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E-books are in, say sales

Amazon.com, the world's largest online book retailer, caused a stir when it announced its Kindle device for reading e-books.  Many were drawn to the book's sleek look and ability to conveniently store hundreds of electronic titles and navigate through them without physically turning a page.  However, others were critical of the development, saying nothing could replace the act of reading a printed book.

However, the device caught fire, obviously appealing to some and has been a hot seller ever since.  Amazon.com just announced that the Kindle was its top selling gadget for 2008, beating out the likes of the Nintendo DS, PSP, and others.  The device topped every list it was eligible for, except the most positive comments category, which was topped by the Samsung 46-inch LCD high-definition TV.

One thing that helped the Kindle burn up the sales charts was an endorsement by Oprah earlier this year.  Oprah anointed the Kindle her "favorite new gadget" on her afternoon TV show.  She argued that for those who keep up with the latest titles, the $359 price tag quickly vanishes as new titles are available for $10 or less, saving the user lots of money in the long run.

An Oprah endorsement is known as a product gold-strike, as shown by the Oprah book club.  The celebrity has catapulted many unknown authors onto The New York Times best-seller list.

Indeed the response seemed almost instant, with sales jumping.  By the end of the year the stock of Kindles had been exhausted and the company announced that customers would have to wait until February to purchase the popular gadgets.

The Kindle is not without competition, though.  Sony makes a rival e-book reader.  Both devices are virtually identical in size and memory.  Both devices also use E Ink's display technology, which displays crisp text that's readable even in sunlight.

However, the Kindle has a critical advantage over Sony's reader.  Sony requires users to download books and then transfer them to the device via a wired connection.  The Kindle, on the other hand, has a wireless EVDO cellular connection, which it uses to connect to Amazon.com and directly purchase and download titles for no additional charge.  Amazon contracts Sprint for its cellular connections.

The lists for sales were compiled by units sold, not by the revenue gained.  Outside the gadgets world, Nintendo's Wii unsurprisingly took the top video game console spot, while Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 was the top selling software.

Amazon did not disclose its revenue for the holiday shopping season.  However, it is publicly stating that the holidays, despite the bad economic climate, were its strongest season yet.  It says 6.3 million items were ordered worldwide on its peak sales day, December 15.



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I'm curious
By Spivonious on 12/30/2008 10:47:08 AM , Rating: 5
I would definitely own a Kindle if it was under $100. For the books I normally buy, the Kindle versions are only $5-$10 cheaper. It would take me at least 30 books to break even and I don't buy nearly that amount in a year.

In fact, I find that for most books, the good old public library is the best solution. They even get new releases if they're popular enough.




RE: I'm curious
By Smilin on 12/30/2008 11:17:18 AM , Rating: 2
There are like 200-300k books for free out there for the kindle.


RE: I'm curious
By Hafgrim on 12/30/2008 11:37:07 AM , Rating: 4
Why dont they have a Kindle version with text to speech yet? That would be worth buying then.. Its a little odd to have an ELCTRONIC book that dosnt read or does virtually nothing more then a paper book does, other then download books more cheaply. =P

Readplease is my personal favorite text reader because its so simple and easy to use, one click reads just about any highlightable text.
http://www.readplease.com/english/readplease.php

and with the 16khz Audrey voice add on pack it rocks!
http://www.nextup.com/attnv.html

Hafgrim


RE: I'm curious
By Smilin on 12/30/2008 11:46:33 AM , Rating: 4
I don't think you get it.

It's a product designed for people who read A LOT. Text to speech is incredibly slow even at the annoying "buzzing fly" rate that heavy accessibility software does.

Audio books are much better (and the kindle does play MP3s either through a speaker or headphone).

The kindle is designed to be a replacement for paper books. It keeps their benefit (easy readability) and scraps all their shortcomings (price, size, inconvenience, searchability etc).


RE: I'm curious
By quiksilvr on 12/30/2008 2:29:26 PM , Rating: 1
This may sound superficial the Sony reader looks much more stylish and professional than this. And given that the previous version of the Sony Reader is 60 bucks CHEAPER, I'll have to say Sony still has the better product.


