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Beta Bonanza: Number of Kindle Store Blog Titles Triple as Blog Sales Sink

You may have noticed, in just the last few days, a tremendous explosion in the number of blogs available in the Kindle Store. The number of Kindle Blogs has nearly tripled in the past week to over 4,000, all as a direct result of the fact that Amazon has — finally, some would say — launched a beta program allowing anyone to upload a blog. When the Kindle first launched the blog listings were dominated by major corporate blogs (New York Times, Associated Press, etc.) and Amazon only gradually began opening the door to the individuals that we might ordinarily think of when we think of bloggers. Now, the floodgates are open.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. As Kindle owners have become increasingly savvy about how to get free online content onto their Kindles — a process for which Kindle Nation happily takes some of the credit — it has become apparent that Kindle sales of blogs and newspapers have declined relative to the Kindle editions of books. Not by just a little, either. As I write this on Tuesday, May 19, here are the latest sales rankings for the three best-selling blogs in the Kindle Store:

  1. Amazon Daily – Price: $0.00 – #18,181 in Kindle Store
  2. The New York Times – Latest News – Monthly Price: $1.99 – #43,879 in Kindle Store
  3. Huffington Post – Monthly Price: $1.99#51,897 in Kindle Store

These are titles that have spent significant time among the top 100 overall in the Kindle Store in the past, so I have to admit that the phrase “sink like a stone” comes to mind. And the word “Wow.” This can’t be what those “bloggers” were hoping for, or what they expected. These sales rankings translate into just a handful or two of units per week.

It’s too early to say how the new blogs are doing, since none of them will emerge from their 14-day Free Trial Period or, consequently, have sales unit reports or trackable sales rankings for another week. Prior to the beta launch last week, only 92 Kindle blogs had been introduced in the previous 90 days, and the bestseller among them, a New York Times called Laugh Lines, showed a lackluster sales ranking of #96,998 in the Kindle Store.

Unlike Kindle Books, Kindle Blogs have standardized prices set by Amazon with no negotiation between the blogger or publisher and Amazon. When I made Kindle Nation Daily available as a Kindle Blog, Amazon unilaterally set its price at $1.99 a month. While I will certainly endeavor to make it worth that price, my hope had been to set its price 99 cents per month, but I failed in my efforts to get Amazon to bring the price down. Although I was disappointed at the response that I received under the salutation “Greetings from Amazon Blogs” — “I’m sorry, but please note that Amazon will define the price based on what we deem is a fair value for customers” — I am certainly willing to grant the possibility that this is the best approach for Kindle owners, in that it should mitigate against some of the mixed signals and Wild West atmosphere that have developed with Kindle Book prices. (Mind you, I am a strong believer in free-market pricing for discretionary items, but the Kindle Books pricing market is not a free market, given Amazon’s deep discounting intervention to try to keep as many books as possible at $9.99 or under).

As these thousands of newly offered Kindle Blogs begin to acquire sales rankings after Memorial Day, we’ll see what relationships seem to emerge between prices and sales rankings. For my own part, I took some encouragement from the message I received from one Kindle technical account manager, who researched the issue for me on Day 1 of Kindle Nation Daily’s life as a Kindle blog and reported back: “I was told that we don’t negotiate the pricing with the blogger at this time, but personally feel that the $1.99 stamp is kind of a compliment. (As in, we feel that your blog is so cool that customers would pay more for it.)” Oh well, don’t think I don’t know when I am being sweet talked; it’s just that I like it.

Another difference between Kindle Blogs and Kindle Books involves the royalties paid by Amazon to the rights holders. Kindle Book royalties for books uploaded via the Kindle Digital Text Platform or Amazon’s Mobipocket subsidiary range from 35% up to 87.5% of the actual proceeds (price paid by the customer) or 35% of the suggested retail price set by the publisher. Since Kindle Blogs are not discounted, Amazon pays a set fee of 30% of the retail price to all bloggers and blog publishers.

For an insightful analysis of the economics of blogging for the Kindle, and whether it makes sense, I recommend an article entitled “Is Amazon Kindle Publishing For Blogs Beta Program a good deal for bloggers?” on the GeekMBA360 blog.

One last note on all of this, upon which I’ve touched before: The relative demise of Kindle Store sales of blogs and newspapers, compared with Kindle Books, is certainly due in some small (or large?) part to rising use of the Kindle for iPhone (and iPod Touch) App, since the App does not allow for the purchase of periodicals from the Kindle Store.

(And yes, stay tuned for some discussion of the blogs that I am publishing for the Kindle, what they provide, and why, as well as a guide to other new Kindle blogs).

Cartoon Credit: Thanks to Dave Walker and We Blog Cartoons for permission to use the great cartoon above.

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