Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

What can you do with Amazon Prime?

January 3, 2014

What can you do with Amazon Prime?

Did you recently become an Amazon Prime member?

You might have: people who buy a Kindle Fire (at AmazonSmile…support a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)  get a free one-month trial. Also, you can now give the gift of Prime:

So, there are probably a lot of people who are just coming into their Prime…so to speak. ;)

The obvious question is: what can you do with Amazon Prime?

There are three main benefits, and I’ll go through them here.

Free two-day shipping on many items

Prime Shipping Information
at AmazonSmile

This was the original attraction of Prime, and it still is, for many people. You pay $79 a year, and then you can have many items shipped at no additional cost and get two-day shipping.

We hadn’t bought Prime when that’s all it was. I would do the calculation, and say, “We didn’t pay anything like $79 last year for shipping.” That was because we would tend to get things with Super Saver Shipping (at the time, you put together a $25 order of eligible items, and shipping was free…although it wasn’t fast), and we used Subscribe and Save for other items.

Super Saver Shipping
at AmazonSmile

Subscribe & Save
at AmazonSmile

We still subscribe to a lot of things, like dog food and vitamins. It just makes sense: you save 15%, you can choose a periodicity for orders, and you can skip an order whenever you want…and shipping is free.

That, though, turned out not to be the best way to compare the situation…the shipping costs we had paid was not the only factor we should have considered.

When we got our first Kindle Fire, we got a month of Prime free. Actually using it, we saw the other big advantages.

The key thing is that you might decide you need something…in a recent case, we need curtains for a room that was going to be used as a guest room. You can have it with two-day shipping, if you can find one that is eligible for Prime. Compare that to going to a store. If you decide on a Monday, you probably aren’t going to go to the store until the weekend. You’ll have to drive there, wait in line…it’s quite a production! You don’t typically even know if they’ll have what you want.

We’ve found we use Prime…a lot. If we were to compare the cost of the shipping that was included with our $79 Prime to what it would cost without Prime, we’d be saving a ton of money. Of course, we wouldn’t have shipped that stuff in two days without Prime…but time is valuable, and those savings count.

You can even get faster shipping for more money. A 1-day shipping upgrade is as low as $2.99. It used to be $3.99 for everything, now it depends on the size and weight of the item.

You can share Prime shipping benefits with other people living at your same address. So, if you have, let’s say, an adult kid living with you with their own Amazon account, they can share your shipping benefit at no additional cost. You can have four additional people (not on your account…everybody on your account gets it automatically) under your shipping benefits.

One caveat: the shipping speed is just that…it’s not the delivery date. We are still often surprised at how quickly we get things, but sometimes, we order something with Prime and it is a week before we get it. Why? It didn’t start shipping for several days. The actual shipping still took two (business) days, but it didn’t start immediately, because it was out of stock, or otherwise unavailable for some reason.

I think the shipping benefits alone are worth it for many people, when you compare the costs (not just the shipping fee…gas, time).

Prime Instant Video

Prime Instant Video
at AmazonSmile

This is the ability to watch movies and TV shows at no additional cost. It’s easy on a Kindle Fire, but you don’t need one, if you have other ways to watch Amazon Instant Video (a Roku, for example).

I would say that people wanting to know how this compares to Netflix is one of the most common questions I see from people considering Prime.

Let’s start out with cost: they are comparable, although Prime is somewhat cheaper (I’m ignoring other Prime benefits in this comparison). $79/12 = $6.58 a month. If we look at streaming only, Netflix is $7.99 a month…and you can get an annual membership for $95.88.

What about content?

Remember, we are limiting this to streaming…if you include DVDs, Netflix would presumably blow Prime away. However, we aren’t. :)

I have to say “presumably”, because Netflix doesn’t make it easy to figure out how many total videos they have available. I may just be missing it, but I don’t see a way to browse the entire collection. I’ve seen unverified numbers of all kinds on the internet: from 3,000 movies and 20,000 TV episodes to “over 75,000″.

Looking at Amazon, there are 14,675 movies and 2,075 TV seasons (season 1 on Downton Abbey, for example, would count as one of those 2,075) at time of writing. It’s possible that not each of those 2,075 is a season…a TV movie might count as one. The number of episodes in a season has varied considerably…if we figure ten as an average, that might be about 20,000.

Each of them has original content as well, although that’s new to Amazon.

My feeling is that Netflix tends to have more of the recent stuff, although I haven’t analyzed that. Looking at the most popular movies on Prime, I see The Hunger Games, Skyfall, The Avengers…obviously, all big hits. Remember that these are available at no additional cost over your Prime membership.

Could you drop your cable company just for Prime? The main thing you would miss is current TV…but if you can wait a year to see something, that’s not bad. :)

I would also say that Netflix has a more sophisticated interface, although if you first find the video on your computer, Amazon does okay there. They’ve even added the

Amazon Instant Video Finder
at AmazonSmile

Netflix, though, makes it very easy to find what you’ve watched recently…Amazon could certainly improve that.

In Amazon’s favor is X-Ray for Movies. That’s a feature that lets you get information about a movie you are currently watching. For example, you can freeze the movie and get background about the actors in the scene…even find out what other movies an actor is in to watch later. That’s powered by IMDb.com, which I think is the best movie resource on the web…and is owned by Amazon.

Amazon recently added closed captioning, so that is less of an edge for Netflix than it used to be.

Another huge advantage with the current generation of Kindle Fires is that you can download Prime videos (many of them) to watch when you are offline (on a plane, for example). Netflix is designed to be strictly streaming…no downloading.

Download Prime Instant Video Titles
at AmazonSmile

Amazon also has nice

Amazon Instant Video parental controls
at AmazonSmile

This might be new! You can set one of four levels for content…and choose to which devices that limit applies. The content is not just movie ratings, but includes TV ratings. So, you could have a kid’s Fire set to allow G, TV-G, and TV-Y, and have an adult’s where anything goes.

You can’t share your Prime video benefits with someone not on your account, like you can with your shipping benefits. There are also some significant restrictions (this is quoted from Amazon):

  • You can stream up to two titles at the same time using the same Amazon.com account. You can stream the same title to no more than one device at a time.
  • Many Prime Instant Video titles are also available for download on Kindle Fire HD 2nd Generation and Kindle Fire HDX devices. The detail page for each Prime Instant Video title indicates whether the title is available for download. You can download available titles to only two separate devices at one time. If you have already downloaded a title to two devices, you need to delete it from one of them before downloading it to another device. You can have a maximum of 25 total Prime Instant Video titles downloaded at a time across all devices associated with your Amazon.com account. While not all Prime Instant Video titles are available for download, the same videos may be available for rental or purchase from Amazon Instant Video, and rented or purchased titles can be downloaded to compatible devices.

Amazon Instant Video Usage Rules
at AmazonSmile

Is Prime worth it just for video? What I would say is take a look at what you watch, and see how well it matches up with what you like.

Kindle Book Benefits

There are two benefits for Prime members on e-books, and they are really quite different.

Kindle First
at AmazonSmile

With this one, you select one of a select group of not-yet published books. So far (this is new), there have been four each month, and they have all come from Amazon’s traditional publishing imprints. You select the book, you own it**. It follows the same rules as any other e-book on your account: all compatible devices on your account can use it. You can lend them to someone not on your account, according to the normal Kindle lending rules. That means you can lend it once…ever…for fourteen days. While the other person has it, you won’t have access to it. Kindle First books may not all be lendable, but books published by Amazon generally have been.

The other benefit is the

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL)
at AmazonSmile

For this one, you need to not only be an eligible Prime member, you also have to own a hardware Kindle (just a Kindle app isn’t enough…if you have both hardware Kindles and apps on your account, you can only send it to the hardware Kindles).

You can borrow up to one book a calendar month. You don’t own the book: you’ll need to return it before you can borrow the next one (and you’ll have to wait until the next month to do that anyway).

The books are from a specific set, but there were close to half a million titles in there when I checked January 1st…about one out of five of all the USA Kindle store books.

These are mostly independently published, but you do have the traditionally published Amazon books (which include James Bond and the 87th Precinct books). Scholastic, which is a major publisher, also puts books into the KOLL (The Hunger Games, for example), and the Harry Potter books are there, too. I have found something to read every month.

