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Waves of Change in the Kindlesphere: How the Kindle Store is Evolving into Three Stores to Sharpen Competition and Marginalize Outliers

The waves of change continue in the Kindlesphere.

  • In the next few weeks we expect to see the launch of the Kindle Apps Store, the rollout of new accessibility features including what Amazon calls “audible menuing,” big changes in royalties and publishing features for Kindle authors and publishers, and a completion of the rollout of version of 2.5 of the operating software for the latest generation Kindle and Kindle DX. 
  • Many of us are watching with great interest for the denouement of the negotiations/controversies/conflicts that’s currently keeping new Penguin titles out of the Kindle Store and all Random House titles out of the iBooks Store.
  • On the hardware side, it remains to be seen whether Amazon will work as hard or place as high a priority on delivering the inevitable Super Kindle with the color touch display as it is working to make what will soon be an installed base of 100 millions iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches super selling venues for Kindle and other digital content, including wolfish Video on Demand offerings donning the sheep’s clothing of the Netflix for iPad app if Amazon pulls the trigger on a Netflix acquisition.

But let’s focus today on dramatic if evolutionary changes that are occurring in the Kindle Store catalog.

Yesterday’s report that Amazon will soon drop free Kindle books from its main Kindle Store bestseller lists is just another portent that, in some ways, the Kindle Store is in the process of being transformed into three stores:

  • the Kindle bookstore to which we have grown accustomed over the past couple of years, with a large and diverse catalog of over half a million titles priced mostly between $2.99 and $9.99, currently growing at around 25,000 titles a month, and including work of distinction by emerging authors as well as bestsellers by established author;
  • several thousand other “new release” titles from publishers who have signed onto the agency model price-fixing pact, at least temporarily, with prices set between $10 and $15;
  • a growing number of free books including Amazon’s current “private label” catalog of public domain titles, a growing number of free promotional titles, and millions of other free public domain titles from third-party sites that Amazon will make increasingly seamless to download and read on the Kindle platform, perhaps with the kind of overhauled, Kindle-compatible “Stanza @ Kindle” offering that might have been behind the departure of Stanza fountainhead Neelan Choksi from Stanza.Amazon.com the other day). .

Now, or beginning at some point between now and June 30, Amazon will be making a major effort to organize the vast majority of Kindle store prices so that they fall in the $2.99 to $9.99 range. As I noted here when Amazon announced this program, Amazon will be using honey rather than vinegar, with an offer to pay direct 70% royalties to all authors and publishers who set prices in this price range through Amazon’s Kindle-compatible Digital Text Platform and participate fully in other Kindle features like text-to-speech.

There will be other outliers, including declining percentages of the total catalog that is priced between $.01 and $2.98 or over $14.99. The contraction of offerings in these price ranges, of course, will be driven by the promise of direct 70% royalties. For titles currently earning the standard Kindle DTP royalty of 35% at sales-suppressing prices from $15 to $19.99, (or, for that matter, $10 to $14.99), bringing the suggested retail list price down to $9.99 and taking any other steps necessary to comply with the new 70% royalty program ought to be a no-brainer for any author or publisher capable of doing the math. As a cursory check of the Kindle Store’s current bestselling titles in that $15-to-$20 price range reveals, there are precious few titles that are cracking the top 2,500 at such prices, and many would experience significantly higher sales at the $9.99 price range.

In a post the other day about bargain prices for a couple of Elizabeth Peters ebooks in the Kindle Store, I made the point that readers may actually be able to influence publisher pricing behavior when we jump on bargain prices like those mentioned in the post, even while the Kindle bestseller list shows some signs that Kindle owners are accepting agency-model pricing:

When an agency model publisher fixes a low price for a backlist title like these, the publishing is putting itself in a position to learn a great deal about pricing, sales, and profitability in the ebook world. Based on my own experiences and those of other authors, I believe that the ideal Kindle Store price for many backlist titles is in the $2.99 to $4.99 range, and that most such titles, if they are quality books with a little bit of marketing effort behind them are likely to sell roughly twice as many copies if they are reduced from $9.99 to $4.99 or roughly three times as many if they are reduced from $9.99 to $2.99. If Hachette and other publishers find out that such formulas apply to their backlist titles, it could be a powerful incentive for them to lower prices wherever possible.

So, the fun continues. When there’s competition between business behemoths like Amazon and Apple, it tends to be complicated by all kinds of counterforces, not the least of which are the many ways in which the two companies are partners. But as nice a guy as Jeff Bezos may be, he is also, to his great credit, the leader of a company that is as ruthlessly committed to fostering competition within the Kindle Store as it is to competing with other businesses in the ebook sector. The result for customers in the Kindle Store as elsewhere in AmazonWorld is like to be ever greater selection and, over the long haul, ever better pricing.

Related posts:

RIP Alan Sillitoe – A Favorite of Mine, and a Litmus Test for the Backlist Reach of eBooks

The novelist and shorter fiction writer Alan Sillitoe died today at London’s Charing Cross Hospital. His dazzlingly spare 1959 barely-a-novella The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and its triumphant 1962 film adaptation (Sillitoe screenplay, Tony Richardson direction, Tom Courtenay in the title role) wrestled existential rage and emotional identity out of the stark realities of post-war working class life and changed my life, among many, many others, in ways that made it both harder and better.

The BBC’s obit and the Wikipedia entry are well worth a read. I didn’t much like the turns that Sillitoe’s personal politics took after his success as a novelist, but that never kept me from seeing his fiction as, in a number of ways, heroic and inspirational.

