Someone Finally Calls BS on Amazon's Highest Unit Sales PR

My dad forwarded me this excellent Slate article in which Timothy Noah rakes over the coals for their post-holiday press release in which the company claims they shipped more products on Dec. 15, their peak day, than ever before.When I first saw this release, I was incensed, because it's garbage. It's exactly the kind of press release that gives PR professionals (and the companies they work for) the reputation as hacks. Amazon is notably chary about releasing data about their operations and sales, but producing a release in which the unit volume is measured and no figures are available about dollars or margins makes them sound like a bunch of posing losers. The release came out during a slack time and Noah notes that many publications wrote about the story without questioning it. This is akin to the "bestselling car in North America" commercials, which have always led me to ask: Why do I want a car that everyone else has? Largest number of items shipped ever is the same as saying, "We don't have any significant or positive news to share about our company, so look at this shiny ball over here, while you're all distracted thinking you'll be laid off soon." Noah also points to breathless Kindle coverage, in which its sold-out status is equated to high sales. When I spoke about the Kindle in a year-end wrap-up segment for KUOW a few weeks ago, I noted that the number of titles has vastly increased, and it appears from a variety of other signs that the device is selling, but that it's impossible to know the actual sales. The Kindle has definitely provoked a lot more interest in books being delivered in electronic form, and to that measure has succeeded so far. Sony, meanwhile, which has been refining its Sony Reader electronic book, actually told the business press how many units have shipped: 300,000 since Oct. 2006. They also disclosed download volume: 3 million ebooks, not including "newspapers or blogs" as a Sony exec told the Wall Street Journal. I haven't used a Sony Reader, but I like its looks and its features better than the Kindle. It's possible the Kindle will do more to push Sony Reader sales than help Amazon. It depends how quickly Sony can respond to features people like and produce new products. The Kindle wasn't well designed to start with and is still the same model nearly 18 months later.