Round up #195: The Howler, kndl.info

Round up #195: The Howler, kndl.info

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

Problems at Amazon today

There are two big problems being reported at Amazon today.

One is with the

Manage Your Kindle

page.

It’s not loading all of people’s items. I tested it, in addition to seeing the comments in the Amazon Kindle forum, and yes, that’s the result I get as well. One thing that isn’t showing is my recent purchases…even searching for them doesn’t find them.

This could be a problem, if you are looking to return a Kindle store book within seven days of purchase (which is an option with Amazon…last I checked, you can not return e-books at any time for any reason to Barnes & Noble, Sony, or Kobo).

If you need to return one, contact Kindle Support at

http://www.amazon.com/kindlesupport

Go ahead and call them, or have them call you (my favorite option).

Another problem was happening with the Amazon Appstore for me. It wasn’t letting me buy anything…instead, it was giving me this message:

“We’re sorry

We’ve run into a technical error. Please try again later.”

That was shopping from my computer. That seems to have resolved…it’s working again. Whoops! Now it’s not…it seems to be intermittent.

Regular readers know I tend to be optimistic, and my thought here is that these problems might have happened because they are making improvements to the functionality.

I keep hoping for an ability to separate user profiles at Manage Your Kindle…maybe that’s coming.

On the other hand, maybe somebody spilled coffee on a server. 😉

Kndl.info: Information and Guides for International Kindle Users

I just ran across this site:

http://www.kndl.info/

Assuming the information is accurate (and so far, it seems to be), I really like this.

I have readers from around the world (according to my WordPress 2012 annual report, I had readers from 189 countries last year).

Not everybody is served equally with Kindles and Kindle content. That may be due to local laws, necessary infrastructure, making the deals, and so on.

Well, with Kindle.info, you can put in your country, and it will show you one of four levels of service, from No Support to Full Support.

I went there specifically to check Albania (I was checking something to do with the new keyboard language support we can download). It is listed as “Medium Support:”

“Amazon currently ships the Kindle to your country, and you can use the free 3G Whispernet service on the device.

There is a $2 fee on most books over the original cost of the title.”

The site looks pretty good, and the interface works well so far. We might disagree on grammar a bit (“Amazon do not currently” versus “Amazon does not currently”), but outside of that, I found it quite valuable.

Something different for the FAOTD (Free App of the Day)

This is the free app of the day, and it seems truly innovative, while the graphic design is also good.

The Howler

It’s a sort of steampunk puzzle game, where you manipulate a hot air balloon to pass over obstacles, deliver devices, and so on.

Here’s the really cool thing, though: you can control it with your voice!

Not by giving voice commands, like “go up”. You do it with volume…as you get louder, the balloon goes higher.

I’ve been playing today (I waited until my Significant Other left the house) ;), and I find myself doing long sustained notes…sort of like Gregorian chants. 🙂 I haven’t gotten the hang of dropping a package yet, but I can fly the balloon (it gets into wind currents) and land it on something.

The drawing style is also cool. It was all literally drawn on hand, on paper. They say it took a year to create.

Also unusual: the setting is Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

While I do expect some people will find the voice control too difficult (I have pretty good control), you can use touches as well.

In my opinion, you shouldn’t miss this one!  Even at the normal $1.99, I’d say it is worth it, but if you can get it for free (check before you click that Buy button…if it’s there for you today), even better.

1st English language bookstore in Cuba since the revolution

I thought this was a fascinating

AP story by Peter Orsi

The first paragraph really sets it up:

“Cuba’s first English-language bookstore offers a selection that would just about stock the lobby of an average Vermont bed and breakfast. Next to what’s available in English elsewhere in Havana, it might as well be the Library of Congress.”

This is going to be a very tricky enterprise. There are a lot of things you just can’t openly say or sell in Cuba, and I’m sure it will be watched carefully.

It’s kind of hard for many of us to imagine in the USA that your reading options can be that limited by your government, so I’m sure it will be a welcome store…if people aren’t afraid to shop there.

In case you’re wondering, Cuba is currently “No Support” at kndl.info (see above).

An illegal option (and for that reason, I’m not linking to it) might be the new Pirate Bay browser, which is specifically designed to get around government blocking of the site (which I would describe as unashamedly streaming infringing materials). They don’t agree with current copyright laws. The reason I’m mentioning it is to show that individuals could get around government “blockades” of e-books. This comes up from time to time, when people are worried about having books only as digital files…that they would be easier to control than paper copies. I’m just not convinced that is the case. If you had to secretly print and distribute one hundred paper copies of The Art of War, or you had to secretly copy and distribute one hundred digital copies, which would be harder to detect? They both have their advantages, but I can certainly see law enforcement finding a house with a copier churning out that many copies (if that was illegal).

