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Amazon's Holiday Sales Update: 5 Things You Need to Know


Amazon's latest press release was jam-packed with useful information.

PrintPRINT (AMZN), which is rapidly turning into one of the world's biggest retailers both online and off, delivered its holiday sales update this morning.

And while the press release was predictably full of blustery boasting, there are also some very important takeaways to which you should be paying attention.

So without further delay, here we go:

1. Amazon's Fourth-Quarter Results Are Still a Mystery

Today, based on an analysis of comScore data, analysts from Goldman Sachs suggested that Amazon's fourth-quarter revenues could come in a bit light. The word on the street now is that the decidedly more bullish folks from Piper Jaffray are out defending Amazon, suggesting that fourth-quarter numbers will come in slightly above consensus.

Unfortunately, Amazon's press release didn't provide any hard data on overall sales levels, so it's awfully tough to figure out who's right.

One thing's for certain, however -- if Amazon misses, it's going to get wrecked. Investors have tolerated weak margins at Amazon for quite some time (see Why Amazon's Low Margins Deserve Praise), but I doubt they'll be enthused by two straight misses on the revenue line.

If you're long, consider packing protection in the form of puts.

2. Kindle Fire Is Doing Just Fine, As Is the Rest of the Family

Amazon said that since its release, the Kindle Fire tablet has been the best-selling, most-gifted, and most-wished-for product on its site, which should put to rest concerns over just how much cranky reviewers expecting perfection for $199 actually affected sales.

In addition, during December, Amazon customers purchased over 1 million Kindle devices per week.

3. The Book Industry Should Be Afraid, Very Afraid

Gifting of Kindle eBooks was up 175% year-over-year -- something that should scare the heck out of whoever's still holding Barnes & Noble (BKS).

On top of that, note that Amazon's self-publishing model is well on its way to toppling the book industry, as two of the top four best-selling Kindle books released in 2011 were published via Kindle Direct Publishing. (See Why Amazon and Apple Will Control the Book Industry.)

Remember when Amazon signed high-profile 4-Hour Workweek author Tim Ferriss to a publishing deal back in August? Stay tuned -- there will be more on the way.

4. Google Android Smartphones Are Kicking Butt

There's been no shortage of bullish data on Google (GOOG) Android-powered smartphones. Nonetheless, Amazon piled on and said that its three best-selling smartphones during the holidays were all Android -- the Motorola (MMI) Droid Razr 4G, the Samsung Galaxy S II 4G, and the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic Touch 4G.

Apple (AAPL) bulls, however, should not be alarmed by the absence of the iPhone 4S on this list, since Amazon only sells the unlocked version of that phone.

5. The Hunger Games Movie Will Be Huge

I've been hanging onto a position in Lions Gate (LGF) because of its upcoming release of The Hunger Games, a film based on the first of the best-selling trilogy of dystopian teen sci-fi novels.

So, I was especially glad to see that two of the three best-selling Kindle books during the holidays were Hunger Games titles, indicating that the series could take the place of Twilight as the premier "dark" teen film franchise -- something suggested just yesterday by a poll indicating that The Hunger Games is the most anticipated movie of 2012, even above the final installation of Twilight.

Twitter: @MichaelComeau

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