Kindle e-books outsell hardbacks on Amazon

On-line book seller Amazon has surprised critics of its Kindle reader by announcing that sales of e-books outnumbered those of their hardback counterparts in the last quarter.

The company announced yesterday that it had sold over 40 per cent more Kindle titles than hardback books over the last three months - a first for the e-commerce site. In July, Kindle e-book sales were almost 80 per cent ahead.

The company also said that it had sold three times as many Kindle titles during the first six months of this year than in the first half of 2009.

The US Kindle store currently stocks around 630,000 paid-for titles for the device.

Demand for electronic titles is thought to have been fuelled by a recent drop in the price of the company's Kindle e-book reader - and seems likely to lay to rest doomsayers' predictions of the device's demise after the launch of Apple's iPad.

"We've reached a tipping point with the new price of Kindle - the growth rate of Kindle device unit sales has tripled since we lowered the price from $259 to $189," Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon said in a statement.

Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey told the International Business Times: "Amazon has the clear lead. Right now everyone is fighting over who is number two and number three. There probably won't be a number four."

"This is also a way to say that they are not afraid of Apple when it comes to book sales," McQuivey added.

Despite the rise, e-book sales are still a drop in the ocean compared to the book market as a whole. E-books may outstrip hardback sales in number, but certainly not in total revenue. A recent report from Publisher's Weekly put expected global e-book sales at $81 million a year. That compares to $4.4 billion for hardbacks, and a mammoth $5.1 billion for paperbacks.