Archive for the ‘Fire TV’ Category

Kindle Unlimited access to top magazines (and a new Fire TV Stick generation)

September 30, 2016

Kindle Unlimited access to top magazines (and a new Fire TV Stick generation)

This is a great feature for

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

members! We’ve been happy members ourselves since Amazon introduced their subser (subscription service). For $9.99 a month (or we actually have bought it when it’s been on sale on Prime Day, so it’s cheaper than that), we have access to close to one and a half million titles. I’ve read some great books through KU!

We do read magazines, and I read a few on my now discontinued Kindle Fire HDX (Entertainment Weekly and Fortean Times, the latter of which I read on the Zinio app, to name two).

We have tried subscribing through the Kindle store to other magazines, but they are somewhat expensive.

Well, you can also get magazines through your KU membership:

Kindle Unlimited magazines (at AmazonSmile*)

There are genuinely top titles in here…I’ll list what’s there this month shortly.

There are still reasons to pay for a subscription: for one thing, access to back issues. I also think it will be one issue a month (rather than four, if it’s a weekly), but I’m not sure about that yet.

Okay, here’s that list:

  • Sports Illustrated
  • People
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • HGTV
  • Popular Mechanics
  • Dr. Oz: The Good Life
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Shape
  • Bloomberg Businessweek
  • Outdoor Life
  • Vogue
  • GQ
  • Bon Appetit
  • Conde’ Nast Traveler
  • National Geographic Traveler
  • Sound & Vision
  • Transworld SNOWboarding
  • Shutterbug
  • Baseball America
  • Runner’s World
  • Town & Country
  • Esquire
  • Four Wheeler
  • Transworld SKATEboarding
  • Snowboarder
  • Stereophile
  • Martha Stewart Living
  • Baggers
  • Men’s Health
  • Coastal Living
  • Harper’s Bazaar
  • Sunset
  • Rachael Ray Every Day
  • Motorcyclist
  • Golf Digest
  • W
  • Consumer Reports
  • Automobile
  • Motor Trend
  • Powder
  • Surfing
  • Working Mother

Again, these are some of the really top-selling magazines! People is #1 in the Kindle store, Entertainment Weekly is #3.

These appear to work just like books in KU: you can have up to ten at a time (I think that’s ten as a combination of books and magazines, not ten of each). Now, these magazines don’t work on every device…I checked Sunset, and it works on our tablets and my Galaxy S7, but wouldn’t work on our Oasis or Paperwhite.

I’ll check to see if the specific issues change.

Some of you may also be thinking that you could just get a magazine with a 30 day free trial (it’s not always 30 days, I believe)…but you can’t do the same magazine repeatedly with a sample. My guess is that we’ll have the same titles.

How much money could you save with this?

Just to get the current issue of People would cost you $5.99.

So, in KU you can sight read books, listen to text-to-speech (unless blocked by the publisher), get audiobooks, and read magazines…works for me. 😉

Bonus story:

In this

press release

Amazon announced the new version of the

All-New Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote | Streaming Media Player (at AmazonSmile*)

It now comes with the voice remote (which includes Alexa…greatly improved recently) for $39.99. This will be one of their top sellers at the holiday season…but they have a special offer if you activate it by October 31st:

Activate your All-New Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote by October 31st and receive 1 month of Sling TV, 2 Months of Hulu (Limited Commercials), and a $10 Amazon Video Credit.

We pay for Hulu without commercials each month (which we love). Hulu has current TV (not all of it, but a lot of hot seasons), movies (usually a handful of recent well-known ones), and older TV (I’m currently rewatching My Favorite Martian, for example).

The new Alexa control includes controlling playback, searching by title or genre, and more. You don’t need the new one for that, though…my 2nd gen does it now…actually, my Fire TV does it now, haven’t tried it on the Fire TV Stick, but I think it works.

I’m debating whether or not I’m going to bring the Fire TV stick with us when we go on a quiet vacation at the beach with our dogs soon. I’m thinking not…but I can see situations where I would.

Amazon’s really refining their hardware…and still expanding our content options: nice!

Oh, and they picked up the new live action Tick as an Amazon TV series…my favorite Tick version is the animated series, but still… 😉

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.

The Fire TV Buyer’s Guide: September 2015

September 19, 2015

The Fire TV Buyer’s Guide: September 2015 edition

On September 17th, Amazon announced a new hardware line-up (I do think there may be more yet to come this year).

The question for most people right away is, “Should I buy one?”

In this post, I’m going to give you some guidance on that for the Fire TV family. I’ll follow up with a post on the new Fire tablets. Now, realize that I haven’t had hands on with these yet (they haven’t been released at the time of writing). However, I’ll be able to make a pretty good assessment about how it will compare to what you might already have, or to a smaller extent, what you may be considering.

If you have additional questions, I’d love to hear them!

The Fire TV Family

This is the second generation of Amazon’s TV content device.

There are essentially two items here. One is a small device, about the size of two fingers side by side, which plugs into the HDMI (High Definition Media Interface) port on most modern TVs.

Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote (at AmazonSmile*) $49.99 with voice remote, $39.99 with standard remote

The second one is larger, more like the size of your hand with your fingers laid flat (these are very approximate). You can get the same device with and without gaming accessories.

“Why do I want one of these things?” (for people who haven’t had a TV content device)

We have one TV where a Fire TV Stick is the only source of what we see on it. It’s how we get TV shows and movies. Another TV runs off both a Fire TV and cable (running through an old Tivo).

Basically, it takes what you have available to you and displays it on the TV…it’s not purchasing videos or subscribing to a service.

It’s going to work best if you already subscribe to something. We are

members ($99 a year…about $8.25 a month), so we have Prime Video available to us (Prime has other benefits…see my post from What can you do with Amazon Prime? for some basics).

We use this…you can go through whole TV series (including older HBO shows), watch movies, and see original content. You can download some of the videos, although that doesn’t really matter here…that’s for phones and tablets.

We also have Hulu Plus…there’s a lot on Hulu, but it’s big attraction for us is current shows. We have the current season of Master Chef on as I write this. 😉 I’ve also watched older shows, like The Time Tunnel.  You can pay $7.99 a month, or do what we do: $11.99 a month for no ads. For me, that’s glorious: current TV shows without having to think about skipping through commercials! I never watch TV without doing something else at the same time (exercising, writing, reading), so being able to let it just stream is so much nicer.

Finally, we have Netflix. We pay $8.99 a month…you can pay $7.99 without HD, $11.99 for Ultra HD (and the ability to watch on four screens at once…it’s one for the cheapest plan, two for the middle one). The movie selection here is strong, but original content is also a big attraction…I’ve watched the Daredevil series, for example.

So, we pay about $30 a month for those three services, and I really feel like we have a lot of options.

That’s not all the Fire TVs do, though.

They also have apps and games…a lot of them. Amazon Underground makes many popular games free.

I use some apps pretty heavily: YouTube, Watch Up, Sky News, NBC News…those are common.

You can play games on any of the devices…the remote can be use as a basic game controller. Fancier games need the game controller, which is sold separately (or you can get it in the new gaming bundle). Are these like Playstation/Nintendo/Xbox games? No, they are more like the games for your phone, for the most part.

For the casual gamer, this is great! So many free games, and the fun of watching them on TV.

You also get music…both Prime music, and music you’ve uploaded to Amazon.

