Communion Of Dreams


The future is indeed here.
May 20, 2011, 3:41 pm
Filed under: Amazon, Failure, Jeff Bezos, Kindle, Marketing, Predictions, Publishing

News item of interest today:

Kindle Books Outsell Print Books on Amazon

* * *
Before the Kindle, Amazon started selling traditional paper books in July 1995. But now, Amazon has announced that Kindle books are outselling paperbacks and hardcovers.

Since April 1, Amazon has sold 105 Kindle books for every 100 print books sold. These numbers include books that have no Kindle edition. Also, for all of 2011 so far, Amazon has had the fastest year-over-year growth rate for its books business due to the overwhelming Kindle sales and steady print book sales.

* * *

“Customers are now choosing Kindle books more often than print books,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO. “We had high hopes that this would happen eventually, but we never imagined it would happen this quickly – we’ve been selling print books for 15 years and Kindle books for less than four years.

When the Kindle first came out, I was *very* skeptical that it would replace conventionally printed books. Here’s what I said in November 2007:

I think it is still a hard sell. $400 is a chunk for something which only kinda-sorta replaces a real book. And if you drop it in the mud, it isn’t just $7.95 to buy a new copy. But it does seem to be an intelligent application of the relevant tech, and sounds intriguing. There will be those who snap it up, just ’cause – but Amazon has a long way to go before it is mainstream.

That’s my guess.

Well, I was wrong, and Jeff Bezos was right. Well, sorta.

The Kindle 3, which came out last summer, is a lot different than the original Kindle. It’s smaller. Lighter. Works better. And costs less than half what the original did. In fact, just yesterday I ordered one for $189.

Yeah, let me repeat that: I ordered a Kindle yesterday.

I had been doing research into the e-reader in preparation for publishing Her Final Year and part of that preparation was going out and playing with the latest version of the Kindle at a local store. I’ll be honest, I was flat-out impressed with the current machine.

As I’ve noted before, I’m a ‘late adopter’ of technology, always willing to wait for things to mature enough that the bugs are worked out and the price comes down. And I’m also a professional bookbinder & book conservator. When *I* am willing to buy an e-reader, then things have changed. As I said 18 years ago:

For me, the book is a codex, something that you can hold in your hand and read. From the earliest memories of my science fiction saturated youth, I remember books becoming obsolete in the future, replaced by one dream or another of “readers”, “scanners”, or even embedded text files linked directly to the brain. Some say ours is a post-literate culture, with all the books-on-tape, video, and interactive media technology. I think I read somewhere recently that Sony (or Toshiba or Panasonic or someone) had finally come up with a hand-held, book-sized computer screen that can accommodate a large number of books on CD ROM. Maybe the future is here.

Maybe. Lord knows that I would be lost without a computer for all my writing, revisions, and play. The floppy drive that is in this book was taken from my old computer (my first computer) when a friend installed a hard drive. It is, in many ways, part of my history, part of my time at Iowa, and all the changing that I did there.

Yeah, the future is indeed here. Mine should arrive the first of next week.

Jim Downey


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[…] And “moving” 23,000 copies of the book all-told? That’s downright respectable.  In the previous 5 years when I had the earlier .pdf version of the book available on my website, there were a total of about 35,000 downloads. That right there shows you to power of Amazon’s system and Jeff Bezos’ vision. […]

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