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Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey Results: Citizens of Kindle Nation, Meet the Citizens of Kindle Nation

(One of several Kindle Nation posts exploring the results of the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey. Click here to see a breakdown of results.) 

By Tom Dulaney, Contributing Reporter

She’s an avid reader. 

She’s “a woman of a certain age,” and without putting too fine a point on it, just between us we can acknowledge that she’s over 54. 

She loves to pick up new technology, the earlier the better if her budget permits. 

She lives in the US. 

An ebook’s author and price are important factors when she decides whether or not to buy an ebook, but so are recommendations by those she trusts, including friends and family, Kindle Nation Daily, and the “crowd sourcing” of Amazon reviewers. 

She’s very aware of ebook pricing and the price wars of the past year. She is a partisan in passionate support of lower ebook prices and greater selection, and she is willing to play a pro-active role and be the price-setter herself.

Who is she? 

She may be you, and she is certainly the “typical” ebook lover among the record 2,275 people who responded to the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey conducted by Kindle Nation Daily in January.

A point of interest: Survey respondents were asked for their demographic information in the most gentle of ways. 2,228—or 98% of all 2,275 respondents—shared information about age, gender, and more.

The preponderance of respondents own and love their Kindle devices. The survey was open to the whole world during end of January, regardless of device they use to read ebooks. Survey details indicate large numbers of the respondents have devices other than Kindles on which they can read books from the Kindle Store. However, the overwhelming number of respondents do own Kindle devices, but are multi-device households.

The survey’s 15 questions collected detailed information on readers’ ebook buying habits, their preferences, their resistance to higher ebook prices, and their opinions on the key players in the book business, including authors, traditional publishers, independent authors, literary agents, Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs of Apple, and even Kindle Nation.

The data collected is detailed, so we will offer a series of articles breaking down the responses during the next few days.

For now, a closer look at the people who responded in general terms:
  • 67% are female, 33% male
  • 51.5% are over 54; 46.4% are between between 25 and 54; only 1.3% are under 25.
  • 70% call themselves “tech savvy,” but a significant 17.2% say they are not.
  • 75% love technology, and 70.1% are early adopters of new gadgets.
  • 17.3% use their Kindles when traveling internationally.
  • About 93% live in the US.
  • 1.5% are Canadian; 1.3% live in the UK, and another 3% are spread around the rest of the world. 
  • 7.1% frequently speak or read a language other than English.
  • 14% are — at some level — authors, publishers, journalists or bloggers.

(One of several Kindle Nation posts exploring the results of the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey. Click here to see a breakdown of results.)

Publishing Perestroika: Indie Authors Blow Away Traditional Gatekeepers and Storm the Castle of Newspaper Bestseller Lists

By Steve Windwalker

Call it the “Paper Curtain,” if you like.

But like the Berlin Wall, it’s coming down.

As a result of the Publishing Perestroika that has been unleashed by readers and writers connecting primarily around Kindle content in the short span of just 39 months, the walls that have kept self-published and ebook authors from being included in prestigious newspaper bestseller lists will come crashing down this week.

Tomorrow, USA TODAY will roll out its weekly list of the top 150 bestselling books in the U.S., just as it does every Thursday.

Amanda Hocking
But for the very first time, USA Today announced today, its list for the week ending February 6 will include bestselling self-published direct-to-Kindle authors like Amanda Hocking. Hocking’s books currently rank #3, #11, #12, #27, #37, #41, and #46 on the Kindle Store top 50 bestsellers, and “the three titles in her Trylle Trilogy (Switched, Torn and Ascend, the latest) will make their debuts in the top 50 of USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list,” wrote USA Today’s Carol Memmott in an article entitled “Authors catch fire with self-published ebooks.”

Whether it happens this week or within a few more weeks, it’s also a good bet that Hocking will soon be accompanied by bestselling Kindle indie authors like John Locke, Victorine Lieske, and others.

