Is The Amazon Kindle An Outright Fraud?

Amazon Says Kindle and E-Book Sales Set Records said Monday that its Kindle e-reader has become the most gifted item in the company’s history, but didn’t provide specific sales numbers.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

This is the game Amazon has been playing since the introduction of the Kindle. A “Look over there!” game of misdirection that smells of outright fraud.

It’s well past time for Amazon to put up or shut up.

Honest companies don’t continue to hide something like this.

Honest companies show transparency.

Honest companies understand that real numbers are related to real shareholder value.

What is Amazon’s game here?

Is it the standard Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt ploy? Put fear in the minds of your competitors, put uncertainty in the minds of book publishers, put doubt in the minds of eBook device buyers?

Listen, it’s been claimed that Dan Brown’s blockbuster The Lost Symbol sold 200,000 eBook editions. But that was available in multiple formats. Plus we’re not even certain that number is either truthful or accurate.

Doesn’t anyone realize what an absolutely crappy sales figure that is given the hype the Kindle has gotten since its introduction?

Sony slogged for years and years and years, plastering ads all over the place — and managed to sell “only” 300,000 Readers.

I put “only” in quotes there because compared to the non-existent number of Kindles out there, that’s the impression left in comparison.


We have been through a decade of outright fraud as noted in this New York Times column by Frank Rich. The fraudulent invasion of Iraq, the fraudulent hype of Enron, the fraudulent low-interest mortgages.

I’m saying until Amazon releases a true number, it smells as fraudulent as the rest of those, period.

And all of you publishers in New York City? It’s time for you to grow some balls.

I’m giving you a task: The first week in January, all of you issue a joint press release stating what your largest eBook sellers have been on the Kindle.

I have a feeling all of you are going to be shocked at the low cards you’ve been holding, while thinking your “competitor” has been holding a high card, making money hand over fist via Amazon Kindle Store downloads.

Do it!

Let’s end this stench one way or another.

43 Responses to Is The Amazon Kindle An Outright Fraud?

  1. jenn topper says:

    yes, and yes, agreed, we’re on the same page. you know i’m no apologist for the big-uns.

    HOWEVER, might it be an attempt (a bad one) to push the e-readers out there and make people believe they are the new way? in order to undermine, well, i’m not sure whom, possibly the mainstream publishers? could it be a scare tactic masked by deceptive business practices?

    or is it my already subversive thinking that is leading me to this conclusion…?


  2. Moriah Jovan says:

    I think Amazon wants to “Kindle” the ebook. I mean, when you ask for a tissue, you don’t ask for a tissue. You ask for a Kleenex. You Xerox something.

    Soon, you won’t buy an ebook. You’ll buy a Kindle. That is what Amazon wants and it’s what absolutely SHOULD NOT HAPPEN.

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by mikecane: NEW POST: Is The Amazon Kindle An Outright Fraud? @jafurtado @MoriahJovan @EBookNewser @glecharles…

  4. Tom B says:

    Fraud is an excellent word. AMZN’s stock commands a very high price compared to the company’s overall earnings (P/E). There may be suckers out there (remember Enron?) who believe AMZN’s sold millions of Kindles when, probably, they have not. I think the SEC should seek clarification.

  5. James Katt says:

    An e-book is NOT a Kindle. There are tons of e-books available as text or pdf or in other formats.

    Once the Apple iTablet comes out, the Kindle is DEAD as a hardware product. And there are tons of ebook readers available.

    All Apple has to do is to create a universal eBook format and everyone will come to Apple. After all, Apple has over 150 Million customers who are willing and able to PAY for products. iTunes can easily sell eBooks just like it can sell music. OR, each publisher can simply use the existing ePub format and sell books to several existing readers.

    • MikeMc says:

      I don’t think Apple will draw too many people away from their Kindles. If and when the iUnicorn is released it will probably be priced $500-$600 above the the K2 (or whatever version they are on). I already have a laptop and a Sony 505, I see no need to drop another $800 to do things I can do with my existing hardware. If you already own a computer and an E Ink reader where’s the value proposition in buying an Apple tablet?

