Archive for the ‘Recommendations’ Category

Evi: free voice-input assistant for the Kindle Fire

April 15, 2014

Evi: free voice-input assistant for the Kindle Fire

Note: if you are not an app user, I have something else for you at the end of this post

I’m more of a keyboard person than a mouse person.

When I first learned to use computers, we didn’t have mice. In fact, we didn’t even use a keyboard. Do you know what we used to talk to the computer?

A punchcard machine.

Quickly, though, we got keyboards…and I took a typing class in high school.

Eventually, I got to be pretty quick: I was measured typing in the 90s (words per minute), which is fast, but not world class.

Then along came SmartPhones, and people were texting.

I’ve never really gotten the hang of texting quickly. The keyboard is too small to qwerty on it (at least for me), and the thumb thing…I’d say I’m adequate.

It’s a little easier to type on a tablet (the screen is bigger), and I have happily used a Bluetooth keyboard with my Kindle Fires.

However, typing is still much more of an effort on those little mobile devices than it is on a laptop or a desktop.

My preferred input method now?

Voice.

Sure, you run into places where you can’t do it (without disrupting people around you), but if I can talk, I prefer it.

One of the things which had been missing on the Kindle Fire, including my  latest generation

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile: support a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

was voice input.

They fixed that when they gave us Dictate in an update.

Now, most places I would use the keyboard, I can tap a microphone icon instead, and speak it.

I can do that for e-mails: I’ve even done it for posts for this blog.

I now no longer carry a Bluetooth keyboard, for that reason.

That takes care of some of what I need.

I can go to a browser (I prefer Maxthon, but I tested it in Silk for this post) and ask a question, and then search for an answer.

That’s okay…but it’s not like Siri or Google Now, where you can ask a question, and your “assistant” speaks the answer back to you.

Well, the free app

Evi (at AmazonSmile)

gives us that on the Kindle Fire…and it works pretty well.

The app is “speech powered” by Nuance, the same company that make Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

You open the app, tap a big microphone icon (you can type your question, if you prefer), and it gives you the answer…out loud.

For example, I tried this:

“How tall was Mickey Rooney?””

The voice read out, “Mickey Rooney’s heights are 5 feet 2 inches and 1.57 metres.”

Yes, “heights” plural, because it is giving me the height in two different systems.

That answer was also displayed on the screen.

I tried asking it, “Where is the nearest bookstore?”

The results were pretty good!

Obviously, I have LBS (Location Based Services) turned on on my KFHDX.

I thought I’d try something a little trickier:

“What is the tallest building in Boston?”

Hm…that one didn’t work…it suggested I try Yelp. :)

I should mention that when it is getting me these answers, it is often giving me links to results on the web.

It also lets me vote: Good answer, or Bad answer.

For this one:

“How old is Jeff Bezos?”

it was quite complete: “Jeff Bezos was born on the 12th of January 1964. That makes his current age 50 years, 3 months and 3 days old.”

It gives quite a few examples when you tap the tutorial. For example, I could ask, “How hot will it be tomorrow?” and it gave me the temperature for an acceptably near by town…in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. I usually use the latter, so I was happy to hear it. :)

It doesn’t always get things right, of course. When I asked what movies are opening this weekend, it gave me movies…for September 10, 2010. :)

Overall, though, this is a fun way to get answers without typing…and it is free.

Bonus item: I don’t like to do things which are just for the Fire (although I do sometimes), so I thought I’d mention that

Joyland (at AmazonSmile)

just became available for the Kindle.

This is a hit book from Stephen King. 4.4 out of 5 stars, 1,434 customer reviews.

I wasn’t happy when I wrote about it last year…because Stephen King chose to “window” it, and not release it in e-book form initially.

I’m still not happy with that choice: e-books are so much easier for many people with disabilities and challenges which do not rise to the legal level of a disability. However, King did make clear that it would come out in e-book eventually…and I understand the motivation to help brick-and-mortar stores. In other words, I don’t agree with the decision, but I don’t think it should prevent you from getting the book now that it is out in e-book form.

The price?

$6.59 at time of writing…not bad. The book is only ranked #88 paid in the Kindle store right now. It surprised me a bit that it is that low…

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

A router solved my Kindle Fire connection problems

March 27, 2014

A router solved my Kindle Fire connection problems

Big thanks to reader and commenter Glenn Starrett!

Following an update, my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile: support a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which had been connecting really well to my home wi-fi, started dropping wi-fi…a lot.

I would toggle the wi-fi on and off many times a day…that would cause it to reconnect.

Now, I’m logical enough not to have said it was purely cause and effect…that the update created that issue.

However, it did seem pretty likely. Amazon had specifically changed connection protocols (to make it compatible with more systems).

I did have a relatively new router from Comcast/Xfinity…but I had that before the Fire update, and it hadn’t been an issue.

My best guess is that it was a combination of the newish router and the update.

The router may not work well with current gen(eration) devices. My Rokus have also had problems with it, but our Kindle Paperwhites don’t.

The Kindle Fire update may have essentially turned it from an older gen device into a newer one…which then made it drop off.

