Archive for September, 2013

Which Kindle should you buy? Fall 2013

September 29, 2013

Which Kindle should you buy? Fall 2013

Amazon has recently announced new versions of the Kindle Paperwhite and of the Kindle Fire. While it is possible that more announcements will be made for this holiday season (it wouldn’t surprise me to see a price drop on the lowest priced Kindle, for example), these are likely to be the ones you are considering right now. If I need to come back and revise in light of announcements which may come later this year, I will. I do think it is possible that some models may be in short supply: I’m particularly impressed with some features of the new Kindle Fire HDX line, which may considerably broaden their appeal (particularly as workplace devices).

I should also mention that this information is based on the USA. Not all models are available in all countries, and prices may vary.

I am only going to list devices available new from Amazon. There may be refurbished models available (including the popular Kindle Touch model), but the price is going to be more variable and availability much less predictable. You can find them here: Certified Refurbished Kindles. Certified Refurbished Kindles can be an excellent buy. They have been reviewed carefully by Amazon, and typically carry the same warranty as one you buy new.

A note for upgraders: the Kindle Paperwhite 2 appears to be the same dimensions as the Kindle Paperwhite first generation, so your old covers should still fit. The same is not the case for the Kindle Fire: for example, the Kindle Fire 8.9 HDX is actually smaller than last year’s Kindle Fire 8.9 HD.

I’m going to list the models available new in order of price, lowest to highest.

Definitions

RSK (Reflective Screen Kindle): an EBR (E-Book Reader) which does not have lighting behind the image. RSKs are particularly good for long form reading, having a long battery life compared to a backlit device. They can be read easily in bright light, because you read them by light reflecting off of them (the same way you read a paperbook). The technology does not “refresh the screen” quickly enough to handle video. While they can play some games, their primary function is reading. The screens on the earlier models used a brand name technology called E Ink. RSKs currently do not do color images.

Tablet: a backlit device, similar in that way to a laptop, desktop, or SmartPhone. You read what is on the screen by a light coming from behind it. In bright light, they can be hard to read, because the light coming from behind the screen is competing with the light hitting the screen from the front (the sun, for example). Tablets can do full animation (meaning you can watch movies and TV shows, and play games that require animation). They can show many colors. They are good for visiting websites. The software is flexible, and you can install many types of “apps” on them. The battery charge life is much shorter than on an RSK: a day of full use will require a recharge.

Frontlit: a reflective screen device that has been equipped with a built-in light facing the screen. That’s what the Kindle Paperwhite is, as well as some models from other companies. This will allow you to read in bright light and in darkness, although because it does not change the underlying technology of the RSK screen, it does not allow for video or color. In some ways, it is the best of both worlds for e-books. The Paperwhite is the most comfortable reading experience I’ve had, including p-books (paperbooks). The battery charge life is also remarkably long: more comparable to an RSK than to a backlit device.

Wi-fi: a short-range wireless broadcast of the internet, typically the size of one building or so. Customers will usually use wi-fi they are broadcasting themselves in their own homes, or at a public wi-fi spot (many restaurants provide it).

3G: a method of connecting to the internet similar to a cell phone.

4G: another method of connecting to the internet, but faster than 3G.

Special Offers: devices with “Special Offers” have their initial price reduced because they are supported by advertisers. You see advertising on the device when it is “sleeping”, and a small ad at the bottom of the screen where you select the book you want to read. The advertising does not appear in the books themselves. Note: you will probably need to click a choice on the product page to get one without Special Offers. The links I give you will take you to the product page, but some features need to be selected manually on those pages.

GB: short for “gigabyte”, it’s a unit of measure of memory. The more gigabytes you have on the device, the more things you can store on it. That’s not likely to be an issue with e-books, but could possibly be with movies. More GBs cost you more. Many people recommend getting as much as you afford. I usually go on the lower end, since I keep most of my content in the Cloud/archives, and download it as I needed. I tend to keep about ten Kindle store books on one of my devices at a time. That gives me enough time to download more before I run out. If I was going to be out of wi-fi range for a week, though, I might download books before I went. If I’m on a long flight and want to have a couple of movies downloaded, I do have to be aware of the memory use.

Front-facing camera, rear-facing camera: a front-facing camera is looking at you while you are looking at the screen. It’s good for videocalls (such as Skype), but awkward to use to take pictures of other people. A rear-facing camera is on the back of the device, looking the same way you are looking when the screen is facing towards you…similar to a typical still or videocamera.

Must Have Features

There are many things that Kindles have in common, but not every Kindle has every feature. I’m going to list some of the features that people insist on having, and tell you which models available new have it. Note: it is very important to  realize that features may be made available to older models in updates (that has happened), but may not. Don’t be surprised if you reject a model because it didn’t have something, and then it was added retroactively. That’s not going to happen with hardware features (a Kindle Paperwhite is not going to be able to download speakers to it), and software features may have hardware limitations that keep them off the older models:

Audiobooks: Kindle DX, Kindle Fires

Collections (the ability to organize your e-books on your device in to groupings you define): currently, Paperwhites, Kindle DX. “Cloud Collections”, which appear to be a similar ability that can be shared centrally between apps and devices, have been announced for the Kindle Fire HDX, the 7″ Kindle Fire HD (but not the 8.9″, which is last year’s model), and the new Kindle Paperwhites.

Mayday (on screen live Amazon tech support): Kindle Fire HDXs

Music (MP3s): Kindle DX, Kindle Fires

Origami cover (a new gadgety cover from Amazon): Kindle Fire HDXs, new Kindle Fire HD (only the 7″)

Physical page turn buttons: Mindle, Kindle DX

Text-to-speech (the Kindle can read any text downloaded to it out loud to you, unless that ability is blocked by the publisher. It will not be able to read websites or typical PDFs): Kindle DX, Kindle Fires

Touchscreen: Paperwhite, Kindle Fires

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Priced at $69

Kindle (“Mindle”) with Special Offers
Available: now (it was announced September 6, 2012)
Type: RSK

The Mindle (my name for it: it’s also called the “Baby Kindle” and the “Starter Kindle” and the “Kindle 4”) is the lightest Kindle, and the least expensive. It’s an excellent starter model, and can be good for children. If you just want something on which to sight-read books, it’s a good choice. It does not have speakers, so audiobooks are out, and there is no text-to-speech. It does not have a touchscreen or a physical keyboard (you navigate through letters on screen), but does have physical page turn buttons. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $89 

Kindle (“Mindle”) without Special Offers. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $119

Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High Resolution Display with Next-Gen Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers
Available: pre-order now, released on September 30, 2013
Type: frontlit RSK

Like the Mindle, this is designed primarily for sight-reading: no audio. However, one of the key differences is a new patented light system. The light is still directed at what you are reading, and not your eyes. You can adjust the light for all conditions: bright light outside and in a darkened room. Even with the light being used, the battery life is twice that of the Mindle…reading half an hour a day with wireless off, the Paperwhite will last about eight weeks versus the Mindle’s four weeks. The Paperwhite has a touch screen, compared to the Mindle’s “five-way controller”. The touch screen has also been improved over there Kindle Touch, which it is effectively replacing.  The Paperwhite also has these features which are not on the Mindle:

  • X-Ray (background information about characters and things in a book with no wireless connection necessary to use it…a good study aid)
  • Time to Read (estimates how long it will take you, based on your personal reading speed, to finish a chapter or a book)
  • Instant translations
  • New (I’ll be testing and reporting on these new features soon): Page Flip, which will let you look ahead in the book without losing your place
  • New: automatically build flashcards for vocabulary words which you look up in the onboard dictionary
  • New: In-line footnotes
  • Coming soon: better integration with GoodReads
  • Coming soon: Kindle FreeTime
  • Coming soon: Cloud Collections (organize your books where Amazon stores them for you…in “the Cloud”

For someone who wants a Kindle for reading, but wants more…a high school versus an elementary school student, a serious reader who wants to read anywhere, any time, the Paperwhite is going to be the best choice. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $139

Kindle Paperwhite 2, 6″ High Resolution Display with Next-Gen Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – without Special Offers
Available: pre-order now, released on September 30, 2013
Type: frontlit RSK SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Kindle Fire HD 7″, HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB – Includes Special Offers
Amazon label: “Best Value Kids Tablet, Family Tablet”
Available: pre-order now, released on October 2, 2013

If you want web-surfing, video, and popular apps like Angry Birds and Where’s My Water?, you need a tablet. At $139, this is the lowest priced Amazon tablet. What are you missing if you get this one, rather than the $229 Kindle Fire HDX model? It has no microphone, no camera, and does not come with Mayday (the onscreen live technical help). The screen isn’t as good and the processor isn’t as fast as the HDX models, but those stats would have been considered quite good a year ago.

If you don’t need to impress with the state-of-the-art, and you need something to entertain the kids or get the job done at work (as long as that job doesn’t require a camera), this is going to be a good buy. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $154

Kindle Fire HD 7″, HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB – Without Special Offers

Low priced tablet with the least amount of memory and no ads. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $169

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

Larger onboard memory capacity with ads.  SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $184

Kindle Fire HD 7″, HD Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Without Special Offers

Larger onboard memory capacity without ads.  SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $189

Kindle Paperwhite 3G, 6″ High Resolution Display with Next-Gen Built-in Light, Free 3G + Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers
Available: e-mail sign-up to be notified when available, ship date Nov. 5, 2013
Type: frontlit RSK

The top of the line current generation reading-focused device from Amazon.  SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $209

Kindle Paperwhite 3G, 6″ High Resolution Display with Next-Gen Built-in Light, Free 3G + Wi-Fi – Without Special Offers
Available: pre-order now, ship date November 5, 2013
Type: frontlit RSK

Same as above, no ads.  SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $229

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers
Available: pre-order now for October 18, 2013
Type: tablet
Amazon label: “Personal Movie Tablet, Best College Tablet”

This is the state of the art Amazon tablet in the 7″ size. I’ve had a Kindle Fire 1st generation, and 8.9″ Kindle Fire HD (2nd generation), and this is the one I’ve ordered for myself (look for my review and information on it shortly after release). The Mayday feature may make it a particularly attractive gift for getting people who aren’t as comfortable with tech able to do things like Skype (and e-mail, for that matter). Why would you move up to the $379 8.9? Part of it is the screen size, although for me, the 7″ has been adequate and easy to carry. The 8.9″ is also the only one with rear-facing camera (so you can take pictures easily of other people and things. The larger version has a better screen and somewhat longer battery life. I think this one may be the most popular of the new models.  SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $239

Kindle DX, Free 3G, 9.7″ E Ink Display, 3G Works Globally
Available: now (this version is more than three years old, announced on July 7, 2010)
Type: RSK

This is now several generations back, but has its fans and charms. It’s a large screen RSK with no built in lighting. You’ll read it in the dark the same way you would with a paperbook: with a booklight or lamp. It has a physical keyboard and physical page turn buttons. It has audio, so you can do text-to-speech, music, and audiobooks. The onboard memory is about three times that of a Kindle Paperwhite or Mindle. The battery charge life is much shorter than a Paperwhite, and shorter than a Mindle It comes with free 3G, but doesn’t have wi-fi. It doesn’t have all of the features of the Kindle Paperwhite, and isn’t likely to get them. This is old school, definitely, but might be attractive to some people for that reason, along with some of the features.  SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $244

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Without Special Offers
Availability: pre-order now for October 18, 2013
Type: tablet

State of the art smaller tablet with no ads and least memory.  SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $269

Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers
Available: now (this is last year’s model, announced September 6, 2012)
Type: tablet

This was last year’s larger screen model, and it’s the one I typically carry with me now. I do find that it is heavier and larger than I like. It is very much like this year’s $139 model, except with that larger screen, a front-facing camera (for Skype), a better screen, and about 8 ounces (a couple of hundred more grams) of weight. If you want the larger screen, but don’t want to spend the money on the HDX, this is the one. It’s also worth noting that this has an HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) out port, which the HDXs don’t have. That means that with a cable which you buy separately, and a pretty modern TV, you can display what’s on your Kindle Fire on your TV. However, some apps (such as Xfinity) will block the use of the HDMI cable automatically. Still, using the Miracast wireless technology on the Kindle HDXs may mean buying an additional display device for many people.  SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 32 GB – Includes Special Offers
Availability: pre-order now for October 18, 2013
Type: tablet

State of the art smaller tablet with ads and the middle amount of memory.  SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $269

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 32 GB – Includes Special Offers

State of the art smaller tablet with ads and the middle amount of memory. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE

Priced at $284

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 32 GB – without Special Offers

State of the art smaller tablet with no ads and the middle amount of memory. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE

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Priced at $309

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 64 GB – Indludes Special Offers

State of the art smaller tablet with no ads and the most memory. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE

===

Price at $314

Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi, 32 GB – Without Special Offers
Available: now (this is last year’s model, announced September 6, 2012)
Type: tablet

Last year’s larger tablet with no ads and the middle amount of memory. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $324

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 64 GB – without Special Offers

State of the art smaller tablet with no ads and the most memory. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE

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Priced at $329

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi & 4G LTE from either AT&T or Verizon, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers

State of the art smaller tablet with no ads and the least memory. This version comes with 4G, which means you would be able to connect without having a wi-fi router near you, but you would also pay for a data plan from your carrier. Note that there are two different selections, one for AT&T and one for Verizon, not one for both. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE

Priced at $344

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi & 4G LTE from either AT&T or Verizon, 16 GB – Without Special Offers

State of the art smaller tablet with no ads and the least memory. This version comes with 4G, which means you would be able to connect without having a wi-fi router near you, but you would also pay for a data plan from your carrier. Note that there are two different selections, one for AT&T and one for Verizon, not one for both. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE

Priced at $369

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi & 4G LTE from either AT&T or Verizon, 32 GB – Includes Special Offers

State of the art smaller tablet with ads and the middle amount of memory. This version comes with 4G, which means you would be able to connect without having a wi-fi router near you, but you would also pay for a data plan from your carrier. Note that there are two different selections, one for AT&T and one for Verizon, not one for both. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE

Priced at $379

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers
Available: November 7, 2013
Type: tablet
Amazon label: “Best Movie Tablet, Gaming Tablet, and Business Tablet”

