What is Mark Mahaney smoking?

by Mathew on May 15, 2008 · 1 comment

Whatever it is, I would like some. According to Henry Blodget, the Citigroup analyst seems to think that Amazon will be selling $750-million worth of its Kindle e-book readers within two years. What actual data is this analysis based on, you ask? Absolutely none whatsoever, as Kevin Maney points out at Portfolio, since the company has refused to give any details about Kindle sales. In other words, it’s just a bald-ass guess. And as far as I can tell, it’s a howler.

As Henry himself knows all too well, making outlandish claims about what stocks and/or products will do in the future can get you noticed pretty quickly — so maybe that’s what Mark is after here. Or maybe it’s a kind of thought experiment, in which you run some theoretical numbers in order to get a rough sense of what might happen. In any case, while Henry seems to think Mahaney’s estimates are reasonable and even likely in some cases, the whole thing seems off base to me.

The Citigroup analyst figures that Amazon will see the same kind of sales growth for its e-book readers as Apple saw for its iPods, but will only sell about half as many. That seems hugely inflated. Like Mahaney, I have absolutely no figures to back me up, but I would guess that the market for e-book readers is less than one-tenth the size of the market for portable music players, perhaps even smaller. And the idea that users will buy a book a month just seems insane. And there’s also the Apple factor, as Rex and others have pointed out.

The only aspect that Henry seems to agree is “optimistic” is the idea that Amazon will make the same kind of revenue from e-books as it does from printed books. As Blodget notes, that doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon — since publishers will need to be convinced to sell them, and readers will need to be convinced to buy them, and that means they need to be cheap — and may never happen at all. I don’t know what Mark Mahaney was trying to do with his Kindle analysis, but if he was trying to make a credible argument, he failed.

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