And other, equally dramatic developments will follow:
  • One way or another, the fact that USA Today has opened its “bestseller list” gates to the great unwashed population of ebook and self-published authors will force the New York Times to do the same, lest its bestseller list be rendered irrelevant.
  • Once the Times and other rags allow self-published books on their bestseller lists, they will have to start publishing reviews of self-published books.
  • The prediction made here just a few weeks ago, that an indie author would be inducted by early 2012 into the “Kindle Million Club” alongside James Patterson, Stieg Larsson, and Nora Roberts, will prove to have been ridiculously conservative. Regardless of when Amazon makes the announcement, Hocking will pass the million-copy mark in Kindle books sold by the first day of Spring this year, and she will be joined by another dozen indie authors before the arrival of Spring in 2012.
All of these changes probably became inevitable, even though we didn’t know it then, when Amazon launched the Kindle on November 19, 2007.
But the barons of the book industry and the big New York publishers should make no mistake about the fact that these events have been hastened dramatically by their own tragically misguided launch of the agency model price-fixing plan early in 2010. Their tone-deaf move to try to protect their print publishing business model by insisting upon increases of 30 to 50 percent in ebook prices opened the doors wide to indie authors to lure readers with lower prices for what, in many cases, are better books.

During the last week before the agency model launch, in March 2010, there was not a single fiction title by an indie author along the top 50 bestselling titles in the Kindle Store.

This week, indie fiction authors have 18 of the top 50 spots. Those are 18 of the top 50 bestselling ebook spots in the land, worth well over a million copies sold during the month of February, and the agency model publishers might just as well have said “Here, come and take these, we don’t need them.”

Kindle Version 3.1: Now Here’s a Kindle Update That Kindle Customers Have Been Waiting For! Real Page Numbers, and More!

Amazon announced today that it is rolling out a new update for the latest generation Kindle 3G and wi-fi models, and the update includes a new and long-awaited feature that millions of Kindle owners will notice right away: real page numbers! (There are some other cool features as well; more about them below).
As you can see from the screenshot at left from my Kindle copy of The Hunger Games (the book that my 12-year-old son Danny and I are currently reading together), you can check the real page number for any of tens of thousands of Kindle books just by pressing the Menu button while you are reading.
But I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself already. This software update has not yet been rolled out wirelessly to all latest-generation Kindles. That will happen at some unspecified point in the future. But if you would like to update your own Kindle manually with the new software directly from the Amazon Kindle website, it’s a snap and it’s entirely okay with Amazon.
Here are the steps — and the other features — directly from Amazon’s support page for the new Kindle software update:

Kindle Version 3.1 Overview

We’re excited to announce that a new, free software update is available for Kindle (Latest Generation). It’s free and easy to download. Some of the features included in this update are:
  • Public Notes — This feature lets Kindle users choose to make their book notes and highlights available for others to see. Any Kindle user — including authors, their fans, book reviewers, professors and passionate readers everywhere — can opt-in to share their thoughts on book passages and ideas with friends, family members, colleagues, and the greater Kindle community of people who love to read. This is a new way for readers to share their excitement and knowledge about books and get more from the books they read. To review and turn on Public Notes in your own books, view the Public Notes of people you follow, track your reading activities, see Popular Highlights and your annotations, and view your full library of books, go to https://kindle.amazon.com. Learn more.
  • Real Page Numbers — Our customers have told us they want real page numbers that match the page numbers in print books so they can easily reference and cite passages, and read alongside others in a book club or class. We’ve already added real page numbers to tens of thousands of Kindle books, including the top 100 bestselling books in the Kindle Store that have matching print editions and thousands more of the most popular books. Page numbers will also be available on our free “Buy Once, Read Everywhere” Kindle apps in the coming months. If a Kindle book includes page numbers, press the Menu key in an open Kindle book to display page numbers. Learn more.
  • Before You Go … — When you reach the end of the book, you can immediately rate the book, share a message about the book with your social network, get personalized recommendations for what to read next, and see more books by the same author. Learn more.
  • New Newspaper and Magazine Layout — We’re introducing a new and improved layout for newspapers and magazines. This new layout gives you a quick snapshot of the news and helps you decide what you want to read first. Learn more.

Download the Early Preview Release — Version 3.1

Customers can download the Early Preview Release of this update below. All latest generation Kindle and Kindle 3G customers will receive this software update automatically via Wi-Fi once it becomes available. We will update this page when we complete the Early Preview and begin to automatically deliver the update.
Here’s how to download the Early Preview Release of Kindle software update version 3.1 and transfer it to your Kindle via USB:
  1. Determine your software version: From Home, select Menu, then Settings. On the Settings screen you will see the Kindle version at the bottom of the screen. If you see “Version Kindle 3.0.3” or earlier (3.0.3, 3.0.2, 3.0.1, or 3.0), please proceed with the steps below to update your Kindle to the latest software.