This model is it: the top of the line. Best screen and best battery life, front-facing and rear-facing cameras, all the latest features (including Mayday live on-screen help), if you want to get somebody the best, you would get the 64GB, 4G model of this one. It’s only about an ounce more than the 7″, which is remarkable (and quite a bit less than last year’s large-screen Kindle Fire HD). SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $384

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi & 4G LTE from either AT&T or Verizon, 32 GB – Without Special Offers

State of the art smaller tablet with no ads and the middle amount of memory. This version comes with 4G, which means you would be able to connect without having a wi-fi router near you, but you would also pay for a data plan from your carrier. Note that there are two different selections, one for AT&T and one for Verizon, not one for both. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE

Priced at $397

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Without Special Offers
Available: November 7, 2013
Type: tablet
Amazon label: “Best Movie Tablet, Gaming Tablet, and Business Tablet”

State of the art larger screen tablet with lowest memory and no ads. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $399

Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi & 4G LTE through AT&T, 32 GB – Includes Special Offers
Available: now (this is last year’s model, announced September 6, 2012)
Type: tablet

Last year’s larger screen tablet with the middle amount of memory and 4G through AT&T (which would require a separate paid data plan) with ads. Note that there is not a Verizon option with this model. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $409

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi & 4G LTE from either AT&T or Verizon, 64 GB – Includes Special Offers

State of the art smaller tablet with ads and the most memory. This version comes with 4G, which means you would be able to connect without having a wi-fi router near you, but you would also pay for a data plan from your carrier. Note that there are two different selections, one for AT&T and one for Verizon, not one for both. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE

Priced at $414

Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi & 4G LTE through AT&T, 32 GB – Without Special Offers
Available: now (this is last year’s model, announced September 6, 2012)
Type: tablet

Last year’s larger screen tablet with the middle amount of memory and 4G through AT&T (which would require a separate paid data plan) and no ads. Note that there is not a Verizon option with this model. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $424

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi & 4G LTE from either AT&T or Verizon, 64 GB – Without Special Offers

State of the art smaller tablet with no ads and the most memory. This version comes with 4G, which means you would be able to connect without having a wi-fi router near you, but you would also pay for a data plan from your carrier. Note that there are two different selections, one for AT&T and one for Verizon, not one for both. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE

Priced at $429

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 32 GB – Includes Special Offers
Available: November 7, 2013
Type: tablet
Amazon label: “Best Movie Tablet, Gaming Tablet, and Business Tablet”

State of the art larger screen tablet with the middle amount of memory with ads. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $444

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 32 GB – Without Special Offers
Available: November 7, 2013
Type: tablet
Amazon label: “Best Movie Tablet, Gaming Tablet, and Business Tablet”

State of the art larger screen tablet with the middle amount of memory with no ads. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $479

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 64 GB – Includes Special Offers
Available: November 7, 2013
Type: tablet
Amazon label: “Best Movie Tablet, Gaming Tablet, and Business Tablet”

State of the art larger screen tablet with the most memory with ads. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi & 4G LTE through AT&T or Verizon, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers
Available: November 7, 2013
Type: tablet
Amazon label: “Best Movie Tablet, Gaming Tablet, and Business Tablet”

State of the art larger screen tablet with the least memory and ads, with 4G. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $494

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 64 GB – Without Special Offers
Available: November 7, 2013
Type: tablet
Amazon label: “Best Movie Tablet, Gaming Tablet, and Business Tablet”

State of the art larger screen tablet with the most memory with no ads. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi & 4G LTE through AT&T or Verizon, 16 GB – Without Special Offers
Available: November 7, 2013
Type: tablet
Amazon label: “Best Movie Tablet, Gaming Tablet, and Business Tablet”

State of the art larger screen tablet with the least memory and no ads, with 4G. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $499

Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi & 4G LTE through AT&T, 64 GB – Includes Special Offers
Available: now (this is last year’s model, announced September 6, 2012)
Type: tablet

Last year’s larger screen tablet with the most memory and 4G through AT&T (which would require a separate paid data plan) and no ads. Note that there is not a Verizon option with this model. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

Priced at $514

Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi & 4G LTE through AT&T, 64 GB – Without Special Offers
Available: now (this is last year’s model, announced September 6, 2012)
Type: tablet

Last year’s larger screen tablet with the most memory and 4G through AT&T (which would require a separate paid data plan) and no ads. Note that there is not a Verizon option with this model. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

===

Priced at $529

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi & 4G LTE through AT&T or Verizon, 32 GB – Includes Special Offers
Available: December 10, 2013
Type: tablet
Amazon label: “Best Movie Tablet, Gaming Tablet, and Business Tablet”

State of the art larger screen tablet with the middle amount of memory and ads, with 4G. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

===

Priced at $544

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi & 4G LTE through AT&T or Verizon, 32 GB – Without Special Offers
Available: December 10, 2013
Type: tablet
Amazon label: “Best Movie Tablet, Gaming Tablet, and Business Tablet”

State of the art larger screen tablet with the middle amount of memory and no ads, with 4G. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

===

Priced at $579

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi & 4G LTE through AT&T or Verizon, 64  GB – Includes Special Offers
Available: December 10, 2013
Type: tablet
Amazon label: “Best Movie Tablet, Gaming Tablet, and Business Tablet”

State of the art larger screen tablet with the most memory and ads, with 4G. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

===

Priced at $594

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi & 4G LTE through AT&T or Verizon, 64  GB – Without Special Offers
Available: December 10, 2013
Type: tablet
Amazon label: “Best Movie Tablet, Gaming Tablet, and Business Tablet”

State of the art larger screen tablet with the most memory and no ads, with 4G. SELECT OPTIONS ON PRODUCT PAGE.

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That should help. 🙂 If you have specific questions, feel free to comment on this post to ask them. If you notice any errors, please also let me know: this was a complex task because of how the information is available at Amazon on the items.

Update: thanks to readers Sara Miles and Judy Schechter for comments which improved this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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The most popular…

September 29, 2013

The most popular…

I was proud of myself when I got over my tendency to condemn things that were popular. Look, I know I like a lot of things that aren’t popular…my Significant Other got me this great t-shirt that says, “Nobody’s Target Market”. 😉 However, I realized that it was as silly for me to exclude something because it was popular as it was for others to exclude it because it wasn’t.

Sure, I could assume that anything which is super popular has been…homogenized in some way, that is must have had challenging or controversial elements removed. However, I think it will also generally have some value that appeals to a lot of people. I’m interested in people, and what they like and how they think…and that includes pop culture.

So, for fun, I thought I’d look at some of the most popular items in the (USA) Kindle store.

Amazon updates these every hour, so it may be different by the time you see it. It’s also possible for people to game they system, by buying a bunch of copies of a particular book in an hour, just to push it to the top.

I still think you’ll find this interesting…

As usual, I won’t intentionally link to books which block text-to-speech access*.

Oh, and this is important: typically, the publishers decide on the categories themselves, and that is often done for marketing reasons. I’ve seen the same book categorized as both fiction and non-fiction, for example.

Most popular biography:

Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom: 1940-1945

Most popular non-fiction children’s book about animals:

Dinosaurs: Amazing Pictures & Fun Facts on Animals in Nature (Our Amazing World Series)

Most popular book about puppets & puppetry:

Puppet Planet: The Most Amazing Puppet-Making Book in the Universe

Most popular book about physics:

The First War of Physics: The Secret History of the Atom Bomb, 1939-1949

Most popular book about popular dance:

Ballroom Dancing

Most popular time travel romance:

Rowena Through the Wall: Expanded Edition (Land’s End – book #1)

Most popular book on heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning:

HVAC Instant Answers (Instant Answer Series)

Most popular South American newspaper:

O Globo

Most popular book on skateboarding:

Kalifornia Blu

Most popular book on finance:

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader

Enjoy!

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

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Round up #208: AZTV, books on a plane?

September 27, 2013

Round up #208: AZTV, books on a plane?

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

Committee reportedly recommends lifting restrictions on some electronic device use on planes

I reported about this recently, and the story has now come down

AP story by Joan Lowy

that a committee put together by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is going to recommend easing restrictions on, for example, reading on an EBR (E-Book Reader) during take-offs and landing.

The FAA will likely get the report on Monday, and could act swiftly enough to have it mean that we could enjoy downloaded content on our devices by 2014.

Fortunately, I don’t think it needs Congressional approval… 😉

“…outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances”

Speaking of Congress…

I’ve written before about the issue of “public performance” and copyright. For example, I don’t demonstrate text-to-speech to a group of people with a copyrighted work, since that would be a public performance…and that’s a right controlled by the rightsholder (with certain Fair Use exemptions).

Recently, a Congressperson read an entire copyrighted work on the floor, as part of a filibuster (I’d rather leave the specifics out of it…this isn’t about the politics).

In my house, we immediately questioned the legality of that. Assuming (which I think is safe) that the rightsholder didn’t authorize the performance, wasn’t that infringement?

The Congressperson clearly was performing it for the public…television cameras were part of it.

Is the entire text now entered into the Congressional record…and is that record in the public domain?

Would C-SPAN be in trouble for broadcasting it?

It seemed like a likely infringement to me, potentially punishable by a fine, but these issues can be complex.

Some of the copyright elements are addressed in this

techdirt article by Mike Masnick

My phone was listening to my car yesterday

Okay, this definitely falls in the category of FWP (First World Problems), but my  Significant  Other and I were quite amused. 🙂

I was going to Whole Foods, and my SO texted a shopping list.

We’re vegetarians, and that list probably wasn’t like most of yours. 😉 One of the things was “Fakin Bacon”, a vegetarian protein product.

I got everything else, but didn’t see that.

I used voice recognition on my Galaxy S4 to send a text to say that I hadn’t gotten it. I didn’t figure it would recognize “Fakin”, so I just said “bacon”. My SO got this text:

“I did not get bacon and I do feel her presence.”

Needless to say, those last six words provoked a puzzled response.

What had happened was that I had text-to-speech going in the car (I wasn’t driving yet, by the way), and I was listening to Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond by Hans Holzer (which I’m enjoying very much…Holzer has a dry wit I like).

The Galaxy picked up part of a sentence out of the book read by my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G, being relayed by Bluetooth through my car’s sound system.

I’m actually very impressed by that! Remember that the phone’s microphone was facing the other way (towards me). It shows you how far TTS has come!
September Day, the voice of the Kindle Fire HD (who I interviewed) can be proud of the clarity of the delivery! 😉

KFHDX: my readers speak

I’m always grateful for my intelligent and thoughtful readers who comment on my posts!

Sometimes, it gets me thinking, and sometimes it crystallizes questions for me that many people might have.

I’ve had good comments on two posts I’ve written recently about the new Kindle Fire HDX line and the live onscreen tech support available for them called Mayday:

I thought it was worth a quick summary of some of the points.

Doris asked about Miracast, which is how you’ll wirelessly put video from your Kindle Fire HDX on to a TV. It’s worth noting that the KFHDX does not have the HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) out that the Kindle Fire HDs had (and have…the 8.9″ will continue to be available).

Some TVs have the capability, but many don’t.

Roku set-top boxes are supposed to be getting it in the future, but don’t have it now (I verified that with Roku).

Google’s Chromecast stick (which, as I recently wrote, has been outselling Kindles…at Amazon) doesn’t do it.

What does?

I’ve looked a bit, and haven’t seen a solution I would like.

However, one of my most insightful commenters, Edward Boyhan, suggested that Amazon could introduce their own Miracast stick…by this holiday season.

Brilliant!

Amazon creates the demand for Miracast with the KFHDX, then fills it themselves.

If they could do a $35 stick that you plugged into the HDMI port and allowed full mirroring of your KFHDX…Chromecast would be walloped, and Roku would have issues.

They’d get a big advantage out of announcing it before people spend $75 on a Miracast router or something within a month of the KFHDX deliveries.

cardinalrobbins asked about a possible fee for Mayday. I don’t think that’s going to happen, although they might eventually limit it to Prime members (remember, everybody who buys a new KFHDX can be a Prime member for free for a month).

It’s got to cost money, but it also may both save money (by having faster resolutions) and inspire enough sales to make up for it and then some. For me, the Fire is largely about getting you hooked on Prime. Mayday means you’ll buy a Fire HDX which means you’ll become a Prime member which means you’ll buy “diapers and windshield wipers” (as I like to say)…which is where the real money is.

Google, by the way, is now doing same-day delivery…and it’s six months free:

https://www.google.com/shopping/express/

You have to be in certain areas, because they will be picking up the items at local stores.

This can only push Amazon to even faster delivery options…no doubt, through Prime.

Another comment a couple of people have had, including jjhitt, is about the demographics of the Mayday reps shown in the commrecials:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=PFYHF1w8w3g

I’ve commented before about how the demographics of the people in Kindle commercials don’t necessarily align with the demographics of the customer base (particularly in terms of age in the beginning).

This may be a bit more of a concern, though.

Imagine you are currently the greatest Customer Service Kindle rep Amazon has ever seen. Customers love you, and you are super-knowledgeable and empathetic.

The Mayday program opens up, and it would be a considerable raise.

You don’t get it, though, because of your appearance.

You have a Mohawk, face piercings, a neck tattoo, are overweight, or regularly wear a religious icon.

Is that possible?

I hope not…but the people in the commercials so far don’t exhibit characteristics like that, and I would bet that some of the current phone reps do…

GOOD E READER: “Sony Abandons the eReader Market in the United States”

While the headline for this

GOOD E READER article by Michael Kozlowski

is an exaggeration (and refuted in the article itself…that happens a lot, sometimes because the headline writer is not the post author), it is interesting that Sony is not going to sell its new PRS T-3 EBR (E-Book Reader) in the USA due to “…the region’s market changes”.

Sony was the first major player here with a non-backlit EBR…and they are moving away from that.

That doesn’t mean they will necessarily be the lead in abandoning EBRs here…but it is intriguing.

What do you think? Will personal appearance factor into who becomes a Mayday rep? Should it? Will Amazon introduce a TV interface this year? Would you pay for Mayday? Would it encourage you to get Prime if that was a requirement for Mayday? If you had same-day delivery from Amazon and it included everything you usually buy, what would make you go to a brick-and-mortar store? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

“Mayday? I’m bored…”

September 26, 2013

“Mayday? I’m bored…”

Amazon’s newly announced Kindle Fire HDX line is going to have a new “Mayday” button, which Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has called the “…greatest feature we’ve ever made”. It’s going to allow Kindle Fire HDX users to tap a button, and get live tech help on the screen, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The Mayday tech can draw on the screen, and can take over the device to do things for you.