EBOOK FRIENDLY cartoons

I’ve mentioned before that I like the blog, EBOOK FRIENDLY, and they have collected some nice cartoons in this post:

http://ebookfriendly.com/funniest-cartoons-about-ebooks-ereaders-and-digital-reading/

I think some of you will appreciate the one on public transit…

What do you think? Having any trouble with Amazon today? Have you tried The Howler? Do you think I shouldn’t even mention Pirate Bay…or that I should have provided a link? Have questions about international availability of Kindles and/or content? 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.

14 Responses to “Round up #195: The Howler, kndl.info”

  1. scottishbookworm Says:

    Hmmm, I checked the Kindle info site and it’s certainly not accurate for Canada. It’s showing “Low support” – no Whispersync which is incorrect.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, scottishbookworm!

      Thanks! It’s easier to check it for your own country…I’m assuming you might be in Canada.

      I had spot-checked a few. Good for people to know your information.

  2. Common Sense Says:

    Both issues still occurring at Amazon. I found that if I refresh the Manage My Kindle page, I did eventually get my newest purchases and things worked correctly after that.

    Still can’t ‘purchase’ today’s free app. When you refresh, sometimes the purchase button shows up but most of the time not. That said, I haven’t had any trouble purchasing ebooks.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Common!

      I appreciate that field report. 🙂

      I just tested the MYK page, and it appears to be working for me today. I’m also seeing the Buy button on apps. Perhaps it is resolved. I’ll look for changes in MYK…

  3. Lady Galaxy Says:

    My problems started Saturday when I purchased one of the Daily Deal books directly from my K3 and it didn’t download. It eventually showed up in the archive, so I was able to download it then. Since about 3:00 AM, I’ve had trouble accessing the Kindle Store Front from any of my 3G Kindles. At first the page would load, but the daily deals listed were all high priced text books, and when I clicked the link to show all the daily deals, it loaded a blank page. Now it loads to a blank page when I try to go to the Kindle Store Frong and eventually brings up an alert box saying, “Unable to connect at this time. Try later.” If I type something into the search box, I’ll get results, and on either of my K3’s, I can access all the “menu” options such as recommendations, categories, etc. On my DX, I can’t access anything at all. I haven’t tried from the K1.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      How is it going today?

    • Lady Galaxy Says:

      Everything is back to normal today. I’m still wondering why those expensive textbooks were listed in the Daily Deals. They weren’t in the e-mail I recieved. Do the have a special daily deal for textbooks for corporate Kindles?

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        I’m not aware of corporate Daily Deals, although that’s possible.

  4. Suzanne Says:

    Hi Bufo,

    As I am certain you are aware (as a reader and poster in the many Amazon Kindle forums) there is a small but growing group of very disgruntled Kindle owners (all of whom have huge, 10,000+) archives of Kindle books, who for a year or more now have not been able to properly access, or at times access at all, their books, due to the outdated, slowly loading and constantly freezing and refreshing MYK page. This also affects their ability to use their kindles or their kindle apps. Most frustratingly, at least according to these customers, Amazon has done nothing to address their issues.

    Between this issue, and also many disgruntled Prime customers vocally complaining in the carrier feedback forums about non-delivered or opened packages being delivered by Amazon’s expanding use of dodgy carrier services (OnTrac, A-1, Ensenda, Lasership, etc), and most troubling, Amazon’s refusal to address the issue, I cant help but wonder if Amazon is truly starting to feel the effect of their financial plan?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Suzanne!

      Yes, I have been aware of those concerns for people with “mega-libraries”. For example, there is this

      Amazon Kindle forum thread

      I don’t know if it is growing, or how “gruntled” 😉 people may be, but it is logical that the number of people with large libraries is likely to increase. I think it is far more likely for people to get more books than it is for them to go to the archives and surrender the licenses they already got (although, surprisingly to me, I know people do that).

      My guess is that Amazon will eventually resolve the mega-library issue. I think it’s quite possible that, with all the free books, people’s libraries just grew much more quickly than they anticipated, and that they had originally thought 10K titles would last longer than it did. That, in a way, would be similar to Y2K, which was actually a problem, despite what many people thought. We didn’t have a lot of problems (although we did have some) because the problem was fixed, not because it didn’t exist.

      Essentially, what happened there (as I understand it) was that in, oh, the 1960s, memory was at a premium. The managers only wanted to allot two spaces for the year: the engineers wanted four. The managers thinking was that, by the time 1999 rolled around, nobody would be using the same computer systems…after all, we’d all having flying cars and jetpacks by then. 😉 Well, in 1999, we were still using many computer systems built in or modeled on those 1960s systems.