  2. Download your software: Click on the appropriate link below to download the software update file directly to your computer:

  3. Kindle Wi-Fi: Download 3.1 (Early Preview Release) Your serial number will start with “B008”  

    Kindle 3G (Free 3G + Wi-Fi) – U.S. and Canadian Customers*: Download 3.1 (Early Preview Release) Your serial number will start with “B006”   
    Kindle 3G (Free 3G + Wi-Fi) – European Customers*: Download 3.1 (Early Preview Release) Your serial number will start with “B00A” 

    Your Kindle serial number is visible at the bottom of the Settings Screen. From Home, select Menu, then Settings. *We automatically ship your Kindle with the best built-in wireless card based on the shipping country you select during checkout. If your country is not listed above, please check your serial number to determine which download to use.


  1. Transfer software to your Kindle: Turn your Kindle on and connect it to your computer using the USB cable. Drag and drop the new update file from your computer to the root Kindle drive. (The drive contains a number of folders – such as “audible,” “documents,” and “music” – and is typically displayed as a “device” icon).
  2. Monitor file transfer and disconnect: Check your file transfer progress to ensure file transfer to your Kindle is complete before disconnecting. After the file has transferred successfully, eject the Kindle to safely disconnect Kindle from your computer. Disconnect the USB cable from your Kindle and your computer.
  3. Start the software update: Go to the Home screen, press the Menu key, and select “Settings.” Press the Menu key again, and then select “Update Your Kindle.” (This option will be grayed out if the most recent update has already been installed or if the file transfer was not successful.) Select “Ok” when prompted if you want to perform an update. Your Kindle will restart twice during the update. After the first restart, you will see “Your Kindle is Updating”.
  4. Once the update is complete: Your Kindle will automatically restart a second time. When you go to the Settings page, you should notice Version: Kindle 3.1 at the bottom of the screen. Once you see this, you know your update is complete.
We welcome your feedback about this Early Preview Release of software version 3.1. Please send us an e-mail.

The Real Story Behind Those Single-Digit Kindle Margins: Amazon Has Positioned Itself for a 50% Overall Market Share in the U.S. Book Business by the End of 2012

Amazon’s report of quarterly earnings last Thursday was greeted widely as an indication that the company can’t generate sufficient margins with Kindle devices and content. That interpretation has been reasonably straightforward, with strong echoes of sentiments that characterized critics’ views of Amazon during its early pre-profitability years in late 1990s and into the 21st century:

Despite rapid growth in Kindle hardware and content sales [the thinking goes], the combination of competition and Amazon’s penchant for pursuing loss-leader strategies to capture market share have forced Kindle-associated margins so low that, as the Kindle portion of Amazon’s overall business grows, it will lead inevitably to erosion of profits.

Due in part to this interpretation, Amazon’s share price, which closed Thursday within 3 percent of its all-time trading high, dipped dramatically in after-hours trading that day and has gained back only a fraction of those losses since.

But the low-margins interpretation misses another, much more dramatic story:

The big story is that in just three years Amazon has positioned itself to triple its overall share of the U.S. book business for all formats. Before the end of 2012, Amazon could own more than half of the U.S. book business across all formats.

How stunning a development would that be? Prior to the launch of the Kindle in 2007, Amazon was widely considered to account, at most, for somewhere around 15 percent of all U.S. book sales in all formats by all retailers.

Amazon has not reached 50 per cent yet, and is still far from that range where all titles are concerned. But one of the most reliable crystal balls for determining future bookselling trends is to examine and parse developments as they play out with inpidual bestsellers in the overall book marketplace, when numbers are available.

Room author Emma Donoghue

Last week both Amazon and one of its most consistent publishing business critics, paid subscription site Publishers’ Marketplace, shined their respective spotlights on sale trends that have been playing out with a single bestselling novel, Emma Donoghue’s Room. (Room was published September 13, 2010 and became a breakthrough bestseller for the Dublin-born Canadian transplant Donoghue. Room currently stands at #26 among ebooks in the Kindle Store despite its agency-model price of $11.99. The hardcover, discounted by Amazon to $14.41 (20 percent higher than the Kindle edition), is #43 in the main Amazon store. It is #13 among far fewer available bestsellers listed in the iBooks store, and #35 on the Nook. Importantly for these discussions, the book has also been on the IndieBound bestseller list for independent brick-and-mortar booksellers for the past 20 weeks, and currently stands at #4.)

