By all accounts Amazon's Kindle eBook reader appears to be a resounding success. Despite the gadget's shortcomings -- no PDF support, closed eBook format, poor batter life when using the wireless service, limited magazine selection -- the $359 device sold out almost immediately after going on sale, fetching as much as $1,500 in Ebay auctions. Fast forward to today and the Kindle pushes over 12 percent of Amazon's book sales. And rumor has it that Amazon will soon release a new model, Kindle 2.0, a bigger version of the original in a multitude of colors.
Book sales aside, just how successful has the Kindle been? Because Amazon won't disclose how many of its eBook readers it has sold, nobody knows for sure, but TechCrunch claims to have the inside scoop. "240,000 Kindles have been shipped since November, according to a source close to Amazon with direct knowledge of the numbers," TC reports.
If true, that puts Kindle sales close to the $100 million mark and well over that amount after factoring in book sales, subscriptions, and so on. But that's only the tip of the iceberg. TC notes that Scott Devitt, an analyst at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., has Amazon on track to sell 500,000 to 750,000 more Kindles within the next four quarters, with a total revenue of up to $355 million after tallying up additional book sales. This, he says, values the Kindle as a $1 billion business for Amazon.
Amazon’s proprietary wireless reading device Kindle has been rather successful. It remained out of stock for months after being launched in November, 2007, despite being criticized heavily for its lack of WiFi, ugly design and limited PDF support. Now it is fast emerging as a popular electronic book reader, if a Time magazine report is to be believed.
A source inside Amazon told Time that Kindle accounts for 12% of sales of the roughly 130k titles that are both available physically and as Kindle downloads. Kindle’s share has doubled from May, when Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos had claimed it to be 6%. It is good to hear that digital distribution threatens to change the landscape of the books publishing industry as well. However, Kindle is far from perfect and its design and features need nothing less than an overhaul.
We’ve long appreciated the concept of the eBook, but we’ve been disappointed in its execution. The old Franklin readers ate batteries, had small screens, and included only a meager selection of books. Sony’s Reader has a better battery life, but the selection of first-run books leaves much to be desired. Amazon’s new Kindle solves many of these problems but introduces an even thornier one.