Glenn suggested a router to me, which had solved similar problems for Glenn:

Linksys E2500 (N600) Advanced Simultaneous Dual-Band Wireless-N Router (at AmazonSmile)

Yes, that was a $70 investment…if it didn’t work for me (and YMMV…Your Mileage May Vary is the rule with routers…the physical configuration of your house can matter, among other things), I would have considered returning it.

The reviews looked good, besides what Glenn had said. Sure, there were 1-star reviews, but I always look at those to see why. They sometimes are encountering problems that I don’t expect to have or expect to be able to overcome…and sometimes they are irrelevant to the function of the product. In this case, they weren’t a barrier.

I 1-clicked, and it got here quickly.

Set up, which can be challenging, wasn’t particularly hard.

It did come with a CD which was necessary to do the set-up. Fortunately, our old desktop has a CD drive, and I could use that. If I’d already transitioned completely to  our

ASUS Transformer Book T100TA-C1-GR 10.1-Inch Detachable 2 in 1 Touchscreen Laptop (at AmazonSmile)

that CD wouldn’t have helped…I would have had to have seen if I could download the set-up files from the website.

Outside of that, set-up was really a breeze. It did take some time (fifteen minutes or so), but it was largely hands-off.

For the most part, the software was user friendly…you wouldn’t need superior technical expertise to get it going.

I set it up yesterday afternoon.

Since then, I haven’t had to toggle the wireless on my Fire once!

Knock virtual wood, it seems to be working well.

As far as the Rokus (we have two of the same model)

I could see the speed difference in downloading videos (from Netflix, Amazon, or its own news videos).

With the old Arris router (and I really appreciated that Glenn identified the specific brand as a possible issue…gave the suggestion a lot more credibility) from Xfinity, the Roku would sometimes simply give up and not start something. So far, not an issue.

Now, do I still want Amazon to release an update for the Fire? Sure…people shouldn’t need to buy a $70 device to have consistent connections. I’m guessing, though, that it might be a case of giving it some backwards compatibility, or special compatibility with Comcast.

If Amazon does release its own TV solution next month, which I think is likely based on the rumors, that might make some difference here…but you’ll still need some kind of wireless connection for your devices.

Oh, a couple of other nice functionalities for the Linksys. You can set parental controls (again, easy guided set-up), and it has a “guest functionality”, with an easy password your guests can use while they are there.

At this point, based on what I’ve seen in less than a day’s use, I’d recommend it strongly. :)

Thanks again, Glenn!

===

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

===

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

In honor of Pi Day: 14 trilogies

March 14, 2014

In honor of Pi Day: 14 trilogies

Today is March 14 (3.14), which is recognized as “Pi Day”. :)

http://www.piday.org/

You see, 3.14 (and an infinite number of digits more…I remember as much as 3.14159 offhand) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, and March is the third month of the year, so in the USA, we say it is 3/14 today (which, as three fourteenths, would really be 0.2142857), even though in most of the world they put the day before the month (which makes sense: they do “little middle big”…why do we do “middle little big?”), and…never mind. ;)

I wanted to do something connected to it, and three is also a big number in literature…so I figured if I listed fourteen trilogies, that would work.

A “trilogy” of books is three novels (I’m going to stick with fiction) that go together. They often have a throughline arc…the story starts in the first one, develops in the second, and ends in the third…but it doesn’t always work quite that way.

Not surprisingly, the third one is often people’s least favorite. Endings are hard! I remember, when I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore, somebody asking me what I thought of Stephen King’s

It (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I said something like, “The first twelve hundred pages are great…”

;)

Culture does like threes. :) There are the Three Stooges, the Three Fates, the Three Musketeers, and the Three Little Pigs, to name a few…

As I’m picking these, I’m not trying to choose the “best” (always subjective), or even the best-known. I’m going to look for an interesting mix. My main criteria are that they are in the (USA) Kindle store and they don’t block text-to-speech access**. It’s possible that there are more than three books…for example, The Hobbit won’t disqualify The Lord of the Rings, which may be what comes first to many people’s minds in terms of trilogies (and what perhaps inspired quite a few other fantasy/science fiction publishers to plan on trilogies).

One more thing: is it better to get all three in one title, if you can, or get them separately? There are advantages and disadvantages to both. It is sometimes (but not always) cheaper to get an omnibus (“bundle”). However, the file is larger, and documentation can be more confusing. If you highlight something in an omnibus, it tells you it came from that omnibus…not from the individual title. My preference in listing here is going to be the omnibus, when possible…I like the convenience of that.

