Archive for the ‘Amazon Echo’ Category

How the Echo Show kept our family together at a wedding

September 13, 2017

How the Echo Show kept our family together at a wedding

When I first got the

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

I wrote my

Echo Show: first impressions

Part of what I said was:

“There’s no question that when you set it up, it’s a cool…thing. 🙂 I say that, because it isn’t really obvious what it is at first. It’s sort of like the first Kindle back in 2007, or I suppose a television set in 1948. It does something for sure, and it’s clear that something is futuristic and pretty unprecedented…but just how you’ll use it, and how it will fit into your life, is a bit of a mystery. You have no doubt that it will fit into it, even become important…but for now, the right reaction seems to be a half smile and bemusement.”

I now know the answer to the question.

One of my siblings just got married in New York. Most of my family lives on the other coast, and my Significant Other and I made the trip there. Our now adult kid also met us in New York.

Another of my siblings, though, has a physical condition which prevented making that cross-country trip.

We both have Echo Shows. It occurred to me that I could simply pack our Echo Show in our checked suitcase, and then set it up to allow “attendance” from California.

I had the original box in which it came (doesn’t everybody?) ;), so I was confident in packing it (I also wrapped it in clothes…I had some bubble wrap (again, doesn’t everybody?), but that seemed less practical (and I was a bit concerned it might interfere with their security checks).

Initially, I thought we might use it at more than one event…the family dinner, the rehearsal dinner, the reception, and a brunch.

It turned out not to be practical to take it to the events at restaurants. I could have provided it a wi-fi hotspot from my Samsung Galaxy S7, but plugging it into electricity would have been a challenge. I had even considered bringing a portable  power supply, but another issue would have been getting it from place to place. We didn’t rent a car: we used Lyft most of the time (and subway/trains part of the time). This was our first experience with Lyft, by the way, and it worked really well (although it could be expensive: a $50 trip for two of us. It becomes cheaper with more people, obviously).

The Echo Show isn’t a big item, but it does have some weight to it, it is deep, and with me only having one hand free (I walk with a cane) and needing to grip railings sometimes (I will say, I was surprised at how difficult it was to get around in New York subway stations…there often weren’t elevators nearby, or working escalators) it just would have been too hard.

At the reception, however, it was perfect.

The wedding and reception were at a working farm (which is set up for the public to visit). There was a reception hall. I explained to the very helpful host there what we were doing. There was an issue at first: apparently, the people with the sound system had blown a fuse, so the first five or six electrical outlets we tried didn’t work.

We did find one actually in the reception hall near a window. I could plug it in and put the device on the windowsill. I also did tip it forward: in a future generation, I would love to see a screen you could tilt on the Show. The angle that it is at now (I’m guessing maybe 30 degrees) is great if you are standing above it looking down…for example, if you were cooking in the kitchen and watching a “how to” video on YouTube. The camera ends up pointing too far up if you are trying to have a conversation with the person…they tend to see the ceiling. When I had it set up in the window sill (which was somewhat above waist height for an average person), my remote sibling couldn’t see the tables in the room until I leaned it against the window. This sill was deep enough that it sat fairly securely, but I would have been happier to just tilt the camera or screen.

I was part of the wedding party, so I couldn’t livestream the ceremony itself (the ceremony was great,with a reading from Hitchhiker’s Guide!). With the effective “far field” microphones, my remote sibling was able to hear the ceremony from inside the building!

Before the ceremony, I had introduced a number of people. I thought that might be awkward, but people embraced the idea right away. They did tend to speak more loudly than necessary…like early users of the telephone or cellphone, perhaps. They were very friendly, and the tech worked just fine. Oh, I forgot to mention…the host did need to give me the wi-fi password, and I did need to sign into my Amazon account, but those were both easy.

During the reception, it was just as I had hoped. People walked up and chatted. I glanced over at one point, and the people at the nearest table (we didn’t know them) were holding up the wedding program for my sib to see. I did turn up the volume when it got loud, so people could hear better.

My sib commented on dancing along to a particular song, and enjoying “being there”.

The cat watched part of the wedding, too. 🙂

When my remote sibling had to get up, they just put a physical sign on the chair that said, “Be back soon”.

All in all, it was a big success.

This is what we want our technology to do: to improve our lives, to bring us closer together, to give us opportunities we wouldn’t have had otherwise.

It should be simple. It should work. It should be a benefit.

At the wedding, the

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

did all of those things.