Another feature we use? Seeing our pictures. I have a Fire Phone (now apparently discontinued), and when I take pictures with my phone, we can see them right away on the TV through the Fire TV.

Will this let you be a “cable cutter” and drop cable? It certainly could…the biggest concern you might have is your local TV channels.

One option on that is using an antenna. No, not old-fashioned “rabbit ears”. 😉

Amazon suggests this one:

HDTV Antenna (at AmazonSmile*) $23.99 for a 35 mile range

Summing up: this is a way to get entertainment on your TV.

Amazon has just added what I think will be a big attraction: Alexa.

Alexa is the voice service that comes on the

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

You talk to it…it listens and talks back. 🙂

I use my Echo every day. I ask it for the weather, I set timers, I have a lot of fun with its pop culture knowledge.

For more on the Echo, see the

category in my The Measured Circle blog.

Now, for those of you with the Echo, you might be wondering…should I have bought a $40 device (the Fire TV Stick) rather than a $179 device (or $99 if you bought it early)?

They are quite different.

The “parse-onality”, as I like to call it, will likely be the same. It will understand you and talk to you the same way. We don’t know yet if the Fire TV version will do home automation (I can just ask my Echo to turn on and off some lights in my home and it happens), do the timers (I’ve heard it won’t). or if it will have the third party “Skills”, which are like apps you would get for a SmartPhone.  The last on is the future of the Echo, in my opinion, just as third-party apps are a major attraction of SmartPhones.

I don’t see why it wouldn’t do the Skills, though.

What makes the Echo worth it over the Fire TV?

It’s always-on, incredible microphone array, and the Bluetooth speaker.

To talk to your Fire TV, you’ll need to pick up your voice-activated remote.

With the Echo, I can speak in a normal voice from across the room.

If you are buying a Fire TV Stick, paying $10 extra for the voice remote will likely be worth it…although, you can use voice interaction with the Fire TV family with a free app on your SmartPhone. I do that, too. 🙂

My guess is that many people will buy the Fire TV Stick partly to get Alexa…and then will become deeply part of the Amazon universe to take advantage of Prime Video and other Amazon elements on the Fire TV.

Alexa is the software…the Echo is the hardware.

By the way, the Alexa Voice Service is also going to start appearing on other devices soon…Amazon has said pretty much anything with a microphone and a speaker. That’s likely to include other brand SmartPhones and tablets, as well as cars (and perhaps, things like toasters and refrigerators, eventually).

Why pay the $50 more for the Fire TV versus the Fire TV Stick?

More power!

Quad-core versus dual-core processor, more memory, a USB port, an SD card slot, better wi-fi…

The Fire TV Stick is great…the Fire TV is greater. 😉

Oh, I’ve left off a major feature for both…you can mirror devices to them! I can show anything on my SmartPhone or tablet on my TV,  through my Fire TV device. Anything…apps, a PowerPoint presentation (with an app that shows it, of course), e-mail, websites…all wirelessly.

“Do I need to upgrade?” (for people who already have the Fire TV)

Amazon has said that Alexa is coming to generation 1 devices (those you already have) this fall.

What you will get is better quality video: 4K Ultra HD, more powerful streaming, better processing.

I wouldn’t say you need to leap up and buy the new one…but if you want to get another one, this is well worth it. We only have two TVs, but I bought one…I’m planning to replace the Fire TV Stick. If the quality is better, that one will become our main TV…we do sometimes get a tiny bit of buffering, and I’d like to see that go away.

One final point:

Alexa (at this point) is not going to control your Fire TV device, but that may come in the future anyway. However, you are going to be doing the existing Voice Search and Alexa in the same place, holding the same device (a remote or your phone), so it won’t feel much different to you.

I do want to be able to say, “Alexa, showed me the latest episode of Gotham” and have it jumped right to it, but that’s not coming with what they have told us so far.

However…

People do things like “Alexa, open Netflix” by controlling a

Logitech Harmony Home Control – 8 Devices (White) (at AmazonSmile*)

with the Echo.

That isn’t a cheap solution (that device is over $100), and it’s not super simple. Since the apps on the Fire TV move around, it’s confusing the for device…you have to use search. I know someone who has basically a Jetsons home (this person has some physical challenges that make that a more optimal situation) who gave me this link:

https://forums.logitech.com/t5/Harmony-Hub-Based-Remotes/Hamony-Smart-Control-and-Fire-TV-Any-direct-Netflix-workaround/td-p/1381318

However, the voice search can at least find the programs for you (not in all apps), and then you would use your remote or phone to open it.

I suspect we may get the ability to start the programs by voice by the end of the year, but we’ll see.

What about the competitors?

Google has a Fire TV Stick-like device, the Chromecast, which has been very popular. It’s not as full featured as the Fire TV Stick in terms of types of content. It’s a bit cheaper, at $34.99.

Apple just announced a new version of the Apple TV, which will be controllable by voice. It’s a lot more money ($149 to $199), and the tech writers seem to be giving this round to Amazon…here are just two:

Update: Amy Devitt, one of my regular readers, made the correct observation that I left Roku out of the competitors for streaming TV content boxes. I’ve written about my own use of the Roku, more than once, but this was my first comparison of the Fire TV and the Roku:

Amazon Fire TV: first impressions

They have a stick and a box…you can see options here:

Roku search in the USA Amazon electronics section (at AmazonSmile*)

They range from about $47 for the stick up $89.99 for the latest box…well, that’s the price at Amazon: it lists for the same as the Fire TV.

That 4230R Roku 3 does have a great content line-up (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime…and Vudu, which neither Fire TV or Apple TV have, I believe). They claim 150+ news channels, compared to FTV’s 30+.

It also has one of my favorite features: earphones can plug into the remote.I used that a lot when I used the Roku.

You can see Roku’s comparison table (Roku, Fire TV, Apple ((looks like the current generation, not the one that was just announced), Chromecast) here:

Roku comparison table

Oh, looking at it, it looks like the comparison is also the current gen FTV, not the Amazon Fire TV 2 (they say it doesn’t have a memory expansion slot).

Obvious question: why did I stop using the Roku in favor of the Fire TV?

Two main reasons.

Performance is one. The Fire TV loaded things much more quickly…several seconds faster for YouTube, for instance.

The other one is…well, I write about this stuff. 🙂 I wanted to know the Fire TV for that reason.

Oh, and there’s another important reason…it’s connection to photos and videos I take on my Fire Phone is really nice, for example.

Alexa on the FTV will be a new reason. 🙂

The Bottom Line

If you don’t have a streaming device these are great! The Fire TV ito s more powerful and twice as expensive as the Fire TV Stick. If you already have a Fire TV, you don’t need to upgrade to get Alexa…but if you haven’t been satisfied with the performance, or you’ve wanted more memory, or you plan to expand your ownership to more devices, getting one of the new ones makes sense. Amazon has a thirty-day return policy (you’d pay return shipping if it is working as advertised), so you won’t be stuck.

A lot of people will get these as gifts this year…and many will get them for themselves.

What questions do you have? What do you think? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

* 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 announcement storm: precursor to hardware announcement?

September 16, 2015

Amazon announcement storm: precursor to hardware announcement?

Amazon has put out six press releases (well, okay…two of them were the same, just in different languages) in the last two days.

The last time that happened was in June…when the

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

became generally available.

I checked: there was also a flurry around the time of the announcement about new models last year in September.

Now, this pattern is different…those press releases came afterwards or were concurrent. These are (perhaps only very slightly) before.

