Archive for April, 2018

Happy bookish birthdays (April 30) to…

April 30, 2018

Happy bookish birthdays (April 30) to…


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

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

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

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Round up #175: Alexa Kids Edition, Prime will still be a bargain

April 29, 2018

Round up #175: Alexa Kids Edition, Prime will still be a bargain

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

Amazon Prime will be cheaper than Netflix Standard on May 11th

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

is an incredible deal…and that will continue to be true after a price raise effective May 11th for new subscribers (the price increase goes into effect for renewals on June 16th).

The annual price is going up to $119 from $99. Yes, that’s a significant increase: about 20%. The last increase was in 2014 from $79 annually to $99…that’s a bigger increase in terms of percentage, about 25%.

It’s noteworthy, though, that it’s still just about $10 a month ($9.92, approximately). Standard Netflix is $10.99 a month (they have a cheaper one at $7.99…only one screen at a time, and no HD). Hulu is $7.99 a month…ad-supported (with commercials). No commercials on Hulu? $11.99 a month.

Now, that’s comparing apples to oranges…actually, it’s more like apples to the entire produce aisle. 😉

Prime is so much more than just video, and they keep adding more things. Here are just some of the benefits:

  • Prime Video (with HD and up to three at the same time…more than Netflix Standard)
  • Prime Reading (read from a selection of about 1,000 books and some magazines)
  • One free Kindle book to own each month (from a choice of usually six)
  • Unlimited photo storage
  • Free two-day shipping on many orders

and again, that’s not everything.

Even given all that, some people who perceive this as “over $100 a year” rather than “under $10 a month” will quit Prime over this, so why would Amazon do it?

We recently found out that Amazon has over 100 million Prime subscribers. That’s worldwide (and it’s very important to note that there are many more users than subscribers…if we count Significant Others, children, and so on, I would be confident that there are more people using Prime than the population of the United States), and this price change is for the USA. If the price raise was on 100 million subscribers, and it was $20…that’s 2 BILLION dollars. That’s significant, even to Amazon. 😉

They won’t just take that as profit: they’ll invest it in things that make Prime even more attractive to even more people. It’s not going to take much for those Prime buyers to make up the difference for any who do leave over this (which I think will be a tiny percentage).

I will say that if Prime was just video (which it isn’t), I find three major reasons why I don’t watch Prime as much as Netflix or Hulu:

  • For me, discovery is a lot harder…it’s easier to find things I want to watch on Hulu or Netflix. That means that Prime video is pretty much a back-up plan
  • There doesn’t seem like as much selection…Hulu for us is mostly current shows, Netflix is originals (I’m watching the new Lost in Space, for example), but we do watch older things on both
  • Most of you probably don’t care about this, but Prime Video is not available to me in VAM (Virtual/Augmented/Mixed/Merged Reality) space…and I watch video in VR just about every workday (during lunch, which I exercise)

Some of you may be wondering if there’s a way to extend your current Prime subscription at the current price before it goes up. Well, this

9to5 Toys article by Patrick Campanale

has a convoluted method…but there is a comment from someone who said they tried it last time and it didn’t work. It basically involves canceling and buying a gift membership for yourself.

We’re just going to pay the $20 more…

“Keep My Songs” by Monday, April 30

Amazon is no longer going to store your previously uploaded music…unless you tell them to do it before Monday, April 30th.

You just have to go to

Your Account (at AmazonSmile*)

then go to the Music Settings and click the “Keep my songs” button. I listen to music like this a lot…oh, and this doesn’t affect AutoRip music or digital music you’ve purchased…it’s just outside source audio you’ve uploaded.

I know this is late notice, but I think everybody will have gotten an e-mail about it already. I just thought a back-up (so to speak) alert was worthwhile.

Amazon’s 2018 Q1 financials

You can get the details

here

by listening to the webcast recording and/or looking at the slides, but bottom line…they did great! They more than doubled their profit (due in large part to their web services), and sales were up 43%.

According to this

CNN Money graph

the stock is up nearly 3% in the past five days (the webcast was on the 26th)…and more than a third up over the year.