A few last thoughts:

  • I do wish we had taken advantage of the discount and bought two Echo Shows at the same time (that discount is still available…it’s basically a two pack). I would have given one to our parents to use
  • I was thinking about how the venue could buy one. The one big hurdle to that is that you have to be on someone’s contact list and they have to have opted into it. That could still be done: the guest would log into their own Amazon account, just like I did. The other person would need to be set up as a contact. I do wish Amazon would make that easier, so we could call anyone with the Alexa app or a Show) and they could opt in that one time
  • There is a hypothetical risk that someone could simply end the videocall and then use the Echo Show to order things. You can stop the ordering, but it would be interesting to be able to lock the videocall into being all that’s on the screen without entering a code
  • Could you have done the same thing with an iPad or other tablet? I suppose that’s possible…but the microphone tech on the Echo Show makes a big difference. There was also the simplicity…plug it into the outlet, put in the wi-fi password, my password, and make the call. I have used Facetime some, but I just don’t know how it would compare

Thank you, Amazon, for helping who we are, both alone and together, transcend what limitations the physical world can place on us.

What do you think? Do you have questions about our experience? Have you done remote presence another way which worked well? I would have considered a remote presence robot, but those are very expensive…and would have been impractical for it to move around in a dancing crowd…and do you think that might have been creepier? Feel free to let me and my readers know your opinions by commenting on this post.

Bonus story: I like to include a book-related story, and this is a page on Amazon I hadn’t noticed before:

Price Drops on Recommended Books (at AmazonSmile*)

This one was really interesting! I don’t know if I’m only seeing books which are recommended for me…I don’t think so, but I have eclectic enough buying habits that it isn’t obvious. I might have bought many of the books I was shown, but there weren’t any shown which would match with say, the recommendations I get based on my wish list(s). There were books by Robyn Carr, Nelson DeMille, Nora Roberts, and Loren D. Estleman, among others. There were about fifty titles. The discounts looked like they went from about 20% to about 75% off…significant. I won’t tell you that they are bestsellers from the Big 5 publishers, but there are well-known authors from major publishers (Silhouette, Open Road). I think it’s worth checking…

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 Amaz on 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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Ending Sunday night: QVC has the original Echo (“The Tower”) for $74.95

September 3, 2017

Ending Sunday night: QVC has the original Echo (“The Tower”) for $74.95

This is a really great deal! Yes, it’s possible a new model will be introduced soon, and possibly with more capabilities…but I would think it very unlikely that it would have these capabilities for this price.

http://www.qvc.com/Amazon-Echo-Speaker-with-2-Plus-Months-Music-&-Audible-Books.product.E231174.html

You can get it in black or white, and it let me select as many as five for my “cart”.

The deal is scheduled to end at about midnight Eastern time (9:00 PM Pacific time) tonight, Sunday, September 3rd.

You can also choose to do 5 “easy payments” of $14.99, which comes out to the same price.

Additionally, there is another $5 off an order (not per device) for first time buyers: you use the code FIVE4U. I confirmed that it was still valid with QVC, and asked for any restrictions. I got this response:

“Traci: (QVC Customer Service)1:07 PM
Its only applicable to new customers to QVC. If orders have been placed by phone and they choose to order online, they are not considered to be a new customer.”

This offer also may not apply outside the USA…not sure.

The black version of this is currently sold out at Amazon. The white one is $99.99, so this is a $25 savings!

I’m excited to see what comes next, but whatever it is, this will still be a bargain…again, good today only.


My giveaway for my sibling’s book

We Can Do It!: A Problem Solving Graphic Novel Guide for General Physics (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

ended yesterday.

At the end, there were 194 entrants for the two Kindle “copies”. One has been claimed so far…it sometimes takes a little while for people to see the e-mail that they won.

How did running the giveaway affect the book?

This is what the stats were before I started the giveaway:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,069,494 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

#2849 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Science > Physics
#15527 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Comics & Graphic Novels > Graphic Novels
#19877 in Books > Science & Math > Physics
@terrance_can followers: 6

These are the stats the day after it ended:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #818,002 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#2292 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Science > Physics
#10917 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Comics & Graphic Novels > Graphic Novels
#15650 in Books > Science & Math > Physics
@terrance_can followers: 6

As you can see, it jumped up a lot! Close to 24% in its overall ranking for paid in the Kindle store. That’s not bad for a five-minute set up time and $14.00 cost. 🙂 It didn’t increase Twitter followers for one of the characters, but I hadn’t required that people follow that feed…I just mentioned it when people signed up.

Thanks to everyone who entered!