There you go! Those are the benefits to Prime. If you have any other questions, or want to let me or my readers know what you like about Prime, feel free to comment on this post.

Update: I was sort of making this up while I was on a walk with  my family (yeah, I do that…I make up little songs a lot). They had suggested I put it in the blog, and I meant to include it with this post. :)

Addicted to Prime (sung to the tune of Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer)

You hit 1-click,
You’re in the zone.
Some THING comes to your home.
You’re not sure…
You can’t recall
What it could be
No, not at all.

You see the box:
It’s got a smile.
You tear the tape…
It takes a while.
You still can’t see!
So many puffs!
You pull them out…what is this stuff???

Whoa-whoa…you like to think you’ve got it licked this time, whoa yeah!
It’s closer to the truth that you will spend every dime
You know you’re gonna have to face it
You’re addicted to Prime

You watch a film
It’s so obscure.
You face the facts: you need a cure.
You stream and stream
And never stop.
Another show: your mind will pop!
Your mind will pop!
Your eyes are glazed.
Your family is all amazed.
They thought you liked
To read a book
But having Prime is all it took

Whoa-whoa…you like to think you’ve got it licked this time, whoa yeah!
It’s closer to the truth that you will spend every dime
You know you’re gonna have to face it
You’re addicted to Prime

Might as well face it, you’re addicted to Prime
Might as well face it, you’re addicted to Prime
Might as well face it, you’re addicted to Prime
Might as well face it, you’re addicted to Prime
Might as well face it, you’re addicted to Prime
Might as well face it, you’re addicted to Prime

The month is new…
You want a book:
You’re afraid
To take a look.
They’re too weird
Can’t decide!
But they’re free
Can’t let it slide!

Whoa-whoa…you like to think you’ve got it licked this time, whoa yeah!
It’s closer to the truth that you will spend every dime
You know you’re gonna have to face it
You’re addicted to Prime

Might as well face it, you’re addicted to Prime
Might as well face it, you’re addicted to Prime
Might as well face it, you’re addicted to Prime
Might as well face it, you’re addicted to Prime
Might as well face it, you’re addicted to Prime
Might as well face it, you’re addicted to Prime

* 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! :) 

** What you are actually buying is a license to read the book. For more information, see my post,  How an e-book is like a treadmill at the gym

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.

Round up #231: 1st of the month tips, Mohsin Hamid on e vs p

January 2, 2014

Round up #231: 1st of the month tips, Mohsin Hamid on e vs p

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

What a difference a month makes

Welcome, new owners! There’s a lot to owning a Kindle (or using a Kindle app). Oh, it’s not the hardware, so much, at least in the case of a non-Fire Kindle. That’s generally pretty intuitive, at least for just opening a book and reading it.

There are also the Kindle services, and what Amazon does on the site. The latter is what I want to address now.

I look forward to every day, pretty much: I’m at heart an optimist. ;) However, Kindleers always pay particular attention to the first day of the month.

There are a few things that it makes sense to check:

  • Kindle Monthly Deals, $3.99 or less (at AmazonSmile…benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping)*: Amazon does do a Kindle Daily Deal (at AmazonSmile), and that can be great…but you do have to be on your toes for it. They do a new set of books for $3.99 or less each month as well…this month, at the time of writing (it can change), there are 114 titles. I often do a post on the highlights, but I do always look through them all. Since you can delay when a gift is delivered, this is also a good place to pick up a bargain for a future gift giving occasion. Note: this feature, and the others, may not apply in your country. Always check the price before you click that “Buy” button
  • Kindle First (at AmazonSmile): those Kindle monthly deals are available to anyone who has a Kindle or a Kindle app, and you can gift them to people who don’t have one (they’ll be prompted to get a free app). This next one has another requirement: you have to be an eligible Prime member (which is typically done by paying $79 a year). With this one, you’ll be able to pick a book out of a small group (so far, it’s been four each month), which will be published soon by Amazon’s traditional publishing group (that’s what it has been so far). You will own the book**: you aren’t just borrowing it. When you click through to the book, you’ll be given the choice to get it for free and get it now, or to pre-order it and pay for it. Why give both choices? You can only get one free book through Kindle First a month, but you might want to pre-order the others
  • Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) (at AmazonSmile): for this one, there are two requirements. You have to be an eligible Prime member, and you have to have a hardware Kindle (not just a free app). People sometimes ask about that: Amazon has to pay the publishers for each “borrow”, and I’m sure they’ve done the math on how much people spend who have a hardware Kindle versus what they spend when they have an app and not the hardware. The fact that they have to pay is also presumably why you can “only” borrow up to one a calendar month. That calendar limitation is another reason why Kindleers look forward to the first of the month. It’s not necessarily that the selection changes: it changes every day. Let’s say you borrowed a book on December 5th, and finished it by December 10th. You’d still have to wait until January 1st to borrow your next book. People also sometimes wonder why Amazon doesn’t make it easier to get to KOLL eligible books through your computer (it’s easy on the Kindle itself). Well, you have to borrow from the Kindle. I’ve seen many times where someone asks why they charged for a KOLL book. It’s usually because they were shopping from their computers, and click the “Buy” button rather than the “Borrow” button

What e-books did I get for the holidays?

Just thought you might be curious… :)

Two of my family members used my

to get me e-books…and it was great! Big thanks to them!

Sure, they could have gotten me gift cards, and there is nothing wrong with that, but they told me it was fun to look through the list and pick out some special things…it’s sort of like having a Bufo store. ;) I have a list which I share with them (that’s one of the privacy options), and it has over 150 things on it (not all e-books). These are things I do want, but I probably wouldn’t buy for myself for some reason.

You get to describe why they appeal to you, which is a way to share with your circle more about yourself.

Here’s what I got:

My Significant Other got me this one. :) Doc is one of my fictional heroes, as regular readers probably know. I do use Doc’s oath as a guide: to make myself better so that other’s can profit by it, to do right by others…I think I’ve published the oath in the blog before (my understanding is that the oath is in the public domain, although the books aren’t). If not, here it is:

===

“Let me strive, every moment of my life to make myself better and better, to the best of my ability, that all may profit from it.

Let me think of the right, and lend my assistance to those who need it with no regard for anything but justice.

Let me take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage.

Let me be considerate of my country, of my fellow citizens, and my associates in everything I say and do.

Let me do right to all, and wrong no one.”

===

I made one alteration to the last line, making it gender neutral.

This book is an extraordinary “biography” of Doc Savage, by the well-known science fiction writer, Philip José Farmer. Farmer also wrote Tarzan Alive!, a similar biography of Lord Greystoke…and, in fact, according to Farmer, Doc and Tarzan (and many others) are related to each other!

The book was originally released in 1973, and you might think I would already have it…and I do. :) I have it in p-book. However, e-books are so much easier for me nowadays that having it in e-book form is terrific. I don’t often re-read books, but this is one I might…I might even listen to it in the car using text-to-speech.

Yes, Doc again, and yes, from my Significant Other again. :) This is something different: it’s a recent official addition to the Doc Savage stories, written by Will Murray. I’ve read one of the new ones before, but this one really intrigued me: Doc meets King Kong! It makes sense: they both had their pop culture starts in 1933, and they were both in New York.

I’ve started reading it (this is my third new book I’ve read in the past week or so…I’ve had some time off), and so far, it is quite well written. I would say it is considerably superior to the other contemporary Doc Savage I read, The Desert Demons.

My SO and I are on the same account, so these just showed up on my Kindle Fire…a great way to get them! I also got a note telling me to look there, wrapped in a gift. Actually, technically, my SO helped a supernatural entity get them for me, but that’s kind of a long story. ;) When our kid was little, we explained that Santa bought some things in the stores (rather than building everything at the North Pole), so the store owners would make some money. I was in retail at the time, and that was part of it, but it also might help explain the odd sticker on a gift.

The other three came from a sibling and family. They chose to have the gift codes printed out (which you can do when you choose buy an e-book as a gift), and then wrapped those for our family’s big “gift exchange” party.

