Monday, March 1, 2010

More on the Kindle and e-books

Last post I said that 42% of my January books sales were Kindle. Now, two months into the year, Kindle sales are 44.2%. More startling to me, 78% of Tempest At Dawn sales are e-books.

Anecdotally, on recent flights to Boston and back, my seatmates in both directions had Kindles. Both said they loved their Kindles and no longer bought print books. A year ago, I seldom saw another Kindle, and now I know many people who own e-book readers. The trend toward e-books seems to be moving faster than I expected, and I was an early adopter and Kindle enthusiast.

So … what does this mean? Everybody's up in arms over the dominant position of Amazon, but the current pricing dispute won't move the flag. Nor will pitting Apple against Amazon. For one, Apple is not a good opponent for Amazon. The Apple iPad may end up a barn burner, but the narrative word is not Apple's primary target. Once again, Apple is trying to capture people who like motion. The kind of customers that talk, text, and tweet people and share videos and photos of friends and celebrities. Games and music are good too, but long text narratives are generally a bore.

For the moment, everyone in the industry seemed focused on pricing. Wrong. In business, pricing makes a good weapon, but a lousy bulwark against attack. The industry needs to reassess the entire value equation for books, assuming that e-books will grab a larger and larger market share. Publishers might also take an under-graduate course in elasticity of demand.

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