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.
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.
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.