      • mikecane says:

        At debut, little value to someone already invested in other devices. But those people are outnumbered by those who haven’t bought into any eInk device and who are also looking to upgrade from current notebooks or netbooks. You forget too that prices always drop. The iPhone was $600 at launch. Now it’s more powerful with more storage and more features for $199 with a subsidy. And there’s the iPod Touch that begins at just $199 too.

  6. Maury E says:

    I enjoy Kindle for IPhone rather than another device locked to one provider for limited services or goods provided. Besides, the actual Kindle is limited in portability and has no backlight.

  7. Tim says:

    They are simply trying to own the world of ebooks readers before apple (who has also done the exact same tactic) steps in and tries to dip into the market and push the kindle out of the #1 spot.

    Its a ploy to keep people talking about them and market their name to the ebook world. Solid tactic and I’m amazed no one seems to call Apple on it.

  8. Laura Dawson says:

    Obfuscation has been the norm since Amazon began. I like your challenge to publishers, but I don’t think they will take you up on it ;)

    I do not believe, in Amazon’s entire history, they have EVER released “a true number”.

    • mikecane says:

      If they all divulge their one top-selling eBook of the Kindle Store and it turns out none of them have sold more than, say, 20,000, they can begin to do things differently. While they’re stumbling in the dark like this, they are Amazon’s prey.

  9. Anon says:

    I work for a trade house, and while I am not going to reveal my identity or that of my employer, I can tell you that our top Kindle sales of any one title are in the range of about 1000 downloads life to date. I am someone who receives the sales numbers for our titles directly from Amazon and I look at them every week; and, I agree that the actual sales numbers are much LOWER than anyone is pretending to have achieved.

    • Gretel Going says:

      Thanks for writing this. I’m glad to hear that the hype is potentially unfounded. Not because I don’t want digital readers to do well, but rather, because our sales numbers don’t support the hype or reveal a huge demand for ebooks (Kindle, specifically).

      While I’m pretty certain digital readers will continue to rise in popularity, and the demand for digital books will continue to increase, I’m not at all shy about admitting that our e-book (again, Kindle, specifically) sales are crap compared to our print versions.

      I hope this ultimately changes since we continue to make our books available in the digital format due to the curiosity created by the PR-driven hype.

    • AnotherAnon says:

      I also work at one of the big six trade houses, specifically in the ebooks dept. “200,000 ebooks sold” is laughable, even if it *is* Dan Brown. Our numbers track much closer to the above Anonymous posters’.

      Amazon’s lack of transparency in disclosing these numbers is unconscionable, and is making publishers, who are already scared stupid, act even stupider.

      Oh, and while I’m here: this silly business of labeling free ebooks as ‘bestsellers’ needs to stop, too.

      • mikecane says:

        I absolutely agree that free eBooks should be purged from all popularity lists. They are advertisements, as far as I’m concerned, not products.

  10. Paula B. says:

    There *is* a universal ebook format: ePub.

    • mikecane says:

      Which ePub would that be then? The one only the Barnes & Noble Nook can read right now? Or the one every other ePub-capable device can read using the first flavor of Adobe DRM? Oh, and what about DRM-*free* ePub, which ALL ePub-capable devices can read. You have a very strange notion of what the term “universal” means.

  11. As soon as I saw the Christmas sales headline, I recognized it as “Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd”. Amazon is attempting to create false hype, hoping that the real results eventually catch up, making it true.

    Weak. I have no problem with them hyping it up, but if you are going to make that bold of a statement, you had better be prepared to back it up.

    Publish the numbers. Even if you sold only 1 more e-book than real book, it is still an impressive number.

  12. tinbox says:

    So, commenters here prefer the vaporware produced by Apple to the actual hardware and software actually sold by Amazon which I have actually used for almost a year–during which it has actually performed exactly as advertised.

    But Amazon is lying and bad for publishers and Apple, the company that has no commitment to books or dedicated reading devices, is going to do wonderful things for publishers and readers and authors…

    Wow. Could anyone make up a crazier story?