If this works as (heavily) promoted, it could cause a revolution in Customer Service expectations.

People might start expecting that kind of instant service everywhere: insurance claims; online classes; and maybe even healthcare.

That got me thinking: what might some of those Mayday calls be like?

===

Mayday tech: “How can I help you?”

Customer: “Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi.”

Mayday tech: “Hello. Did you have a question?”

Customer: “Why?”

Mayday tech: “Why what?”

Customer: “Poop. Hahahhahahahahahah!”

Mayday tech: “Am I speaking with a child? How old are you?”

Customer: “Me three.”

===

Mayday tech: “How can I help you?”

Customer: “My husband is an hour late coming home from work again.”

Mayday tech: “Oh, hi, Jane. That’s the third time this week, right?”

Customer: “Fourth. I didn’t push the button the first time.”

Mayday tech: “I’m sorry to hear that. Do you remember how to text him? I showed you that on Tuesday.”

Customer: “Yes, but I don’t know if he’s telling the truth on not in those texts. I wish I could see his face!”

Mayday tech: “You can. Let me show you how to use Skype…”

===

Mayday tech: “How can I help you?”

Customer: “I just spilled ketchup on my favorite shirt: can you help me?”

Mayday tech: “Sure can! I’m guessing that’s the blue one, right? You’ve ordered it twice before. I can get you a replacement out in two days. Tell you what: why don’t we order two this time, and I can throw in a stain stick as an Add-on item. If the stick works and it turns out you don’t need the shirts, just tap Mayday, and I’ll send you a return label.”

===

Mayday tech: “How can I help you?”

Customer: “My thirteen-year old is asking about s-e-x, and I was wondering if you had some sort of book to recommend.”

Mayday tech: “Actually, it shows here that someone on your account ordered a sex education book yesterday. Looks like it was your child.”

Customer: “Oh, I’m so  embarrassed! I hope that kid isn’t doing anything yet!”

Mayday tech: “If they were, they wouldn’t have ordered the book, right?”

Customer: “You’re right! I feel so much better.”

===

Mayday tech: “How can I help you?”

Customer: “I want to finish up that movie I was watching yesterday, but I’m too lazy to do it myself. Would you start it for me?”

===

Mayday tech: “How can I help you?”

Customer: “I’m supposed to do a stupid book report on stupid Lord of the Flies!”

Mayday tech: “Have you read it yet?”

Customer: “I don’t read.”

Mayday tech: “You should…it’s good for you. When is the report due?”

Customer: “Tomorrow.”

Mayday tech: “That’s not enough time to read it, then. Tell you what: if you promise me you’ll read it later, I’ll download the movie for you. In the mean time, let me you what happens in the book…”

===

Mayday tech: “How can I help you?”

Customer: “I’m bored.”

Mayday tech: “Do you want to read a book? Watch a movie? Listen to some music?”

Customer: “Nah…let’s just talk…”

===

Mayday tech: “How can I help you?”

Customer: “I can’t get my cellphone company to help me clean up my contacts. I’ve got the guy on the phone: would you talk to them?”

===

Mayday tech: “How can I help you?”

Customer: “Teach me to laugh like Jeff Bezos. I want to disrupt industries, too.”

===

😉

Seriously, I do think this could be a problem for everybody who does Customer Service remotely. It’s going to depend on the execution and on the market penetration of the devices…but this is a quantum leap type advancement, and that’s going to put the pressure on everybody else to catch up. Ooh, that’s an idea…Amazon may start charging other companies for Mayday to take care of their Customer Service for them!

Thanks, Amazon!

Update: here’s a link to the commercials for Mayday…and the way I’m describing it fits right into what they show. 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=PFYHF1w8w3g

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Round up #207: Russian sex education, the mile high book club

September 26, 2013

Round up #207: Russian sex education, the mile high book club

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

K(atherine) A. Applegate morphs into a new deal at HarperCollins

When my adult kid was younger, I read all of the books in the Animorphs series. Sure, my kid was reading them first, and I did get into it for that reason, but I enjoyed the putatively young adult series about kids who can change into animals (there is a lot more to it than that). In fact, my kid gave them to me, and the p-book (paperbook) copies are in my library…more than fifty of them.

That certainly would have been a big enough hit for one author, but Katherine Applegate has continued to grow and impress.

In fact, The One and Only Ivan one the Newbery medal this year…more than a decade and a half after the first Animorphs book.

So, it’s exciting to me to see in this

Publishers Weekly article by Sally Lodge

that Applegate has signed a deal to do a new series…and the premise sounds intriguing.

I recommend the article: you’ll get a sense of why editors still matter.

On the other hand, this

Publishers Weekly article by Marjorie Braman

shows why being an editor and being at a tradpub (traditional publisher) are not inevitably intertwined.

I would guess most people become editors because they like editing. 😉 However, like many other jobs, there has been a lot of “mission creep”…they want you to do things beyond the core purpose. Editors may be expected to be more acquisition artists than people who actually help craft books.

We may see more cases of editors leaving tradpubs to get back to basics…

“We have now reached perusing altitude…”

We may finally be getting close to the FAA officially changing the rules to allow us to read on electronic devices during takeoff and landing.

I’ve been writing about that ban off and on for years…I found posts on the forum where I talk about it back in early 2009. 🙂

It simply doesn’t make sense that having an electronic device on in a plane, especially in “airplane mode”, would affect the avionics…and I’ve read that it isn’t the case. If you could download a book and crash the plane, do you think they would let you have them in the cabin? “Certainly, sir, you can have that giant Acme bomb on the plane…just don’t set it off.” 😉

I’ve heard some justifications for the rule…one is that takeoffs and landings are the most dangerous part, and they don’t want people to be distracted. I’ve even been on flights where they had us put away all reading materials, including paper.

However, they could still ask you to do that if the situation warranted it.

According to this

CBS Baltimore article

the decision will likely be made by the end of September, and new rules could go into effect in 2014 (which is quite soon).

I’d be happy about it. 🙂

Right now, I do follow the rules (I’m big on that), so it would be nice to be able to read while staying within the guidelines. On my last trip, I actually bought a paper magazine to read for take-offs and landings, but I would have preferred not to do that, given a choice.

This wouldn’t be the first time the Kindle app has outlasted the hardware

Amazon made a Kindle for Blackberry app available in 2010…and now, BB users have to be worried that the device might not stick around.

ABC news story by Joanna Stern

There certainly are adherents for the device, but I always say that market leaders lose that position when they underestimate the loyalty of their customers (not when they underestimate their competition…a common assessment which I think is not always accurate).

Okay, yes, when I polled my readers a few years back, zero percent of them picked the Blackberry app as their favorite way to read Kindle books, but there must be some people who do. 😉

I believe the Kindle for HP Touchpad had outlived that device (in terms of new sales in the marketplace) by that point.

Amazon adapts to changing conditions…not everybody does.

