Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Amazon's Secret Kindle Sales: Eight Million in 2010?

Amazon still won’t say how many Kindles it is selling. But Bloomberg believes a couple of sources who say the e-commerce giant is doing booming business with its e-reader: It thinks Amazon is on track to sell eight million devices this year.

That’s more than 50 percent above the estimates that most Amazon bulls, like Citigroup’s Mark Mahaney, were floating just a couple of months ago.

Bloomberg attributes the numbers to “two people who are aware of the company’s sales projections,” so the data could still be off, from outsiders who don’t know what the company is actually doing. Or it could be 100 percent accurate, from employees who know precisely how many KIndles Amazon is selling.

Regardless, the notion that Amazon is selling a whole lot of Kindles feels right, according to my 100 percent unscientific anecdotal survey: I know several people who are buying Kindles as holiday gifts this year, and they’re not early adopters.

To me, that feels like a tech gadget going from novelty to mainstream, helped by a three-year marketing push (remember when those first, brutally ugly Kindles hit the market in 2007?) and a $139 entry-level price point.

Take another look at this chart from Mahaney’s October report, which plots the Kindle’s price drop over the years. By all accounts, it looks like you could flip this thing over, and it would give you a good sense of Kindle sales:

So what about the data that shows Apple’s iPad, which lets you read books in color and do a whole lot more, eating into the Kindle’s market share?

It may be correct, but also not relevant: Shrinking market share doesn’t mean you can’t have booming sales, and my hunch is that people who buy $139 Kindles end up buying more e-book titles per capita than the average iPad owner.

Also worth noting that Amazon doesn’t necessarily lose when someone buys an iPad and not a Kindle. The bookseller’s read-everywhere platform means iPad owners can read Kindle titles on their machines.

I can back this one up with highly anecdotal data, too: The iPad that stays in MediaMemo HQ is stocked full of e-books, and only one of them has been purchased at Apple’s iBookstore.

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