Amazon.com's Kindle page currently lists the bestselling e-reader as "temporarily out of stock," with no word on its future availability. While the Kindle's recent price drop could have sparked an unexpected customer rush, the possibility exists that the online retailer is preparing a hardware refresh. The larger-screen Kindle DX is still available.
This wouldn't be the first time Amazon faced a Kindle shortage: The original version of the device sold out within hours of its debut in 2007, with endemic shortages until April 2008. In June 2009, Amazon announced that the Kindle DX had sold out within three days of the device's release. By the end of 2009, Amazon seemed to have smoothed out its supply chain-in time for e-readers to become one of the "must have" items of the holiday season, with rivals such as Barnes & Noble reporting shortages of their own devices.
By July, Amazon reported that its Kindle ebooks were outselling hardcover books at an accelerating rate, and that its radical price cut for the original Kindle from $259 to $189-seemingly enacted to counter Barnes & Noble's similar discount for the Nook-had resulted in increased sales.
"We've reached a tipping point with the new price of Kindle," Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, wrote in a July 19 statement. "Amazon.com customers now purchase more Kindle books than hardcover books-astonishing when you consider that we've been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months."
Despite the Kindle's sales, Amazon faces a growing threat in the e-reader category from the Apple iPad, which counts an ebook application among its many features. In a July 21 report, Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Marianne Wolk estimated that the iPad had surpassed the estimated ownership base of the Kindle, despite having been on the market for four months.
"Last night, Apple stated it has shipped 3.27 [million] iPads since the April product launch, surpassing our estimate for an installed base of [around 3 million] Amazon Kindles to date despite supply constraints," Wolk wrote. "However, Kindle device sales have also accelerated recently, with the growth rate of Kindle units up 3x since the June 21 price reduction."
Amazon has argued that the Kindle's e-ink screen offers a better reading experience and superior battery life to the iPad. In addition, the retailer has pushed through software updates for the Kindle and the Kindle DX, including a social-networking feature that draws on Twitter and Facebook, in a bid to increase the devices' functionality. And on top of that, the new Kindle DX features some hardware tweaks that could easily find their way onto the regular-sized Kindle.
As suggested by a number of online reports, either Amazon is wrestling with supply-chain issues thanks to increased Kindle sales or else the company is clearing the decks in preparation for a new e-reader.