Kindle display system never needs to be recharged

Here’s a new rumor about a truly amazing possibility, like something straight out of a science fiction story about futuristic new technology. Amazon may be working on a super-light Kindle — which may never, ever need to be charged — and which could even be incorporated into transparent surfaces like the windshield of your car! And crazy as it sounds, at least part of the story has already been confirmed. You can actually read Amazon’s description for this new technology online in a patent application that they’ve filed with the U.S. government.

The magic happens by transforming the Kindles that you’d hold into your hand into a simplified “portable display” device, according to the patent. These lighter hand-held Kindles would just need to communicate with another larger “station” which would handle all the heavy computational tasks (like transmitting the text of your Kindle ebooks). This ultimately means your hand wouldn’t have to hold up all the extra computer circuitry that’s required now for displaying ebooks on your Kindle’s screen. But besides transmitting data to your Kindle, these stations might even be able to transmit electricity to your Kindle, meaning that while it’s receiving the text of an ebook, it’s also receiving the power to display it!

But Amazon may have some even bigger ideas besides making lighter Kindles that never need to be charged. The patent was first discovered by the technology blog GeekWire, which first pointed out another big advantage of moving the extra processing power away from the hand-held Kindle devices. “It goes unmentioned in the filing, but another benefit of this approach would be to drive down device costs and prices – a topic near and dear to the heart of Bezos and Amazon.” There’s still a question about who’d pay for those larger stations that transmit the ebooks and electricity, but Amazon’s patent provides the example of a college with “multiple primary stations” installed, so that all across their campus, students could access digital text books, “and may no longer need to carry multiple, heavy books around campus.”

And there’s some even crazier ideas further down into Amazon’s patent — like transmitting data directly into the windshield of your car! The display would be “at least partially transparent or opaque, such that no portion of the windshield is completely blocked and…complies with local traffic laws.” I’d been thinking Amazon would transmit the text of ebooks to the passenger side of the window, but they’re thinking of other kinds of information, according to their patent, including “caller ID information, the temperature outside the vehicle, traffic alerts or any other appropriate information (e.g., nearest gas station, hotel)…”

Even your eyeglasses could start receiving data transmitted from Amazon’s system, according to their patent application. Having a light, simplified device means that “the user can utilize the glasses as a display screen when desired,” Amazon writes. And since that display is receiving data, Amazon’s imagining more than just ebooks being transmitted, and suggests that their devices could ultimately become “an earpiece that allows a user to hear audio information and/or provide audio input.” That sounds like a new kind of phone/Kindle combination that doesn’t even require a phone or a Kindle. And Amazon points out that the station could also transmit power to these devices — possibly creating a new mutant kind of phone which would never need to be re-charged.

It’s a fascinating reminder of just how quickly our world has been changing. (One technology blog speculates that Kindles might even become “as thin as the paper they replaced”.) But it’s even possible that Kindles might disappear altogether, leaving nothing behind but the words from your ebooks, being transmitted into your eyeglasses, your watch, or the windows of your car. I love these “what if” moments, where you wonder what new technologies might be coming in the future.

And it looks like someone else is wondering very seriously about that too. The multi-billion dollar company that invented the Kindle….


Who’s winning the tablet wars? Forbes magazine uncovered some interesting statistics. If you buy a tablet, and it’s not an iPad, chances are it’s running the Android operating system. And Amazon has apparently sold one-third of all the Android tablets in the world!

But wait, there’s an even more impressive statistic. The Kindle Fire isn’t available in every country. In fact, 89% of all Kindle Fire tablets are in either the United States or England, according to the statistics from a company called Localyties, which notes that the Kindle Fire currently isn’t even available in Canada. But if you look at the United States, where the Kindle Fire has always been available, Amazon has already sold more than half of all the Android tablets currently in use. There’s lots of competition, including Google’s Nexus 7 and Samsung’s Galaxy S, but in America the Kindle Fire has already claimed 56% of the market for Android tablets!

“Their US success suggests they could quickly dominate the Android tablet market worldwide,” reports Localytics — assuming Amazon can come up with the right kind of distribution — and they add that Amazon seems poised to bring their success in the U.S. to the rest of the world. “[A]t an event launching the Kindle Paperwhite to Canada, Amazon’s VP in charge of the Kindle noted that they are working hard to launch the Fire lineup worldwide.” Localytics gathered information from more than half a billion devices, so they’re working with a pretty good snapshot of the “universe” of tablet devices today.

By comparison, the Nook from Barnes and Noble seems to have just 16% of the U.S. market — and just 10% of the market around the world. And the figures from Localytics also show that the market share is even smaller for Amazon’s other competitors in the Android tablet market. The Samsung Galaxy accounts for just 15% of the U.S. market, and 9% of the world market for Android tablets — and the Nexus 7’s U.S. market share is just 13.5%, with an 8% share around the globe.

Interestingly, Localytics also found that 59% of the Android tablets in the world were located in the United States, so it’s a great place for Amazon to launch its global conquest of the tablet market. (“Kindle Fire Dominates US Android Market,” wrote Forbes in their headline, “but Seemingly Non-existent Outside the US.”) At the bottom of the article, their reporter offers a disclaimer that his family actually owns shares of Apple’s stock, but he still seems pretty bullish on Amazon.

