New Kindle for PC App Fuels Explosive Growth of New Kindle-Reading Customers Who Like $0.00 as a Price

This post, from Stephen Windwalker, originally appeared on his Kindle Nation Daily blog on 11/12/09, and is reprinted here in its entirety with his permission.

If there was any doubt about how popular Amazon’s new FREE Kindle for PC App would be after it was launched early Tuesday morning, the proof is in the pudding on Amazon’s Kindle Store bestseller list. Even if it requires some work with tea leaves.

The Kindle for PC App is free, and people who are trying it out are taking advantage of the opportunity to fill their PC hard drives with dozens of titles from among the 19,890 free book listings in the Kindle Store. Why wouldn’t they? (Of course, they can also use the Kindle for PC app to download thousands of other free books from several other third-party sources, thanks to a new "we play well with others" approach from Amazon).

On the Kindle Store’s list of bestselling books — the one that updates hourly and really reflects the comparative velocity of unit sales regardless of price over various recent chunks of time — 77 of the top 100 titles are currently free, were free until earlier today, or are priced at one cent. 70 of the top 81 titles fit one of those categories. The number of freebies in the top 100 often hovers around 50 per cent, but 77 per cent of the top 100 and 87 per cent of the top 81 amount to dramatic new highs. (Currently the top 100 bestselling Kindle books include 28 free promotional titles, 47 free public domain titles, 1 title that was free until a few hours ago, 1 title for a penny, and 23 titles for more than a penny).

Meanwhile, the relative sales rankings of the top-selling paid blogs and periodicals are plummeting, strictly in relative terms (and not, necessarily, in units sold). For instance, the Kindle edition of this blog, which as I type these words is the #1 bestselling paid blog among the 7,453 listed in the Kindle Store, has fallen to an overall multimedia sales ranking of 534 from the 250-to-450 range where it usually hangs out. This is also natural, since blogs and newspapers are not available from within the Kindle for PC App. (That may make sense for newspapers, by the way, but why blogs?)

None of this is bad for Amazon, the Kindle, the Kindle for PC App, or even for Kindle Nation Daily.

There are over a billion PCs in use in the world, and perhaps somewhere between 1.8 million and 2.25 million Kindles. It’s natural to assume that, as word spreads about international (but not universal, right, Canada?) availability of a free Kindle app for the PC, there will be hundreds of thousands of new Kindle readers joining us each day (in addition to many existing Kindle owners who are trying out the additional device). The natural thing to do, while test-driving the Kindle for PC App before investing much in a library for it, is to scarf up free books. Then, if they like it, they can think about spending actual folding money on a few Kindle books and, perhaps, they might even consider buying a Kindle if the combination of price point and portability work for them.

Anyway you slice it, it seems likely that the number of people reading Kindle content on any kind of device is going to have, at the very least, doubled from Tuesday morning November 10 to, say, December 31, 2009. Sometime between now and Thanksgiving the launch of the Kindle for Mac, Kindle for Blackberry, Kindle for Droid (am I getting ahead of myself) and other Apps will only add fuel to a well-kindled fire. Oops, there’s that word again.

If one out of every 100 PC owners tries the Kindle for PC App, that’s another 10 million people browsing around the Kindle Store. Sooner or later one of them is going to make an actual cash transaction, wouldn’t you think? So the Kindle for PC and all those free Kindle titles are loss leaders, except that since it is all virtual, there is no loss involved.

Let’s pretend your name is Jeff and you want to do a little magical thinking….

If one out of every 50 of those browsers decides to buy a Kindle, that’s 200,000 additional Kindles sold.

And if even half of this comes to pass, authors and publishers will be beating down the door to Kindle publication, and the folks at Barnes & Noble are going to have a new name for Jeffrey P. Bezos.


Magical thinking?

Maybe not so much.