Has Amazon Already Won the eBook War in the US?


ebook market share

Last week Author Earnings posting an interesting article about the current state of the US ebook market.

Amazon has an even higher percentage of the market share than previously thought, with around 74% of all US ebook sales going through the Kindle Store.

Earlier reports from 2014 had Amazon at about 65%, but that didn’t include indie ebook sales.

With indie books included in the statistics, Amazon accounts for 74% of all US ebook purchases and 71% of total dollars spent on ebooks in the US.

The stats show that indie books are a bigger part of the ebook market than previously thought. While big publishers complain that ebook sales are declining, indie sales are on the rise (maybe big publishers should reconsider their high $10-$15 prices, for starters).

According to the report, indie authors and Amazon-imprint authors sell more ebooks daily than all traditional publishers put together.

Amazon’s ebook strategy is clearly putting them way out in front of the ebook war in the US.

The remaining ebook competitors in the US hold such a small share of the market that it’s hard to see any of them ever providing any real competition for the Kindle store moving forward.

You can see why Kobo no longer does any marketing in the US or even bothers to sell their ereaders from any US retailers. With just 3% of the overall market, it’s hardly worth the cost and effort.

Barnes and Noble has an 8% market share, which is kind of surprising when you put it this way: Nook has at least 4 times the market share of Google Play Books, which only makes up 1-2% of the current ebook market (that’s really pathetic considering how powerful Google is and the fact that their ebook app comes preloaded on just about every Android tablet and phone).

Apple comes in second with around 10-12% of the US ebook market. That’s pretty high considering that iBooks only work in iDevices and Macs. Just think of how much higher that number could be if iBooks were available on other platforms, and if Apple offered a dedicated ebook reader equivalent to the Kindle.

Unless Apple decides to open up iBooks to more platforms, or one of the smaller companies does something to blow the doors off ebooks, Amazon pretty much has the ebook market locked up in the US. 5-10 years from now Kindle might be the only ebook format left.

Here’s the link to the Author Earnings report with a lot more info.

18 Responses to “Has Amazon Already Won the eBook War in the US?”

  1. I love e-books and e-readers (hence I follow this blog!) and started out with Nook. But I switched to Kindle and haven’t looked back; from a consumer standpoint, I can find the books I want at decent prices, but more importantly Amazon continues to provide free software updates and enhancements. I thought I would miss the epub format but have discovered the format is almost irrelevant to me. It’s the customer support that shines with Amazon.

    • Infact the epub format is not a problem, there are lots of online ebook converter service to help you convert epub to mobi or azw.

  2. I gave my mother my old Nook, but will be buying her a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas. I debated between that and a Kobo, but for my mother, I want the player that is sure to get software updates even if it’s not as open.

    • Software updates are an issue on tablets, but basically meaningless on e-ink devices.

      The only reason to buy an Amazon tablet or e-ink device is if you’re fully committed to the Amazon ecosystem and want to take advantage of the special deals they offer to users of Amazon devices. Other than that your Mom would probably be happier with a $150 generic tablet, which is almost as good an ereader as the Paperwhite and can do so much more as well.

  3. Google has enormous potential in the ebook market, they have the platform and the resources and now they just need adedicated eReader and the will…

    • I buy most of my ebooks on Google. Their prices pretty much match Amazon’s. Unfortunately their storefront is a mess. And their Play Books app lacks some important functionality like the ability to create book shelves for different genres. I read most my epub books on my Kobo Aura HD, but uploading the book to the e-reader involves extra steps and a USB cable. Most people may find that a hassle and go with Kindle.

  4. [/me drags a soapbox over and climbs up]

    I don’t get it. As far as I can tell, nobody makes money on devices. At least not significant profits. The real money is all in the content, the ebooks.

    Amazon’s big enough that selling ebooks only for Kindles and Kindle apps is okay, even though it still doesn’t make sense to me.

    But why does Apple limit its market to people with iPads, iPhones, and Macs? Why does B&N limit its market to the rapidly-dwindling number of people who have NOOKs, plus people who’ve installed the NOOK app, and why does B&N keep removing NOOK app availability from various platforms?