This is non-fiction by Danielle Ofri, and it sounds fascinating. In my “day job”, I train doctors and other medical people. I’ve always noted that different specialties tend to have different…emotional profiles, I guess. It makes sense: imagine if you were in a job where all day long, people were likely to be dying, and you were dealing with the families. On the other hand, you might be in a job where there was very little risk to the people you helped, and they always loved the results. It would be pretty likely that you would have a different outlook in those two cases, right?

I’m not a big fan of emotions, personally, but I recognize they are there and that they affect decisions. :) Oh, they certainly have their value, but if you were to make me pick blindly between an emotionless machine making a decision in a crisis (like driving a car when a three-year old darts out into the street) or an emotional human, I’m likely to want to go with the machine.

I’ll be interested to see what the book says, and what solid research and insights it might have.

I know a lot about Batman, but I wouldn’t count The Dark Knight among my fictional heroes. I wouldn’t want to be like Bruce Wayne, in the way that I would like to be more like Doc Savage, Spock, or Kwai Chang Caine. Those three all think of themselves as personally flawed, which is not really something I see from Batman, so I find that less relatable.

I do find the various incarnations of Batman fascinating, though, and that’s what this book is about. The radio show was simply bizarre, and you can have Christian Bale’s frightening near-psychopath and the goofy Batman: The Brave & the Bold cartoon running successfully…at the same time.

My expectations aren’t super high about the quality of the work, but I look forward to it.

You might have expected me to have purchased Andrew Richard Albanese’s book already…but honestly, a Kindle Single for $1.99 always seems pricey to me. Since this is a topic I’ve covered closely, I’ll enjoy reading this take on it.

Care to share what you got (or gave)? :)

“They guard our aloneness.”

That is a beautiful line describing reading p-books over e-books in this

New York Times article by Mohsin Hamid

The point is a good one, for those who prefer to be absorbed into a book, to the exclusion of the world around you. Yes, you can put the new generation Kindle Fires into “Quiet Mode”, so you aren’t disturbed by notifications. However, a p-book only has a connection to you while you are reading it…it can’t connect anywhere else (although you can read it out loud, of course).

I can see the attraction of this sort of enforced primitiveness…like sitting on a mountaintop naked. ;) Generally, though, I prefer the option of the advantages of modern technology…like increasable text sizes…and clothes. ;)

How did that guest Kindle work out?

Not too long ago, I wrote

A Kindle for the guest room

in which I talked about having a Kindle specifically as a guest Kindle.

Well, we’ve had our adult kid and a roommate staying here for a week or so. They just went back to the Boston area…the weather here was exceptionally mild, and they did beat the big storm back. :)

The roommate got the guest Kindle (I knew my kid would bring one). It worked beautifully! While we were quite busy (you might have noticed a somewhat reduced output from me…that’s changed, as you can tell…this is a long post!), our guest read parts of two books. One of them was a book we had discussed at lunch: The Transparent Society. How cool is that? The topic came up about privacy (we had a weird experience, where a drone came up outside the window where we were eating lunch on a previous day, and the camera clearly looked at us), I referenced a book…and our guest could read it without hunting for it or any real inconvenience.

I only knew what books our guest  had read, by the way, by asking. It would probably not have been obvious otherwise. Now that they’ve gone back home, I have simply reset the device (you have to remove the “parental controls” first): Home – Menu – Settings – Menu. I then connected it to our wi-fi again, registered it again, set up the parental controls, and then it’s ready for the next person. Oh, and I’ll charge it…it’s about half way gone, I’d say. Once I went through the set-up, it resumed it’s old name.

Cool! Definitely a good choice to have done…what a nice way to provide books for a guest!

What do you think? What was the best “bookish” thing about your holidays? Is reading a paperbook an anachronistic return to an earlier era, or just as current as an e-book? Did you ever read a book when you were visiting someone else that really impressed you? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

* 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! :) 

** What you are actually buying is a license to read the book. For more information, see my post,  How an e-book is like a treadmill at the gym

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.

Gift cards and your Kindle

December 29, 2013

Gift cards and your Kindle

There’s a pretty good chance you got an Amazon gift card recently (see my post, Really last minute gifts: e-books and gift cards for more on giving cards).

You might be wondering how you can use it…I’ve seen lots of confusion about it in the Amazon Kindle Forum. In this post, I’ll explain how it works.

The first thing to know is that your gift card isn’t just for a specific Kindle on your account, or for a specific product.

Some people are confused by the fact that Amazon lets you buy a gift card with a picture of a Kindle on it. That doesn’t mean the amount can only be used for Kindle purchases: any gift card balance you have on your account can be used for any eligible item.

So, could a grandparent give you a gift card intending you to get

and it ends up being spent on paper towels?

Sure…it could even happen by accident.

What you do is apply the gift card balance to your account…the whole account. Then, when you use 1-click to buy something, it draws from any available gift card balance until there is none left (and then it goes back to the payment method which your account has set up for 1-click).

While you can only use 1-click to buy Kindle books, you can also use it to buy other things.

If you don’t use 1-click to buy the paper towels, you’ll be given the choice whether or not to use the gift card balance. If you use 1-click, it automatically goes to the gift card…letting you choose whether or not to use the gift card would add clicks, and it wouldn’t be 1-click any more. :)

I’m sure this has happened a lot. Somebody gets a gift card, intends to use it for a specific purpose, and it gets used up by more mundane purchases before the person realizes it.

That’s one reason why it is a good thing that you can gift a specific Kindle book from the book’s Amazon product page! Do that, and the person has a choice to get a gift card instead, but it arrives ready to be used just for that one book.

So, that’s the first big thing: your gift card isn’t “siloed” away from other purchases.

Oh, something which is siloed:

Amazon Coins

You can gift those, and they can only be used for apps and for in-app purchases.

The other thing is that not everything can be purchased with a gift card.

Here are the

For example, you can’t use a gift card to buy more gift cards…I guess that is like using one of your three wishes to wish for more wishes. ;)

One important one which does not appear on this page is about subscription items (blogs, magazines, newspapers). Weirdly, it used to explicitly say that it was prohibited. I alerted Amazon to the fact that it doesn’t have that prohibition in Help any more, and they confirmed for me that it is still prohibited to use your gift card for a subscription. Hopefully, they will update the page.

They do say it explicitly on another page:

“You can use an Amazon Gift Card, Gift Certificate, or Promotional Certificate to purchase Kindle devices, books and accessories. Any available balance will be used for your Kindle store purchase before your credit or debit card is charged. Your Gift Card balance cannot be used to pay for subscription content from the Kindle store.”

Why isn’t that okay?

With a subscription, they need something they can bill in future months, too…not just the first time. Let’s say you get something which is $10 a month, and you could pay for it with a $10 gift card. What would happen when the $10 came due for the next month’s subscription? They wouldn’t have a way to get the money, so they would have to contact you, which might delay it.

When you buy a subscription with a credit card, there is a much better chance that card can be billed the following month.

That said, it appears that Amazon has made it possible to gift some subscriptions…I believe that is new. When you go to pay for some magazines in the Kindle store, you’ll get an option to gift them to someone.

At least, that’s what I’ve heard: I haven’t seen it yet myself.

My guess is that it works one of two ways: either it works like gifting Prime, where it doesn’t autorenew…or they just continue to bill the gift giver’s payment method.

Those are the key points.

There are links at the top of this page

both to redeem your gift card (apply it to your account) and to check your balance.

If you have any other questions about them, feel free to let me know by commenting on this post.

Enjoy!

* 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.

Welcome to your Kindle…and ILMK (2013)

December 26, 2013

Welcome to your Kindle…and ILMK (2013)

Did you just get a new Kindle? A Kindle Fire, a Paperwhite, or another model?

If so, welcome!

I’m guessing quite a few people are finding this blog for the first time because of that.

On behalf of me, and my readers (some of whom have been here August of 2009), “We welcome you most e-gally!” (And there’s nothing we must verify legally!).

Sorry, that was a riff on the Wizard of Oz. ;)

Actually, if you feel like you need an apology for puns and whimsical humor, well, this might not be the right place for you…although, on second thought, it still might. :)

You see, I write a lot (I told myself I’d average at least 1,000 words a day in this blog, and I do that easily) about Kindles and the world of e-books generally.

