Ever notice how Amazon only shares sales figures when they make it look good, and doesn’t share any more than it has to? Laura Hazard Owen on PaidContent has gotten ahold of a letter from Amazon Publishing’s VP Jeff Belle to literary agents proudly discussing how awesome Amazon Publishing is, mentioning a few books that have sold a half million copies as of this month, as well as a couple of titles that have sold a few hundred thousand units. (Amazon Publishing is the professional publishing arm of Amazon, which operates like a traditional publisher and puts its own fully edited books out—not self-published.) (Found via TeleRead.)
Owen remarks on the lack of clarity between how many print and how many e-book editions are sold, and notes that print sales figures she heard for Amazon Publishing in 2011 seemed anemic, but in the comments below the piece some of the authors who work with Amazon speak up in Amazon’s defense. “I suspect a [print vs. e-book] breakdown wasn’t given because it’s not relevant,” wrote half-million-selling author Karen McQuestion, noting that Amazon Publishing has welcomed her input on how her book is packaged and are excellent to work with, and are helping her earn a good living from her writing. She’s happy to sell plenty of books at all, whether they’re print or electronic. However, Owen notes that e-books only made up 30% of fiction sales in 2011.
70 percent is a lot. Amazon Publishing may be more clearly focused on ebook sales but physical bookstores are still a key source of discovery for books. If bookstores refuse to carry Amazon titles, as most have done so far, then Amazon has to make up those sales in another way. And it’s a choice authors who work with Amazon have to make: Are they okay with missing out on a certain number of print sales?
But I’m starting to wonder how important the distinction is myself. People can buy e-books from anywhere, or can buy print books from Amazon from anywhere. They can only buy the print books from bookstores if they’re actually in the bookstores. And how many people actually go to bookstores anymore, compared to those who can shop effortlessly from home with one-click purchasing? Even Amazon says they’re selling more e-books than print books these days.
Are bookstore sales really that important? Apparently not to the authors who are happily earning a living from Amazon Publishing. And being told their boycott is irrelevant might just be the bookstores’ indignity.