At eReaderChat.com, we’re obviously big believers in the future of eBooks. While a few mainstream media outlets here and there share our vision of a paperless future, I think the consensus amongst the general public is still that eBooks and eReaders will continue to represent merely a small chunk of the larger book retailer pie. I’m here to tell you that this is not the case.
In a statement released by Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Amazon revealed that for the first time, sales of books in the Kindle format have exceeded those sold in the hardcover format. According to the metrics they released, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon has sold, they have sold 143 Kindle books. In just the last month, since they slashed the price of the Kindle 2 to $189, that ratio has gone up to 180 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books sold.
“We’ve reached a tipping point with the new price of Kindle–the growth rate of Kindle device unit sales has tripled since we lowered the price from $259 to $189,” said Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon.com. “In addition, even while our hardcover sales continue to grow, the Kindle format has now overtaken the hardcover format. Amazon.com customers now purchase more Kindle books than hardcover books–astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months.”
Of course, as with any corporate announcement of this sort, which is generally made for the benefit of the company’s share price, you have to take it with a grain of salt. Amazon very deliberately did not release any specific numbers about either their hardcover sales or their Kindle book sales. They stuck mostly to vague ratios, such as noting that three times as many Kindle books were sold in the first half of 2010 as compared to the same period in 2009.
What’s more, comparing overall Kindle book sales to hardcover sales is a little disingenuous. After all, the category “Kindle Books” encompasses more than two million titles in all, and includes nearly all the paperback titles you’re liable to find gracing the shelves of your local book retailer. Hardcover books, by contrast, usually only run for the first year of the life of a book, and are much more expensive than the $9.99 one expects to spend for a Kindle book.
Having made my semantic point, this is obviously still tremendous news for Amazon. With the Kindle 2 finally starting to reach a price point where it can enjoy mainstream success, and their Kindle App present on just about every mobile device under the sun, including Apple’s iPad, it’s clear that the future of eBooks for Amazon is quite bright.
With Apple’s iPad flying off the shelves, and analysts currently predicting they could have units in as many as 6.2 million hands by the end of 2010, it’s clear that the iPad is a force in the consumer electronics world that’s going to stick around for a little while. While all this is well and good for Apple and its stockholders, the people being left holding the bag in this situation are actually the consumers, as it turns out.
Wanting to expand my horizons in the eReader world beyond my Kindle 2, I decided to jump on the iPad bandwagon in its infancy. I thought it would be a simple matter of just walking into a store somewhere and picking one up, but as is usually the case with Apple products, it was not that simple.
June 15: I make the decision to purchase an iPad. Being curious about the device but not willing to commit full-fledged financial seppuku, I set my sights on the 16GB Wi-Fi version of the iPad, the cheapest model they offer at $499. I can’t even fathom paying an extra $150 just for the privilege of forking over an extra $30 a month for another data plan. And I figured 16GB was more than enough drive space, since I could just use Dropbox for offsite storage of documents, and Air Video to play movies from my PC. So I put in my order.
June 16: By the next day, Apple acknowledged my order with an email. That was the good news. The bad news was that they weren’t going to ship the iPad until June 30th, and the estimated delivery time wasn’t until July 6. Hearing good things about the reserve process on some Apple fan forums, I resigned to cancel my online order and reserve one in a local store.
June 17: I went to my local mall down in Fort Lauderdale and requested that my name be put on the reserve list. It was a painless process – you just give them your email and they sent you an email later that day confirming your place in the queue. The clerk assured me that it wouldn’t be more than a week.
June 21: Success! I got an email at about 11pm saying that my iPad had arrived in the store and was ready for pickup. I was in the grips of a full-fledged gadget nerd frenzy.
June 22: Failure. I walked into the store shortly after they opened at 10am, and the clerk informed me that iPad reservations are only good for the day that they’re sent out. Despite my reasoned explanation that it was physically impossible for me to come to the store the prior day, since they were closed before I received the email, I was told that my iPad had already been promised to somebody else. I’d have to go back on the list. Joy. I put my name back on the list and phoned another Apple store in Boca Raton to put my name on their list as well. We’re not taking any chances here!
June 26: I receive a single email saying that my name is moving up the priority list. I begin to worry, because I have a vacation planned on July 3
June 28: I begin staking out various Best Buy brick and mortar stores, hoping to catch one before the mobs find them. I am met only by the occasional 64GB 3G model and store clerk indifference.
June 29: I make a visit to the Apple Store again and a friendly clerk logs into their system and shows me my place in their queue. At one store, I was 35th on their reserve list. On the other, I was 75th. This is after a week! Facing up the grim reality of no iPad before my vacation, I decide to play another order with their website. My estimated arrival date this time was July 19.
July 3: I leave for a cruise on the Caribbean.
July 6: I receive an email from both stores saying that my iPad has arrived. Oh happy day!
July 8: I receive a shipment notification from Apple. My iPad is coming straight off the assembly line from China!
July 11: I return from my cruise tan, slightly drunk, and still without a brand new top of the line of the line tablet computer. My Kindle 2, which once seemed like it was going to suffer an early bout of obsolescence, has endeared itself to my heart once again, as I plowed through through four eBooks in eight days under the blinding light of the Caribbean sun.
June 12: The FedEx man comes, but the package requires a signature. Agh! Not to be defeated, I drove out to the local FedEx sorting facility and retrieved it later that evening. Finally! It only took a month, but I had my iPad in my hand.
While my experience shouldn’t be considered standard operating procedure for Apple, it did impart a number of important lessons to me for would-be iPad buyers. First, get on the reserve list as soon as you make the decision to buy one in as many Apple stores as you can. Put in an order on the website just to hedge your bet – you can always cancel it later. When they do finally call your name on the reserve list, make sure to print out the email, complete with a timestamp, it case they try and pull the same shenanigans they did on me. Be prepared to wait a while for the model you want – rather than sending a bunch of each model with every shipment, Apple seems to ship out tons of the same model all at once.
In short, be patient, because this isn’t going to be a simple process.