When J.D. Salinger died a while back some of us lamented not only his passing but the sad fact that his books are not yet available in the Kindle Store or otherwise as ebooks. That gaping hole is obvious, I should think.

But Sillitoe? His work remains well worth reading today, and in the way I see things, his inclusion in the Kindle catalog, when it occurs, will be a fair litmus test for the coming-of-age of that catalog on the way to its promise to do justice to backlist titles and, in the long run, live up to Amazon’s recently restated mission to make it possible for readers to download every book ever written in any language within 60 seconds. We’re a long way from that point today, and it will not come to pass without the active efforts of publishers and authors as well as ebook retailers. Keep on.

U.S. Kindle Store Surpasses Half a Million Book Titles

The ebook catalog in Amazon’s Kindle Store for U.S. customers has just passed half a million titles. Here’s a link to the Kindle Store’s book listings, which numbered 500,461 as of 10 p.m. EDT Sunday, April 18, 2010. There were fewer than 90,000 Kindle books when Amazon launched the Kindle on November 19, 2007.

Adjust free public domain titles out of the titles listed for both venues, and this leaves the Kindle Store with, roughly, a 16-to-1 advantage over the commercial title listings of what is now seen as its leading ebook retailing rival, Apple’s iBooks Store. (This extrapolation is based on the fact that Apple launched its iBooks Store with 60,000 titles, half of them free public domain titles; the figure may have grown since but the iBooks Store is not available for the kinds of search, browse, and sort functions that would make it easy to check).

Although some might use that temporary metrics gap as a basis for concluding that this much-hyped rivalry is rather like the rivalry between the hammer and the nail, that’s not how I see it.

The iPad is a lovely and — from the point of view of a competitor — formidable ebook reading environment, and here at Kindle Nation Daily and our sister site iPad Nation Daily we’ll continue to cover and illuminate its reading-friendly features with various applications including the free Kindle apps, iBooks, and other apps. Continued competition is bound to improve both companies’ devices and their reading and listening apps, and we’ll be paying close attention and making plenty of suggestions along the way. From where I sit, each company needs the other, but more on that later.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if Amazon issues a news release on this major benchmark, or lets the news pass quietly in the night.

US Kindle Catalog Surpasses 400,000 Books

As predicted at Kindle Nation Daily, Amazon’s Kindle Store catalog has just surpassed the 400,000-title milestone, with the 400000eBookstitle count in many countries beyond US borders lagging about 20 percent behind, but the rate at which downloaded copies are flying off of Amazon’s virtual shelves all over the world is an even bigger deal.

The current catalog of 400,148 titles, as I type this on Tuesday afternoon, December 29, can be a little daunting, so I am very pleased to present, in another recent post, a remarkable new tool that will help you search and browse the entire Kindle catalog as well as other ebook catalogs by category, price, and any keyword of your choosing. 

US Kindle Catalog to Surpass 400,000 Books – Today? Here’s the Entire Catalog Sorted by Price

Copyright © Kindle Nation Daily 2009. To read the original post on the web please visit bit.ly/KNDBlog.

Sometime this week Amazon’s Kindle Store catalog will surpass the 400,000-title milestone, with the title count in many countries beyond US borders lagging about 20 percent behind, but the rate at which downloaded copies are flying off of Amazon’s virtual shelves all over the world is an even bigger deal.

On Saturday Amazon issued a press release announcing that “[o]n Christmas Day, for the first time ever, customers purchased more Kindle books than physical books.” That’s exciting and seemingly newsworthy, although it is natural that this would have happened with hundreds of thousands of new Kindle owners opening their Kindles and finding nothing to read on them but a snappy welcome letter from Jeff Bezos.

But that’s not to say it is not a big deal. It is the latest in a steady flow of data points suggesting not only that Amazon is dominating both the hardware and content markets of the ebook sector but also that the ebook revolution itself is moving with stunning alacrity from its inflection point this past September to a tipping point that should occur, at the latest, in 2014.

While all of this is great for Kindle owners and for Amazon, the folks for whom it is most compelling are authors and publishers. The sheer size of the installed base of Kindles — probably over 3 million now — is creating ebook sales numbers that will raise eyebrows in publishing offices around the world over the next few weeks. My own Kindle guide was already the #1 consumer guide in the Kindle Store before Christmas morning, but the three days since most gifts were unwrapped have already accounted for over two-thirds of its total copies sold for the month of December.

The current catalog of 399,563 titles, as I type this around dawn on December 28, can be a little daunting, so below for your shopping convenience is a breakdown of 19,822 Free Kindle Edition Books & Over 379,500 Other Kindle Books Sorted By Price. If you are reading this post on your Kindle and you would prefer to view it on the web just type bit.ly/KNDBlog into your browser.

Free Books in the Kindle Store

“Big Deals” on Kindle web page – Seldom Updated

Kindle Books Priced at $0.00

Kindle Books Price from $0.01 to $0.98

Kindle Books Priced at $0.99

Kindle Titles Priced from $1.00 to $2.99

Kindle Titles Priced from $3.00 to $4.99

Kindle Titles Priced from $5.00 to $7.49

Kindle Titles Priced from $7.50 to $9.98

Kindle Titles Priced at $9.99

Kindle Titles Priced from $10.00 to $14.99

Kindle Titles Priced from $15.00 to $19.99

Kindle Titles Priced from $20.00 to $29.99

Kindle Titles Priced from $30.00 to $39.99

Kindle Titles Priced from $40.00 to $49.99

Kindle Titles Priced from $50.00 to $99.99

Kindle Titles Priced from $100.00 to $199.99

Kindle Titles Priced from $200.00 to $999.99

Kindle Titles Priced from $1000.00 to $6431.20