“When the Kindle Fires become available in more countries they could take a significant amount of market share in the international Android market,” he writes, “and put some pressure on Apple’s iPad!”

Presidents Using Kindles?

January 24th, 2013

President Abraham Lincoln reading a book

I remember the day when I almost met President Clinton. He was helping a school in my town install the cables for internet access in 1996 — along with Al Gore — and I was covering the event for a local alternative newsweekly. Some of the volunteers that day wore t-shirts that said “I connected our kids to the future.” And in the teacher’s lounge, I’d found the left-behind remains of sandwich from a local deli, with the word “president” written on a plastic cover. (It was left behind under a sign which read “Your mother doesn’t work here, so clean up after yourself!”)

It was a weird moment, when I realized that when there’s a new technology, we’re all “pioneering” our way towards it together. And 16 years later, when that future finally arrived, I feel like we’d ended up doing it again, moving together as an invisible group, this time towards a new reading technology. Shortly after the first inauguration of President Obama in 2009, CNN reported that former President Bush had returned to Texas, where he was “meeting the neighbors, making trips to the hardware store, and catching up on some reading via a Kindle.” That same month, former vice president Dick Cheney revealed he also had a Kindle, and a few weeks later, even Laura Bush told an interviewer that she has one too.

Maybe this week’s inauguration has me thinking about the presidents and the Kindle. But it’s isn’t just that the Kindle is being used by a handful of White House occupants. After receiving a $7 million advance, former president Bush soon released his new autobiography. By the end of its first day — counting pre-orders — he’d sold 220,000 copies and delivered nearly $4 million in book sales. But the former president also discovered that nearly 23% of his readers were buying it as an ebook!

A new world may be emerging, I decided then — an accidental community of early adopters — since the publisher’s spokesman said the figures demonstrate the “rapid growth” of the ebook market. (I calculated that that was over half a million dollars worth of ebooks sold in a single day!) The publisher also revealed that it was their highest one-day sales in six years — since they’d published the autobiography of former president Bill Clinton. But there’s also something significant about the fact that even Clinton’s biography is now available as a Kindle ebook, along with several by Ronald Reagan. In 2010, you could buy seven different ebooks by Jimmy Carter… But today, there’s now 30 of them in Amazon’s Kindle Store.

It’s a fun way to notice that the world really is changing. Even president Obama released a new book in 2010 — and of course, decided to make it available on the Kindle. It was a children’s book called Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to my Daughters, and it’s got its own perspective on the way America has changed. It looks back to past presidents like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but also ordinary citizens who made a difference, likeMartin Luther King Jr., Helen Keller, Georgia O’Keefe, and Jackie Robinson. And this will be the first generation of children who end up reading these classic stories of American history on a Kindle!

What’s even more interesting is when that book was first released, it wasn’t released as a Kindle ebook. It was only available as hardcover children’s picture book when it first came out. (“Tell the Publisher!” Amazon suggested on their page for the book. “I’d like to read this book on Kindle…”) First it wasn’t available on the Kindle — and then it was…

The world keeps on changing, both in big ways and in small. Two years ago, one political blog even reported that President Bush now seems more interested in his iPad than his Kindle, and according to his wife Laura, he’s “constantly” playing the Scrabble app. But 12 years ago, The Washington Post once reported, there was an even bigger challenge confronting ebook author Barack Obama: obscurity! “In the summer of 2000 when he flew from Chicago to Los Angeles for the Democratic convention and no one knew him, his credit card bounced, and he left after a forlorn day hanging out as an unimportant face lost in the power-lusting crowd.”

It all goes to show that a lot can change in just a few years — both for politicians, as well as the rest of us!

Three Surprising Books Were Among Amazon's 10 Best-Sellers of 2012

On New Year’s Eve, I wrote about how Amazon’s 10 best-selling ebooks of the year were also their best-sellers when combining both print and ebook sales. But there was an even bigger surprise if you looked at Amazon’s list of the best-selling print books of 2012…

Amazon’s 2012 Best-Selling Print Books

1. Fifty Shades Freed: Book Three of the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E. L. James

2. Fifty Shades Trilogy: Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed 3-volume Boxed Set by E. L. James

3. No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen

4. Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn

5. Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

6. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

7. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

8. The Blood Sugar Solution: The UltraHealthy Program for Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Feeling Great Now! by Mark Hyman M.D.

9. The Amateur by Edward Klein

10. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

There, six of the ten best-sellers are books which didn’t even appear among the top 10 best-selling ebooks of 2012. (Which, yes, means they also didn’t appear on Amazon’s “combined” list of the 10 overall best-sellers when combining print and ebook sales). Fifty Shades of Grey books still held the #1 and #2 spots, and the #4 best-selling print book was Gone Girl, which was the #2 best-selling Kindle ebook (and also #2 on Amazon’s “combined” list). But there was only one other book which all three lists had in common — No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden” by Mark Owen. Six other books reached the top 10 on Amazon’s list of the best-selling print books of 2012 — without ever reaching the top 10 in Kindle ebook sales (or on Amazon’s “combined” list of print-plus-ebook best-sellers).

