Does Kindle own 80% of ebooks or 61%?

The arrival of the Kindle 3 and the Kindle WiFi means that Amazon’s lead in eBooks will probably increase. However, there’s a dispute brewing – Exactly how big of a lead do Kindle and Amazon have in ebooks?

Amazon says Kindle owns 70-80% of the market

We found out earlier this week (on Monday) that Amazon sells 80% of Kindle books to Kindle owners – though they do read on Kindle Apps too. Amazon is also pretty confident it owns 70-80% of the ebook market –

 we’re pretty sure we’re 70 to 80 percent of the market … we’ve been very metrics-focused and we don’t typically throw out numbers we don’t firmly believe in

Well, Amazon seems to not throw out numbers if it doesn’t firmly believe in them or if it’s absolutely 100% sure of them. Amazon hasn’t revealed the exact number of Kindles and Kindle Books sold because they’re outside the perfect band of ‘firm belief’ that lies sandwiched between ‘have a vague idea’ and ‘absolutely 100% certain’

Anyways, the moral of the story is that Amazon has enough confidence in the 70-80% figure to talk about how it has 70-80% market share.

RR Bowker says Amazon owns 61% of the market

This Friday RR Bowker made a claim of their own

Places where ebooks are downloaded: Amazon still holds the top spot @ 61% while B&N has 20%

Library 7% and Sony 5%. 10%.

It seems that RR Bowker is counting some strange metric called ‘downloaded ebooks’ which encompasses free library downloads. No wonder the Publishing Industry is in trouble.

Why are they including free library downloads in these statistics?

How can you count free books when calculating market share?

There are other strange things – gets 154,000 people a month (courtesy Compete). Do we really expect it to have 10% of the ebook market? Half as much as B&N?

These are weak figures from RR Bowker. Apple iBooks doesn’t even make it – What happened to Steve Jobs’ hand waving and his 20% claim? Did that not even translate into 5%?

It seems Amazon is far likelier to be right than RR Bowker

You have to wonder – If RR Bowker is making strange claims including the claim that is the third biggest ebook company then how reliable are the rest of its figures?

Several Publishers confirmed earlier this year and at the end of last year that Amazon had around 90% market share. It’s hard to imagine Amazon going from 90% to 61% despite cutting eReader prices to $189 and introducing a new Kindle DX 2. If it was due to the iPad then how come iBooks isn’t on Bowker’s list.

The likeliest possibility is that not only did Amazon manage to sell Kindles it also managed to get a large chunk of iPad owners’ ebook purchases via Kindle for iPad. iBooks had 30,000 non-public domain titles. You can’t sell a lot of books if all you have are 30,000 titles.

In that case going from 90% to around 80% seems the most probable outcome. At worst, if you assume Nook sold really well, Amazon ought to be at 70% market share or a bit higher.

Interesting things from the RR Bowker Tweet-party

RR Bowker had a tweet party. Funny how everyone in Publishing can’t figure out how to convert ebooks cheaply or how to format and edit them correctly but they’re all experts at tweeting and twittering.

Here are the interesting and amusing factoids twittered –

  1. Kindle is now the #1 reading device with 40% market share while PC/Laptop is at 39%. So, now Laptops are dedicated reading devices.
  2. 49% of eReader owners received eReaders as gifts. This is probably going to increase now that we have a $139 Kindle WiFi.
  3. 50% of eReader owners mostly buy ebooks.
  4. The #1 place customers hear about ebooks – physical bookstores.  
  5. Half the ebooks being downloaded are free books. That seems to be an underestimate – Every free book offer in the Kindle Store gets downloaded countless times and there are so many public domain titles.
  6. Heavy readers/heavy book buyers are not really buying iPads. What … you mean to tell us downloading 1.5 books a month isn’t enough to qualify.
  7. More men than women dislike DRM. That’s a separate post in itself.  
  8. 21% of the respondents in the RR Bowker study said they were very likely to buy a Kindle or Nook or another eReader. 9% said they were very likely to gift one within the next 2 months.
  9. 44% of the eReader owners in the survey became eReader owners in the last 6 months.

