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May 4, 2012

Kindle hasn’t killed the print star—yet

Kindle sales will cannibalize print sales.

That’s what I expected when we released Technical Writing 101 in Kindle format, but numbers from the first quarters of 2011 and 2012 are showing something different.

We made the Kindle version available in early February 2011, so I compared the United States sales for the February/March periods of 2011 and 2012. During that window of time in 2012, we actually sold a few more printed copies than in 2011! I wasn’t surprised, though, to see that Kindle sales went up quite a bit more in 2012:

Graph showing 3.5 percent increase in print sales and 15 percent increase in Kindle sales

Print sales of Technical Writing 101 went up by 3.5 percent, and Kindle sales increased by 15.2 percent. So much for my cannibalism theory.

Do these numbers reflect what’s going on in the entire publishing industry? Probably not. Technical Writing 101 is a niche title; I refer to it as the “anti-textbook of technical writing.” The steadier print sales are likely driven by students buying the printed book for college classes.

Our recent survey on ebooks about technical communication showed that 55.2 percent of the respondents read ebooks in the Kindle format, and 43.7 percent of those surveyed were using e-ink Kindle devices. I suspect those numbers in combination with the lower price point for the Kindle edition ($9.99 versus $20–$36 for print, depending on discounts) account for the increasing Kindle sales.

I’m glad to see that the book is reaching more people regardless of the format, and I will be interested to see how the numbers for 2013 compare. Considering my incorrect assumption that Kindle sales would immediately eat into print sales, I won’t make any prognostications right now. But I will leave you with some musical fun from The Buggles:

Buggles – Video Killed Radio Star by bebepanda

P.S. Authors and publishers: I’d love to hear about how Kindle sales have affected your print sales. Leave a comment about your experience.