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Kindle Is Amazon’s Best Seller, Even in an iPad World

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Step aside Harry Potter; after just five months of availability, Amazon’s (s amzn) newest Kindle reader just ousted you as the best-selling product in the company’s history. Amazon is touting the record sales of its Kindle device today, which speaks both to the growing popularity of ebooks as well as the $139 price point for a Wi-Fi version of the Kindle. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Amazon news is that there’s room for both dedicated e-book devices and multi-purpose tablets.

In today’s press release announcing the record sales, I noticed this tidbit buried in a quote from Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos:

We’re seeing that many of the people who are buying Kindles also own an LCD tablet. Customers report using their LCD tablets for games, movies, and web browsing and their Kindles for reading sessions.

Since Kindle is both a device and a platform, Amazon can see when a customer owns both a Kindle and a tablet, or other handheld, because the company wisely built a Kindle app for multiple platforms: PC, Mac (s aapl), BlackBerry (s rimm), Android (s goog) and iOS, while a version for Windows Phone 7 (s msft) is coming soon. One Amazon account used on both a Kindle and a tablet, for example, tells Amazon that this particular person owns both types of devices. It’s likely someone who owns both uses one Amazon account, enabling e-book content to be purchased once and read on both devices. Amazon’s Whispersync, which is also tied to the Amazon account, helps keep track of a reader’s place on multiple devices as well.

This “buy once, read anywhere” and bookmark syncing approach is enabling Amazon to succeed in both the e-book market through Kindle hardware and in the tablet / handheld markets through software. That’s a huge advantage over Apple’s (s aapl) iBook model, because e-book content purchased from Apple can only be read on Apple devices, thus limiting the appeal of iBooks. Although I sold my Kindle just days after purchasing an iPad back in April, I have yet to buy any content from Apple’s iBooks store for this very reason. Why would I want to limit my choices of where to read a book?

Even though I no longer have Kindle hardware, Amazon still has me as a Kindle customer, getting every one of my e-book content purchases. I often buy two or three e-books per week from Amazon, so I doubt they mind that I sold my Kindle device. The best part? Priced at $139, it wouldn’t hit my budget too hard if I snapped up a new Kindle for the eInk experience. As Jeff Bezos has noted, for many people, there’s room for a dedicated Kindle even if people already own an LCD tablet! Of course, as pointed out by this Penny Arcade bit from last year, some folks might even want a paper book in this digital age. How else can Harry Potter expect to compete when he hasn’t been magically digitized just yet?

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14 Responses to “Kindle Is Amazon’s Best Seller, Even in an iPad World”

  1. “buy once, read anywhere”

    Not quite. When I subscribe to a print magazine I can read it in physical copy, on my web browser and with a dedicated iPhone app, all included in the subscription price. The only place I can’t read it is on my Kindle.

    I hope to see Amazon live up to “buy once, read anywhere,” and let me get my magazine subscriptions on my Kindle without having to buy them a second time.

  2. Yet Amazon still hasn’t released any Kindle hardware sales numbers yet, at least as far as I know.

    Has the KIndle, for example, sold as well in the last three months as the AppleTV, 1 million units? Amazon has been amazingly coy about real Kindle numbers.

    • Last I heard, amazon sold million’s’ of devices in the last quarter. I think I read that somewhere on Gigaom, I’ll post the link if I can find it. — just did research before posting the comment and I couldn’t find the Gigaom article. However:

      The article actually says they sold millions of devices in 73 days… I’d take that sales figure with a grain of salt, if you can take it as anything at all.

    • Take it with a grain of salt as it’s not officially confirmed by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s a few articles pointing at 8 million sales this year:

      That’s one of them (not affiliated with the site or anything).

      I think Amazon is (perhaps) less concerned with the Kindle hardware sales alone and more interested in how they correlate with the numbers of books people are buying. They’re probably pretty comfortable to sell a couple of million devices a year, rather than double that if they’re making enough money on content purchases.

      That’s a big “if” of course, but generally speaking – I think while there’s plenty of people who read a lot of material but don’t own a kindle, there’s probably very few people who own a kindle (proportionately at least to the total number of owners) who don’t read a lot of stuff.

      Amazon is probably pretty happy to pander to this demographic a little. Not all consumers are of equal interest to any company. I’m sure Apple can attest to this, they’re not so interested in the extreme low end of the market and as we can see, it’s suiting them just fine.

      I don’t think this point is entirely analogous to the position Amazon seems to be seeking (at least not in terms of hardware price) but more in terms of which set of customers they’re interested in, the ones who might average out to the highest value.

      I do own a kindle and enjoy it quite a lot, I use it for university notes primarily though and less for fiction works than I thought I might when I purchased it. Expecting to buy an ipad when version 2 comes out.

  3. It should be noted that only third party sellers sell the ipad onAmazon (AT HIGHER THAN LIST PRICE). Whether this was done by Amazon to make PR announcements like this possible (since the retail margins on ipads are not actually very high – Amazon was willing to trade the returns on a a few tens of thousands of ipads for the PR value of saying KINDLE – best selling amazon device ever) OR Apple did not allow Amazon to sell the ipad … for supply issues? Only a few authorized national sellers).

    • Rich, no argument on any of those points. All of them are money makers for Apple. But to summarily say Apple doesn’t care much about Amazon’s success with Kindle because Apple has iTunes doesn’t explain why Apple rolled out iBooks and content.

      Clearly Apple is dominant in those areas and I never said otherwise. I’m just not sure it makes sense to point to that as a defense when we find another company dominant in a different, but related area – that was my point.

    • Maybe. If Apple didn’t care about the e-book market, I don’t think they would have entered it with iBooks: especially after past comments from Jobs saying that people don’t read anymore. ;) Digital music sales in the U.S. were reported as flat in 2010, as well. Although I’ll have to check figures, I suspect e-book content sales are on the rise.