Marketing e-books is difficult despite an increase in sales

Citigroup recently estimated that Amazon's Kindle electronic book reader is selling better than expected this year, according to multiple media reports. Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney estimated that Kindle sales could reach 380,000 in 2008, with high holiday sales expected, compared to a previous estimation of 190,000.

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Citigroup recently estimated that Amazon's Kindle electronic book reader is selling better than expected this year, according to multiple media reports. Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney estimated that Kindle sales could reach 380,000 in 2008, with high holiday sales expected, compared to a previous estimation of 190,000.

Kindle, which allows people to download novels, newspapers, magazines, and blogs wirelessly, holds about 200 books.

Amazon, which does not release figures for Kindle, declined to comment on the prediction.

Why does it matter?

Barbara Lilie, marketing director at Harper Media, says interest, awareness, and enthusiasm for e-books increased during the past year, yet many are still unfamiliar with the format. She spends a lot of time trying to attract people's interests and clarify misconceptions.

“You end up having to market a more complicated message with e-books,” she says. “First, there is a message about the book and the author, and then there is also a message about the format.”

One way of getting people more familiar with the product is giving an e-book away for free for a period of time, Lilie says. Judith Keenan, founder of BookShorts, agrees, and adds that a giveaway can provide an authentic way to market the product.

“Whereas previous thinking was that to give away part of a book, or a book in its entirety, will jeopardize your real world sales, it's actually that it boosts sales exponentially,” she says.

Keenan likens the switch to e-books to any other technological breakthrough. “People do make the switch eventually,” she says.


Five facts:

1 The day the Kindle was released in November 2007, there were 88,000 titles available for download. Today, there are more than 150,000 titles in the Kindle Store.

2 Kindle allows people to download the beginning of many books for free before buying. Most newspaper subscriptions also come with a free, two-week trial.

3 US wholesale e-book revenues were $10.1 million in Q1 of 2008, according to the International Digital Publishing Forum and the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

4 While audio book sales dropped for both the month and year, e-book sales rose 24.3% in May, and increased 34.1% for the year, according to the AAP.

5 OverDrive, which offers digital audio books, e-books, video, and music to retailers, expanded services and now provides content to about 7,500 public libraries.

 

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