Candid Facts from Amazon’s Russ Grandinetti

In Feature Articles by Carlo Carrenho

By Carlo Carrenho, PublishNews

Russ Grandinetti, VP of Kindle Content

Russ Grandinetti, VP of Kindle Content

Amazon executives rarely speak in public and, when they do, chances are they will say little that is new. But this wasn’t the case yesterday, when Russ Grandinetti, Vice President for Kindle content, spoke at the Publishers Launch conference. Being at the top of the Amazon hierarchy, with only Jeff Bezos to answer to, certainly gives him more freedom than the average Amazonian. And he used it.

As an opener, Grandinetti displayed the growth curves of print and ebooks sold by Amazon in the US since the launch. Of course, there was no Y-axis (dollars) in the graph, but the public was able to get the big picture. He then said that most foreign markets in which Amazon is now selling ebooks are where the US was in 2009/2010.

“We have little reason to believe that other countries will have a different track to the US”, he stated. He showed more graphs, comparing the US, UK, Japan and Germany to prove his point. The percentages of digital unit sales over print for Germany and Japan, for instance, were following the same patterns previously established by the American and British markets.

Another interesting graph showed the percentage of top 1,000 authors in print with at least one Kindle book. The US leads the group at 98%, followed by the UK with 95%, Germany with 89%, France with 71%, Japan with 64%, Italy with 53% and a surprising Spain at the last place with 46%.

Grandinetti also revealed some interesting data about of the percentage of foreign titles for sale in the US. Amazon has been more than doubling its sales of foreign language ebooks to English-speaking markets every year since 2009. While 77% of Spanish digital titles are available in Amazon’s US store, only 51% of the German titles, 25% of the Italian titles and an amazing low 5% of French titles are.

When defending Amazon’s POD program, he claimed “POD functions as a backup, not a replacement.” To prove his point, he showed print and digital sales figures, as well as page views at Amazon, once it was revealed that The Cuckoo’s Calling was authored by J K Rowling. Page views boomed, ebook sales followed, but print sales were not that affected since the book was soon out of stock. The message being: had POD been in place, sales would not have been lost.

The high profile Amazon executive used his last few minutes to promote MatchBook, the program that allows customers to buy digital editions at a fraction of the price if they buy the print edition too. “Only a fraction of 1% buy both print and Kindle editions of the same book,” he stated, suggesting that publishers joining the program would lose few full-price sales.

About the Author

Carlo Carrenho

Carlo Carrenho is a Brazilian publishing consultant and journalist. In 2001, he founded PublishNews, a daily electronic newsletter in Portuguese that covers the Brazilian publishing market. He’s also worked for several Brazilian publishing houses, including Thomas Nelson Brasil, which he launched in 2007.