7.5 million iPads. How many Kindles?


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Apple sold more than 4 million iPads between July and September, the company announced Monday. The news was part of its quarterly report and brings sales tally for the device, which was launched in April, to almost 7.5 million.

How big is that number? According to Bernstein Research, ‘the iPad is a runaway success of unprecedented proportion,’ seeing faster adoption rates than all non-phone electronic devices.


Even faster than the Kindle? Amazon has been dropping prices and making improvements, and sending out regular announcements about the Kindle’s popularity. For example, in August Amazon circulated a press release announcing that ‘more new generation Kindles were ordered in the first four weeks of availability than in the same timeframe following any other Kindle launch, making the new Kindles the fastest-selling ever.’

But exactly how many Kindles Amazon sold is not known.

Not that we don’t want to know -- Jacket Copy asked promptly upon recieving the announcement. Our query was met with this response: ‘For competitive reasons, we don’t disclose unit sales figures.’ A request sent today has not yet been answered.

This lack of transparency has sent people guessing about Kindle sales. In January 2009, Tech Crunch estimated that Amazon had sold about 3 million Kindles; another estimate put the number at 3.3 million. In July, before the new-generation Kindle was introduced, Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey estimated that 4 million Kindles had been sold since the device was introduced in November 2007.

Clearly, the new Kindle boosted those numbers. But all Amazon has said so far is that they have ‘sold millions of Kindles overall.’

Are Kindle sales, which had a 2.5-year head start, somewhere around 4 or 5 million? Or are they higher, and keeping pace with Apple’s 7.5 million iPads?

This is more than just a horse race. Kindle is a device designed for reading ebooks; it has far more new books than Apple’s iBookstore. With the latest news of the iPad sales figures, it’s clear that millions of people are holding a different, full-color, multimedia e-reader in their hands. Will the potential of the iPad as an e-reader be fully exploited by Apple, and by publishers?

-- Carolyn Kellogg