Amazon introduced its Kindle ebook reader

31 Jan

Since Amazon introduced its Kindle ebook reader, analysts and rivals have attempted to gauge its success via learning sales numbers. Because of that, the online bookseller has jealously guarded those figures – at least until Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Thursday let slip “millions” of people own the device. That number is actually 3 million, according to a new report.

“The total number of all types of Kindles out there in users hands hit 3 million sometime in December,” Michael Arrington of TechCrunch writes, citing sources who’ve been “amazingly accurate” in the past.

Although Amazon spokespeople refuse to elaborate on Bezos’ “millions” remark, the word sentBusinessWeek to do some back-of-the-envelope calculations.

“Assuming that at least two million people have bought the device, and that each paid at least $259 – the cost of the least-expensive Kindle – Amazon now has a business worth more than $500 million in sales,” the publication said Thursday.

Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney also figures Amazon could sell 2 million Kindles this year. Other analysts predict Apple’s iPad may sell twice that in 2010 alone.

Why is it so important how many Kindles is sold? Not only has Barnes & Noble’s Nook attempted to challenge the ebook leader, Amazon figured prominently in Apple’s introduction of its own “Kindle killer,” the iPad. CEO Steve Jobs announced his company will “stand on their [Amazon’s] shoulders and go a bit further.” In private, however, Apple has used Amazon’s pricing as a wedge to split off some big-name publishers. Although Amazon has attempted to adopt some of Apple’s practices (raising the royalties for publishers and adding apps to its e-reader), the company is squarely in Apple’s sights. Little wonder Amazon doesn’t want to talk numbers.

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