If you follow the ebook market you were likely stunned this June when Steve Jobs claimed to have captured 22% of the electronic book market overnight with the release of iBooks and iPad. Many of us who watch this market with careful eyes were leery of the numbers that Jobs was tossing around, they sounded too good to be true.
Now authors are a fun lot, but it is usually quite difficult to pry numbers out of them. There is a wonderful exception to that rule in the fiction market, J. A. Konrath, whose personal blog is a treasure trove of advice and commentary for and to young and upcoming authors. Konrath is bullish on ebooks, and is making a killing selling his books that used to be in paperback on Kindle and other platforms for $2.99 a piece. It’s transformed his life as a mid-list author into something much more: a very financially successful man.
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By publishing his books on Kindle himself for example, he makes a little more than $2 for every $2.99 ebook that he sells, not bad. For his books in print, assuming he makes the standard 8% rate for mass market fiction, he might clear 80 cents on a ten dollar paper book. You can see how the math works in his favor with digital words.
Konrath has large enough sales volume to have a strong sample size. He has more than three dozen books on all the major platforms, and he shares his sales numbers with the community. How do iBooks and Kindle stack up side by side? According to his most recent blog post, iBooks is a big fizzle in terms of real sales:
Publishers might be looking at enriched or enhanced ebooks as their new big-ticket items to replace hardcovers. But the major ebook retailer, Amazon, isn’t set up for video. Kindle isn’t even able to do color yet. That leaves Apple, and according to my numbers Apple is a very small part of the ebook market. I sell 200 ebooks a day on Kindle. On iPad, I sell 100 a month.
To calculate: 200 books a day for the 30 days in a month is 6,000 books for Konrath just on Kindle, putting his Kindle sales at a 60 to 1 ratio (6000:100) when compared to iBooks. Whoops.
So what was Jobs talking about when he shot out that 22% number? Perhaps in the first few heady days of the iPad launch people really were snapping up every book in sight, but now it seems that the massive Kindle install base across Kindle readers and the Kindle software which has a home on every platform is comfortably in the lead.
So much for iPad killing Kindle. I called it.