Despite Amazon's declaration last week that e-book unit sales topped hardcover sales in the second quarter, there is little evidence to suggest that hardcover sales are about to plunge, at least in the near term. Amazon said that while it sold 143 e-books for every 100 hardcovers, sales of hardcovers continued to grow. Data from Nielsen BookScan show that of the three major print formats, hardcover was the only format that has had an increase in unit sales so far in 2010, although the increase was small, at 0.3%. Total print unit sales were down 0.4%, to 367.3 million, through July 18 compared to the same period last year, with mass market paperback taking the biggest hit, with units off 4.6%.

Further evidence about the viability of hardcovers comes from the "BISG Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading" report, which found that even among consumers who read and buy e-books, they still buy hardcovers. In fact, the move away from print slowed somewhat between the survey conducted in February and the one done in May, compared to the movement between the first and second survey, conducted in December and February, respectively. Thirty-seven percent of e-book buyers said they decreased their purchases of hardcovers in the third survey, up from 34% in the first, but down from the 43% who said they bought fewer hardcovers in the second survey. The pattern was also the same for paperbacks, with the percentage of book buyers who reported buying fewer books in that format down in the third survey, but up slightly from the first.

A second finding determined that while more people than ever have cut back on print purchases, the momentum slowed in the spring. Forty-five percent of e-book buyers reported in the first survey that they either bought fewer print books or no print books since they started reading e-books, a number that rose to 48% in the second survey and one percentage point higher in the most recent survey.

Another question in the survey showed that the increase in Kindle sales reported by Amazon after it lowered the price of the device should have come as no surprise. In all three surveys that make up the BISG report, price was always the biggest reason why consumers had not bought a dedicated e-reader. But once consumers bought an e-reader, they were generally satisfied with the quality of the device.

More information about the complete report is available at 

Book Sales by Format, through July 18th

2010 2009 % Change
Hardcover 84,932,000 84,591,000 0.3
Mass Market
Paperback 62,862,000 69,589,000 -4.6
Paperback 200,211,000 201,939,000 -0.8
Total* 367,298,000 376,544,000 -0.4

* Total includes other formats.