The Lord of the Rings: One Volume (at AmazonSmile)
by J.R.R. Tolkien
4.6 out of 5 stars, 3,075 customer reviews
Included: The Fellowship of the Ring; The Two Towers; The Return of the King
1220 pages listed for paper edition
$10.99 at time of writing

Fifty Shades Trilogy (at AmazonSmile)
by E.L. James
4.3 stars, 8,716 reviews
Included: Fifty Shades of Grey; Fifty Shades Darker; Fifty Shades Freed
1501 pages
$14.99

Gee, there are more then twice as many reviews for this trilogy as for LotR…I guess you could say that, in that category, Fifty Shades has the Lord of the Rings, um, “whipped”. ;)

The Hunger Games Trilogy (at AmazonSmile)
by Suzanne Collins
4.7 stars, 6,993 reviews
Included: The Hunger Games; Catching Fire; Mockingjay
1,187 pages
$17.99

Kristin Lavransdatter (at AmazonSmile)
by Sigrid Undset
4.6 stars, 112 reviews
Included: The Wreath; The Wife; The Cross
1168 pages
$16.14

Undset won a Nobel Prize in literature in 1928, in part on the basis of these historical novels.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy (at AmazonSmile)
by Stieg Larsson
4.6 stars, 851 reviews
Included: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; The Girl Who Played with Fire; The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
570 pages
$24.99

I haven’t read these…are they actually that short?

The Providence Trilogy (at AmazonSmile)
by Jamie McGuire
4.5 stars, 415 reviews
Included: Providence; Requiem; Eden
857 pages
$9.99

Independently published paranormal romance…well-reviewed and inexpensive.

Star Wars: Trilogy (25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition) (at AmazonSmile)
by George Lucas, Donald F. Glut, James Kahn
4.6 stars, 36 reviews
Included: Star Wars: A New Hope; Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back; and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
870 pages
$11.84

Yes, George Lucas was the credited author on the first novelization of the first (released) Star Wars novel. :)

The Century Trilogy (no omnibus available)
by Ken Follett

The New York Trilogy (at AmazonSmile)
by Paul Auster
4.0 stars, 136 reviews
Included: City of Glass; Ghosts; The Locked Room
390 pages
$10.99

Mysteries…sort of. These are a bit more surreal than you might imagine.

The Forsyte Saga (at AmazonSmile)
by John Galsworthy
4.5 stars, 53 reviews
Included: The Man of Property; In Chancery; To Let
912 pages
$8.79

In what may seem rather modern to some, these 1920s novels also have two short stories (“interludes”) which bridge them.

The Divergent Series Complete Collection (at AmazonSmile)
by Veronica Roth
4.3 stars, 590 reviews
Included: Divergent; Insurgent; Allegiant
859 pages
$14.99

The first book is soon to be “a major motion picture”…could possibly be one of the big movies of the year.

His Dark Materials Omnibus (at Amazon Smile)
by Philip Pullman
4.1 stars, 1,315 reviews
Included: The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass
946 pages
$16.06

It’s already been a not-so-major motion picture ;), but that shouldn’t put you off the books.

Henry VI: Parts One, Two, and Three (at AmazonSmile)
by William Shakespeare
5 stars, 1 review (for this edition)
608 pages
$5.98

In case you thought trilogies only went back a few decades…

The Oedipus Trilogy: Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone (at AmazonSmile)
by Sophocles
3 stars, 1 review (for this edition)
300 pages
$0.99

In case you thought trilogies only went back a few centuries…

;)

Enjoy!

You may have others you’d like to mention…feel free to do so by commenting on this post. By the way, before it comes up: Douglas Adams calling the Hitchhiker series a “trilogy” was sort of a joke. ;)

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle. You can also now recommend a child to be the recipient.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

** A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

The e-books are strong in this one…Star Wars for the Kindle

February 17, 2014

The e-books are strong in this one…Star Wars for the Kindle

My birthday was a few days ago, and while it was fun to give away close to a 1,000 of my books to my readers (859, to be accurate), that doesn’t mean I didn’t get something cool, too. ;)

My Significant Other got us tickets to

Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination

We plan to go on Presidents’ Day, and I thought this gave me a good excuse to take a look at what Star Wars titles are available for the Kindle.

I should say first that I saw Episode IV (movie 1) when it was first released, and I have a great Darth Vader audioanimatronic bank (at AmazonSmile). I also have the very first Star Wars novel in paperback (written by George Lucas…not, I think, available for the Kindle: Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker ((at AmazonSmile))). Oh, and I carry a pair of Yoda lightsaber chopsticks (at AmazonSmile) with me…

However, while I am a fan, I wouldn’t say I’m a superfan. :) I have a lot of interests, and Star Wars is just one of them. You can read my advice to J.J. Abrams on making Star Wars (and how it differs fundamentally from Star Trek…which will help explain to regular readers why I would say I’m more philosophically in tune with the latter) here:

The Measured Circle’s Star Wars category

Okay, let’s take a look.

Searching for

Star Wars in the USA Kindle store (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

gets me a staggering 1,559 results. 1,505 of those are listed as e-books.

It is possible that some of those are false positives, but you might be wondering how there could be that many Star Wars books.

Well, many of them actually are novels, and there are a lot of different arcs happening there.

Some of them are also graphic novels.

Then you get into books about the movies.

Of course, there are also videogame guides and such.

It’s a big, big universe!

There are also seventeen

Star Wars tagged blogs in the Kindle store (at AmazonSmile)

although they’ll range beyond Star Wars in their coverage.

When we get to

Star Wars MP3s (at AmazonSmile)

there are 164 albums, and 3,763 tracks listed.