Hat tip to Resource Shelf and Electronista.

You have to feel that at $139 and $189 Kindle WiFi and Kindle 3 might take over the iPod Touch’s role as ‘safe, easy gift’ for someone when you don’t have the ability/inclination to find out what they’re really wishing for.

With the Kindle 3 and the super cheap $139 Kindle WiFi now selling well Kindle is probably going to continue to dominate eReaders and eBooks.

9 thoughts on “Does Kindle own 80% of ebooks or 61%?”

  1. There is a question about what market share you’re talking about. There are two separate questions, and they deal with the two different eBook markets that Amazon is in: eBooks and eReaders.

    First, how much of the eReader market does Amazon have? (Yeah, I suppose this could be broken into either the hardware market, or the combined hardware/software market.) If you limit yourself to the hardware market, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Amazon way above 70%. Perhaps I hang out in the wrong places, but the only eReader I’ve ever seen “in the wild” is the Kindle. I’ve seen the Nook & the Sony in the stores, but never out there.

    But that’s not the same market at the eBook market. As you’ve pointed out multiple times (including free book offers), Amazon is not the only source of eBooks for the Kindle. (And like the eReader market, I suppose you could break this market into the paid and free markets.) I have purchased books from Smashwords and from Webscriptions. I’ve downloaded free books and stories from Project Guttenberg, Webscriptions, Smashwords,, author web sites, etc. I’m not all all sure how you can reasonably measure all of these sources.

    While dominating the eReader market definitely helps in the eBook market, it’s not a guarantee. So it wouldn’t surprise me if the eBook percentage is lower than the eReader percentage. While the casual reader may go to the easy default choice — the Kindle Store — the hard core reader will probably not limit themselves to only the Kindle store. And that will lower the percentage of eBook sales.

    Heck, I may be a special case. But there are stories available on the web that I want to read on my Kindle. This may be cheating, but I copy and paste the story off the web page and paste it into Sigil (a free ePub WYSIWYG creator/editor), and then I use Calibre to convert and copy it onto my Kindle. I’ve even created a (for personal use only) collection of the Hugo and Nebula nominated short stores. It’s a lot easier to read on my Kindle. How do you bring this into a calculation of the source of my eBooks?

  2. I actually think this study confirms Amazon’s 80% number. Once you take out the free books (which Amazon has said they don’t count in their 80% number) then Amazon probably has 80%. It shows that many other sources really are only good for free books or occasional readers.

    Lots of people download free but never actually read the free. Measuring purchased books I think it the much more important number.

    Also, I would not focus on Apple here, because the dates of the study took data over three different time spans. And the latest was in April, just after the iPad came out. So the study essentially doesn’t count Apple at all.

  3. Again, the officially released James Patterson numbers show that Amazon sold about 76% of all Patterson ebook sales. Right in line with the 70-80% figures. I think it is accurate. AND, I think it will grow-
    1) Kindle ereader sales are booming.
    2) consumer hesitation about buying nooks when B & N may be for sale.
    3) UK Kindle will also be a very big deal over time. The British public is much more into reading than Americans (and I have been to London each year for the past 6 years- so I have seen it first hand).

  4. I did a post about this topic, analyzing the data available, Amazon’s numbers, and my own e-book sales numbers across retailers. My conclusion was that Amazon’s 70-80% number is most likely accurate.

    This new Bowker study doesn’t do anything to change my mind. As you pointed out, its inclusion of free e-books (which it says are 50% of the total) will skew the numbers dramatically, and any study that has as #3 (and 10%), must be taken with a HUGE grain of salt. Heck, doesn’t even carry my books. 😉

  5. I sell ebooks everywhere possible, from my own websites to major and minor retailers. No clue about market share, but I do know that my ebooks sell via Amazon well over ten times as much as from any other retailer, and they sell roughly equal to my own sites. If I had to drop sales from B&N, Apple, and others it’d be no big deal, but don’t take away my Amazon shelf space.

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