Commentary

Amazon No Open Book on Kindle Sales

Amazon Kindle Amazon is once again touting strong Kindle sales without providing actual unit sales figures for its e-reader. The online retailer Monday said sales of the new generation of lower-priced Kindle devices introduced in July had already outpaced total Kindle sales for the fourth quarter of 2009.

Obviously, cutting the price of the basic model to $139 and the 3G version to $189 has helped boost sales. Amazon threw out some other benchmarks highlighting the health of its digital book business: Kindle sales continue to outpace print book sales, at a rate of 2 to 1 for bestselling titles; e-book sales in the first eight months of 2010 grew faster than the 193% growth rate for the industry as a whole; and the company sold three times as many e-books in the first nine months of the year than the same period a year ago.

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If the Kindle is selling so well, why doesn't Amazon back up its boasting with some actual dollar or unit sales instead of leaving analysts and everyone else to guess? It is a publicly traded company after all. Consider Apple, not known for a corporate culture dedicated to transparency, regularly discloses unit sales for devices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod. That's what hardware companies are supposed to do.

Amazon may be relatively new to selling its own hardware but that shouldn't excuse it from not providing more business details about a product that has become a key part of its strategy and expansion into the mobile sector. For all its puffery around the Kindle, Amazon will face more competition than ever this holiday season in the e-reader market. Borders today slashed prices on its line of e-book devices, including reducing its basic e-Ink Kobo e-reader from $129 to $99.

Separately, Barnes & Noble has scheduled a press conference for tomorrow where it's expected to announce a color version of the Nook. CNET has reported that the device will be a $249 touch-screen reader that will run on the Android operating system. In recent months, Barnes & Noble has also been pressing its brick-and-mortar advantage over Amazon by expanding in-story Nook displays.

And then, of course, there's the iPad, which Apple last week said it sold 4 million of during the third quarter. Was that more than the Kindle? Probably, but who knows?

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