Oh, I should say, I once saw John Williams in concert (in the cheap seats). One of the coolest parts was when the composer/conductor did the Star Wars theme. R2-D2 was actually on stage. This giant orchestral sound is blasting through the hall, and John Williams points to R2 for a very electronic “mee-mee-me-mee”. :)

I always loved the story John Williams told when someone asked about writing that theme. It went something like this (as I recall):

“Well, we didn’t have a lot of time, and there wasn’t really a lot of money. I’d already written Born Free, so I just took the sheet music and turned it upside down.”

I certainly can’t swear that’s an accurate memory of mine, but if you think about the music, it really fits.

Moving on to

Star Wars Amazon Instant Video (at AmazonSmile)

there are 373 (!) results.

Finally,searching for

Star Wars in the Amazon Appstore for Kindle Fires (at AmazonSmile)

gets 342 results.

While many are unofficial, it’s also nice to see a number of free ones, including:

  • Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles
  • Angry Birds Star Wars
  • Star Wars Tiny Death Star

Be aware that free apps often have ads (that’s how the studio is getting paid, since you aren’t paying), and may require periodic connection to the internet to refresh those ads.

Wow! That’s a lot of Star Wars stuff! Amazon has a lot more things that are less Kindle connected for Star Wars…from t-shirts to collectibles.

I expect we’ll have fun at the exhibit!

May the force be with you…

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Romance is in the air…er, or at least at Amazon

February 14, 2014

Romance is in the air…er, or at least at Amazon

This is one of those days where I write ahead, so I can stay off the computer during family time. :)

I thought I’d take this post and give you some links for romance content at Amazon…

Romance, in this case, is a category of fiction which focuses on romantic relationships between people.

At least, that’s what it means now. It used to mean other things (in medieval times, romances were about heroic quests and things, as I understand it).

“People” also can be somewhat loosely defined, including supernatural beings and non-human aliens, just to get started. ;)

The

Romance Writers of America

includes this:

“A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.”

However, I’m going to make it easy on myself, and go with whatever is categorized as romance at Amazon. ;)

Just as with romance in real life, what one person considers a romance may not be what another person considers one. Publishers can define the categories, and that can sometimes be for marketing purposes and may be quite surprising. One could argue, I suppose that the first three Star Wars movies are a romance…although, while the relationships are important, they aren’t the main story (for most people).

Well, let’s start out with books:

Romance books in the USA Kindle store (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

At the time of writing (a few days before you see this), there are 167,278 titles. That’s about 7% of the total number of e-books in the Kindle store. That’s more books than there are in science fiction and fantasy (144,348), and more than in mystery, thriller, and suspense (132,327).

Let’s break romance down a bit more:

Romance

African American (3,571)
Collections & Anthologies (6,651)
Contemporary (57,143)
Fantasy (12,589)
Gay Romance (9,134)
Gothic (720)
Historical Romance (21,680)
Holidays (3,421)
Inspirational (9,434)
Lesbian Romance (2,107)
Military (2,102)
Multicultural & Interracial (2,781)
Mystery & Suspense (16,723)
New Adult & College (3,532)
Paranormal (20,430)
Romantic Comedy (7,657)
Science Fiction (3,000)
Series (16,027)
Sports (1,259)
Time Travel (2,118)
Westerns (5,160)

Romantic Themes

Amnesia (311)
Beaches (995)
Gambling (349)
International (711)
Love Triangle (2,511)
Medical (1,479)
Second Chances (1,370)
Secret Baby (1,141)
Vacation (526)
Wedding (1,583)
Workplace (917)
Romantic Heroes
Cowboys (2,505)
Doctors (625)
Firefighters (236)
Highlanders (722)
Pirates (595)
Politicians (754)
Royalty & Aristocrats (1,859)
Spies (1,110)
Vikings (280)
Wealthy (3,130)

Author

Graeme C. Simsion (1)
Janet Evanovich (27)
Dean Koontz (3)
Jojo Moyes (7)
J. S. Cooper (15)
Helen Cooper (7)
James Patterson (4)

Some books will appear in more than one of these categories: many won’t appear at all, I would guess.

There are also always inexpensive and free romance books available. The old saying may be that “there ain’t no such things as a free lunch”, but there are always free reads. ;)

Next, let’s talk about

Amazon Appstore romance apps (at AmazonSmile)

I have 574 results at the time of writing (although those may not all be available for Kindle products).

158 of those are listed in the “Books & Readers” category.

I tested

Romance Reads – Free Romance eBooks for Kindle (at AmazonSmile)

a free app which is supposed to keep you informed about free and bargain romance books.

It had 3.8 out of five stars with 32 reviews, which isn’t bad.

When it first opened, it asked me to subscribe to the “Romance Reads” newsletter. Hm…I don’t see a way to get past giving them my name and e-mail address, even though I can see some things behind it.

Okay,having done that, it asked me to like them on Facebook (sorry, I don’t do that…don’t really use Facebook), to get the Kindle app if I needed it, and to invite friends.

Clicking on Today’s Romance Deals, there were primarily low cost deals…although I did find one freebie. Interestingly, they list both Amazon and B&N.

