Amazon.com may be reluctant to share exactly how many Kindles the company's sold since it debuted the e-reader, but that hasn't stopped it from discussing-yet again-the device's supposedly best-selling status.
"It's still October, and we've already sold more Kindle devices since launch than we did during the entire fourth quarter of last year-astonishing because the fourth quarter is the busiest time of year on Amazon," Steve Kessel, senior vice president of Amazon Kindle, wrote in an Oct. 25 statement posted on the retailer's Website. "For the top 10 bestselling books on Amazon.com, customers are choosing Kindle books over hardcover and paperback books combined at a rate of greater than 2 to 1."
Amazon claimed in the same press release that Kindles and "Kindle-related items"-including e-books-constitute 15 of the top 15 bestselling items on the company's U.S. and British Websites.
Without hard numbers, though, it can be difficult to determine the true effect of Kindle's impact on the market. Analysts generally seem to agree that, no matter what the actual sales numbers, the Kindle's successive price-drops throughout 2010 have accelerated overall device shipments. Marianne Wolk, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group, wrote in an August research note to investors that Amazon had sold an estimated 3 million Kindles.
In a bid to stay competitive with other e-reader manufacturers, Amazon recently introduced two new features: the ability to receive newspapers and other periodicals via the free Kindle app, and "lending for Kindle," which allows e-books to be shared among users. That lending feature was introduced with Barnes & Noble's Nook, arguably the Kindle's most high-profile e-reader competitor.
"Each book can be lent once for a loan period of 14 days and the lender cannot read the book during the loan period," reads an Oct. 22 note on Amazon's Website. "Additionally, not all e-books will be lendable-this is solely up to the publisher or rights holder, who determines which titles are enabled for lending."
Analytics firm In-Stat predicts that e-reader shipments will rise from 12 million units in 2010 to 35 million by 2014. Other analysts seem to concur that those shipments will continue to expand, despite concerns by some that the growth in consumer tablet PCs-driven at this point by the Apple iPad-will have a cannibalizing effect on the e-reader market.
Via software updates over the summer, Amazon added a handful of "experimental" features to the Kindle, including a WebKit-based browser and the ability to listen to music and podcasts. Whether that represents a concerted attempt on the retailer's part to blunt some of that tablet PC competition, or a testing-of-waters for future updates and plans, remains unanswered. Rumors suggest that the Nook could receive a color screen and Android operating system, which would also put it in a better position for battle within the mobile-device market.