Is The Kindle Making Us Stupid?

I’m starting an experiment. I’m reading the print editions of books now (instead of downloading their Kindle editions). They’re always free — I’m requesting them from my public library, and apparently nobody else is interested in the books I’ve been checking out. But I’m trying to “re-wire” my brain so it focuses more intensely…

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 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…” Rosen 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…”

That’s a reasonable position. 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 an argument that 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…” But just to test this theory, I’m going to try long reading sessions, with a nice substantial print book. One that doesn’t turn into a different book just by pressing a few buttons. One that sits in a single place in our universe, and doesn’t reveal its secrets until you actually turn through its paper pages…

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. Are ebooks making us smart or stupid? “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.'”

Click here for the Kindle version of Dr. Rosen’s book, Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn.

Click here for the Kindle version of Dr. Small’s book, iBrain: Surving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind

Click here for the Kindle version of Nicholas Carr’s book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

Click here for the Kindle version of David Weinberger’s book, Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory Of The Web

A Kindle that never needs charging?

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….

Is the Kindle Fire Conquering the World?


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?

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!

A Big Surprise in Amazon’s 2012 Best-Sellers List

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!

Amazon Announces 2012’s Best-Selling Kindle eBooks!

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 this URL

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 Less Popular?

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?

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…

The Secrets of eBook Readers

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!

Amazon’s Releasing a New Kindle by July?

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…

Does the Kindle Make You Smarter?

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.'”

Is the Kindle More Popular Than We Think?

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

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!

Amazing New Statistics about the Kindle

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!”

Did the Kindle Skew Amazon’s Year-End Best-Seller List?

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

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….

The 10 Biggest Surprises about Amazon’s New Kindles

New Amazon Kindle Touch web browser surprise

There’s been some unexpected discoveries in the details about Amazon’s four newest Kindles. I’ve tried to identify the 10 biggest surprises in the list below — starting with five bad surprises, and then five good.

1. There’s No 3G Web Browsing
“Browsing available only in Wi-Fi mode,” reads the incriminating words on the 3G version of the Kindle Touch. Reportedly over the weekend some Amazon customer service reps incorrectly told customers they could still use Amazon’s 3G network access for web browsing on the upcoming Kindle Touch. “We apologize for the confusion,” reads an official response Sunday night from “The Amazon Kindle team” in an online discussion forum at “Our new Kindle Touch 3G enables you to connect to the Kindle Store, download books and periodicals, and access Wikipedia – all over 3G or Wi-Fi.” But… “Experimental web browsing (outside of Wikipedia) on Kindle Touch 3G is only available over Wi-Fi.”

2. Power Adapters Not Included
A USB cable is always included with any Kindle that you buy, so presumably you can always charge them just by plugging them into a USB port. But for both the new $79 Kindle and the Kindle Touch, Amazon’s not including a power adapter. (They’re sold separately, for $9.99).

3. One Miserable Keyboard
Originally I’d thought the $79 Kindle shipped with a touchscreen, because there isn’t a keyboard built into its plastic frame — just an on-screen keyboard. But apparently there’s no way to actually type letters into that onscreen keyboard — at least, not using the “touch-typing” that we’re used to with other devices. Instead, Amazon pulls up a picture of a keyboard, then lets you slowly nudge your controller key (up, down, or sideways) to gradually move a highlight across the keyboard — one key at a time — until it’s finally highlighting the next letter you want to type. (And then you press the controller one more time, to select that letter.)

79 Kindle keyboard uses controller instead of touchscreen
If you’re planning to input text to search Amazon’s Kindle Store, Wikipedia, or Google, and you’re buying a $79 Kindle — expect it to be a little awkward and time-consuming!

4. Your Personal Documents are now Stored at
Apparently now even if you e-mail a file to your Kindle, Amazon keeps a copy on their “cloud” servers. On Amazon’s interactive list on the “Manage Your Kindle” page (at, users are now seeing documents listed that they’ve e-mailed directly to their Kindle. They’re listed after selecting the “Personal Documents” choice from a pull-down menu labelled “Your Kindle Library” (along with more menu choices for books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, audible audiobooks, and active content). The only choice for personal documents is deleting the document from your Kindle — but it shows how committed Amazon is to the concept of a “cloud,” a virtual Amazon-controlled space where your documents are always waiting in limbo, for whenever you want to access them again. If the entire document is also stored, this creates an automatic back-up copy, but some privacy-sensitive users might already feel weird if a multi-billion dollar corporation has suddenly started creating lists of their own personal documents and photos.

UPDATE: One of my readers contacted me saying that “your personal documents are only stored online if you choose to do so. By default, the option is turned on, but you can turn it off…”

5. Amazon Prime not Included
You’ll only get a one-month free trial of Amazon’s Prime shipping service when you buy a Kindle Fire tablet. Maybe Amazon’s figuring it’s such an essential part of the tablet experience, most customers will still be willing to pay an extra $79 for a one-year subscription. But I’d thought Amazon would offer a much longer trial to try luring Kindle Fire customers into buying more things from Amazon’s store.

Now here’s five of the biggest good surprises about Amazon’s new upcoming Kindles…

1. Kindle Fire will have a NetFlix App!
Besides watching video from Amazon’s online video store, you can also use a Kindle Fire tablet to watch online videos from NetFlix! (Besides sending DVDs to your home, NetFlix also has a streaming video service that lets customers “Watch Instantly” online.) And one technology blogger noted Amazon was emphasizing this point during their big announcement on Wednesday. “The video service is one of four big developers – along with Pandora, Facebook and Twitter – that should have apps ready for the Kindle Fire at launch, Amazon has said over and over again…”

2. The Kindle Fire Supports Flash
It’s easy to take Flash for granted when you’re surfing the web from a desktop computer – but it’s a big deal to have this capability in a tablet. Apple’s iPad travelled a rocky road while trying to get its own version of Flash, but Amazon’s tablet will have it fron its very first day.

3. The Silk Browser is Incredibly Fast
There’s already been some complaints about how Amazon’s handling privacy in the new web browser they built for their Kindle Fire tablet. But it’s been designed specifically to provide faster web browsing, using Amazon’s servers to pre-format web pages before they even get to your tablet. “That provides a much better user experience,” an Amazon engineer explains in an online video, and another engineer even acknowledges their goal was “to kind of change the whole game, and really re-think how do you do web.” (“It’ll seem like a traditional browser — just a lot better and a lot faster than you’re used to working with.”) That’s a big claim, but there’ll be a lot of happy Kindle Fire owners if Amazon can pull it off. “We were only shown a brief glimpse of the new Silk browser,” reported the technology bloggers at Engadget, “but we must say the thing appears to deliver on its promises.”

4. One Special Offer Can Pay for the Cost of a Kindle.
Amazon knows customers don’t necessarily want ads on their Kindle – but they’ve worked hard to line up some very attractive offers. “[S]pending $114 on the Kindle saved me 20 percent on buying a new Apple MacBook Air,” reported one finance columnist, “a savings of $200.” He notes there’s been other discounts which exceed the original price of a Kindle with Special Offers, including a 20% discount on new LCD television screens. (“Some KSO buyers saved hundreds of dollars on their new TVs,” the columnist notes!)

5. Amazon’s Selling Kindle Fire at a Loss
Amazon’s also spreading around some other big discounts. The day after Amazon announced their new Kindles, their stock dropped more than $7 a share — a whopping 3.16%. It more than wiped out the 2.5% gain from Wednesday when they’d first announced their new Kindles. Amazon’s stock continued dropping on Friday — another 2.79% — but what’s bad for investors is often good for consumers. The stock drop is apparently tied to a report from an influential stock analyst who believes Amazon is selling each Kindle Fire tablet at a $50 loss.

On the big day when the new Kindles were finally announced, CEO Jeff Bezos posted a special message on the front page at “There are two types of companies: those that work hard to charge customers more, and those that work hard to charge customers less…

“We are firmly in the second camp.”

Want to pre-order a Kindle Fire tablet? Click here!

Or click here for the new $79 Kindle!

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How Many Kindles Are There?

Cartoon stock market chart showing Sales are going up

A new financial analysis just reached a startling conclusion: That within five years, there will be 53.87 million Kindles (and other digital readers) in the world. “That’s a lot of e-reader devices,” says the Tech Journal South, a North Carolina magazine which bills itself as “the technology business publication for the Southeast region…” They argue that it’s not just books, but also newspapers and magazines that will soon be re-defining themselves for the coming digital age (plus the aftermath of a bad economy).

Of course, that begs another question that’s even more immediate: how many Kindles are there now? Amazon’s never released the number, but Business Week got an estimate from a research firm called ThinkEquity. They concluded that just last year Amazon may have sold “more than 8 million” Kindles — saying the Kindle probably accounted for 5% of all of Amazon’s 2010 revenue. And in 2009, one technology blog cited “a source close to Amazon” who reported that by December of 2009, Amazon had sold a total of 3 million Kindles.