RE: I'm curious
By knipfty on 12/30/2008 3:38:42 PM , Rating: 2
What you are missing with Sony is the wireless capability. It makes a world of difference in usability. That and being able to download samples before you buy without having to be sitting at your computer. As an example, I was at a friends house Saturday night. He was showing me a book that he says is helping him run his business better. As he was showing it to me, I turned on my Kindle and downloaded a sample of the book. When I am ready, I can purchase it. All without going to my computer or go to a book store.


RE: I'm curious
By Oregonian2 on 12/30/2008 4:10:12 PM , Rating: 3
I suspect you haven't used them. I thought the kindle didn't look all that swift until my mother gave me one for my birthday a couple months ago. I originally declined her offer that she made after seeing it on the Oprah show -- but she talked me into it, and boy am I glad.

The kindle is NOT an electronic device upon which one can read books (something the Sony design seems to target more). The Kindle is a regular book that happens to be electronic. That may sound like a silly statement, but it's crucial and VERY important to what it is and why it's so good.

The "feel" of it being a regular book is what really makes it special. My wife has commented about how much more I read now that I've the Kindle, and she's right.

The unit also has instant wireless access to the web's largest bookseller for instant (discounted) kindle versions of books, magazines and newspapers (not thrilled with the latter two, but they're okay). And that access is pretty much anywhere Sprint wireless is accessible (bit weak in Montana and Alaska I understand). What's more one also has a web-browser available, and not when one finds free wifi spots -- one has internet web access over the Sprint EVDO network (high speed) and there is NO monthly charge whatsoever (Amazon is paying it -- assuming that they'll get their share with the instant book purchases/downloads one can do).

Design of the unit is brilliant -- and this is coming from someone who before having one wasn't impressed at all by it, but who after actually having it became instantly in love with it.

What Amazon has is an entire system, not just an electronic toy. It's much like Apple's iTunes + iPod end-to-end system except that Amazon's system is more comprehensive (they being the 800 pound gorilla in online booksales from the getgo helps a lot). In combination with Amazon's one-click system, one can turn on one's Kindle, and have a new book in hand in hardly any time at all -- and very easily. And such a book is never "sold out". And one can do that from most anyplace in the USA without any additional expense other than owning a Kindle and having an Amazon account. Having a computer is only optional (can use USB interface, but not necessary).


RE: I'm curious
By grenableu on 12/30/2008 6:13:26 PM , Rating: 2
I have to agree. I got a Kindle for Christmas and, even though I haven't had it that long, I'm already very impressed with it.


RE: I'm curious
By Smilin on 12/30/2008 4:18:44 PM , Rating: 3
How to get ripped off 101:

"Oooh it's shiney and $60 cheaper it must be better!"

Read further. The Sony is missing something really important that makes it drastically inferior to the Kindle.


RE: I'm curious
By Arsigi on 12/30/2008 2:03:56 PM , Rating: 3
We've had a Kindle from Day 1 - preordered before they initially came available. As an avid reader I must say that it is a really, really cool product. Books and other publications download extremely fast - really no waiting at all. Power consumption is fantastic... provided you turn the wireless feature off when not actively using it (there is a separate switch for that on the back). My only complaint is that it is a little awkward to hold if reading while lying down... very easy to turn the page by accident. But I've long gotten used to that.

I can't wait for the day that such a product is available to students. Textbooks would require a larger screen in my opinion, but the technology is already there. A single device that is smaller than a laptop but replaces a 20-pound bag of books would be a major hit.


RE: I'm curious
By Smilin on 12/30/2008 4:24:39 PM , Rating: 2
The biggest benefit with textbooks I think would be the price. Textbooks aren't NYT bestsellers and they just don't make enough of them to offset such a huge research, writing, and publishing cost.

Electronic publishing would cost pennies per copy and shorten "printing" time.

This would bring the cost down so that it only needed to cover the research and writing costs.

Textbooks frequently use color graphics though. A big problem.


RE: I'm curious
By Etsp on 12/30/2008 10:03:59 PM , Rating: 2
Let's not forget that books on such a system can be easily updated when errors are found. No need to purchase the nth edition...Textbook Patches if you will.


RE: I'm curious
By ChoadNamath on 1/3/2009 11:29:15 AM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't bet on getting free "textbook patches" if I were you. They generally put out new editions more to generate revenue than to correct errors.


Oprah
By 16nm on 12/30/2008 11:54:48 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
An Oprah endorsement is known as a product gold-strike, as shown by the Oprah book club.


Excuse me but Oprah is such a dumba$$ that I really cannot understand how people follow her so blindly. In no way am I saying she's a bad person or lacking character, but what does she bring to the table? Why would anyone trust her? I just don't get it.




RE: Oprah
By Smilin on 12/30/2008 2:18:49 PM , Rating: 2
This is another shortcoming in the article.

Sales for these went through the roof before the Oprah endorsement. Hell, I'm a guy...I had no idea about the Oprah thing when I bought it for my wife.

As far as trusting Oprah? Yeah I don't get that either. It must be a girl thing..that or it's a matter of numbers (umpteen bajillion viewers, someone is bound to trust you).

She was right on about the Kindle though. It's pretty spiffy.


RE: Oprah
By Oregonian2 on 12/30/2008 4:15:52 PM , Rating: 2
Has to do with Oprah having a long standing history of giving book recommendations (weekly I think, but she's not my thing -- might be monthly) that apparently is thought of well because people buy her recommended books. The Kindle recommendation is a spin off of her "power" to a large body of high-volume book readers.


RE: Oprah
By androticus on 12/30/2008 3:09:35 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Excuse me but Oprah is such a dumba$$...


Oh, c'mon... One of the richest women in entertainment is a "dumbass"???? I am not a personal fan, but objectively speaking, Oprah is an intelligent, thoughtful, extremely successful woman -- she is an actress, producer, publisher, host of one of the most successful and popular talk shows in history, and probably has many more business ventures I am not even aware of. It is not possible to be so successful on so many fronts and be a "dumb ass". Oprah deserves respect.


RE: Oprah
By 16nm on 12/30/2008 8:11:15 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, she is a fool aka DUMBA$$.

http://blogs.courant.com/roger_catlin_tv_eye/2008/...

She is successful, but intelligent? She was totally scammed with that girls orphanage in Africa not long ago and then this string of mistakes wrt product endorsements. Her heart is in the right place but knowing what I know, I can not see how she could be called intelligent. And I sure wouldn't run out and buy anything because she endorses it. I don't get that. Oh, let us not forget Dr. Phil -- another of her foolish endorsements.


RE: Oprah
By 16nm on 12/30/2008 8:14:41 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Oh, c'mon... One of the richest women in entertainment is a "dumbass"????


Let me point out how many rich fools there are in professional sports. Financial wealth does not automatically make one intelligent.


RE: Oprah
By Oregonian2 on 12/30/2008 9:26:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Financial wealth does not automatically make one intelligent.


The nature of what "intelligence" is can be argued. I've known about college professors who say idiotic things, so are they intelligent or not? I don't know -- although I have my personal opinion of those particular ones.

But in that sense, Oprah isn't filthy rich because of her physical skills as it may be the case with professional athletes. She got it by being a business woman. As to whether that indicates intelligence or not, I leave that for each to decide.


RE: Oprah
By FITCamaro on 12/31/2008 9:00:08 AM , Rating: 2
She knows how to fool an ignorant and stupid public into following her every word.

But she is hardly intelligent.


These things rock
By Smilin on 12/30/2008 11:16:06 AM , Rating: 5
I picked up one for the Mrs. Some info:

Display:
The display is all that. It's hard to understand until you see it in action. Most screenshots on the 'net make it look kindof like a grayscale LCD when it isn't. It's has almost an etch-e-sketch look to it but with obviously better contrast.

It keeps the last image displayed when the power is shut off. It's wierd.

Getting books:
It reads Amazon kindle DRM books plus some non DRM stuff. Basically anything that you can print from your computer can be converted. You just send the doc to amazon and they'll mail it back. Pay 10 cents and they'll send it straight to the device instead of your PC.

There are tons of free books out there. Whole websites with 100k books each. Project Gutenberg is converting all public domain titles (ie Mark Twain) and has made big headway over the years.

The built in (free!) wireless is nice too. You can find and download books direct to the device in about 20 seconds.

Usage:
It's got next/prev page buttons on the side. I little too easy to hit until you get used to them. It actually takes a bit to realize you don't have to hold the thing (ie paperback you have to keep one hand on it to stop pages from closing).

Searches (using keyboard) will automaticall search a built in dictionary, all titles saved on the kindle, and wikipedia.

Selections of results are don with the little wheel below that selection strip to the right of the screen.

Power & Storage:
Assuming you just flip on the wireless when you intend to download it will go over a WEEK on a single charge. The display is just incredibly power efficient. It only consumes power to draw, not to maintain the image.

It seems to recharge in a very short time. 15min for most of the charge maybe an hour or so for a full?

I forget the onboard storage capacity but it holds about 200 books. I slapped a SD card in it and it should go up to like 2000. Amazon will re-send anything for free if you delete.

Cost:
It's expensive. For me it was worth it. The Mrs. reads 1-4 books a week, mostly from the library and book clubs. Since books are about $9 for NYT bestsellers instead of 20-30 it means it should pay for itself in about 18 weeks (2books/week @ $10 savings). This doesn't count all the free books (I've read two freebees on it already).




RE: These things rock
By Oregonian2 on 12/30/2008 4:19:18 PM , Rating: 2
I put in a $17 8-GB SDHC card (incl. shipping) and that projects to 9,000 books I think, using Amazon's average booksize (they're typically compressed).


RE: These things rock
By FITCamaro on 12/31/2008 9:11:48 AM , Rating: 2
It seems interesting. Can the books be opened on a standard computer as well? I like to read and they seem to have the titles I'd like. And it'd be nice to have digital copies of books instead of them cluttering up the house.

What'd be really cool is if books in a store would include a digital copy of it.


RE: These things rock
By Oregonian2 on 12/31/2008 4:04:23 PM , Rating: 2
Ones purchased from Amazon have DRM applied (Mobi format), so one can certainly transfer the files to one's computer for backup (in addition to Amazon's backing them up), but it's readable only by Kindles (up to six) attached to that Amazon account. Having DRM free books obviously would be a problem to publishers because it would be instantly copied over the internet in mass quantity (for free) just as public domain books are. Of course, non-DRM'd books on the Kindle are freely readable if transferred off, and there are free readers made for the native format.

Although an interesting idea (getting a digital copy along with the dead-tree copy in a store), it does somewhat go against some of the big advantages of eBooks.

One is the politically obivous: eBooks are "green", doesn't kill trees when manufactured.

The bigger advantage has to do with the slow death of the publishing industry and solving that problem. Has to do with the way bookstores can massively over-order books, not sell them, then return them to the publisher for full credit. They can, so they do. Profitability of the dead-tree version of books have been under extreme strain and has been getting worse (incl. layoffs, etc at publishers). Also makes it harder to have anything but proven books to be published, so getting someone who will be good started is a problem. Anyway, electronic books may be a solution to that problem, but only when sold without the dead-tree versions attached.


Waiting for Kindle 2.0
By Bateluer on 12/30/2008 12:16:10 PM , Rating: 2
I like the concept of the Kindle, its the cost and DRM in it that turn me off on the concept though. I'm running out of book shelf space and an e-book reader would be great.




RE: Waiting for Kindle 2.0
By Oregonian2 on 12/30/2008 4:33:19 PM , Rating: 2
Buy one (when they become available again). You will adore it. See my many comments above for the long version.

There is DRM for books purchased from Amazon, but all books (magazines, etc) purchased from the same account can be loaded onto all Kindles associated with that account (up to six). They can be deleted from the Kindle and amazon will keep track of them such that they can be downloaded again later on (wirelessly of course) using a built-in tool.

Of course, one can have one's own content (PDF, LIT, TXT, etc) converted or directly read on the Kindle as well. There's a free tool that can create books including metadata (cover photo, etc) as well as compression, etc (they use MOBI's DRM system).

Buy one, you'll love it.


RE: Waiting for Kindle 2.0
By Bateluer on 12/31/2008 8:08:41 AM , Rating: 2
The Kindle 1.0 is sold out right now, and will pretty much remain that way until Kindle 2 arrives. :p


RE: Waiting for Kindle 2.0
By knipfty on 12/31/2008 8:51:39 AM , Rating: 2
Just a rumor. The Kindle has been sold out before and will be sold out again. For some reason, Amazon just can't seem to get ahead of the demand for this device.