Sure, I tell you about things that are on sale and about giveaways.

I also, though, will tell you give you tips and tricks about using your Kindle/Kindle app, as well as give you the news and the stories behind the news.

I encourage you to ask me questions: answering questions is one of the most fun things in life for me.

I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, and I’ve been dealing with technology since the punchcard days (if you aren’t sure what a punchcard machine is…well, I was going to say, “Ask your grandfather”, but it’s probably easier to just ask your phone.) ;) I think that combination gives me a pretty good background to write about technological books.

Okay, enough about me. ;) Oh, that’s another thing: I do sometimes write a bit about my life, but this really isn’t one of those diary/confessional sort of blogs.

I try to keep it eclectic. It’s rare that I write two posts in a row (and I usually publish one a day…sometimes more, rarely it might be a day and a half or so) that are really similar.

I’ve been very busy with the holidays, but I’ll be getting back on schedule and you’ll start seeing posts. I plan to write about gift cards and your Kindle, AmazonPrime, and frequently asked questions this season…probably all of those in the next few days. Then there are the year-end posts: a look backwards and a look ahead.

I think this variety is part of what has kept this blog in the top ten most popular USA Kindle store blogs for years (although I’ll sometimes slip to the second ten). That’s also due in large part to my subscribers, and I thank them very much! The Kindle store is based on paid subscribers…you can subscribe to have the blog automatically delivered to your non-Fire Kindle. Why would anybody pay to have a blog delivered? Two main reasons, I think. One is the convenience: you wake up in the morning (or check before going to bed…whatever works for you), and it’s there. You don’t have to go to a website to read it. The other one is, well, to support me. :)

Actually, there is something I do in the blog: polls. Let me do a quick poll, here, and then I’ll give you some tips.

You can comment on this post if you have other reasons, or want to say why you don’t pay to subscribe. I’m assuming you read it, since otherwise, how would you find this poll? ;)

On to a couple of stories!

$5 credit for downloading through Amazon Appstore app

I guess Amazon finally started listening to their investors, and realized that discounting so much might not make sense…so they are giving away store credit instead. Won’t that make the investors happy? ;)

It’s an interesting deal, only available through December 28 (Saturday).

Here’s the key thing: you need to download/update the Amazon Appstore and download an app (even a free one)…but not on a Kindle Fire.

Once you’ve downloaded the app (it can be a free one), you’ll be sent a confirmation e-mail.

This is an Amazon store credit, and it is good on “eligible digital items”…but hey, why not do this?

There are lots of apps to download…good ones, too!

Here’s a listing of almost 80,000 free Amazon Appstore apps:

Yep…Candy Crush, Angry Birds Star Wars II, and many, many more!

Not every app is available for every device, but it will let you know if it’s available for yours. Remember, you need to do this through the Amazon Appstore app on your Android device, but not a Kindle Fire. Just use the above links to help you pick something. ;) Then, go to the app and order.

Apps are not available in every country, and prices could vary. The key thing with Amazon is to check the price before you click that “Buy” button.

Getting discounted Kindle books from Amazon

There are tens of thousands of free books directly from the Kindle store. Many of them are not under copyright protection, but there are always a lot that are. In fact, the titles change frequently.

However, there are also discounted e-books. Check out this post for

10 ways Amazon saves us money on e-books

for links and information.

Well, that should get you started. ;)

A few general tips about Kindles and e-books:

  • Prices change frequently…they might change several times in one day. If you see something which you think is a fair price for a book, go for it. It could go up, it could go down
  • There are typically new Kindle models every year…again, I’d say if you think the price is fair, go for it. Kindle prices won’t go up, typically, but models do get discontinued
  • When you buy e-books (or other digital content) from Amazon, it’s easiest to think of them as belonging to the account, not to the individual device. Amazon automatically backs them up for you, and you can download them again to other devices on the account

Again, feel free to ask me (and my readers) for help, but Amazon has highly-rated Customer Service for a good reason. You can reach them at

Tap or click the

Contact Us

button. My favorite thing is to have them call me…my phone usually rings in seconds, and I’m talking to somebody within a minute.

If you have a Kindle Fire HDX, you can go to your homescreen, swipe down from the top, and tap Mayday. One more tap to okay the connection, and a live person will appear on your screen in under fifteen seconds (usually). They can’t see you, by the way. They can take over your device to fix things, or draw on the screen to show you how. I think it’s one of the biggest innovations in Customer Service in a very long time.

One more thing: there is a thriving Kindle customer community, provided for us free by Amazon. I’m what they call a “Kindle Forum Pro”: Amazon recognizes some of us as being particularly helpful, but we are just customers. It’s a great place to ask questions (although so is the official Customer Service), and can be really fun, too. :)

Once again, welcome!

* 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.

Kindle book gifting…how times have changed!

December 21, 2013

Kindle book gifting…how times have changed!

One of the big complaints in the first three years of the Kindle (the device was announced on November 19, 2007) was that Amazon didn’t give us a way to buy Kindle books for people not on our accounts.

After all, giving books is great! When there was a book I really loved in the p-book (paperbook) days, I would sometimes buy several extra copies of it…just so I had them to give to people. :) Okay, yes, I was buying used copies, but still…

Let’s admit it: we not only want to share the joy that we had in reading a book, but sometimes…well, we think a particular book might be…let’s say, “good for someone’s personal development”. ;) You know what I mean, I’m sure. ;)

Well, three years later, on November 19, 2010, Amazon enabled the gifting of Kindle books.

It’s easy to do: there is a button on the book’s Amazon product page that lets you give it as a gift. You enter the recipient’s e-mail address (it does not have to be the one associated with their Amazon account), add a message, and you can even choose which day you want it to arrive. That lets you take advantage of a sale price when it happens, and still schedule it to be delivered on a birthday or another gift-giving occasion. For more details, see the

There are some limitations. You can’t give a free book (it costs Amazon something to process the transaction…that might be part of it). The book you are gifting may not have been licensed for your recipient’s country…if that happens (or if they simply already have the book), they can request a gift card instead.

You can also have the gift sent to yourself, print it out, and wrap that. :)

So, yes, Amazon has made gifting of Kindle books easy.

This year, though, there is something even better!

They aren’t just enabling it…they are encouraging it…with a discount! For a select set of books, you can

Yep…twenty-six books (at time of writing) where you can buy the Kindle book as a gift, then buy the same book for yourself at half off!

For example, buy Brain Rules (which I reviewed early this year:
Review: Brain Rules) for $8.10 (at time of writing) for someone else, and then go back and buy it for yourself for $4.05.

The “how to” is linked above, but it’s not complicated as long as you follow the sequence (first gift for someone else, then go back and buy it for yourself). This is only for a “limited time”, though.

There are some good titles in here, including a Color Purple collection and a James Herriott collection.

Remember, your recipient does not have to have a Kindle…Kindle books can be read in a free Kindle reader app, too. :)

Sure, it’s better to give than to receive…but it’s also kind of nice to be able to do both. ;)

Things keep getting better! Enjoy!

Bonus: I thought I’d share with you the document we sent to our “guest Kindle” for the person who will be staying with us soon:

Welcome!

We love books! While you are staying in our home, we wanted to give you access to our Kindle library, and the easiest way to do that is with this guest Kindle. :)

Feel free to download books from the Cloud, and to read what you want. You can’t accidentally order anything, and removing a book from this device won’t hurt anything on the account. Don’t worry about removing books, though: after you leave, we’ll wipe everything off the device again.

We think you’ll find the Paperwhite easy to use. Generally, “long press” (hold your finger on it for about a second) something to get more options. The menu icon is three horizontal lines, and you can use a magnifying glass icon to search for something. You don’t need to turn it off: just closing the cover will make it “sleep”.

If you have any questions, please ask!

Enjoy!

I created a Collection with that person’s name on it, and preceded the title of it with three “A”s so it would alphabetize to the top when sorted by Collections. If it was for me, it would be, “AAA Bufo, please read”. That way, we can use the same document for other people…we’ll just delete the Collection each time. This document is the only thing in that Collection.

For more information about guest Kindles, see:

A Kindle for the guest room

* 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.

