Nov 102010

I guess the above headline kinda says it all, but Amazon just surpassed three quarters of a million e-book titles available for purchase on the Amazon Kindle store — up to 750,814 as of today. (This is in addition to the millions of free public domain e-books available at Project Gutenberg and other places that can be read on a Kindle or any other e-book reader.) Amazon has the most in-copyright, new release, and best-selling e-book titles available (compare it to the Apple iBook store, which only boasts 30,000 paid titles). And they’ve steadily added to their total, more than doubling the number of titles since a year ago — adding about 1,000 titles a day. Check out this handy list, courtesy of the excellent I Love My Kindle Blog:

November 1, 2010: 743,692
October 1, 2010: 714,663
September 1, 2010: 687,246
August 1, 2010: 659,479
July 1, 2010: 627,343
June 1, 2010: 596,300
May 1, 2010: 509,229
April 1, 2010: 476,653
March 1, 2010: 450,625
February 1, 2010: 415,100
January 1, 2010: 401,773
December 1, 2009: 385,484
November 1, 2009: 368,813
October 1, 2009: 342,865
September 21, 2009: 355,805
July 28, 2009: 332,813
May 16, 2009: 284,491

Bottom line: sure, some e-book titles still aren’t available (like the Harry Potter series), but I’m never short of something to read on my Kindle.

 Amazon  Comments Off on Amazon Kindle Store Surpasses 750,000 E-Book Titles
Oct 252010

Today’s Amazon press release contains a number of Kindle milestones and sales figures, although Amazon does get a bit cute with the wording:

  • Sales of the “new generation Kindle devices” since their introduction surpassed “total Kindle device sales” for Q4 2009. This has a bit of tricky wording: are they talking just about the Kindle 3, introduced July 28, or the Kindle DX 2 (introduced July 1) as well? Removing the DX from both sides of the equation, this would mean the Kindle 3 sold more in its first 2 months and 28 days (July 28 through today, Oct 25) than the Kindle 2 over the last three months of 2009. True, holiday sales are Amazon’s busiest time of the year, but this one isn’t as impressive as it first sounds, since we’re comparing almost equal time periods and I’d expect a sales bump when a new model is introduced.
  • Over the past 30 days, Amazon sold twice as many Kindle editions of books in the Top 10 on as it did of print books (paperback and hardcover combined). They also sold more e-books than print books for the Top 25, 100, and 1,000 Amazon bestsellers. This statement is also a little clever, and notable because they DON’T just say they sold more e-books than print books over the past month. Clearly, their e-book sales are stronger on their bestselling titles, while print books have a more robust “long tail.” Still, it’s an impressive statistic that for the Top 1,000 bestselling titles on Amazon, more were sold in electronic form than printed form in the past 30 days.
  • Amazon also notes that they sold more than 3 times as many Kindle e-books in the first 9 months of 2010 than they did for the first 9 months of 2009. An impressive growth rate that pretty much equals (or slightly exceeds) the growth of e-books in general.
  • On a similar note, those same industry e-book sales figures claim that e-book sales increased 193% from January of this year to August of this year, and Amazon says their Kindle e-book sales surpassed that figure (although they don’t say by how much).

Overall, solid stats and figures, although I wish Amazon (and Apple, to name another culprit) would be a little more direct with their statistics, instead of couching things in intentionally-confusing language that requires decoding and sounds better than it really is.

 Amazon  Comments Off on Kindle Sales Increasing, Bestselling E-Books Overtake Print On Amazon
Oct 152010

Amazon UK today made an announcement on its UK forums, apologizing to customers for higher prices by some publishers, who have insisted upon an “agency” pricing model. Under the agency model (described in further detail here), publishers set the final sale price of an e-book, and the retailer (like Amazon, B&N, or Apple) collects a cut, usually 30%. Under the retail model, which print books are all sold under and some e-books are still sold under, the publisher sets a “list price,” charges the retailer some percentage of that price (usually around 50%), and the retailer is then free to sell the book for the price they choose: at the list price, at some discount, even at a loss if they want.