It is really a wonderful device at that. I've just started my 3rd book since receiving it for Xmas!


RE: Waiting for Kindle 2.0
By Oregonian2 on 12/31/2008 4:06:41 PM , Rating: 2
You're doing pretty good! I got mine for my birthday in November and I'm only on my eighth book (plus a few newspapers, blogs, etc).


second hand books
By wordsworm on 12/30/2008 11:01:03 PM , Rating: 2
When you can resell the titles that you buy, and public domain books are made available for free, I'll be interested in buying one of those. Until then they don't have much appeal. What I want to know is, what's the big deal behind Oprah?




RE: second hand books
By knipfty on 12/31/2008 9:11:07 AM , Rating: 2
You can share books between Kindles on the same account (up to 6).

Public domain books (those which are no longer covered by copyrights) can be loaded for free.

I have downloaded a number of books from Project Gutenberg. The 1st one I read was the Go-Getter. (Great little book by the way).

You can also load your own personal docs that Amazon will convert for you or you can convert yourself!


RE: second hand books
By wordsworm on 12/31/2008 12:17:53 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for cutting my FUD. I thought the only way to get the books was via paid, and expensive, downloads. Then, the only thing that would hold me back is the price tag... $99 might see me getting one for myself.

How is it for illustrated books?


RE: second hand books
By Oregonian2 on 12/31/2008 4:20:21 PM , Rating: 2
Not great, but okay. Depends if they're decoration or if they're important. Kindle is black and white, and with limited quality of photographs (only four gray steps native, plus dithering). Line drawings can look magnificent though. That's one of the reasons I originally declined my mother's offer to buy me one -- but it's not important for novels, etc and as I've mentioned before, my mind was completely switched around within a few minutes of getting the Kindle. Went from low opinion to falling in love with it, almost instantly. Note too, that my mother is in her mid seventies and what I'd call a semi-luddite, so her being excited about an electronic device was also very very out of character. :-)


Old school?
By icanhascpu on 12/30/2008 5:25:41 PM , Rating: 3
Maybe im just a noob, but i think this is something I would never get to read books. News? Sure. Not books.

Im too fond of actual books. You cant replace the smell of the paper and bindings, the cramp in your hand as you hold the damn thing open with one hand as you lay back. Ecetera. There is a quality and a character, esp with used books that cant be replaced and likely never will.




RE: Old school?
By Smilin on 12/30/2008 5:48:17 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure people loved that feeling of how a scroll slid unrolling in your hand as you pulled it open too. :)

I don't think you're a noob, I just think you've never seen one. My wife is some crazy 1-4 books a week reader and she loves the thing. You really forget what it is you're reading on after about 5 pages.

You clearly love books. I think you owe it to yourself to check one of these out if you ever get the chance. Any booklover would dig carrying around 5000 books at a time.


RE: Old school?
By Oregonian2 on 12/30/2008 9:03:06 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, indeed. That's the special thing about the Kindle. As I've said in other postings in this overall thread, a Kindle has the feel of a regular book, but it happens to be electronic -- NOT an electronic device that one reads books with (I have a lot of those but don't even want to think about reading books there -- but with a Kindle I've been reading a LOT more than I had been before, even with dead-tree based books).


I wonder...
By peritusONE on 12/30/2008 12:44:15 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder how much it would have sold if it didn't have front-page exposure for the past year and a half on amazon.com?

Regardless, if it weren't so expensive, I'd be interested in it just for reading newspapers and such. $100 would be my price range, though.




RE: I wonder...
By DarkElfa on 12/30/2008 3:09:53 PM , Rating: 2
For 350 bucks, why not just buy a net book and read in any format?


RE: I wonder...
By Oregonian2 on 12/30/2008 4:26:22 PM , Rating: 2
1. You can read most any format with a Kindle, although one may have to use free conversion facilities at Amazon or use free conversion software on PC's (seek the cheatsheet in the file section of Yahoo's kindlekorner group).

2. Kindle is a lot tidier/smaller/lighter, easy to carry.

3. Kindle has free internet access to new books (as well as google, etc) from most any point in the USA, and does so 24/7.

4. Kindle screen is easier to read and pagination is much easier to do. It has the feel of a real paper based book which is superior to the book reading user interface on a netbook.

