Amazon: Kindle sales accelerating; Demand tipping point?

Amazon: Kindle sales accelerating; Demand tipping point?

Summary: Amazon says Kindle sales continue to accelerate and boasts that the new price point has helped it reach a tipping point - but still won't release actual sales figures.

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Amazon said Monday that it is selling more e-books than hardcover books and talked up Kindle sales without providing details.

Simply put, Amazon is getting all rah-rah again about sales of its Kindle e-reader, throwing around loaded phrases like "millions of people," "bestselling," and "unit sales accelerated." Forgive me, though, if I don't start jumping around with excitement. The one data point - actual units sold - is the one data point that Amazon continues to refuse to cough up.

Amazon reports quarterly earnings later this week and, as has become the norm, surely will be asked about specifics on Kindle sales. So today's headline, while certainly intended to highlight Amazon's perceived success of the Kindle, feels like a pre-emptive strike so it can tell analysts later: "Didn't you get the memo on Monday?"

Today's headline: Kindle device unit sales accelerated each month in the second quarter—both on a sequential month-over-month basis and on a year-over-year basis. The other big headline: Amazon customers are now buying more e-books than hardcover books. In a press release, CEO Jeff Bezos said:

We’ve reached a tipping point with the new price of Kindle—the growth rate of Kindle device unit sales has tripled since we lowered the price from $259 to $189. In addition, even while our hardcover sales continue to grow, the Kindle format has now overtaken the hardcover format. Amazon.com customers now purchase more Kindle books than hardcover books—astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months.

The company also noted that, in the past month, the sales of Kindle books is nearly 2:1 over hardcovers, with 180 Kindle books selling for every 100 hardcovers. Further, the company said it sold more than 3 times as many Kindle books in the first half 2010 than it did in the first half of 2009.

The company reports quarterly earnings after the close of U.S. markets on Thursday.

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Amazon

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22 comments
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  • Let me guess...you're an "iPad guy"!

    I love the condascending nature of the article. I can always tell a person who isn't a serious reader, because they just don't seem to understand e-Ink.

    God forbid I don't pop a woody over the iPad reader.
    trickytom2
  • Sure it is ....

    ... after all they drop the price of the base model to bellow $200 mark .... the typical point when most gadget become more mainstream.

    Now, the fact that Amazon will not post a number is definately interesting. Either they don't want people to know that the number is low .... or they licensed a technology that was limited to an X number they already passed and don't want to endup paying more before renewing the license at a lower price.
    wackoae
    • Or perhaps ...

      @wackoae ... Amazon just wants to keep their real competition (other traditional booksellers) in the dark about Amazn's relative success in a very competitive bookseller market. By keeping the pundits guess as well, they give themselves lots of free press coverage without giving away any information of real value.
      M Wagner
  • RE: Amazon: Kindle sales accelerating; Demand tipping point?

    Most people buy paperbacks. Amazon's claim that they sold more e-books than hardcovers is therefore not impressive.
    Tom62
    • I am not sure that's true ...

      @Tom62 ... but at $9.99 per book, Kindle charges only a samll premium for a Kindle book over the typical paperback (and offers a lot of convenience for that small premium) and even 'expensive' Kindle e-books are less expensive than their hardbound counterparts.
      M Wagner
      • RE: Amazon: Kindle sales accelerating; Demand tipping point?

        You should be wary of the $9.99 number. Most "paperback" books are not $9.99, they're $5-7; not only isn't there a "small premium" but you're usually saving a couple of bucks. But not always: I have seen books -- particularly popular books -- where the Kindle price is higher than paperback. Just be aware that that is the exception rather than the rule.

        My average purchase price including new releases has been around $7 over the two and a half years since they released the Kindle (I bought a lot of books for a lot less than $10), although prices have edged up over the last year or so. Ever since the iPad deal prices for new releases are often around $12-13 depending on the publisher, whereas they were pretty solidly $9.99 beforehand (thanks Apple).

        jim frost
        jimf@frostbytes.com
        jimfrost
  • RE: Amazon: Kindle sales accelerating; Demand tipping point?