When switching to the agency model, publishers almost universally raised prices on e-books across the board: Amazon had sold new releases at $9.99 (often taking a loss, paying publishers about $13 for e-books with a $26 “list price”), and backlist (older) titles around $6.39. Those prices have increased to about $12.99 and $7.99, respectively, increases of around 30%. (Note: 5 of the 6 largest publishers in the U.S., with the exception of Random House, embraced the agency model when Apple’s iBook Store opened in April as a way to break Amazon’s dominance of the e-book market).

Was this just a business decision to maximize revenue? A campaign to humble Amazon, as publishers were fearful it was gaining too much power in the book-selling (especially the e-book-selling) world? Or a way to slow down the adoption of e-books and keep people buying printed books, which is, after all, what large print publishers are best at? I’ll let you decide.

In any event, how did the agency model work out for publishers? According to Amazon, not so well:

Unsurprisingly, when prices went up on agency-priced books, sales immediately shifted away from agency publishers and towards the rest of our store. In fact, since agency prices went into effect on some e-books in the US, unit sales of books priced under the agency model have slowed to nearly half the rate of growth of the rest of Kindle book sales. This is a significant difference, as the growth of the total Kindle business has been substantial – up to the end of September, we’ve sold more than three times as many Kindle books in 2010 as we did up to the end of September in 2009. And in the US, Kindle editions now outsell hardcover editions, even while our hardcover business is growing.

So, the growth of agency model books are less than half the growth of non-agency-model books. (Since e-books are growing so rapidly, an outright decrease in sales would be a true disaster — imagine two boats on a fast-moving river, one going with the current, and the other fighting it and being dragged more slowly along.) While some have hypothesized that publishers are intentionally shifting those sales away from Amazon and to Apple, I have serious doubts that many Kindle users are willing to buy a $499 iPad and change their reading preferences if they consider a book overpriced on Amazon — just to read the book for the same price on the iPad’s eyestrain-inducing LCD screen. No, I think they just find another book to buy instead. And, as the most recent sales figures show, e-book sales took a dip when the agency model was announced, but continue to show strong growth since then. So Amazon Kindle readers are buying e-books, just not as many e-books from agency model publishers as they used to.

Will this mean the upcoming end of the agency model? Do large print publishers even care if their e-book sales decrease, or only what happens to their print sales, which are still 91% of their total sales? (Note: August 2010 hardcover print sales are down 24.4% from August 2009, trade paperback sales are down 18.3%, and mass-market paperback sales are down 21.9%; so much for “protecting print sales.”) I think what publishers miss is that, once a reader switches to an e-book reader, they prefer the e-reading experience strongly enough to pretty much stop buying printed books (I know I’ve stopped buying print books, and a quick perusal of the Amazon forums will assure you I’m not alone). Further, they’re pretty much only going to buy e-books from the e-book store associated with their device — it’s just too convenient to get Amazon e-books on a Kindle in 60 seconds, not have to break DRM or convert files, have your e-books backed up for you, Amazon syncs your place in your books across reading devices, and Amazon already has Kindle users’ credit card info. Once a user buys a Kindle, the vast majority would never even consider the iBook Store, or any other e-book retailer. Why, when Amazon has the largest selection, all the benefits I described above, and the agency model ironically guarantees that, while Amazon can’t beat other retailers on price, neither can anyone else offer e-books cheaper anywhere else?

 e-books  Comments Off on Amazon Says Agency Pricing Costing Publishers Sales

Kindle 3 Reviews Roundup

 Posted by at 8:18 PM  Tagged with: , ,
Aug 232010

The New Kindle 3 (in charcoal gray): Lighter, Smaller, Faster, and Less Expensive Than The Kindle 2 (white).

Amazon’s new Kindle 3 debuts in a few days, and reviews are starting to roll in. Below are links to some early reviews. The consensus? Most reviewers agree it’s the best e-reading device out there. The average ranking is 8 or 9 points out of 10 (or 4 to 4.5 out of 5). Most agree that it combines a number of evolutionary improvements (as opposed to one or two huge new features) to make it much more refined, and a significant improvement over its predecessor, the Kindle 2 (which was already the most popular and best e-book reader available). Many of the reviewers also expressed the opinion that the Kindle 3 was “ready for prime time” or “the first e-reader they’d recommend to the general public” — not just the most avid readers (who probably already have an e-reader and are yearning to trade up).

