13 August 08 | Chad W. Post

The 240,000 Kindle sales figure has been written about quite a bit over the past few weeks, with everyone speculating on whether this number is strong enough to make the Kindle the next iPod.

According to Silicon Alley Insider,- Citi’s Mark Mahaney has doubled his estimate of Kindle sales to 378,000 for this year. And if his projection that Amazon will sell 150,000 units in the fourth quarter comes true, that really could be the proverbial “tipping point” for ebooks and the Kindle.

Of course, Peter Kafka points out a couple of the obstacles for the Kindle to really take off:

But we still think that there’s a fundamental difference between the Kindle and the iPod that will slow adoption: iPod users immediately had access to thousands of songs they already owned the minute they synced their machines to their computers. And they could get anything else they wanted for free (if they chose to steal). Kindle users, however, are pretty much forced to pay $9.99 each time they want a new title. That’s a substantial discount to hardcover prices. But given that they have to lay out that much on top of buying a $350 machine, we think that makes it a different proposition.

The price point is interesting, since $10 seems reasonable to me. It’s still less than a paperback, and it’s the same as the cost of an album on iTunes, but Kassia Krozser brings this up as well at Booksquare:

This coincides with an email discussion about the price of ebooks. Nobody knows the optimal price, but then I wonder how much of the conversation is sheer academics versus real life experience. I loaded up the Kindle before my journey, and, as I browsed for a good variety of titles, found myself price shopping (for books! I know.). I mean, even I look at the relative value of bits and bytes versus a product I can’t, for lack of a better term, recycle. This is a conversation that needs to be had on a serious level, involving real readers. Anyone ever ask us about ebook prices?

Then she mentions a side-industry that is helping fuel the ebook market:

Here’s a truth: ebooks sell far better than numbers from traditional publishers indicate. This is because there’s a huge market for erotica out there. Women buy erotic ebooks instead of purchasing physical books because, well, if you’re female and over thirty, you’ve been taught that good girls don’t go there. Actually, good girls do. They just do it under the radar. This is good and bad for the ebook industry.

Which is funny, since something similar (at least according to a couple people I met in Tokyo) has been happening in Japan over the past few years with a lot of women reading erotica on their cellphones while riding the train.

Over at Beyond Hall 8 Edward Nawotka isn’t sold on the 240K number or its significance:

I read in today’s news TechCrunch as reporting 240,000 units have sold; and the number of customer reviews have passed 4,000 on Amazon.com’s Web site. And now I’m told that Amazon could sell 380,000 units in 2008.

Well, that just sounds like hyperbole to me and I’ll tell you why: I have not yet met a single person who owns one – and I live in a city of about six million people, regularly fraternize with book lovers, and travel frequently. I’ve seen more exotic cars in the past ten months — Ferraris, Bentleys, Lamborghinis — than Kindles.

This is a valid and interesting point—for a trend to really take off, people have to desire a particular product, and generally that includes seeing a peer group you respect/emulate with that product. Which makes me wonder who the main audience for the Kindle is/will be? Who is the hip literary crowd that could drive such a trend?

Based on the selections of books available via Amazon, I have a hard time imagining a lot of literary readers buying a Kindle. At least not now. In addition to making a device that’s way more sleek and sexy, Amazon should heavily recruit content providers. Otherwise some other outlet—such as Apple—could come along and win the ebook race so to speak, not just with a better device, but by providing the audience that could make this scene explode with the type of books they want to read.

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