      I think Amazon probably figured that 9,999 books would handle people until they had a more sophisticated storage system in place (both in the Cloud and on the devices)…and they were wrong.

      I wouldn’t think of that as their financial plan…

      As to people wanting super cheap super fast shipping (which may necessitate the use of a broader range of options), yes, I think that is within their plan. So too, though, is customer satisfaction, and they’ll work that one out eventually too, I think.

      Perhaps the problem with MYK yesterday was part of a process to resolve the mega-libraries…we’ll see. 🙂

  5. Oldie Suzanne Says:

    Very interesting perspective…. yes, it is quite possible the amount of freebies and the ability of the computer systems did cause the archive problem to turn into something that for many people has become completely unmanageable and in some cases inaccessible. My issues though are that many people are now left with little or no access to their books (assuming they did the correct thing and did not ‘liberate’ there libraries) and Amazon is not responding with any type of short-term fixes, or assisting their customers with this issue in any productive way. This is very shoddy customer service, and will backfire on Amazon eventually.

    Also, as has also been stated in the forum, the individual devices slow down badly when loaded with even a fraction of the books Amazon claims one is able to keep on them. My Kindle3 slowed to a crawl with 500 books on it (my entire library is under 1,000) and I finally gave up and donated it to the Salvation Army! Now, I keep very few books on my various devices, and as I do not have a huge archive this keeps things running smoothly, but this is definitely not what Amazon has advertised the devices are capable of.

    Finally, I have no faith in Amazon resolving their shipping issues. Back in 2009 I gave up my Amazon prime because all of a sudden I was shunted off the UPS/Fed-Ex deliveries and onto A-1. After 15 (yes, 15) late and non-deliveries, and outright lies from A-1s pleasant but devious and dishonest customer service, I canceled. The worst thing was Amazon could have cared less, and refused to do anything. I tallied up all I had spent in the year and a half I had had my Prime, and it was closing in on $20,000. This is for one person. And Amazon refused to address the issue. Just the intransigent “We don’t control who the shipping carrier is going to be”. That, of course, is rubbish. A company as big as Amazon can control anything they want to. In the foue years since the problem with carriers has only gotten worse. This is why I always smirk when I hear about Amazon’s customer service. On some levels, it can’t be beat. But when you don’t get your packages, it is meaningless…..

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Oldie!

      We’ll just have to wait and see how Amazon’s Customer Service is perceived in the future. When we see those surveys that place it at the top, they are done with customers. Typically, though, they are comparative…in other words, Amazon’s Customer Service can be much better than other people’s and get them to the top, even if it isn’t perfect.

      Certainly, individuals have bad experiences with Amazon…as a former retailer myself, bad experiences are unavoidable, although you can definitely try to minimize them. I currently work in the medical field, and you could equate that to negative outcomes. Every hospital has some negative outcomes…let’s say, infections acquired in the hospital as an example. The best hospitals have the fewest of those (at least they are the best in that area), but getting to zero is very, very difficult. If you got one of those infections, you might reasonably not want to go to that hospital…but that might end up meaning that you then go to another hospital that is worse in other ways (dangerous wait times, prohibitive costs, and so on).

      On deliveries, my guess is that my experience has been like the vast majority of Prime users: shocked at how quickly I get things, and how reliably. We had one that didn’t arrive (and it might have been stolen from our doorstep). The question at that point is what does Amazon do to resolve that specific situation. Did they apologize, compensate us, and so on? I think Amazon tends to do those sorts of things well, but not perfectly.

      This statement, “A company as big as Amazon can control anything they want to,” is demonstrably not true. I’m sure they would love it to be, 🙂 but they lost against the publishers on text-to-speech, and lost against them on the Agency Model until the Department of Justice took action. Let’s say that the issue is that, oh, FedEx simply is unavailable to make the delivery on time (because Amazon has so many deliveries). What can they do? It may even be (although I don’t know this), that Amazon asks FedEx to deliver it, and they “subcontract” with these other carriers. I would guess that’s a reasonable interpretation of Amazon saying that “they can’t control the carrier” (it may be worth me investigating this more).

      Is it in Amazon’s best interest not to have packages delivered in the way you describe? No, it’s not: we agree there. Is Amazon aware of that? Yes, I would think they are. Amazon is simply not going to try to save a dime here and risk making the customer unhappy, if there is a practical alternative. They’ve demonstrated that with all of the money they have been willing to lose making customers happy.