Is fiction ever the best way to learn something?

I have to think about my own question. I would certainly say that I’ve become interested in some topics because of fiction…but I’m not sure it’s how I really learned about something very often.

I thought this was a hilarious

article in The Guardian by Shaun Walker

deftly refuting “Russia’s children’s ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov”.

The latter apparently opposes sex education in Russian schools, saying that the kids can learn everything they need to know about love and sex from Russian classic literature.

Think about classic literature from anywhere…what makes the drama isn’t always what makes healthy relationships.

Walker cleverly cites some examples from Russian classics…I recommend the article.

Russia does have a wonderful literary history, and its people continue to love books.

I even took three and a half years of Russian in high school, partially to read works in Russian (although I was more interested in their non-fiction at that point).

I remember very little of it, but I am told I have a decent accent when I do speak a few words. 🙂

Oh, let me digress to tell a proud story about my kid, who is a linguist.

Recently, my kid was flying to Germany for work…and the bilingual (at least) flight attendants spoke to my kid in German…and to everybody else in that area in English. Apparently, they thought my kid was a native speaker. 🙂

Anyway, back to Russia…

This

Russia Beyond the Headlines article by Alena Tveritina

shows the great diversity of small Russian bookstores, and how clever they are in innovating and adding flavor. I would think these same stores would be the kind that might survive in the USA (although I’m guessing the internet/e-book competition is not as strung in Russia as it is here).

One of my favorite ideas one of them has is that people can pay a monthly fee of about $8 to borrow books. In other words, it’s sort of like a private library built along a Netflix model.

You’d have to really manage your stock to make that work, and probably only allow people to actually take one book out of the store at a time (but to read as much as they want in the store).

It would be tough to make that work where the rents are high, but I can see it being pretty effectively in a more rural area where entertainment options are more limited.

What do you think? Would it scare you to read your Kindle during takeoff and landing? Have you ever seen anybody else violating that rule…and did you ever see them get caught? Did you read the Animorphs books? Are you comfortable being seen reading “below your age”? Did a fiction book ever really serve as an education for you (as opposed to just getting you interested, or modeling actions or emotions)? Did the headline on this make me seem like any less of a prude to you? No? Didn’t think so. 😉 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.

New Kindle Fire Tablets announced: Kindle Fire HDX

September 25, 2013

New Kindle Fire Tablets announced: Kindle Fire HDX

Kaboom!

Amazon just sent me a press release…actually dated tomorrow as I write this in my time zone and Amazon’s in Seattle.

I’d normally link to the individual press release…but Amazon has so many on this, that I’ll just link to the press release page. 🙂

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-mediaHome

Are they different enough that I need to buy one?

Yes! At least one! Maybe two…I’ll link right now to the options, then add to this post.

Very important! Check your options before ordering! I haven’t necessarily been able to link to the least expensive version (not all the links are live yet). The lowest price I’ve listed is for one with the least memory and with Special Offers.

Okay, let me go read those stats, and I’ll come back and post more. I wanted to post the links so you can be first in line…well, I did order mine already, so maybe second in line. 😉

Update: okay, here are some of the details for this third generation of Kindle Fires:

Let’s start with the one I ordered, the Kindle Fire HDX 7″ (I went with 16 GB…I don’t find that storage is an issue for me on my devices, generally, since I keep so much of my content on the Cloud).

Here are some of the new features they are highlighting:

  • Better display: high pixel density, “perfect color” (100% sRGB)…this model is 1920 x 1200
  • Fastest processor (Snapdragon) on a 7″ tablet (“2.2GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM”)
  • The new “Mayday” button…help when you need it from Amazon, 365 days a year (I guess they take Leap Day off 😉 ), 24 hours a day. You’ll actually see the Amazon help person live on your screen (but they helpfully tell you that they won’t see you)
  • Productivity improvements: comes with OfficeSuite (woo-hoo! I need to replace Microsoft Office soon, and was even considering an MS tablet); Outlook; “e-mail and calendar support for Gmail”
  • I’m going to quote this one: “Immersive entertainment experience—see trivia and character backgrounds with X-Ray for Movies and TV, follow along with lyrics with new X-Ray for Music, fling videos to your TV with Second Screen, and more”
  • You’ll be able to download some Prime videos…at no extra cost! It says “hundreds”, so I’m not thinking it’s all of them, but this is still cool!
  • Better battery life…a “reading mode” (the Kobo has that) could give you up to 17 hours of battery charge life, when you are just reading. It sounds like 11 hours is more typical
  • Better outdoor viewing…not quite sure how that will work technically. Apparently, the colors will adjust based on the lighting, which could help
  • A new operating system (“Mojito”). This has a lot of things (some will come with a planned update in mid-November, but here is one big one:

CLOUD COLLECTIONS!

  • Yes, we’ll get some sort of improved Collections which work across devices. Will this only work on the new Fires? Probably not
  • Extended printing support!
  • The Fires will finally work well with many more business systems (“Enterprise”), including VPNs and Intranets
  • Quick Switch…it doesn’t look like you’ll be multi-tasking two programs on the same screen at the same time, but you’ll be able to more easily switch between two
  • “Fling” video to certain TVs!
  • Mirror your tablet to certain TVs…that could be really cool! I do that sometimes with an HDMI cable, but this will be wireless!
  • If you go with 4G, you can choose AT&T or Verizon

I could go on, but let me quickly mention the differences between some of the models:

The $139 one doesn’t have as nice of a screen…and has no cameras.  It also doesn’t get the Mayday live support option.

The KDX 7″ has a front-facing camera, as does the less expensive of the 8.9″ models.

The top of the line 8.9″ KDX has a front-facing camera and an 8 MP rear-facing camera…which is why I might have to think about that one. The screen is 2560 by 1600 (339 ppi), the best in the bunch.

I think you get all the cool new features with the one I got (except for the rear-facing camera), and then you can go for a bigger screen if you want.

One last thing for now: Amazon has set up a special

Accessibility for Kindle Fire

page, and they’ve made some real improvements. Even the $139 model has text-to-speech, but they’ve also improved things for those with hearing challenges (an icon will tell us when closed captioning is available, and you can switch to mono sound…important if you only have hearing in one ear).

My quick assessment? Amazon knocked it out of the park with these new Kindle Fires! The prices are still low, and there are so many features people have wanted!  The Fire is moving out of its beginnings as an entertainment device into a full-fledged necessity (for many).

We trailblazers can now take a bow as the mainstream comes to join us on what was once the frontier. 😉

Oh, I know…there could always be more (I’m not seeing anything about speech recognition)…but seriously, at this price, there is enough.  😉

Interesting that they didn’t do a “coming out party” event…

Don’t wait to order! These could sell out…

Update: I thought about it, and did go ahead and pre-order one of their origami covers. At about $50, it’s the most I’ve ever paid for a Kindle cover, but I think people will want to get my opinion on it. It’s autosleep/wake (a feature I like very much on my current cover), slim fitting, and, well, gadgety. 😉 It creates both a landscape and portrait orientation stand, which is nice. One key feature for me: you have an option of leather (which we don’t use in my family) or polyurethane.

