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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.

Kindle’s New Lending Program May Not Be for Everyone, But It’s Definitely for Some: Lending & Borrowing Grow By Leaps and Bounds Through New “Kindle Lending Club”

In some ways, it wasn’t really fair of us to include a question about the new Kindle lending program in our Winter 2011 Kindle Nation Citizen Survey. After all, the program is even newer and shinier than the Kindles that millions of happy campers opened on the morning of December 25, since Amazon waited until the penultimate day of 2010 to launch the program.

So in that context, it’s pretty impressive that over 15 percent of the first 1500 respondents to our survey said that they were “using the new lending feature to lend or borrow Kindle books” sometimes (10%), every week (4%), or nearly every day (2%).

Even more impressive is the growth of a very attractive new service called the Kindle Lending Club that hits the sweet spot for interested Kindle lenders and borrowers by making the process easier than ever even as it multiplies dramatically the universe of potential readers with whom you can share books.

The Kindle Lending Club is only about two weeks old, but “our membership on the website is now over 8,800, over 10,000 on Facebook, and we have matched over 6,000 book loans on the website since the website launch,” Kindle Lending Club founder Catherine MacDonald told me this morning.

How many Kindle customers will ultimately be borrowing and/or lending of Kindle content? Even if the percentage stays in the 20 percent range, that could be millions of Kindle owners. And content borrowing could also swell the ranks of those who are first introduced to Kindle reading by downloading a free Kindle app onto another device such as an Android, iPhone, iPad, PC, or Mac.

So we don’t know how many there will be, but for those who decide to give it a try it’s hard to think of a better way to go about it than through the Kindle Lending Club. I tried it the other day and managed to lend three books to eager readers that very day, and it took me a grand total of less than five minutes.

We’re sufficiently impressed here at Kindle Nation that we’ve been brainstorming with Kindle Lending Club members for ways to work together to help make a more Kindle-friendly world for all readers and for our author and publisher friends as well.

Check out the Kindle Lending Club for yourself today!

Just How Big is the Kindle Revolution? Our Estimates: Amazon Has Sold 12 Million Kindles, and There Were Over 10 Million Paid Kindle eBook Sales in the Last Week of 2010

Amazon inducted bestselling author Nora Roberts as the third member of its Kindle Million Club yesterday with a press release stating that Roberts “has sold 1,170,539 Kindle books under her name and her pseudonym J.D. Robb.” So we now have the following members in the Kindle Million Club, and you can click on these links to fill your Kindles up with hundreds of their titles:

Come to think of it, when you look at the long lists of titles by Roberts and Patterson, it is all the more impressive that Larsson was able to storm the castle with a single trilogy. But there’s definitely a lesson here for emerging authors, and it is a lesson that many Kindle Nation faves like Imogen Rose, Scott Nicholson, Paul Levine and J.A. Konrath have learned well: trilogies, series, and multiple titles allows authors great efficiencies when it comes to building exposure for their books.

While the Kindle Million Club will always be an elite club, it is also very likely that membership in the club will expand geometrically in the next few years. By this time next year I would expect the club to have about 10 members, and to be very close to inducting its first “indie author” member. By mid-decade we’ll see a dozen members of the club who are operating, at least for current ebook purposes, without traditional publishers.

Which brings us back to a topic we’ve been discussing ever since the first month the Kindle came out back in late 2007: just how big is the Kindle revolution?

In last week’s Kindle Nation weekly digest we hinted that I would be back this week with some analysis to support my belief that:

  • first, Amazon recently passed the 12-million mark in total Kindles shipped since November 2007; and
  • second, readers downloaded about 15 million Kindle ebooks, including 10 million paid books, during the final week of 2010.

Frankly, the details of triangulating in on how many Kindles there are in the world can get a little dull, but here are our estimated benchmarks for cumulative Kindle sales during the past three years and change:

  • Kindle Launch – November 19, 2007
  • 100,000 Kindles – March 2008
  • 750,000 Kindles – October 2008
  • 1 Million Kindles – March 2009 (Kindle 2 Ships)
  • 3 Million Kindles – December 2009
  • 4 Million Kindles – July 2010
  • 6 Million Kindles – August 2010 (Kindle 3 Ships)
  • 8.5 Million Kindles – December 12, 2010
  • 11 Million Kindles – December 24, 2010
  • 12 Million Kindles – January 2011
  • 22 Million Kindles – December 2011 (conservative projection)
  • 35 Million Kindles – December 2012 (conservative projection)

All of the figures for 2008 and 2009 are consistent with figures we estimated contemporaneously, and of course others then claimed at each of those points that our estimates were far too aggressive. In each case, however, the sales arc on which my figures were based was eventually confirmed and became the consensus view.

