The eBook Bubble

June 24th, 2008

If you’ve read the section on this site about eBooks and (what I call) eContent, you’ll know that I’m not a big cheerleader for eBooks. I lived through the first eBook “revolution” — featuring the forgotten standalone eBook readers like the Rocket eBook and the SoftBook Reader. That revolution never took off, and wound down more-or-less at the same time as the burst of the Internet bubble. Microsoft used to offer the Microsoft Reader software for eBooks both for its PocketPC and for don’t fit-in-your-pocket PCs. For some reason this software can still be downloaded from a page (1-1-2012: Not any more.) on Microsoft’s website that notes “Updated: May 19, 2005.” Microsoft is obviously not currently interested in the eBook phenomena.

But when Jeff Bezos and Amazon caught the eBook fever last November with the release of the Kindle, he managed to somehow erase everyone’s short-term memory and has re-kindled an explosion of interest in the eBook format. (Even The Economist found its short-term memory damaged, stating in a June 5, 2008 article that the “Kindle and its kind are merely the first generation [emphasis mine] of a product that is sure to evolve quickly in the coming years.”

Yesterday I learned of CitiGroup’s Mark Mahaney who has calculated, with very slim data, that Kindle could add $750 million to Amazon’s top line by 2010. This prompted John Paczkowski on AllThingsDigital to label Mahaney as “an honor student at (the) Strained Credibility Academy.”

Well today I learned (once more with credit to Bob Sacks) that another student at The Strained Credibility Academy is looking for higher marks than Mark. According to a posting on, “Pacific Crest analyst Steve Weinstein argues that global e-book sales at Amazon could reach $2.5 billion by the year 2012,” and could add “as much as $330 million to operating income.” Wow!

Go back to my section on eBooks where you’ll see that the highest estimate of all eBook sales last year was $67 million. Then do the math on the CAGR through 2012, keeping in mind that Amazon, which was originally built on selling books online, currently accounts for only 6-8% of all book sales in the U.S.

Why did God give us analysts at investment banks? A Google search offers only one answer. According to an article on Innovating Tomorrow, “God gave some people the ability to analyze and measure situations. These are people who love to do this and have some deep-seeded [I assume they mean “deep-seated”] talent for it. These are people and gifts God has given us to use in ministry.”

I think not. God gave us analysts so that businesses would have an external justification for making bad decisions that they have already decided to go forward with. The e-book gold rush is one of them.