Dec 172013

Just a quick note that, today (Dec 17) only, Amazon offers its Kindle for just $49 with free shipping. That is an amazing price for a new Kindle!

Yes, it is the entry-level model, without the built-in light or the touchscreen, and it does have Amazon’s “special offers,” but for this price it’s still a great deal for an e-reader for yourself or as a gift.

Pick it up direct from Amazon here — but remember, the sale is today only. Tomorrow it will be back to $69.

The New Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Today Amazon announced their latest-generation e-reader, the “All-New Kindle Paperwhite,” starting at $119.

I’m not really sure about the name. First of all, it’s not exactly “all new,” although that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since the Kindle has been refined over time and is a pretty great e-Ink-based e-reader. I guess Amazon didn’t want to name it the “Kindle Paperwhite 2″ or the “Kindle 6,” as it’s the second Kindle generation to include the side lighting system, and the sixth Kindle generation overall.

In any event, what is new about the All-New Kindle Paperwhite is:

  • 50% Improved Contrast with E-Ink Carta (whiter white background and darker blacks)
  • 25% Faster Processor (for faster page turns)
  • A “Next Generation” lighting system (lit from the side, not the back, so it’s easier on your eyes)

The specs, which are similar to the previous model, are:

  • 6″ e-Ink Carta display, 212 ppi
  • 6.7″ x 4.6″ x 0.36″ (169 mm x 117 mm x 9.1 mm)
  • 7.3 ounces (206 grams) — “30% lighter than an iPad Mini”
  • 2 GB internal storage (about 1,100 books)
  • Wi-Fi wireless connectivity
  • Battery lasts about 8 weeks (Wi-Fi off and reading for 30 minutes per day)

It is available with “Special Offers” for $119 (with free shipping), or without them for $139, and ships September 30.

Also coming soon is the version that also includes 3G wireless connectivity (in addition to Wi-Fi), coming November 5 for $189.

It looks to me like a solid, although not necessarily game-changing update to a very successful product. Better contrast (which was already excellent starting with the Kindle 3 and getting better from there) is always welcome, as is the faster processor. If any readers get their hands on one, please leave me your hands-on experiences in the comments below. Thanks!

UPDATE: The new e-Ink display technology used by the new Kindle is called “E-Ink Carta.” According to E-Ink:

“E Ink Carta delivers a dramatic 50% increase in contrast over earlier generations of ePaper, giving eReaders a contrast ratio close to that of a paperback book. The crisp text and detailed graphics are also highly readable in direct sunlight. Carta’s 16 levels of grey produce the sharpest rendering of images with smooth tones and rich detail.”

Jun 242013

Kobo Mini - $40

From now until July 18, the Kobo Mini e-reader is on sale for just $39.99 here. That’s not much more than a hardcover book!

The Kobo Mini comes with a 5″ e-Ink touchscreen display, Wi-Fi, 2GB of memory, and 1 month of battery life. The 5″ screen is smaller than the 6″ e-Ink screens on the Kindles and Nooks, but that makes for a very small and light e-reader, weighing in at just 4.73 ounces (much lighter than a hardcover, or even most paperbacks).

The year-end totals for 2012 e-book sales are in the books (har, har), and the results are net revenues of $1.54 billion ($1,540M), an increase of 41% over 2011 figures. (Note that means that 2011 figures actually surpassed $1 billion, even though they were reported just under that figure a year ago. The AAP figures always seem to be adjusted upwards over time, presumably adding late-reporting sales.) While a 41% increase is nothing to sneeze at, it is a marked slowdown compared to the triple-digit growth rates of the previous three years:

  • 2002:   $2.1M
  • 2003:   $6.0M   (185.7% increase)
  • 2004:   $9.3M   (55.0% increase)
  • 2005:   $16.0M   (72.0% increase)
  • 2006:   $25.2M   (57.5% increase)
  • 2007:   $31.7M   (25.8% increase)
  • 2008:   $61.3M   (93.4% increase)
  • 2009:   $169.5M   (176.5% increase)
  • 2010:   $441.3M   (160.4% increase)
  • 2011:   $1,092.2M   (147.5% increase)
  • 2012:   $1,540.0M   (41.0% increase)

Print books did better than expected, but still declined slightly, from about $5,338M to about $5,289M. Buoyed by the growth in e-books, overall publisher revenues increased 6.2%, from about $6,431M to $6,829M.