The basics: the new Kindle is less expensive, smaller & lighter, faster, has increased contrast on its 6″ e-Ink screen, has longer battery life, more memory, more font choices, better PDF support, and several other improvements. It weighs only 8.5 ounces (Wi-Fi model) or 8.7 ounces (3G + Wi-Fi model). It has 4 MB of internal storage, good for 3,500 books. And the battery lasts a month. Both models come with free 2-day shipping from Amazon and a no-questions-asked 30-day return policy (they’re pretty confident you’ll like it). Your two options are:

One other quote that jumped out at me:

These days, when anyone who enjoys reading tells me he doesn’t want a Kindle, my answer is simple: “That’s only because you haven’t tried one.”

Enjoy the links to the reviews below!

  1. Kindle Nation Daily says “This Kindle 3 is a Triple Wow. Five Stars. Two Thumbs Up.”
  2. Len Edgerly has a 12-minute YouTube video explaining “What’s So Great About The Kindle 3.”
  3. PC World’s Melissa Perenson says the K3 “feels ready to meet the mainstream masses.” (4.5 / 5)
  4. PC Mag’s Dan Costa calls the K3 an “Editor’s Choice” and “the best dedicated ebook reader you can buy.” (4 / 5)
  5. CNET says the K3’s lower price makes it “a solid value for readers looking to make the jump to e-books.” (4 / 5)
  6. Wired calls it “something readers will want to carry around with them, even in the emerging age of tablet computers.” (9 / 10)
  7. Telegraph UK calls it an “excellent device” that “is the first ebook reader that has a credible chance of cracking the mass market.”
 e-readers  Comments Off on Kindle 3 Reviews Roundup

Amazon Kindle UK

 Posted by at 8:30 PM  Tagged with: ,
Aug 052010

Amazon today announced the availability of Kindle titles on Amazon’s UK store, While our friends “across the pond” were previously able to buy Kindle books, they were often hit with large international surcharges, currency conversion, and VAT (European tax). Kindle books often cost international customers $2 or $3 more than they cost here — which is especially significant on $0.99 or $2.99 e-books! Even “free” e-books carried extra charges over there. Ugh.

So, I’m glad to see Amazon bring Kindle titles to their UK-based store. The good news is that the prices seem quite reasonable: Right Ascension is only £1.97, which seems pretty fair. (True, they do tack on a small percentage for VAT, but it seems they price the titles appropriately based on the exchange rate and don’t add extra fees — the price works out to $3.13 at today’s rate.) For comparison, the old price would have been at least $4.99, maybe more, for England-based shoppers on Amazon.

The only bad news I can see is that the books’ reviews, sales rankings, and “tags” (helpful keywords, like “science fiction” that users can associate with books) from the US versions don’t transfer over to the UK site, so mine are starting from scratch. Amazon also doesn’t let you shop around: if you’re registered with a US address, you can only shop at the US store; at the UK store, you’ll see “Pricing information not available” and “The Kindle Store at is for UK customers only.” (I believe non-US customers trying to shop in the US store can do so, they just see different — usually higher — prices.)

Anyway, this is another great opportunity and another great benefit of e-books: without doing a thing or shipping anything across the Atlantic, my e-books are now available (at fair prices) to readers all over the world. Judging by the limited information I get from my sales reports, a fair amount of my Amazon sales (on the order of 1/6th or even 1/4th) are from international customers already, and this should only help. To all my readers, wherever you happen to be, thanks for giving my books a chance!

The links to my titles in Amazon’s UK store are below:

 Amazon  Comments Off on Amazon Kindle UK
Aug 022010

The new, smaller K3 next to the K2. This pic would be better for my previous post, but I really like it.

Apple claims they could have up to 22% of the e-book market. Barnes & Noble claims a similar share. And what about Sony, or Kobo? And what does that leave Amazon, presumably still the largest e-book seller?

Despite all the numbers being tossed around, I’ve known for a while that Amazon had the lion’s share of e-book sales. Well, today I saw official confirmation from Amazon, which announced that it owns 70% to 80% of the e-book market. When asked about Apple’s 22% claim and B&N’s 20% claim, Ian Freed (Amazon VP in charge of the Kindle) essentially said that he wasn’t calling anyone a liar, but he’s sure of Amazon’s numbers. Well, how can Amazon have 75%, and Apple and B&N both claim about 20%? Freed says that “something doesn’t add up,” but that Amazon is pretty sure the 75% is right. Now, he’s not gonna say who’s wrong, just that (a) Amazon’s numbers are accurate and (b) therefore someone else’s aren’t.