5. Kindle screen is perfectly readable sitting in the full summer sun blazing upon the screen. Not a problem. Try that with an LCD screen.

6. Kindle battery allows you to sit there and read for a week without charging the batteries. Try that with with a netbook where maybe 6 hours and you're done. Kindle display takes zero power to display data. It ONLY takes power when changing pages.


What $369 can be better spent on....
By Alexstarfire on 12/30/2008 3:13:29 PM , Rating: 2
An Asus EEE Laptop for $329.99. Not only does it have a bigger screen, but it's more functional too. Sure, it's a bit bigger and won't fit into your pocket, but it's an ultra-portable laptop.

There are other things that I'd rather spend $369 on, but I doubt most people would care.




By Smilin on 12/30/2008 4:21:08 PM , Rating: 2
...and doesn't have enough battery life to make it through a single book. That's kind of important when you are doing things like, I dunno... trying to read a book!


By knipfty on 12/31/2008 9:03:35 AM , Rating: 2
And doesn't work very well out doors.
Try standing on the train or on the subway and read your netbook!
Pretty much any where you can bring a book or magazine, you can bring the Kindle. Which isn't true of a netbook.

Then there is the screen. Reading the Kindle is very much like reading paper. Again, which is not the case with a Netbook.

I have both and wouldn't use a netbook to read a novel.


looking for e-reader
By oneTimeDeal on 12/30/2008 7:47:41 PM , Rating: 2
No idea how it is in the US but we getting more and more course materials only in e-format.Which is ideal for me because I like it,Handy on one usb-stick or reading it with my laptop.
-for example: pdf's, ppt,odt,.....

But my laptop or netbook isn't really ideal for like a quick trip to library or reading up before you fall asleep which I often do.:p Sometimes I get scared i will fall asleep with my laptop on my lap.

I always wanted something like this amazon e-reader but If I understand correctly it only works with amazons books ?
I have to pay for every single pdf or power point I have to have it converted?
Does it allow notations?

Does anyone know actually a e-reader that last a week feels like a book and can read pdf,chm,html, (optional ppt,odt,... can be converted to pdf anyway).Always reaaaaaallly wanted something like that but never found one seams the technology isn't there yet?

The one piece of technology I keep looking for :) , and everytime they stuff one of those touchscreen notebooks in front of my noise it doesn't come close to a book.




RE: looking for e-reader
By Oregonian2 on 12/30/2008 9:13:19 PM , Rating: 2
The Kindle natively displays only a few formats of books (including raw .TXT files). However there are free conversion programs to convert .PDF, .DOC, etc and other formats to a kindle format -- and at least one free tool (Mobipocket Creator) can easily manipulate the "advanced" features of a file (metadata with cover photos, author, title, etc -- as well as compressing the file).

If one wants PDFs (or a couple other formats) converted, there's an Amazon email address associated with one's Kindle account that will convert a file and email it back to one for free. Alternatively, it will deliver the results to one's Kindle directly over the wireless "WhisperNet" for ten cents, but that part is optional.

Alternatively, there are ways to convert many formats to Kindle format for free (as I mentioned previously, look in the file section of the KindleKorner Yahoo group for the cheatsheet that summarizes some of the conversion methods as well as giving links to the free tools). One would then transfer the results to the Kindle over the USB interface (Kindle flash shows up as a USB drive).


RE: looking for e-reader
By oneTimeDeal on 12/30/2008 9:32:31 PM , Rating: 2
ty :) will look into that


Textbooks?
By kmmatney on 12/30/2008 11:10:47 AM , Rating: 3
Can you use this for textbooks? It's been a while since I graduated from college, but I would have loved to have this for my textbooks.




RE: Textbooks?
By Smilin on 12/30/2008 11:49:01 AM , Rating: 2
Depends if the book is available in any sort of electronic format like PDF.


Where are the numbers?
By stevenplatt on 12/30/2008 11:29:04 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe i missed something. How many units were actually sold relative to the other items on the list?

Without numbers, i filter this as marketing.




RE: Where are the numbers?
By Bubbacub on 12/30/2008 12:05:10 PM , Rating: 1
jason mick producing an article that isn't thoroughly researched - impossible!


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