However, I think that part of what may happen is that Amazon is arranges deals and creates features to make the release of hardware even more exciting. They want heightened interest in Amazon generally as well at that time, and goodwill.

These announcements also give you options even if you aren’t interested in buying new hardware.

Amazon Prime Members Enjoy Digital Access to The Washington Post for Free

The upshot here?

“Prime members can now enjoy six months of free unlimited access to The Washington Post National Digital Edition, a subscription usually retailing for $9.99 per month. After the first six months of access to world-class national and international news, Prime members can continue to enjoy unlimited digital access with a discounted monthly subscription rate of only $3.99, a savings of 60% per month.”

I did enjoy the Washington Post (owned by Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos) when we got it for free for six months on Fire tablets, which I wrote about it:

Washington Post free on Kindle Fire

Even though I could have continued it at a very low cost, I didn’t. It was one of those things where I have enough to read without it, and it was symbolically challenging for me to pay for it at all.

I figure I’ll read it for the six months, and then cancel it again. I don’t feel like that’s cheating: I’m paying for Prime anyway, and they aren’t asking me to get it only if I think I might subscribe.

Note that this time it is for Prime members (not based on having a Fire tablet), and you can read it on many platforms…including the website.

Oh, this isn’t available for current subscribers, by the way…so I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t sign up before. 😉

Start here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/primeoffer

Now Available: The Complete Sex and the City Series on Prime Video

Amazon started giving Prime Members free streaming access to older seasons of some HBO shows a bit more than a year ago

Round up #255: authors’ insults, HBO ruh-roh

and now they’ve added the complete Sex and the City.

Interestingly, it is available for download for offline watching. The selection of downloadable Prime Videos has gotten much better recently: a lot more well-known titles. This is a way that Amazon differentiates itself from Netflix and Hulu, and it looks like it wants to push that.

Downloadable titles (for Prime members, at no additional cost) now include:

  • Transparent
  • Downton Abbey
  • Extant
  • Grimm
  • Under the Dome
  • American Horror Story
  • Wallace & Gromit: the Complete Collection
  • Curious George
  • Vikings
  • Justified
  • Orphan Black
  • Teen Wolf (the new MTV version)
  • 24: Live Another Day
  • Sons of Anarchy
  • Hand of God
  • Girls

Note that it isn’t all seasons of those, but this is still nice!

Oh, and movies, too, including:

  • Pulp Fiction
  • The Bling Ring
  • Kill Bill
  • Spy Kids
  • Life After Beth
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Under the Skin
  • Sling Blade
  • Spring Breakers
  • The Neverending Story
  • Ella Enchanted

Amazon Fire TV—Largest and Fastest Growing Selection of Any Streaming Media Player

This one was a general Fire TV announcement (and they might be introducing a new version of it, I suppose). That might be in part a response to the new Apple TV announcement…that sounds cool, but it’s relatively expensive. Apple TV will start at $149, as opposed to $99 for the

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

and $39 for the

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Hey! The Fire TV is unavailable! Very good chance that means an announcement for a new gen soon…before the end of the week I would guess. I know, I know…I didn’t think that was the case with the Fire Phone when I wrote about it yesterday, but this is different…especially with the announcements of new content.

The press release includes these interesting bits:

  • “Popular new titles include AT&T U-Verse, HBO NOW, Pac Man 256, Orbitz, Quiplash, Tastemade, and Tennis Channel Everywhere. FOX NOW, FXNOW, Poker Central, and Turner Classic Movies will be coming to the platform soon.”

If TCM is free (to watch the movies, not just to get the app), I’m an especially happy camper. 🙂

This is also useful:

“Fire TV integrated universal search from the very beginning, and customers have loved being able to easily search across multiple services, including HBO GO, Showtime, Hulu, STARZ PLAY, ENCORE PLAY, and Vevo. Plus, Amazon will be adding over 10 services to universal search by the end of the year, including A&E, HISTORY, Lifetime, and PBS.”

Amazon Continues to Expand its Superfast Delivery Service: Prime Now Lands in Los Angeles Featuring Tens of Thousands of Items from Amazon, Local Store Deliveries Coming Soon

Prime Now is this incredible, two-hour delivery service (you can pay $7.99 to get something in one hour).

They are establishing four (!) hubs for this in Southern California, and will be covering quite a few cities (“Los Angeles and Orange County including areas such as Santa Monica, Redondo Beach, Silver Lake and Irvine, to name a few…”).

Additionally, they’ll deliver from some local stores, like Sprouts. My Significant Other likes an Icelandic yogurt called Siggi’s which we can get at Sprouts…but it’s never a good shopping experience. We aren’t covered by Prime Now (yet), but getting it deliveed in two hours at no additional cost? Yes, please.

Amazon Announces Finalists of Second Indie Literary Contest for Spanish-Language

For a final press release, also available in Spanish:

Amazon Anuncia los Finalistas del Segundo Concurso Literario de Autores ‘Indie’ en Español

we get something that has to do specifically with books. 🙂

Amazon has been taking submissions of unpublished books in Spanish, and they are down to five finalists. See this page for more information:

http://www.amazon.com/concursoindie (at AmazonSmile*)

The winner will “have the opportunity” to be published in print, audio, and e-book by Amazon.

The winner will be announced October 15th.

There you go!

In the middle of writing this, I tweeted about the Fire TV unavailability…I wanted to get that out before Amazon made an announcement. 😉

What do you think? Is Amazon about to announce new hardware? What does it mean that they are taking more interest in non-English publishing? Does all of this have to do with new models, or is it just a coincidence and build up for the holiday season? 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!

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

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

 

Round up #292: literally embarrassed, hey kid stop reading!

April 27, 2015

Round up #292: literally embarrassed, hey kid stop reading!

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

It’s not as dangerous as not reading on the bus!

Look, I’ve read pretty much everywhere in my life. Okay, no, I don’t read when I’m driving a car (but I do listen to text-to-speech). However, planes, trains, and automobiles (as a passenger)? Absolutely!

I did have a friend who got stitches once…riding a bicyble and reading a book. Glanced up from the book, and hit a parked truck.

Still, this

Galleycat story by Dianna Dilworth

really gets my goat!

It’s about a schoolbus driver in Canada who has asked an eight-year old to stop reading on the bus!

Never, ever, ask someone to stop reading…especially children.

The bus driver apparently thinks it is dangerous.  According to the story, “The bus driver claims that other students might want to see what she is reading and stand up or that she might get hurt herself if the corner of the book pokes her in the eye.”

Puh-lease!

I hope to Hemingway that other students want to see what the student is reading! Maybe they’ll start reading themselves. 🙂

As to getting “poked in the eye”…um, what is this kid doing, reading the book sideways? I would guess every one of my readers had gotten a book in the face at some point (falling asleep, for example), and it’s never a corner.

Nobody else has other “pokey” things? Maybe not…don’t want to presume.

When I was in school, we had some ridiculous safety rules passed. You couldn’t bring troll dolls to school…because you might choke on the hair. Mind you, these were at least fourth graders. You couldn’t wear the big Batman buttons (Bang! Pow!) because you might get poked by the pin back (okay, that’s possible…but not likely). You couldn’t bring

Clackers

(two balls connected by string that you rhythmically swung into each) because they might shatter.