Helpfully, it turns out that we know a lot about Room sales, thanks to Amazon and Publisher’s Marketplace.

Russ Grandinetti, Amazon’s vice-president for Kindle Content,told a Digital Book World conference last week that, for Room, “total Kindle sales are equal to 85 percent of Nielsen BookScan’s print sales number.” Publisher’s Marketplace then performed some very helpful extrapolations and further calculations arriving here:

If the BookScan number is 80 percent of the print sales total, then Kindle sales here would 68 percent of all print. More importantly, though, to calculate what percentage of the book’s total sale was on Kindle, you need to add Kindle + BookScan + that other 20 percent together and look at Kindle as a percentage of that sum. So it’s 68 over 168, meaning that Kindle sales were 40 percent of the total sale in all formats for ROOM.

But it doesn’t end there. Grandinetti and other Amazon spokespersons said repeatedly last week that Kindle editions were currently outselling Amazon sales of their hardcover counterparts by a 3-to-1 margin, which means that Amazon hardcovers equal about 25 per cent of combined sales for these titles. Even if hardcover sales of Room fell short of this and constituted only 20 percent of Amazon’s combined, this would mean that total Amazon sales of Room constitutes about 50 percent of the total sale in all formats for ROOM.

It’s just one title, but what we’ve been seeing quite often with Amazon and the Kindle over the past few years is that what happens first with one title happens subsequently with more titles and then, ultimately, with most titles. It was a big deal in 2009 when Kindle sales of The Lost Symbol outstripped Amazon’s hardcover sales right from the drop, and a little over a year later Amazon announced that all Kindle editions were outselling hardcover units for the same titles, across the board.

But there are other forces at play, and I’m not just talking about the fact that Room is one of the strongest sellers over the past five months for indie booksellers. Back on January 5 when USA Today reported that 19 of the top 50 titles on its bestseller list had sold more ebook than print copies for the previous week, publishing industry insiders blamed Santa Claus and downplayed the significance.

“What’s most interesting is what happens next week or over the next month. About 3 million to 5 million e-readers were activated last week. Will the people who got them keep downloading e-books, and at what rate?” asked Publisher’s Marketplace founder Michael Cader. Bowker’s Kelly Gallagher, too often a cheerleader for the status quo in publishing, was quoted saying that the surge in e-book sales “is not a sustainable trend.”

Right. Well, that was January 5. Now it’s February 2, and that trend, far from declining, has actually become stronger. On USA Today’s most recent bestseller list, for the week ended January 23, the number of titles with greater ebook sales than print sales had grown from the 18-19 range for the first three weeks after Christmas to 23 of the top 50.

There is a wide range of factors that are likely to push the velocity of change even faster for ebook sales specifically and Amazon’s share of the overall bookselling market in general, but the fact that brick and mortar bookstores are closing at a faster rate than ever, from local indies to chains, is bound to contribute to a snowballing effect. The imminent bankruptcy of the Borders chain is this week’s headline, but it’s just the headline. And despite the recent fuss about the new partnership for ebook sales between Google and the American Booksellers Association, it is inevitable that as ebook sales rise, brick-and-mortar stores will decline and publishers will gradually lessen their investment both in the bookstore-based physical distribution network and in print editions.

Finally, there’s Amazon’s not-so-secret weapon for building retail market share for its Kindle and print content sales: direct publishing, Amazon exclusives, and indie authors. Recent developments in this area deserve a post all their own, but for now we’ll just note that 36 of the top 100 bestselling ebooks in the Kindle Store are published either by indie, direct-to-Kindle authors or by Amazon publishing subsidiary programs such as AmazonEncore, AmazonCrossing, or Kindle Singles. The vast majority of these titles are either not listed or not selling at any appreciable level on any other retail venue, and they are not yet included on any bestseller lists other than Amazon’s own, although their sales would in many cases justify such inclusion. But the sales are there, the profits are there, and once again Amazon has positioned itself to dominate the market share for this, the fastest growing sector of the fastest growing sector in bookselling.

Which brings us back to Amazon executive Grandinetti, and his summary point in last week’s discussions: “However fast you think this change is happening, its probably happening faster than you think.”

