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Amazon Says e-Books For Kindle Outsell Paper

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The success of Amazon’s e-reader has only stimulated speculation that it will launch a general purpose tablet

Amazon has said that Kindle e-books are outselling hardcover and paperback print books on its Website.

“We had high hopes that this would happen eventually, but we never imagined it would happen this quickly—we’ve been selling print books for 15 years and Kindle books for less than four years,” Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, wrote in a  statement. He also claimed that the Kindle is the bestselling e-reader in the world, although his company has never released sales numbers for the device.

Kindle e-book sales tripled in a year

Since 1 April, some 105 Kindle e-books have sold for every 100 print books, including hardcover and paperbacks for which there is no Kindle edition. Amazon has excluded free Kindle e-books from that breakdown. Kindle e-books are selling at three times their rate during a comparable period in 2010.

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That announcement from Amazon comes days after the company’s ad-supported Kindle device, which comes $25 (£15) cheaper than the Wi-Fi-only unsponsored version at $139 (£85), took first position on the online retailer’s list of bestselling electronics. The Kindle 3G retails for $189 (£116).

Although the Kindle continues to dominate the e-reader market, it faces competition on a number of fronts. E-book applications for the iPad and Google’s move into e-books for Android have threatened to make tablets and smartphones a more attractive option for consumers who want a multiple-use device. Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color presents a colour alternative (and broad selection of applications) in contrast to the Kindle’s grayscale.

Before its release, the question confronting the ad-supported Kindle was whether the price was low enough for consumers to tolerate sponsored messages on their e-reader in the same way they do on virtually every other entertainment device. The device’s position on Amazon’s own bestseller list indeed suggests there is a market, at this early stage, for that format.

In the past few weeks, there have been rumors that Amazon is also considering a leap into the Android tablet market, building a device that would tackle the iPad head-on, apparently in partnership with Samsung.

“Amazon could create a compelling Android- or Linux-based tablet offering easy access to Amazon’s storefront (including its forthcoming Android app store) and unique Amazon features like one-click purchasing, Amazon Prime service and its recommendation engine,” Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps wrote in a March blog posting. “More consumers considering buying a tablet say that they would consider Amazon (24 percent) than Motorola (18 percent).”

Should Amazon build an Android tablet, it could leverage its existing customer base for e-texts and multimedia. But such a device remains vaporware for the moment.

Previously, Amazon announced in January that Kindle e-books outsold paperbacks alone, and e-books outsold hardbacks on the site in July 2010.