Who hides success?

I’ve argued in a number of places,over a number of months, that it’s strange and discouraging (if you’re an ebook believer) that Amazon doesn’t release sales figures for the Kindle.

My basic assumption has been, and continues to be, that in the real world of consumer electronics, you don’t hide sales figures unless they’re awful. Of course, Amazon plays by Amazon’s rule.

Here (and thanks to Charles W. Bailey, Jr. for the link) is what I regard as strong confirmation of my belief:

“Sony divulges Reader sales”

By Sony’s standards, 300,000 (over more than two years) isn’t exactly blockbuster success–but it’s a number, and a number big enough to mention.

“Observers” say the Reader and the Kindle are neck-and-neck in sales. But, you know, nobody outside Amazon knows the Kindle’s numbers. And that’s not the way consumer electronics or most other consumer fields work…unless companies are ashamed of the sales figures.

And Sony says it’s sold three million ebooks over two years. That is, to be sure, less than one-tenth of one percent of print book sales–but it’s a real business.

3 Responses to “Who hides success?”

  1. bowerbird Says:

    300,000 units of a $333 gizmo is $100 million.

    that’s hardly anything to write home about;
    sony is losing their shirt on that machine…

    and amazon isn’t doing much better either.
    (though oprah helped them out immensely.)

    the good news is that both of these projects
    have strong support at the highest levels of
    the companies — at the very _top_, in fact –
    because they recognize the long-term value.

    after far too many companies sought to use
    slash-and-burn to establish a first-to-market
    position they could use to make a monopoly,
    this stick-to-it attitude is _a_welcome_relief_,
    and thus we should _praise_their_attitude_,
    instead of condemning them for not satisfying
    our curiosity, even if it is well-meaning (and
    i fail to see how we’d make even that claim)…

    for the more-important questions on whether
    these machine-owners are buying _e-books_,
    and enjoying the experience, the answers are
    crystal-clear, especially concerning the kindle.
    word-of-mouth is almost unequivocally good,
    and e-book publishers report healthy sales…

    i’d say you and i have more important things
    to be worried about than these sales numbers.

    -bowerbird

  2. walt Says:

    Gee, bowerbird, if you have more important things to worry about, why are you commenting here? Don’t you have more important things to write about?

    I’d love to be in a position where $100 million is a trifle not even to be worth noting…but that’s not even the point.

    The point is that, in most consumer electronics situations, companies DO announce sales numbers, particularly when they’re in any way positive. And Sony has done so–even though the numbers are only positive when compared to previous generations of dedicated ebook readers.

    I find it really odd that you find $100 million in sales trivial, where you say “e-book publishers report healthy sales.” Seen any estimates for the total size of the ebook (as text) market lately? I can’t imagine any ebook publisher who wouldn’t be jumping for joy with $100 million sales.

  3. bowerbird Says:

    > bowerbird, if you have
    > more important things to worry about,
    > why are you commenting here?

    because i love you, walt, that’s why… :+)

    > in most consumer electronics situations,
    > companies DO announce sales numbers,
    > particularly when they’re in
    > any way positive.

    ok. i agree, in large part.

    and the numbers for these gadgets
    are _not_ “positive”, as numbers go.

    20 million iphones — not even counting the
    ipod touches — now _that_ is one “positive”
    number, especially over a mere 18 months…

    but 300,000 units? over more-or-less 3 years?
    well, not so “positive”. especially considering
    that sony probably made about $10 per unit.
    and that’s _before_ they figure in the cost of
    their marketing. if there were to count that,
    they’re in the red on this project, _deep_ red.

    indeed, if this gadget wasn’t the passion of
    their c.e.o., it would’ve already been canned.

    > I find it really odd that you find
    > $100 million in sales trivial, where you say
    > “e-book publishers report healthy sales.”

    oh, c’mon, walt. that’s apples and oranges…

    $100 million in sales is indeed “trivial” when
    your costs are between $90 and $110 million.
    especially for a gigantic electronics company,
    with sales (maybe even profit) in the billions.
    it’s in the realm of petty-cash.

    e-book publishers, on the other hand, are just
    some small furry mammals scurrying around.
    their costs are minimal. heck, their _variable_
    costs approach zero. but even their fixed costs
    are low. so any sales — at all — are welcome…
    and any upward trend — at all — is happiness.

    > I can’t imagine any ebook publisher
    > who wouldn’t be jumping for joy
    > with $100 million sales.

    even random house would like to see a figure
    like “$100 million” for their electronic-books…
    since they wouldn’t spend _anywhere_near_
    $90 to $110 million in creating those e-books.

    -bowerbird


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