Investors like them…they really like them! 😉

In-Car Delivery

In this

press release

dated April 24th, Amazon announced that Prime members in 37 cities and surrounding areas with certain types of cars (Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac and Volvo of particular kinds, and a connected car) will now be able to get packages delivered directly into the trunk of their cars…even when they aren’t they.

What they are doing is even better than what I wrote about as a joke in this April Fool’s Day post in 2017:

AFD News: Amazon to open brick-and-mortar department store

This can be a real game changer.

I can certainly see using this at work. With my car parked in a publicly accessible place, they could deliver something into my trunk with a four-hour limit (that’s on delivery day…it’s not that it takes four hours to get there.

Nice!

I can also see this on vacation, parked at a hotel. Of course, it would work at home, too. 🙂

What’s the cost for this service? It’s included in Prime! Worth ten bucks a month now? 😉

Kid-friendly Alexa

This

press release

from April 25th introduces the

Echo Dot Kids Edition (at AmazonSmile*)

and new Amazon FreeTime features for Alexa.

A lot of the parental control features are free, and then there is a paid “Amazon FreeTime Unlimited” tier ($2.99 a month), which gives more content use (certain Audible books, apps).

That’s what they have for Kindle books, too.

They didn’t create a new Unlimited product for Alexa…they added features to the existing plan. If you already subscribe, this is just an expansion of what you get.

This is a clever move…I’d recommend you take a look at the page. Oh, and the $79 for the Kids edition includes a free year of FreeTime Unlimited.

The “Alexa Brain” initiative

Alexa is going to get a whole lot more conversational and useful…and soon.

According to this

TechCrunch article by Sarah Perez

there are some major improvements ahead!

  • Alexa will remember things you tell it, for future recall
  • Alexa will have “context carryover”…in other words, Alexa will be able to stay on topic. If you say, “When was Stephen King born?” and follow it up with, “What’s his newest book?” it should be able to answer that
  • Alexa will automatically launch “Skills” (the Alexa equivalent of apps) that will answer your question…even if you haven’t previously enabled it

Prodigious week, huh? 😉

I’m guessing some of you have opinions about these…feel free to share them with me and my readers by commenting on this post.


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

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

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

Happy bookish birthdays (April 29) to…

April 29, 2018

Happy bookish birthdays (April 29) to…


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

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

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

Happy bookish birthdays (April 28) to…

April 28, 2018

Happy bookish birthdays (April 28) to…


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

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

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

Happy bookish birthdays (April 27) to…

April 27, 2018

Happy bookish birthdays (April 27) to…


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

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

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

Happy bookish birthdays (April 26) to…

April 26, 2018

Happy bookish birthdays (April 26) to…


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

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

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

Happy bookish birthdays (April 25) to…

April 25, 2018

Happy bookish birthdays (April 25) to…


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

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

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

Happy bookish birthdays (April 24) to…

April 24, 2018

Happy bookish birthdays (April 24) to…


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

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

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

Happy bookish birthdays (April 23) to…

April 23, 2018

Happy bookish birthdays (April 23) to…


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

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

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

Round up #174: Alexa blueprints, 9 free books

April 23, 2018

Round up #174: Alexa blueprints, 9 free books

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

World Book Day tie-in: 9 books for free!

For USA customers, Amazon is doing at giveaway to tie into

World Book Day

on 23 April. The sale ends at 11:59 p.m. (PDT) on April 24, 2018.

You can go to this page:

World Book Day with AmazonCrossing (at AmazonSmile*)

and download up to nine books, free to keep.

Clearly, this has been popular, with nearly 5 million pages read so far. Some of them are quite well-reviewed.

I did get them all for us, but I will say, I’ve felt burned by AmazonCrossing titles before, where I didn’t end up liking the translation (finding them a bit “stiff”).

Note that I haven’t read these specific titles, and they could be great. 🙂 Can’t beat the price…

Game changer! Make Alexa answer whatever questions you want…easily!

This is a remarkable innovation, coming a bit out of nowhere.

