Stables of contents

Stables of contents

You know that old saying about statistics?

Well, statistically, maybe you should.  😉

We can certainly see that when you look at e-book store sites, and they tell you how many books you can get.

I’m always a little amused when mainstream or tech writers write about different EBRs (E-Boo Readers) and blithely report whatever the site says.

I’ve just recently seen one that reported that another EBR’s site had one million titles, and Amazon only had about 600,000…something like that.

Well, I know it’s confusing for those writers…I figure it’s confusing for some of you as well.

I’m going to go through it a bit here, and that will hopefully shed some light on it.

First, let me just list some of the sites and what they say:

Amazon Kindle: Over 540,00 books…”…Over 1.8 million free, out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books are available to read on Kindle”

Barnes & Noble:  Over 1 million e-books

Sony: “…thousands of bestsellers, choose from over a million free public domain eBooks from Google books…”

Kobo: “Choose from over 2 million bestsellers, new releases, award winners, classics, even hidden gems. New York Times, Oprah’s Book Club, Globe and Mail, and other top seller lists are all available at the Kobo Store…”

So, let’s see…Kobo has two million, Sony and B&N have a million, and Amazon has…wait, they list two things?


That’s one of the really key things.  While Amazon is not the most forthcoming company out there, I do think they generally try to be honest.  I think it’s more honest to list the in-copyright books you actually carry separately from books that can be read on your device, but can be read on others as well.

While I think it would be great if any e-book could be read on any device, that’s just not the reality.  When people are looking at the sites to comparison shop, and they see a number for how many books you have, they think you are telling them something special about your store.

I’m going to try to break this down into categories: in-copyright books in a format designed for the specific reader; and books that can be gotten at a third party site that work on the reader, but can be obtained for other readers as well.

In-copyright books

Amazon Kindle: 600,021 (note: some of these books are in the public domain, but they are in a format designed for the Kindle.  They may have additional material, but may not)

Barnes & Noble: This is a little harder to tell.  They have 33,907 fiction and 15,918 nonfiction books.  There certainly may be books in other categories, but I’m guessing I’m safe in saying under 100,000.

Sony: Hmmm…this one is even tougher.  They list 41,389 Fiction and Literature titles, but that doesn’t appear to include Science Fiction, for example.  My sense here is more than B&N, but nowhere near as many as Amazon.

Kobo: even tougher to tell.  When I clicked on Fiction & Literature, it only returned 500 titles…but I’m assuming that’s a limitation of the search, and not of the store.  I don’t feel like I can really tell you anything solid on this. 

Stables of Contents

That’s what I’m going to call collection of books that available to a number of different devices…see, you thought it was just a bad pun.  😉  I picture this as a public stable of horses where you show up, pay the groom, and take one out for a ride.

This is a non-profit which recently made its two millionth free e-text available on the web.  You can download these in formats that will work with any of the above readers.  That includes PDFs, EPUB, and MOBI (for the Kindle).  Barnes & Noble could say these two million books are available for the nook (sic), but I think they only count ones you can get through their site, which I think is nice.

Google Books

 People are often confused about this one.  There’s a lot going on with Google, including them launching a bookstore later in the year (this isn’t it), and an ongoing legal issue.

They have a lot of books (and magazines), and many of them they have probably digitized themselves (they’ve patented a system for that).  That means they may have a lot of unique titles.

However, you have to be careful: only some of the books are actually books, and not limited previews. 

You can typically download full books in pdf format, and some of them in EPUB.  You can read the EPUB books on a nook, Kobo, or a Sony, and they can be converted for you for free with Calibre for your Kindle.  That’s a few extra steps, but entirely doable.  I should be clear, they are usable if they don’t have DRM (Digital Rights Management).  For the free public domain books, that’s going to be the case.

Barnes & Noble, I believe, says that they have half a million of the Google books on their website (the two companies have an arrangement).  That’s clearly more convenient.  I’m sure they count that in their million titles.  Hmmm…that would suggest they have half a million in-format titles, but I’m not seeing them.

Other stables

There are many other sites with e-books that will work on different devices.  For more of those, see the Focus on Free category.

Exclusive content

I’m a little surprised that Amazon doesn’t push this more.  They have a Digital Text Platform (DTP) that independent publishers (including individual authors) can use to publish their books.  I think there are lots and lots of these that are only available in the Kindle store, and that there are good books in that bunch.  However, one of the issues may be that the DTP is a non-exclusive license…so Amazon doesn’t have a way to know if the books have been published somewhere else as well.

My assessment?  If you want to read in-copyright books Amazon has the biggest selection.  Oh, I should mention, I’ve excluded getting books from your local library in this listing.  From my experience, most public libraries don’t have many e-books.  They are often “checked out”, so that they may not be available to you when you want them.  However, if you want to mostly read is current in-copyright books for free, that is a consideration.

If you want to read older, out-of-copyright books, you can get those for any of the EBRs.

Ah, and one last point.  They all have more books than you could ever read.  😉  If I’m generous and say you’ll have 90 years of reading life, and you’ll average a book a day, that’s still not even 30,000 books.  Disappointing, hm?  🙂

Tip of the Day: you can search for e-books and do price comparisons using

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


6 Responses to “Stables of contents”

  1. Jasvinder Says:

    How does it matters if it..

  2. Jasvinder Says:

    Kildle is eBook Love !

  3. Nancy Says:

    Regarding your brief mention of library e-books, to the best of my knowledge, all or most libraries use DRM protected EPUB formatted e-books in combination with OverDrive and Adobe Digital Editions software, so putting them on a Kindle is not even an option- at least not legally.

    A Kindle owner can download Adobe Digital Editions for free, and read them on their computer, but at this time, that’s the only way for them to enjoy library e-books.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Nancy, thanks for writing!

      You may want to look at my earlier post on e-book and libraries…I probably should have linked it:

      Many libraries also use mobi format…but again, if they use Digital Rights Management, that won’t work on a Kindle. My local library has mobi format, for example.

      Some libraries, though, also “circulate” non-DRM’d files. They are simply making the same kinds of files available you can get at many sites on the web. In that case, they can be used on a Kindle.

      In terms of in-copyright books, a library may have to pay for both formats, of course, just like an individual would. That has certainly affected their choices in that regard.

      The bigger barrier, as you may be aware, is that many libraries require your device’s PID (Personal Identity), which the Kindle doesn’t provide to you through the user interface.

      I’m just curious…are you a librarian yourself?

  4. linda Says:

    I love my Kindle! I have only had it for a few months but it has increased the speed I read books. Can anyone tell me how to archive the books I have read?

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, linda!

      Welcome to the Klub!

      Since you got your Kindle recently, I’m going to assume it isn’t a Kindle 1.

      On the other Kindles, get to the title in your homescreen, then flick left. If you got it from the Kindle store it will ask if you want to “remove it from the device”. Just say yes to that.

      If you got it somewhere else, it will ask if you want to delete. If you delete it, it will not be available to you again…unless you have backed it up yourself (just like you would with any other computer file).

      If you have more questions, feel free to ask.

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