Whatever the rate of change, and whatever the velocity of change, most of the other players in the book business and many of Amazon’s market analysts and investors may be missing the point as to exactly where this change leads. AMZN is not a day-traders’ stock, but for investors who take a long view it may have just moved into a new and very positive category.

If Amazon has decided to accept single-digit margins during this Kindle “investment phase,” and the result is that the company has set itself up to own a 50 per cent market share of the entire U.S. book business by the end of 2012, there will be no shortage of happy investors — and devastated competitors — at that point in the relatively near future.

Thanks to All 2,275 Respondents to the Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey

The Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey closed just a few hours ago at midnight Big Island time, and I want to thank each and every one of the 2,275 official respondents! This is our 5th survey since early 2009, an that’s an increase of 15.6 per cent over the previous record high for participation, set in August 2010, and it once again secures the survey’s place as the single largest public survey of Kindle customers.

You can take a look at detailed results of the survey by clicking on the “Thank You” graphic or visiting this link: http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e3akjmwxgj44hypt/results

Big thank yous also go out to our colleagues Len Edgerly at The Kindle Chronicles podcast, Bufo Calvin at the I Love My Kindle blog, Catherine MacDonald at the Kindle Lending Club website, Tom Dulaney at Planet iPad, and Harvey at KindleBoards for helping to spread the word about the survey.

Stay tuned to Kindle Nation for detailed reports on the results, and what they mean for the Kindle Revolution, in the days to come.

With “Kindle Singles,” Amazon Shows Off Its “Harvard Degree” in eBook Pricing

Other bloggers and journalists have joined Amazon’s own press office this week in making a big deal of Amazon’s “brand new” initiative called “Kindle Singles,” and I think it’s a big deal, too.

But brand new? Not so much.

First, let’s take a straight-on look at Amazon’s press release announcement of Kindle Singles, on Wednesday, January 26: Priced between $0.99 and $4.99, at a length “typically between 5,000 and 30,000 words, each Kindle Single is intended to allow a single killer idea — well researched, well argued and well illustrated — to be expressed at its natural length.” Nothing cheesy about that, right?

And despite grousing from some quarters that Kindle Singles are just a way to increase the cost-per-word for Kindle customers (I disagree), the initial launch of 22 Kindle Singles titles has done very well. The day after launch various Kindle Singles offerings dominated the Kindle Store’s Movers and Shakers list, and as of Saturday afternoon January 29 all 22 titles were in the Kindle Store’s overall top 4,000, 16 were in the top 1,000, and two are in the top 100. That’s actually a brilliant launch for such a diverse array of 22 titles by authors who, with a few notable exceptions like Jodi Picoult and Pete Hamill, are not bestsellers.

But here’s what I found a little amusing: 

Amazon has been down a path very similar to this one before, almost exactly a year ago. On January 25, 2010, Amazon issued a press release for a new venture called “Harvard Business Review Short Cuts.” There are differences, of course. Few of the Short Cuts authors had any name recognition at all, their Short Cuts were nothing more than repurposed chapters, and they were all priced at $3.99 each. Even though Amazon says that Kindle Singles will be “priced between $0.99 and $4.99,” all 22 of the initial offerings are priced between $0.99 and $2.99, and the average price is just $2.22. They are a diverse group of offerings, topics, and genres, and many of the authors are well-known in one field or another.

At the earlier $3.99 price point, the “Harvard Business Review Short Cuts” program was a pretty dismal failure. Indeed, back on July 12, 2010 the program was Exhibit A for my post entitled “Pricing to Fail: Case Studies in Dumb Pricing – Harvard Business Review Short Cuts, the Irrelevance of Cost Issues,” in which I described the program’s January 2010 launch and then wrote:

Six months later, the initiative looks like a failure, despite heavy promotion by Amazon and the valuable imprimatur of the Harvard Business Review Press. Most of the titles are languishing far out the “long tail” in Kindle Store sales rankings, i.e., over 70,000 in most cases. Part of the problem, it seems likely, is that the “Short Cuts” series is overpriced, with a list price currently set at $3.99, discounted 20 percent by Amazon to $3.16. Even at $2.99, a reader wanting to work through all eight to 12 chapters of the full books from which these short-form ebooks are drawn would have to shell out roughly $25 to $35. One would think that anyone with the wherewithal to be able to digest Harvard Business School materials with his morning coffee would also be capable of the number-crunching necessary to determine that the convenience of bite-size ebook chapters is more than offset by the high price. At $1.49 to $1.99 each, “Short Cuts” might well be a winning proposition.