Yes, yes, those things could happen…but really, we all felt they were denied because they were distracting, not because they were unsafe. I mean, we had a jungle gym and monkey bars, right? They weren’t all that concerned about our safety. 😉

Oh, you don’t often see me get riled up like this, and I’m smiling while I’m writing it, even though I think it’s a serious issue.

I shall meditate this evening on how I can frame it for myself that the bus driver has a legitimate point…but I’m not there yet. 🙂

Oh, and I remember Dr. Dean Edell (I think it was) talking about distracted driving rules…I think it was banning even hands free cellphone calls. The doctor made the point that we would save a ton of lives each year if we made people wear crash helmets in cars, the way we do on motorcycles, but that’s not going to happen. That doesn’t meant that talking on a cellphone is good…it obviously raises distraction levels…as does talking to another person in the car and listening to the radio…

This me, soapbox…getting off now. 🙂

Fire TV vs. Fire TV Stick…round two

Not too long, I wrote about our

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

working noticeably better than our

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

One of my regular readers, Tom Semple, suggested that it might have to do with the placement of the devices in the house.

Well, with a recent update, the Fire TV can connect with Bluetooth headphones…and the Fire TV Stick can’t (at least, it doesn’t have the choice in the same place).

That got me to switch the to devices…putting the Fire TV in the family room. That’s where I work out in the morning, and I’ve been watching CNN while I do that on closed captioning…at least, the part where I can’t do it while reading on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I figured having Bluetooth headphones and listening to news apps would work better.

I’d never used Bluetooth headphones, by the way. I chose a second product from Arctic. I’d recently bought the

ARCTIC Breeze Mobile USB-Powered 92mm Portable Fan, Portable Cooling Solution, Quiet Fan – White (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

for $7.99.

My office at work is stuffy, and this has been a wonderful thing…and it’s quiet enough that I can have it on during conference calls or while on a Webex.

So, I thought I’d try their

ARCTIC P324 BT (Black) – Bluetooth (V4.0) Headset with Neckband – Headphones with integrated Microphone – Perfect for Sport (at AmazonSmile*)

Again, that’s relatively inexpensive, but I’m pleased. I can’t tell yet how durable they will be, but both the fan and the headphones are serviceable. I’m not a fan of earbuds, and even though my Significant Other said these over-the-ear models made me look like Princess Leia 😉 I like them.

It’s also a little weird getting used to how they go on your head (not over the top of your head, but across the back of them), but they seem to stay even when I’m moving around. The range was pretty good, too…and it really surprised me that someone could hear me okay when making a phone call. The microphone is on the earpiece…not sticking out in front by my mouth.

Listening to music on Bluetooth headphones from your Fire would be nice, too.

Anyway… 🙂

Having switched the two devices, it still seems to me like the Fire TV is much better than the Fire TV Stick, although the latter is also a good device. The Fire TV is faster in loading something (like Hulu or Netflix), and doesn’t have the performance issues I get sometimes with the stick. They are both worth the price, in my opinion…but the Fire TV is worth the higher price. 😉

Imagine how much more embarrassing it would be if they were reading on the bus! 😉

This is an interesting

World Book Day infographic reproduced in a Publishing Perspectives article by Hannah Johnson

As regular readers know, I’m not that visually oriented, but there were some interesting statistics here.

One was that 18% of children 8-11 said they would be embarrassed if their friends saw them reading. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that we can conclude that 82% would be proud. It could be that a large percentage are neutral on it…perhaps because many of them don’t read, but I hope that’s not the case.

Another interesting assertion was that children with more than 500 books in their homes had language skills on average two years ahead of kids with fewer than ten books in their homes. Gee, I wonder how having hundreds of thousands of books available to you through the Kindle store impacts it? Do they read at super genius level? 😉 Seriously, even without paying for Kindle Unlimited (which would get you access to nearly a million (945,365 at time of writing in the USA) books, there are more than 50,000 free books you can own. I do think that opportunity probably makes a difference.

Cute Kobo cartoon

I thought this one from Kobo was cute:

https://twitter.com/kobo/status/592090412728233984/photo/1

What do you think? Is it dangerous to be reading a book on a school bus? What should the parents do in that situation, if anything? Convince me that the school bus driver has a legitimate concern…please. 🙂 What about reading at the dinner table? That was always okay in my house growing up…at least, I like to remember it that way. 🙂 We also had to say how our day was, so we did interact. Were you ever embarrassed to be seen reading when you were a kid? 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!

* 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’s 100 Biographies & Memoirs to Read in a Lifetime

February 18, 2015

Amazon’s 100 Biographies & Memoirs to Read in a Lifetime

Lists of books are popular features.

It’s interesting to me that that is the case.

After all, I doubt I’ve ever seen a list where I didn’t think there were omissions and questionable inclusions.

Perhaps that’s the point.

They spark a reaction, and reactions can mean engagement…and engagement can mean purchasing.

Not all lists are about purchasing, of course, and even an Amazon list of books like the brand new

100 Biographies & Memoirs to Read in a Lifetime (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

isn’t about immediate conversion of sales.

In some ways, it’s about Amazon’s positioning as knowledgeable about books…knowledgeable and credible, which are not synonyms. You can be knowledgeable and have no one believe you (ask Cassandra), and you can be credible without having a lot of knowledge on a topic.

When I’ve trained trainers, I’ve even taught the latter…how to be credible.

A few quick notes on that:

  • Use numbers…that always impresses people. For example, if I was teaching an Excel class many years ago, I could be in front of people who thought they knew Excel quite well. I could say (back then), “There are 256 columns in Excel…does anyone know how many rows? 65,536.” That gave me instant credibility…even if it was just a memorized fact. It doesn’t have to be a complicated number: “There were seven castaways on Gilligan’s Island.” That may get people counting to confirm…and when they do, they are impressed with you
  • When in doubt, use big words. That also makes you sound credible…not approachable or relatable, necessarily, but it does help with credibility. 🙂 That’s only true if you use them correctly…well, if somebody knows what the word actually means, that is. I have to reset my reaction when someone uses the word “decimated” (often “absolutely decimated” or “completely decimated”) to indicate a nearly complete reduction. “Decimated” technically means “reduced by one tenth”. If there were 100 soldiers, and you reduced it to ninety, you decimated that group. At least, that’s what it used to mean…my now adult kid who is a linguist has convinced me that it is usage that matters. I still have the emotional reaction, but I can reset it 🙂
  • Use the jargon. I work with medical folks, and when I can use a word that they use appropriately, it really ups my credibility
  • Speak quickly. Again, this is just when you are establishing credibility, not when you are training a concept. Most people don’t think you can lie at high speeds…that you have to think about what you are saying too much. If you excitedly say something, smashingallthewordstogether, people will think you are being honest. Don’t believe me? Try saying something really slowly and deliberately out loud…it will likely sound even to you like you are lying
  • Be imperfect. Pause, use an “um”, look to the ceiling (up to the left, typically), laugh at yourself for what you just said…those can all make you seem genuine, and not rehearsed

Now, clearly, you can’t just follow techniques to gain credibility…you need to be reacting in the moment and have empathy for what your audience is feeling.

That said, I come across as credible in person…and it can be a problem for me.

I’ve been a boss.

I’ve said to people something like, “Now, I don’t know yet if this is going to happen, so don’t hold me to it, but it’s possible that we are going to xyz.” I’ve then had people telling others we were going to xyz, and saying, “Bufo said so.”