Here’s the page with the covers:

Kindle Origami Covers

I figured it might sell out…and did go with purple, which I’ve had before (helps to color code the Kindles in our house, as to which is each person’s…and I can see the color well enough). I went with this one, personally:

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX Standing Polyurethane Origami Case (will only fit Kindle Fire HDX 7″), Purple

Note: the new Kindle Fires are different dimensions from the old ones, and your old cover won’t fit. You might be able to make due (I’d have to compare the dimensions more carefully), and a sleeve or pouch style carrier you got for your old one is probably still okay…those tend to fit loosely. I’ll double-check on that, though.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Widespread unavailabilities at Amazon: DoS attack, glitch, or upgrade?

September 25, 2013

Widespread unavailabilities at Amazon: DoS attack, glitch, or upgrade?

There’s something very strange happening at Amazon tonight.

I’ve seen a number of threads in the Amazon Kindle forums, with people complaining about trying to get books (from a sample, from their Wish Lists), and finding that they are unavailable.

These are people in the USA…and it isn’t affecting everything they would want to buy.

I went in and checked some things myself.

The first big thing was that the link to the

Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High Resolution Display with Next-Gen Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers

from the homescreen was broken.

That’s not good.

Amazon has to be counting on that right now for a lot of sales. I would guess it has been down for at least an hour, just from my own checking.

I tried to get to it from the Shop by Department link on the homescreen…nope, another “404” error.

I went to the Kindle e-books page…that one worked.

I clicked on a book there…that one also worked.

I heard it might be books from Random House: those seem okay.

Hmm…it’s possible that the problem is being fixed rapidly, so I’m just not finding what people were seeing earlier.

I think we will get an explanation on this one, though.

What could it be?

Some possibilities:

  • DoS (Denial of Service) attack: this would be someone trying to hurt Amazon…typically they set up something which automatically hits a webpage so many times that no one else can get in
  • Glitch: it’s just some kind of problem at Amazon. They have redundant systems, so that’s a bit unlikely, but always possible
  • Upgrade: Amazon is doing some major upgrade to the site, and in the transition, things are failing
  • Negotiating tactic: I don’t think that would be case here. After all, Amazon isn’t going to be negotiating with the Kindle distributor…since that’s them 🙂

Again, I do think we’ll hear about it…this is too significant to simply ignore.

If you ran into it today, feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Hopefully, it’s all getting fixed and it will be okay by tomorrow…virtual fingers crossed. 🙂

One unrelated comment (well, maybe two, depending on how you count it). Thank you to everybody who answers polls on this blog! I’m amazed at the results so far on the polls in my Banned Books Week polls. I also want to thank everybody who has been buying Amazon Gift Cards through this blog! Not only are you bringing joy to others (or, you know, to yourself…you can use them that way, too, and that’s a good way to budget how much you will spend in a month), but it’s a big help.

Bonus deal:

Want something cheap and well-reviewed (by customers)?

5 star ninety-nine cent books

The search above is ranked in order of customer review, so you’ll notice that the first ones aren’t only 5 (out of 5) star, but have a lot of reviews. Doesn’t mean you’ll like them, but you might, and the risk is relatively low…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Should any books be banned? Banned Books Week 2013

September 23, 2013

Should any books be banned? Banned Books Week 2013

We are now into Banned Books Week. According to the

Official Site

“Banned Books Week is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read.”

Since 1982, the group (which includes the American Library Association) has listed the most “challenged” books.

It’s often a surprising list. What do you think the most challenged book was in 2012? 50 Shades of Grey? Nope, that’s number four.

The most challenged book?

Captain Underpants.

A kids’ book.

More accurately, a series of kids’ books, published by Scholastic, with a 4.7 out of 5 star rating (for the first one) at Amazon.

What reasons are cited?

“Offensive language, unsuited for age group”

This is a series which is widely said to encourage children to read…it may be the book that gets a child to become a lifelong reader.

Now, some of you are probably getting upset at this point, and I understand that. My natural inclination is always to lean towards literary freedom.

However, whenever I recognize a “natural inclination” in myself, I want to challenge it.

I want to look at it, and see if it makes sense.

Maybe it does…and maybe it doesn’t.

I thought I’d start with this simple question (both for me and for you): should any books be banned?

First, we need to define what we mean by “banned”, and that’s a huge issue here.

They call it “Banned Books Week”, but they report on “challenged books”.

Those are two entirely different things.

I define “banned” as something that the government does. It uses its governmental power (including the law) to prohibit people from reading a particular book.

“Challenging”, as used here, is most often done by private individuals. They request that a school/public library/bookstore not have a certain book.

For me, people have the right to challenge books. That is, in and of itself, a matter of free speech. I’m going to very often disagree with their reasons…but that’s exactly when the issue of free speech comes into play.

I analyzed the reasons given for challenging the ten books on the list:

BannedBooks2013

  • Sexually Explicit: 7 (cited in seven of the cases)
  • Offensive Language: 6
  • Unsuited for Age Group: 6
  • Homosexuality: 2
  • Religious Viewpoint: 2
  • Violence: 2
  • Racism: 1
  • Suicide: 1

Certainly, if this was the government banning these books, I think we would all expect “religious viewpoint” to be invalid grounds.

What about the others? In what circumstances?

Let’s look at the issue of public schools (which are government entities…private schools are not).

If you are against banning all books, would that include sexually explicit books for  grade school kids? Should a ten-year old be able to check 50 Shades of Grey out of the school library?

If they shouldn’t be able to do that, what about a fifteen-year old?

How about a thirty-year old…from the public library?

What if a parent or other legal guardian gives 50 Shades of Grey to a ten-year old to read…in their own home? Should the government do something about that?

I’ve been using 50SoG as an example, because I think that many Americans have similar ideas about pornography…even if they can’t agree on what specifically is pornography.

How about some other topics?

What about a book full of hate speech? One that advocated violence against a group of people…repeatedly and unrepentantly?

How about one that shows how to make tools of violence…step by step to make chemical weapons, or build a bomb?

Suppose a book gives false medical advice…which, if followed, will result in death. Should that be banned?

Then there is defamation, which is the more generally used international term for  intentionally  damaging false information. Somebody publishes a book saying terrible things about you…which aren’t true. Does the government have the right to stop people from reading that book?

One more: what if a book infringes on the rights of another person under copyright? If we go to the world of the movies, we could look at 1922’s Nosferatu as an example. It was an unauthorized adaptation of Dracula, and a court ordered all copies to be destroyed. The movie did survive, and is now considered a great piece of early film-making. Was destruction the proper course?

As you can tell, this is more complex than it might appear at first.

Before I ask you some questions, I want to bring one of my own issues into this, and one on which I’ve been challenged.

I think blocking text-to-speech access in an e-book disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I do believe it is legal.

I don’t intentionally link to books where the publisher has taken this action.

For quite a while, I didn’t even mention the titles.

Is that censorship?

For me, it’s important that it isn’t government censorship. If you don’t want to have certain books for sale in your store, or have them in your home, that feels very different to me from the government banning things. If a magazine won’t review books that take a particular viewpoint, I see that as their right.

I made the choice in this post to list Captain Underpants by name, even though the publisher blocks text-to-speech access (and this is not a picture book where the text would be indecipherable images to the software that reads the book out loud). I didn’t link to it, though, because I don’t want to benefit from people buying it.