    Okay, Apple’s always had a snooty attitude. If you don’t buy Apple products you’re not worthy. Apple probably doesn’t give a hang about whether it sells ebooks or not; it’s a tiny fraction of their income.

    But B&N? What the Dickens is going on THERE? B&N *says* they want to sell ebooks.

    I know Nathan’s been over this B&N territory a number of times. Even so, I’m still astounded at the sheer lunacy of B&N’s ongoing actions that seem calculated to drive ebook buyers away. I’ve owned NOOKs for almost six years, but I quit getting my ebooks from B&N over a year ago, and I won’t even *consider* buying ebooks from them any more.

    • Maybe part of it might be that B&N is conflicted. They want their claws dug into the ebook market, but like big publishers they only do so reluctantly because they would much rather sell customers paper books instead of ebooks. B&N’s stake in paper books is much greater than their stake in ebooks. Without paper books their business would be nothing.

    • I’m perplexed by people who say “I won’t even consider buying content from web site x”. The entire point of shopping online is that it frees people to shop wherever they like, whenever they like. Yet I see loads of people who will state proudly and rather defiantly that will will buy from one place and not another. It’s exactly the same attitude as saying “I’ll buy from JC Penny but not from Sears” or “I’ll buy from General Motors but not from Hyundai.”

      I buy stuff online. It’s the stuff I care about, not the web site selling it. Over the last dozen years I’ve bought loads of books, clothes, computer equipment and other goods from a very wide range of different online vendors. I find the widespread Amazon fan-boyism to be a very strange attitude. There is zero difference to me as a consumer between reading a copy of Robert Crais’ “Suspect” purchased on Amazon or reading the exact same book purchased for the exact same price from B&N or anywhere else on the web.

      • JohnS: For me, too, “it’s the stuff I care about”, except that the ebook “stuff” that B&N and Apple sell can’t be read on most of my devices. That’s what I was complaining about.

        I’d like to continue buying ebooks from B&N. I did so for many years. My NOOK ebook library contains over 300 titles. But now, B&N severely restricts what devices I can read them on. And they keep tightening those restrictions.

        If you bought your Robert Crais “Suspect” at Amazon, you could read it on your Kindle, your computer whether PC or Mac, and your mobile device whether running iOS or Android. You could download a copy for backup purposes.

        If you bought your Robert Crais “Suspect” at B&N, you could only read it on a NOOK device or a mobile device running iOS or Android. You couldn’t read it on your computer. You couldn’t download it, either, so if B&N ever loses their contract to distribute that ebook, you’ve lost your purchase.

        If you bought your Robert Crais “Suspect” at Apple, you could only read it on an iPad, iPhone, or Mac. You couldn’t read it on your PC, and you couldn’t read it on your Android phone or tablet. I don’t know if you can download Apple ebooks.

        This is what I was complaining about. I don’t understand the business sense of B&N saying, “sorry, unless you’re using a NOOK or an iOS or Android mobile device, you can’t read the ebooks that we sell.” And backed up with a history of repeatedly cutting off readability on various platforms. It’s stupid. Maybe even insane.

        P.S. I do refuse to buy from Kobo, whose ebooks I could use, because Kobo repeatedly lied to me and then totally screwed me over when my Sony account was transferred to them. I’ll get free stuff from Kobo, but they’ll never see another penny from me.

        • “..the ebook “stuff” that B&N and Apple sell can’t be read on most of my devices.”

          That’s a short-coming with your devices then. Any generic android tablet can be used to effortlessly purchase and read any sort of ebook from any source. It’s a shortcoming of the way most e-ink readers are set up that they are restricted to reading books from a specific web site, and that’s a big reason why I’ve switched my e-reading to tablets. There’s also the fact that tablets, which these days are no more expensive than e-ink readers, can do so many other things as well.

          “If you bought your Robert Crais “Suspect” at B&N, you could only read it on a NOOK device or a mobile device running iOS or Android.”

          “Only”? You do realize that you’ve just described 90+% of the mobile devices out there? The only devices you cannot read your B&N purchased books on are Kindles .. and that particular restriction is due to Amazon, not because of B&N.

