Saturday, January 05, 2008

When will Kindle Ship? Is it a Hoax?

Like any self-respecting blogger, every day I look at the analytics of my page to see how many people read what I have to say. There aren't many of you, and my relative anonymity lets me be pretty free with my words.

However, lately, or more precisely, since Christmas day(December 25, 2007), the change in these analytics has been astounding. Prior to Christmas, there was a pretty even distribution of people coming to this blog either directly, or they clicked through from another blog, or they found it through a search engine. Today, that distribution is completely skewed. Since Christmas, the vast majority of readers have come via a search engine with the key phrase, 'how many kindles sold'. What they are finding is a previous post of mine with that same title. (Joe Wikert recently reported this in Kindleville). The numbers reading this post outstrip any other posts by a factor of 4 - 1. Pretty impressive considering about 3 people read it when I first posted it.

I can only surmise, that these people are (like me) waiting for the Kindle that someone gave them as a Holiday gift. And, Amazon is completely mum on when these are going to be shipped. As Joe would say, very 'Un-Amazon-ish'.

It's got me thinking, is this whole Kindle thing a hoax? Is there a great guffaw echoing from the top of the Veterans Hospital in Seattle? Is this the great practical joke of 2007? Obviously, they don't have them, or they would have been shipped already. What gives? Maybe they just wanted to give all of us, 'pundits', something to distract us while they moved in another direction.

Or, alternatively, did Amazon bet the farm on the assumption that the Kindle would fall flat on it's face? Was Kindle only introduced as a mechanism to shake up the book publishing industry and show them all how foolish they have been to eschew digital distribution?

Well, in any case, my initial excitement about getting a Kindle is turning to anger. And, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm a pretty patient guy. I imagine that there are many angry people out there, which is another reason in the 'massive' uptick in finding my old blog post. People have plunked down money and there are no goods coming. It's as simple as that.

And, unfortunately, it is very 'Amazon-ish' to not have any 'person' to go to. It doesn't seem that there there is a real responsibility taker anywhere in the entire operation. It's all computer systems. And when the systems don't work correctly, no one has to take personal responsibility.

It would be ironic if this 'Kindle debacle' single-handedly destroyed Amazon's (well earned) reputation for under-promising and over-delivering. Maybe then, a 'person' might have to eat some humble pie, and someone might (God forbid) have to take some responsibility and lose a job.


Mike said...

I can understand your frustration about Amazon's Kindle shipping policies (if there are any -- "first come, first served" certainly has a unique definition in their universe). But it's not true that you have paid your money without getting any goods; your credit card won't be charged until the Kindle ships. While this may seem a minor point, I wish more internet and mail order companies would follow this policy. Amazon is not getting any unearned financial value from whatever may be causing their delays in order fulfillment, and they are undoubtedly aware of the ill-will that the delays have caused. I think their intentions are honorable, but share your wish that they would be more forthcoming about the prospects for the Kindle, as well as the eBook industry more generally. (For example, have many publishers committed to issuing their titles in Kindle format since its debut in November? The notable unavailability of most titles reviewed in the Sunday _New York Times Book Review_ for the past two months would suggest they haven't.)

Fran Toolan said...

Mike, I'll give you that Amazon has generally been a very honorable company. But the more I think about this, the more the word 'debacle' seems quite accurate.

As for publishers trying to get their titles on Kindle, I personally know many that are desparately trying. But, again, there is no person to talk to there. All emails on that topic are circulated to a general email address and (to my understanding) never answered.

So, I know that there is a backlog of titles waiting for Kindle, but Amazon is not taking them.

Christopher said...

They aren't the first company to be victims of their own success. Perhaps they didn't think the demand would be as high for a device that expensive. On the other hand perhaps the factory that provides the screens with their cutting edge e-ink technology may have led them down the garden path: '50,000 by Christmas? Sure! We can't possibly do that, but you're not really going to sell that many so why worry.' And then they opened up ordering and the whole warehouse full went in 5 hours.

I'd be angry too, and terribly envious, if I hadn't bungled into buying one in those first five hours. I love it, even with its many and obvious flaws.

The Kindlemonk

Fran Toolan said...

I am very sympathetic to companies that are victims of their own success - if they own up to that being the problem. There is no indication of this...

Also, do you have any idea how many were actually sold? I can't get a handle on that number either. Amazon won't answer the question, and the highest speculation I heard was 4,000. But that was a pure guess.

I'd love to back off here, I really would. But the issue is that all data related to the Kindle is pure speculation. With one very major exception - I have not heard anyone say they wanted to give it back!

kindlicious said...

You article is right on. This product launch has been an absolute shambles. This is what happens when a distributor/retailer goes into the consumer electronics business.

Compare them to Apple, who legendarily hypes their products prior to release. Typically, Apple's products seem to be available within a few weeks of being announced, and with sufficient quantities to satisfy demand.

Amazon obviously did not have the experience with manufacturers to attain reasonable quantities to offer this for sale, and obviously underestimated the demand for the product.

Amazon should issue a sizable credit to anyone waiting over 4 weeks for the product, to refund some of the premium they paid to be early adopters -- especially considering that the price is bound to be lowered in 2008 once supply finally out-paces demand.

Most of all, Amazon's reputation for good customer service has been harmed by the lack of information and corporate double-speak they have doused on loyal customers who ordered Kindles and just want to know when they can expect those orders to be filled.

Calvin said...

I just got my ship notification this evening. Woooo!! And I immediately checked the Amazon kindle page and it is sold out again! This is February 7th. What does it mean?

Fran Toolan said...

Who knows what it really means, Calvin? Here are a couple of guesses...

1. they like having it appear to be on backorder to help stimulate demand.

2. they got really screwed by their manufacturer/supplier of e-ink.

3. the device manufacturer they chose couldn't scale up for the demand.

4. they never intended to sell this many, and already have the next version ready for manufacture.

5. they are trying to prove to publishers that they need to get their act together regarding e-editions of books.

6. they are trying to scare independent book retailers (who seem to be making a comeback).

it could be any, all, or none of the above... but that's what comes to mind.

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