So, kudos to Amazon, for it is clear that they went to school on the pricing issues that made the Harvard collaboration a loser and came back with the combination of content and pricing required to make Kindle Singles a brilliant success. Here are the first 22 offerings, with introductory text from Amazon:

Each Kindle Single presents a compelling idea–well researched, well argued, and well illustrated–expressed at its natural length. From an elaborate bank heist in Lifted, to Congolese rebel camps in The Invisible Enemy, to Jodi Picoult’s moving portrayal of family in Leaving Home, they offer nuanced journeys of both fact and fiction. This first set of Singles was selected by our team of editors, and includes works by Rich Cohen, Pete Hamill, and Darin Strauss. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we have.

The Real Lebowski

The Real Lebowski by Rich Cohen. He wrote the first draft of Apocalypse Now. He discovered Arnold Schwarzenegger. He wrote Clint Eastwood’s “Go ahead, make my day.” The Vanity Fair writer and author of Sweet and Low trails tough-guy screenwriter/director John Milius as he fights to find his place in a transformed and unwelcoming movie business.

The Invisible Enemy

The Invisible Enemy by Jonathan Littell. On assignment from Le Monde, the acclaimed novelist (The Kindly Ones) chronicles a forgotten war–the Lord’s Resistance Army’s terrorist campaign in Congo–and its devastating effect on innocent families.

Leaving Home: Short Pieces

Leaving Home: Short Pieces by Jodi Picoult.  The deep pains and powerful pleasures of parenting: those are the extremes explored here by the extraordinary novelist Jodi Picoult. In three short pieces that display her wide emotional range, Picoult weaves together stories of love and loss with heartbreaking simplicity.

They Are Us

They Are Us by Pete Hamill. From the eminent journalist and novelist comes a common-sense plea for a new immigration policy, one that asks America to embrace its illegal-alien population, not condemn it. Hamill advocates a fresh look at amnesty and pardon policies, offering illegal immigrants a “hand of welcome.”

Octomom and the Politics of Babies

Octomom and the Politics of Babies by Mark Greif.  Eight babies. A financial crash. The porn offers. The infant formula. How one woman became a scapegoat for America’s troubles–but taught us how both the mighty and the powerless are gaming our system. This comic, provocative, wittily argued essay from n+1 suggests that the real meaning of Octomom reflects the way we all live now.


Lifted by Evan Ratliff . The thieves had a handpicked crew, a stolen helicopter, a cache of explosives, and a plan to rob a $150-million cash repository. The Stockholm police had a tip-off. Ratliff, a writer for Wired and The New Yorker, recounts the inside story of an audacious 2009 bank heist, and the race to solve it.

Pakistan and the Mumbai Attacks: The Untold Story

Pakistan and the Mumbai Attacks: The Untold Story by Sebastian Rotella/ProPublica.  The latest reporting from ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom, reports on the U.S. investigation of the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai and provides a detailed picture of the ties between Pakistan’s intelligence service and a leading militant group.


Darkstar by Christopher R. Howard. In this pre-apocalyptic love story, Sailor, a homeless Irish teenager who’s haunted by a diabolical voice, seeks to reunite with a soul mate he hasn’t seen since boyhood, as a cosmic event threatens to extinguish life on Earth. Howard’s fiction has appeared in McSweeney’s, and his first novel, Tea of Ulaanbaatar, comes out this May.

How To Not Succeed In Show Business By Really Trying

How To Not Succeed In Show Business By Really Trying by Claudia Lonow.  The road from Knots Landing actress to success as a Hollywood TV writer proved a bit bumpy for Claudia Lonow. It involved a high school crush accused of murder, includes unfortunate professional encounters with Michael Keaton and Mary Tyler Moore, and culminates in a boyfriend-bonding experience at a Van Nuys sex club.

Long Island Shaolin

Long Island Shaolin by Darin Strauss. Karate belts are for losers. So novelist (and 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for his memoir, Half a Life) Darin Strauss discovered as a teenager growing up on Long Island, during a brief brush with Kung-fu mastery, suburban-style. One handy lesson learned: if two lions meet, they don’t have to fight.