Round up #227: dynamic pricing, workaround for connection issue

December 12, 2013

Round up #227: dynamic pricing, workaround for connection issue

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

A partial workaround for the connection instability on the Kindle Fire HDX

Big props to ✿ Jingle-bella ✿, another Kindle Forum Pro who came through with an idea that’s really helping with the problems I’ve been having with my Kindle Fire HDX (at Amazon…benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*). Since the recent update, it hasn’t been staying connected to wi-fi networks…I have had to toggle the Airplane Mode on and off frequently to connect to things. That’s been in more than one browser (I use Maxthon), and in apps without a visible browser (like Fandango).

✿ Jingle-bella ✿ intelligently suggested limiting the variables by turning Airplane Mode off, and then turning wi-fi on.

What that does is turn off the rest of the wireless connections…my intuition here is that the LBS (Location Based Services) might perhaps have been interfering. It’s even possible that when I’ve lost connection, it’s been when LBS has been trying to check-in.

I don’t have a 4G model, by the way.

I tried it this morning:

Swipe down from the top – Wireless – Airplane Mode on – tap Wi-Fi (just below Airplane Mode) and turn Wi-Fi on

I would guess I was on for at least an hour without having to toggle! I did toggle the wi-fi once so far today, although the Fire had been sitting idle for a while when I did that.

Thanks again to ✿ Jingle-bella ✿ for the suggestion!

I’m hoping we get a more robust solution with an update for the Kindle Fires which has been announced in “the coming weeks”.

For those of you having freezing issues, I’d be curious to hear if that helps you as well.

Save $50 on an HDX (up to 3 of them…possible savings of $150) with an Amazon.com Rewards Visa

Here’s a great deal!

You need to have that special credit card, and it says this will go “while supplies last”. As we saw with the Keurig special yesterday, that might not be much time! =:o

It’s been a bit bizarre to see people’s vitriol over not getting that deal…even reportedly to the extent of writing a bunch of 1-star reviews on the product.

I tried to get one, watched the countdown clock, and still didn’t.

I look at it like buying a lottery ticket…the odds are very against you, but it’s fun if you win! ;) They announced ahead of time that there were 5,000 of these. Let’s say, oh, a million people tried to get one…your odds would be one in 200 (half a percent).

I’m happy for the people who got one! I’ll probably try again for others.

I’m sure people didn’t think about the fact that leaving 1-star reviews might actually reduce the number of people who buy one (many people just look at the average)…are they really willing to increase the chances that people will lose their jobs, because they didn’t get an opportunity to save some money? I’m sure most folks don’t go through that thought process, but that’s a possible result of 1-starring a product.

However, there is one big difference between this and the lottery…you have to pay for a lottery ticket. ;) You don’t have to pay anything for trying this, although you do have to have Special Offers on your Fire.

I recommend that you sign up for the text alerts, if you want to do this. You can do that at

Limited Time Special Offers only on Kindle Fire
Limited Time Special Offers only on Kindle Fire at AmazonSmile

P-books aren’t perfect, either

Whenever something is introduced, there is a tendency to point out all of its flaws, and ignore the flaws of the current technology or system.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.

I was an actor, and one tradition is that we got a night on the set before the show opens. We walk around and point out all the potential dangers, typically in a joking way.

That might just seem silly, but it’s actually very important.

You see, the person in charge of the sets is there listening (not saying anything, by the way).

They can then assess those comments, and very often, they end up fixing something that could have been a real risk.

In the case of e-books compared to p-books (paperbooks), some people pointed out possible eye issues on the former (although those aren’t as likely on a non-backlit screen…you read an older style Kindle the same way you read a paperbook).

We also have had a lot of people say that they like the “smell” of a p-book, or the feel of it. My Significant Other had a great response once. Somebody said (somewhat snidely) on seeing my SO with a Kindle (several years ago), “I like the feel of a book in my hand.” My SO said, “I like the feel of a hundred in mine.” ;)

Well, many people have actual physical issues with p-books. Allergies are a common one (I think it has to do with dust mites, in some cases, as I recall).

Here is a

Daily News article

about a student who had to stop going to university because of an allergy to dusty books (and other allergen issues).

I do love old books, but for people who have complained about the effects they have on them, here is some evidence to show others…

HarperCollins CEO says that publishing is healthy

In this

Variety article by Ted Johnson

HarperCollins CEO (gee, wasn’t that a song by by Jeannie C. Riley ((at AmazonSmile))? ;) ), Brian Murray, has some very interesting and positive things to say about the publishing industry.

Drawing a parallel between how digital music affected the studios and how e-books affect publishing isn’t entirely wise, as Murray notes. One of the things I’ve said about that before is the consumption of the two are very different. Most people will listen to a song multiple times, and read a book once, for example (not that there aren’t many re-readers out there).

I think this might stand out to a lot of people:

“The company, a unit of the newly spun off News Corp., is testing what he called “dynamic pricing,” where prices of ebooks can be changed “daily” to increase revenues and royalties for authors, as opposed to the print side, where prices are set on the book itself.”

That’s another thing I’ve noted in the past. When I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore (which was admittedly some time ago), we had to have “sticker guns” to put new prices on books…and it was labor intensive. If you could vary prices easily, you could take advantage of current events (like a hot pop culture movie) to raise or lower to maximize your revenue.

What does that mean for you as a Kindleer?

I’ve got two pieces of advice.

First, to quote (from memory) Whitley Strieber, “Learn to live at a high level of uncertainty.” ;) In other words, if you can not know for sure what the price will be from one minute to the next, you have to figure out how to accept that.

Here’s the key to that: buy a book at a price that you think is fair.

Then, if it goes up or down later, you already know you got a fair price, right? Sure, I know people get jealous when other people get a lower price, but if you know you made a well-reasoned purchase in the first place, you can be satisfied with yours and happy about theirs. Easy, right? ;)

Second, take advantage of price notification services. Those are no doubt going to have to become more sophisticated…right now, they probably aren’t price checking quickly enough to notify you in time of “dynamic pricing” changes.

I recommend

eReaderIQ

the most valuable resource on the web for Kindle users.

You can give them the information on books you want to track, and they’ll send you a free e-mail (the whole service is free), when it drops an amount you specify.

They have a lot of other good resources, but that one in particular may help as prices start to roller coaster more…wheeeee! ;)

Falling behind the Norwegians…

“Magnus, you are the Head Librarian here at the National Library of Norway…which books should we digitize?”

“All of them!”

That’s right…according to this

The Verge article by Adrianne Jeffries

the National Library of Norway is working on digitizing all of the books in its collection, and making them available online to anyone with a Norwegian IP (Internet Protocol) address…for free!

They are making deals with publishers to make that happen.

Yes, it will take a while…they are thinking decades (but improvements in technology could shorten that).

Probably not going to happen in the USA, although there are more things becoming available.

I’m still looking for a magical book machine to come on the market: put a p-book in there, and it automatically digitizes the book with no action required from you and no damage to the book.

No luck so far. :)

I have digitized public domain books, and it’s a lot of work. This one caught my eye:

The reviews are generally good. It seems to have some smart features: apparently, it can tell when a new page is in place, detecting perhaps the motion of moving the page. That would make it a lot easier than having to get the book in place, and then pushing a button…I know that doesn’t sound like much effort (“Get over it, George Jetson”), but the issue is that you are sometimes carefully holding the book so it becomes a bit of a juggling act to push that button and keep the book from moving at all (which would mess up the scan).

At $268.90 at time of writing, it isn’t outrageously priced…

What do you think? Is traditional publishing in good shape? Are you surprised at how many ways there have been to get discounts on Kindle hardware this holiday season? Are you able to feel happy for other people when they get a deal you don’t?  Do you have any negative physical reactions to p-books? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

* 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.

Round up #226: E-book settlement, B&N investigation

December 11, 2013

Round up #226: E-book settlement, B&N investigation

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Kindle Fire update in “the coming weeks”

In this

press release

Amazon announces an update coming to the Kindle Fires “… just in time for the holidays”. Of course, they don’t say which holidays. ;)

The PR focuses on some important and interesting changes to Kindle FreeTime, which helps guardians set limits on the use of the tablet. One interesting one is the ability to require a certain amount of “educational” use before you can use it for “entertainment”.

