Digital sales and lawsuits

Today, Amazon UK announced that since the start of 2012, for every 100 print books purchased on their site, customers downloaded 114 Kindle books. Amazon said the figures included sales of printed books which did not have Kindle editions, but excluded free ebooks.

An article in the Guardian outlined that “much to the consternation of the publishing industry, Amazon has refused to release audited figures for its digital book sales, something it does for printed books.” It told the Guardian that the company “would not discuss future policy on the matter.”

Ebook sales have been given a boost by the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, which has sold two million copies in the past four months.

Over the past year, the site has seen a more than 400% increase in UK authors and publishers using the self-publishing tool Kindle Direct Publishing.

Jorrit Van der Meulen, vice-president of Kindle EU, said: “Customers in the UK are now choosing Kindle books more often than print books, even as our print business continues to grow. We hit this milestone in the US less than four years after introducing Kindle, so to reach this landmark after just two years in the UK is remarkable and shows how quickly UK readers are embracing Kindle. As a result of the success of Kindle, we’re selling more books than ever before on behalf of authors and publishers.”

Less favourable news came for Google Books today, with Publishers Weekly  reporting that the multinational corporation could incur damages exceeding $1 billion, if the Authors Guild prevails in its legal battle over Google’s library book scanning program.

Publishers Weekly said: “The Guild asked the court for summary judgment in its favor, and the minimum statutory damage award—$750 per infringement. With as many as four million of the estimated 20 million books scanned by Google thought to still be under U.S. copyright, the damages could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars should Google lose, depending on the ultimate size of the class, and assuming that copyright holders come forward and prove ownership.

“From the beginning, Google has portrayed the scanning program as a public good. But, in its brief, the Authors Guild portrays the scanning effort as a purely commercial venture designed to give it an advantage over competitors like Microsoft and Amazon, which had both launched book scanning projects that asked permission of the copyright owner. The brief cites internal Google documents citing Google’s desire to cement an advantage over its rivals, and notes that Google has invested nearly $180 million in the scanning program. It also notes that Google was making progress with its partner program, signing up publishers for its corpus, when it decided to scan library books.”

For the full low-down see here and The Guardian article here.

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