Amazon Kindle, Larson Success Show E-Readers Are Here To Stay

The future is looking bright for e-books. This week brought two important announcements: Amazon reported that its Kindle e-reader, recently lowered to $189 from $259, has sold out (albeit temporarily); and the late Swedish writer Stieg Larsson, best known for his Millennium Trilogy, including The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, has become the first author to sell more than 1 million e-books in the Kindle Store.

These developments suggest that e-books are finding a mainstream audience that appears eager to read book-length material on portable electronic devices, including the Kindle and other standalone e-readers (e.g., Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony Reader), and on smartphones and the Apple iPad.

Big Demand?

Earlier this week, Amazon posted a message on its website stating that the Kindle was "temporarily out of stock." The company gave no indication as to when shipments of the e-reader would resume. The sold-out note followed last week's announcement that Amazon was now selling more e-books than hardcovers, and that Kindle e-reader sales had tripled since the product's recent price cut.

Cynics might suggest that Amazon is being a tad slippery here. After all, the company's ongoing parade of press releases ("Sold out! Gangbuster sales!") does appear suspect when Amazon refuses to divulge sales figures for the Kindle e-reader--a product that debuted nearly three years ago. By comparison, Apple said last week that it has already sold nearly 3.3 million iPads since the tablet's April launch.

E-Book Bonanza

Amazon hasn't been as furtive with its Kindle e-book numbers. Larson's Millennium Trilogy, including The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, has sold more than a million electronic copies. The three titles are among the top 10 bestselling Kindle books of all time (which admittedly hasn't been very long).

But wait, there's more. Kindle e-books have outsold hardcovers 143-to-100 over the past three months, Amazon says. The lower-priced Kindle, which boosted e-reader sales, caused e-book sales to spike too. Now that e-reader prices have stabilized (at least for now) it'll be interesting to see if Amazon's electronic titles can maintain their sales lead.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci ) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com .

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