As a trainer, I can tell you that you really can’t have much education without entertainment, but that’s another discussion. ;) I’ve asked people to remember back when they were in elementary school: very few of them recall sitting in the classroom…most of them first remember playing with their friends. Kudos to their teachers if their now adult students do think of that first!

While this is great in and of itself (and they promise more improvements after that for FreeTime), I’m also excited because it’s quite possible (knock virtual wood) that the upgrade will contain bug fixes. As I’ve mentioned (and others have also said they have this issue), my wi-fi won’t stay connected since the last upgrade (Amazon is aware of the problem). I have to toggle Airplane Mode on and off many times a day…virtual fingers crossed that this upgrade might address that as well.

ITYS*: raptors will attack PrimeAircraft

When I wrote about Amazon’s PrimeAir reveal (delivery by small “octocopters”), I said:

“Certainly, dogs would pose a risk, as might bird strikes (perhaps even intentional ones, in the case of a raptor), but I’m not convinced it would be inherently more risky.”

I was pleased to see that this

Slate article by Nicholas Lund

not only agrees with me on the bird risk, but has video to prove it!

Also on the “drone” front (I don’t consider artificially intelligent craft to be “drones”, but I know many people define them as simply craft without humans on board…whether they have remote pilots or not), I saw this news today, and later saw a comment from one of my readers about it:

CNN article by Ann Cabrera

A town called Deer Trail in Colorado is going to vote (it was postponed) on a law allowing residents to shoot down drones.

Quite simply, I’m horrified. :( Even though this is aimed (so to speak) at government drones, there is no question that it would result in commercial drones being shot down as well (and kids’ toys, for that matter). I’m thinking that there would be a lot of mistaken identity (possibly even resulting in bird deaths), even though the bounty (really!) is higher on a complete drone with government markings.

Sure, shoot down the drone delivering a shut-in’s medicine, or the book a poor child saved up for six months to buy. Sure, those are “slippery slope” examples…even just the destruction itself makes me unhappy. This is specifically designed to destroy other people’s property…I think that puts it in a different category than a lot of other questions people might see as related.

On a lighter note…

Amazon Rockets parody on YouTube

My favorite clock is a Kindle

This seems a bit bizarre, but they gave us a new (free) clock app with the last Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers upgrade. Yes, it appears to have caused the wi-fi glitch I mention above, but there were a lot of good things about it. This app is one of them.

I’ve mentioned before that I have some color vision deficiency, and my understanding is that connected to that, I have superior night vision. Any light in a room (or the room next door, or down the hall…) can bother me at night.

We also got a used bedroom set. It’s nice, but it was hard to conveniently plug in a clock, just because of the design.

Well, the clock app on the Fire solves both of those problems. It has a “Nightstand” mode, which has the time (and a postmodern clock design…that one takes some getting used to, but I don’t typically use analog clocks anyway) in red. With the brightness turned down all the way, it’s been the most pleasant clock. I was also a bit worried about running it not plugged in, but it consistently takes about 50% of the charge over night (it hasn’t taken more than fifty). Again, I have the brightness turned down all the way (a big battery charge life saver), and the wi-fi off.

If I wake up in the middle of the night (we have a new dog…yes, in bed with us, so it happens), I can see the time without it seeming too bright.

Oh, while I’m talking about apps for the Fire, let me also mention

This is a goofy free app, but might be great for a little holiday fun. You can use video backgrounds, characters, and objects they supply…or you can add your  own pictures. Then, you animate them in a very simple way and do a voiceover. I found it to be easy to use…for example, the character will automatically flip to face the other direction, depending on how you move. They have licensed images from Pacific Rim. You can share your videos publicly, but that’s up to you.

State e-book settlements approved…pay-outs coming in 2014

According to this

Publishers Weekly article by Andrew Albanese

my favorite Federal judge (what…you have one, right? ;) ), Denise Cote, has approved the pay-out plan for the settlements between the States Attorneys General and Macmillan and Penguin (which completes the group).

That was on December 6th, and then there is a thirty day period, and then a bit of time after that…I’d say those of us getting pay-outs will see them…oh, by early February. Amazon told us before that they will show up as credits, and I expect the Smilin’ A (I’ve recently started calling Amazon that…I like it. ;) Feel free to let me know if you like it or not) to be one of the fastest at doing this.

Well, at least B&N hasn’t been in legal troub—uh, oh

Barnes & Noble has been in a bad news factory lately, with a particularly poor quarterly financial report…and I’m afraid to see what this quarter is going to be for them.

They didn’t need anything else to spook investors, but they got it.

According to this

Wall Street Journal article by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg

and other sources, Barnes & Noble is under investigation by the SEC (Security and Exchange Commission) for questionable accounting practices.

A really healthy company could probably handle that better than one that is walking on such thin financial ice already…share prices are down.

Keep the text by blocking the tip

Just a little tip for you: when you want to listen to text-to-speech in the car, lock your device so it doesn’t auto-rotate. When a Fire autorotates, text-to-speech stops playing. I simply lock my rotation (swiping down from the top, or using the Settings gear, depending on your model) before starting TTS. That way, it doesn’t stop when I set it on the seat for the drive.

What do you think? Is shooting down a drone a legitimate thing to do? Is the the straw that breaks B&N’s back? Do you care about the refund you might get from the settlement? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

* I Told You So ;)

** 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! :) NOte: you can select WorldReader.org as the non-profit you support, if you want.

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 Kindle for the guest room

November 30, 2013

A Kindle for the guest room

When I went on vacation, I took books with me.

For that matter, when I went to the grocery store, I took books (plural) with me. ;)

However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate having books to read when I visited someone. Like many people, I read every day…but there is definitely something cool about reading a book you don’t own, provided by someone else.

When people come to my house, my floor to ceiling library is one of my favorite things to show them…but honestly, it may concern some people. :) It certainly can be a bit intimidating, especially to the casual reader. Things are categorized and alphabetized, and it’s obvious that some of the books are old and fragile (more than a century old, in some cases).

With the popularization of e-books, things are different.

You can read an e-book with no risk of degradation, so borrowing one should feel a lot safer.

Also, let’s face it: some people are going to prefer to read e-books. There are the advantages for those with print challenges, for one thing, like the ability to increase the text size.

We know we have a guest expected to visit us in late December (in addition to our adult kid). I wanted to provide books…that person is going to be here for close to two weeks, and it’s hard to carry that many books.

So, we are setting up a Kindle for the guest room.

I was a bit surprised to see other people mention that they had a “guest Kindle”, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

It does open up some questions, though. I thought I’d take this post to give you tips and guidance on how to set up a Kindle for guests to use.

We have a

new generation Kindle Paperwhite
at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*

that neither of us are using as our main reader, and we are going to dedicate it to this purpose (it can be a loaner for people as well). I’m going to tailor this to that device, but a lot of the advice I am giving you would work with other Kindles as well. In this post, I’m not going to be talking about the Kindle Fire: for me, this idea is really about books.

The first thing you need to decide is how much access you want the guest to have. I do want to give them access to all of the books on the account…that’s part of the fun for me. :) I like being able to share literally thousands of books (we have over 4,000 items in our Kindle Cloud/archives…that’s not half as many paperbooks as I have…but it’s growing). You might not want that. You might have books that you don’t want people to know that you read (or even that you own).

I’m going to describe how I did it first, giving access to all of the books in our Cloud, but I’ll also tell you how to limit it to books of your choice.

However, I don’t want the person buying more books on the account. It’s not just that I don’t know this person very well, but it’s that the money would come out of our payment methods. Even if the person wanted to pay us back for buying more books, that just complicates things by bringing money into it.

My goal? Give the person access to the books on our account, but not the ability to get new books on the account.

Before I do that, though, I should mention the set up. We did register the device to our Amazon account, and connect it to our wi-fi network (this one doesn’t have 3G). If you are going to use a used Kindle for this purpose, you might want to reset it to factory defaults first. That’s not something you do lightly: it wipes everything off the device that you’ve done to it, including deleting wi-fi networks and personal files. For a guest device, that might make sense, though. I may do that after each time someone is here. To do that: Home – Menu – Settings – Menu – Reset Device.