Take another look at those six best-selling print books.

5. Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly Martin Dugard

6. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

7. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

8. The Blood Sugar Solution: The UltraHealthy Program for Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Feeling Great Now! by Mark Hyman M.D.

9. The Amateur by Edward Klein

10. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

These books didn’t just fail to make it into Amazon’s list of the top 10 best-selling Kindle ebooks of 2012. None of them even made it into the top 20! Amazon’s #5 best-selling print book of 2012 (Killing Kennedy) was only the #39 best-selling Kindle ebook. Amazon’s #6 best-selling print book of 2012 (The Power of Habit) was only the #42 best-selling Kindle ebook. Even The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling’s first book since the Harry Potter trilogy, only reached the #24 spot on the Kindle best-seller’s list for 2012, though it was #7 on the print best-sellers list. And the #9 best-selling print book — an “expose” about Barack Obama called The Amateur — only reached #45 on Amazon’s list of the best-selling Kindle ebooks of the year.

I thought there was something poetic about the fact that the last book on Amazon’s list of the top 10 best-selling print books was Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. But it got lost in the noise of the Kindle Store, apparently, since it only rose to the #81 spot on Amazon’s list of the best-selling ebooks of 2012. And the biggest surprise of all was The Blood Sugar Solution: The UltraHealthy Program for Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Feeling Great Now. It was Amazon’s eighth most-popular print book for all of 2012 — and yet it doesn’t even appear on Amazon’s list of the 100 best-selling Kindle ebooks of 2012!

What can we learn from these numbers? There’s a small contingent of “print book readers” whose tastes are wildly different than those of Kindle ebook readers. “Maybe they’re all habit-bound introverts who all have low blood sugar,” I joked to my girlfriend. It’s not a question of the availability of the books in either format, since every one of those print books is also available in ebook format — and the opposite is also true.

I’ve always wondered what books were being read by those last few hold-outs — those people who refused to surrender to the rise of the ebook and the digital reading devices. And Amazon may have just provided the answer in their list of the best-selling print books of 2012!

The number 2012

As December finally approaches the end of 2012, Amazon’s honoring their annual tradition of revealing which books were their best-sellers for the entire year. And this year is especially interesting, because some of Amazon’s best-sellers are books that people wouldn’t necessarily admit they were reading — like the trashy erotica novel “Fifty Shades of Grade.” It’s a fun way to see what books Amazon’s customers are really reading. But it also provides clues about whether they’re reading them in print format, or on their Kindle!

To see Amazon’s list of their
top 100 best-selling Kindle ebooks of 2012,
point your browser to

Amazon’s best-selling book for 2012 — in both formats — wasn’t 50 Shades of Gray — it was the third book in that trilogy (called Fifty Shades Freed). In fact, a box set of the whole trilogy also became the #2 best-selling print book of the year at Amazon. That boxed set also turned out to be the #4 best-selling Kindle ebook of the year, which allowed it to also claim the #3 spot on Amazon’s “overall” list which combines sales in both print and ebook format. (To celebrate, Amazon’s currently discounting the print edition of both of those books by more than 40%.)

But this led me to noticing something strange about Amazon’s list of the best-selling Kindle ebooks of 2012. It’s nearly identical to Amazon’s “combined” list that calculates which books sold the most total copies, counting sales in both their print and ebook formats. The Kindle ebooks are in a slightly different order on their list of the top 10 best-sellers for 2012, but there’s not one single ebook on that list which didn’t also become one of Amazon’s ten best-selling books on the “combined sales” list when you also added in their print sales.

Amazon’s 2012 Best-Selling Kindle Ebooks

1. Fifty Shades Freed: Book Three of the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E. L. James

2. Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn

3. Bared to You: A Crossfire Novel by Sylvia Day

4. Fifty Shades Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E. L. James

5. The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire) by Jennifer Probst

6. Reflected in You: A Crossfire Novel by Sylvia Day

7. The Racketeer by John Grisham

8. Defending Jacob: A Novel by William Landay

9. The Innocent by David Baldacci

10. No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen

Amazon’s 2012 Best-Sellers (Kindle and Print Books Combined)

1. Fifty Shades Freed: Book Three of the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E. L. James

2. Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn

3. Fifty Shades Trilogy: Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed 3-volume Boxed Set by E. L. James

4. Bared to You: A Crossfire Novel by Sylvia Day

5. No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen

6. The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire) by Jennifer Probst

7. Reflected in You: A Crossfire Novel by Sylvia Day

8. The Racketeer by John Grisham

9. Defending Jacob: A Novel by William Landay

10. The Innocent by David Baldacci

The moral of this story is unmistakeable. If you wanted to be one of Amazon’s 10 best-selling authors in 2012, you had to become one of their best-selling authors for people reading ebooks on their Kindle!

