Amazon's Kindle E-Books Outselling Paper Books

Amazon claims that its Kindle e-books are outselling hardcover and print books on its Website.

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is claiming 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 May 19 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.

Since April 1, 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.

That announcement from Amazon comes days after the company's ad-supported Kindle device, which comes $25 cheaper than the WiFi-only unsponsored version at $139, took first position on the online retailer's list of bestselling electronics. The Kindle 3G retails for $189.

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 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 color 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.

"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.