The next step is to allow access to your Cloud, but not to the Kindle store:

Home – Menu – Settings – Device Options – Parental Controls

Under Parental Controls, tap “Restrictions”.

The first time you do this, you’ll need to enter a password. Make sure you can remember this password. Write it down somewhere secret, if you need to do that.

At this point, you have four options:

  • Web Browser
  • Kindle Store
  • Cloud
  • Goodreads on Kindle

I don’t mind if the person goes on the web, but you can turn that off if you want. I did turn off the Kindle Store. I left on the Cloud (so they can download books we’ve already “bought” on the account). I left Goodreads on Kindle turned on at this point…I may turn it off, though. I’m not sure if that allows the person to rate books and such.

The two key ones: store off, Cloud on.

Now, my guest has access to all of the books in the Cloud, but can’t buy new ones from Amazon.

Easy enough, right? :)

Putting on the Parental Controls, by the way, stops someone from deregistering the device, or resetting it to factory defaults.

I’ve gotten some freebies I think the person may like. This visitor also speaks German as their first language (although they are fluent in English and Spanish). I’m going to set the interface to German, just as a courtesy:

Home – Menu – Settings – Device Options – Language and Dictionaries

If you haven’t done it yet, you may also want to review what Cloud Collections you have (for more information, see Understanding Cloud Collections). I’ve created one just for books in German, so that will make it easier for our guest to find them.

Now, suppose you don’t want your guest to know that you have certain books…is that possible?

Yes.

With the latest update, we got Kindle FreeTime on the Paperwhite. That will let you to just choose certain books to be available (and visible) on the device.

Home – Menu – Kindle FreeTime

Similar to Parental Controls, you’ll have to enter a password to make changes here. You need to set up a profile (you’ll be asked to choose a birthdate…and, I think unnecessarily, a gender). You then check the books to which you want the guest to have access. That’s it: just those books will be available. You then tap “Start”, and just those books will show.

To get out of Kindle FreeTime, tap the menu in your top right corner: you’ll need to enter your password again.

One more use case: what if somebody simply forgot (or lost/had stolen/or it failed) their Kindle, and they want to access their own books?

In that case, they would register the “guest Kindle” to their own account for the duration of their trip. Thanks to Cloud Collections, all of their normal Collections would be available to them.

That’s about it.

Oh, one thing: we have “Whispersync” turned off on our account. My Significant Other and I are sometimes reading the same book at the same time, and we don’t want it to try to sync our reading position. If one person is reading on multiple devices (a Kindle and a phone, for example), Whispersync makes sense. If two people are reading on their own devices, it probably doesn’t. To turn that off, go to

http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle

and click or tap

Whispersync Device Synchronization

Now, you can share your love of reading with your guests!

If you have any questions, or thoughts about this for me or my readers, feel free to comment on this post.

* 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.

Understanding Cloud Collections

November 21, 2013

Understanding Cloud Collections

Amazon has recently updated both the current generation of Kindle Fires (the Kindle HDX models and the new Kindle HD, the $139 model) and the Kindle Paperwhite (second generation) to include a feature called Cloud Collections (it may be coming to other models as well.

First, I’m going to go over what Collections are, and then explain how this works. There has been quite a bit of confusion about it, and some disappointed people. As to the latter point, I think in some ways it is again an example of Amazon not naming something clearly…I do see that as one of Amazon’s few serious deficits. Naming the tablet (Fire) line “Kindles” caused a lot of problems in the beginning, with people wondering why the new “Kindles” were hard to read outside in bright light, or talking about “upgrading” from a Kindle 3 to a Kindle Fire (when they really aren’t the same type of device serving the same purpose). They’ve notoriously named several things just a “Kindle”, from the 2007 model to the current entry level one (which I call a “Mindle”).

Collections are organizational structures for your content. They are not like folders on a PC or a Mac, because they do not actually contain the files. You simply “tag” the files as belonging to a certain classification, and then you can locate the files by looking at that classification.

Deleting the classification (Collection) does not delete the files which are associated with it.

If you think of a file folder with papers in it, and you through out the folder, you would also throw out the papers…that’s how a folder on a PC works.

Think of a Collection as a listing. You have a list of books you’ve read this year on your computer (maybe in an Excel file). If you delete the Excel file, you don’t delete the books. The difference is that the Collection has a link that enables you to open the book, but it is really just a link. Getting rid of the link does not get rid of the book.

Until these updates, we created Collections on a single device, and that Collection only applied to that device. I could have a “To Be Read” Collection on my Kindle, and my Significant Other could have a “To Be Read” Collection on theirs, and there was no confusion.

We could, however, import Collections from one device to another. When we did that, we copied the classification structure from Kindle A to Kindle B.

Again, it didn’t move any of the actual content…just the instructions for which lists should have it.

That’s still the way it works on devices without Cloud Collections. On my Mindle, I do

Home – Menu – View Archived Items (called “the Cloud” on some devices) – Add Other Device Collections

Then, if I was connected to wi-fi, it would show me devices which had Collections.  That includes devices which have been deregistered. It does include a Kindle for PC installation. I could choose to add Collections from a particular device, but I didn’t get a choice as to which Collections would be added.

If I had e-books on my device which were already in a Collection as defined by that other device, they would be added to the Collection on this device.

Let’s say I’m working with Kindle A.

I import the Collections from Kindle B.

Alice in Wonderland was in a Collection (“Classics”, perhaps) on Kindle B, and the Alice i Wonderland e-b0ok is on Kindle A.

Alice in Wonderland would now be in the Classics Collection on Kindle A.

Note that you had to have the e-books on your device before importing the Collections for this to work.

That’s the way it used to be.

I don’t think a lot of people found that to be convenient.

What people wanted was for the books in their archives/Cloud to be in Collections…so they could choose a book to read more easily, for one thing, without it being stored on their device.

That’s one reason people kept thousands of books on the device (as opposed to in the Cloud/archives). There was no organization in the Cloud/archives.

I usually only keep about ten Kindle store books on any of my devices…so I don’t use Collections that much.

I generally remember what the books are called, and what they are about. That may have some connection to my having been a brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, but I think it’s just sort of how my brain works. :)

Now, we have Cloud Collections, and those are very different.

Here’s the key thing first: even though they are called “Cloud Collections”, they do not show at

http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle

That may change at some point, but they aren’t there now.

What happens is that you can now see all of the Collections from any of your devices on each of your devices. On my Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers, I see Collections that I’ve created on other devices…even deregistered devices.

I can add titles to those Collections from the Fire…and if I do, they will also show on my  new Kindle Paperwhite.

Cloud Collections do not belong to any individual device: they belong to all of the devices.

As soon as I added a Collection on my Fire, it appeared on the Paperwhite. I had both of them connected via wi-fi, of course.

If I delete a Cloud Collection on one device, it is deleted on all of the devices (they do warn you about that). Again, it does not delete the files.

Rename it on one device, and it is renamed on all of the devices.

Initially, this may have caused some  embarrassment. One of the parents might have had a Collection called, “Guilty Pleasures”, or “Don’t Show the Kids”, and those Collections (along with links to their content) would appear on the child’s device (if it has Cloud Collections).

If you’ve had  lot of devices, like we have had, you might get a lot of Collections…I got 18 of them, and again, I haven’t even used Collections much at all.

Certainly, I can see real advantages to this. We could have a Collection called, “Bufo’s Weird Stuff”, and my SO would probably never look at it. ;) We could have a Collection called, “Bufo’s To Be Read”, and it wouldn’t matter on which device I accessed Collections, I could find it.

Now, let’s talk about how you work with the Collections. I’ll start out with on the Fire.

Go to the Books tab. Tap the menu (three horizontal lines in your top left corner). Tap Collections.

Now, you’ll see all of your Collections from all of your devices, in alphabetical order. You’ll see thumbnails of some of the titles in the Collection (only four will fit).

Tap the Collection, and it will come to the foreground. You may need to scroll to see everything.

Tap the title to read it. If it isn’t on your device yet, it will download to it.