It’s not my choice to support that, but I don’t think less of you if you do buy the book…I like Dav Pilkey. I guess I could have linked to the paperbook…I’ll have to consider the consequences of that in the future.

Now, some polls:

While the polls are a good way to express your opinion, I always like hearing more. I think I’ve done enough in this post to stimulate conversation, so I’ll just say that you can feel free to express your opinion to me and my readers by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

The Kindle is no longer the top selling electronic item at Amazon

September 23, 2013

The Kindle is no longer the top selling electronic item at Amazon

Amazon has long stated how the Kindle is the best-selling, most wished for, and so on, electronic item at Amazon. In fact, in this

press release dated January 29, 2013

Amazon says,

“For the second year in a row, Amazon’s tablet was the most popular item for customers – Kindle Fire HD continued its run as the #1 best-selling, most gifted, and most wished for product across the millions of items available on Amazon worldwide. At year-end, Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire, Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle held the top four spots on the Amazon worldwide best seller charts since launch.”

Well, I like to check in on the bestsellers from time to time, and I was surprised tonight to see on the

Amazon Best Sellers in Electronics

that the bestseller wasn’t a Kindle.

No, it wasn’t an iPhone, either. 😉

It’s possible that the list I review, being from Amazon.com, isn’t the same dataset as “Amazon worldwide” above…but I haven’t seen a non-Kindle at the top in a very long time.

What was number 1?

Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player

Yep, Google outsold Amazon…at Amazon…on hardware.

The two of them outsold everyone else on hardware at Amazon.

Think about that.

Send your mind into the deep, deep past…ten years ago. 😉

Would you have imagined that either of these two companies would be making top-selling hardware?

Just so you don’t feel too bad for Amazon, the next four items are all Kindles (listed in order…#2, #3, #4, #5):

There are some interesting things about the rankings. As is usually the case, the ad-supported version is more popular than the full-price, non-ad supported one.

The most popular Kindle Fire had been on sale recently.

None of the most popular RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles…non-Fires) are 3G models…or have sound, for that matter.

What’s the number six item on the list?

It comes from a little company you might know…Apple. 😉

Apple TV is #6, Roku is #7, the Kindle Fire which isn’t HD is #8, Tech Armor for iPad is #9, and a replacement charger for a MacBook is #10.

Now, these lists get re-ranked every hour, and you can get some temporary fluky kinds of things (it might be that one company bought a whole bunch of those chargers, for example).

Still, I was brought up a little short to see a Google gadget atop the list.

If Amazon announces new Fires (which I think will happen soon), this will likely change, of course.

Looking at that list, though, it makes you wonder…is Amazon working on a set-top or other TV piece of hardware? Maybe something that pairs with a Kindle Fire?

It’s possible…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Finding Whispersync for Voice or TTS enabled books

September 22, 2013

Finding Whispersync for Voice or TTS enabled books

Kindle books have a lot of features that p-books (paperbooks) don’t have. However, not all of them work in all books or all types of devices/apps.

You probably don’t care about all of them equally, either.

For example, I won’t buy a book without text-to-speech (unless it is a graphic novel where the feature isn’t possible). I typically listen to it for hours a week in the car, and I don’t want to support books which don’t have it, because I feel that blocking the TTS (which is the way it works…if a publisher does nothing, TTS works) disproportionately disadvantages the disabled.

For you, though, TTS (software which converts the visual words into spoken words on the fly) might be no big thing. Most people probably don’t use it…that would be my guess.

On the other hand, you might like Whispersync for Voice, where you can sight read part of a book, switch to an audiobook (a recording of a person reading the book out loud, typically…very different fromTTS) and pick up where you left off.

Me? Meh. I just don’t use that…I’m not a big fan of audiobooks, unless I’ve already read the book (I don’t like the actor/author interpreting the characters for me), and I don’t tend to re-read very much. I can absolutely understand why people like it, though.

What’s weird to me is that Amazon doesn’t make it equally easy to search by all the different features.

Oh, I suppose some of it is marketing. If you point out that some books have TTS, you are really pointing out that others have blocked it…that may not be a message you want front and center as a retailer.

So, let’s take a look at finding books where you can use these two features, and then you can use one or both of them…up to you.

Whispersync for Voice

Amazon has a special easy-to-use web address for this one:

http://www.amazon.com/immersion

This actually takes you to the front page for this feature, which explains it and gives you links to free WSV books, ninety-nine centers…and in a wonderful new feature, it will automatically search your Kindle books looking for matches!

That was cool! It’s the best listing of WSV books I’ve seen. It shows you, easily, who the narrator is, and how much you’ll save getting the book as WSV as opposed to buying it separately as an audiobook (which you would have to do if you hadn’t bought the e-book). For me, for example, it showed this for

More Than Human
By Theodore Sturgeon
Narrated by Harlan Ellison
List Price: $20.97
Upgrade Price: $3.99
You Save: $16.98 (81%)

The fact that this is read by the truly significant author, Harlan Ellison, makes this much more intriguing for me.

If you want WSV, it’s easy to find.

If you only want books where text-to-speech hasn’t been blocked? Not so much.

Amazon doesn’t let you search by that, and doesn’t have a page for it.

What I’ve done, however, is use Google.

You can specify the site you want Google to search, by starting your search with something like “site:www.amazon.com”.

I’ve then added some search terms to make it more likely to find what I want.

For example, Kindle book product pages will have the term “ASIN” (Amazon Standard Identification Number) on them. That helps cut down on false positives in my search…for one thing, TTS gets discussed in the Amazon forums, and if I don’t include that ASIN, I’ll get a number of hits for those discussions, not for actual books.

Here is the search I used:

site:www.amazon.com “Text-to-Speech: Enabled” ASIN “Kindle price”

and the results:

https://www.google.com/#q=site%3Awww.amazon.com+%22Text-to-Speech%3A+Enabled%22+ASIN+%22Kindle+price%22

Again, it’s not perfect, but it will work pretty well. You could add other things to that search if you want…for example, an author’s name:

site:www.amazon.com “Text-to-Speech: Enabled” ASIN “Kindle price” “Harlan Ellison”

or a topic:

site:www.amazon.com “Text-to-Speech: Enabled” ASIN “Kindle price” vampire

If you are wondering when to use the quotation marks and when not to use them, use them if you need more than one word to be taken as a single term. For example, if I did “vampire romance”, the found books would have to have that as a phrase. If I did

vampire romance

it will probably find books which have the word “vampire” and books that have the word “romance”. When I tested it, there were many, many more results when I didn’t use the quotation marks.

Have fun getting an earful of your books!

While we’re here, let’s do a quick poll:

Want to tell me more about it? Do you find that people consider it inferior to listen to books rather than sight-read them? I’ve gotten that from people: “You didn’t read it, you listened to it.” I wonder if those people think people with print disabilities aren’t reading the book? I will say, though, that I think my retention may not be as good when listening…perhaps because there is less mental processing involved. Do you prefer audiobooks over TTS? If so, why? Have you ever listened to TTS because you didn’t want to pay extra for an audiobook? That is, I think, why some publishers block TTS…they think that’s what happens. Feel free to let me and my readers (which likely include some publishers) know by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


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