Lately, the world—more specifically the Internet, which for some of us equals the world—has been spitting numbers at me. I’ve no idea why, other than maybe it’s numbers’ turn, just as sometimes it’s the turn of cute photos of rescued baby ducks or great recipes for low-glycemic desserts.
In any case, here is an interesting number:
Since its autumn 2007 launch, Amazon is reported to have shipped 240,000 Kindles. At a price ranging from $360 to $400, sales total so far between $86 million and $96 million for the device and another $100 million for the digital media to read on the device.
~TechCrunch, August 2008
Keep in mind that these figures do not come directly from amazon.com, which so far, has declined to report on the volume of Kindle and its media sales.
Shelf Awareness, http://www.shelf-awareness.com/, which reported that quote received a lot of follow-up e-mail, collectively adding up to the Case of the Cryptic Kindle. As with many urban legends, only a few people had seen a Kindle. One correspondent's son was reported to have won one as a prize and quickly sold it on e-Bay. Many other people said that they used other machines, or listened to audiobooks, but that Kindles were sparse on the ground all the way from New England to California.
What I find interesting is another number. Amazon has reported its second quarter sales for 2008: Net sales rose 41% to $4.06 billion from $2.89 billion in the same period a year earlier, and net income jumped to $158 million from $78 million. Reasons: heavy discounting, free shipping and high cost of gas.
If the Kindle figures and the Amazon figures are both accurate, that means that Kindle machines and media equal 4.8% of Amazon’s total net sales. Now, before the more numerically-minded among you tell me I’m comparing apples and oranges, I know that. Amazon’s total sales figures were for April, May, and June of 2008 and the Kindle figures are for the first year of sales, so the comparison isn’t bang on, but it still a chunk of income for a machine that wasn’t on the market a year ago.
Have I seen a Kindle? No. Granted that I live in Canada and sometimes don’t come out of my writing hidey-hole for days at a time, I may not be the best representative in the “seek the Kindle” treasure hunt, but I am curious. I also think it’s interesting that another quote I read in passing says that it’s the blogs, magazines, and newspapers that are making up the majority of Kindle media sales and that the books are a sort of ho-hum curiosity, rather on the order of, “Do you want fries with that?” category.
So here are my questions:
1. How many real live human beings have you seen using a Kindle?
2. Any clue if they were reading a blog, magazine, newspaper, or book on it?
3. What would be the price point for you; that is, at what price would you consider buying a Kindle or similar electronic reader—reader, not audiobook device?
Here’s a second interesting number quote:
What scares all of us in the library field is that we see few people between the ages of 18 and 34 reading books taken out from the library. … As librarians, we spend a great deal of our day now focusing on library services that appeal to the non-book reading generations, not in the promotion of reading. One third of my circulation (out of 200,000 checkouts a year) is non-print. While some of that is audio books, the vast majority of our non-print circulation is feature length films. This year one of our objectives in our plan is to study the reduction of print reference sources. I can only assume that some day I will be saying to my staff, “We do not need to buy this many mysteries.”
~Gary Warren Niebuhr, librarian, Milwaulkee, Wisconsin, January 2008
Since I was just in my local public library branch about an hour ago, I conducted a quick, highly unscientific survey. At 7:30 on a Monday night. My branch—one large room, with a smaller classroom near the entrance, had approximately 30 people in. Not counting the librarians, my husband and I, whose combined ages equal slightly over 100, were the oldest people in the room. We were checking out books, but not 1 of the remaining 28 people in the library were reading a book. They were studying printed handouts, reading newspapers, interacting on the computer, checking the DVD and CD collections, putting away A-V equipment in the small classroom, and chatting with one another.
Here’s my second set of questions:
1. When you go to the library, what are other people doing?
2. Do you notice an age gap: older folks in the books, younger folks on the computers and perusing the DVD holdings?
Before we book-lovers get totally depressed by these figures, here’s a wonderful non-numerical scene I witnessed a few weeks ago. I’d pulled into that same library branch parking lot before they opened because I had to pick up a book I’d placed on hold. Half a dozen people were lined up waiting for the door to be unlocked. One of them was a girl about four or five years old. Even at this age it was obvious that she was a free-thinking child, cherished in her family.
Her mother had allowed her to appear in public wearing a rainbow-hued multi-layer skirt, Hello Kitty T-shirt, and bright pink plastic rain boots. She had her arms tightly wrapped around a stack of picture books. As the assigned time for the library to open came and went without the staff unlocking the doors, the girl began to kick, gently at first, then with increasing vigor, on the metal door frame. The child chanted, “I want more books. I want more books.”
When the librarian did open the door, the little girl scooted in under her arm, and I saw her a moment later, already ensconced in the reading area, with half a dozen books spread on the floor around her, and a beautiful smile on her face.
Just goes to show that numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Writing quote for the week:
Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.
~Madeline L'Engle, writer