Time to update Three new things walked into a bar…, as promised.
- There are Blu-ray players in some 10.5 million homes. Publishers expect to sell about 100 million Blu-ray discs this year. For popular new releases, Blu-ray now represents roughly 10% of sales–and, overall, it’s up to roughly 8%. That already makes it a billion-dollar business (take your choice: either players or discs). Since disc prices are dropping and store-brand player prices are already below $200, those numbers seem likely to continue increasing rapidly.
- There are apparently between 700 thousand and a million people using FriendFeed, although that number–like most online numbers, particularly for social media sites that can be used without actually joining–are heavily suspect. Let’s say 700,000 for now. Revenue from those users, to be sure, is zero.
- Nobody knows how many Kindles have been sold, but most estimates range around half a million. Amazon is no more likely to release revenue numbers for Kindle-specific ebooks than they are to release actual Kindle figures–but the best estimate I’ve seen for total ebook sales (including everything) is around $16 million for Q1 2009, let’s say $50 million for 2008 total–which is, to be sure, an enormous improvement over previous years.
So by my calculations, Blu-ray is used by about ten times as many people as Friendfeed, which is used by maybe twice as many people as Kindle. Blu-ray is at or nearing mass-market status. Neither one is anywhere near that level.
“Success” and game-changer
Here’s the perception issue, and I’d say most gurus and people measuring heat would rank the three in exactly the reverse order–that is, Kindle’s hottest and most successful, Friendfeed’s a distant second, and Blu-ray is a boring failure. Readers here paint a slightly more complex picture.
It’s interesting that GeekChic assumes FriendFeed has the most users (and Steve L. gets the numbers roughly right without checking them). I find Mike’s response most typical of digital gurus, including snide universalisms: “(Who would knowingly purchase a CD today?)” Well, 68% of music sales in the U.S. in 2008 were still physical, as were 80% worldwide (and 90% in Europe)–so apparently two out of three buyers still “knowingly purchase” CDs. I’ll counter Mike’s prediction: I think Blu-ray will do just fine for quite a few years–at the very least until it’s feasible for most Americans to download Blu-ray quality video. Even then, there are still tens of millions of us who actually like to own some of our entertainment… I’d also question Mike’s assurance that we’re headed for “basic changes in how we purchase and read books”–but I think that, here again, Mike falls into the “digital conquers all” category, which certainly puts him in good company. I happen to disagree.
One footnote on the inevitable triumph of new technologies: Vinyl LP sales were the highest in 2008 that they’ve been since 1991. Admittedly, that’s just under two million albums, but it’s an interesting figure nonetheless–and two million albums represents a respectable small business.
Libraries going out of their way…
Every library is different. I’d bet there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of U.S. public libraries already circulating Blu-ray discs (I could be wrong). I’d guess a fair number of libraries will have patron requests for Blu-ray discs this year. I doubt that there are many libraries actually circulating Blu-ray players; that’s not usually the job of a public library.
Which makes it all the odder that a few public libraries are buying Kindles and circulating them–but who am I to argue with well-informed local decisions?