If you want to add titles to the Collection, there is an Add button. You’ll be able to add not just from the e-books already on the device, but from the books in your Cloud (listed alphabetically). That’s thousands of books, in my case, and I didn’t see anyway to search or change the sort order. You can remove a book from a Collection by “long pressing” it (hold your finger or stylus on it for about a second), and then you’ll get a Remove button. It appeared to me that you did those one at a time.

Note that you can also remove a book by dragging it out of the Collection. I found that out first when I tested dragging a book from one Collection to another, which does not work…it removes the title instead.

You can rename the Collection by long pressing the name of it when it is in the foreground.

When a Collection is not in the foreground (when you are seeing all of them), you can long press it and add it to Home (just on this device, I presume), or delete the Collection (from all devices).

Adding it to Home makes sense. Here’s a cool tip: you can also drag one item in your Home (not in your Carousel…down at the bottom) on top of another item, and it instantly creates a Collection.

On the Fire, you can also create Collections for apps. You can not mix content types: you can not put an App into a Collection for e-books.

On the Paperwhite, it’s a bit different. You don’t have a Books tab: the Collections appear right on your Homescreen. Tap the Collection, and it opens, similar to what happens on the Fire.

Long press it, and you can Add/Remove Items, Rename This Collection, or Delete This Collection.

Those are the main workflows. :)

Again, I can see some real value to this, but Amazon didn’t explain it very well. Many people would have preferred having the option as to which Collections showed up: although it isn’t hard to rename or delete them, so the “Manager” of the account (perhaps an adult) should deal with it on their own device first, if possible (but you can’t control when another device will update over wireless).

I  tested using Parental Controls to turn off access to the Cloud (Home – Menu – Settings – Device Options) on the Paperwhite. The Collections were still displayed, but Cloud items did not show “inside” them.

I also did a quick test with Kindle Freetime on the Paperwhite: with that on, even the names of the Cloud Collections did not show (they did not show at all).

Here is the Amazon Help Page for the HDX (they don’t appear to have the Paperwhite one up yet):

Organize Your Content with Cloud Collection for the HDX

Cloud Collections are also available on the iOS apps (for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch).

That Help Page also has this, and it’s not clear to me:

Import a collection: With Cloud Collections, collections are automatically stored in the Cloud and can be synced between Kindle Paperwhite (2nd Generation), Kindle Fire HD (2nd Generation), Kindle Fire HDX, and Kindle for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch reading apps.

Note: Importing collections from other devices or reading apps to Kindle Paperwhite (2nd Generation), Kindle Fire HD (2nd Generation), Kindle Fire HDX, and Kindle for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch is currently limited to the first time you register the device or reading app.”

I’m not sure what they mean by that one. When you first register a device or reading app, how can it have any Collections? I’ll see if I can find out more about that.

If you have any questions about this, or opinions about it, feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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 Miracast adapter that works with the Kindle Fire HDX

November 8, 2013

A Miracast adapter that works with the Kindle Fire HDX

I’m happy to report that I have now tested the

NETGEAR Push2TV Wireless Display HDMI Adapter – Miracast and WiDi (PTV3000)

with my

 Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers

This is a device to allow the “mirroring” of the KFHDX screen on to a TV where the latter has an HDMI in port.

In other words, I can see everything which is on my Kindle Fire on my TV.

This is done wirelessly, unlike the previous Kindle Fire HD (not the current generation Kindle Fire HD, which has neither wireless TV connection nor an HDMI out cable port…to my knowledge, it can not be displayed on a TV).

I had tried another Miracast adapter (the iPush), and the sound and the video were terribly out of sync (the video might lag a couple of minutes behind the audio on a movie).

The Netgear is recommended by Amazon:

About Wireless Display Methods for Kindle Fire

It does cost about $60 (the iPush was more like $30), and I did need to buy another cable with a standard HDMI on each end. I bought the

AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable (6.5 Feet/2.0 Meters) – Supports Ethernet, 3D, and Audio Return [Newest Standard]

for $5.79.

It works well…not perfectly, but acceptably well.

Prime video (streaming and downloaded) looked and sounded fine.

I streamed from another site, and there was maybe half a second of lag on the sound…tolerable.

Sometimes, there was a bit of breakup in the image, but I also found that acceptable.

I tried to test it out a bit, so I went across the room (a good, oh, four meters or so), and it worked just fine.

It didn’t seem to really need line of sight.

Important update: it definitely isn’t line of sight…it’s more like a wi-fi network. I have a place in the family room where I have a charger for the Fire. I can have it plugged in in that room, pair it with the Netgear, start a stream running, and watch that stream in the bedroom (down the hall and in a different room entirely). No problem.

It did work in the Origami case, but when I closed the case (putting the Fire to sleep), it would stop broadcasting. That made sense, of course, but I did want to test it.

I tried a video and an app. It was nice to be able to control everything from the other side of the room…that part was better than having an HDMI cable directly from the old Kindle Fire HD.

The device itself is quite small…much smaller than I thought from the picture on the product page. It is perhaps as long as your palm and half as wide. That’s pretty unobtrusive.

My TV does not have a USB port, so it does need to be plugged into a wall outlet, as well as cabled to the TV’s HDMI. You can likely hide all that pretty much behind the shelf or the TV. The device does have a blue “ready light” on it, but I’m not finding it too bright at this point (I have a problem with that with some ready lights, probably due to my superior night vision, which may in turn come from some color vision deficiency I have).

Set up was easy: plug it in, tell the KFHDX to Mirror (Swipe down from the top on the homescreen, go to Settings, then Display & Sounds). Within about six seconds, the two of them found each other (the name of the Netgear appeared on the Fire). Tapping it caused it to connect, again in under ten seconds, and that was it). Pretty similar to pairing a Bluetooth phone (without having to enter a code).

Turning off the TV meant pairing it again the next time, but again, that’s an easy process.

I haven’t used it enough to determine battery drain yet.

The one thing that has failed for me so far is updating the device*. Amazon recommends that you have the latest update, and so does Netgear. I was able to get to the Netgear site and download the update on to my Kindle…but it downloaded as an .exe file, and I don’t seem to be able to launch it (should be an APK for an Android device, right?). I may play around with that part a bit more, but it does work well enough now.

So, I now have TV in that room again! I haven’t had it since eight of our Kindles were stolen when our house was burglarized recently.

Bottom line: it isn’t perfect, but if you are willing to pay $65 (approximately, counting the cable) to mirror your KFHDX to your HDMI equipped TV, I think  you’ll find it worth it.

It’s possible Amazon will still release a TV device, but it is interesting to me that they are recommending this one if that’s the case. I was thinking they might release two (an inexpensive “dongle” and a full-featured, Roku like device). I’m now thinking it may be more likely that they’ll only do the latter.

* Update: I have successfully updated it, and am satisfied with it now. I’m only seeing a tiny lag, and I haven’t seen audio and video out of sync unless it was also out of sync on the device.

Thanks to my reader, Americanchild, for posting how they updated it, and to my reader, Jacopo, for reminding me that I hadn’t come back to update this post with how I did it (although I had written about it other places).

Here’s the key concept. The Netgear is going to create its own wi-fi (not Miracast) network, and you can only get to the necessary website to do the update on that network (not on your regular household network). The sequence below is important, for that reason.

1. I downloaded the latest software update from http://downloadcenter.netgear.com/en/product/PTV3000. I did it directly from my Fire, first, but you can do it from your PC and then transfer it.

2. Press and hold the Push2TV button on the side for several seconds (I think it started flashing).

3. Next, connect your Fire to the Push2TV wi-fi network. This is different from mirroring: you are going to connect in the same way you connect to your regular network

4. Use a browser (Silk, or something else if you have it) to go to http://192.168.3.1

5. Follow the instructions there. It takes several minutes to do the update, and at the end of it, your Fire should return to your home network.

Hope that does it for you. If you have questions, you can let me know.

Next

Bonus story: Fire at the Internet Archive

I’ve written about the Internet Archive before, and I was sorry to hear about the recent fire there. As they report in this

announcement

some physical items waiting to be digitized (and then made available free to you and me) were lost, but it sounds like it was mostly equipment which was damaged.

They are asking for donations for repairs: you can choose your own amount.

I plan to donate something myself…up to you, but I thought some of you might also want to 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


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