That means I have to be careful about what I say. 🙂

I was being observed by one of my favorite managers, and in debriefing a class, the manager said at one point, “Then you did that hypnosis thing you do,” and just went on to another point.

I said something like, “Wait, what? What hypnosis thing?”

I realized later that I do use something like “guided imagery”.

Never, by the way, for nefarious reasons!

It’s just as important and difficult (sometimes) to make people believe in something which is true and good for them as it is to make them believe in something which is false and bad for them.

That said, let’s talk about this list. 🙂

I do like biographies and memoirs, but I like a lot of things. 😉

Here’s the list from Amazon, and whether or not I’ve read them:

  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers: no
  • A Long Way Home by Ishmael Beah: yes
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway: no
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson: no
  • American Caesar by William Manchester: no
  • American Lion by Jon Meacham: no
  • American Prometheus by Kai Bird: no
  • American Sniper by Chris Kyle: no
  • American Sphinx by Joseph J. Ellis: no
  • Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt: no
  • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank: yes
  • Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy: no
  • Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain: yes
  • Ball Four by Jim Bouton: no
  • Black Boy by Richard Wright: no
  • Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin: yes
  • Born Standing Up by Steve Martin: no
  • Born to Run by Christopher McDougall: no
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey: no
  • Cash by Johnny Cash: no
  • Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie: no
  • Chronicles by Bob Dylan: no
  • Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert: no
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose: no
  • Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron: no
  • De Profundis and Other Personal Writings by Oscar Wilde: no
  • Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller: no
  • Dorothy Parker by Marion Meade: no
  • Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama: no
  • Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp: no
  • Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston: no
  • E-Mc~2 by David Bodanis: no
  • Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: no
  • Endurance by Alfred Lansing: no
  • Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill: no
  • Helen Keller: The Story of My Life by Helen Keller: yes
  • I Am Malala by mlala Yousafzai: no
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou: no
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer: no
  • Just Kids by Patti Smith: no
  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain: no
  • Knock Wood by Candice Bergen: no
  • Life by Keith Richards: no
  • Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela: no
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius: no
  • Mortality by Christopher Hitchens: no
  • My Life in France by Julia Child: no
  • Naked by David Sedaris: no
  • Napoleon by Andrew Roberts: no
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass: no
  • Night by Elie Wiesel: no
  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin: no
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac: no
  • Open by Andre Agassi: no
  • Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen: no
  • Personal History by Katharine Graham: no
  • Robert A. Caro’s The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro: no
  • Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs: no
  • Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford: no
  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand: no
  • Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan: no
  • Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov: no
  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson: no
  • Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman: no
  • Tennessee Williams by John Lahr: no
  • The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone: no
  • The Andy Warhol Diaries by Andy Warhol: no
  • The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein: no
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X: no
  • The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll: no
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: no
  • The Color of Water by James McBride: no
  • The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman: no
  • The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: no
  • The Diary of Anais Nin by Anais Nin: no
  • The Diary of Frida Kahlo by Carlos Fuentes: no
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: no
  • The Gulag Archipeligo by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: no
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: no
  • The Kid Stays in the Picture by Robert Evans: no
  • The Last Lone Inventor by Evan I. Schwartz: no
  • The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr: no
  • The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara: no
  • The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester: no
  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris: no
  • The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder: no
  • The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer: no
  • The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston: no
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion: no
  • This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff: no
  • Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow: no
  • Touching the Void by Joe Simpson: no
  • Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck: no
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: no
  • Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes: no
  • Updike by Adam Begley: no
  • Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy Schiff: no
  • West with the Night by Beryl Markham: no
  • Wild Swans by Jung Chang: no
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed: no

Well, I’ve only read five of these, but I have to say, I was very impressed with some of them. The Helen Keller book is amazing. A Long Way Home was devastating, but great. The Mark Twain book was so modern and so clever.

Certainly, though, there are many others I might list which I have read and which in some small way, let me live someone else’s life for a while.

Amazon knows that, and one of the synergies of their having purchased the social reading website Goodreads, is that they can do a curated list like the above and let people contribute to a crowd sourced one…which they have done:

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/85102.100_Biographies_Memoirs_to_Read_in_a_Lifetime_Readers_Picks

You can vote on and add titles to that one.

Without at all claiming that they are the best, here are some other biographies/memoirs which come to mind for me:

  • A Zoo in My Luggage by Gerald Durrell…and indeed, several of the Durrell books (not available for the Kindle)
  • A Job for Superman by Kirk Alyn…Alyn was Superman in the serials, and this book has some great stories! I bought it from Alyn at a science fiction convention, and that may have colored my perception of it. 🙂 Still, I remember some of the stories easily. There was one where Alyn is talking about a scene carrying, I think, Lois Lane out of a burning building down steps. “Action!” Runs down the steps, but they have to reshoot the scene (smoke or something). Another take. Another problem. Another take. Another take. Another take. Eventually, the director says, “Superman, you’re slowing down.” Alyn explains that the actor is heavy, and the director says something like, “Actor? You’re supposed to be carrying a dummy!” That was part of the perception of Alyn on set as being Superman. Two more. 🙂 Superman is animated flying, but they are standing around (very common on a set). Alyn asks what is happening, and they say they are trying to figure out how Superman is going to take off. Alyn, who was a ballet dancer, says, “I can jump over the camera.” Well, this is a tall camera! They don’t believe their star, but Alyn does it. Alyn points out, amused, that Superman takes off from a ballet position. 😉 The last one was when They did have to do a close up of Superman flying. What they did was build a chest plate with wires, and Alyn would lay in it with legs (and hips) held straight out. That’s right…the plate didn’t get to Alyn’s hips! Picture doing that for a minute or more while they did the shot. Better, lie down on a table with your hips off the edge and try it…
  • Books by John A. Keel and Hans Holzer…very different people, very different writing style, sort of connected both writing about “paranormal” things. They are both field investigators and both bring you a feel for what it is like being there
  • Philip Jose Farmer’s “mythographies” of Doc Savage (Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (at AmazonSmile*)) and Tarzan

I could keep going. 🙂

One last thing, so those of you with Kindle Unlimited can read biographies and memoirs at no additional cost as part of your membership:

Kindle Unlimited Biographies & Memoirs sorted by most reviewed (at AmazonSmile*)

Don’t have Kindle Unlimited yet? It’s worthy of consideration, in my opinion:

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

What do you think? What are your favorite biographies and memoirs? I know people who say they don’t like to read non-fiction…what books do you think would convince them? These sorts of books also fit into Common Core…does this show the value of that program? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Bonus deal: pre-pay for three months of Sling TV ($20 a month) and get a Fire TV Stick for free, or $50 off a Fire TV!

Sling TV and Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*)

That’s the “cable cutting” way to get some TV networks at a cheaper price than paying for a full cable package.

Don’t want Sling TV? The Fire TV is also $15 off at time of writing, making it $84 instead of $99.

I use a Fire TV every day, and a Fire TV Stick some days.

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

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

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

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

Round up #285: reading declines, Kindle Unlimited expands to Canada and Mexico

February 13, 2015

Round up #285: reading declines, Kindle Unlimited expands to Canada and Mexico

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

Kindle Unlimited launches in Mexico and Canada

As a publisher (I only publish my own works…which I would guess is true of most Kindle Direct Publishing authors) who has books in

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

Amazon just informed me that KU is expanding to Canada and Mexico!

