Amazon says e-book sales have surpassed hard copies

Amazon.com Inc. on Thursday said that, after less than four years of selling electronic books, it’s now selling more of them than printed books.

The online retailer said that since April 1, it has sold 105 e-books for every 100 printed books, including printed books for which there is no electronic edition. The comparison excludes free e-books, which would tip the scales further if they were included.

Printed books include both hardcover and paperback books. Amazon said in July that e-book sales had outstripped hardcover sales. It’s now selling three times as many e-books as it did a year ago.

Analysts estimate that Amazon accounts for about two-thirds of U.S. e-book sales.

Amazon also said the latest and cheapest version of its Kindle e-book reading device is the best-seller of the line, five weeks after it was introduced. The Kindle with Special Offers costs $114, and shows ads in standby mode.

Fixd mortgages drop to lowest point of 2011

Fixed mortgage rates fell this week to the lowest point of the year, offering incentive for homeowners to save money by refinancing their loans.

Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan fell to 4.61 percent. That’s down from 4.63 percent and the lowest level since mid-December.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinance option, slipped to 3.80 percent from 3.82 percent. That marked the lowest point since late November.

Sears reports $170 million net loss in first quarter

Sears Holding Corp.’s new CEO has a big task ahead. The retailer’s strength in appliances and sales improvements at its Kmart stores failed it in the first quarter, leading to a bigger-than-expected loss.

The retailer has long seen customers drawn to the value of its appliances, under brands such as Kenmore. But the absence of a government appliance rebate program hurt its performance.

On Thursday, Sears reported a net loss of $170 million, or $1.58 per share, in the quarter ended April 30 compared with net income of $16 million, or 14 cents per share, a year earlier. The adjusted loss was $1.39 per share.

Gap Inc. income suffers as production costs rise

Faster costs increases than Gap Inc. expected — especially for its lower-priced items — sank the company’s first-quarter profit, and it dramatically cut its forecast for full-year earnings late Thursday.

The parent company for the Banana Republic and Old Navy brands, as well as Gap, Athleta and Piperlime, said it’s spending about 20 percent more to produce each item than it did a year ago.

And its recent price increases have not kept pace.

Gap said its net income fell 23 percent to $233 million, or 40 cents per share, for the quarter that ended April 30. That compares with $302 million, or 45 cents per share, a year earlier.

Its revenue fell 1 percent to $3.29 billion. Revenue fell most, almost 4 percent, at its low-price Old Navy chain, which produces about 40 percent of Gap Inc. revenue.

Playboy to put nearly 60 years of its magazines online

Playboy is putting more than a half-century of the magazine online.

Playboy launched a Web-based subscription service Thursday that allows viewers to see every page of every issue — from the first one nearly 60 years ago that featured Marilyn Monroe to the one on the newsstands today.

The service costs $8 a month or $60 a year. Playboy says it will allow viewers to look at each issue of the magazine page by page just as it appeared when it came out.