Kindle, Nook causing Apocalypse – New Book sells more ebooks than hardcovers

The Kindle 3 has just begun to reach readers and already Kindle, Nook are causing a huge seismic shift. We have the first major book release that is selling more ebooks than hardcovers.

Laura Lippman book sells 4,739 e-books and 4,000 physical hardcovers in first 5 days

We get this interesting snippet from the Wall Street Journal about the new Laura Lippman thriller –

Laura Lippman’s thriller, “I’d Know You Anywhere”, went on sale Aug. 17, and in its first five days sold 4,739 e-books and 4,000 physical hardcovers, said News Corp.’s HarperCollins Publishers.

Harper Collins is predictably stunned –

“This is the first book of ours of any consequence that has sold more e-books than hardcovers in the first week,”

It’s also beginning to realize some of the advantages of ebooks –

… if a book gets a good review, it gets a faster lift on the digital side than it does on the physical side because people who have e-readers can buy and read it immediately

Who would have thought there were advantages to selling ebooks?

Perhaps Publishers will now stop trying to kill ebooks and start focusing on how to make the most of them. HarperCollins sold more ebooks even though it had hardcovers lined up in bookstores and grocery stores and online. Surely, that’s a sign.

Is this a random occurrence or the beginning of a trend?

Around a month ago, Amazon said it’s selling more ebooks than hardcovers. However, it was counting Kindle ebook sales (which are probably 80% to 90% of total ebook sales) and comparing them against its own hardcover book sales (obviously much less than 80% of total hardcover book sales).

It was impressive but nowhere as impressive as today’s announcement from Harper Collins.

The Laura Lippman book from Harper Collins is selling more ebooks than hardcovers. It’s doing this even though it’s overpriced at $12.99.

The higher ebook sales mean sales through eReaders like Kindle, Nook, and Sony and via devices like iPad resulted in more ebook sales than there were hardcover sales. Hardcovers were probably sold through Amazon, WalMart, B&N, Grocery stores, Target, and everywhere else – It’s just absolutely stunning that eBooks outsold all those channels combined.

If we assume Kindle and Nook eReaders accounted for 80% of ebook sales (feel free to argue that 80% of ebook sales were through iPhones or smartphones) that would mean 3,791 ebook sales were via Kindles and Nooks. That’s almost as much as ALL physical channels combined.

It may very well be the start of a trend 

In a few weeks we’ll have perhaps half a million to a million Kindle 3s and Kindle WiFis in people’s hands. In a month or two after that we’ll have Nook 2s and Sony 650s and even more Kindle 3s in readers’ hands.

If a book is already selling more ebooks than hardcovers then in a few months we might see a lot more books sell more ebooks than hardcovers.

A commenter at the WSJ article makes a very good point –

 Often publisher-reported sales are equivalent to the number of units that get sold to distributors/retail outlets, and judging by the round number “4,000″ physical sales, consumer purchases may not even be represented here.

In fact, could this number be even lower??

He’s the founder of BookSwim so he might be biased against Publishers. However, it does seem that the 4,000 number could be an exaggeration – books shipped as opposed to books sold.

Things are getting very, very interesting.

3 thoughts on “Kindle, Nook causing Apocalypse – New Book sells more ebooks than hardcovers”

  1. Unfortunately, the flip side of this is that it’s going to help cement the $12.99 price point, even if there are relatively few books that can do well at that price point.

  2. I’m ready to be shot down on this, but is the reporting system from all those outlets up to the job of providing sales data so quickly? I would think that ebook sales are tallied accurately and fast but that, at best, the 4,000 is a rough estimate and, at worst – as you indicate – represent ‘sales’ to retailers and not by them.

  3. This doesn’t surprise me at all. In this household of two seniors, we’ve not bought hardcovers for literally decades — but we now have three Kindles: a DXi, a K2i, and as of yesterday, a K3. My husband is particularly grateful for the Kindles, as at 76 he now needs quite large type. The variable font sizing of the Kindles has provided that for him.

    As for the price, I don’t think this will remain a big problem. When we weren’t buying hardcovers, we just waited for the paperbacks to come out. The publishers will be doing ‘windowing’ of prices, and only the must-have buyers will purchase e-books when the price is competing with that of the hardcover.

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