Blog Post

E-book Numbers Hint at Amazon Domination

When Amazon made the claim a few months ago that it owned a 70 to 80 percent share of the e-book market, we wouldn’t have blamed you for rolling your eyes. After all, the company has been criticized for its outlandish claims around e-book sales before; believing it owned such a large percentage of the market after the release of the iPad would require a healthy dose of salt for many.

Maybe, but according to one author who’s self-published his books across most of the e-book platforms available, and as I discuss this week at GigaOM Pro, Amazon’s estimates are pretty darn accurate.

In a blog post on Wednesday, mystery and horror author J.A. Konrath — who’s been one of the most proactive authors in self-publishing, taking the reins of his unpublished works by self-publishing in e-book format — revealed, in great detail, exactly how many e-books he’s sold and where.

What did the tally show? Quite simply, that his share of e-book sales through Kindle is exactly what Kindle claims for the entire market: About 75 percent.

The graphic above is a chart showing the distribution of Konrath’s 100,000 in e-book sales. Even after you factor in a bit of an advantage for Amazon compared to others since Konrath started to sell in the Kindle store earlier than other stores, a collective 3 percent of total e-book sales from Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo still shows the race isn’t close.

Say he’d been selling in iBooks, Kobo and Barnes & Noble’s storefronts from early 2009 onward, maybe the numbers would be closer to 6 percent. Heck, let’s be generous and say 10 percent.

A pretty small slice of the pie nonetheless.

It’s also interesting to note exactly how well Konrath has done self-publishing through Kindle compared to his own print publishers. According to Konrath, his publishers have sold a total of 21,000 e-books, which accounts for 21 percent of his sales. Compare that, once again, to 75 percent of e-book sales coming through his own self-publishing through Kindle, and it shows the numbers aren’t close.

Sure, some will argue that Konrath can self-publish because he had a big print publisher build his name, but according to Konrath himself, his print publishers insist on keeping prices high and, as a result, sell fewer e-books as a result.

And what about other authors? While no one has released the numbers in such detail, others, like Lee Goldberg, have indicated they’ve had similar success on Amazon.

Read the full post here.

20 Responses to “E-book Numbers Hint at Amazon Domination”

    • Aha, but what percentage of Americans actually read. Very often people state that they have no intention to own something new… but then go ahead and buy them. In that sense these figures reflect nothing new: simply that early adopters adopt and later the rest follow and some refuse. Importantly, ereaders seem satisfied and many evangelical about their devices.
      There is a corollary to this. The data also applies to a specific device. I don’t intend to buy an e-reader because I have an iPad. Likewise all smart phone owners will own an e-reader already and while they may not read Harry Potter on it, they may read a guide book or something where it makes a lot sense to read on the device. Some forms of media are inextricably by their form tied to their form factor – novels and paper might be an example. But other formats that we associate with paper simply because paper was the most efficient platform of the time may well migrate and evolve on the new e-formats. Many of these are very profitable for publishers which is why they have to watch out.

    • Sure – but that will likely double in the next 12 months. And those who use e-readers are likely the most heavy-readers of the bunch (or a certain percentage of those are).

      Then factor in when you add of the much higher multiple of total revenue that goes to the author in e-book vs. traditional publishing models, an author only needs to sell a fraction of books to make up what he would via the retail/paper model. If Konrath is making 70% of the total sale of his ebooks vs. ~10% on a book sold at B&N, he can sell much less units and make the same money.

  1. When we refer to publishing, we tend to think immediately of fiction authors which like all fiction media (films and tv) faces specific marketing challenges. When you turn away from fiction to non-fiction genres that is when the story gets a whole lot more interesting. I think that Amazon is the pre-eminent place to buy as well as review books and the fact that you can use a kindle purchase in lots of ways strikes me the most exciting opportunity for Amazon. If they can extend the feature set for Kindle apps with APIs then it might become embedded in lots of devices and then suddenly cook books, travel guide, software guide books and biggest of all Education might use Kindle as the defacto platform.
    This takes kindle from e-ink to becoming the platform for printed “page”.

  2. Kindle is certainly ahead at the moment but Apple have only just entered the battlefield. My controversial novel ‘The Dare Ring’, released a couple of months ago, shot up into the top 5 selling thrillers in Apple’s iBookstore (for iPads and iPhones), and I’ve done much better so far through that than with Kindle.

    So… In my opinion the ebook war has only just started and while Kindle has a healthy lead, it’s too early to be calling winners…

  3. For me the real story here is the real opportunity that self-publishing offers to authors. Not necessarily fiction authors, but to technical or non-fiction authors. You will still make twice as much selling half price. Now it looks like publishing will get interneted properly! Yeahaa!

    • Agreed. I think Amazon, Smashwords, Scribd etc have effectively eliminated the barriers to entry to get books out for authors without traditional publishing or using the more traditional self-publish/POD channels that weren’t that effective to begin with.

    • That was one indication, but Konrath has been putting eBooks across a wider number of platforms, so to me its a better proofpoint. But the real story here is that Konrath has done it by self-publishing, essentially taking his publisher out of the equation (Patterson pubbed through Hachette). This shows that the publisher brand doesn’t matter to the reader, but the author-as-brand is what really matters. What will be interesting is when Patterson or Stephen King or some uber-author decides they want to publish direct on Kindle and eliminate the publishing house.

      • But the author-as-the-brand has always been so, who cares who the publisher is really?

        But yes, I agree that it would be interesting to see if any of the million(s)-copy selling authors will ever go independent. I expect most of them to be already locked in to long-term contracts, though, so I’m not really holding my breath.

  4. Mike Martin

    I’ve tried reading on both an iPad and a Kindle and find the Kindle is a lot easier on the eyes. I love the iPad too, but I don’t find it to be a great device for sustained reading – especially if you’re anywhere near sunlight. It’s fine for skimming a paper, or Twitter, but if I’m reading a book I always switch to the Kindle.

    • @Mike – I agree, the Kindle offers a much better reading experience, though I like the large real-estate of the iPad screen. But the letters on the “page” are nearly as crisp and the shine of the screen make the iPad sub-par in terms of reading experience compared to the Kindle (and probably most e-ink devices)

  5. What if the Kindle numbers creep into Apple’s slice? These e-reader platform charts don’t mean much since Amazon has decided to make the Kindle platform as agnostic as possible.

    • You mean the hardware. I’m sure each company expects you to own multiple tablets. As long as you buy one of theirs they don’t care if some others are bought. 20 years from now we will have tablets out the wazoo, on walls, in kitchen, on living room table, house remote, docked in car, even in the bathroom. They’ll be so cheap and powerful that the current “I’m going to buy an xx tablet” will seem quaint and worth a snicker. Short term jockeying for position may affect some participants, but long term in a 2+GHz tablet world, no matter how it shakes out, I don’t think Amazon or Apple will have a problem.

    • Apple wins on the hardware sale, which is all they probably really care about. Amazon still wins on the content sale, which is what they really care about. In fact, with it’s spread across so many platforms. It’s not a surprise that Amazon is dominating because it almost does not matter what device you prefer, you still get the benefits of the Amazon Kindle store. They’ve trumped the device argument by just being almost everywhere.