Saturday, December 8, 2007

How Many Kindles Did Amazon Sell?

Kindle has been sold out from day one. If you don't have yours already you won't see it before Christmas. With all the buzz about how Amazon can't keep this in stock, it begs the question: Just how many did they build? 10,000? 100,000? Everyone is speculating because Amazon isn't saying. I don't have any insider information on this but I believe all the facts point to a very small number, probably less than 5,000 and maybe as small as 1,000-2,000.

What am I basing this one? First, look at the number of customer reviews. Unlike the typical book page on Amazon, the Kindle has been the subject of open debate long before it was actually released. In fact, I seem to recall there were over 300 customer reviews posted the day Kindle was announced. Keep in mind that anyone ordering Kindle wasn't going to see and review it till the day after it was announced, so the vast majority of those 300+ posts on day one were from people who hadn't even touched a Kindle yet!

As of today, the number of customer reviews is still less than 1,000. That means that from the second day of availability till today there have been fewer than 700 additional customer reviews posted. 700 is a huge number, unless you're talking about a product with this much buzz. If you have a Kindle you're probably the first on your block and you're also highly likely to post a review; most early adopters are pretty outspoken after all, right? (See the iPhone for "Exhibit A" on this argument!)

Amazon has been roundly criticized for the high price and poor design of Kindle 1.0. Did it ever occur to you that maybe this is really nothing more than a beta version? A live beta, with real customers, of course, but a beta version nonetheless. OK, maybe "beta" is too strong a word, but Amazon undoubtedly knew they could sell a few thousand Kindles to early adopters regardless of price or functionality, so why wouldn't they? After all, if you have one today you're the envy of thousands of others. You just forked over $400 and feel lucky to one of a small number of Kindle owners. Are you really likely to complain about your purchase? No way. You're out there telling the world how great it is and how smart you were for ordering it so quickly.

Meanwhile, Amazon is working in a fairly small, controlled environment, collecting all sorts of great customer feedback for Kindle version 1.0, getting $400 for each (pseudo-beta) customer and (hopefully) treating this as research for version 2.0 and beyond. Pretty smart if you ask me.


bookofjoe said...

Way to go, Joe — with a name like that you know you're sure to succeed!


Joe aka bookofjoe

'World's most popular blogging anesthesiologist'

apolicastro said...

Hi Joe,
Great observation about the paid beta Kindle. I agree totally and suspect this goes on with every new product and that is why I never buy the first version. I wait for the improved, enhanced version and sometimes it's lower priced. Recall the iPhone.

amp said...

Your post sounds kinda logical until you go and look at how many comments there are on other devices. If you check the best-selling MP3 players, for example, the various iPod nano models have fewer than 150 comments each, the iPod touch has only 92 comments. Even the original Zune, which was very controversial yet sold far more than you project here, has only 985 comments...There appears to be no correlartion between sales and number of comments, even for controversial, hyped up products.

Joe Wikert said...

Hi Aaron. True, but if you're counting posts on you need to consider where else those other products are sold. Let's use the Zune as an example. Walmart carries that, so some percentage of Microsoft's sales are going through Walmart and not Amazon. It's available at other retail outlets as well. My point is that 100% of the Kindle sales are done on; that's not the case with the other product you mention, right? So, while commenting may be relatively low on those other products, sales of them on may also be low compared to each product's total sales across all channels/outlets.

I'm not saying this math is perfect, of course, but I do think this factor comes into play.