That’s exciting…I like having it very much. It’s an “all you can read” plan, $9.99 a month in the USA. Here’s the link for the information page

Kindle Unlimited in Mexico

where it is 129 pesos a month, and for

Kindle Unlimited Canada

where it is $9.99 (Canadian) a month.

Chri

Echo videos from Phink, one of my readers

One of my regular readers and commenters, Phink, recently got an Amazon Echo, Amazon’s ambient computing device. It’s an always on voice input device which plays music, answers all kinds of questions, and more.

Phink has posted what I think are a couple of the best videos I’ve seen so far about the Echo. They aren’t really reviews, they are demonstrations of what the device can do. If you are interested in the Echo, I think they are definitely worth watching to see what your experience might be like.

I appreciate Phink sharing these! I’ll be happy to write about the Echo, but my delivery date still says between May 27th and July 2nd.

Publishers Weekly: No Panic Over 15 Percent Drop in Christian Fiction Sales

Christian fiction has been a strong category of seller, but from 2013 to 2014, according to this

Publishers Weekly article by Ann Byle

sales dropped 15%. The article goes on to say why the publishers aren’t worried about that…I guess they have faith. 😉

Video news

I thought I’d group a couple of things together here…a mini-round up. 😉

First, this is just odd to me, but Amazon Studios is working with Sid and Marty Krofft to do a reimagined pilot of one of their series. The Kroffts were really gonzo “kids’ show” producers in the 1970s, although they did a lot more than that.

So, what gets the reboot? The most popular H.R. Pufnstuf? The wacky Lidsville? Electra Woman and Dyna Girl? Nope…Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. This may take a lot of reimagining…Sigmund’s parents were parodies of Archie Bunker and Phyllis Diller, and I just don’t think that’s going to fly with today’s audiences. Hoping they stick with the Johnny Whitaker theme song, though. 🙂

press release

Second, Fire TV, which is both the

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and the

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

have added a bunch of apps, including the much talked about Sling TV (which may enable some people to drop cable…by paying for a much more focused package), TED (great, though-provoking lectures…this one is free), and Fox Sports GO.

press release

Only 40% of 17 year olds read at least one a week for fun

I do think that e-books have enabled and encourage a lot of people to read more, but stats like the ones in this

EBOOK FRIENDLY post by Ola Kowalczyk

are troubling.

It’s nothing particularly new…as kids get older, fewer of them report reading for fun.

Part of that may be that they have to read so much more for school…a high schooler presumably has a lot more assigned reading than a nine-year old. If they are enjoying that reading, it would probably still not be reported as “reading for pleasure”.

What’s troubling is the decline across age groups since 1984.

It’s possible that there was a big decline (let’s see…video games, maybe?) for a while, and that e-books are, in fact, increasing reading.

Still, the Common Sense Media data reported on here (and shown in an infographic) is not especially encouraging. On the good side, more than a quarter of homes have an EBR (E-Book Reader…they mention Kindles and NOOKs. That would not include tables, like the Kindle Fire).

Big update for Kindle for iOS (4.7)

In this

Kindle Forum thread (at AmazonSmile*)

an update for the iOS (Apple mobile…iPhones, iPads) app is announced.

It includes eTextbooks and the “Book Browser” feature that brings you information about the book (new for iPhones).

Flipboard redesigns Flipboard for the web

This is a big improvement!

I’ve written about my free Flipboard magazines here before.

I read it in the

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

app, which I read every morning on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile*)

For my readers who didn’t have Fires, though, I know the experience trying to read them in a browser on a PC wasn’t great.

Well, if you’ve tried it before, check it out again at

https://flipboard.com/

I like what they’ve done it with it: it looks much better, and seems to be less resource intensive.

Hope you enjoyed my birthday! 😉

We had a great time…we went to Point Isabel in Richmond (rated as one of the top ten dog parks in the world)…our dogs love it there! We also get about an hour walk, two or three miles. I went to doctor yesterday for an annual check-up, and to the DMV to renew my license. When I did the DMV thing, I realized that my weight is down about 55 pounds since I last did a driver’s license! I’m down about 40 pound in the last two years, thanks to the free app I reviewed here:

Review: MyFitnessPal

Well, that, and a lot of work. 🙂 I figure another year and I’ll be in good shape.

Then we tried a new restaurant, and the food was good.

After that, we saw The Theory of Everything. That’s one of the Best Picture nominees we hadn’t seen. I thought it was good, and was glad I had done my personal

2015 BOPMadness (Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness)

predictions before I saw it. When you think a movie is good, it can skew your predictions…you tend to think the Academy will like it better than you might if you had not seen it.

I also got a book…always a good thing! I’ll wait until I’ve read a bit before I say anything about it, and I’ll likely do a Goodreads review.

Hope it was a great day for you, too!

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.

 

Round up #278: Goodreads winners, favorite authors

December 6, 2014

Round up #278: Goodreads winners, favorite authors

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

Amazon improves author tracking

It’s nice to me to see that Amazon is working on improving the customer experience.

The ability to be notified when a new book is published to the Kindle store from an author you like seems like it would be a no brainer.

The customer is happy, Amazon gets a sale, the publisher is happy, the author is happy…it’s just a question of getting the infrastructure and user experience to be simple and robust enough.

In the past, we’ve had a kind of clunky way of doing it…and I would hear from people that it didn’t really work (they didn’t get notifications).

I don’t know if they’ve fixed the latter part yet, but they now have a much more elegant and sophisticated way to request updates:

Amazon’s Favorite Authors page (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

From there, you can just tap an Add Favorite button.

Not only that, but it recommends authors for you, both ones that are similar to what you’ve favorited, and ones that you’ve reviewed positively.

I found that its linkages were very good: when I favorited an author, it made suggestions that made sense. Even in the case of authors I didn’t know, there were book cover thumbnails which made it clear that the connection was logical.

You can search for an author, or choose from popular ones.

You can decide whether or not you want your favorites displayed on your profile.

You can also edit your favorites here: and interestingly, those include books, movies, music, and others.

They also suggest more features are coming to this in the future.

The one suggestion I’m going to make to them first is that they add a place for us to comment on our favorites, which displays on the profile. That would make it much more social.

Ideally, they would make it that if someone went from your favorite on your page and purchased the book, you’d get an advertising fee or other credit of some kind, but I don’t expect that right away.

Almost whole-heartedly recommended a Kindle First book

This is what I recently wrote about this month’s Kindle First books:

Prime members, don’t forget to pick up your

Kindle First books (at AmazonSmile*)

You can get one of the four books to own (not borrow) for free…these are books which will be actually released next month. The choices this month are:

  • Marked (Servants of Fate Book 1) by Sarah Fine (romantic fantasy)
  • The Last Passenger
    by Manel Loureiro, Andrés Alfaro (suspense)
  • Fatal Puzzle (Zons Crime Book 1) by Catherine Shepherd, Julia Knobloch (thriller)
  • Guardians of the Night (A Gideon and Sirius Novel) by Alan Russell (mystery)

I’m going with The Last Passenger, and it was an easy choice. Loureiro is the author of the Apocalypse Z books, the first of which is the most reviewed book I listed above. They classify it as a suspense novel, but it involves time travel…one of my favorite subjects.

When I started reading

The Last Passenger (at AmazonSmile*)

I was quite pleased with it. It reminded me of the pulp hero Doc Savage (without a hero like that), and from me, that’s a compliment. 😉 I was already seeing how it would be a good movie.