If those two numbers are correct, then Amazon would have sold more than 11 million Kindles by January of 2011. (Another analyst reached a similar conclusion — estimating that last year Amazon sold 7.1 million Kindles.) But he also predicted that the number of Kindles sold would double by the end of 2011! It was at Barclays — the world’s 10th-largest banking and finance company — where analyst Doug Anmuth made the prediction: that Amazon would sell 12.3 million new Kindles this year. If he’s right, that would soon bring the total number of Kindles up to 23.3 million by the end of this December!

And then I stumbled across what’s probably the most interesting statistic of all. E-book reader sales are tripling every year — according to the chief marketing officer at a company that manufactures the “e-ink” displays (used by digital readers like the Kindle). Speaking at a conference in Silicon Valley, Sriram Peruvemba (of E Ink Holdings) said “This technology has already emerged and it is in the mass market.” He’s got some real statistics to back it up — Last year his company generated sales of $650 million, and this year they’re predicting their revenues will surpass $1 billion. And the market research firm which held the conference even estimated that this year we’d see sales of close to 27 million Kindles and Nooks and other devices with e-ink screens.

I think it’s time to accept the fact that we’re seeing a revolution. (About 12% of the population already has a digital reader, according to an article in Venture Beat, vs. 8% with a tablet computer and 83% with a cellphone.) They also offered at least one tangible technical reasons for the popularity of the e-ink format. A device with an LCD screen expends 26% of its power on its screen — versus just 5% for the display on an e-book reader.

But my favorite part was their predictions for a future where e-ink screens aren’t used just for digital readers. Sriram Peruvemba says they could also be used for digital watches, cellphones, and even perfume bottles. One of the most interesting ideas is an electronic music stand that could display different pages of sheet music. And of course, it’s only a matter of time before even our public schools start thinking about the possibility of digital textbooks.

The Kindle is here to stay – and as time goes on, it’s only going to get even more popular…

“Toys R Us” Will Sell Kindles!

Toys R Us Kindle gift card

Here’s something I didn’t expect to see. Amazon will start selling Kindles in toy stores! The “Toys R Us” chain has 1,556 outlets around the world — including 840 in the U.S., where they’ll be selling the Kindle and Kindle accessories. “The introduction of Kindle provides another compelling reason for families to visit Toys R Us stores,” a company spokesperson told me on Thursday, “for the best and broadest assortment of products for kids living a digital lifestyle.”

It’s considered the largest single toy retailer in the world, according to Reuters, and their store in Times Square is said to be the world’s single-largest toy store. And if you buy your Kindle there, the toy store will give you a bonus, a company spokesman told me Thursday. “To celebrate…customers purchasing any Kindle will receive a free $10 Toys R Us Gift Card from July 31 through August 6, while supplies last.”

But the significance is obvious: Amazon is positioning the Kindle as a gift for children! “From the department of hook ’em early,” joked a blogger at the Los Angeles Times – but I think it’s part of a deep and meaningful trend. Earlier this month, the government of South Korea declared that they’ll eliminate all printed text books in their state-run schools over the next four years — to replace them all with ebooks. It will cost $2.4 billion, the country’s education minister told the Christian Science Monitor, citing it as part of a project to create “smart schools” which incorporate video, animation, hyperlinks, and even virtual reality into a “digital curriculum.

In fact, hundreds of elementary school students in South Korea are already reading digital textbooks on tablet computers, according to the article. And it may be the first sign of a new role for the Kindle and other digital readers: educating our children. In fact, in Texas, Abilene Christian University is already experimenting with digital textbook. One sophomore told USA Today that his economics textbook somehow became more appealing when it was available in a digital format. (“Just the fact that it’s on the iPad and it’s all on there, makes me a lot more interested.”)

The school launched a “mobile learning” initiative, and 75% of the incoming freshmen said they’d be willing to buy their own tablet if they were able to use them to read more than half of their textbooks. The sophomore said he was already dreading the end of this year’s pilot program, saying that when he had to finally give up the iPad, “It’s going to break my heart.” But this isn’t the only example of ebooks being used in education. There have also been several anecdotes about Kindles being used in American high schools and elementary schools — and even in a pilot program in a village in Africa.

Florida is requiring schools to spend half their textbook money on ebooks within the next three years. And there was a sweet story about a fifth grade class in New York where the students shared eight Kindles. The teacher gushed that it made her students excited about reading, saying “If we can get them excited about reading at this age, it creates a lifelong reader.” And a charity called World Reader brought 440 free Kindles to a village in Africa.