I removed it from my device, although I can see why some people would find it useful.

Next, I went to the MP3 store.

Putting in “Romance” didn’t work…it got me My Chemical Romance. ;) So, I switched my search term to

Love Songs (at AmazonSmile)

That got me 68,626 results…just in MP3 albums! For MP3 songs and extras, there were 1,046,363 results.

Many of the songs were free, and a few of the albums were.

Now, on to

Romantic Movies at Amazon Instant Video (at AmazonSmile)

This does have some somewhat non-intuitive results for me: the musical of Little Shop of Horrors, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, for example. Thinking about them, okay, sure, there are love  themes  in there…but again, is that the main focus?

It seems inconsistent to me with the other categories, but they don’t give you a count.

The same sort of thing seems to be true for

Romantic TV shows at Amazon Instant Video (at AmazonSmile)

What do these two shows have in common: Downton Abbey and Party Down? They are both romances…? ;)

Well, I suppose that’s sort of the point of this post. However you define romance, Amazon probably has content about it. ;)

I think I’ll stop there…might be a bit more…risky to start looking at physical objects. ;)

Best to you and yours!

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

The Winter Tomes

February 9, 2014

The Winter Tomes

The Winter Games are getting a lot of focus right now, which is understandable. As a reader (SPOILER ALERT for the opening ceremonies), I was fascinated to see Russia distancing itself from the Soviet Union by including Nabokov (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) in their “alphabet sequence”…when that author had been banned by the Soviets. END SPOILER ALERT

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to look at some “Winter Tomes” (books that have “winter” in the title, or feature winter prominently) to go along with it.

Game of Thrones (at AmazonSmile)
by George R.R. Martin
4.5 out 5 stars, 1097 customer reviews at time of writing

“Winter is coming.”

Readers (and watchers) of this series are well familiar with the motto. NBC made an interesting link to that by having Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor on the show, Peter Dinklage, narrate their opening coverage.

Winter’s Tale (at AmazonSmile)
by Mark Halperin
3.8 stars, 392 reviews

The movie version is due to open in the USA this Valentine’s Day…more than thirty years after its release. It’s worth noting that it the title is a reference to The Winter’s Tale.

Winter of the World: Book Two of the Century Trilogy (at AmazonSmile)
by Ken Follett
4.4 stars, 3519 reviews

There was quite a bit of controversy over the relatively high price when the first book in this series was released…and this one is still higher than most. Still, as you can tell, that hasn’t stopped lots of people from buying it (and writing generally good reviews).

The Left Hand of Darkness (at AmazonSmile)
by Ursula K. Le Guin
4.2 stars, 270 reviews

Unfortunately, this science fiction classic is not currently available when I check the page…but hopefully, it will return. It features a planet named Winter…

A Week in Winter
by Maeve Binchy
4.4 stars, 2184 reviews

A popular work of literary fiction by a beloved author.

The Winter Witch (at AmazonSmile)
by Paula Brackston
4.1 stars, 184 reviews

A “paranormal historical” by a New York Times bestselling author.

Five fictional works for the five rings…and one more of essays, just because: ;)

Winter: Five Windows on the Season
by Adam Gopnik
3.7 stars, 3 reviews

Five essays on what winter means to us, by a New Yorker staffer.

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

10 Books Tumblrs

January 28, 2014

10 Books Tumblrs

Tumblr is a “microblogging” site. Many of them post pictures, sometimes with captions, although you can actually post text.

I thought I’d just take a look for Tumbrs by searching for “Books Tumblr” on Google.

I have to warn you that Tumblr is also famous for having NSFW (Not Safe For Work) material, and it’s possible that will show up in this list. I will have looked a bit at the Tumblrs I list (in order to pick ten that I think are interesting), but they don’t all post those sorts of things every day. :)

The Reblog Book Club

This is an official Tumblr blog. It’s pretty much what you would imagine, with a modern social media twist. They pick a book for people to read, and then they discuss it…but there could be hashtags involved. :)

Nose in a Book

A lot of pictures, and some reviews…

Go Book Yourself

I like this one: information dense, with writing, pictures, cartoons, and quotations.

Tumblr Book News

As the name implies…more newsy, including book deals

Bookfessions

Great little sayings about their feelings from booklovers…I could really understand a lot of these!

Everybody Reading Books

Lots of pictures of people reading books…and more!

Confessions of a Book Addict

A lot more text than many of these…

Library Journal

For me, this has a surprising amount of pop culture…but a lot about books.

NPR Books

National Public Radio on books…

And finally, for a classic internet type Tumblr:

The Literary Cat

Mostly pictures of cats with books (and at least one cat with a Kindle).

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Golden anniversary: books published in 1964

January 25, 2014

Golden anniversary: books published in 1964

For some of you, prepare to feel old. ;)

Can you believe that 1964 was fifty years ago? Well, yes, I’m sure some of you can. :)

I thought I’d take a quick look at some books published in 1964. While 1964 is a particularly great year for TV, as I mentioned in

Ends in 4: geeky anniversaries in 2014

in my The Measured Circle blog, there are also books that should bring back fond memories.

