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Did Amazon’s Kindle eBook Store Just Announce the Beginning of the End of the Paperback?

Amazon Kindle end of paperback books

Could the Amazon Kindle in this picture be the start of the end of paperback books?

Amazon’s eBook sales through their Kindle eBook store have overtaken the number of paperback sales they make.

Amazon’s has been putting a lot of effort into its Kindle eBook store, and the policy appears to be paying off very effectively, with the retailer recently revealing that it is now selling more Kindle electronic books than it is selling paperbacks.

The company, has developed its own range of “Kindle” eReaders, and its ability to integrate its reader product with the data / electronic books read with it, appears to be paying off handsomely for them.

The company was able to announce this during its fourth quarter earnings statement for 2011. In fact, it has seen sales of electronic books overtake sales of physical paperback books for the first time ever.

In their own words: “Since the beginning of the year, for every 100 paperback books Amazon has sold 115 Kindle books”, states the Amazon press release statement.

Sales of digital books have, not unsurprisingly, also overtaken those of hardback editions, with Amazon pointing out that it now sells three times as many Kindle editions as hardback editions.

These figures come from sales figures from the company’s US bookselling business, and don’t even include the many out-of-copyright titles Amazon provides to Kindle users free of charge. Also included in the figures are sales of paperback and hardback books where there is no corresponding Kindle version.

This must be a milestone moment in the history of electronic books, and it is quite remarkable how rapidly the public have taken up the idea of an eBook reader. However, users do find them ideal for use while travelling, and as they can easily contain a whole bookshelf worth of novels, it is clear how useful they are for use on holiday, at home, and while commuting.

It is not all plain sailing for Amazon though. eBook sales have come under scrutiny and the UK Office of Fair Trading and it is reported to be starting an investigation into the pricing of electronic books from sites such as their Amazon Kindle Store, on the basis that agreements made between publishers and retailers may be in breach anti-trust laws.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that a spokesperson for the Office of Fair Trading is quoted as stating that the investigation has been started due to a number of complaints. The OFT, neverthless moderated its tone by continuing to say that: “the investigation is at an early stage and it should not be assumed that the parties involved have breached the law”.

Electronic books, are remarkably costly considering that their storage and delivery takes place fully automatically.  That price point has stabilized and looks unlikely to follow the path of other recent IT developments which usually see a substantial price drop when the technology becomes mainstream and sales volumes rise.

The OFT will no doubt be looking at this, and an agreement known as the ‘agency pricing model’, in which publishers effectively force online retailers to sell their wares for a set price, rather than allowing them to decide how much an item should cost according to market forces.

This is rather like the manner in which this same pricing model came under the regulatory microscope in the US in 2010, following similar complaints of anti-competitiveness, and the matter is reportedly still under investigation by the US authorities.

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