E-books accounted for 22.55% of publisher revenue in 2012, a moderate increase from 16.98% in 2011. For comparison, e-book revenue as a percentage of the total was only 0.05% in 2002, increasing as a percentage by almost 500x in a decade:

  • 2002:   0.05%
  • 2003:   ???
  • 2004:   ???
  • 2005:   ???
  • 2006:   0.50%
  • 2007:   ???
  • 2008:   1.18%
  • 2009:   3.17%
  • 2010:   8.32%
  • 2011:   16.98%
  • 2012:   22.55%

It seems clear that the days of e-book sales doubling and tripling are over, based on these 2012 figures, the fact that December sales grew even slower than overall 2012 sales (up only 20% from Dec 2011), and the fact that nothing can double or triple forever, especially as a percentage of overall sales.

So, how did I do on my predictions from a year ago? Back then (when 2011 sales figures came in), I predicted that:

Of course, nothing can double forever, and my early prediction is that 2012 e-book sales will fail to double from this year’s numbers — maybe up 50% or so to about $1,500M (one and a half billion).

With the actual figure coming in at $1,540M, that means my prediction was within 3% of the actual number … just like my prediction for 2011 sales made two years ago. =)

Note: between an all-encompassing “day job” and the arrival of our first child last month, I haven’t had nearly enough time to keep up with publishing industry trends or e-book sales stats as I used to — let alone having time to then blog about those things. But I’ll go ahead and keep up the tradition and make a prediction for 2013 e-book sales anyway: based on the lack of innovation in e-readers (yes, we have lighted e-readers, but no color or flexible screens yet) and the saturation of the market, I predict that e-book sales will continue to slow their rate of increase, perhaps increasing another 20-25% over this year’s sales figures, which would put 2013 e-book sales between $1.75 and $2 billion.

Kindle Paperwhite

Posted by Always Write at 2:46 PM Tagged with: , ,
Oct 022012

The new Kindle Paperwhite

The newest Kindle (Kindle 5?), called the Kindle Paperwhite, came out a couple of weeks ago, and from all the reviews I’ve seen, it’s a big hit.

The main new feature is the side-lit e-Ink display, which allows for reading at night or in low light, while still retaining the easy-on-the-eyes nature of e-Ink and ability to be read in direct sunlight. Reviews also say the lighting is more even than the similar Nook Glowlight, and that it noticeably improves the contrast of the display (Amazon says by 25%), because it makes the greyish background look more white. In the pics and videos I’ve seen of it so far, that was the first thing I noticed — the effect seems pretty dramatic. The display is also higher resolution (212 ppi vs. 167 ppi, or 62% more pixels) than the previous e-Ink Pearl screen used in the last two Kindle generations.

The Kindle Paperwhite is available in both Wi-Fi and WiFi + 3G flavors:

The new Kindle weighs 7.5 oz, or 7.8 oz for the 3G version, either of which are comfortable enough to easily hold in one hand. (For comparison, the Kindle 4, now just called the “Kindle,” weighs 5.98 oz and is available for just $69. The Kindle 3, known as the “Kindle Keyboard,” weighs 8.7 oz and comes with 3G for $139.)