Is the Kindle becoming unpopular

There’s been some discouraging headlines. For example, Amazon’s facing new competition for its color Kindle Fire tablets from Google’s new Nexus 7, and there’s even a rumor that Apple will release an “iPad Mini”. “[A]nalysts are beginning to wonder how Amazon will continue to fare in the hyper-competitive market,” warns the executive editor at C|Net, citing an investment analyst who’s just downgraded Amazon’s stock. But that’s only the beginning of the bad news for Amazon…

Target stores have stopped carrying all Kindles, C|Net notes, which obviously gives Amazon fewer places to find new customers. And Amazon’s Kindle Fire may also be stealing attention away from Amazon’s black-and-white e-ink Kindles, according to a new theory from Kevin Kopelman, an analyst at the Cowen Group. According to C|Net’s article, he’s now predicting that Amazon’s Kindle sales will
grow by just 3% in 2012, where before he’d been estimating a massive 30% increase. He’s now calling that “unrealistic,” citing Amazon’s delay in releasing any new Kindles — though he still expects
16.3 million Kindles to be sold in 2012.

It’s not just Google and Apple that are threatening Amazon’s market share. There’s also some interesting statistics about the Kindle’s biggest competitor, the Nook. According to this article, it now accounts for about 25% to 30% of the ebook market. Over the last year, they’ve sold more than twice as many ebooks as the year before, reporting an increase of 119%. Sales of the Nook itself increased by 45%, and Nook-and-ebook sales together increased by even more, up 47.7%, to a total of $1.3 billion!

It’s not just one analyst who’s souring on Amazon’s growth prospects. Another analyst at Pacific Crest has studied Amazon’s supply chain, and is now estimating that Amazon will sell 3 million fewer Kindles than he’d originally expected earlier in the year. He’s still predicting that Amazon could sell up to 15 million Kindle Fires, according to this article at Forbes. And their technology reporter puts all this speculation into perspective. “[W]e will never know if his unit forecasts are right or not..

“Amazon does not report unit sales figures.”

Is Your eBook Reading YOU?

July 16th, 2012

Book with eyes

So it turns out that Amazon knows more than just what ebook you’re reading, and exactly what page you’re on. They can also guess what ebook you’re going to read next – and maybe even how you’d like it to end! I recently wrote about how The Wall Street Journal reported that ebooks “are providing a glimpse into the story behind the sales figures, revealing not only how many people buy particular books, but how intensely they read them.” But their article also examined the implications of startling new technological capabilities: that the way we read has become something that can actually be measured…

In fact, we’ve already taken the next step. “Retailers and some publishers are beginning to sift through the data, gaining unprecedented insight into how people engage with books,” the Journal reports. In the past, publishers only had two ways to measure their readers’ reactions: sales figures and reviews. But now they’re embracing all the giant new pools of data that are coming in from ebook-reading devices like the Kindle.

Honestly, the article seems a little short on specifics, but at least one publisher even began releasing it digital titles first, so they could solicit feedback from readers before releasing the print edition. And Scholastic books monitors their online message boards for feedback, which they’ve used to shape their popular book series, “39 Clues.” A company called Colloquy took it one step further, offering an ebook in the “choose-your-own adventure” format – and then tracking the choices that readers make, so they could improve future entries in the series! The author of the Kindle Game “Getting Dumped” was planning to eliminate the boyfriend of its main character – until she learned that 29.7% of its readers chose the game path where she’s still pursuing him

“Your ebook is reading you”, warned the article’s headline, though it stresses that the data is analyzed as a giant pool of “aggregate” data rather than studying any individuals. It does make you think about what kind of future may be waiting forus. Author Scott Turow was excited about the possibility that he could someday learn who was actually reading his books, and whether they’d like the books to be longer or shorter. But at least one publisher argued that the reader shouldn’t be the ones who determine the length of a book. “We’re not going to shorten War and Peace because someone didn’t finish it.”

And one privacy advocate at the Electronic Frontier Foundation had an even blunter perspective. When the Journal asked them for a comment, they argued that in our society there’s an ideal, that “what you read is nobody else’s business. Right now, there’s no way for you to tell Amazon, I want to buy your books, but I don’t want you to track what I’m reading.” And security expert Bruce Schneier also agreed, pointing out that readers could even avoid ebooks about sensitive topics, because they don’t want their purchases tracked.

“There are a gazillion things that we read that we want to read in private,” he tells the newspaper…

shh - finger to lips - secret rumor

Ever wonder how other people read? It’s finally possible to know, using new data collected from ebooks. Last week Barnes and Noble leaked the patterns they were seeing among Nook readers to The Wall Street Journal, towards the end of a fascinating article called “Is Your eBook Reading You?” Citing the Nook data, the Journal reported…

  • “Nonfiction books tend to be read in fits and starts…”

  • “Novels are generally read straight through…”

  • “Nonfiction books, particularly long ones, tend to get dropped earlier.”

  • “Science-fiction, romance and crime-fiction fans often read more books more quickly than readers of literary fiction do, and finish most of the books they start.”