Oh, and in case you are curious, under current copyright laws, books first published in the USA in 1964, which followed all the rules (proper copyright notice, renewals when possible), will fall into the public domain in the United States on January 1, 2060…so in 46 years, you should be able to read them for free. ;)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (at AmazonSmile: support a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
by Ian Fleming
4.6 out of 5 stars, 149 customer reviews
$5.38 at time of writing

While Ian Fleming was still writing about James Bond (You Only Live Twice was also published this year), this kids’ book about a flying car was a hit…and would have been, even without the big screen adaptation.

The Deep Blue Good-by: A Travis McGee Novel (at AmazonSmile)
by John D. McDonald
4.4 stars, 135 reviews
$9.99 at time of writing

This one launched the Travis McGee series, although the story goes that the publisher wanted three novels ready to go before publishing the first one…so three were published in 1964.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (at AmazonSmile)
by Roald Dahl
4.6 stars, 679 reviews
$5.42 at time of writing

What a year it was to be a kid…and a reader!

Arrow of God (at AmazonSmile)
by Chinua Achebe
4.3 stars, 23 reviews
$9.99 at time of writing

It’s the second book of the “African Trilogy”, following After Things Fell Apart.

Games People Play (at AmazonSmile)
by Eric Berne
3.9 stars, 41 reviews
$5.38 at time of writing

Oh, yes, this had a big impact when it was released! It’s pop psychology.

The Giving Tree (at AmazonSmile)
by Shel Silverstein
4.3 stars, 1,100 reviews
$10.67 at time of writing (note: this is a pre-order, with the Kindle version to be published February 18)

I still think of Shel Silverstein first as a sort of counter culture musician, but people have loved this book for five decades. Note: this is one of the cases where I believe to text-to-speech access wasn’t blocked, but is unavailable because the text is part of the images.

Herzog (at AmazonSmile)
by Saul Bellow
3.7 stars, 95 reviews
$7.99 at time of writing

A great example of a mid 1960s novel…complex, cynical, and comedic.

The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain) (at AmazonSmile)
by Lloyd Alexander
4.6 stars, 329 reviews
$4.73 at time of writing

The first of the Prydain novels…

Little Big Man (at AmazonSmile)
by Thomas Berger
4.6 stars, 64 reviews
$9.99 at time of writing

In a sense, deconstructing the Western, it became a movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway.

Last Exit to Brooklyn (at AmazonSmile)
by Hubert Selby
4.1 stars, 96 reviews
$9.99 at time of writing

Harsh? Absolutely. There was, of course, a definite dark side to the 1960s, and popular culture didn’t shy away from it. This book was involved in an obscenity trial in the UK.

There you are…ten books which have stood the test of time, half a century on.

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Read the book first #3

January 13, 2014

Read the book first #3

I know I’ve said many times how much I don’t like spoilers…my favorite thing in entertainment is to be surprised.

However…

If I’m going to both read a book and see a movie, I want to read the book first. Oddly, I’ve never had a book spoil a movie for me, but I’ve had the reverse be true.

That might not be true for you. I know part of it probably is that I don’t visualize when I read. I’ve written about this before, too, but I don’t see the characters (or hear their voices) when I read. I also know that puts me in the minority (again). ;)

I remember when my Significant Other and I saw the first Harry Potter movie. My SO said Harry’s chin was wrong. I didn’t think that, because Harry’s chin hadn’t been described in the book. Messy black hair, glasses, and a scar…check.

The time when I found out that I was unusual in this was when I had read a book (back in the paper days), and then my SO was reading it. I asked my SO about how the book was going and I was told, “I’m having trouble reading it because when I hear this one character, I hear [the actor] Darren McGavin.” I said, “What do you mean?” “When I hear the voice, I hear Darren McGavin.”

Me: “You hear the character’s voice?”

SO: “You don’t hear the character’s voice?”

We had one of those classic committed couple “discussions” about which one of us was crazy. :)

Well, as you know, I like to do the research.

I was teaching different groups of people most days at that point, training computer software.  I started polling them.

It turned out that about fifteen percent of the people didn’t visualize the characters or hear the voices when they read.

So, that meant I was the weird one. :)

Actually, it varied quite a bit. In an advanced PowerPoint class, pretty much everybody would visualize. In an advanced Excel class, not very many people would.

I’ve had long discussions about this with people, and some of them seem to think it’s impossible for me to enjoy books without seeing the events. I get involved in it…it’s just all conceptual.

Oh, I do admit that sometimes I visualize a scene…if it’s poorly written. That surprises people, too…they think a well-written book is more likely to take you “into the scene”. For me, though, if something is not well-written, I may have to work out the logistics of the scene…where’s the window out of which that character jumped? Why couldn’t somebody stop that person…what was in the way?

The upshot of this long introduction is that, if I’m going to see a movie, I try to read the book first. :)

Here are some books that have adaptations coming to US movie theatres in 2014…in case you feel the same. I’m not listing everything, of course, and if you don’t see one, it may be because the publisher has blocked text-to-speech access in the Kindle edition (I don’t deliberately link to books which do that).