Rescuing Evil: What We Lose

Rescuing Evil: What We Lose by Ron Rosenbaum. The author of Explaining Hitler and the forthcoming How the End Begins explores the controversial use of the term “evil,” in a provocative analysis that leads from Hitler to a psycho serial-killer cabbie in London. Rosenbaum makes a powerful case for the connection between evil and free will.

Chinese Dreams

Chinese Dreams by Anand Giridharadas.  After six years exploring his parents’ native India, Anand Giridharadas–a young technology columnist for the New York Times and International Herald Tribune and author of India Calling–returns to China to measure a vast, troubled nation’s accomplishments and dreams.

The $500 Diet

The $500 Diet by Ian Ayres.  What if every pound you lost also saved you some hard-earned cash? When Ian Ayres, a law professor at Yale, wanted to drop from 205 pounds to 180, he put his money where his mouth was. And it worked. The author of Carrots and Sticks shares his unique, incentive-based plan for losing weight.

Piano Demon

Piano Demon: The globetrotting, gin-soaked, too-short life of Teddy Weatherford, the Chicago jazzman who conquered Asia by Brendan I. Koerner.  At age six, Teddy Weatherford was working in a Virginia coal mine. Two decades later, he was the jazz king of Asia. Koerner, a Wired contributing editor and author of Now the Hell Will Start, tells how a piano legend in a sharkskin suit lived the American Dream by leaving it behind.

Journey to the Edge of the Light: A Story of Love, Leukemia and Transformation

Journey to the Edge of the Light: A Story of Love, Leukemia and Transformation by Cristina Nehring.  At what should have been one of the happiest moments of her life–on the eve of a rave review of her 2009 book, A Vindication of Love, on the cover of the New York Times Book Review–Cristina Nehring learned that her young daughter had leukemia. There began a journey through the medical world, and into her little girl’s heart.

Beware Dangerism!

Beware Dangerism! by Gever Tulley.  Don’t let your kids climb on a jungle gym, eat bugs, or lick batteries. These are just a few of the standard-issue warnings that Gever Tulley, co-founder of the Tinkering School, tells us to ignore in this counter-intuitive essay. His basic message is both empowering and fun: Do try this at home.


Reboot-enanny by Rebecca Huval.  A young woman with dreams of a songwriting career finds friendship–and an audience–among a group of 1960s folk musicians who still live and thrive right where it all began, in Greenwich Village.

The Business of Media

The Business of Media by Larry Dignan. For journalism students, writers, and aspiring media moguls everywhere–a guide to navigating the brave new world of the media, circa 2011. Larry Dignan, editor in chief of ZDNet, parses the past and forecasts the future for a media universe that seems to re-invent itself almost daily.

The Dead Women of Juárez

The Dead Women of Juárez by Robert Andrew Powell.  It sounded like one of the great murder mysteries of our time: who was killing the women of Juárez? Journalist Robert Andrew Powell went to the Mexican border town to investigate, and separates fact from myth in a saga that eerily echoes the plot of Roberto Bolaño’s epic novel 2666.

Days of Thunder

Days of Thunder by Thorsten Schier.  Ever hear of the New York Thunder? Didn’t think so. They’re New York’s number-two pro basketball team. Maybe you should try rooting for them. They could use the help. Thorsten Schier spends a season inside the (rented) Thunder locker room.

The Happiness Manifesto

The Happiness Manifesto by Nic Marks.  Modern research proves the ancient wisdom that “money can’t buy you happiness.” But then why do our governments see their main task as simply growing GDP? Nic Marks, the founder of the London-based Centre for Well-Being, sets out an ingenious new way of defining national goals, and in the process reveals five ways people can nurture their own happiness.

Homo Evolutis

Homo Evolutis by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans.  Enriquez and Gullans–two eminent authors, researchers, and entrepreneurs–explore a world where humans increasingly shape their environment, their own selves, and other species. They envision a future in which humankind becomes a new species, one which directly and deliberately controls its own evolution and that of many other species. One of the inaugural TEDBooks.

INCOMING! IDENTIFY! IDENTIFY! Yes, It’s the Kindle Revolution

We have dispatches from all over this week, and they all bear the same identifying marks.

