Holiday Sales Reports Fan Kindle’s Flame

Amazon’s Kindle is on a roll: On Christmas day, Customers purchased more e-books than physical books for the first time ever, according to the e-tailer.

November marked the Kindle’s best sales month ever, according to the company, which announced that milestone even before Cyber Monday purchases were tallied.

However, both announcements were accompanied by scant details — such as actual numbers — or any attempts to analyze the trends. Certainly, there is plenty of room for explanation: The increased numbers of e-book purchases may have been due to people receiving Kindles as a gift, for example. Or perhaps many e-book purchases were made using gift cards. The Kindle App, which is quickly growing in popularity, made have played a role.

Amazon did not return the E-Commerce Times’ call requesting comment by press time.

There are many ways to slice and dice the claims, according to Richard Laermer author of Punk Marketing and 2011: Trendspotting.

“Amazon has always ‘buried’ paper books,” Laermer told the E-Commerce Times. “The softcover margins are very small, so it’s really not crucial in the least — and all publishers and authors learn that the hard way. So they can say all they want about ‘more Kindle books than,’ but it could also be ‘more toasters than paperbacks too,'” he said.

Competing Products

Despite the lack of details behind its calculations, Amazon’s foothold in the e-book market is clearly rock solid — even as competition in the space grows. Indeed, this holiday season may well have been Amazon’s last as an unchallenged vendor of this technology and content. Under such circumstances, promoting the Kindle’s popularity is understandable.

Most consumers who had pre-ordered Barnes and Noble’s Nook and the Sony Reader Daily Edition, appeared to have received their devices in time for the holiday. However, it was questionable whether purchasers would have a device under the tree until the last minute.

Both the Nook and the US$400 Daily Edition reportedly made it to consumers who had pre-ordered them by Dec. 20th, according to the companies.

For this holiday shopping season, it would have made little difference to Amazon whether its competitors had managed to get their act together or not, according to In-Stat, which shows Amazon entrenched in this nascent space. However, it is still early days in the e-reader/e-book market, and it is open enough for competition.

Consumers can hold and test the Nook in Barnes & Noble stores — a significant advantage for any new technology. Sony Reader’s Daily Edition, widely seen as the first device from this product line that can take on the Kindle, has the advantage of thousands of free books and a display that permits a more traditional reading experience than the Kindle.

Hard to Beat

Still, Amazon’s lead has made it tougher for Sony and Barnes & Noble — and other new entrants in the space — to develop traction.

PacketTrap Network, a division of Quest Software, is determined to post its user guides as Kindle documents, for instance — even if it winds up paying Amazon for the privilege of doing so without reaping any revenue in return, said PacketTrap VP of Marketing Anna Yen.

“We don’t charge for our user guides, so to put them on the Kindle we will have to pay Amazon,” she told the E-Commerce Times. “However, we recognize the power of the Kindle and want to give our users that option.”

The company surveyed its VAR distributors six months ago and found that 17 percent of them carry a Kindle, even when working in the field, she said.

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