Outside of The Hunger Games, there were several box office disappointments last based on young adult fiction: Beautiful Creatures, Mortal Instruments, and The Host all failed to gross $40 million at the US box office (for more box office information for last year, see my post, 2013 The Year in Movie Box Office in The Measured Circle). However, this adaptation, including Shaileene Woodley and Kate Winslet, has been getting a bit of buzz. The two sequels already have release dates booked, so you might just want to start reading all three books: The Divergent Series Complete Collection (at AmazonSmile). It’s a dystopian novel, categorized on the product page as Teen & Young Adult Romance.

Directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls), based on a six novel series for young adults. Features Sarah Hyland and Gabriel Byrne.

Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Jumper) directs Tom Cruise with a script co-written by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects). Sort of sounds like Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers. :)

It’s nice to see this one on the list, being made from a book published three decades ago (rather than a currently popular title). Producer/screenwriter Akiva Goldsman directs Colin Farrell, Will Smith, Russell Crowe, and Jennifer Connelly in this fantasy romance.

Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel has sold literally millions of copies and won the Newbery medal. The cast includes Meryl Streep and Taylor Swift.

There are five…here is a list of some of the others:

  • The Maze Runner
  • Heaven Is for Real
  • This Is Where I Leave You
  • All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Paddington
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • The Hobbit: There and Back Again
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
  • Gift from Eykis

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

2013 ILMK Holiday Gift Guide

November 29, 2013

2013 ILMK Holiday Gift Guide

As we enter into the biggest shopping period of the year, there are a lot of choices to make.

You want to get people gifts that make them happy…and make you happy, too. :)

That means something that is a good value, both in what they get out of it and what you have to put into it to get it.

I’m always leery when people ask what the “best” something is. People and use cases are different: what would be best for one person might not be best for another.

You might be the only person on your Amazon account…or you might share it with a hundred people.

You might just read on one device…or you might switch between your EBR (E-Book Reader), phone, and tablet.

You might live in a place where you have wi-fi everywhere you go…or where the only hope of connecting is 3G/4G.

You might be interested in watching movies on your high-tech gadget…or just want to settle in with a good book.

That said, I’m going to make some suggestions for things which I think would be good. If you think otherwise, or have more questions, feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Kindle Devices

There are two distinct lines of hardware called “Kindles” (you can see my comparison of all of the models here).

One of them is the Fire line. Those are multifunctional tablets. Yes, you can read on them (I do that daily), but they are really well suited to multimedia, like watching videos and playing games.

The other line is the one with dedicated reading devices. They are great for reading books: you can read easily inside or outside, and battery charge life is measured in weeks, not hours.

Many people own both.

If you want to get something for a reader, I recommend the Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High Resolution Display with Next-Gen Built-in Light (Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High Resolution Display with Next-Gen Built-in Light at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*). The Paperwhite line is the most comfortable reading experience I’ve ever had…including paper. It has frontlighting, which means that the light shines at the screen, not in your eyes. It can do some fancy things, but it doesn’t need to do them. It’s currently $119 with Special Offers (those are ads which reduce the price of purchase), or $139 if you aren’t willing to let advertisers subsidize the purchase. It also comes in a model that does both wi-fi and 3G (at AmazonSmile)…for $70 more. Having 3G available can make the device a bit easier to use, because you don’t have to know your wi-fi network password at home…you don’t even need to have wi-fi at home. Where I live, there is plenty of wi-fi available outside of my house (Starbucks, Whole Foods, and so on), and I have no problem entering a wi-fi password.

Alternatives: the less expensive ($69) “Mindle” (at AmazonSmile), which doesn’t have a touchscreen or a light, and the Kindle DX (at AmazonSmile) ($239), which has a much larger screen, but a lot older technology. Other older models may also be available, especially refurbished or on the secondary market.

In terms of the tablets, I went with personally and would recommend the Kindle Fire HDX 7″ (at AmazonSmile). It’s the latest generation, and has the incredible Mayday feature. You tap a button on the screen, accept the connection, and get live tech help on your screen…24 hours a day…typically within fifteen seconds…who can take over your device (only if you want) and fix things for you…for free! It’s probably the greatest innovation in Customer Service in decades. You can give a Kindle Fire HDX to a non-techie relative, and as long as you get it on the network for them, you won’t have to be tech support. ;) This one is not going to sit in a drawer because somebody can’t figure it out. You can finally actually get e-mails from all your relatives, regardless of their tech ability…that’s a good thing, right? ;) It’s $229 in its least expensive configuration. Why would you spend more? To get more memory (if somebody is going to store several videos on it at the same time, that’s important), and to get 4G (so you can connect more easily in more places…but that will require a monthly payment for a data plan). There’s also a larger model with a back-facing camera (so you can take pictures with it more easily).

Alternatives: Kindle Fire HD 7″ (at AmazonSmile) ($139)…no camera and no Mayday.

Kindle Accessories

What do you get to go with a Kindle? Maybe somebody already has one, or you want to get a gift to go along with one you or somebody else is giving.

The one that I would consider to be important to have is a cover, and there are many options for that.

