eBook Market Expanding

The New York Times reports that Amazon’s Kindle is currently out of stock, letting some of the other players in the field move in.

The $359 Kindle, which is slim, white and about the size of a trade paperback, was introduced a year ago. Although Amazon will not disclose sales figures, the Kindle has at least lived up to its name by creating broad interest in electronic books. Now it is out of stock and unavailable until February. Analysts credit Oprah Winfrey, who praised the Kindle on her show in October, and blame Amazon for poor holiday planning.

The shortage is providing an opening for Sony, which embarked on an intense publicity campaign for its Reader device during the gift-buying season. The stepped-up competition may represent a coming of age for the entire idea of reading longer texts on a portable digital device.

The article also offers a little more sales data beyond the oft-quoted stat that ebooks account for 1 percent of book sales in the U.S.

Peter Hildick-Smith, president of the Codex Group, a book market research company, said he believed Amazon had sold as many as 260,000 units through the beginning of October, before Ms. Winfrey’s endorsement. Others say the number could be as high as a million.

Many Kindle buyers appear to be outside the usual gadget-hound demographic. Almost as many women as men are buying it, Mr. Hildick-Smith said, and the device is most popular among 55- to 64-year-olds. . . .

Amazon’s Kindle version of “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” by David Wroblewski, a best seller recommended by Ms. Winfrey’s book club, now represents 20 percent of total Amazon sales of the book, according to Brian Murray, chief executive of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide.

The Kindle version of the book, which can be downloaded by the device itself through its wireless modem, costs $9.99 in the Amazon Kindle store. The Reader version costs $11.99 from Sony’s e-book library, accessible from an Internet-connected computer.

And there are plenty more ebook readers on the way:

Other competitors are on the way. Investors have put more than $200
million into Plastic Logic, a company in Mountain View, Calif. The
company says that next year it will begin testing a flexible
8.5-by-11-inch reading device that is thinner and lighter than existing
ones. Plastic Logic plans to begin selling it in 2010.

Along the
same lines, Polymer Vision, based in the Netherlands, demonstrated a
device the size of a BlackBerry that has a five-inch rolled-up screen
that can be unfurled for reading. There are also less ambitious but
cheaper readers on the market or expected soon, including the eSlick
Reader from Foxit Software, arriving next month at an introductory
price of $230.

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Yeah, but a couple of days later, the Times also noted that Amazon doesn’t provide enough data for their figures to any kind of useful comparison to their previous years or to other vendors.
The paper’s editors thought enough of this blog post that they ran it in the satellite print edition.

Whatever the Kindle’s sales figures, it looks like the e-book is here to stay. Still haven’t seen any in Seoul, however.

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