It’s pretty clear to me the exaggerating culprit is Apple. I won’t go so far as to call their figures lies (what’s the saying about “figures don’t lie, but liars figure”?), but their “5 million e-book downloads” number and their “22% of e-books sold” number deserve a second look. First of all, they didn’t specify whether that 5 million figure included free e-book downloads, so it probably did. Maybe they only sold 1/10th that amount. (Which would amount to 500,000 sales across 2 million iPads over two months … or only 1.5 e-books per iPad per year.) As for the 22%? The consensus is that Apple was referring only to sales from Penguin for the month of April … which is coincidentally when Penguin was negotiating new terms with Amazon and their titles were not available on Amazon. Hardly a representative figure for the overall e-book market.

So what are the real numbers? Let’s work from what we know.

Amazon announced last month that it sold 867,881 out of James Patterson’s 1.4 million e-book sales (Patterson is the #1 e-book bestseller). That equates to 76%. Combine that with Amazon’s recent “70 to 80 percent” statement, and I think it’s safe to say that Amazon owns about 75% of the overall e-book market.

As a second data point, I can tell you about my own e-book sales. Now, I’m not James Patterson, but I have sold several thousand copies of my e-books this year, and they are available at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Apple (also Sony, but too recently for me to have reliable sales data). And my figures back up Amazon’s; in fact, I sell more than 75% of my e-books through Amazon. Here are my percentages, for the most recent month (June 2010) and quarter (Q2, including April, May, and June):

  • Amazon: June (84.7%), Q2 (87.3%)
  • B&N: June (13.4%), Q2 (11.2%)
  • Kobo: June (1.4%), Q2 (0.9%)
  • Apple: June (0.5%), Q2 (0.7%)

I think it’s safe to say that Amazon is still comfortably on top, and that Apple might be exaggerating just a tad, since they don’t even account for 1% of my e-book sales, and my books were on the iBook Store from day one (April 3).

Of course, my numbers won’t match up to industry totals exactly: some places (Amazon) are more friendly to indie e-books and their stores make it easier to find our works than others (*cough* Apple *cough*). And the percentages for Kobo and B&N are generally increasing. B&N in particular surprised me with very strong numbers: in June, I sold almost 1/6th as many books through B&N as I did through Amazon, and my books have been up on Amazon longer (and thus have more reviews, etc.).

Taken together, it’s clear to me that Amazon has the dominant share of e-book sales: about 75%. I believe B&N when they say they’re close to 20% of the market — probably somewhere around 18%. That leaves Kobo, Sony, and Apple fighting over the last 7% or so. And my guess is that Apple is in no better than 5th place right now.

Another interesting tidbit from Ian Freed: 80% of Amazon’s e-book sales are to customers who own Kindles. So much for those “Sure, Amazon is selling e-books, but mostly to people who read on their iPads” articles. Maybe finally people can stop pretending the iPad is an e-reader and start considering it as a tablet computer that’s cool to play games on?

Finally, Freed commented on the agency model and how several large publishers forced Amazon to raise e-book prices from $9.99 to $12.99. According to Freed: “Since some of the publishers have decided to price their e-book above $9.99, we’ve definitely seen a shift of customers going to e-books that are $9.99 or less.” And, I might add, e-books that are just $2.99 as well. =)

UPDATE: B&N released confirmation that their e-book share just surpassed its print share, which is 17%. Sounds like 18-20% to me!

Jul 282010

Kindle 3

Amazon today announced the new Kindle 3, and it’s quite an improvement. The price for the 3G model remains at $189, and the new Wi-Fi only model is only $139 (narrowly edging out B&N’s new $149 Nook Wi-Fi). They should be available August 27, and both include free 2-day shipping.