My  current Amazon Giveaways:

The Collected I Love My Kindle Blog Volume 1 (at AmazonSmile*)

That collects the first 101 posts in this blog. I didn’t stop at 100 because I wanted to include all of my Sherlock Holmes story

A Kindle Abandoned

That’s a random giveaway, and will run for eight days (ending September 5). I do ask that you watch a twenty second video of one of our dogs when you enter…you know, we’re hoping it goes viral. 😉 Ideally, it would show up on the  Echo Show (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)…that would be so cool!

Here is the link:

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/de03be17bb4d0ecb

and the details:

Start:Aug 28, 2017 4:42 AM PDT
End:Sep 5, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 8 winners.
Requirements for participation:
Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
Watch a YouTube video
18+ years of age (or legal age)

113 entrants at time of writing

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!

*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 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.

 

 

Original Echo $50 off 1-day sale (Monday July 24 Pacific)

July 24, 2017

Original Echo $50 off 1-day sale (Monday July 24 Pacific)

The original

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

(“The Tower”) is $129.99 today, $50 off the normal price of $179.99. It says that’s today only, Monday, July 24th, Pacific time.

Both the black and the white are on sale, although neither is in stock right now. The black one is expected in stock on August 11th, and the white one on August 16th (although they might beat that).

That’s the only model on this one day sale, although there are some other deals.

The

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

still has the buy 2, save $100 deal (which I now wish we had done), and the

the All-New Echo Dot (2nd Generation) – White (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

lets you save $20 when you buy three of them.

People ask if this means a new model is coming…in this case, I think it might. Amazon may want to improve the sound quality to compete with Apple’s home Siri, when they are emphasizing the sound quality.

As always, check the price before you click/tap/eye gaze that Buy button…the price may not apply in your country, and the sale may be over before you see this.

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!

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 you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help! 🙂 

It’s available for pre-order! Amazon Echo Show available for pre-order

May 9, 2017

It’s available for pre-order! Amazon Echo Show available for pre-order

I wrote about it as a rumor yesterday, but you can pre-order (for June 28th at time of writing) now!

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

As expected, it is a new device…I would even say a new class of device.

You can buy two of them for $100 off with the code SHOW2PACK.

I’m going to publish this right now, because pre-order dates often get pushed back…and they may run out of stock. Then, I’ll update this later.

I’ve already ordered mine. 🙂

Update:

I think the biggest piece  of this is the calling and messaging, and I’ve had a chance to read over more information on it. Here is the (quite thorough) subpage

Alexa Calling and Messaging (at AmazonSmile*)

Note that this is not going to be just for the Echo Show: you’ll be able to call and message people with other devices…for free. That was always the promise of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), but this could actually have an impact…especially if it works internationally, but that’s not necessary.

The message, by the way, is a voice message…not a text message. It’s like leaving a voicemail.

It will work with all of the Echo devices…and the Alexa app, which people can download to a SmartPhone (iPhone or Android) even if they have no Echo device at all.

More later, but I’ll mention a few quick things:

  • You can see some wi-fi videostreams on your voice…for example, from your Ring doorbell
  • You can see lyrics with some songs…we have that in some places already, but this could make for nice sing-alongs 😉
  • You can watch YouTube videos…presumably, those could be entire movies, many of which are on YouTube (quite a few older, public domain movies and TV shows, but that’s not all)
  • Flash briefings can now be video, including well-known services

As you find things, feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post!


My current Amazon Giveaway

Star Wars Day through 40 years of Star Wars!
Giveaway by Bufo Calvin
  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
    • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
    • Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
    • 18+ years of age (or legal age)

Giveaway:
https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/0ce7b24b32a4a670

Start:May 4, 2017 6:32 AM PDT
End:Jun 3, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

It’s going on that long in part so that it covers the actual 40th anniversary of Star Wars (of the release in the USA) on May 25th 2017. Also, this book, which has good reviews and is new, is $14.99 in the Kindle edition…which is a lot for me for a giveaway. 🙂

Good luck, and may the Force be with you!

Congratulations to Patty B, who won a copy of my sibling’s mystery

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

in the giveaway which finished yesterday!

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

All aboard our new 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.

 

Rumor: Amazon releasing new hardware as soon as Tuesday

May 9, 2017

Rumor: Amazon releasing new  hardware as soon as Tuesday

We’ve talked before about a possible

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

with a screen.

Today, there is a flurry of rumors about Amazon introducing a new device…as soon as tomorrow local time (Tuesday, May 9th).

My sense on this is that this could really happen…a leak before a release is not unprecedented.

The rumors (and there are more than one) include that it will be capable of making phone calls.

We need to know more about the implementation, but there are some interesting possibilities.

One obvious question: does it need to use your phone?

If it’s working over wi-fi, no. It could use VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). That doesn’t mean it’s free, necessarily.

If it is using your phone, then it wouldn’t cost any more to you.

So, why would somebody need this? What’s the advantage over a tablet or laptop?

Alexa is about voice, so you’d have to guess that would be part of it. “Alexa, call my veterinarian’s office”. How is that better than your phone?

I would use it, sure. I don’t walk around my house with my phone, although many people do. I could do a lot of what I do with our Echos on my phone…hey, I can use Alexa on my phone, for that matter (using the Amazon shopping app).

It’s just easier to just “talk to the air” and have stuff happen. 🙂

The biggest advantage for me would be for it to a super speakerphone…making calls is one thing, but receiving them and having the voice heard easily by multiple people in the room…that’s another whole level.

None of that requires a screen.

The screen could do videocalls…that might be nice.

The screen, though, could also show us information.

Alexa currently sends “cards” to my phone and can send them to a tablet…it can show information on our Fire TVs, too.

The screen might be a better form factor…larger, without being too large.

My guess is that the device will also have a camera. That camera could be for videocalls…but it could also be for augmented reality. 🙂 I know I’ve been harping on that for Amazon, and I wouldn’t really expect it at launch, but it could happen in the not too distant future.

For example, it could do a “magic mirror” thing, like the Face app or PhotoLab. It could morph you into an older version of yourself, or give you cat ears.

It could show you an Amazon product and combine it with your actual room. That would get us towards my 2016 April Fool’s Day post:

AFD News: Amazon introduces ‘Narcissus’, augmented reality mirror

🙂

If we are getting a hardware announcement, we could see some other changes…I have to believe that there is a water-resistant Kindle in our future. 🙂

Here’s a search that will get you the rumors…I’ll be interested to see what happens, if anything, in the next few days.

https://www.bing.com/news/search?q=amazon+echo+new+phone+capable&FORM=HDRSC6

Update: thanks to regular reader alanchurch for a comment on this post which resulted in a change.


My current Amazon Giveaway

Star Wars Day through 40 years of Star Wars!
Giveaway by Bufo Calvin
  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
    • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
    • Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
    • 18+ years of age (or legal age)

Giveaway:
https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/0ce7b24b32a4a670

Start:May 4, 2017 6:32 AM PDT
End:Jun 3, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

It’s going on that long in part so that it covers the actual 40th anniversary of Star Wars (of the release in the USA) on May 25th 2017. Also, this book, which has good reviews and is new, is $14.99 in the Kindle edition…which is a lot for me for a giveaway. 🙂

Good luck, and may the Force be with you!

Congratulations to Patty B, who won a copy of my sibling’s mystery

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

in the giveaway which finished yesterday!

This is the dawning of the Age of Alexa…at least on Black Friday (and EBRs sold well, too!)

December 1, 2016

This is the dawning of the Age of Alexa…at least on Black Friday (and EBRs sold well, too!)

Amazon’s

press release

about their recent Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales has two real stories. First, and importantly, hundreds of thousands of

Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers) (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

were sold.

Given the apparent maturity of that market, that seems remarkably high to me. Yes, they generally had big discounts (except for the Oasis, the top of the line model…and it intrigues me that we haven’t been seeing Amazon pulling out any sales trends ((Amazon rarely does actual numbers for sales)) for that model. It’s one of the very few I haven’t bought, since you can only buy it with an animal-leather cover at this point, and I don’t do that (I’ve talked about that previously  in the blog). I’m happy to see the continued success of dedicated-reading devices, though. Since you can buy Fire tablets more cheaply than you can the lowest price EBR, it is more of a niche device now. Serious book readers may be willing to pay more for an EBR, while casual readers may go for the Fire tablet. I read on both, personally.

The second story is how well Alexa (Amazon’s voice assistant) did! Amazon says millions of Alexa-enabled devices were sold…just this last weekend. That means it could have been ten times as many as EBRs.

That’s now a pretty wide range of devices, from the least expensive Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote (at AmazonSmile*) (you don’t need the Voice Remote to use Alexa if you have a SmartPhone…you can use the free app), which was as low as $24.99 on Black Friday (it’s back to $39.99…but it is currently out of stock until December 12th) through Fire tablets starting normally at  Fire, 7″ Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB – Includes Special Offers, Black (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) at $49.99 (they were $15 off) and the Echo family, which starts with the All-New Echo Dot (2nd Generation) – White (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) at $49.99. You can get “bulk discounts” on the Dot and the least expensive Fire tablet.