New this year (directly from Amazon) are customizable covers (both for Fires and non-Fires: www.amazon.com/kindlecreateyourown (at AmazonSmile). You can upload your own image to be printed on the cover, which makes a really unique gift. Even if someone already has a cover, this is a great way to go.

Alternatives: there are many cover choices (and skins and sleeves), but we like a relatively inexpensive brand called Fintie. They have fun colors and patterns, and come for both Fires and non-Fires.

Going from the aesthetic to the practical, power supplies make good gifts. Sure, Kindles come with some way to charge them, but in some cases, it’s just by USB (which is much slower than by wall. The other thing is that I use more than one: I keep one with me at work, and I have more than one at home.

This is less of an issue for non-Fires, because they stay charged for so long. For Fires, though, your gift recipient may be doing some power intensive things (like playing games or watching movies)…and may want to use it plugged into the wall.

I recently got this one: Pwr+® Extra Long 6.5 Ft Cord 2A Rapid Charger Ac Adapter Micro-usb Power Supply Cord (at AmazonSmile). It’s a good home cord. It seems to charge my Fire quite quickly, and I like having the longer cord (you can even use your Fire as a nightstand clock…it has a mode for that). The prongs don’t collapse, though, so I don’t like it as well for travel.

Do you have someone who is a world traveler on your list? Fortunately, all Kindles are “universal voltage”, which means that you don’t have to have a power converter. However, you do have to have an adapter, so it can fit in the wall outlets (which are different in different places), unless you plan to charge just by USB. Amazon has the Kindle PowerFast International Charging Kit (for accelerated charging in over 200 countries) (at AmazonSmile). This is a power supply with twist-on adapters.

Are you thinking about headphones? Not all Kindles have sound (the Paperwhites don’t), and only some of the Fires have Bluetooth (all of the current generation Fires do, the HDXs and the new HD). The ones that can do headphones have a 3.5mm jack, which is pretty much the standard for mobile devices (if it says it will work for an iPod/iPad, it will work for these Kindles).

Here is something a little out of the box. For people who have the HDX, they can use it to “mirror” their screens to a TV (some other devices do this, too…my Galaxy S4 phone does). That means you can display what is on your Fire HDX on your TV. However, many TVs do not have the necessary Miracast wireless capability. If it’s a modern TV, it is likely to have an HDMI port. I bought the Netgear Push2TV which is about $50. Before you buy that, read my post on it: A Miracast adapter that works with the Kindle Fire HDX. It isn’t perfect, and I did have to update it (which wasn’t super easy), but I do use it every day now.

For accessories, there are also styluses, stands, screen protectors (I don’t use the last one)…a lot of possibilities.

Prime

Brand new this year is the ability to gift Amazon Prime to people. For $79 a year, they get free two-day shipping on many items at Amazon. It amazes me how much we use that! For Kindle owners, though, there are other advantages. You can borrow up to a book a month (from a list of over 100,000 titles…many of them are from small publishers, but there are some well-known books as well) at no additional cost. You can also get a pre-publication book for free…this is new, and the first month we had four choices. For people with Fires, or with other ways to watch Amazon Instant Video, you also get access to tens of thousands of videos at no extra cost. These include TV shows like Under the Dome and Downton Abbey, and many movies, including popular, fairly recent movies like Skyfall and Thor.

Amazon Prime (One Year Membership)
at AmazonSmile

E-books

You can gift most e-books in the Kindle store. You can’t do it if they are free, and there are geographic restrictions. To gift a book, go to it on Amazon…you’ll see a “Give as a Gift” button under the Buy button. You even specify a future date for it to be delivered, and include a message. So, if you see one go on sale (quite likely), you can buy it at the low price and have it delivered on the gift-giving occasion. I mention sale books quite often in this blog.

Gift Cards

Unfortunately, you can’t gift all kinds of content (in particular, instant videos and apps come to mind). It’s also hard to know exactly what somebody wants. No problem: you can give Amazon Gift Cards (at AmazonSmile). You have lots of options: electronic, gift box, animation featuring you (from Jib Jab), your own photographs…you can also make a suggestion with the card, but the person doesn’t have to use it for that. For example,  you could suggest somebody get a sweater, and they could pick the right size and color (or get something entirely different). You can set the amount as low as fifteen cents (!) and as high as $2,000. These are so much more flexible and fun than they used to be, and every Kindle owner will make use of it! Note: even though some gift cards have designs that have to do with a Kindle or even specifically a Kindle Fire, all Amazon gift cards can be used for any eligible item. Some items can not be bought with gift cards, like periodical subscriptions (they have to have something they can bill each month).

Amazon Wish Lists

One other thing (added to the post). Many people have Amazon Wish Lists. This can be the best way to see what people really want…even if you don’t get something directly from the list (and you can’t always…see Gift Cards above), you could see the types of items they like.

They can send you a link, or the list may be searchable. You can search for lists here:

Amazon Wish Lists
@AmazonSmile

===

Those are some suggestions: hope you and yours have great times together…that’s the best gift of all. :)

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,252 other followers

%d bloggers like this: