My brother shared with me an interesting posting, where the question is asked “Is Amazon Lying about eBooks outselling printed books?”
I found the post to be an interesting read but there exists one GLARING problem: Â they misuse statistics and probabilities, and reach erroneous (though perhaps accidentally correct) conclusions.
They are acting as if previous numbers/ratios of hardcover to paperback books remain UNCHANGED with the introduction of digital books.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the split has been 77/23 paperback to hardcover. To come in and say that ebooks are 29% which is more than Hardcovers, but not more than the 77% paperback percentage is, well, silly. That would then result in 129% of sales.
Here’s what the author(s) wrote:
“…But then I discovered a business analyst whoâ€™d found an even bigger problem with Amazonâ€™s statistic. According to the Nielsen Bookscan service,hardcover books accounted for just 23% of all books sold in the previous year.
So what happens if you ask how many â€œprinted booksâ€ Amazon sold, instead of using the smaller number of â€œhardcover booksâ€? Following the same ratio, Amazon would be selling approximately 334 paperbacks for every 100 hardcover books â€” or a total of 434 printed books for every 180 ebooks. That would mean over 70% of the books Amazon sells are still printed books â€” 180 out of 614 â€” with ebooks accounting for just 29.3% of all the books that Amazon sells.
I do have to insert one quick correction to their comment: the analyst actually wrote that hardcover books account for “23% of total dead-tree book sales” Â and that’s important.
Okay, in reality here is what they did:
They read that 23% of all books sold are hardcover. That works out to about 4.3478 books for each percent. They then multiplied that number by 77% to get the magical number of softcover books sold: 334.78 softcover books. They then add those (read: 100%) and compare that to the number of ebooks sold (180).
Hopefully, at this point, the problem is becoming clear: Are ebooks additive–that is, people are buying ebooks above beyond the numbers of hard/soft cover books they always bought? If that is the case, then So while it wouldn’t be 140% it would result in a larger pie, meaning that ebooks went from ZERO to 29% (the number they mention in the post). Not bad for eBooks. If only every new “business model” could garner 23% of a market, while not touching the rest.
But I suspect there is a shift here–people are buying either an ebook, or a paper book. Thus the “old school” ratio doesn’t hold true anymore. it’s not 23% hardcover, 77% softcover, and 29% ebooks (note: 129%). The 29% have come from somewhere–most likely eating out of some mix of hard/soft cover sales.
The authors believe (yes, believe) that there is “no evidence” that Amazon is selling more eBooks than printed books. True-they simply argued that they sold more hardcover books. But the evidence they overlooked, through flawed math, tells a very interesting, and different, story.