May 28

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Twittering D Conference, and Kindle Sales Stats, finally

Rather than liveblogging, I am twittering the D: All Things Digital Conference. Follow timoreilly on twitter. I'm increasingly finding twitter much better than blogging for sharing quick hits and links.

One bit of news from this morning that deserves a bit of extended comment: Jeff Bezos finally gives a bit of a stat on Kindle sales, to wit, that kindle sales represent 6% of all Amazon sales for the 125,000 titles that are available on kindle. Of course, some of those may be kindle-only titles. That's the average across all titles on Kindle, not the result for individual titles. (We have that same problem with reporting on sales from Safari. We're currently at 18% of all sales coming through Safari, but for any individual title, results might range from 0 to 100%. There are many older titles for which Safari represents more than 50% of sales. See Long Tail Results from Google Book Search and Safari for more details.)

Jeff didn't make clear whether the stat he quoted was in units or dollars. I suspect the former. Update: Just to be clear, the Safari stats above are for O'Reilly only (we don't have access to sales data for Pearson or other publishers), and they are for revenue, since measuring "unit sales" doesn't make sense for a subscription model like Safari.

P.S. Eric Savitz has some good liveblogging coverage of the Bezos interview at D.

tags: publishing, web 2.0  | comments: 15   | Sphere It

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Comments: 15

  Dennis McDonald [05.28.08 09:07 AM]

Did he say why he is not releasing more concrete/real/complete data on Kindle sales?

  Tim O'Reilly [05.28.08 09:21 AM]

No. They are incredibly close-mouthed about this. This is the most I've heard even in publisher "partner" discussions with them on this. They want us to commit to Kindle, but will make absolutely no estimates. Just "trust us." It's really frustrating.

  Chris Marino [05.28.08 11:39 AM]

Tim, this kind of data is less than useless. Disinformation, as far as I'm concerned. People start interpreting it in all sorts of ways that further obscures real insight. Reminds me of the AWS vs. bandwidth charts that they showed.

  Tim O'Reilly [05.28.08 12:09 PM]

Chris --

It's certainly very veiled information, and I agree that the way Amazon is restricting info about this is very squirrelly. We'd have been far more likely to be on Kindle already if they were frank about the prospects. I'd rather be helping to build a market with a partner who acknowledges that we're in it together, rather than one who claims a lot of momentum but won't give any data. Occam's razor suggests that the data wouldn't support their position.

Still, the fact that they are releasing even this much info is a good sign that they are getting the confidence to be more open.

  Steinbeck-lover [05.28.08 05:10 PM]

Ad Astra Per Alia Porci

Now that I have you're attention I know how to save the Chronicle--stay CURRENT. I am of the next generation of researchers that you will eventually must pass the torch to someday--why not now. A greater man than me once said--CARPE DIEM.

Please do so check the following link--it might change you're perspectives on the situation. If not then I still have yet to learn.

Btw, I can provide Academic references if summoned upon.

UC Berkeley
Class of 2008

  Matthew [05.28.08 05:45 PM]

I think you'll find that if they had a good story to tell with the Kindle that they'd be trumpeting it loud and clear. This kind of secrecy and disingenuousness speaks volumes for me, and it's not saying that the Kindle is a resounding success.

  Charlie [05.29.08 02:46 AM]

Frankly, a Kindle that won't simply let me read any ordinary pdf I give it, and nickle-and-dimes me for things that should be free (like reading blogs) is about as attractive as a music player that plays only DRM'd music. Or DRM'd music itself.

Which is to say, not at all attractive. Just make a great device that lets me buy a pdf from o'reilly or peepcode, or get free content off the web. I don't want to be locked into something. The whole idea of that sort of deal devalues the product and taints Amazon's brand image. It makes them smell like Microsoft.

  Steinbeck-lover [05.29.08 05:11 AM]


My good sir.

[you certainly fanning the flame.]


  Doug [05.29.08 09:07 AM]

But how many Kindles have they sold? Has that been released?

  Tim O'Reilly [05.29.08 09:09 AM]

Amazon has been VERY close-mouthed about the number of Kindle's they've sold.

  Dennis McDonald [06.02.08 07:48 AM]

I have to agree with Matthew. Silence = admission of failure.

  Michael R. Bernstein [06.02.08 03:01 PM]

"I'm increasingly finding twitter much better than blogging for sharing quick hits and links."

I know you also have a account, but you don't use it much. Are you getting the links I tag for:timoreilly ?

  SDTerp [06.10.08 07:13 AM]

I don't know the methodology to make this estimate, but a May 19, 2008 article in Gizmodo said approximately 189,000 units have been sold.

  Steve P. [08.12.08 11:44 AM]

The 189k figure was an analyst estimate of total sales for all of 2008. Which is to say, it was a complete guess.

The 6% of sales figure is an amazingly deceptive stat. If he means that the average per title is 6%, then the figure is trivially achieved if 6% of the titles are kindle-only, since those would clock in at 100%, and even if every other title clocked in at 0% the overall average would be 6%. If he means 6% of total units are on kindle, then tons of 99 cent kindle-only ebooks could make that figure true yet the actual dollar sales could be incredibly unimpressive.

Likewise the recent "240k" figure touted at techcrunch is not to be trusted. Unnamed source, and we are not even given the benefit of reading a direct quote from the source, only a rewording by the article's author. The number seems like someone took 30k units per month and multiplied it by the 8 months since launch. In other words, it seems to be an estimate again, not a factual figure.

I can tell you that based on sales figures I know for a fact (not estimates) if the number really is 240k units out there then their sales per device must be dismally low. I cannot really believe that sales per device are low, what with the nifty on-device wireless store and all. Therefore the conclusion is the 240k number is not to be believed.

(You can also tie in quotes from PVI, manufacturer of the display kindle uses, who in May said e-ink display sales to the USA were "slowing".)

And agreed, the only reason to release incredibly deceptive stats is if the real numbers suck.

  TM [08.23.08 02:55 PM]

Apparently, Amazon's Kindle is not selling nearly as well as TechCrunch, nor Citigroup's Mark Mahaney imagines. Amazon's parrot, the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer, is now out with information that lets some of the hot air out of TechCrunch and Citigroup Mahaney's balloons.

To wit, TechCrunch is now in stealth backpedal mode calling its original and sensational, “We Know How Many Kindles Amazon Has Sold!" to the new and underwhelming, “estimates of units shipped from the factories in China.” Incredibly irresponsible of them, in the first place.

"Amazon officials gave McAdams Wright Ragen analysts the impression that high-end estimates on Kindle sales reported by TechCrunch and a Citigroup analyst are not reasonable. (See a previous blog post on the topic here and here.)

Amazon managers "told us that the Kindle is definitely selling very well, but they also said the analysts and reporters giving out these extremely high estimates 'did not run them by company'"

Also, another negative data point from a small publisher:

From a few weeks ago: Another "real" Kindle data point from a "real" source. Doesn't sound like NY Times subs are red-hot.

"New York Times Co. executives said today during the company's second-quarter earnings call that the newspaper has sold a "small amount" of subscriptions on the Kindle."

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