8 Facts You Didn’t Know About Amazon

1. A new Kindle book is added to Amazon every five minutes

Writer Claude Nougat estimates that one new book is added to Amazon’s Kindle Store every five minutes. (He noted on August 19 that there were 3.4 million e-books on Amazon’s Kindle Store, and that in an hour, 12 new books were added.) With more than a million books added in a year, Nougat estimates that in 10 years, there could be anywhere from 20 million to 40 million books on the Kindle Store. That’s in the same neighborhood as the 33 million that Google has reportedly scanned globally.

2. But less than 10 percent of Amazon’s revenue comes from book sales

In a February piece in The New Yorker, George Packer quoted a source — a publisher — who estimated that U.S. book sales make up no more than 7 percent of Amazon’s $75 billion in annual revenue. That would amount to a current revenue of $5.25 billion from book sales, showing that books were truly just Amazon’s version of a “gateway drug,” as Packer notes, that put the company on its way to selling anything and everything online.

3. Amazon receives a 53 percent discount from Random House on the publisher’s books

Packer’s piece details how Amazon drives a hard bargain with the publishers whose books it sells — if the ongoing dispute with Hachette isn’t enough evidence of the practice. Publishers are asked to pay a percentage of the previous year’s Amazon sales as “marketing development funds,” and while large publishing houses used to pay 2 to 3 percent of their sales, that figure now looks more like 5 to 7 percent of gross sales, pushing Amazon’s discounts into the mid-50s. For smaller publishing houses, Amazon’s discount can go as high as 60 percent.

4. Almost 20 percent of books sold in the U.S. are Kindle books

In a Forbes article responding to Packer’s New Yorker piece, Jeff Bercovici reports that 19.5 percent of the books sold in the U.S. are Kindle titles, with e-books making up about 30 percent of all book sales. Amazon has a 65 percent share of the e-book market, with the rest going largely to Apple and Barnes & Noble.

5. Self-published books account for nearly a third of Kindle book sales

According to an Author Earnings study published in July, books by self-published authors account for 31 percent of daily ebook sales across genres. The report notes that that makes independent authors the largest publisher of ebooks on Amazon, in terms of market share. Self-published authors also earn 40 percent of all royalties on the Kindle Store.

6. Amazon has 14 of its own publishing imprints

After the Kindle e-reader was released, Amazon established Amazon Publishing, which publishes print books, e-books, and audiobooks, plus Kindle Serials and Kindle Singles, under a variety of imprints. On the Amazon Publishing site, Amazon lists all of the imprints under which it publishes e-books, so we used Amazon’s advanced search to find out how many titles are available from each of those imprints.

Thomas & Mercer is an imprint for mystery, thrillers, and suspense. AmazonCrossing is for translated works. AmazonEncore is for rediscovered works. 47North is for science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Montlake Romance is for, predictably, romance. The generic Amazon Publishing is an imprint for nonfiction, memoirs, and general fiction. Grand Harbor Press is for personal growth and self-help. Little A is for literary fiction. Jet City Comics is for comics and graphic novels. Two Lions is for children’s picture books, chapter books, and novels. Skyscape is for teen and young adult books. Lake Union Publishing is for contemporary and historical fiction, memoir, and popular nonfiction. StoryFront is for short fiction. Waterfall Press is for Christian nonfiction and fiction.

7. Over the past 20 years, the number of independent bookstores has decreased more than 50 percent

Packer notes that two decades ago, there were more than 4,000 independent bookstores operating across the United States. Today, there are fewer than 2,000. While Packer does report that the fall of Borders and the decline of Barnes & Noble has resulted in something of a mini renaissance for small, independent establishments, Amazon still accounts for a third of one major publishing house’s retail sales, while independent bookstores account for less than 10 percent.

8. For every $10 million in revenue, Amazon employs 14 people

Packer reports that, according to a study of U.S. Census data by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, brick-and-mortar retailers employ an average of 47 people for every $10 million in revenue earned, while Amazon employs 14.

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