          “You couldn’t read it on your computer.”

          I can and do regularly read B&N content on my computer. If it’s proving beyond you I can write a comment explaining how to do it.

          • If you’re going to leave comments on this website, please don’t be so disrespectful. You clearly aren’t as informed as you think you are because Apple’s ebooks can’t be used on anything but Apple’s devices, and B&N has removed all options to download ebooks outside of Nook apps and devices, and then they suddenly drop support for platforms and countries with no notice or explanation, so that’s a pretty good reason for someone not to want to buy ebooks from them. Not everyone wants to install third party software and take a bunch of extra steps to clean ebooks to read them how they choose. Amazon makes everything easier and more convenient so that’s where most people are going to go to buy ebooks.

  5. I have a couple of ebooks published on Kindle. Amazon makes it so easy to publish whereas others make it very difficult for beginners like me to get a foot ing the door. I sell my ebooks for 99 cents and I get something like 35% Royalty Rate and Amazon handles everything else.

    You can go for the 70% Royalty Option but you have to pay for delivery Costs: “equal to the number of megabytes we determine your Digital Book file contains, multiplied by the Delivery Cost rate listed below. Amazon.com: US $0.15/MB”

    On the 70% option you can’t go below $2.99… I kinda felt that was too much for someone to pay for an ebook especially from some unknown author like me so I went for the 30% option where I can sell my books for 99 cents. Most of the higher priced books spend a bundle on advertising to get better known and to increase sells, but I have a low/no budget for this and rely on word of mouth to keep the price and headaches of accounting down to a minimum.

    So Amazon makes it easy to publish and buy ebooks and has an App that runs on any platform= success….

  6. The reason I bought a kindle: To be able to read outside in bright sunlight, to not have to charge it more than max monthly, and it’s easy on the eyes. My Ipad does other stuff better. I can buy Swedish books from local webshops that mail the book to my kindle. So you don’t have to shop everything from Amazon.

  7. Oddly enough, I am typing this on my iPad to praise kindles. I get. Ebooks from Amazon via Prime, kindle unlimited, free indie books and yes, I pay for them too. Kindles are easy, cheap, and no-fuss tablets. I already had Prime before a kindle, and have just added on features over time. Note! I do read non-kindleformats by loading Bluefire on my kindle fire. Works fine! Amazon lies when they say it doesn’t. Because of this I also get books thru the Open Library and the Internet Archive. And read kindle books on this iPad via a kindle app. What’s not to love? The whole world and the public library (3M and Overdrive) are open to me.

  8. PS I own 2 Fires also and use them daily. One in purse and one at work while overpriced iPad stays home!

  9. About 40% of the books I get from open source — Project Gutenberg, etc… yes I read a lot of old stuff… 🙂

    About 25% I get from Amazon.
    15% directly from indies.
    10% from Kobo
    10% from B&N.

    Trying to buy more directly from indies — which is becoming more feasible over time. What I like about buying from Indies direct is that many provide both PDFs and epub (DRM free).

    So even though I really like Amazon (and they get a good chunk of my dollars), there are other options — remember the direct from indie option!! IMHO — direct from indie will be a large part of the market down the road, although a hard one to measure.

  10. I find that Amazon has a few main advantages:
    1) Discovery. They make it easy to find books that I may be interested in. They also have 2 sources of reviews(includes Goodreads). They have so many reviews that it minimizes the paid review effect.

    2) Sales aids. 3G option makes it easy to buy directly from the e-reader. Wist list that tracks price decreases(not increases though) Good recommendations

    3) Lowest price. One other vendor is often substantially higher for Independent books.

    Before agency’s return they routinely had the lowest price on books that I price checked on competitive vendor websites. They made it hard for me to buy elsewhere last year.

    4) Selection. Amazon continues to develop and market exclusive books.

    5) Constant hardware updates.

    I started out with a Kindle and a Nook in 2010 and it soon became apparent to me that Amazon would probably be the last one standing. Who wants to go through what Sony e-reader owners went through? Hopefully someone will really step up and compete. Readers win when vendors compete!

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