Maybe some of this is inside baseball, but I have a few observations to share about Amazon’s once and present Kindle order backlog:
1. I can’t help but notice that whenever Amazon falls behind in shipping out Kindle orders, as they did on November 1, replacement batteries for the Kindle also show up as out of stock. A year ago when Amazon ran out of Kindles on launch day and didn’t catch up until mid-April, Kindle replacement batteries were out of stock. Likewise this week. There is no difference, of course, between Kindle batteries and Kindle replacement batteries. My own theory, that I will stick with until I see evidence to the contrary, is that it is a battery shortfall that is creating the production-and-shipping lag for Kindles.
2. While it is all well and good to talk about a battery shortage, of course, the real reason Amazon ran out of whatever Amazon ran out of is Oprah. Oprah can do anything. She elects presidents, she sells books, and she hires people who don’t answer my emails, but that’s okay. On Friday, October 28, Oprah devoted her entire show to the Kindle. As a result, according to my back-o’-the-napkin calculations, Amazon sold over 100,000 Kindles in the following 8 days. In the past Oprah has proven that she can sell $15 books like nobody else on the planet. This time, she proved that she can sell $300 gadgets. Oprah, Oprah, Oprah.
3. So Oprah sells 100,000 Kindles and Amazon runs out of Kindles at the peak of the, er, holiday season. What’s up with that, Jeff? I’m sorry, I shouldn’t get testy about this. But, well, I was enjoying the fact that the Oprah Kindle bump was creating a bit of a bump (as in, by a factor of 5) in both paperback and Kindle edition sales of The Complete User’s Guide to the Amazing Amazon Kindle. They are still selling briskly, but they would be selling even better if the Kindle were shipping.
4. There is a certain irony to this thing about the Kindle selling out from time to time. One of the joys of the Kindle, for Amazon, for readers, for authors, and for publishers, is that once a title is available on the Kindle, that title never sells out. Never. Like, how many Kindle edition copies do I have in the warehouse, of Beyond the Literary-Industrial Complex: Using the Amazon Kindle and Other New Technologies to Unleash and Indie Movement of Readers and Writers? Like, over 7 trillion, or a googol, but I lost count. You get it, I am certain. But if a reader can’t get a Kindle, well, you know, that’s a warehouse to nowhere.