The $189 3G + Wi-Fi model ads Wi-Fi connectivity to the free, lifetime 3G wireless coverage of the Kindle 1 and 2 models. Both new models have:

  • 50% better screen contrast (darker black and a lighter gray background), with E-Ink’s new “Pearl” display (also used on the graphite Kindle DX 2).
  • A choice of graphite (pictured) or white casing. The graphite may make the screen background seem lighter.
  • Smaller size and lighter weight: with the same 6″ screen, the new Kindle 3 is 21% smaller and 15% lighter — only 8.7 oz (3G) or 8.5 oz (Wi-Fi).
  • 20% faster page turns.
  • Double the internal storage, now 4GB (enough for about 3,500 books).
  • An even longer-lasting battery; Amazon claims a full month with wireless off and 10 days with wireless on.

This is really a killer list of features. What strikes me is that they took what the Kindle was already great at, and made it even better. As the owner of a Kindle 2, I can attest that the device is already small and light enough for easy one-handed reading — it’s as light as most paperbacks. Now, it’s even smaller and lighter: only 1/3rd of an inch thick and about half a pound. And the battery life was already phenomenal — I’d get 2 or 3 weeks out of it — but a full month without recharging is absurd. The page turns were also fast enough (about 1/2 a second) so they weren’t obtrusive, but faster is even better. And the extra storage is also nice, although 2GB is more than enough for most users: not only can you hold thousands of books, but you can always back up extras on your computer and Amazon backs up all your purchases through the “cloud,” so you can delete them to free up space and can always re-download them when necessary.

They’ve also made important improvements in areas that could use them: the contrast of the screen, for example. If I had one gripe about my K2, it’s that the background looks more like the gray, newspaper-like paper of mass-market paperbacks than the clean white paper in higher-quality trade paperbacks. I haven’t seen it myself, but the new “Pearl” display is supposed to be a slightly lighter shade of gray.

Additionally, they changed around the layout and button placement a bit: mainly, they’ve redesigned the 5-way controller, added “home” and “back” buttons, removed the number keys (you now have to hit ALT + the top row buttons), and re-designed the next page and previous page buttons (supposedly making them quieter as well). There will also be three user-selectable fonts (with, of course, the existing 8 font sizes), support for Asian language fonts, and software improvements including a better web browser, text-to-speech on menu items (for better accessibility), and support for notes and the built-in dictionary with PDFs.

I think it’s also a great move to make a lower-cost model: the Kindle Wi-Fi for just $139. This was partially to compete with B&N’s $149 Nook Wi-Fi, and it makes the new Kindle 3 very affordable — it’s several times less expensive than Apple’s $499 iPad. Consider that the original Kindle was $399, and the Kindle 2 was still $259 just a few months ago, and you can see how aggressively they’ve driven the prices down. It makes the value proposition that much better, as anyone who reads more than just occasionally can almost certainly recoup the cost of the device through the fact that e-books are generally less expensive than hardcovers or paperbacks — and many great, classic e-books are free. It doesn’t take very many free and $2.99 e-books (compared to $10 paperbacks, let alone $25 hardcovers) to recoup the initial cost of the device. And the extra $50 for the 3G model seems quite reasonable, considering that it includes free, lifetime, global 3G wireless (compared to $30 a month on the iPad 3G!).

I think Amazon did a great job with this update. I wasn’t expecting so many features — just the graphite casing (ho-hum) and Pearl screen (which is nice). Now I’m a little jealous… 😉

 e-readers  Comments Off on Kindle 3 Announced: 3G for $189, Wi-Fi for $139
Jul 222010

To follow up on my earlier post about print-on-demand paperback self-publishing options, here is a primer to help you create, format, upload, and distribute your writing in e-book format. The best part is that the process I detail below is 100% free. Always be wary of anyone charging you money in relation to publishing your book — not that it’s never a good idea to get some professional help, but you should know exactly what you’re paying for and whether it’s worth it.

The down side to spending zero money on your e-book is that you have to do all the work. Cover design, editing, formatting, uploading, promoting, etc. Don’t expect to spend an hour and have a nice-looking, professionally-formatted e-book. I’ve spent many, many hours getting my e-book files just right (ensuring proper indents, special characters, interior images, and tables of contents in various electronic formats). Hopefully, my experience can save you some time.