It was a great high camp set up, had interesting characters including the lead…and it was an excellent translation from the Spanish.

Unfortunately, a character was introduced who is so thunderingly stereotypical in a negative way that now I don’t know if I can even recommend it.

This book was published by AmazonCrossing, which gets books from other countries…so we may not be able to blame the Amazon editor for not saying, “Um, don’t you think you want to tone that down or give that character more depth and complexity?”

I (eventually) finish every book I read, and I’m liking the book except for this one element.

It’s unfortunate, and I do think it’s something an editor could have affected.

Fire TV Stick means cutting the cord

I will write a review comparing the

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and the

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

(I have and use both), but I thought I’d mention that the Stick may mean that we finally “cut the cord” and eliminate TV services from our cable company (we’ll keep their internet…we have Comcast, and it works well for us).

Interestingly, part of what happened was that we bought a new TV:

32″ TV HDTV LED 720p Element Electronics (at AmazonSmile*)

The Fire TV Stick was coming, and we had a paleolithic Sony TV without an HDMI input. 😉 I mean, seriously, Fred Flintstone would have felt at home with the old one. Both of us were grunting and groaning when we had to move it…and we are reasonably strong.

So, when we saw the Element on sale for under $150 on Black Friday weekend at Target, we got one. We have an Element TV already, and I like it. One thing I like is they are super light…I have taken our old one to work easily for a game night there.

However, our recorded Tivo programs looked quite muddy on it (while the Fire TV Stick looked fine). That might be a matter of recabling the Tivo (we also are using an old one of those).

So the question became: could we do without Tivo and the programs it records?

One element of that: Hulu Plus.

We haven’t had it. My Significant Other doesn’t want to watch TV on a mobile device, so Hulu couldn’t be a replacement for us easily until we had a TV that could show it…simply.

The Fire TV Stick and the new TV makes that combination work.

I still have to go through and compare our season passes and see what we can’t do (although mirroring my Kindle Fire HDX or my Fire Phone to the Fire TV Stick might solve some problems, if new episodes are available on network/studio websites…for free, of course) through Hulu to decide.

We aren’t heavy duty TV watchers, I’d say, although I have the CBS app running in the other room and I’m listening to it as I write right now.

Let me revise that: we don’t follow a lot of current TV shows. I watch Survivor live, usually, to avoid spoilers in the apps I use in the morning (Flipboard, CNN, Washington Post). Otherwise, seeing things as they happen is not that important to us…I’d say we could generally wait until the next season.

The exception would be that I have CNN on…a lot. However, I now have some other news apps that could take that place. Watchup, CBS, BBC…oh, I should mention: my BBC news app works on our Fire TV at this point but not on the Fire TV Stick. I assume they’ll work that out.

We’ll probably make the decision this weekend…well, before the next time we pay a cable bill, at any rate (rate…so to speak). 😉

goodreads CHOICE AWARDS 2014

The Goodreads Choice Awards 2014 (I went with their capitalization above) have been announced:

https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2014

First, I have to say: why isn’t there an easy page for this at Amazon in the Kindle store?

There is a page

Goodreads Choice Award Winners (at AmazonSmile*)

but the 2014 ones aren’t there yet as a sub-page…and I didn’t see any link from the main Kindle store.

This is where I’d like a bit more synergy, Amazon. 🙂 As I’ve said before, SMMSA (Sell Me More Stuff, Amazon). 😉

Here are the winners:

Enjoy! These might be safe gifts, as well…there are a lot of Goodreads users, so if you were looking for the mainstream choice, this might be a good way to go. You recipient (and you can delay the delivery until the appropriate date) will have the option to exchange it for a gift card.

What do you think? Have you ever had a situation where you found one element of a book offensive, but liked the rest? What did you do…did you read it? Do you have alternatives to suggest to the Goodreads winners? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

* 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.

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

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. 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 #277: $3.75 book sale, 75% of parents are gifting e-books to their kids this holiday season

November 30, 2014

Round up #277: $3.75 book sale, 75% of parents are gifting e-books to their kids this holiday season

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

Digital Book World: 45 Percent of All Parents Plan to Purchase a New Device for Their Child to Read Ebooks [this holiday season]

Thanks to EBOOK FRIENDLY for the heads up on this!

Digital Book World has released their latest survey, and purchasing both of devices on to which to read e-books and e-books themselves appears to be up this year, based on their survey.

DBW Survey Highlights

It’s not unreasonable to question how objective a site called “Digital Book World” would be on this, but it’s worth noting that they partnered with PlayCollective.

According to the summary, 45% of parents (not legal guardians?) of children aged 2 to 13 plan to buy an e-book reading device (an EBR…E-Book Reader or a tablet, but the latter with the intent of reading books) this holiday season.

That’s up from last year by 4%.

I’ll note two other things, and then encourage you to read that summary…I don’t want to take too much away from it.

First, the most popular device for this is a Kindle (they didn’t break down which kind) at 26%.

Second, a full 75% plan to buy e-books for their kids this year, up 2% from last year.

As they say, “our children are the future”. If kids grow up reading e-books, they’ll very likely want to read them as adults.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that p-books (paperbooks) simply disappear…I expect them to stay around, as vinyl records have.

40 free apps of the day today

Finishing up today is a special Black Friday promotion with 40 apps which normally cost something being available for free today:

40 Free Apps of the Day today (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*

There are some good choices here, and as usual, I’ve gotten them all. 🙂 I have them delivered only to the Cloud, unless it’s something I want to start using soon. I figure, why not? Our guest who is here, currently using our

Fire HD 6, 6″ HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB – Includes Special Offers, Black (at AmazonSmile*) (on sale right now for $79, normally $99)

has a lot of choices!

I figure, why not get them? If they are stored in the Cloud, they aren’t taking up any room on our devices unless we choose to use one.

A few highlights of the offerings:

  • Bike Race Pro (normally $0.99): 4.6 out of 5 stars, 2761 customer reviews
  • Mind Games Pro ($4.99): 4.4 stars, 1011 reviews
  • Angry Birds Seasons HD ($2.99): 4.3 stars, 304 reviews
  • Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition for Android ($24.00!) 4.4 stars, 29 reviews
  • Shredder Chess ($7.99): 4.7 stars, 14 reviews…supposedly, it plays chess somewhat like a human, making mistakes appropriate to the level you choose for it
  • Perfectly Clear ($2.99): 3.9 stars, 455 reivews…I’ve used this one to improve pictures I’ve previously taken. I find it works quite well

Price drops from price matching

This weekend (certainly through Cyber Monday), look for big price drops on some popular books…which won’t last.

I recommend (at any time, not this time of year) listing books at

eReaderIQ.com

They will give you a free e-mail notification when a book you specify drops an amount you specify.

I often tell people eReaderIQ is the most valuable resource for Kindleers on the web…this is just one of their free services.

Some drops I’ve noticed this weekend…note that they could change any time. Check the price before you click or tap that Buy button.

  • Field of Prey by John Sanford: dropped to $3.75 from $8.99
  • The Collector by Nora Roberts: dropped to $3.75 from $10.49
  • Skin Game: a Novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher: $3.75 from $11.99

I could keep going!

Hmm…clearly, $3.75 is a price point right now! Here’s a search for books that cost $3.75 in the USA Kindle store right now, sorted by most reviewed:

$3.75 books in the USA Kindle store by most reviewed (at AmazonSmile*)

Yep, that did it!