It seems obvious that Alexa is an important platform, in its infancy. That’s not just

Echo and Alexa devices (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I use Alexa a lot in the Amazon shopping app on my phone. If I want to listen to the news in the car (I usually listen to text-to-speech, but I’m also a big news consumer), I listen to my Flash Briefing (Bluetoothed through my car’s audio system). I’m sure it runs at least thirty minutes…with no commercials.

Well, Amazon just introduced something that lets anybody create Alexa question and answers (and skills)…and that, to me, especially has application for businesses.

They are called

Skill Blueprints

They definitely have some cool ideas, including for “choose your own adventure” type stories, but I’m going to suggest you start out by skipping all that.

Go directly to Custom Q&A.

This is simple and obvious. You write a question, then write Alexa’s response to it.

It will be available to all of the devices registered to your account.

I set it up first with some phone numbers…”What’s so-and-so’s phone number?” My Significant Other will use that.

However, where I see a real application for this is businesses and other organizations.

Regular readers know that I work for a healthcare organization. We have great people at desks who help people find departments within the buildings. I love seeing someone looking a bit lost, asking them if I can help them find something, and then sometimes actually getting to walk them to their destinations! If you are there for a procedure, you can certainly be nervous and not at your best.

Imagine the option of having a number of Alexa devices around, and people being able to ask them! Sure, asking people is probably a better experience, but you can’t always have people everywhere…and asking Alexa is cutting edge.

It’s a bit tricky for some things: I’d have to write questions for, “Where is X-Ray?”, “Where is Imaging?”, “Where is ultrasound?” and so on.

Still, it could work really well…and you can write funny or reassuring answers as well.

Oh, that’s worth noting: if you do use a question that Amazon already knows how to answer (like, “Alexa, what time is it?”), your answer replaces the stock answer…which could lead to some interesting jokes.

For the custom Q&A, there is no skill to launch…you just ask.

For the actual skills, you do give them a name and invoke them.

They give you blueprints for the babysitter, pet sitter, and houseguest. Those are nicely done for guiding you…for the pet, you enter where the leash is, what the pet’s allergies are, emergency contact numbers, etc.

I’ve only experimented with it some so far. I like the process: after you finish the skill, it’s available to use within about two minutes, and then can be edited a couple of minutes after that.

It would clearly be better to write them out first. On the phone numbers, I put the “1” region code in front of most of them…but didn’t on one of them (so I had  to go back and standardize).

One of our dogs is named “Patty”, and as a joke, I created a phone number: “What is Patty’s phone number?” “1-555-555-yap-yap-yap-woof!” It didn’t work at all at first…and that was because it was hearing “patties phone number”. I changed the spelling in the question, and that worked.

The other thing is that it didn’t speak it like a phone number: it said, “Five hundred and fifty-five”. On the other phone numbers, it read just the digits: I assume having the words at the end changed its interpretation.

I haven’t checked the public skill creation area for a while, but if they haven’t done this sort of thing there, they should! I’d love it if you had the choice to make a blueprint in to a public skill, but that’s not available yet.

I also looked at the privacy…if you put in social security numbers as one of the things it can answer, that does look to me like it could be read at Amazon…but not by the public outside of your account.

They could do more with this (let it tie into a database, for example), and I’m sure they will…but I think this has giant possibilities.

Amazon makes paying taxes less…taxing

Okay, this is not going to affect a lot of my readers…but it will affect some. 🙂 It also generally shows how Amazon keeps trying to innovate in different areas.

When I’ve done our taxes in the past, I would have many documents from Amazon…statements for every “territory” where I got a royalty for one of my books, for example. I think for our 2016 taxes, there were more than ten. For 2017? There was just one! That may seem like a little thing, but I do find doing the taxes stressful, and this really reduced my uncertainty.

Thanks, Amazon!

2017 Letter to Stockholders

Jeff Bezos’ annual letter to stockholders is also interesting. This year’s

version

is no exception (note that you’ll have the option for more than one document here).

Unusually, there are some solid numbers in it. Jeff notes that “…we have exceeded 100 million paid Prime members globally…”.

There was a mention of the Kindle…but Alexa got a lot more coverage…

Have any thoughts about any of the stories in this post? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

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

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


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