The first thing you’ll need is a novel (or short story) in electronic format, probably in Microsoft Word. For purposes of creating an e-book, you generally want to strip out all the fancy formatting you might use in a printed book: get rid of fancy fonts (just put everything in Times New Roman), strange indents or block quotes, and weird symbols. You can keep bold and italics, and smart quotes and em dashes should translate properly, although they sometimes cause problems. It’s generally better to use first-line paragraph indents in Word (instead of hitting the tab key — and never use spaces to indent paragraphs). Do not leave blank lines between paragraphs, since some e-book readers add them and you’ll end up with triple spacing! The basic rule is: the simpler, the better. Various e-book readers will display your text in different ways, and users can adjust font sizes at will, so just forget about the idea of controlling every aspect of how the text will look and where pages within a chapter break (like you would in a printed book), and keep the formatting clean and simple. Do not use multiple line breaks, those look terrible on the screen — use a blank line and a row of asterisks to indicate chapter or section breaks instead.

The second thing you’ll need is a front cover, which should be in 2:3 ratio. It should be at least 800 pixels tall, although you’ll be using the same image (along with a spine and back cover) if you make a paperback, and that requires at least 300 dpi, so it’s best to make it high-resolution to begin with (1800×2700 pixels for a 6×9 paperback). Any interior art (like an “about the author” photo) should be black and white and at least 150 dpi. The less interior art, the simpler it will be.


Amazon is the most important e-book distributor; it still probably accounts for somewhere between 50% and 80% of all e-book sales. You publish e-books to the Amazon Kindle store using Amazon’s free Digital Text Platform (DTP) service at There, you can enter info about your book (author name, description, price, etc.) and upload your e-book cover and interior file. Amazon pays either 35% or 70% royalties; there’s more info in my recent post here.

You can upload the interior file in MOBI (the Kindle’s native format), or DTP will convert it for you if you upload an HTML or Word file. MOBI is best; HTML should be OK, Word is iffy. You can create MOBI files using the free Calibre (Mac or PC) or MobiPocket Creator (PC only) programs. A full MOBI or HTML tutorial is beyond the scope of this blog post — but see below for an easier, non-technical solution.


You’ll probably also want to upload your e-book to the free Smashwords e-book seller/distributor service. Smashwords sells e-books through its own website, but also will distribute them for you to be sold on B&, Kobo, Sony, and the Apple iBook Store. They charge nothing up front, but they take a 15% cut of royalties.

Smashwords has an excellent free Style Guide that will help you prepare your Microsoft Word document for upload. It basically explains how to do what I said above: simplify and clean up your Word document, remove line breaks and extraneous formatting that translates poorly to e-books, etc. You can then upload your Word file and Smashwords will convert that file to all the e-book formats you need, including MOBI and ePub.

The Easy Way

The simplest way to get your e-book distributed as widely as possible and looking pretty good is to: (1) read and follow the Smashwords Style Guide, (2) create a Word document with simple, clean formatting, (3) upload that Word document to Smashwords and let them convert it for you, and (4) take the MOBI file that Smashwords creates and upload it to Amazon’s DTP. You should end up with a nice-looking e-book, and it will be available on Amazon and all the major e-book sellers.

The Perfectionist’s Way

Some of us, especially after you start selling more than a handful of copies, want to craft the most pristine, best-looking, and most full-featured e-books possible. It’s a lot of work and takes a lot of time and effort and research (it’s also beyond the scope of this blog post). But it’s possible to create a proper cover, page breaks, special formatting, interior photos or artwork, a table of contents, and other useful e-book features. This involves creating an HTML file, which is trickier than it sounds, since Word’s “Save As HTML” produces code that needs a significant amount of manual cleaning up. That HTML file is then fed into an e-book creation program (like the two I mentioned earlier) and tweaked to produce a MOBI file that can be directly uploaded to Amazon, and that should retain all your exact formatting and features.


Basically, the aspiring e-book publisher (make no mistake: if you’re doing this yourself, you now become a publisher, not merely an author, and must take on all the duties of a publisher) has three choices: (1) go with a simple, clean e-book that will be OK but not spectacularly formatted, (2) spend a lot more time and effort producing perfect MOBI (and possibly ePub) files, or (3) hire a professional to format the e-book for you. Which option you select (I went with #2) depends on your budget, your technical ability, how much time you have, and how many e-books you realistically expect to sell.

