, somebody will figure out a good way to get the ball rolling.  In the meantime, it’s probably helpful to keep in mind that many libraries will offer at least some of their books in PDF format, or at least help walk you through the process of grabbing some public domain titles to put onto your Kindle if you’re not confident doing so on your own.  While PDF documents don’t like quite as good on the eReader display as the newer formats do, they’re still quite readable and there’s a lot out there to hold you over.  No need to be too horribly jealous of all those Nook and Kobo owners. If all else fails, check out the Kindle Lending Club I mentioned in an earlier post.  It hasn’t been going for long enough to have a great impression about reliability, but some option is better than none!