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Amazon has sold 'millions' of Kindles, overall sales increase 42%

After Apple unveiled its iPad and iBookstore, Amazon announced its fourth quarter earnings this week, with sales increasing 42 percent and Kindle e-book sales accounting for more than a third of total book sales.

Amazon had $9.5 billion in sales in its fourth financial quarter, ending Dec. 31 2009, well up from the $6.7 billion the online retailer saw in the fourth quarter of 2008. A big driver for Amazon was its Kindle e-book reader, which CEO Jeff Bezos has sold "millions" since it debuted just over two years ago. No exact figures on hardware sales were provided.

"Millions of people now own Kindles," Bezos said. "And Kindle owners read, a lot. When we have both editions, we sell 6 Kindle books for every 10 physical books. This is year-to-date and includes only paid books — free Kindle books would make the number even higher. It's been an exciting 27 months."

The Kindle and large-screen Kindle DX are available in over 100 countries, and the Kindle iPhone application is available in Apple's App Store in over 60 countries. E-books can be synced between the Kindle reader, PC software, and Apple's iPhone and iPod touch. Kindle software is forthcoming for the Mac and iPad, Amazon said.

There are more than 410,000 books in the U.S. Kindle Store, including 100 of 112 New York Times Bestsellers. The service also offers 8,000 blogs and 130 domestic and international newspapers and magazines.

Apple hopes to counter Amazon with its recently announced iPad. Sporting a 9.7-inch screen and with a starting price of $499, Apple's multimedia, multi-touch device was partially pitched as an e-book and newspaper reader with a vibrant, color screen, compared to the Kindle's black-and-white e-ink display. Some have viewed the iPad as a "Kindle killer."

The iBookstore is a part of Apple's new iBooks app for iPad. The software features a 3D virtual bookshelf displaying a user's personal collection, and allows the purchase of new content from major publishers. Like the Kindle, it will offer content from the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs indicated that books in the iBookstore will be sold at prices that are "the same" as are currently seen on the Kindle. At the moment, new hardcover books in an electronic format sell for $9.99 from Amazon.

Amazon recently announced that it was modifying its revenue sharing model for the Kindle bookstore to a 70-30 split in favor of content providers — identical to Apple's App Store business model. Those who opt for Amazon's new model must price their books between $2.99 and $9.99.