Jul 192010

Amazon announced today that their e-book sales have overtaken hardcover sales. The numbers are actually quite staggering: for the latest quarter, Amazon sold 143 e-books for every 100 hardcovers they sold. The numbers for the past month are even more impressive: 180 e-books for every 100 hardcovers — nearly double. Even more impressive is that they aren’t juicing the numbers, as they are not including free e-book downloads (like Apple probably did), and are even including hardcover sales where there is no corresponding Kindle version. Wow.

A few other tidbits:

  • Amazon’s e-book sales from the first half of 2010 were triple that of the first half of 2009.
  • Amazon exceeded the impressive industry sales stats I mentioned yesterday of 163% increased sales year-over-year in May, and 207% year-to-date.
  • It was recently announced that James Patterson was the first author to sell a million e-books, 1.14 million, to be exact. Of those, Amazon sold 867,881 of them (over 76%).
  • The growth rate of Kindle sales has tripled since the recent price drop from $259 to $189, and have increased each month in the quarter (April, May, and June). Perhaps now we can stop hearing about how the iPad (released April 3) will “kill” the Kindle?

One interesting note is that Amazon didn’t specify how many of its e-book sales are through the Kindle for iPad app. But considering that Kindle 2 unit sales have been increasing each month, and that the Kindle is better suited for hard-core readers than the iPad, I doubt that Kindle book sales on the iPad were more than a minor percentage.

Either way, very impressive numbers that paint a very positive outlook for e-books and readers.

 Amazon, e-books  Comments Off on E-Books Out-Selling Hardcovers at Amazon

Amazon and 70% Royalties

 Posted by at 7:58 PM  Tagged with: , ,
Jul 082010

The big news this month for independent authors and publishers is that Amazon has unveiled a new 70% royalty option for e-books published directly through their DTP service. (The old rate was 35%.) Doubling the royalty percentage is a big step (and matches what Apple offers in its iBook and App stores), but there a few catches; to qualify, books must:

  • Be priced between $2.99 and $9.99
  • Be priced at least 20% less than the cheapest print version
  • Enable text-to-speech
  • Be made available in all worldwide territories where the publisher/author has rights

There are a few other important differences: first, your list price must be the same across all sales channels, so you can’t list a book for $2.99 on Amazon but $1.99 on Barnes & Noble or your own web site. Second, books sold at the higher royalty rate receive 70% of the SALE price, not the list price you set, and Amazon checks other retailers and will discount your titles to match the lowest prices it finds elsewhere. B&N and Kobo both customarily discount e-books by 20%, and if Amazon matches those prices, you will only get paid 70% based on the discounted price. Finally, Amazon now deducts 15 cents per MB, based on the file size of your book (most books are about 368K, so this is only about 5 cents).

Authors can choose either the 35% or 70% option, and can switch back and forth.

There have been a few hiccups: most indie authors’ books show up on B&N, Kobo, Apple, and Sony through a distributor called Smashwords, and updating the price at Smashwords can take weeks or months to trickle down to the retailers (The Twiller JUST went up on B&N three weeks after release, and isn’t up elsewhere yet; Right Ascension took eight months to hit Sony). So, you could change the Amazon price (which takes 1-3 days), and Amazon may de-list your book because there’s a lower list price elsewhere. Also, other retailers may decide to discount your book (we have no control over this), and that would affect your Amazon price and how much they paid you in royalties.

Due to these and other delays, Amazon hasn’t yet updated the price of Right Ascension to $2.99, but it should be done shortly.

Nonetheless, these details should be ironed out soon (the e-book revolution / indie author resurgence is new territory for everyone, after all), and earning $2.05 on a $2.99 e-book compares very favorably to earning $0.35 per sale (at 35% of $0.99), or even the $0.50 – $0.80 most traditional authors earn on an $8.00 paperback. This new system at least allows talented indie authors a chance to earn a living writing books, and possibly to improve them by paying for cover design, proofreading, or formatting help. I would like to live in a world where authors who are very good at writing novels are compensated enough to continue to hone their craft and write more books for me to enjoy. As a reader, I’d rather they earn a living writing than go write ad copy or do something else to pay the bills, and I consider $2.99 a very reasonable price to pay for a high-quality e-book. I think it’s a win-win for readers and authors, and I’m excited to see if the general public agrees.

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