I think Amazon sees this as the next big market for the Kindle. Maybe they’re just looking for a new source of customers so they can keep competing with the Nook. But it’s possible they’ve recognized this
as the future. I think they want to make sure that the next generation gets an early chance to start reading their ebooks on a Kindle.

Surprises in Amazon’s New Quarterly Report?

Amazon 9.9 billion in sales for 2Q 2011

This afternoon, Amazon finally told investors what their sales were for the months from April through June — and they surprised even Wall Street’s analysts. Compared to last year, Amazon’s net sales for the period were 51% higher. It was “the fastest growth we’ve seen in over a decade,” Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement — which at times sounded more like a sales pitch for the Kindle.

“Kindle 3G with Special Offers has quickly become our bestselling Kindle at only $139,” Bezos continued, touting the convenience of not having to hunt for a Wi-Fi hotspot. But he also revealed that Kindle sales were increasing — and at a faster rate than they were last year. Of course, there might be a simple explanation for that. Amazon released the cheaper $114 “Kindle with Special Offers” in April, which you’d
expect to increase sales from the three-month lull after Christmas.

But in general, Bezos insisted, Amazon’s sales growth was being driven by “Low prices, expanding selection, fast delivery and innovation…” (It sometimes seems like Amazon is talking in code words, since they never actually reveal specifically how many Kindles they’ve sold.) Fortunately, Bloomberg News talked to an industry analyst instead, who estimated that Amazon may have sold more than 8 million Kindles just in 2010. And more importantly, they estimate that Kindle readers already account for 5% of Amazon’s total sales.

In fact, Amazon’s now approaching more than one million ebooks that are available for sale in their Kindle store (besides the millions of free, out-of-copyright books). “The U.S. Kindle Store now has more than 950,000 books,” Amazon said in a statement today, “including New Releases and 110 of 111 New York Times Bestsellers.” What’s even more remarkable is that more than 800,000 books are available for less than $9.99, “including 65 New York Times Bestsellers.” In a Tuesday conference call, Amazon spoke of a “conversion from physical to digital” in their business, and seemed to hint that those offerings had been very popular with Amazon’s customers. (“We feel very good about those investments in terms of the traction we’re getting from a customer standpoint,” an Amazon official explained.)

Sales of the Kindle and electronic merchandise “are two big drivers for Amazon that continued unabated,” one analyst told Bloomberg News. Despite some pressure from costs, “Amazon is running on all cylinders,” another analyst commented. The dark cloud is the money Amazon’s been spending to achieve all these higher sales — but even there, the Kindle’s proving to be something Amazon officials point to with pride.

“We started investing in our Kindle businesses several years ago…” one Amazon official explained on Tuesday’s call, “and those have gotten great traction…” Amazon’s now opened 15 new distribution centers — which I’m guessing will play a role when Amazon finally releases an iPad-sized tablet, possibly offering free two-day shipping as part of the deal. In Tuesday’s conference call, Amazon used the profitability of the Kindle business as an example of why that’s necessary, saying the profits didn’t happen overnight. “Those are things that have happened over an extended period of time.”

There was a 34-minute question-and-answer period at the end of the call, and somebody finally asked directly whether Amazon planned to release their own multimedia tablet to compete with the iPad. But
while the question was asked, it wasn’t answered. (“We have a longstanding practice of not talking about what we might or might not do,” an Amazon official explained, “and so I can’t — I can’t help you with that question.”

I learned something I didn’t know. More than 45% of Amazon’s sales weren’t even in North America. (Amazon also has sites for Japan, China, France, England, Germany, and Italy.) Amazon’s total sales for just the last three months were $9.9 billion — and professional investors seemed to be positively impressed.

After the stock market closed, “late trading” pushed the company’s shares up a full 6.9%

How Many Americans Now Own a Kindle?

Kindle package manufactured on Amazon assembly line

Nearly 1 out of every 8 adults in America now owns a Kindle or another digital reading device! And what’s even more amazing — that’s twice as many as there were just six months ago, in November of 2010!

That’s the conclusion of a new study from the Pew Research Center — which is significant, because it’s a research firm that I’ve actually heard of. (They’re a Washington D.C. think tank, and they’re credited as sponsors on some public radio programs.) Looking at the population of U.S. adults, “This is the first time since the Pew Internet Project began measuring e-reader use in April 2009 that ownership of this device has reached double digits,” the group’s associate director announced in a statement. And what’s even more interesting is according to this study, Americans are buying digital readers much faster than they’re buying tablet-sized computers like the iPad!

