Last week, I launched us into a new series about e-readers, and the pros and cons of using each different e-device (don’t worry, this won’t be quite the epic saga that the Beginner’s Guide to Social Media primer turned out to be!).  This week, I’ll be taking a closer look at perhaps one of the most talked-about e-readers of all time, the Kindle.  No doubt you’ve heard a lot about Amazon’s entry into the e-book sphere before, and elsewhere, in part because it was launched by a massive company still on the upswing in popularity, with the built-in infrastructure to ensure a strong debut––and in part because it remains a solid performer, especially in its newer incarnation, the Kindle Fire.

jeff bezos with the kindle
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with the new Kindle Fire HD

Just how many people own a Kindle?  A 2014 Forbes article reported that “roughly 43.7 million Kindle devices had been cumulatively sold till the end of 2013,” but, well, Amazon isn’t really talking, except when it’s super proud of itself, so the data Forbes was using may or may not be representative.  Even though in 2014 the Pew Research Center was marking an uptick in e-reader (specifically, Kindle) and everyone seemed, for the most part, highly optimistic about e-readers and therefore e-book distribution, some more recent data seems to indicate a plateauing of that trend … if not a slight reversal.  According to an article by Business Insider contributor James Cook, “for the first time ever the number of tablets shipped has decreased”––and Amazon’s Kindle line has been the hardest hit, with a decrease of some 69.9% in respect to shipments.  That’s a lot.  And the numbers are still so new that few tablet users are speculating yet as to why the Kindle has taken the brunt of the market change.  Is it because users have grown bored, or because Amazon hasn’t reinvented the wheel since the Kindle Fire was released two years (or two lifetimes, in today’s rapid-fire technology-hungry universe)?  But wait––what about the Kindle Paperwhite (the “Kindle 3”)?  Why does nobody seem to be getting on the Paperwhite train?  Is it because people are actively migrating away from Amazon, or from tablet computers, or from e-books?  The numbers seem to be holding mostly steady for e-books downloaded and read, so what’s the deal?

I’ll let you know as soon as I know.

Still, in the meantime, here’s what you need to know about the Kindle (Fire and Paperwhite):

They’re beautiful devices, designed and manufactured specifically to make thumbing through your digital library as tactile and responsive a practice as running a hand across a physical bookshelf––or at least, these e-readers are about as close as you can get without engaging your sense of smell.  (They do, however, make use of your fingertips and your ears as well as your eyes.  There’s some benefit to a multimodal interface, in terms of absorption of information, or so I’ve been told.)

And don’t forget that while sales may have dropped this last year (and significantly), the Kindle and Kindle Fire have out-sold almost every other dedicated e-reading device out there.  There are millions––dozens of millions––of Kindles out there already in use.  So yes, it still remains completely and absolutely worthwhile to sell your book as an e-book edition through the Kindle Store.  The total number of units sold alone should indicate this, but as the aforementioned Pew Research Center report also says, 3 in 10 American adults read an e-book last year, most of them on a tablet or dedicated e-reading device.  That’s a lot of e-books, my friends.  And Jim Tierney over at Loyalty360 reports that Amazon Prime Membership jumped by 53% in 2014––to around 40,000,000 (that’s 40 million) total adults.  And what with the advent of the Kindle Lending Library––a controversial offering, to be sure––Prime subscribers can opt to read certain select e-books for free.  That’s a lot of potential future readers.

Not much has changed when it’s come to the disadvantages of owning a Kindle, except for the fact that Amazon has taken away any grounds for complaint about the graphics, display quality, and user interface.  Their customer support system is pretty nifty, too, and users seem to like it.  No, you still can’t take the Kindle into the bathtub with you, and you probably don’t want to hurl it off the edge of a parking garage unless you actually want to watch it break, but these tablets do qualify as robust, insofar as tablets are allowed to.  Lending books to friends is possible, but still not quite intuitive.  Universities are starting to get on board with letting students use e-book editions for courses, but this still remains an underutilized possibility.  And no, it’s not an actual book you can hold in your hand and sniff for that “old-book” smell.  (But that’s what perfume is for, right?!)

I’m not about to try and sell you on buying a Kindle––or any e-reader, for that matter––but I do think it’s worth oohing and aaahing a little over the modern creature comforts technology has provided us.  An interlinked dictionary that I can access while reading?  Handy.  Highlighting and bookmarking?  Essential.  And much more difficult to “lose” when we’re speaking of a digital item.  And it’s nice, too, to have the option of reading multiple file formats on the same dedicated e-device without having to switch between apps.  PDFs?  No problem.  TXT?  DOC?  The Kindle’s got you covered.  And for now, people aren’t quite tossing them in a blender just to watch sparks fly, so I wouldn’t quite put up the crime scene tape just yet––if Amazon has proven anything, it’s proven just how much it loves to be on top!

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

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