Archive for the ‘Amazon Echo’ Category

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)
Games, Trivia & Accessories (1,187)
Health & Fitness (132)
Lifestyle (390)
Local (97)
Movies & TV (82)
Music & Audio (48)
News (701)
Novelty & Humor (319)
Productivity (136)
Shopping (14)
Smart Home (114)
Social (51)
Sports (122)
Travel & Transportation (94)
Utilities (76)
Weather (462)
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.

Echo and Tap on sale today only

April 20, 2016

Echo and Tap on sale today only

Amazon was #1 in the Reputation Institute’s U.S. Reptrak 100 report (they often finish at the top of these sorts of things…which is great!) and to celebrate, they are doing a 1 day sale (they’ve done that before, too).

The

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) is $153.71 (normally $179.99)

and

Amazon Tap (at AmazonSmile*) $111.01 (regularly $129.99)

This is probably only in the USA, and they say it is only for today.

We use our Echo every day, and I’m surprised, but I use the Tap every day at work.

The Dot, by the way, is not on sale.

I’m going to get this post out right now so my readers on the East Coast have a better chance of seeing it. I may add to it, though.

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!

*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.

Two NEW Amazon Alexa devices announced

March 3, 2016

Two NEW Amazon Alexa devices announced

I’ve written about the details here, but I wanted to give you my readers here a heads-up, since these could sell out and/or get long waiting lists:

The Alexa family grows! Two NEW devices from Amazon

Update: here’s my new post comparing the five (counting the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick separately) Amazon Alexa devices…

Echo, Dot, Tap, or Fire TV? Which Amazon Alexa device is right for you?

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!

*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 #137: Brick and mortar bookstore sales up, chance to win a $50 Amazon gift certificate

February 14, 2016

Round up #137: Brick and mortar bookstore sales up, chance to win a $50 Amazon gift certificate

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

Netpop is doing an Echo survey and giving away 10 $50 Amazon Gift Certificates

I moved most of my coverage of the

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

to another blog of mine, The Measure Circle

It seems more appropriate there, but when I did, I told readers of this blog that I would link them to interesting posts I make about it there. The Echo does, after all, read books with text-to-speech and play audiobooks, and quite a few of my readers of this blog have them.

This is also a chance that you could win one of ten $50 Amazon gift certificates…and we could all use that. 🙂

Here’s the information:

Netpop is conducting a survey about the Echo with a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift certificate

You can see the details there, but I also want to thank Netpop for how responsive they were to a concern of mine. That is customer service!

If you win one of the gift certificates, I’d appreciate hearing about it. 🙂

For the first time since the Kindle was released, brick-and-mortar bookstore sales rise

The Kindle was released in 2007.

According to this Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

the U.S Census Bureau has reported a drop in brick-and-mortar bookstore sales (I’m a former manager of one) every year since…until 2015.

Last year, bookstore sales rose.

While the post suggests that may be due to rising p-book (paperbook) sales and declining e-book sales, that doesn’t prove that people are abandoning e-books for print.

First, brick-and-mortar bookstore sales and p-book sales are decreasingly a one-to-one correlation. Barnes & Noble regularly touts how well their non-book sales are doing (games, toys, shirts, that kind of thing…I assume coffee counts). My guess is that’s contributing to their rise.

Second, I’ve mentioned before that e-book sales may be increasingly a shadow event…they may not be tracked by organizations that are reporting a slowing or decline in e-book sales. Yes, the Big Five (top US trade publishers) have reported declining e-book sales…but if people are buying more e-books from indies (independent publishers), there may not have been a decline overall.

I’m happy to see the increase…but I just caution about building a narrative that e-books are failing and people are returning to paper in mass numbers.

I expect some bookstores to thrive in the next ten years…but I also expect the percentage of books read as e-books versus p-books to also increase during that time.

Books I got for my birthday

It was fun to give away my books in my annual birthday promotion!

Happy my birthday, 2016!

I love giving things away!

However, yes, it’s nice to get things as well. 😉

My adult kid gave me eight (!) books in the

The Science Fiction MEGAPACK® (at AmazonSmile*)

series from Wildside.

Each book is an anthology of stories by a variety of authors, some well-known, some not as much. Many of the stories are, I believe, public domain, and some are not.

Authors in the first volume include Poul Anderson, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Philip K. Dick, just to name a few.

I’m really looking forward to reading these! I’ve already started, partially with text-to-speech in the car. My family knows that’s a habit of mine from when I was a kid…I at least briefly “use” every gift I get within a day or so. When we were kids, we were encouraged to do that so we could write honest thank you notes to everyone. 🙂 I don’t write paper thank you notes any more, but I still try to thank people.

My Significant Other got me a p-book, but as a collector’s item. 🙂 As regular readers know, I’m a big Oz fan, and have 100+ year old versions of the original L. Frank Baum books.

This is an autographed copy of

Dorothy of Oz (at AmazonSmile*)

by Roger S. Baum, a great-grandson of the original author, L. Frank Baum.

I’m going to get the Kindle version I just linked, so I can read it while keeping the other one in great shape. 🙂

Here’s one place Amazon’s X-ray for Books would come in handy!

I though the infographic in this

post by Ola Kowalczyk in EBOOK Friendly

was great fun for me!

It’s fifteen books with lots of named characters.

The Stand (at AmazonSmile*) by Stephen King

for example, has 463 named characters, according to this, and 1,344 pages…that’s almost one named character every three pages!

“18 Reasons Why Reading Is Just Like Exercising” at Book Bub

I know Book Bub as a place to get free e-books..I hadn’t realized it had become such a pop culture website full of listicles!

I enjoyed this:

18 Reasons Why Reading Is Just Like Exercising

I actually do exercise quite a bit (my baseline is ninety minutes a day), but I really appreciated these! Some are available as shirts or e-cards…

Lee Child on Amazon brick-and-mortar bookstores

I recently wrote

Rumor: is Amazon planning to open hundreds of brick-and-mortars?

I talked about what I thought it might really mean, and some possibilities for what I called “Amazon showrooms” might contain.

I thought this

The Guardian article by Lee Child

was…interesting. Child, a bestselling author, has voiced an opposition opinion to some of Amazon’s decisions in the past.

Honestly, this is an opinion piece…and I don’t want to say too much about it. It’s worth reading…I’ll just say we don’t see things the same way. 🙂

I did want to point out one thing…it’s a technique I’ve taught people myself.

I have trained trainers (and I’m a trainer myself).

One thing that comes up for trainers is credibility.

You can’t really get someone to adopt the behaviors you want if they don’t believe you know your subject.

There are a lot of little things you can do, but one is to use precise numbers.

When I taught Excel years ago, I would sometimes use this: “Does anybody know how many rows there are in Excel? 65,556.”

That’s not true any more, by the way, but just by doing that, I convinced people I knew Excel well.

Child says, “So now, rumour has it, Amazon plans to open another 299 physical bookstores (it already has one, in Seattle).”

299…a precise number, therefore increasing credibility.

I think the what set off the original broad coverage was this quotation

“You’ve got Amazon opening brick-and-mortar bookstores and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400…”

reported in a

Wall Street Journal article by Greg Bensinger

I did a quick search, and I’m not seeing another source for a precise number of 299.

I know that is, perhaps, nitpicky. 🙂 I’m not trying to argue the number…I’m pointing out that using any specific number when one isn’t known can be an intentional rhetorical technique.

I’m sure many of you will find the article worth reading.

What do you think? Do you find it confusing when books have lots of named characters? What do you think of Lee Child’s article? Why are bookstore sales reversing the downward trend? 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!

*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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