  • “Readers of literary fiction quit books more often and tend skip around between books. “

Some of the things they’ve determined are actually pretty obvious. For example, the first thing most people do after reading The Hunger Games is to download the next book in the series. But others have determined patterns which are even much more specific. For example, “It takes the average reader just seven hours to read the final book in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy on the Kobo e-reader – about 57 pages an hour,” the Journal reports. And “Nearly 18,000 Kindle readers have highlighted the same line from the second book in the series: ‘Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.'”

The data finally confirms something that I’ve always suspected. When people read the first book in a series, they usually go on to read the entire series, “almost as if they were reading a single novel. ” And the article got an even more specific example from the makers of the Kobe. “Most readers who started George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novel A Dance With Dragons finished the book, and spent an average of 20 hours reading it, a relatively fast read for a 1,040-page novel.”

But where is this all leading? At Barnes and Noble, there’s now a Vice President for eBooks who’s already begun sharing their data with book publishers, hoping they’ll eventually create books that are even more engaging. It’s still early, they tell the Journal, but Barnes and Noble has already begun to begun to act on the data. When they realized people weren’t finishing the longer nonfiction ebooks, they launched “Nook Snaps” to offer shorter dollops of information on hot topics like Occupy Wall Street or how to lose weight. And that might be only the beginning. “The bigger trend we’re trying to unearth is where are those drop-offs in certain kinds of books, and what can we do with publishers to prevent that?”

Amazon also offered a nice perspective on their ability to identify “popular highlights” and share them on their web page. “We think of it as the collective intelligence of all the people reading on Kindle.” And the Journal also notes that Amazon is both a seller and a publisher of ebooks. I was baffled when Amazon started selling “Kindle Singles” last year, since they basically seemed to me just like shorter ebooks.

But maybe Amazon has learned the exact same lesson — that readers tend to drift away from their nonfiction ebooks!

Finger on Kindle Touch

Believe it or not, now there’s even more rumors about Amazon’s next Kindle. Within 10 weeks, Amazon will release a “front-lit” touchscreen Kindle, according to Reuters. They cite a source “who has seen the prototype” and has “direct knowledge” of Amazon’s plans. Yes, it’ll probably drain your battery a little faster, but there’s a real demand for it, a technology analyst tells the news organization. And it’s just one of many interesting new rumors emering about Amazon’s next Kindles

Ironically, their source also contradicts an earlier rumor. Just last weekend the technology blogs claimed that Amazon was already ordering parts for a color E-Ink Kindle — but the article from Reuters is reporting very different information. “The source said that there was very little chance of Amazon launching one this year. Though Amazon has held can talks with E Ink, the companies haven’t reached any concrete decisions yet, he said.” And they’ve tracked down another on-the-record source — an analyst who tracks the supply chains for electronic components — who had doubts about the last color E-ink parts that they’d seen in October. To be used on a mass scale, they’d require more refinements, he told the news organization on Tuesday, adding pointedly that “I doubt if the color Kindle is ready for a launch.”

Besides, Amazon already has their color, touchscreen tablets, the Kindle Fire, and Amazon also has some new plans for that product line, according to Reuters. According to their source, Amazon is planning a larger version of the tablet — its screen will measure 8.9 inches diagonally — but they won’t release it until later in 2012, when it’s closer to the big Christmas shopping season. Of course, it’s hard to know where the Kindle is really going just from reading predictions in newspapers. Each one seems to have small bits of information — which sometimes contradict each other!

For example, the sales of the Kindle Fire are actually slumping, according to one source. “Amazon wasn’t able to sustain its tablet sales momentum during the first quarter…” reports eWeek, noting that after the big burst of Christmas sales, Amazon’s share of the tablet market for the next three months “fell from nearly 17 percent…to just above 4 percent.” The statistics come from the technology analysts at IDC, whose figures suggest that in the first three months of 2012, where Apple sold 11.8 million iPads, Amazon sold about 700,000 Kindle Fire tablets.

Of course, maybe the larger screen will improve the sales of Amazon’s color tablets. Or maybe there’ll be a surge in new owners for the E-Ink Kindles, if the front-lighting turns out to be surprisingly popular. A columnist at Forbes magazine even suggests that Amazon might eventually end up selling their ebooks to Nook owners! When you’re talking about the future, anything is possible.

That’s one of the fun things about being part of the Kindle revolution…

Dr. Larry Rosen once wrote an interesting article for Psychology Today. His blog is called “Rewired: The Psychology of Technology,” and he ultimately confronted a new argument against digital readers – that non-linear reading “is changing our brain and moving us away from deep thought into more shallow thinking”!

By non-linear technology, Rosen’s referring mostly to the hyperlinked discussions which happen online, where it’s almost too easy to flit away to a new web page or a new activity (like checking your e-mail or answering instant messages). But author Nicholas Carr predicts that even reading books will soon enter this universe of “interruption” technologies, in which we’re not just reading but also simultaneously participating in a distracted online dialogue related to that same book. Nicholas Carr is the author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. But fortunately, he received a strong rebuttal from Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University — who’s also an avid Kindle user!

“I bought a Kindle when they first came out in late 2007…” he remembers in his blog post, “and delighted in using it on airplane trips instead of bringing along two or three paperback books.” And Rosen ultimately sees the hyperlinking of online discussions as a good thing. (“As C.S. Lewis said, ‘We read to know we are not alone.'”) “What better way to read a book than to be able to share it as we are reading? Isn’t that what book clubs are all about?

