Amazon Announces Strange Sales Milestones

Steve Jobs biography is a rising sun over Mount Everest

If you bought a copy of the book Steve Jobs, you’re part of a very strange milestone. It was Amazon’s #1 best-selling book this holiday season, and today Amazon announced their customers “purchased enough copies…to create a stack taller than Mt. Everest!”

It’s an annual Amazon tradition — the fun (but nearly-meaningless) statistics about their massive holiday sales. For example, “The cumulative weight of the Bowflex 552 Adjustable Dumbbells purchased by Amazon customers would outweigh more than 70 adult elephants.” And “If you unfolded and stacked each pair of jeans purchased by Amazon customers this holiday, the height would be 2,500 times taller than the Statue of Liberty.”

But they’ve also included some real information in their annual press release. For example, Amazon’s announced their best-selling books for this year’s holiday season.

    “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson
    “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever”
    “11/22/63” by Stephen King

And they’re also releasing a separate set of figures for the holiday best-sellers in Kindle ebooks!

    “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
    Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins
    The Litigators” by John Grisham

It’s also interesting to hear stories about Amazon’s luckiest customer, who placed an order at 2:35 on Saturday afternoon — the day before Christmas — and actually received their order on the same day, just 3 hours and 40 minutes later! They’d ordered a rechargeable pack of batteries, and they shipped it using Amazon’s “Local Express Delivery” service. It offers one-day shipping for $10 in ten different cities — or just $3.99 if you’re just purchasing a gift card. (And it’s just $3.99 to deliver any order if you’re a member of Amazon’s Prime shipping program.) Not every item is always available for one-day shipping — check its “product description” page on to make sure. But here’s a list of the 10 cities where Amazon’s now offering the one-day shipping option — grouped by the cut-off time for placing your orders (using their local time).

    1 p.m.

    11:00 a.m.
    Las Vegas:

    Washington, D.C.

    10 a.m.
    New York City (and parts of New Jersey)

    9:30 a.m.

    7:00 a.m.

Interestingly, the cut-off time for Seattle is supposed to be 1:00 p.m. But apparently the luckiest customer of the year placed their order more than 90 minutes later — and still received their batteries on the same day!

And if you look carefully, you can even extract some real numbers from the rest of Amazon’s descriptive statistics. For example, “Amazon customers purchased enough sweaters to outfit each of Santa’s reindeer during Christmas Eve deliveries for the next 14,000 years.” It’s like one of those “story problems” that high school students dread in their math class. (Eight reindeer — plus one more, if you count Rudolph — would need nine sweaters for Christmas Eve, so if Amazon outfitted them for the next 14,000 years, that’d be nine times 14,000 — or 126,000 sweaters….) That doesn’t seem like a lot of sweaters, until you remember that they were all purchased online at Though there’s still no way of knowing which sweaters, or how much they cost.

It’s as though Amazon is sending reporters on a fun scavenger hunt for their actual sales figures. They’re reporting that “Amazon customers purchased enough HeatMax HotHands Handwarmers to give a pair to each resident of Iceland.” According to Wikipedia, the population of Iceland is about 320,000, so that’s also the number of handwarmers that were sold — 320,000. But they’re distributed in boxes of 10, boxes of 40, and also individually, so there’s still no way to calculate how many boxes were actually sold. And it could be as low as 8,000 boxes, representing sales of just $160,000…

Here’s two more “math puzzles” from Amazon — some interesting sales milestones from the great holiday shopping season of 2011.

“Amazon customers purchased enough copies of Just Dance 3 to give 15 copies to each person who participated in setting the world record for simultaneous dancing.”

“Amazon customers purchased enough Rory’s Story Cubes to give a cube to each person watching the New Year’s Eve ball drop live at Times Square.”

But there’s one question that even Amazon can’t answer. They announced’d their customers “purchased enough copies of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs book to create a stack taller than Mt. Everest.”

So how many ebook versions would they have to sell to reach the top of Mt. Everest?

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