Those aren’t the only Alexa-powered devices, and many more are coming. I really want Alexa in my car, and there is a Kickstarter which will do that for $49:

Dashbot Kickstarter

It does a whole more than that, and it’s already doubled its funding goal. I have it on my Amazon wish list for my family, even though Amazon doesn’t carry it. They have a button you can put into your browser to add things to your list from any site

Registry Button (at AmazonSmile*)

Alexa will eventually be everywhere. 🙂

Speaking of Alexa, the blogosphere has been buzzing about this

Bloomberg News post by Mark Gurman

which says that Amazon may be developing a new high-end Alexa device, perhaps for release in the first quarter of 2017. It’s supposed to have much better speakers (two, perhaps)…and a 7″ touchscreen. Honestly, that seems weird to me…with Alexa already tied into the Fire tablets, is this that much of an advantage? It could be…the interface might be much more Alexa-focused, but they’ll have to convince me (if this is real) based on price and features.

By the way, I’ve got another question currently: why buy the original

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

for $179 rather than a Dot for $49.99 and a Bluetooth or cabled speaker? I use our Dot with this speaker:

iClever BoostSound Portable IP65 Waterproof Outdoor/Shower Bluetooth Speaker with 12hr Playtime (at AmazonSmile*)

which is water-resistant (so I have it in the bathroom), pairs super easily (I just turn it on…it will even pick up mid-song), is working for me from maybe four meters away (call it a bit less than fifteen feet)…and currently costs $23.99 (down from $49.99). Plenty of choices for speakers.

Now, no question: a Dot by itself is pretty unobtrusive, but I really do want a decent speaker for music. The Dot itself is okay for speech, but the sound reminds me of an old pocket transistor radio…quite scratchy.

I think for most people the Dot/other speaker combination is probably better, although the integrated Echo is simpler (no pairing).

I have more stories (thanks to those of you who have been sending my heads ups), but this is probably long enough for tonight. 😉

What do you think? Are you using a Dot with or without a speaker…and how does it compare for you to an Echo if you have one? Do you think EBRs will continue to sell? Will they appeal to people who only read a few books a year? What would make you want to buy an Alexa-powered device with a 7″ screen…if it cost, say, $250? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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

All aboard our new 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.

Amazon Echo’s 2nd birthday: almost $40 off, and the Alexa Skills store at Amazon.com

November 8, 2016

Amazon Echo’s 2nd birthday: almost $40 off, and the Alexa Skills store at Amazon.com

Today is the Echo’s second birthday, and Amazon is offering the main Echo for $140.39 instead of $179.99 ($39.60 off)

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

That’s likely to just be today (it says it is for a limited time only).

I use an Echo every day (and an All-New Echo Dot (2nd Generation) – White (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) and an Amazon Tap (at AmazonSmile*) on weekdays, but you know…). 😉

It turns my lights out on and off, place music, gives me the weather, tells me what’s on my calendar, and more.

When I say more, there is a lot more!

Amazon has now put the

Alexa Skills store on Amazon.com (at AmazonSmile*)

on Amazon.com, making it much easier to search the close to 5,000 skills!

For example, right now, I’m trying the

Earplay skill (at AmazonSmile*)

I’m a fan of Old Time Radio, and I have to say, the demo was fun. It is sort of like Choose Your Adventure, in that you are given choices of things to say and the story continues based on what you say. It does feel like OTR, although not quite as surreal as most of it.

Here are some of the stats:

Alexa Skills
Business & Finance (67)
Communication (20)
Connected Car (8)
Education & Reference (899)
Food & Drink (144)
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Avg. Customer Review
  • 4 Stars & Up (690)
  • 3 Stars & Up (1,086)
  • 2 Stars & Up (1,439)
  • 1 Star & Up (1,727)

Now, that’s a lot of one star reviews! It’s the most popular selection.

That may change in the future. It seems clear to me looking at this that they are going to enable paid Skills (as opposed to everything being free). I think that would be a good thing. Right now, there are two main types of content producers…hobbyists or people who are generally content creators and hope to use this to promote their other works, and companies using it as advertising/access (Uber, Domino’s Pizza, and so on).

Paid Skills would change that, with people being able to expect a return on their investment specifically from the Skill. Think of it like paid apps in the appstore…some of them are worth the payment.

Overall, these are good developments and a good sale!

Happy birthday, Alexa!

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

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

Round up #148: review rules tighten, Google announcement

October 6, 2016

Round up #148: review rules tighten, Google announcement

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

Here comes Google!

Sure, Google is everywhere…especially up in my business. 😉 I really like my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (even though I have to keep explaining to people that it’s not the Note, which is the one that’s blowing up…and I don’t mean it’s making a lot in sales, it is literally blowing up on some people…or at least, burning up), but I admit I find it a bit creepy when it has a list of places I’ve parked, and asks me if I want to add photos for some place I’ve been. Note that that isn’t Samsung, it’s Google…and I know I could change settings, but I have found it useful sometimes. I don’t have to be completely comfortable with everything which helps me. 🙂

What I mean by my headline here is that Google just make some very big hardware announcements, which do impact Amazon fans.

I’ll say first that the actual announcement venue looked…cheesy, I guess. You can see video here:

YouTube search

The chairs weren’t matched, speakers were dressed very casually, and the audio wasn’t always in sync with the speaker, at least from what I saw. Tech announcements are often very slick, sometimes too slick…but outside of the giant projector screen, this looked like it was hastily done in a warehouse. I suspect that was on purpose, to make it more…approachable.

Amazon doesn’t make its own Fire Phone any more (I was one of the few who had one, until it failed), but I will say that Google’s new Pixel (a brand they’ve used for other hardware) sounds awesome! One point for all devices in the future: they claim to be able to charge your phone for seven hours of use…in fifteen minutes.

Google Home is a direct competitor to Amazon’s

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

Google Home is considerably cheaper than the standard Echo…but more than twice as expensive as the

All-New Echo Dot (2nd Generation) – White (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which ships in two weeks.

Google Home may do search better. It may understand your speech better (I’m very impressed with “OK Google”‘s speech recognition…soon to be Google Assistant, as I understand it). It will have Google Translate capability, although that’s quirky. Alexa (the “parse-onality” of the Echo) has some translation skills (skills are like apps for your phone) as well.

It will do some of the things that our Echo devices do…but it won’t do some of the things we like the best. I don’t expect it to be able to reorder Amazon products. I don’t think it’s going to read my Kindle books with text-to-speech (or play Audible audiobooks). It might do those things through apps, but we’ll see.

Competition stimulates innovation, so I’m more than fine with this. I suspect the microphones aren’t as good, but that’s just a guess…still, places where it is better will encourage Amazon to make the Echo better.

I don’t see it as a threat…I see it as a spur. 🙂

Of course, you have to be comfortable with Google having a device in your home which could hypothetically literally listen to every time you flush the toilet. 😉

A more direct impact on Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers) and Fire devices is

Google Wi-Fi

It’s a cute little hub, looking a bit like the Echo Dot. If it makes Wi-Fi coverage in a home better, that might be a help.

I tried the Amazon locker again, and it was…

great! When I wrote this

I had my first experience with an Amazon locker and it was…

it had been very frustrating. The concept is really good: I order from Amazon, and they deliver it to a locker at a Safeway near us. We’ve had mail theft, so this is secure and convenient. I get a code, put it in the locker bank screen, and get my item.

The first time, the touchscreen wouldn’t work…can’t do much without it.

This time, it did…so this was a good experience.

Amazon changes review rules…no freebies in exchange for reviews, eligibility to write reviews now tougher

Customer reviews are very important to Amazon…that can make shopping online more informative than shopping in person in a store.

That is, if customers trust the reviews.

I wrote recently that

ZDNet uncovers an apparent massive gaming of the Kindle publishing system

which included manipulated purchasing, but manipulated reviewing has also been a big issue.

Publishers have literally paid people to write reviews for their books…using “Fiver”, for one. That’s not illegal, by the way…there may be some risk of criminal fraud in false reviews, but that’s quite complicated. If I give you a free book if you promise to write a review, that’s not illegal…I haven’t told you what kind of review to write (“wink, wink, nudge, nudge” as Monty Python might say).

One of my readers, Marjorie, commented that Amazon has now said that “freebies for reviews” is not okay…and looking into it, there were some interesting guidelines:

Amazon says that this is not okay: “Offering compensation or requesting compensation (including free or discounted products) in exchange for creating, modifying, or posting content.”

and

“Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.”

Community Guidelines (at AmazonSmile*)

and sub-pages.

As I read this, you can give books away, as my sibling did with

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

through this blog (I get no financial benefit from that book…I’m not a publisher of it, or have gotten paid anything for advice I’ve given), and encourage a review (“I’d appreciate a review”) as long as you don’t say that you have to write a review to get a book, or say, “I’d appreciate a good review.”

Another interesting line:

“To post Customer Reviews or Customer Answers, post on Customer Discussion Forums, or submit content to followers, you must have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com using a valid credit or debit card. Prime subscriptions and promotional discounts don’t qualify towards the $50 minimum. You do not need to meet this requirement to post Customer Questions, create or modify Profile pages, Lists, or Registries, or to read content posted by other customers.”

So, gift card purchases don’t count…and you can’t just buy a book and write a review of it, if you’ve never bought anything else from Amazon. That might cut back on some “sockpuppetry”, specifically where someone might set up a bunch of accounts just to buy their own book and write positive reviews.

Overall, I’m okay with this. I don’t mind the reviews getting a bit more filtered. I suppose it could be argued that this will make the reviews tend to be better, since it will have to be Amazon customers who write the reviews…but I think Amazon likes having negative reviews of items, too. While it might cut down on sales, it probably also cuts down on returns and bad feelings, and that’s quite important.

What do you think? Thinking of trying Google Home? Is it a risk for the Echo? Does the amount of time it takes to charge your devices bother you? Are you concerned that the new review rules will end up skewing the reviews towards the positive? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

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

New Echo Dot introduced

September 15, 2016

New Echo Dot introduced

I’m not always right (I thought publishers would embrace Amazon adding text-to-speech to the Kindle 2, since it means people get through books more quickly and will buy more…quite wrong there), but I have gotten a few good predictions in over the years.

This one was just from two days ago

Did Pew just find that nearly twice as many paperbooks are read as e-books?

but I wasn’t seeing much speculation along this line before I said it.

I said:

“Bonus thought: is a refresh coming to the Echo line? Amazon has announced a September 14th event of some kind for the UK, and some people think that might be the Echo coming to the UK. The Echo Dot (I use one every day) is no longer available, with no indication of when it might be coming back in stock.”

Well, today they introduced a new version of the Dot:

All-New Echo Dot (2nd Generation) – White (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

available for pre-order for October 20th. It also comes in black. The white is new, and can be a good option for some rooms, like many kitchens.

The Dot is the version of Amazon’s Echo without a big speaker. It doesn’t have a tinny speaker, which is fine for voice, but it will sound scratchy on music. Still, I use a Dot every day…we have one in the bedroom, and for one thing, it turns our lights on and off. It also gives me weather reports, tells me what’s on my calendar, and so on.

They’ve reduced the price to $49.99. You can also buy six for the price of five or 12 for the price of 10 (which is the same either way). That way, you could have one in each room…or give them as gifts.

If you want good sound, you can connect it to a Bluetooth or wired speaker. I use mine with

iClever BoostSound Portable IP65 Waterproof Outdoor/Shower Bluetooth Speaker with 12hr Playtime (iClever BoostSound Portable IP65 Waterproof Outdoor/Shower Bluetooth Speaker with 12hr Playtime)

which was a gift from our now adult kid.

I have it in the bathroom, and I like the interface a lot. Pairing it was easy and now, I just turned it on and in a second or two, the sound from my Dot is coming through it…even if I do that in the middle of a song. The sound is fine…and again, nice that it is waterproof.

The price for the speaker right now is $23.99, which is nice!

Besides coming in white, it’s a bit shorter, but I suspect there are more hardware changes, even without that many more software features.

Also, it comes with a new “ESP” (Echo Spatial Perception) feature…which will also come to the earlier Echoes in the near future.

It will enable an Echo to know if you are talking to it, or to another Echo.

That’s been a…challenge for us. The Echoes hear really well. When I say something to the one in the bedroom, the one in the family room usually hears me, too. That’s down a pretty long hallway and around a corner. Sometimes one of them hears me correctly and the one doesn’t, but they usually answer in harmony.

This is supposed to help with that issue, and to improve over time.

There are, by the way, more than 3,000 skills (like apps) available now! That’s up from about 1,000…just since June.

One more bit of Alexa news. The Echo is coming to the UK and Germany.

Bonus story: I read a Rizzoli and Isles novel by Tess Gerritsen:

Die Again (at AmazonSmile*)

I read a lot of things, but I don’t tend to read a lot of…well, let’s call them mainstream bestsellers. I’m not opposed to them…I’m not one of those people who thinks that if something is popular it isn’t good. 🙂

These are very popular mysteries, starring a police detective and a medical examiner.

They are a disparate pair, and that’s clearly part of the attraction…and what lead to a TV series based on them.

I did enjoy the book, and found it well written. Interestingly, though, the main characters were not the ones that made the book work the most for me. In fact, my Significant Other read the book also…and felt the same way. We both had some trouble telling them apart…even though they are supposed to very physically and temperamentally different. I would guess that if I gave most people a selection of quotations from the two characters, they would have difficulty assigning them correctly.

There were other characters and situations that were richly done.

I wonder if that’s normal in the series…that Rizzoli and Isles are more framing characters than the focus of the plot.

Speaking of the plot…I didn’t find the mystery all that difficult. I suspect I was aided in that by having some somewhat esoteric knowledge, but it’s an unusual mystery where I haven’t considered the proper solution…even if it’s only one of several things I’ve considered. In this case, I anticipated a couple of main elements.

Regardless, it was still worth reading for me. I liked a series of scenes set in Africa very much.

Back to more obscurities… 😉

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

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

Did Pew just find that nearly twice as many paperbooks are read as e-books?

September 12, 2016

Did Pew just find that nearly twice as many paperbooks are read as e-books?

I keep seeing various things which seem to suggest that e-book growth has stagnated…that it had a meteoric rise from when the Kindle was introduced to something like 25% of the market, and then has hit a plateau.

That narrative certainly wouldn’t fit what I thought would happen.

Quite simply, I think e-books are generally better for most people, in terms of simple recreational reading of novels or popular non-fiction.

There are all sorts of advantages: the increasable font size, how portable e-books are, the ability to look up words, the way it can remember where you were without a bookmark, and so on

Sure, there are some disadvantages as well, but I honestly think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

At the very least, p-books aren’t twice as good as e-books for the most popular kinds of reading.

Pew regularly surveys Americans on their reading habits, and looking at it comparatively from year to year, it isn’t obvious that there is the same kind of explosive growth.

Taking a look at this year’s

Book Reading 2016 report

as summarized by Andrew Perrin, there is a lot of interesting information (based on their survey).

I don’t want to take too much away from it. I’ll mention that I was surprised that the younger the age segment, the higher percentage of them say they have read an e-book. My impression, in the beginning, was that e-books appealed more to older readers. The benefits one gets from e-books apply more to typical seniors than to Millenials.

I suspect that this change, if it is one, may have to do with a trend to read e-books on SmartPhones and other non-reading dedicated devices, as opposed to EBRs (E-Book Readers). My guess would be that SmartPhone use is more prevalent among younger people…I don’t tend to read e-books on my phone, because the screen is simply too small (among other reasons).

What I’ve seen as the main headline from this report, when it has appeared in the blogosphere, is soe variant of this which appears in the actual report summary:

“…print books remain much more popular than books in digital formats”

I think people writing those headlines may have missed something.

While it may be true that 54% of respondents reporting having read a “print book” in the past 12 months, only 28% having read an e-book, that doesn’t mean that about twice as many p-books were read as e-books.

My intuition is that serious readers are more likely to read e-books than casual readers…they also benefit from the advantages (especially the storage and portability) more.

Let’s say that a serious reader reads fifty books a year and a casual reader reads ten books a year. The latter number is actually high, but let’s go with it.

Next, let’s say that 75% of e-books are read by serious readers.

That would mean that serious readers read 37.5 e-books a year and 12.5 p-books.

The casual read would read 2.5 e-books and 7.5 p-books.

That would make 40 e-books versus 20 p-books.

That seems more accurate to me. I also think e-book growth will continue, especially since younger people seem to be reading them the most.

I do recommend you read the report (it’s not very long). I’d love to discuss some of the other points, if you want to ask me about them. You can do that, and tell me and my readers what you think about what I’ve said, by commenting on this post.

Bonus thought: is a refresh coming to the Echo line? Amazon has announced a September 14th event of some kind for the UK, and some people think that might be the Echo coming to the UK. The Echo Dot (I use one every day) is no longer available, with no indication of when it might be coming back in stock.

You can still get the

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

or the

Amazon Tap (at AmazonSmile*)

We might hear more on the 14th than some are currently guessing…Amazon is good at that.

By the way, this is an interesting third party device! It’s a

Portable Battery Base for Echo (Use Echo anywhere) (at AmazonSmile*)

For $49.99 at time of writing, you can run your Echo off this base for something like 5 hours…without plugging it into power! The Tap is still more portable, but for many people, this would serve that purpose. It also enables you to talk to it from across the room, which you can’t do with the Tap.

The reviews are very good, with 4.6 stars average out of 5 with 145 customer reviews.

This might be a fun gift for somebody who has already been “Alexified”. 😉

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

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


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