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Amazon's Kindle bestseller gets cheaper, but what does 'bestseller' mean?

October 7, 2009 | 10:54 am

Kindlepricedrop

Amazon has announced that it is dropping the price of its standard-size Kindle to $259 from $299. The $40 discount amounts to a 13% reduction.

The company also announced the debut of a new, $279 model that will have wireless capabilities in 100 countries. The Kindle already has wireless functionality in the U.S.

In the announcement on its homepage, Amazon called its product the "#1 bestseller Kindle" (see red arrow). What category, exactly, is the Kindle competing in? What has it outsold?

Today, it's holding the No. 1 slot in Amazon's electronics bestsellers list, outselling Apple's iPod Touch, a handheld GPS unit, a subwoofer, and those adhesive plastic screens for iPhones. The larger Kindle DX is lagging slightly behind its little brother at No. 3.

This is clearly an accomplishment -- Amazon has made its homegrown ebook reader very popular. But this is due to concentrated effort: Over and over, it has given over precious retail space to promote its Kindle. Take a look at the choices in the left navigation area of the site in the screenshot above: Amazon sells books first, movies-music-games second, digital downloads third, and then the Kindle.

If you look hard, you may be able to find other ebook readers for sale on the Amazon website, but the online retailer isn't making it easy. With Kindle's frequent homepage appearances, prominent place in the navigation and Kindle store that includes no other brands of e-readers, Amazon is making it extraordinarily easy to find and buy a Kindle.

Amazon is a retailer, and it has every right to promote its own product, just like Vons has every right to promote Vons brand canned peas over Del Monte's. But we should be paying attention to what goes where on their cybershelves.

Ebook sales are climbing -- to $81.5 million in the first half of this year, up from $29.8 million during the same period in 2008. And Amazon holds about 60% of the ebook reader market, compared with the Sony Reader's 35%. How ebooks will affect publishing -- whether they may someday take the place of some kinds of book sales, if they will produce new efficiencies and potential for profit -- is very much up in the air. And what we choose to read ebooks on is an essential part of those questions.

In this evolving landscape, it might be wise to remember that Amazon is not a disinterested player. The Kindle is Amazon's house brand of canned peas.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

RELATED:

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Could a new Apple Tablet rival the Kindle?

Sony e-reader will go wireless

Kindle 2.0 debuts

Even Dan Brown can't break the ebook 5% rule

Image: Screenshot of Amazon's homepage, Oct. 7, 2009.

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