San Francisco — Giant online retailer Amazon.com has never disclosed sales figures for its e-reader, the Kindle. It still has not, but the company on Monday trumpeted that the latest version of its popular Kindle e-reader, the Wi-Fi and third-generation Kindle, have surpassed its previous all-time bestseller, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the company said.
The first Amazon Kindle was released about three years ago, and the online retailer is once again claiming a sales milestone for the Kindle without sharing the exact sales figures concerning the device. In the latest achievement, Amazon.com says the latest Kindle is the bestselling product in the 15-years the online retailer has been open for business.
On Christmas Day, Amazon claimed that a larger number of people opted for new Kindles and bought more e-books than on any other day, which eclipsed those of the previous champ, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” book seven of the popular series, in the company’s history. The company also claimed that “many” people buying Kindles also own a tablet computer, which the retailer says they are using for games, movies, and Web browsing while the Kindle is favored for reading.
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Of course, “many” is too shadowy a term to be an indication whether Kindle sales are being negatively affected by tablets, or more specifically, the Apple iPad, which accounts for more than 95% of tablets sold today.
And as usual, Amazon did not reveal precisely how many Kindles the company has sold, but Forrester Research’s James McQuivey has estimated that by the end of the year, Amazon will have sold about 6 million units.
“We grateful to the millions of customers who have made the all-new Kindle the bestselling product in the history of Amazon,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a press release.
To put that in perspective — The Wi-Fi Kindle beat out “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” attained the best-seller title, Amazon said, and that franchise has had national reading programs, Halloween tie-ins, a string of hit movies, and even a theme park help boost its sales.
Bezos did exploited the occasion to take a veiled shot at those who said that fancier tablet computers like Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Android-powered Galaxy Tab — which are much more expensive than Kindles and offer more features — would crush Amazon’s signature e-reader. Not even one year ago, tech pundits were predicting Kindle’s demise at the hands of iPad.
“Customers report using their LCD tablets for games, movies and web browsing, and their Kindles for reading sessions,” Bezos said in a statement. “They report preferring Kindle for reading because it weighs less, eliminates battery anxiety with its month-long battery life, and has the advanced paper-like Pearl E Ink display that reduces eyestrain, does not interfere with sleep patterns at bedtime, and works outside in direct sunlight, an important consideration, especially for vacation reading.”
“Kindle’s $139 price point is a key factor — it is low enough that people do not have to choose,” Bezos added.
While Amazon.com is attempting to give the impression that the iPad is having little impact on the Kindle, but research indicates the opposite. From Aug. 1 to Nov. 8, the Kindle had stiff competition this year against tablets as well as other e-readers like Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Its share of the e-reader market fell 15 percentage points to 47%, while the iPad’s share rose 16 percentage points to 32%, according to the ChangeWave Research. The rest of the market includes the Sony Reader at 5% and the Barnes & Noble Nook with 4%.
Ben Schachter, an analyst with Macquarie Research, believes that Amazon is poised to continue its strong performance.
“Amazon has honored the bulls and confounded the bears for years,” Schachter wrote in a recent note to clients, in which he initiated coverage of the company with an “Outperform” rating. “Through it all, very few would argue that the company’s execution has been anything other than remarkable. Even fewer would argue that the secular shift of retail to online from offline will wane.”
Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether Amazon.com can carve a niche in the most competitive market for the Kindle. In the meantime, iPad sales have been strong. The company is believed to have shipped 15.5 million units in the fourth quarter, bringing the total for the year to 47 million, according to DigiTimes.