Will Amazon Ever Reveal Usable Data About the Kindle?

January 5, 2010 by Thad McIlroy

OK, I’m obsessed. I just checked and I’ve written over 30 blog entries in the last few years about Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, for what I consider empty, meaningless hype around the Kindle and eBooks generally. Where is Peter Finch’s Howard Beale when we need him: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!” (Younger readers, please check out the famous Network film scene on YouTube.)

For the record: I’m not against eBooks. They are fast maturing into a vital part of the information landscape. I think Amazon as a company is (as Mark Anderson calls it) “Amazin’,” and that it would not have become Amazin’ without Jeff Bezos. He is a fine example of a risk-taking entrepreneur.

I just don’t think that a company of Amazon’s stature, and a pioneer in eBook marketing, should appear to treat the public like fools.

Bezos’s latest insult to our intelligence was delivered on the day after Christmas. In a press release titled “Amazon Kindle is the Most Gifted Item Ever on Amazon.com,” we “learn” that “Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) today announced that Kindle has become the most gifted item in Amazon’s history.” The release immediately continues, “On Christmas Day, for the first time ever, customers purchased more Kindle books than physical books.”

OK, with all the ongoing hype, I’m willing to believe that the Kindle was indeed  the most gifted item in Amazon’s history. BUT may I note that of course we do not learn how many Kindles that represents, nor, if you ponder more carefully, over what time period. Is this being measured from the Kindle’s introduction? Or just from fall, 2009? Amazon must be the last large publicly-traded company in the world to fail to fill in those small details on its supposed #1 product. Does the SEC ever complain that Amazon might be misleading shareholders about information necessary to their understanding of the value of Amazon’s shares? Of course not.

Mediabistro’s Galleycat pointed out in a December 28, 2009 blog entry that “64 of the 100 Top Kindle Store Bestsellers Are Free.” Does Amazon consider obtaining something that costs $0.00 a purchase? Princeton University’s WordNet‘s first definition of the term “purchase” is “the acquisition of something for payment.” I, for one, would very much appreciate it if Amazon would clarify if it thinks that the word “purchase” is simply synonymous with “obtain.”

Further, does Amazon believe that Christmas Day 2009 will be seen as the tipping point? While almost certainly less than 5% of Amazon’s book-buying customers own Kindles, have the non-Kindle owners decided it is too embarrassing to be seen in public with a printed book? I find it extremely difficult to imagine what the real or symbolic significance is in Amazon’s hyperbolic “On Christmas Day, for the first time ever, customers purchased more Kindle books than physical books.”

To Mr. Bezos and the amazing PR folks at Amazon: please stop treating us like morons!

PS: From Mike Cane an excellent adjunct to this posting here.

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