MORE readers are now buying e-books than paper versions in the UK, according the world’s largest online retailer.
Amazon has revealed it now sells 114 e-books for use on its Kindle device for every 100 printed books, both paperback and hardback.
The online retail giant began selling e-books two years ago and says it has taken the UK half the time it took readers in the United States to switch from paper copies to electronic books.
Kindle EU vice-president Jorrit Van der Meulen said: “Customers in the UK are now choosing Kindle books more often than print books, even as our print business continues to grow. We hit this milestone in the US less than four years after introducing Kindle, so to reach this landmark after just two years in the UK is remarkable and shows how quickly UK readers are embracing Kindle.”
Publishers gave the news a cautious welcome, saying it was “obvious” an online company would be selling more e-books than hard copies within a relatively short period of time.
Amazon said the success of the Kindle had resulted in the company selling more books than ever. Latest figures show the firm’s sales rose 29 per cent to $12.8 billion (£8.18bn) in the last quarter compared with the same time last year.
The company says its digital success meant more people were able to publish their books electronically, without the need for securing publishing deals and sharing a large percentage of their profits with that publisher.
Mr Van der Muelen said: “As a result of the success of Kindle, we’re selling more books than ever before on behalf of authors and publishers. Thousands of self-published authors have also been given an outlet to share their work with the millions of Kindle readers worldwide.”
The most popular author in the Kindle store so far this year is Fifty Shades of Grey writer EL James, who has sold more than two million of the digital books in just four months.
Hugh Andrew, managing director of the Edinburgh-based publisher Birlinn, said Amazon’s landmark news did not mark the end of paper books.
He said: “This is not the end for books, far from it. It is just a change in the way some people read them.
“Amazon sells about 80 per cent of e-books, so it is little wonder these sales, for them, are higher.
“There is a decline in paper book sales, which are down 11 per cent or so, and some of this loss will be as a result of ebooks.
“This is not necessarily a bad thing. There are many reasons for this, one of them is the fact we are in a savage recession, which has led to a shift in where some people buy their books.
“I think certain categories of books will become more popular online, such as disposable holiday reading and other types of general fiction.
“Paperbacks will undoubtedly change as a result. The cost of producing them will rise and at the same time they will become more carefully formatted and, ultimately, will probably become a much better product.”
Amazon has credited the surge in e-book sales to the introduction of Kindle, which sells for about £89, to the UK market.
E-books have become vastly more accessible to consumers in the past year as publishers have digitised their back catalogues, making older titles available in ebook format for the first time.
Even smaller independent houses that had resisted selling e-books have changed their position and discovered a new way to sell their older books – traditionally a large part of many publishers’ revenues.
Penguin Group USA chief executive David Shanks said some of the world’s biggest supermarkets still had a “tremendous” demand for print books.
Amazon recently created 950 new jobs in Scotland, most of them at a new distribution centre in Dunfermline, Amazon’s biggest in the UK.
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