While the new Kindle is impressive, and is probably a must-have for anyone who likes reading at night, it does lose some features from earlier models. Obviously, there is no physical keyboard, which Amazon went away from with the last generation Kindle Touch, but everything is accomplished through the touchscreen — including typing on a touchscreen keyboard and tapping or swiping on the screen to turn pages when reading. It also only has 2GB of storage (down from 4GB), although that is still enough to hold a thousand books or so, and Amazon will back up all your purchases in their “cloud” for free, so it’s not much of a limitation. The newest Kindle also removes the speakers and headphone jack, and thus is unable to play text-to-speech, which is a deal-breaker for some people. It comes with a USB cable (which you can plug into your computer to charge the device), but if you want a power outlet adapter, that’s an extra $10 now. (Again, if any of these limitations bothers you, the Kindle Keyboard is still available.)

The battery life is supposed to be excellent — 8 weeks even with the light on (at 30 minutes per day). All the reviews I’ve seen have reported that the battery life is excellent — you’ll probably only need to charge it once a month or less.

The software on the new Kindle Paperwhite is a big departure from the simple, text-based lists that dominated the older Kindle user experience. The user interface is much more “tablet-like,” with a scrollable list of book covers, and a strip of menus across the top. Everything is accomplished using the touch screen, including adjusting the strength of the light (in 24 steps, from very dim to quite bright), selecting a book to read, shopping in the Kindle Store, or tapping and holding on a word to bring up options to search that word in the built-in dictionary, look it up on Wikipedia, or even have it translated. While the addition of cover art to the home screen seems like a welcome change and an easier way to browse books, Amazon does place a strip of “Suggested Books” or “Bestselling Books” at the bottom of the display — and this is in addition to the “Special Offers” below that if you opted for the cheaper model — which shows that Amazon is selling Kindles and Kindle Fires at very aggressive prices partially in the hopes that users will buy lots of stuff from their excellent and expanding content ecosystem, including Kindle Books and newspapers, as well as videos and songs and apps for the Kindle Fire.

In any event, it looks like a solid offering from Amazon. While it came out later than Nook’s Glowlight model, every review I’ve seen has praised the Kindle Paperwhite’s lighting system as superior to the Glowlight’s, so those of you who like to read at night will probably be glad you waited.

Do you have a Kindle Paperwhite? Please feel free to share your experiences and thoughts about it in the comments below.

Jeff Bezos Interview

Posted by Always Write at 12:22 AM Tagged with: ,
Jul 302012

Sorry I haven’t had time to post much lately … just way too much going on with the day job and another (non-fiction) writing project I’m working on.

This is just a quick post to highlight what I thought was an interesting interview by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon (and inventor of the Kindle). A few highlights:

LE: How has the Kindle changed your own personal reading habits?

JB: I think like a lot of our Kindle customers, the biggest thing is that I end up reading more. So, it’s just easier to read more. I can have more books with me.

LE: What do you think will be the same five to seven years or further out about the way we read, never mind how the technology advances?

JB: I think one thing that you can count on is that human nature doesn’t change. The human brain doesn’t change. And so one thing that seems to be very, very fundamental is that we like narrative. We like stories. So I don’t think that any amount of eBook technology is going to change the fact that we humans like narrative.

LE: Do you think the appeal of purpose-driven eReaders is likely to diminish as the all-purpose devices get better and better at reading?

JB: No. I think that for serious readers, there will always be a place for a purpose-built reading device, because I think you’ll be able to build a device which is lighter, which matters a lot to people, has better readability if what you’re doing is reading text. You know, as soon as you have to make a device do a bunch of things, it becomes suboptimal for doing the one thing. … Can you go hiking in tennis shoes? Yes, but if you’re a real hiker you might want hiking boots. And so both things, I think, will continue to coexist.

LE: What conviction, personally for you, do you hold onto to avoid wilting under the criticism that comes your way, specifically in the publishing arena?

JB: What I hold onto and what I tell our folks here at Amazon is, if you’re going to invent, if you’re going to do anything at all in a new way there are going to be people who sincerely misunderstand, and there are going to be also self-interested critics who have a reason to misunderstand. You’ll get both types.