    Since I switched to an eReader, I doubt I'll ever buy another paperback. I might still buy the occasional hardcover, but probably the eBook version too.
    ncted
  • E-Ink is the way to go for a book reader

    We have a number of computers as well as a KIndle. There is absolutly no comparison regarding ease of reading with the Kindle comming out way on top. The iPad does a number of cool things but reading for hours on a semi glossy screen is not one of them. The Kindle is a specialized tool for reading and it does that one thing exceptionally well.
    Baer
    • RE: Amazon: Kindle sales accelerating; Demand tipping point?

      I concur about reading on the iPad. I have both a Kindle and iPad, and while I really like reading news on the iPad (and the many many other things it does too) it is lousy for extended reading. I didn't expect glare to be an issue since it doesn't really bother me on my glossy screen laptop, but the fact that the iPad is usually used near horizontal means that you're always fighting ceiling lights. Even in cases where glare isn't a problem (e.g. reading in bed with the lights down or out) there's something about the screen that causes eyestrain. My gut call is that it's pixel sharpness rather than backlighting, since I never had trouble with eyestrain on palmtops (including the iPhone where I run the same software as on the iPad) or laptops or desktops (I'm staring at those screens most of every day!) but I do not know for sure. I wish I had more fonts to play with or could turn off pixel interpolation.

      Another big surprise about the iPad was that the weight made a huge difference. It actually gave me tennis elbow! I've never had that kind of trouble before with any device or even large hardcovers and certainly wasn't expecting it. When reading on the iPad you really want to support it with something.

      On the other hand the iPad has almost completely replaced my laptop, which was not the intent or expectation. It's not great for e-mail with the software keyboard but it will do in a pinch and the always-there network makes it awesome for travel (without having to pay $70/mo to Verizon for a data card) and it sure is small and has great battery life.

      If I had to pick an all-around unit I'd pick the iPad and deal with the fact that it's not the greatest e-book reader. But if given the choice you really want to do extended reading on an e-ink device.

      jim frost
      jimf@frostbytes.com
      jimfrost
      • RE: Amazon: Kindle sales accelerating; Demand tipping point?

        @jimfrost If the iPad replaced your desktop, then you obviously don't do anything on your desktop. Considering that the only desktop feature that the iPad has is email. And you can't even read attachments, or watch videos that come in emails, or open up documents that come in emails (depending on the document). And there is no flash for the web browser, and no productive office app, and no multitasking.
        So if all you do is check like 3 websites for news or look at text email on a laptop, then I guess it does replace it. But for any kind of real content, it cant do it, and since it has no local storage, it cant even store documents, let alone produce them in a format that anyone else can read.
        Jimster480
  • The statistics will never reveal anything more ...

    ... than the seller presenting the statistics wants you to know. So? It's still good news for Amazon, and the lower price is good news for Amazon customers, even if the numbers don't tell the whole story.

    PDA-based eReaders have been around at least 15 years but they didn't leave the realm of the geek until Amazon made it easy for the average consumer to use one without having to sync it with a computer.

    Apple recognized this when they brought out the iPad so they integrated the iBook model into their iTunes eco-system AND, if you have a Wi-Fi connection, you still don't need to SYNC to your computer to read books or buy music or video for the iPad. But the iPad is a $499 device.

    Apple's customers are generally more saavy about computers than Amazon's customer (and they have more money to spend) so Apple stuck with Wi-Fi on their basic tier. Okay.

    Amazon is stressing the point that sales have improved since they lowered the price. Not surprising. The other traditional booksellers did Amazon a favor by forcing them to break the $200 barrier, because the $189 price also broke the $199 iPhone barrier.

    Everyone wins.
    M Wagner
  • RE: Amazon: Kindle sales accelerating; Demand tipping point?

    Kindle sales more than hardcover books...

    now for a meaningful perspective, how does this compare with paperbacks?
    redking44
  • Do those "Kindle book sales" include...

    ... all e-book titles sold for the entire Kindle ecosystem, including titles sold through the Kindle App on iOS devices?
    lfmorrison
  • RE: Amazon: Kindle sales accelerating; Demand tipping point?

