Are ebooks outselling books? Well, no!


Merry Nightmare manga, volume 3

Someone should write a book about it! Or if its an ebook, should it be type about it? Ruben so funny.

Not that I’m frustrated or anything!

I keep reading report after report that books are dying and ebooks are outselling them. People are retweeting it, blogging about it, talking about it, retweeting it while blogging and talking about it. The story is everywhere, it has even started to creep into newspapers, those old fashioned paper things with ink they make out of dead trees. Problem is, as with most stories passed off as journalism thesedays, while there's a grain of truth to it, the overarching conclusions are entirely wrong.

I know I already gave away the answer to this post's title question in the title (whoops), but in case you need to see it again:

ebooks are not outselling books!

So where did this story come from? As usual a press release! This one comes direct from Amazon's PR department. I would include the link, but if you escape all their ampersands so your XHTML validates, it breaks the page.

The page you are requesting has invalid parameters
Click Back to return to the page from which you came

Other people can get around this, but allegedly the designer of the super duper reliable Amazon Web Services system can't parse well formed earls. Oh well. is now selling more Kindle books than paperback books. Since the beginning of the year, for every 100 paperback books Amazon has sold, the Company has sold 115 Kindle books. Additionally, during this same time period the Company has sold three times as many Kindle books as hardcover books. This is across’s entire U.S. book business and includes sales of books where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the numbers even higher.

So there you have it, these news stories and headlines and people foaming at the mouth all excited that ebooks are outselling books have based their entire argument on the fact that a single retailer (albeit a large one) is selling more ebooks on their wireless device than regular books.

Books aren’t going anywhere

I reckon we have a long, long way to go before ebooks outsell their dead tree brethren. Why? I'm glad you asked! Some people…

  • like breaking their backs, padding up their bags or they have a weird fetish for glue smell and the feel of paper
  • like showing off what they’re reading to people, or use book covers to identify fellow fans
  • like them because they don’t need batteries
  • want a physical memento or keepsake from their favourite author or series
  • want to tear out pages to stick on their walls, or to scrapbook, or to put on floors for pets to use

Then there are the legal advantages. Some…

  • like to exercise their legal right to resell the things they buy at some point
  • want to buy books from foreign countries and/or that are printed in foreign languages rather than local translations, manga being an increasingly important example
  • like going to libraries, and lending books to friends, you know, all those things you’re supposed to be able to do and shouldn’t be making headlines when some company decides to partially let people do that again in electronic form.

Whatever the case, despite being a guy living and breathing all this tech stuff, and despite personally reading virtually all my books of late (including the entire Gibraltar Earth series) on my various iDevices with my eyeDevices, I doubt we'll see ebooks outsell books at least for the foreseeable future. Maybe they will and I'll be proven wrong, but I'm not holding my breath… because I'm not very fit.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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