“The difference here is that people will be able to read what other people think about the book as they read. They can even discuss the book live while they are reading it, not when they have read the final page…”

I have to agree. And even without joining an online discussion, I’ve been reading some free history ebooks on my Kindle, and sometimes I’ll get inspired to dig deeper into some especially intriguing details. (“Wait a minute — the re-supply ship to the Jamestown colony in 1609 actually crashed instead in Bermuda? And they only made it to America because they built two new ships while shipwrecked? And that may have inspired Shakespeare to write The Tempest?“) I think one of the best things a book can do is pique your curiosity. And now it’s easier to act on that curiosity with a Kindle, since it lets you look up any word in a dictionary, and look up any topic in Wikipedia with its always-available wireless connection.

That’s ultimately going to make us smarter, not shallower. And I think this whole debate can be summed up by two brilliant sentences from author David Weinberger. “Perhaps the web isn’t shortening our attention span,” he wrote in 2002. “Perhaps the world is just getting more interesting…”

I don’t know if this is an ironic twist, but I actually read Weinberger’s defense of the web in an old-fashioned printed book. (Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory Of The Web.) It was written five years before the Kindle even existed, but there’s now a neat Kindle version of his mind-boggling insights. And yesterday Dr. Rosen’s blog post seemed to make a similar argument.

Sure, teenagers may someday be participating in online discussions while they’re reading a book, but “This is way better than seeing students read the Cliff Notes or not even reading at all.” And ultimately he puts the whole debate into perspective. “As Dr. Gary Small, director of the Center on Aging at UCLA and author of iBrain said discussing online reading, ‘People tend to ask whether this is good or bad.

‘My response is that the tech train is out of the station and it’s impossible to stop.'”

Blonde woman in new $79 Kindle ad buys one for herself

There’s a strange statistic making the rounds. British newspapers are reporting the results of study about all the people who received a new Kindle this Christmas. It claims 22% of them aren’t even using their new Kindle, if you believe the coverage in the Telegraph or the Metro newspapers. But another site filed an entirely different report on the same study, suggesting the Kindle may actually have been much more popular as a gift.

PC Advisor notes that the study first focussed only on people who were dissatisfied with something they’d received as a gift. Only then did the researchers ask the follow-up question: okay, well then, which gift was it which you weren’t satisfied with? Even then, 78% of them identified a different gift, but the Kindle was named by 22% of the people who were dissatisfied with a gift. And more than half of those people even admitted that they hadn’t even used their Kindles yet. They had yet to download a single ebook. (No wonder they were dissatisfied!)

In fact, this year the Kindle was one of the most popular Christmas gifts in England. Even The Telegraph notes a separate survey which discovered that this year, a whopping one in 40 British adults received a Kindle for Christmas. So obviously, among all those new Kindle owners will be a handful of recipients who are still techno-phobic, or who simply haven’t gotten around to using their Kindles yet. It’ll seem like there’s a lot of more of them when you calculate only what their percentage would be of those grumpy people who didn’t like their Christmas presents.

In fact, 9% of that group reported that the gift they weren’t using was…an iPad! And another 14% said they weren’t using the mp3 players they’d received for Christmas. Interestingly, an even higher percentage of this group said it was because they hadn’t gotten around to downloading anything yet to listen to — 67% of them. “It is surprising to see how many people have not used gifts they received almost one month ago,” noted the Chairman of the web site which released the study. But he added, “I think we are all guilty of putting gifts to one side now and again.”

And no matter how cynical the headlines are, the chairman actually reached a very positive conclusion. “It is likely that these gifts will be used eventually, perhaps when the owners get a chance to download books or music…” The site which conducted the study is — a British web site offering shopping coupons for discounts. It wasn’t a research firm filled with professional market analysts, or even an academic study from a university. (I wonder if they simply asked random people visiting their web site to make their selection from a small list of choices.)

Unfortunately, I can’t find any information online about how they conducted their study, which makes me feel a little guilty about even reporting these numbers. (At this point I’m writing an article about an article about a study — and it’s not even clear how that study was conducted!) But there’s one fact I’m absolutely sure of, and I think a lot of Kindle owners would almost certainly agree.

If we a new Kindle as a Christmas gift — we’d definitely be using it.

The Face of an eBook Pirate

January 25th, 2012

The mask of a pirate

Within just the last 12 days, Amazon’s removed close to 100 plagiarized ebooks from their Kindle Store. They’re responding to an article in Fast Company magazine about “pirates” who were publishing other people’s stories as their own. Now the magazine’s published a fascinating follow-up article. And they’ve actually identified and interviewed one of the ebook pirates!

Our story begins with a humble security guard — a 64-year-old man who wrote a dirty story, and then published it on a sexy web site. He later discovered his story on the Kindle — or at least, available for sale in Amazon’s Kindle Store. But it had taken a strange path to get there — through the seamy online underworld where spammers trade secrets — and then eventually, to Kuwait! And according to the article’s semi-dramatic subhead, this remarkable journey “sheds light on black hat hacker forums — and the theft, taboo sex, and swindles festering in the recesses of Amazon.”

