Friday, September 18, 2009

Amazon and Kindle's "Lost Symbol" get a rise

Amazon was trading up 7.4%, after Bank of America upgraded the stock to Buy, on the day that the Kindle edition of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol outsold the hard-cover novel at Amazon - the day of the novel's release.  Some think that Kindle sales might be contributing to the gains.

It was Kindle Nation Daily's Stephen Windwalker who noticed that despite Amazon's not breaking out the figures for Kindle and hardcover editions, the category of "Mysteries & Thriller" was showing the Kindle version as #1 in its "Bestsellers" listing -- and in fact, it still is, on Day 3.

The Bestseller listings tell you how fast-selling a book or edition is during the last hour or so, and the rankings can change quite a bit within an hour.
  On the Kindle's side was the fact that the hardcover version had been on the bestseller list for 149 days and had caught most of its crowd while this was the first day for the Kindle and after Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group only recently finally decided to issue Brown's book on the Kindle at the same time, despite worries it would cannibalize hardcover sales.
  The publishers of the Ted Kennedy book have decided not to offer that book for the Kindle and I feel they are just in denial.

Windwalker also pointed out that Bezos was looking ahead when he made the Amazon books buyable via the iPhone and iPod apps -- there are a lot of them out there, and people paying $70/mo. plus tax and fees for monthly access that includes web data access (iPhone users) likely want and can afford things now AND might even get the hardcover version if they like a book.

  As it is, the Kindle forums now include many iPhone/iPod users who enjoy their iPhone reading but want the Kindle also for the larger screen and the lack of light shining into the eyes.  There's a bit of a symbiotic relationship occurring, as Kindle users are also getting iPhones to have smaller reading carriers when out and about.  Amazon allows the devices to be "synched" via wireless so that you can close a book and then open it, to the same page, on the other device.

 Despite Steve Jobs' feeling that people generally don't read anymore the way they used to, the Apple devices have been acting as training wheels or drivers for the often-lost book-reading habit in a short-concentration-span world.  In Kindle, Sony, and Apple forums, customers are saying they're now reading more than they have in years.  Hardware companies are aware of this new interest and are fighting to get the next e-reader out there as fast as possible in every size and color they can.

Add that e-books will generally be less costly to produce and therefore less expensive to buy and that there is no wait for shipping, which can take days.

  If people experience an unexpected pleasure in reading from e-readers, as is regularly reported in the e-reader forums, what we've seen is not surprising.

The figures discussed don't include sales from other stores, with print-book stats coming in later as a rule from most places.   It's just that few ever expected Kindle sales would do so well on a much-watched book release.

  Many prefer to carry reading sets on these reading devices (the library feature) while also enjoying the ability to increase or decrease the font sizes as wanted, or the spacing between lines and size of margins - not dependent on what the publisher set in place for for buyers.  People can get used to being able to just search/look up a name or event while reading and having a dictionary definition on the status line for each word.

  With the Kindle, they can furthermore get used to getting on Google to look up more web information on a word or phrase.

I think most Kindle owners still also want hardcover books when really valuing one just read and will want to have a physical copy of it.  It's true for me too.
  And there is no way e-book readers today, using e-ink's b&w, can begin to compete with hardcover books when photographs, diagrams, other illstrations, maps, etc., are an important part of the book.

  I read online columns constantly and there is a steadily increasing number of columnists who say they resisted using an e-reader for all the usual reasons and are surprised by how much they enjoy using their Kindles or Sonys, and many are now reading on iPhones or iPods on the way to work.  This is inevitably a bigger market over the next two years, even if only maybe 7% of the total now, generally.

The New York Times received a more thorough response than other papers did from Amazon's Andrew Herdener.
' “The big surprise was that, despite sustained, strong physical books sales, yesterday we saw the Kindle edition outsell hardcover editions on the book’s release day,” wrote Andrew Herdener, an Amazon spokesman, in an e-mail message.