Now we’re not trying to prove our case to a jury here, and of course Amazon doesn’t disclose these numbers. But a few things that Amazon has said in the past year or so help, nonetheless, with the triangulation:

  • Jeff Bezos announced at the end of 2009 that Amazon had sold “millions of Kindles.”
  • Amazon announced on December 13, 2010 that “in just the first 73 days of this holiday quarter, we’ve already sold millions of our all-new Kindles with the latest E Ink Pearl displays. In fact, in the last 73 days, readers have purchased more Kindles than we sold during all of 2009.”
  • Amazon announced on October 24, 2007 that it had sold 2.5 million copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7), with the 2007 holiday season still to come and the July 2009 paperback edition yet to be released. The Potter book has continued to sell briskly in the past three years (hardcover #1 for the entire year 2007, and both hardcover and paperback editions remain in the top 1,000 even now, in January 2011).
  • Amazon announced on December 27, 2010 that in just 4 months since its launch the Kindle  3 had already become “the bestselling product in Amazon’s history, eclipsing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7).” That statement referred both to hardcover and paperback copies of the Potter book, for which I would estimate Amazon’s total cumulative worldwide print sales to be about 7.1 million copies.
  • Finally, Amazon said throughout the month of December that it would not be shipping Kindles outside the U.S. in time for Christmas delivery, and all of the indications available to us here at Kindle Nation are that international Kindle shipments in the three weeks since Christmas have been very, very brisk.

I will leave you to connect your own dots there, if you are interested. Call me unrigourous, but this is not graduate school. Of course it doesn’t really matter in the long run if Amazon has shipped 12 million Kindles to date or 11.75 million or 12.3 million, but if you come up with a figure of fewer than 11.5 million you haven’t connected all the dots. The technical term is that they have shipped an even gazillion, and the Kindle’s sales velocity is not slowing down. Au contraire.

So what about my claim that readers downloaded 15 million Kindle books, 10 million of them paid, in the last week of 2010? Actually, those figures are conservative, despite the fact that my friend and colleague Morris Rosenthal (who brings a lot to the table where statistical estimates of Amazon sales are concerned) puts the figure at 3 to 3.5 million.

There are some important numbers that I cannot share here because they involve confidential information concerning my own sales figures and figures that have been shared confidentially with me by other authors and publishers, so let’s take a different approach. We’ll call it “common sense,” and there are several different ways we can come at this. Let’s start with something we got from the world of the Nook:

  • Barnes and Noble issued a press release on December 30 saying both that it had sold “millions of Nooks” so far and that customers had downloaded “nearly one million NOOKbooks purchased and downloaded on Christmas Day alone.” So we can extrapolate that on Christmas Day alone there was at least one ebook sold for every three Nooks.
  • We begin with the expectation that there were 11 million Kindles by December 25, but let’s say that 1 million of those were secondary Kindles, defunct Kindles, etc. On the other 10 million Kindles, assuming that Kindle owners are every bit the active readers that Nook owners appear to be, that would lead us to conclude that they downloaded 3.3 million Kindle books on Christmas Day alone. 
  • Amazon stated earlier that about 20 percent of Kindle books are downloaded to Kindle apps on other devices. While Kindle device sales were certainly brisk ahead of Christmas, so were sales of all the other devices that run the Kindle purchasing and reading app. Thus it makes sense to stick with the 20 percent figure for Kindle purchases on other devices, and if we do the math, that would come to 825,000 Kindle books downloaded on other devices. Let’s round it down to 4 million. Yep, that’s 4 million Kindle books purchased and downloaded on Christmas Day.
  • While the annual rush period for print book publishers, retailers, and authors runs from Black Friday to Christmas Eve, it’s a very different calendar in the ebook business. Sales peak on Christmas Day and hold at very high levels through the first week of January as people open new ebook readers. On December 25, 2009, I sold over 1,700 copies of my bestselling ebook, which was more than 3 times my sales on any previous day. But that ebook’s daily sales did not slip below 1,000 copies a day on any of the next 10 days. That experience runs parallel to what I have witnessed but cannot disclose about dozens of other ebooks by other authors, so that I am confident that if Amazon sold 4 million Kindle books on Christmas Day, its sales for the following 6 days did not slip below 2 million copies a day, for a total of over 16 million Kindle books sold during the final week of 2010, and the figure is probably higher still by a million or more. Even if a third of the downloaded Kindle books were free, that still comes to over 10.5 million paid Kindle books.