When contacted by the 64-year-old author, Amazon did a strange thing. Instead of giving him the money that the ebook had earned, Amazon simply provided him with the pirate’s contact information — their name, address, and e-mail. Amazon’s response “was, in essence, to tell the aggrieved party to work it out with the thief,” writes Fast Company, while Amazon still “kept its cut… It profits no matter what.” The writer ultimately turned to the magazine for assistance, giving the contact information to their reporter — who is also a journalism professor in New York.

And the reporter then tracked down the ebook pirate in Kuwait, who shared his own side of the story. When he’d re-published the erotic story, the pirate didn’t even know he was stealing another writer’s work. The story was purchased as part of a “starter kit” for aspiring book publishers, which included dozens of different stories that were bundled together in a small .zip file. He’d paid $100 for the file, plus $15 for some images to use as the covers of his ebooks (and another $35 to watch a video demonstrating exactly how to publish an ebook in Amazon’s Kindle Store). And that expenditure ate up almost 45% of the money he’d earned, since he’d sold just 187 copies of the ebook. He was apparently selling them at $2.99 apiece, since his net sales were $559.13 — but Amazon kept 40% of that amount, so even before deducting expenses, he’d brought in just $335.

That’s a lot of work to earn $185 — and the reporter notes that the pirate earned even less from some of other ebooks that he’d published. (“My first book was a diet guide,” the pirate says. “Total copies sold: one.”) In addition, he was creating the books in a strict Muslim country, where pornography is illegal. So Fast Company‘s reporter notes that the ebook pirate “could face dire consequences if Kuwaiti authorities found out about his sexy shenanigans.”

Maybe the moral of the story is simply that crime really doesn’t pay — or at least, not enough to make it worth the trouble. Another author in the story had published over 22 different books — using material which Amazon considered nearly identical to ebooks they were already selling in the Kindle Store. They’d removed all 22 of the duplicate titles, but altogether they’d only earned a total of $60 — about $2.72 for each book — after nearly three months in the Kindle Store. They’d created all 22 ebooks over “a long weekend” simply by formatting and publishing them, all at once.

Depending on how much time was spent, this pirate may actually have earned less than the minimum wage!

What just happened? The number of people who own an e-reader nearly doubled — in less than four weeks! That’s according to a new study from the well-respected analysts at Pew Research Center. And they’re concluding that now one in five Americans own a Kindle (or another digital reader)!

According to their just-released survey results, between mid-December and early January, the number of people who own a Kindle (or a Nook, or another digital reading device) jumped from 10% to 19%. It’s especially amazing because there’d been almost no new purchasers during the previous six months, according to their research. “These findings are striking because they come after a period from mid-2011 into the autumn in which there was not much change in the ownership of tablets and e-book readers…as the holiday gift-giving season approached, the marketplace for both devices dramatically shifted.”

I love these studies, because they provide hard data about who owns Kindles, with a chart showing a demographic breakdown. For example, 30% of college graduates now own a Kindle, a Nook, or some
other digital reader. (And 31% of people earning more than $75,000 a year!) They’re the two fastest-growing groups in the study, since just last month, only 16% of college graduates owned a Kindle (and 21% of people earning more than $75,000 a year.) If this study is correct, 14% of America’s college graduates got a digital reader within the last month — and 10% of the people earning over $75,000 a year!

The statistics are nearly identical when you ask who owns a tablet computer like the iPad or Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablets: the percentage also jumped from 10% to 19%. In fact, 31% of college graduates now own a tablet computer, according to the study — and 36% of people with an income over $75,000 a year. (That’s 14% more — for both demographics — than it was just in mid-December!) And if you ask about both devices, asking if people own at least one digital reader or one tablet computer, the numbers are even higher. In December it was 18%, but by January, it had risen to 29%!

Women are now also more likely to own a Kindle (or another digital reader) than men. Back in November of 2010, it was an even split — 6% of the women in America owned a digital reader, and so did 6% of the men. By this December, it had risen to 11% of the women vs. 9% of the men — and after Christmas, the number of women who owned a reader had nearly doubled, to 21%, while the number of men rose only to 16%.

Click here to see the study’s chart showing “the big jump in gadget ownership over the holidays.” They estimate that their survey has a margin of error of just 2%, since they phoned nearly 3,000 people to compile each set of results. The research is supported by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “to look at how these devices are affecting people’s relationship with their local libraries, the services those libraries offer, and the general role of libraries in communities.”

And in a few weeks, the researchers will reveal more interesting data from their survey participants — about “reading habits and their interactions with their libraries related to e-books and other digital content!”

Covers of Amazon 2011 Best-Sellers

Amazon’s released one more fascinating year-end list about their top-selling books. It’s the ten titles which sold the most in 2011 if you combined both their print and their Kindle ebook sales.