  He added, however, that the numbers did not include pre-orders of the hardcover, which had pushed the title to No. 1 on Amazon’s bestseller list more than a week before its release Sept. 15. '
  Nevertheless, the fact that Kindle sales were better on the release date than print sales, at Amazon, is quite newsworthy.  Grumpy critics of the idea that so many Kindle copies could be sold, when they feel there are not that many Kindles out there, forgot about the iPhone/iPod factor and are usually unaware of how intense the buying of books is with people with e-readers nowadays.

  The sudden outpouring of e-reader devices based on the innovative success of the Kindle and now e-book figures this high for a few days at Amazon, are meaningful precisely because the e-reader flood has only just begun and less fully-featured models are coming out for $160-$200 without wireless or study tools - to be used for just reading ;-)  Will they sell?  Probably.

Publishers Weekly has some interesting e-book stats:
" Shortcovers, the e-book service from Indigo Books & Music, said one-day e-book sales of the title have already surpassed total sales of the Twilight series that Shortcovers has been selling for six weeks and which had been its bestselling e-books.

  Total e-books sales Tuesday at Shortcovers were twice as big as the previous top-selling day.  Shortcovers said most purchases were made on the Web, and provided the following breakdown of mobile purchases by platform: 37% iPhone, 31% Palm Pre, 29% Blackberry, 3% Android. "

MURDOCH GETS A SURPRISE reported, as did every newspaper the other day, on Robert Murdoch's grouchy regular announcements of intent to charge for mobile access on the Blackberry and iPhone, maybe in a few months.

 He is still complaining that the other big cheese, Jeff Bezos, takes too much for his publications (said to be 70% but insiders reporting elsewhere have said that 33% goes to the wireless provider, 33% for Amazon, 33% for Murdoch).
  Wireless is not a small part of the daily or several-times-a-day subscriptions.

His surprise:  Amazon gets him more paid subscribers than he expected.
' As for the Kindle, Murdoch said it’s wonderful for books, but pretty terrible for newspapers.
  But he seemed glad and a bit surprised that over 25,000 users have decided to subscribe to the WSJ on the Kindle. '
He plans to get behind Sony, who will give him a better deal, he says, although their implementation of cellular wireless will be only to the Sony store, making it less attractive for the $100 additional cost over the Kindle 2, similar in size.

I read a rather extreme article by The Telegraph (UK)'s Andrew Keen titled
  "Ebooks will make authors soulless, just like their product"

 Well.  What intrigued me was not the article but the reaction.  Let's just say that Keen cannot be pleased.  People make interesting points on many aspects of the issue, but the overriding sentiment is not with his thinking.  A year ago, reactions tended to be the opposite - most comments I read back then were from people who could not comprehend why anyone would spend that much money just to "read a book" and could be quite hostile to the idea that people did not just go get a book free at the library if they wanted to read. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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  1. I noticed that on day one Brown’s book was discounted 40% on our local grocery store. That makes the Kindle price not so outrageously low after all.

  2. Right, Anonymous,
    and yet the publishers are worried the Kindle prices will hurt them.

  3. (a different 'anonymous'.)

    andrew keen is transparently stupid.

  4. Also, Kindle buyers only buy 1 copy, since you can't sell it or give it away. So, all of those sales are to hard core READERS.

  5. If I really love a book I will tend to get the hard copy too.

  6. To a different 'anonymous'

    Probably more like 'narrow' ... On the other hand, designating others "soulless" because of what their WORDS are read on ...

  7. >>Add that e-books will generally be less costly to produce and therefore less expensive to buy ...

    Remember that book sellers (and everyone else) sell their goods at the highest price buyers are willing to pay. Since they want to maximize profits, the only way to cause them to lower the price when production costs are reduced is if it increases the number of goods sold in enough volume to overcome the lower price.

    I do not have much hope that the savings will be passed on to us buyers.

  8. Steve, that's true.

    I remember the fear that paperbacks would ruin sales for hardcovers and it would be the end of them and of publisher profits -- and then the paperbacks began selling in quanities few had imagined, especially at airports - and people today mention often the ability to just get a book anytime they're at the airport, where a magazine just read might mention a book or author and within a few minutes the traveling Kindler can just have the book 'in hand.'


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