      Does any of that mean that the distress you, and some other Amazon customers, feel is unjustified? Absolutely not. That’s been your experience. Does it conversely mean that customers who love Amazon’s Customer Service are deluded? No, it’s also based on their experience. My feeling is that Amazon is likely to continue to improve in areas of service to customers over time…that it isn’t likely to degrade. It would be more likely to me that prices would rise (especially if competition diminishes). Amazon has three basic tenets: selection, price, and service. All of them are comparative values, although I think service is the one most likely to be impacted by personal experience.

      One last thing (and I appreciate your well-reasoned and well-written comments): I’ve always only kept about ten Kindle store books on any one of my devices (although I think that’s crept up on my Kindle Fire…it probably isn’t 25, though). That may be more old-school tech on my part: I think of a non-Fire Kindle like a “dumb terminal”…it’s not there to handle a lot of processing, just to display things. I’ve never liked Amazon suggesting you could carry your library around with you…as you know, that’s not true when you hit a library that’s larger than your Kindle’s capacity, for one thing. It’s also loke memory requirements for software: they often give you the amount of memory it takes up on your computer, not how much it needs to run well…or at all. 😉 On the other hand, I’ve never had the desire to have my library on my Kindle…as long as I have access to it easily enough. I wrote something about this about four years ago:

      https://ilmk.wordpress.com/2009/08/29/what-a-kindle-is-and-isnt/

      I look forward to hearing more from you in the future!

  6. oldiesuz Says:

    Hi again Bufo,

    As always your replies and observations have given me a new perspective to mull over in regards to the current state of Amazon and the new digital world we live in today.

    However, in regards to the Amazon shipping issue (and please forgive me as I know this is veering off the original topic here) as well as the issues some Kindle customers (even if they are a small minority) are experiencing today via the archive issue, I can only bottom line it like this. Regardless of the reasons, these faithful Amazon customers are not receiving or having much trouble they should not be having in obtaining the Amazon products they have paid for. In some cases, this has been going on for a year or more. This is unacceptable, and as I stated the worst part is Amazon does very little to solve this issue.

    That Amazon will not put a stop to inferior and in some cases dishonest courier drivers/companies delivering their merchandise is unacceptable, and should be under their control if it isn’t (and I do believe it is). To me this seems like a blatant cost cutting measure that is not yet affecting their bottom line. Amazon always makes things ‘right’ via refunds or extending one’s prime account a month, etc. However, this is meaningless if you wanted/needed your order within two days, or if Prime has turned into a questionable and unreliable delivery service. It goes against everything Amazon claims to be, especially when it is allowed to go on and on.

    From your writings I believe you are in my age bracket (early 50s)…… I suspect we have both seen many good, stable and customer friendly companies suddenly take a (in many cases incomprehensible) wrong turn and suddenly go downhill fast. I believe Amazon may now be overlooking certain issues which, if they are allowed to go on, will affect their reputation (as it already has for some people) negatively, for years to come.

    I love your blog Bufo…. one of the first places I go to every morning. I am flattered and glad you enjoy my contribution and will continue to jump in every now and again with my ‘old broad’ opinions!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, oldiesuz!

      Thanks for the kind words!

      I’ve said before that I think that market leaders lose that position not when they underestimate their competition, but when they overestimate their customers’ loyalty.

      In this case, we don’t know that Amazon hasn’t been trying to fix it…they could be spending tons of time and money on it, and we wouldn’t know it. That’s one of the things I don’t like about Amazon (and there are things). 😉 They tend to be quite secretive…no more transparent than the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. 🙂 They could say, “Hey, we feel your pain, and we are working on a solution,” but they almost never make statements like that. They just spring a solution/service/gadget on us, fully formed, when they have one.

      My guess is also that the percentage of dissatisfied customers is no higher now than it was when Amazon started, or in any particular year after that. The number would be higher, because the number of customers is higher…but I don’t know that the percentage is higher. Their visibility would also be much higher…given that Amazon itself hosts forums where people can publicly complain, in addition to other social media which didn’t exist nearly twenty years ago.

      I’m not aware of evidence that Amazon ever goes for severe cost cutting in order to increase its bottom line, which is a strategy some companies follow proudly. Amazon spends so much money that Jeff Bezos looking at the bottom line must be like the crowd watching a Karl Wallenda performance. 😉

      I like people on the internet to have the freedom not to be identified by their intrinsic characteristics (and even by many lifestyle choices), so I don’t tend to say things like my age. However, there are enough clues out there on that one (like the fact that I worked with a punch card machine) to make yours not an unreasonable speculation…

      For me, I always want to look for a way that I could be misinterpreting something as coming from a bad motivation…I’d rather be wrong about someone being good than wrong about someone being bad. That makes me feel better about the world, although I know it could mean that I see it unrealistically and could fall into a trap I might otherwise avoid.

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