“Tablet computers …have not seen the same level of growth in recent months,” writes Kristen Purcell in today’s announcement. While 12% of U.S. adults have a digital reader, just 8% of them own a tablet, according to the study — and it suggests the popularity of tablets might have reached a plateau. In January, 7% of U.S. adults already owned a tablet computer, so very little has changed over the last four months, and even back in November, 5% of U.S. adults had already bought a tablet. Over the next five months, tablet ownership increased from 5% to only to 8% — while digital readers jumped from 6% to 12%. “Prior to that, tablet ownership had been climbing relatively quickly,” the study notes — but apparently now only the Kindle (and other digital readers) are attracting lots of customers in the U.S.

There’s a little overlap between the two groups. 3% of America’s adults own both a tablet and a digital reader, according to the study. (And of the remainder, there’s 5% who own just a tablet, while there’s 9% who own just a digital reader.) Of course, 83% of American adults don’t own either device — which means there’s still potential for a lot of new Kindle (and tablet) owners in the years ahead. And another interesting statistic points in the same direction.

“[T]his survey marks the first time that laptop computers are as popular as desktop computers among U.S. adults…” writes Purcell, “further confirming the overall trend toward adoption of mobile devices.” Last November there were more Americans who owned a desktop computer (61%) than who owned a laptop (53%) — but now, an equal number of Americans reported owning each kind of device — around 57%. Plus, among younger Americans (under the age of 30), “laptops have already overtaken desktops in popularity…” the study reports, noting that laptops now also “appear poised to do the same among older adults.”

So who’s buying a Kindle or another digital reader? In the last six months, there’s been a huge jump in the number of American college graduates — from 8% to 22%. And reader ownership has doubled in the last six months for adults living in a household earning more than $75,000 a year, to 24% — which is almost double the ownership rates for households earning between $30,000 and $75,000 a year (now at 13%). But the study also found some other groups of people who were also very likely to own a reader.

  • Adults younger than age 65 (37%)
  • Parents of children under the age of eighteen (16%)
  • Hispanic adults (15%)

I’m stumped on how to explain those demographic trends. Some suggest the Kindle and other readers have been adopted by more mainstream middle-aged consumers over the last six months. (“[O]wnership among adults ages 18-49 grew more rapidly than any other age group,” the study reports — from 11% to 24%.) But the study’s other data seems strangely specific — for example, that “in the past six months ownership of these devices among parents [now 16%] has grown more rapidly than it has among non-parents [now 10%].” And the study’s data is even more striking for Hispanic owners of Kindles and other digital reading devices. “E-reader ownership grew at a faster pace among Hispanic adults over that time period [from 5% to 15%] than it did among white adults [6% to 11%] or African-American adults [from 5% to 8%].”

There’s one other interesting statistic. In November, men and women were equally likely to own a digital reader, but by May, there were slightly more men. 11% of the women in America now own a reader (according to the study), compared to 12% of the men. But it’s even more interesting that just six months ago, only 6% of men and women owned a digital reader.

I want to believe this all means something — that e-books are now achieving a special “critical mass”. We’re past the “early adopter” stage, when digital readers seemed like exotic but expensive luxury items that only a geek would buy. Now a significant share of Americans owns a digital reader, and the size of that share has doubled in just six months. Soon nearly everyone will own a Kindle (or a Nook) — and we’ll all be reading ebooks instead of printed books.

There’s always been changes happening in the world, but it’s usually hidden somewhere beyond our own day-to-day life. So it’s very exciting when you can see the signs of a big change…while it’s still happening!

Some Fun Statistics From Amazon

Map of the United States showing cities that read the most books

Amazon just pored through their sales data, and compiled an interesting list of “the 20 Most Well-Read Cities in America.” They included sales data for both printed books and e-books (as well as digital subscriptions to magazines and newspapers), carefully studying the first five months of 2011.

Amazon joked that they were releasing the results “Just in time for the summer reading season,” then revealed which American cities, with a population of more than 100,000, had the most
readers per capita.