  13. It’s great that you’re questioning Amazon on yet another in an endless series of dishonest business practices, but why in the world are you laying it on publishers to tell the truth about Amazon, as opposed to simply calling upon Amazon to tell the truth itself? One would think it was even more morally incumbent upon Amazon to do so in the first place, and that it was as well legally incumbent upon it to do so as a publicly traded company. No matter how obvious a thing is in the book business, it seems it’s always the publisher that’s held responsible, and perceived as withholding the truth.

    Dennis Johnson, publisher, Melville House

    • mikecane says:

      If publishers knew their “competitor’s” biggest-seller stats, they’d have a way of extrapolating some sort of data from that. Until they share this information, Amazon is using Divide & Conquer on them. Publishers can come to their own rescue.

  14. Chris Bates says:

    You kill me, Mike!

    Flush out the fear.

    And here I was thinking I was going to have to brighten my day with a few nips of rum … your post did it for me – sans next-day hangover.


  15. […] blog “The eBook Test,” is not so polite. In an article headlined, Is The Amazon Kindle An Outright Fraud?, blogger Mike Cane challenged publishers to put Amazon to the test by revealing what their largest […]

  16. Kathy Kleckner says:

    Right on! I resent the attempts to manipulate me.

  17. […] blogueur Mike Cane, qui a émis de profonds doutes sur les rares chiffres avancés par Amazon, vient d’inviter les éditeurs à publier les chiffres de ventes qu’ils reçoivent d&#821… pour qu’on tire au clair la réalité des ventes de livres électroniques (et ses […]

  18. […] in the process of Market Research I read an article at the Ebook Test asking if Kindle sales are a fraud? This was quite the question, one that got me thinking, “What are kindle sales really […]

  19. jchunter says:

    wow…talk about laying it on them…great article, I’m tuned into this blog…

    I’ve yet to see anyone out there using a Kindle. Back in the day of CD Players, I’d see people with them on. Now in the days of MP3 Players, I see people using them.

    But I have yet to see someone using a Kindle…Oh, I still do see people using those things called books, I actually still use them, do you?…I’ve always thought that the Kindle was just pure hype, as a matter of fact I didn’t even bother to read the articles claiming Kindle ebooks outsold paperbacks on Amazon…what a bunch of rubbish..I’m starting not to like Amazon..

  20. […] From Mike Cane an excellent adjunct to this posting here. posted by Thad McIlroy at 8:47 PM Permalink | Read Comments: (No Comments) | Post […]

  21. […] convoluted statistics is wearing thin.  Blogger Mike Cane has gone so far as to  call the Kindle “an outright fraud”: It’s well past time for Amazon to put up or shut up. Honest companies don’t continue to hide […]

  22. […] PS: From Mike Cane an excellent adjunct to this posting here. […]

  23. […] Let me get this straight: the company that brought us hourly sales rankings can’t give us honest figures for Kindle sales and e-book downloads? This has smelled fishy to me for a long time, but blogger Mike Cane beat me to it in accusing Amazon of cooking the digital books. […]

  24. sdf says:

    You really haven’t grasped what FUD is.

    Blatant self-promotion of one’s own product, i.e.

    “ said Monday that its Kindle e-reader has become the most gifted item in the company’s history, but didn’t provide specific sales numbers.”

    is not FUD. FUD is about raising questions about an adversary or opponent, with the goal of lowering confidence.

    For example, I might mention that there is a thread of paranoia running through these blog entries, and a compulsion to issue demands (“I’m giving you a task”). These symptoms are commonly associated with mental illness; and while not suggesting that the author is so afflicted, they may indicate a modicum of instability, or perhaps immaturity, in the author.

    • mikecane says:

      >>>they may indicate a modicum of instability, or perhaps immaturity, in the author.

      Or more likely someone who doesn’t adhere to YOUR fucking “standards” of what is “sane” or “mature.” You pompous overweening asshat.

  25. […] It was this post: Is The Amazon Kindle An Outright Fraud? […]

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