Or here’s another way to look at it, and we start again with the 11 million Kindles figure as of Christmas morning:

  • That figure includes 4 million previous-generation Kindles that were shipped by July 2010 and another 2 million Kindle 3s that were shipped prior to Labor Day. Let’s say that no paid ebooks at all were purchased on a million of those units during the last week of 2010, and that only an average of 0.5 ebooks were purchased that week on the other 5 million units. So there’s a very conservative start, with 2.5 million paid ebooks sold on those ancient Kindles.
  • Then let’s take the 5 million new Kindles shipped since August. Let’s say, again, that a million of those weren’t used to download a single ebook for the final week of 2010. On the other 4 million, let’s hypothesize something like this:
  • 1 million units downloaded 0.5 books each (0.5)
  • 1 million units downloaded 1.0 books each (1.0)
  • 1 million units downloaded 2.0 books each (2.0)
  • 1 million units downloaded 3.0 books each (3.0)
  • That comes to 9 million paid ebooks loaded directly to Kindles, and that would suggest 2.25 million ebooks loaded to Kindle apps on other devices, for a total of 11.25 million.
  • Again, I believe these models and the results of 10.5 to 11.25 million paid Kindle ebook sales for the last week of 2010 are conservative, because, for one thing, I believe that about 3 million Kindles were opened for the first time on or about Christmas Day and it would confound my understanding of human nature to think that, in the hands of people who love to read, those newly unwrapped Kindles led to only 6 million ebooks downloaded. I just don’t see many of those folks saying, “I can’t wait until Monday morning so I can go to the public library to find something to read.”

We could go on and on, but I sense that your eyes have already long since glazed over. Again, it doesn’t really matter if there were 11.25 million paid Kindle books sold during the last week of 2010 or 9.7 million, but we can be quite sure that the figure was far north of 3.5 million.

I have no doubt that there will be a few publishing industry insiders who read this post and conclude once again that I’ve been drinking that Kindle Kool-Aid again, and that I am totally caught up in the hype of the so-called “Kindle revolution.” They will point out that everyone knows that ebook sales are really only 8 or 10 percent of the trade book market.

To which I say, yep, it’s apple-flavored Kool-Aid and, well, how do you like these apples? … as reported today by Bob Minzesheimer and Craig Wilson in their USA TODAY Book Buzz column:

E-books surge: Egads, as cartoon heroes would say. E-books had another great week after up to 5 million digital reading devices were unwrapped for the holidays. Last week, the e-book outsold the print version for 18 of the top 50 books on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list, including all three Stieg Larsson novels. The week before, 19 had higher e-book than print sales. That was the first time the top 50 list has had more than two titles in which the e-version outsold print.

Now Available: Lending For Some Kindle Books

Amazon has kept its promise to make Kindle books available for lending before the end of 2010 — without 36 hours to spare!

The new enhancement has just been announced and, with many publishers blocking the feature, it is currently available for a limited number of titles. To find out if a title that you already own is available for lending, look it up under “Your Orders” on your Manage Your Kindle page and look for the “Loan this book” button at the bottom left, as shown in this screenshot.


Prior to purchasing a book, you can check to see if Lending is enabled under Product Details, where it will either say Lending: Enabled, or nothing at all on the subject.

Here’s Amazon’s presentation on the new lending feature, from the company’s website:

Lending Kindle Books

Eligible Kindle books can be loaned once for a period of 14 days. The borrower does not need to own a Kindle — Kindle books can also be read using our free Kindle reading applications for PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android devices. Not all books are lendable — it is up to the publisher or rights holder to determine which titles are eligible for lending. The lender will not be able to read the book during the loan period.

Finding Lendable Books

Titles that are eligible for lending, as determined by the publisher or rights holder, will have a message on the product detail page. Scroll down to the “Product Details” section and look for “Lending: Enabled” as shown below:


For titles you already own, you can check the Your Orders section in Manage Your Kindle. Click the “+” symbol next to a title to reveal additional information about the title. If lending is enabled, you’ll see a Loan this book button next to the product image.

Loaning a Kindle Book

You can initiate a loan from Manage Your Kindle or the book’s product detail page on Amazon.com. You’ll enter the borrower’s name and e-mail address and an optional notification message. Your recipient can receive the book loan even if they do not yet have a Kindle or Kindle reading application.