 1. Cambridge, Massachusetts
 2. Alexandria, Virginia
 3. Berkeley, California
 4. Ann Arbor, Michigan
 5. Boulder, Colorado
 6. Miami, Florida
 7. Salt Lake City, Utah
 8. Gainesville, Florida
 9. Seattle, Washington
 10. Arlington, Virginia
11. Knoxville, Tennessee
12. Orlando, Florida
13. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
14. Washington, D.C.
15. Bellevue, Washington
16. Columbia, South Carolina
17. St. Louis, Missouri
18. Cincinnati, Ohio
19. Portland, Oregon
20. Atlanta, Georgia

Interestingly, four of the top five cities are “college towns,” including the #1 city — Cambridge, Massachusetts — along with Berkeley (California) at #3, Ann Arbor (Michigan) at #4, and Boulder (Colorado) at #5. I’m sure each of these cities has a campus bookstore, but students may be checking for used text books that are even cheaper. If that’s going to start a trend, it’s yet-another bad sign for the future of bookstores. Amazon’s press release noted that Cambridge — the home of both Harvard and MIT — also ordered more nonfiction books per capita than any other city in America. But Cambridge is also the home of nearly a dozen world-class bookstores (which the students are apparently bypassing), including one of my all-time favorites — a bookstore named “Curious George and Friends.” (It’s an independent, family-owned store founded in 1995 “with the help of our neighbor, Curious George author, Margaret Rey.”)

Amazon reports that the city ordering the most children’s picture books is actually Alexandria, Virginia. It’s just 6 miles from Washington D.C. — though I’m not going to make a joke about the reading level of your average Congressman. It turns out that Alexandria just employs a lot of federal government workers, many of who have presumably started families in the area. Though it’s #2 on Amazon’s list, it’s not a college town — but it is the home of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the Institute for Defense Analyses, according to Wikipedia, which points out that Alexandria is “largely populated by professionals working in the federal civil service, the U.S. military, or for one of the many private companies which contract to provide services to the federal government.” And Arlington, Virginia — which is just 9 miles away — also came in at #10 on Amazon’s list, while Washington D.C. was at #14.

There must also be a lot of readers in Florida, since three different cities made it onto the list — Orlando, Miami, and Gainesville. (Florida is the only state to get three cities into Amazon’s top 20, though both Virginia and the state of Washington ended up with two.)

And college students shopping online may have helped some other cities crack into the top 10, since the next five cities on their list also have major universities. (Miami, Salt Lake City, Gainesville, Seattle, and Arlington). I’m intrigued that Seattle — the home of — only reached the #9 spot on the list of the most well-read cities. Besides having a lot of universities, Seattle also has the highest percentage of college graduates for any major city in America, according to the U.S. census bureau. In fact, 53.8% of the city’s population (over the age of 25) have at least a bachelor’s degree (nearly twice the national average of just 27.4%), while 91.9% have a high school diploma (vs. 84.5% nationally).

Bellevue, Washington — just 10 miles from Seattle — also came in at #15 on the list, so the ranking might’ve been higher for the whole “Seattle Metro Area”. But fortunately, Amazon is still a good sport about their home city falling into the #9 spot on their own “well-read” list. “We hope book lovers across the country enjoy this fun look at where the most voracious readers reside,” Amazon’s book editor announced yesterday, “and that everyone gets the chance to relax with some great summer reads.”

War Erupts Between Kindle and Nook Over Battery Life

Amazon Kindle vs Barnes and Noble Nook Spy vs Spy cartoon

C|Net just received an angry response from the president of Digital Products at Barnes & Noble. I’d linked to C|Net’s story yesterday, so I was surprised that its facts were now being challenged. Barnes and Noble is now claiming that the Nook’s battery actually lasts more than two and a half times longer than a Kindle’s battery — at least under certain conditions.

“While reading at one page a minute, the all-new Nook battery lasts for 150 hours, where the Kindle battery, using the same page-turn rate, lasts for only 56 hours (both with Wi-Fi off)… In our side-by-side tests, under the exact same conditions, continuous use of the device resulted in more than two times Kindle’s battery life.”

If that’s true, then Barnes and Noble mangled the launch of their touch-screen Nook by botching their description of one of its main selling points. Paul Biba, a Kindle blogger, actually watched the official announcement live at a Barnes & Noble store in downtown New York City. And when the question of battery life came up, Biba reported, their official answer was that it was calculated “based on 1/2 hour reading per day with WiFi off. ”

The next day, Amazon claimed the Kindle could also run for two months on a single battery charge — if you only read it for half an hour a day.

You might wonder if Amazon was inventing new statistics — but apparently it’s the same claim that’s been around for years. In November of 2007, Popular Mechanics was already reporting that the Kindle’s battery would last for 30 hours — which of course breaks down into 60 half hours, or two months of reading just one half hour a day. (Assuming the battery isn’t also draining too much during the time that it’s not being read!)

