Kindle Sales

In the past week, Amazon has managed to capture headlines for the Kindle, with announcements such as,

Most media have taken these claims at face value and have gone on to opine about the future of book publishing, reading, and even writing.

There’s one problem — Amazon’s claims are long on comparisons, but very short on actual numbers.

This was pointed out by Bobbie Johnson, the Guardian‘s technology correspondent on Monday. Johnson doesn’t accuse Amazon of lying, exactly, but of using “carefully chosen language.”

The blog “The eBook Test,” is not so polite. In an article headlined, Is The Amazon Kindle An Outright Fraud?, blogger Mike Cane challenged publishers to put Amazon to the test by revealing actual numbers for their bestselling eBook titles.

Figures from the Association of American Publishers show a different picture from Amazon’s. According to their latest stats (unfortunately, only through Oct. of this year), trade market eBooks account for only 3% of sales.

It is difficult to get real figures in book publishing. Sarah Weinman demonstrates this as she gamely tries to make sense of Amazon’s claims at the Daily Finance. As she points out, to understand how important Kindle downloads are to the entire business, we first need to know how many physical books Amazon sells and we don’t even know that.

An anonymous commenter on the eBook Test site gives an insider’s view (assuming, of course, that this person is who he or she claims to be),

I work for a trade house, and while I am not going to reveal my identity or that of my employer, I can tell you that our top Kindle sales of any one title are in the range of about 1000 downloads life to date. I am someone who receives the sales numbers for our titles directly from Amazon and I look at them every week; and, I agree that the actual sales numbers are much LOWER than anyone is pretending to have achieved.

There’s the added question of what do “sales” really mean when applied to eBook downloads. On the Kindle books “bestseller” list, 9 of the top 10 are free. For the entire list at this point (it’s updated hourly), 66 of 100 are free.

The tipping point for eBooks may be further off than Amazon’s announcements would make you think.

On the other hand, all the publicity that Amazon is generating may bring it closer.

One Response to “Kindle Sales”

  1. Peggy O'Kane Says:

    I’ve wondered about the “Christmas Day” factor. I know if I got a fancy new electronic device for Christmas I’d be much more likely to buy a product for it than I would be to use a bookstore gift card. I wonder on a normal not present opening day what the sales comparison would be.