From Manage Your Kindle:

Manage Your Kindle lists all of your Kindle content purchases under the Your Orders section.

1. Click the “+” symbol next to a title to reveal all information and options. If lending is enabled, you’ll see a Loan this book button next to the product image.

2. Click the Loan this book button.

3. You’ll be directed to a form where you’ll provide the borrower’s name, e-mail address and an optional message.

From the product detail page of a book you have already purchased:

When logged in to your Amazon account and looking at the product detail page of a book you have already purchased, a notification at the top of the page will indicate that you already own the title. If lending for the book is enabled, you’ll see a second notice: “Loan this book to anyone you choose.”

1. Click the Loan this book link.

2. You’ll be directed to a form where you’ll provide the borrower’s name, e-mail address and an optional message (as shown above).

Your loan recipient will be notified of the loan through the e-mail address you provide. The borrower has seven days to accept the loan.

If the loan is not accepted after seven days, the book will become available again through your Archived Items. You can also attempt to loan the book again at that time.

If the borrower already owns the title, or the title is not available in the borrower’s country due to copyright restrictions, the borrower will not be able to accept the loan. In these cases the lender will be able to read and loan the book again after the seven day period has ended.

Receiving a Kindle Book Loan

If someone has loaned you a Kindle book, you will receive an e-mail notification allowing you to download the book to your Kindle device or free Kindle reading application. After accepting the loan, you’ll have 14 days to enjoy the book until the download ends.

To download a Kindle book loan:

1. Open the e-mail message you received about your book loan and click the Get your loaned book now button. Your web browser will launch and automatically direct you to Amazon.com to accept the loan.

2. Log into your Amazon.com account if prompted, or create one if you are not yet an Amazon.com customer. You may also be prompted to enter a billing address to verify your location only (there is no charge associated with accepting a Kindle book loan.)

3. If you are already a Kindle user, just select the device that you would like the book delivered to from the drop-down menu and click the Accept button.

4. If you do not yet have a Kindle or Kindle reading application, click the Accept button and you will be taken through the steps to download a free reading application. After downloading a reading application you will need to return to the e-mail message and accept the loan.

Tip: You have seven days from when you first received your e-mail about the book load to accept the loan. Once you accept, you have 14 days before the loan expires.

Frequently Asked Questions

As the lender, can I read the book while it is out on loan?

Once you initiate a Kindle book loan, you will not be able to read the book until the loan period has ended, after which your access will automatically be restored.

Once your notification has been sent, a reminder message will appear on the Home screen of your Kindle or Kindle reading app, indicating that the book is on loan and cannot be read until the loan has ended.

During the loan period the book will still remain visible in your Archived Items folder, but you will be unable to redownload the title.

Will I be notified before the book loan expires?

Yes. Three days before the end of the 14-day loan period we will send borrowers a courtesy reminder e-mail about the loan expiration. Once the loan period has ended, an e-mail notification will be sent to both the book lender and borrower. The lender can then access the book again through their Archived Items and Manage Your Kindle.

The borrower will receive a notice on the Home screen of their device indicating that the loan has ended.  The borrower will still be able to view the title from their Archived Items folder as well, but selecting the title will bring up a reminder that the loan has ended and provide a link to purchase the item.

If the recipient is finished with the loaned book and wishes to return it, they can do so from the Your Orders section of Manage Your Kindle. Here’s how:

1. Click the “+” symbol next to the loaned title.

2. Click the Delete this Title button.

3. Click Yes in the pop-over window to confirm the return.

After initiating a return the reading rights will be restored to the owner of the book. The owner will also receive an e-mail confirmation of the return.

How do I view the status of my loan?

You can view the status of a Kindle book loan from the Manage Your Kindle page. Click on the “+” symbol next to any title to view more details about any book that you’ve loaned or borrowed.

If you’ve loaned out the book, you’ll see the loan date listed, as well as whether the loan is pending, the expiration date of an accepted loan, or the returned date.

Borrowers will be able to see how much longer a loan is available, or if it has ended.

Is lending available internationally?

At this time, Kindle book lending can only be initiated by customers residing in the United States. If a loan is initiated to a customer outside the United States, the borrower may not be able to accept the loan if the title is not available in their country due to publisher geographical rights.

In these cases the borrower will be notified of this during the Loan redemption process, and the book reading and lending rights will return to the lender at the end of seven days from loan initiation. You can always check the status of a loan by viewing the book on the Manage Your Kindle page.