    When a book comes out, you start with a choice of e-book ($10-$12) available instantly, or a hardback ($20) available (+ postage) next week if you order on-line, or tomorrow if you have time to go to the bookstore. Months later, a trip to the bookstore for the paperback ($8) will save you a dollar or so. By that time, everyone has read it except you.
    dov@...
    • "everyone has read it except you"

      @dov@...

      And? This is obviously some sort of book-worm pride thing. I couldn't care less if I was the last person on earth to read it - so long as it's cheap. Even better, 50c or $1 from the 2nd hand book store where all the book-worms go to cast off their $50 hard covers (never seen a $20 hard cover in NZ when new - all $50+).
      naibeeru
    • RE: Amazon: Kindle sales accelerating; Demand tipping point?

      @dov@... Everyone keeps talking about cheap paperbacks. Lately I've noticed that almost every paperback I've purchased in a store is more than $10 - $14 is not that uncommon anymore. And hardback are at least $20. I just purchased through Amazon a hardback of a new release for $18, but it lists for $30 and would have cost me $27 at Barnes and Noble with my member discount. The Kindle version is $10. (I sent back my Kindle as I want to see if they come out with the higher resolution screen in the smaller format.)
      tom@...
    • RE: Amazon: Kindle sales accelerating; Demand tipping point?

      @dov@... I always buy paperback used at less than $5. Sometimes at $1 + a very small shipping price. Thats the kind of thing you can't do with kindle.

      I also buy games used, which means I stay several months behind, but then instead of spending $59, I spend $20 or so.

      Thanks to all the early-adopters of books and games, that I can enjoy the same things for half price or less.
      amolkolhe
  • RE: Amazon: Kindle sales accelerating; Demand tipping point?

    This whole thing is reminding me of the early days (late '80's) of CDs. Sure, all the best sellers and classics are mostly available digitally, but the more I look for more older, niche, or arcane books, all I find is "tell the publisher you'd like to see this on Kindle".
    mcgonegal
    • RE: Amazon: Kindle sales accelerating; Demand tipping point?

      Agreed. It's filling in (there are after all five times as many books available now as when I bought my Kindle two and a half years ago), but there are a lot of titles I'd like that I cannot buy. Publishers are the bottleneck there, and it's clear they're not motivated for a lot of back-catalog or out-of-print items when they are already doing about all they can to get the other stuff out.

      It may take changes in copyright law to fix this. It is a problem that there is no way to get a book back into print except with explicit permission by the publisher and/or author. Copyright law should be a compromise; even if we presume that we cannot get copyright expiration past Disney et al, there's no reason why we couldn't have renewal periods. Abandoned works should go into the public domain relatively quickly, like 20 years or so. Copyright law wasn't intended to be a way to stop works from being published, but it certainly is working out that way right now.

      jim frost
      jimf@frostbytes.com
      jimfrost
    • My own personal tipping point

      @mcgonegal It's true that the Kindle is not a "library replacement", nor a "book store" replacement -- especially the fun kind of book store with the older, niche, or arcane books you refer to. But, the Kindle solves several problems for me, a lifelong high-volume reader of novels and popular non-fiction: 1) while I still have physical books in every room of my house, at least the rate of accululation has gone to zero, 2) I read alot at restaurants and cafes, and the kindle always lays flat (no more salt shakers holding the book open), doesn't flap pages in a breeze, and I can read it in any light, indoors or out, for hours (thanks to e-ink) 3) I like having my immediate, ready-to-read book shelf with me at all times, and I like the instant gratification of ordering books and reading them a few seconds later.
      So, I've reached a personal tipping point where I just don't buy hardcover or paperbacks anymore. I don't read books to smell the ink and fondle the pages; I read to be taken somewhere. And the Kindle reading experience actually enhances that ability of a good read to wisk me away. The Kindle does not solve everyone's problems, and those folks who want a more dynamic (ipad) or classic (paper and ink) reading experience, or who just don't LIKE an e-reader, should not waste their money on a Kindle. But for me the transition to exclusively reading a Kindle for recreational reading came naturally for the best of reasons: it solves some problems, and it enables some features that physical books can't provide.
      wcraycroft