Nowadays when I put together a book proposal, I feel I am in a race against time. Who knows? This may be the very last book to be published in the Western world.
Jeff Bezos confirms my sense of panic at mediabistro. Last week, he announced that “the Kindle format has now overtaken the hardcover format. Amazon.com customers now purchase more Kindle books than hardcover books — astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months.”
Not everyone agrees. Thad McIlroy of The Future of Publishing reprimanded mediabistro:
I’m in the publishing world, but I am unrocked. Bezos is a master of media manipulation and hyperbole, and the patsies of the press pass it to the public in undigested form. Here Jeff compares his least expensive book format (if you factor in shipping) with his most expensive format, and rocks your world with the revelation that the cheaper product sells faster at Amazon.
Amazon ain’t the publishing world, and everyone but mediabistro knows that hardcovers vastly outsell ebooks overall. Can’t you pause long enough to recognize the Amazon agenda before you act as Amazon’s agent?
Amazon loves releasing selective data because the press takes what it can get without complaint. Here’s another piece for you: According to the top 10 bestselling books listing on Amazon.com as of 7:45 PDT on July 19, 2010, only two Kindle eBooks appear, and they’re both free: “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” in the #6 slot, and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” in #9. Yep, “Amazon Reveals that Price a Key Factor in Book Sales; $0.00 the Most Popular Kindle Price.”
This from The Literary Saloon:
There’s been much ado about Amazon.com’s announcement that sales of e-books for their ‘Kindle’ platform now exceed their sales for hardcover titles — though since no hard numbers whatsoever (none, zero, zilch) are provided it’s flabbergasting how completely this claim has been swallowed and regurgitated.
No doubt the complete review-audience that clicks through to Amazon.com via links on the site is different from the average Amazon.com audience, but it’s worth noting that our numbers do not reflect these claims: so far in July only 11 per cent of all book sales have been for ‘Kindle’-platform versions; the paperback/hardback split seems to be about 60/30. (It can be hard to tell what format books are sold in — and I’m afraid too lazy to check each one; still, hardback sales clearly outnumber ‘Kindle’ sales by a significant margin.)
Lots of caveats with this data, of course, though I note ‘Kindle’-platform sales include versions of book for which no hardback equivalent exists (Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid), and that results may also be skewed by the fact that Amazon-links on the site lead to print-book versions but not to ‘Kindle’ versions. Also: many of the sales are of books actually sold by third-party vendors; looking at Amazon-only sales would yield totals closer to Amazon’s claims (though hardback sales would still be at least double ‘Kindle’ sales).
(Lots of other sites are, like us, Amazon associates, and I’d love to hear about their data in this regard.)
There will be advantages to electric books: It will be easier for many of us to find an apartment or house if we do not have to find a home for our habit. Witness the havoc wrought when the Dallas Morning News book editor didn’t shelve books for a couple weeks (it looks like my place, minus the dirty dishes). He receives 400 books a week, according to the Book Publicity blog. All in all, about 300,000 books were published in 2009. Scott Bryan Wilson writes about “Inveterate and Unrepentent Book Collecting: A Guide to My Favorite Contact Sport” at The Quarterly Conversation.
At The Onion, Mick Aveling of Gear-and-Spline Grinder commented, “Well, if you’re reading a hardcover book, strangers try to start conversations with you. If you’re reading off a Kindle, people just stare at your awesome Kindle.” Unemployed Joe Smith added, “This is the end of an era. I hate to think of an entire generation being deprived of the pleasure of letting a book fall open to the dirty parts.”
Morgan Meis of Antwerp could have told him that the dirty bits are on the cover. He writes in The Owls: “There is nothing sexier than a book you haven’t read yet. Especially if it has a nice cover and nice fonts. Especially if it is by someone with an aura. The volumes of Kierkegaard’s writings put out by Princeton University Press used to drive me crazy [see left]. The block of color on top and the pure black underneath. The line drawing of Kierkegaard’s profile in an oval in the middle of the book.”
Wait till he sees the cover of Kierkegaard’s The Seducer’s Diary featured at Sutura — at right. It’s positively obscene.