The Kindle Moment

No one can ignore that the hottest book right now is Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, a narrative history of the beginning of the Trump administration. It’s the best selling book on Amazon, even though it’s not currently available in hardcover. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) Originally scheduled for release on January 9, it was pushed up to the 5th to meet the demand that had been created by some carefully planned magazine excerpts, and a few tweets by the subject of the book, followed by some weak attempts to block its sale.

It’s a page-turner; I’ve read about half so far. It confirms that things are really bad in the White House, but also that they’re much worse than we could have imagined.

What’s interesting about this book is that it’s the first real Kindle moment. The first printing sold out in hours, and Amazon currently shows it as being available in 2 to 4 weeks. This estimate is probably exaggerated, because they should be able to get enough books printed in a day or two to satisfy the early demand, but it’s possible that they have so many orders already, that their next deliveries are already sold.

Unlike an iPhone, which is a physical product that often suffers from this sort of unavailability at launch, this book is also available in Kindle format. And Amazon is taking advantage of that, reminding readers that they can buy the Kindle version without waiting:

Fire and fury

You’ll note that the Kindle version currently costs more than the (unavailable) hardcover. This is a sort of surge pricing for books; why discount the hottest book of the season? It’s not a loss leader like the latest novels by Dan Brown or Stephen King, it’s a must-read that people want now, because it won’t be as interesting in a week, after many of the salacious elements are reported in the press.

It’s not often that a book like this drives demand so much that the publisher can’t keep up. Amazon is stepping in to help meet that demand, shifting a lot of readers from print to ebook. Even if they don’t have Kindles, they can read it on their phones or tablets.

Recent reports have suggested that ebook sales are sliding, but this is the kind of book that can give an unexpected bump to the format.

One note: credit is due to Amazon for policing reviews on this book. Following recent changes to Amazon’s review policy, this book can only be reviewed by verified purchasers. This weeds out the many fake reviewers that attempt to lower the ratings of controversial books. Nevertheless, at the time of this writing, more than 500 people have reviewed this book, giving it an average rating of five stars. I’m sure not all of them have read the book in its entirety, but many people are posting reviews just to say that, in spite of attempts to quash it, they’ve bought it.

There are currently 14 one-star reviews, including:

President has declared book illegal. If you read you illegal. America now great. Obey law or go gulag. Bad book. Bad writing. Go far away.

And…

VERY SAD!!!!!
I read a lots of books more than anyone and this book is a DISGRACE.Wolff is a loser A TOTAL LOSER and everyone knows it. you know it, I know it, everyone knows it.This book is NOT FOR SMART PEOPLE. Only a very for dumb people would read this TRASH. Only very dumb people like, not the kind of book I would read because I’m one of the SMARTEST PEOPLE.

And…

Sorry I made a mistake I want the actual book it is a present por my mom can you return it?

4 thoughts on “The Kindle Moment

  1. Kindle isn’t the only ebook option, and not always the best, either. It’s available as an epub that will work on more devices (nook, kobo, etc) for $15 at Booksamillion.com and at the iBook store, and will presumably be available at libraries in short order (though with with long waiting lists!) I often find that booksamillion is cheaper than kindle. [Kindle is now matching the epub price, at least in the US.]

    • Kindle is, to me, the best, since you can read a Kindle book on just about any device. In any case, Kindle is the biggest player in the market. And Amazon sells both print and ebooks, which the others don’t.

  2. Booksamillion sells both paper and ebooks (adobe drm epub or pdf depending on how it’s published), and some other booksellers (barnes & noble/nook) do too, though many fewer than there used to be because adobe raised their licensing fees a few years ago. Epubs can be read on any reasonably current device I know of except Kindles, usually with a choice of at least three or four different apps with varied features, including the important one of not spying on what and how you read. DRM can be a nuisance in some cases, but it’s solvable. (You can root kindles and install non-drm epub readers, but that’s a niche that probably shouldn’t count.)

    There are still thousands of online stores that sell dead tree books, most of them independent genuine bookstores that actually love and know about books. (Amazon built their entire web store structure before they decided what to sell, and chose books to start not because they love books, but because books are small, non-perishable, and come in a wide variety.) I guess I don’t see an advantage to ‘biggest’, when there are so many other wonderful options, often no more expensive, to take advantage of. I’d much rather spend my time and money at non-giants that are more likely to have some character and are much more likely to treat their employees well. For paper books, I prefer our university bookstore and other local bookstores, or Powells.com a ways south in Oregon. For ebooks, the public library, booksamillion or directly from the publisher, especially university and smaller independent presses.

    I do avoid iBooks unless something is free or known to be non-DRM (e.g. O’Reilly). The Apple walled garden is smaller and has higher walls than most. The wide support for adobe drm makes it a little less intolerable.

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