And another obvious response is: who cares? How often would you need to read more than 30 consecutive hours without stopping to re-charge your Kindle? Obviously you can invent a few scenarios. (“What if I’m back-packing across hundreds of miles of Siberian tundra, and I’m also huddling in my tent each night trying to read War and Peace“?) But the distinction is a signal of a fierce competition between Amazon and Barnes and Noble, C|Net’s reporter points out, and “as these devices become more and more alike, marketing language becomes very significant, especially when it comes to selling points like battery life.”

Another blogger was more blunt. “Barnes and Noble pretty much called Amazon a liar for manipulating the battery life claims,” wrote Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader. But I’m more surprised by what Barnes and Noble was claiming about the Nook on Wednesday — since it’s very different than the performance statistics that they’d cited on Tuesday.

For example, Wednesday Barnes and Noble made an even more incredible claim. “While reading at one page a minute, the all-new Nook battery lasts for 150 hours.” Unless I’m missing something, that would come out to 300 days of usage (at a half hour a day) — which would be a whopping 10 months. I guess the battery must continue draining quite a bit during the 23.5 hours a day when the Nook isn’t running. Especially since the Barnes and Noble official also claims that the new Nook “offers more than 25,000 continuous page turns on a single charge.” But if you’re making just one page turn every minute, then shouldn’t that charge last 416 hours (or 25,000 minutes)? If so, that’d represent 17.36 days of non-stop use — but if you’re using your Nook for just 30 minutes a day, it comes out to 2.2 years.

And if the Nook can really run for 2.2 years on a single battery charge — then why didn’t Barnes and Noble just say so on Tuesday?

Jeff Bezos speaks!

CEO of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Here’s the most interesting Kindle-related thing that happened last week. When Amazon announced their quarterly earnings, CEO Jeff Bezos also issued a five-page personal letter addressed to Amazon’s investors. Its headline? “Why I, Jeff Bezos, Keep Spending Billions On Amazon R&D.”

In just the first three months of 2011, Amazon spent $579 million on “technology and content” costs, an increase of more 58% over the same period one year ago, according to Amazon’s quarterly report. But Bezos addressed that issue head-on, in a strongly-worded letter that felt confident and even a little boastful. “Walk into certain Amazon meetings, and you may momentarily think you’ve stumbled into a computer science lecture,” Jeff Bezos wrote, saying Amazon’s engineers are taking computer science beyond anything that’s taught in colleges todays. “Many of the problems we face have no textbook solutions, and so we — happily — invent new approaches.”

The letter was so positive, the Seattle Times even theorized that Bezos was trying to entice new technology workers towards the new job openings Amazon’s headquarters. But I liked seeing Bezos’s personal pride in his company as he argued that Amazon’s highly specialized technology “is deeply integrated into everything we do.” And the example he supplied? The Kindle — specifically, its Whispersync service, which now even serves Android phones, as well as Kindles which can go for weeks without connecting to Amazon’s network. Bezos proudly explained its complexity, describing Whispersync’s mission as insuring that “everywhere you go, no matter what devices you have with you, you can access your reading library and all of your highlights, notes, and bookmarks, all in sync across your Kindle devices and mobile apps.”

“The technical challenge is making this a reality for millions of Kindle owners, with hundreds of millions of books, and hundreds of device types, living in over 100 countries around the world – at 24 x 7 reliability… As a Kindle customer, of course, we hide all this technology from you. So when you open your Kindle, it’s in sync and on the right page. To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, like any sufficiently advanced technology, it’s indistinguishable from magic.

The letter offered a fun peek into the head of the man who runs Amazon — and it shows that he’s still got great confidence in Amazon’s futures. But my favorite part was how Bezos concluded his testimonial by republishing a letter that he’d written to investors in 1997, saying “Our approach remains the same, and it’s still Day 1.” Re-publishing it has apparently become a yearly tradition for Bezos, and it’s amazing
just how much of it remains absolutely applicable to the year 2011. And even 14 years later, it’s still an exciting read.

Here’s my favorite parts…

To our shareholders: passed many milestones in 1997: by year-end, we had served more than 1.5 million customers, yielding 838% revenue growth to $147.8 million, and extended our market leadership despite aggressive competitive entry.

