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Is Amazon Lying to You?

By Rick Munarriz – Updated Apr 6, 2017 at 10:37AM

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The leading online retailer has another round of hollow accolades for its Kindle.

The Kindle is a hit. (Nasdaq: AMZN) tells us so.

Amazon's e-books are hot, because the leading online retailer also tells us so.

"For the top 10 best-selling books on, customers are choosing Kindle books over hardcover and paperback books combined at a rate of greater than 2 to 1," Kindle chief Steve Kessel told us in another gushing press release last week. "Kindle books are also outselling print books for the top 25, 100, and 1,000 best-sellers -- it's across the board."

It may be across the board, but is it on the level?

After all, best-sellers tend to be new releases that haven't come out in cheaper paperback form. Why is Amazon lumping it in with the costly hardcovers? Is it so readers of the press release won't arrive at the correct conclusion: Kindle books are selling well because they are being pitted against substantially more expensive physical alternatives?

The top-selling book on Amazon this morning is George W. Bush's Decision Points. It's being sold for $18.90 in hardcover, audio CD, or a soft-cover version in large print. The Kindle e-book is just $9.99.

Even if you don't own an actual Kindle, saving nearly $9 and at least a day or two for fulfillment may be worth it. You can read it on a computer, most leading smartphones, or even Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad.

The Me and My Kindle blog is also blasting the announcement, pointing out that cherry-picking the top 25, 100, and 1,000 hottest sellers stacks the Kindle's performance against an arsenal of costly hardcover editions. The blog leans on a Nielsen Bookscan report, finding that hardcover books represented just 23% of all books sold last year.

Amazon wouldn't be in this pickle if it had come clean with actual metrics. All we get is how the margin-crushing Kindles are outselling their predecessors. Just for once, I'd love to see Amazon spell out exactly how many e-readers and e-books it's selling.

There is no competitive disadvantage in bragging with tangible statistics. I realize that Amazon is battling it out with Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS), Sony (NYSE: SNE), and even Borders (NYSE: BGP) in the e-reader space, but if you're the best then rest on your laurels.

Apple does this all of the time. We know when it sells another million iPads or when another billion iTunes downloads take place. Every quarterly report tells us exactly how many iPhones it sells -- and the class act of Cupertino doesn't care if Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) or Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) hears it.

Reading Amazon's press releases on Kindle's greatness is like having a discussion with a kindergartner or a politician. They all tell you what they think you want to hear in glowing superlatives, but lack the details you really need to know before drawing your own conclusion.

Is Amazon lying to you? No -- but it sure appears to be trying to mislead you.

Come on, Amazon. Show us the numbers!

Why do you think Amazon has refrained from divulging hard numbers on actual Kindle and Kindle book sales? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Google is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation and a Rule Breakers pick. Apple and are Stock Advisor selections. The Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns a Kindle and an iPad, but he uses his iPad a lot more. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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