But if you can’t weather that misunderstanding for long periods of time, then you just have to hang up your hat as an inventor. It’s part and parcel with invention. Invention is by its very nature disruptive. And if you want to be understood, if it’s so important for you to be understood at all times, then don’t do anything new.

The full transcript of the interview is here; I think it’s worth reading.

February 2012 E-Book Sales $114.9M

Posted by Always Write at 10:11 PM Tagged with: ,
May 052012

E-Book sales for Feb 2012 cooled a bit from the record-breaking January pace, totaling $114.9M for the month. (See the note last month regarding the new methodology used to calculate these sales figures.)

Feb 2012 e-book sales: $114.9M

While impressive, these numbers are only a small increase from Feb 2011’s then-record-breaking $90.3M. According to the AAP, last February’s figure was artificially inflated due to a “one-off retail revenue transaction report” that “now makes that figure abnormally high.”

It appears print books had a banner month, pushing total sales to $578.3M, the second-highest month I’ve seen since I’ve been tracking these figures (Oct 2010 clocked in at $609.7M).

Adult Book Sales:

  • Adult Hardcover: $134.5M
  • Adult Trade Paper: $125.0M
  • Adult Mass-Market Paper: $64.6M
  • Adult E-Book: $92.5M

Young Adult Book Sales:

  • YA Hardcover: $82.9M
  • YA Trade Paper: $56.4M
  • YA E-Book: $22.4M

If those numbers are accurate, it’s the best month for mass-market paperbacks since Sep 2010, which had been in a steady decline. E-Books accounted for 19.9% of the total sales reported above, a decrease from last month, but a little above last year’s average of 19.1%.

UPDATE: Religious e-books accounted for $7,600,000, bringing the total to $122.5M for the month.

May 052012

Looks like a big month for e-books in January 2012, although the Association of American Publishers went and changed up their system on us, growing from collecting data from 90 publishers up to 1,150. While this should give a more comprehensive and accurate picture of sales, it also makes comparisons with prior data more difficult.

On the plus side, they released a good amount of granular detail for both January 2011 and January 2012. The summary: e-book sales for January 2012 total a whopping $128.8M, shattering the old record of $90.3M from Feb 2011 (more on that next month). This compares to (revised, apples-to-apples) sales from January 2011 of $73.2M, or a 56.8% increase. Perhaps most impressively, e-books totaled 26.7% of all book sales (print, e-book, and audiobooks) for the month.

The details from Jan 2012:

JAN 2012

Adult

YA

Religious

TOTAL

Hardcover

$69.8M

$57.4M

$39.6M

$166.8M

Tr. Paper

$105.1M

$38.0M

$5.3M

$148.4M

MM Paper

$30.4M

$30.4M

Audio

$8.4M

$8.4M

E-Book

$99.5M

$22.6M

$6.7M

$128.8M

TOTAL

$313.2M

$118.0M

$51.6M

$482.8M

Compare to Jan 2011:

JAN 2011

Adult

YA

Religious

TOTAL

Hardcover

$57.4M

$34.0M

$38.4M

$129.8M

Tr. Paper

$99.1M

$23.5M

$5.9

$128.5M

MM Paper

$39.3M

$39.3M

Audio

$6.5M

$6.5M

E-Book

$66.6M

$3.9M

$2.7M

$73.2M

TOTAL

$268.9M

$61.4M

$47.0M

$336.9M

The AAP must have some other figures they don’t include in the numbers above, because they list total Jan 2012 sales at $503.5M and Jan 2011 at $396.0M, a healthy 27.1% increase from last year.

Some highlights that jump out:

  1. Mass-market paperback sales continue their decline (now down below 1/3rd that of e-books — it wasn’t that long ago that e-books passing MM paperbacks seemed like a big deal).
  2. Adult e-book sales are up almost 50% from last year, and young adult e-book sales are up nearly six times last year’s figures, due no doubt to the increasing popularity of color tablets (like the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet) that allow for interactive children’s e-books.
  3. Young adult sales in general did very well — I wonder if much of the difference can be attributed to the mega-popular Hunger Games books.

January 2012 e-book sales: $128.8M

As explained above, don’t look at this chart and take the comparisons to earlier months as gospel, as the AAP’s new methodology makes month-to-month comparisons inexact. Last year, Jan 2011 sales were reported as $69.9M; this month (retroactively using the new methodology), they were adjusted upward to $73.2M. But a total of $128.8M in e-book sales is still a significant increase from any previous months, putting e-books on pace for $1.5 billion in sales for the year.

Apr 182012

Kindle 4, just $49 at Wal-Mart

Pretty amazing deal … the Kindle 4, which retails for $79, comes with a $30 Wal-Mart gift card at Wal-Mart the week starting April 29. That makes the final price just $49 for the latest-generation e-Ink Kindle.

It’s a pretty phenomenal deal, even though this is the non-touchscreen Kindle version (some of us don’t want fingerprints on our screen anyway and prefer page turn buttons), and it comes with “special offers.” More info on Amazon’s website here, or my blog posts here.

If you’ve been looking to jump into e-reading, but don’t want to spend much money, this is the deal for you. $79 is already a pretty attractive price for a Kindle, which gets you a 6″ Pearl e-Ink screen, Wi-Fi connectivity to download books wirelessly, adjustable text sizes, dictionary look-up, and access to Amazon’s world-leading e-book store, plus thousands of free public domain e-books. Add in the $30 gift card, and it’s like spending less than $50 for the Kindle — which is the cost of a couple of hardcover books.

If you want to grab this deal (perhaps as a Mother’s Day gift?), it will probably only be available at Wal-Mart for a week, from April 29 to May 5.

Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight

B&N today unveiled a new version of their Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight — an e-Ink based e-reader with a built-in reading light. Designed to appeal to readers who read in bed at night (without wanting to disturb a sleeping spouse), the new Nook uses an LED lighting system hidden around the bezel of the screen. As it’s built into the device and runs off the Nook’s internal rechargeable battery, it’s a superior solution to clip-on nightlights and reading lights.

Impressively, the new Nook manages to actually weigh a hair less than the previous Nook Simple Touch, and is still under 7 ounces, which is plenty light enough for easy 1-handed reading. It retains the touchscreen, e-Ink Pearl display, Wi-Fi, and other features of the regular (unlit) Nook Simple Touch, and the light can be turned on or off, for equally easy reading at night or outdoors in bright sunlight. It retails for $139, compared to $99 for the unlit version. It will be available on May 1.

While there have been rumors of Amazon coming out with a similar lighted Kindle version (and Sony had an e-reader with a similar, but not as advanced, built-in lighting system several years ago), kudos to Barnes & Noble for beating them to the punch. This seems to be a superior alternative to Amazon’s case with a built-in reading light (which also charges directly from the Kindle’s internal battery). Of note, the reading light will of course reduce the long battery life for which e-Ink e-readers are famous, but B&N says you can still read for a month for half an hour a day with the light on (compared to two months with the light off).

I haven’t seen one in person yet, but it seems like a great solution for people who like to read in bed while their spouses sleep. Now, if only B&N would cut back on the overblown hyperbole in their press releases and product descriptions. First of all, you don’t have the “World’s #1 Reader,” sorry, guys. And how they manage to pack “first & only,” “perfect,” “breakthrough,” “optimized,” “revolutionary,” “great,” “exclusive,” “Best-Text,” “fastest,” “most advanced,” “lightest,” “unbeatable,” “best of e-Ink,” and “amazing” all into a few lines of marketing copy is impressive. It’s like playing Superlative Bingo. And their press release is even more over the top. Really, B&N, you make a good product, but when you have to tell me 50x per press release how “most advanced” and “industry-leading” and ”most stupendously amazing” and “world’s best in the whole world” your own device is, it just sounds like you’re trying too hard.

© 2010 David Derrico