 1. “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson
 2. “Bossypants” by Tina Fey
 3. “A Stolen Life” by Jaycee Dugard
 4. “The Mill River Recluse” by Darcie Chan
 5. “In the Garden of the Beasts” by Erik Larson
 6. “A Dance with Dragons” by George R.R. Martin
 7. “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain
 8. “The Litigators” by John Grisham
 9. “The Abbey” by Chris Culver
10. “Inheritance (The Inheritance Cycle)” by Christopher Paolini

And this list proves again that ebooks are exerting a huge influence on Amazon’s total book sales. Even with no print sales whatsoever, two ebooks still crashed into the top 10 — The Mill River Recluse and The Abbey (in the #4 and #9 slots, respectively).

Amazon apparently isn’t displaying those results on their web site, but they’d announced the rankings in a special press release on Monday. “We’re really excited that Kindle Direct Publishing authors have taken two of the top spots this year for book sales overall,” added the Senior book editor at “After the year of recommending books to our customers, it’s always fun to see what books really resonated with them. We chose ‘Steve Jobs’ as one of the Top 10 best books of the year, and even though it was published in October, the sales have been phenomenal in both formats.”

In fact, the biography about the founder of Apple became Amazon’s #1 best-seller for the entire year (both for print sales and for combined sales of print and ebooks). But it seems to be the exception, since for most books, their print sales exerted a much smaller influence on their final year-end rank. Just look at a new chart on the internet at . For five more of the best-sellers, you can see “book” icons hovering much higher up on the graph — indicating its print sales earned a rank much further away from the top 10. (Besides the two ebook-only best-sellers, where book icons don’t even appear!)

For example, Tina Fey’s biography only ranked #7 among printed books. But it shot up five more ranks — to the #2 slot — if you included its ebook sales. What’s really interesting is that it didn’t even appear on Amazon’s list of the 100 best-selling ebooks of the year! It looks like Amazon sold so many ebooks in 2011 that there were lots of high-selling books, even beyond the first 100. (The same is also true for George R. R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons, which was the #5 best-selling printed book. It was also able to claim the #6 slot for combined sales even though its ebook sales didn’t even appear in the top 100.)

And eBooks also influenced the ranks of two books which had barely made it into the top 20 for printed books — The Paris Wife and John Grisham’s The Litigators. When you included their 2011 ebook sales — #4 and #8, respectively — both books rose into the top 10! Of course, the opposite is also true. Inheritance only reached the #37 spot on the ebook best-seller list for the year. But in print, it was the #3 best-seller, which gave it the #10 spot on the best-seller list for both formats.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the world of book publishing really is starting to change. If you wanted to make Amazon’s list of the ten best-selling books of 2011 — you had to sell some ebooks to Kindle owners!

The Ghost Who Liked the Kindle

November 21st, 2011

John Pospisil

I have a personal story. My friend John Pospisil passed away last week. And yet an hour after I’d heard the news, I discovered that he’d posted a new link to Twitter — about Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets….

John was the editor of a technology blog, and his Twitter account was synched to the blog’s headline feed, so every time one of his reporters published a new story, its headline would appear as a Twitter “status update” from John. Eventually I figured out what was happening, but it was a big shock to see one more message appearing from John himself on the day after he’d died. “Kindle Fire: Comparing an Apple, an orange and a bit of a lemon,” the message read — under a smiling picture of John…

John Pospisil (big)

John jerry-rigged an empire out of old-fashioned ambition. He’d recruited technology reporters from Craigslist — including at least one who’d written for the Wall Street Journal‘s site. Whenever something new and exciting happened, John already had a reporter on the story, and they’d deliver quick blog posts filled with information and insight. Everyone wants to make money on the internet, but John was the only guy I ever knew who’d actually found a legitimate way to do it. Amazingly, his simple site seemed to earn him enough money to support both his wife and his two kids.

Search his site today for the word Kindle, and you’ll find 3346 matches.

Kindle Fire is cool, but the rollout was masterful

Kindle Fire selling like hotcakes

Amazon losing small, winning big on new Kindle

Amazon Kindle Lending Library line-up

John had recruited a multi-national team of reporters, including writers in England, America, and Australia, so they never missed a good story. They all converged on a single blogging site, and John watched over the whole thing from his home in Australia. In fact, I’d once thought about asking John if he’d like me to create a new section for his site that was all just about the Kindle.

We’d shared our ideas about the future and the web, and I felt like John understood that we lived in an exciting time. And there was always an implicit “we” — that we were both watching the world as it changed, hoping we’d find a way to make good things happen. The news came in the week that I’d decided to write an ebook — to take my first plunge into the world of self-publishing on the Kindle. I guess I felt my own special kind of sadness when I realized that he’ll never get his shot at 2012.

“Don’t miss any updates from John Pospisil,” Twitter urges at the top of his page, in an ad encouraging readers to create an account. (Strange and marvelous things keep happening on the web…) I always say that technology blogging is like being the first reporter on Venus, because every day you’ll see something amazing that no one’s ever seen before. Sunday I thought about the “we” that we’d once been, watching for more amazing changes, and I knew what I wanted to do next.

I hit the “publish” button for my very first e-book — a funny Thanksgiving short story that was written in rhyme for children.

And I dedicated that ebook to John….