January 5th, 2011
The Kindle is enjoying a huge spike in its popularity. And it’s gotten so popular, that now Amazon can’t even send you one! If you go to buy the 3G version of the Kindle, it’s still listed as “in stock”. But if you’re looking to buy a Wi-Fi only Kindle, its page at Amazon.com comes with a new warning. “Expected to ship in 8 to 9 days.”
That’s a 9-day wait before it even ships, before you can even start worrying about the additional days of waiting for the actual delivery to take place! Obviously Amazon would prefer to ship their 3G Kindles as soon as a customer orders them, so the fact that they’ve delayed their shipping date by nine days can mean only one thing: they’re out of those Kindles!
And there’s more evidence that the Kindle enjoyed a big holiday spike in its popularity. Today USA Today announced that ebooks outsold printed books on their best-seller list for the six titles at the top of the list — and for 13 more books in the top 50. “It’s the first time the top-50 list has had more than two titles in which the e-version outsold print,” the newspaper pointed out. But this week, ebooks outsold the printed books for a full 38% of the titles in the top 50.
USA Today tracked down the publisher for the top three titles — which were all written by Stieg Larsson — and the publisher revealed that in the last week they’d sold a total of 165,000 ebook versions, versus just 155,000 print versions. Interestingly, last year Amazon announced that Larsson had become the first author to sell one million ebooks in the Amazon store. It looks like he increased his ebook sales by quite a bit in just the last week!
But it averages out to sales of just 55,000 for each ebook in Larsson’s trilogy — and it may be a one-time fluke. I’d imagine that book sales are unusually low in that week after Christmas — while ebook sales would obviously experience a sudden spike, from all the people who received a Kindle as a Christmas present! “What’s most interesting is what happens next week or over the next month,” says the editor of a digital newsletter called Publishers Lunch. He pointed out to USA Today that “About 3 million to 5 million e-readers were activated last week. Will the people who got them keep downloading e-books, and at what rate?”
And the newspaper also interviewed another analyst who was even more skeptical of that spike in ebook sales. Kelly Gallagher (from the publishing research firm Bowker) told USA Today that the spike wasn’t a “sustainable trend.” Currently ebook sales account for just 9% of the total book market, if you believe the figures in this article, although Gallagher predicts that in 2011, ebook sales could still be twice as high as they were in 2010.
It’s going to be an interesting year!