Russ Grandinetti, Amazon’s vice-president for Kindle Content, addressed a Digital Book World panel yesterday and summed up the changes that are taking place in the world of publishing and reading like this:

“However fast you think this change is happening, it’s probably happening faster than you think.”

Grandinetti also said that, already, Kindle books are outselling their hardcover counterparts in Amazon’s store by a 3-to-1 ratio.

So, between Grandinetti’s statements and items we have reported here previously, we’ve had plenty of basis lately for concluding that:

  • Kindle content sales are dominating content sales for other ebook platforms; and
  • Kindle content sales are dominating Amazon’s print book sales.

But Grandinetti also provided some tantalizingly Amazonesque numbers that, if they spread across a range of titles, would demonstrate rather convincingly that the Kindle content delivery system is enabling Amazon to gain an unprecedently dominant position across the board in bookselling.

According to Publishers’ Marketplace (a paid subscription site serving, mainly, the traditional publishing industry), Grandinetti said, for Emma Donoghue’s bestselling novel Room, “total Kindle sales are equal to 85 percent of Nielsen BookScan’s print sales number.” Extrapolating from that equation, Publisher’s Marketplace concluded that Kindle sales amounted to 40 per cent of all sales in all formats by all retailers for Room.

Room is published by agency model publisher Hachette, and the Kindle edition is currently priced by the publisher at $11.99, so it is likely that the Kindle sales of Room would have amounted to only 75 to 85 percent of Amazon’s total sales for the title. Thus, if we add Kindle editions and hardcover sales by Amazon, Amazon must be at or above 50 percent of all sales in all formats by all retailers for Room.

How stunning a development is that? Well, prior to the launch of the Kindle in 2007, Amazon was widely considered to account for somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of all sales of all books in all formats by all retailers. It now appears that the Kindle’s incredibly friction-free content delivery system has given Amazon a real chance to double, and perhaps triple, that share of the total bookselling market.

Not so fast, one might say. Amazon has nowhere near that 40 to 50 per cent market share when it comes to textbooks. Or children’s books. Or cookbooks. True enough, and it probably won’t get to those levels in those categories for a long time, if ever.

But Amazon doubtless has even higher market shares when it comes to indie authors’ books, a huge percentage of which are published direct-to-Kindle. And we are seeing greater evidence every week that indie authors are the fastest growing segment of content producers in the ebook revolution, with the most recent stories of brilliant success surrounding bestselling Kindle Store author Amanda Hocking, whose $2.99 ebooks are currently #2, #9, and #12 among all books in the Kindle Store.

Likewise, Amazon certainly has higher market shares than 40 to 50 percent when it comes to books for which the company itself is the publisher, through AmazonEncore and AmazonCrossing. But that can’t be much, right? Because Amazon is a retailer, not a publisher, right?

Well, whatever you want to call it, that’s fine. But it’s worth noting here that The Hangman’s Daughter, the #1 book in the Kindle Store with well over 100,000 copies sold in less than two months, is published by AmazonEncore. And there will be more of these, many more.

Finally, the last bit of incoming information comes from our own Kindle Nation Survey. We’ll wait until the survey is closed at midnight Hawaii time January 31 before we begin to break it down. For now we’ll just say that more than any previous survey, this one makes it clear that readers are in charge, and that the meaning of the Kindle revolution in terms of our reading behavior lies predominantly in three dramatic developments:

  1. Readers are deciding what they want to read, and factors like a traditional publisher’s imprimatur and new release status and the stigma of “self-published” are losing force.
  2. The influence and recommendation systems that lead readers to specific books are changing dramatically so that influences like massive front-of-store placements and even bestseller rankings are giving way to informal recommendations and new sources of influence.
  3. Readers have taken over much of the role of setting prices in the new book business by delaying purchases of books they want to read if the prices are, in their judgment, too high. The publishers who drew lines in the sand behind their right to set prices under the agency model won a Pyrrhic victory, because as Wall Street market makers know, an item’s price does not really become a price when a seller offers it; it becomes the real price when a buyer pays it. Publishers continue to set new release prices reflexively in the $12-$15 range, but only two of the top 20 bestselling ebooks in the Kindle Store are priced above $9.99.

For the agency model, and for brick and mortar bookstores, we are over halfway to “game over.” Whether the publishers who have stood behind the agency model can survive past mid-decade remains to be seen, but nothing about the way they are playing their hands should inspire confidence.