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Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) has been tight-lipped about the performance of its revolutionary Kindle e-book reader. I'm guessing that hard numbers are just around the corner.
"Amazon officials gave McAdams Wright Ragen analysts the impression that high-end estimates on Kindle sales reported by TechCrunch and a Citigroup analyst are not reasonable," a Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog entry revealed over the weekend.
The newspaper received an email from McAdams Wright Ragen analyst Tim Bueneman after meeting with Amazon management, also confirming that "several new, improved versions of the Kindle in the works."
Speculation has mounted on both sides, and Amazon has generally chosen to stay out of the chatter. Citi analyst Mark Mahaney figured that the world's leading online retailer had sold just 10,000 to 30,000 Kindles in a springtime note. However, the bullish Mahaney maintained that the Kindle could grow to ring up as much as $750 million in sales by 2010. A more upbeat TechCrunch channel check this summer was followed by Mahaney's pegging the Kindle as a $1 billion product line for Amazon come 2010.
Euphoria is the new pessimism, and that is apparently troublesome at Amazon if it's telegraphing caution. We don't know what gave the analysts the impression that the more bullish analyst notes lately are unreasonable. Amazon would be in a bind with the SEC under selective disclosure if it was leaking sales data to a privileged firm. Never heard of McAdams Wright Ragen? It's not a household name, but the company is based out of Amazon's home turf of Seattle. I would trust the local pulse here.
All roads ultimately lead to Amazon's opening up more. I have been skewering Amazon for months on its decision to keep its Kindle data close to its vest. Now that move is starting to bite back, with mixed signals that may find the company keeping from disclosing important information to everyone at the same time.
Amazon needs to do the same thing it did in the past with hot Harry Potter reorders: Put up a counter on its site tallying the Kindle sales. Let buyers get in on the early-adopter excitement. Let analysts, investors, and the curious come to their conclusions once they are presented with hard data.
Why wait? With expectations of "improved versions of the Kindle" on the way, savvy shoppers will hold back, but not even rival Sony (NYSE: SNE ) with its perfectly adequate Sony Reader will make a dent here. It's not as if booksellers such as Borders (NYSE: BGP ) , Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS ) , and Books-a-Million (Nasdaq: BAMM ) can battle Amazon, either.
There is no harm in putting out as much information as possible at a time of rampant misinformation. That's what Amazon would do if it had another Potter book to sell or a report on holiday shopping trends to spit out. When analysts are arriving at different conclusions after talking to Amazon itself, it owes shareholders as much.
Other page-turners in the Kindle saga: