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Sales of ebooks jump in January past hardcovers

The ebook boom has reached new heights, but not high enough to boost book sales in the United States overall.

Helped by millions of Kindles, Nooks and other digital devices given for holiday gifts, ebook sales jumped in January and surpassed purchases of hardcovers and mass market paperbacks, according to a new survey. The Association of American Publishers (AAP) reported on Thursday that esales more than doubled from $32,4-million in January 2010 to $69,9-million in January 2011.

Hardcovers sales fell from $55,4-million to $49,1-million, and mass market paperbacks, a format that’s declining as baby boomers seek books with larger print, fell from $56,4-million to $39-million.

Total sales, which include the education and professional markets, were $805,7-million in January, slightly below the $821,5-million reported last year.

Not all AAP members participate, but the survey includes results from Random House, Simon & Schuster and other leading publishers.

The new numbers “pretty much reflect reality”, Simon & Schuster CEO and president Carolyn Reidy said on Thursday, although she cautioned that e-sales tend to be especially high in January as new customers test the format.

‘Convenience and ease’
She said esales likely dropped after January but will settle at a level that’s still substantially higher than last year. Reidy said ebooks were around 8% to 9% of the general trade market at the end of 2010 and she expects them to reach 12% to 15% of the market this year.

“When people start out with ebooks, they like the convenience and the ease,” Reidy said. “They tend to experiment with different kinds of books.”

Reidy said ebook sales were as high as 50% of the total for some works, not just for commercial fiction, but for so-called “midlist” books that depend on reviews and word of mouth. She cited Mira Bartok’s well-regarded memoir The Memory Palace, which came out this year.

“You have people reading the reviews and buying the books electronically,” she said. — Sapa-AP

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