But this is Day 1 for the Internet and, if we execute well, for Today, online commerce saves customers money and precious time. Tomorrow, through personalization, online commerce will accelerate the very process of discovery…

We have a window of opportunity as larger players marshal the resources to pursue the online opportunity and as customers, new to purchasing online, are receptive to forming new relationships…Our goal is to move quickly to solidify and extend our current position while we begin to pursue the online commerce opportunities in other areas. We see substantial opportunity in the large markets we are targeting. This strategy is not without risk: it requires serious investment and crisp execution against established franchise leaders.

We believe that a fundamental measure of our success will be the shareholder value we create over the long term. This value will be a direct result of our ability to extend and solidify our current market leadership position…

  • We will continue to focus relentlessly on our customers.
  • We will continue to make investment decisions in light of long-term market leadership considerations rather than short-term profitability considerations or short-term Wall Street reactions.

  • We will continue to measure our programs and the effectiveness of our investments analytically, to jettison those that do not provide acceptable returns, and to step up our investment in those that work best. We will continue to learn from both our successes and our failures.

  • We will make bold rather than timid investment decisions where we see a sufficient probability of gaining market leadership advantages. Some of these investments will pay off, others will not, and we will have learned another valuable lesson in either case…

  • At this stage, we choose to prioritize growth because we believe that scale is central to achieving the potential of our business model…

The past year’s success is the product of a talented, smart, hard-working group, and I take great pride in being a part of this team. Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of’s success… we are working to build something important, something that matters to our customers, something that we can all tell our grandchildren about. Such things aren’t meant to be easy.

We are incredibly fortunate to have this group of dedicated employees whose sacrifices and passion build…

How Jeff Bezos earned $1 billion in one day

Amazon's Jeff Bezos on the Kindle

If you’d invested money in Amazon’s stock, you’d be a little bit richer today. Amazon’s stock price shot up nearly 8% on Thursday, reaching a new all-time high. (In just 24 hours, Jeff Bezos’ net worth increased by more than $1 billion dollars….) “The shares have risen more than 20% in the last six weeks,” notes an article at Marketwatch. Investors on Wall Street apparently loved Amazon’s latest quarterly report, which show that in just the first 90 days of the year, Amazon sold $2.73 billion more than they did in the same period a year ago!

For the first three months of 2011, Amazon’s net sales had increased a whopping 38%, to $9.86 billion. If you looked at the last 12 months, Amazon’s operating cashflow also increased $250 million from the previous year. But they’ve also spent $420 million more — presumably, to grow their customer base — so Amazon’s total “net income” was 33% lower then the previous year. Still, a majority of brokers remain positive about Amazon, according to Marketwatch, with one reminding clients about Amazon’s commitment to “long-term investments at the expense of short-term margins.”

“Amazon has doubled its business in the past two years,” advised another broker at Deutsche Bank, “and may be on pace to potentially double it again in less than two years.” And citing Amazon’s earnings call, the Associated Press reported Amazon “is seeing ‘tremendous’ growth in demand, and that’s why it’s had to invest money in more warehouses and upgrading the technology that runs its Internet store.”

“We love inventing on behalf of customers,” announced Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, “and have never been more excited about the long-term opportunities.” Then Bezos listed out everything Amazon has accomplished so far this year, “just to call out a few of the things we’ve been working on.” And it sounds really impressive when you lay them all out.

“In the last 90 days, we announced Kindle with Special Offers, Kindle Library Lending, Audible audiobooks on Kindle, Appstore for Android, Amazon for Windows Phone 7, Checkout by Amazon in both Germany and the U.K., a Kindle Store in Germany…”

There was also some interesting trivia about the Kindle buried deeper in the announcement — like the fact that there’s over 900,000 books in the Kindle store, and that 740,000 of them (82%) cost less than $9.99, “including 65 New York Times bestsellers.” Amazon’s press release also noted that there’s millions of free e-books available for the Kindle, and that last month saw the first single e-book to sell one million copies. (Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.) Of course, not all the trivia was about the Kindle. In a letter to shareholders on Wednesday, Bezos also revealed that when Amazon builds a “product detail” page for a customer visiting, “our software calls on between 200 and 300 services to present a highly personalized experience for that customer.”

But here’s my favorite piece of trivia from Amazon’s latest round of earnings information. They revealed that they’re spending $1.6 million dollars a year just on security for CEO Jeff Bezos. Meanwhile, Bezos’s yearly salary is just $81,840 — though he also owns 20% of the company.

Which is why his personal net worth increased by more than $1 billion dollars when Amazon’s stock price shot up nearly 8% on Thursday.