Wow!

Don’t wait on these, and don’t forget that they can make great gifts! You can delay a gift book to be delivered at the date of your choosing, and the recipient does not need a Kindle to read them (there are a lot of free Kindle reading apps). If they already have the book, they can get a gift card for the value instead, so there is really no risk.

Some of the ones I see: The Invention of Wings; Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander); Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King; The Silk Worm (J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith…this is the new one)…you want new popular books on sale, time’s a’wastin’! 😉

The Echo is learning

Some people who have gotten the Amazon Echo (no invitation for me yet) seem to be judging it as though it was as good as it was ever going to get. I even saw somebody say that “like most technology”, it was going to be obsolete as soon as you got it.

The Echo (ILMK Echo posts category) is not a self-enclosed device. When you bought a videogame console years ago, and you bought games for it, well, that was about it…no updates, it was what it was. To get a better experience, you would eventually have to buy another machine.

Kindles, on the other hand, are update pretty often (until they are out of the “front list” of current ones being sold, at least). Those are operating system upgrades, and they may bring us new features and better performance.

The Echo, though, can grow in a way different from either of those.

Most of what happens on the Echo happens in the Cloud…not in your house.

Right now, the Echo “hive mind” is learning from what someone is doing with the device.

I’ve seen anecdotal reports already of something not working at first, then reporting it, and then having it work. One example was a band with a quirky spelling to the name (two words smashed together…and I think there was a number in there, too). Two people reported Echo not understanding it…then, it did!

Another example is that, according to the help pages, you ask it for a “Flash Briefing” to get the local weather and the news. Now, apparently, you can get the same thing just by saying, “Alexa, news”.

Oh, “Alexa”, by the way, is the name of a company Amazon bought about 15 years ago. You can currently change the “listening prompt” to “Amazon”, and they are working are more prompts. Eventually, you may be able to choose your own.

My point about this updating that’s happening is that it happens in the Cloud…not on your device.

If you have an Echo, please keep reporting how it works. I’ve been told you can say, “Alexa, that was wrong” to flag the question and response for review.

It also appears to be getting a lot of joke responses as people say things like, “Alexa, beam me up” or “Open the pod bay doors”. My intuition here is those are also being improved regularly.

Essentially, Alexa is what used to be called a “dumb terminal” for the most part. Its music playing hardware  is one thing, but the conversational skills are handled at Amazon…so those can be updated on the hardware you have.

Eventually, there will be newer models with more capabilities, including perhaps faster response times (although it seems pretty fast now), but I wouldn’t worry about yours becoming quickly out of date.

Both my Significant Other and my now adult kid are creeped about by the idea of the Echo, and my kid doesn’t even want to be in the same house as one. 🙂 I said that was going to be inevitable, but hopefully, I get an invitation and get one after this visit is over, so we don’t have that issue. Otherwise, I suppose I can unplug it while my kid is in the house.

My Fire TV Stick is here!

While I was writing this, my

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

arrived! I took a quick break to set it up…that was basically plugging it into the power and the HDMI outlet on our TV (we just bought a new TV today…we had one that was at least ten years old as our main TV. I would have waited until the holidays, but we saw an Element ((that’s a brand I like)) at a great price at Target: under $150 for 32″).

I just had to give it our network password, and it’s downloading the latest updates now!

I’ll write a review of it soon. With our kid here, my writing time has been a bit curtailed (family first), but hopefully, in the next few days.

I want to get this out now, so people don’t miss the $3.75 price on the books and the free apps!

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

* 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.

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.

$199 Fire Phone – AT&T = huge hit…and a book deal tonight

November 27, 2014

$199 Fire Phone – AT&T = huge hit…and a book deal tonight

When I paid $199 for the

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

it wasn’t actually the version above.

Mine was “locked” to AT&T, which was okay with me…since that’s our carrier anyway.

They did have an unlocked version in the beginning, but it was at least $450.

Not too long after that, the price for what I bought dropped to $0.99.

Amazon clearly took a big hit on the Fire Phone, and fessed up to it during their financials call.

I’ll have to admit to a tad bit of worry that they wouldn’t continue to support my phone.

Now that they’ve dropped the price of the unlocked version, though, it seems to be working.

At time of writing, the Fire Phone has rocketed up to being #1 in electronics at Amazon.

Higher than the

Fire TV Stick (at Amazon Smile*)

although admittedly, that one’s sales may be down because they are sold out…they don’t expect to have them again until mid January of 2015.

Higher than the

Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player (at AmazonSmile*)

Now, this might just be a sudden leap because of it going on sale, but I think it could make actual inroads into the market. I don’t like mine as well as I did my Galaxy, but I do like it…and it’s a bit of a chicken and the egg issue of having market share to get apps developed for it.

It’s also worth noting that, even at this $199 price,  you still get a year of Amazon Prime (a $99 value), whether you are already a subscriber or not. That makes the price effectively $100.

One other tip…Amazon sent me a heads up on this deal:

“Happy Holidays! With Black Friday two days away, Amazon has announced another great deal starting at 9pm PST tonight [Wednesday, November 26] where customers using the promo code HOLIDAY30 will receive an additional 30% off of purchase for one book, not including eBooks or Audible Audiobooks. The offer is available for a limited time. “

Okay, okay…I know that’s not a Kindle deal. 🙂 If you want to see Amazon’s Black Friday Kindle device deals (with links), see

These will be Amazon’s Black Friday device specials

Join over a thousand 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

 

Round up #274: the adventure of the standing ruling, infringer down

November 5, 2014

Round up #274: the adventure of the standing ruling, infringer down

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

Infringing site taken down

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that a site was reproducing all of the posts in this blog…every day..verbatim…without permission.

One of my readers, Clint Bradford, suggested I use

http://www.whois.com/

to find out who the host was, to report the infringement.

That didn’t work exactly, because the company it said was hosting it wasn’t actually the right one.  It identified GoDaddy, and that company was nice enough to give me the accurate name, lunarpages.

After informing lunarpages, within days, the site was down.

To me, this is a story about the good in the world.

The website was infringing…that’s not good, although it could have been done out of ignorance.

I first notified Google AdSense, and they apparently pulled their ads…thanks, Google!

Then Clint helped me…thanks, Clint!

Then GoDaddy helped me…thanks, GoDaddy! They weren’t under any obligation to do that.

Then lunarpages helped me…thanks, lunarpages!

On balance, there was a lot more good in this sequence than bad…and that’s the assessment I generally make of the world. 🙂

Fire TV $15 off

I use our

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

every day, and it’s on sale right now for $84 instead of $99. They’ve been putting it on sale on and off, and there may be more sales before the holidays…although I don’t think this specific sale will be continuous until then.

You can get that one right away, unlike the

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which is currently expected to arrive for consumers placing new orders after January 16, 2015. I’m glad I recommended that people jump on the chance to buy it…and lots of people did do so!

These two devices will work well with the new Prime benefit announced today in this

press release

With Prime photos, Prime members get unlimited Cloud storage of their photos…and can view them easily on many devices.

That is a really nice additional benefit: we now have shipping; Prime video; Prime music; the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library; and early access to Lightning deals.

U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Sherlock Holmes case

I’ve written before about a legal fight going on over the copyright status of Sherlock Holmes.

It’s a bit tricky. In the USA, most of the original Holmes stories are clearly in the public domain. There are a few stories, though, that are not. The estate essentially argued that, when people write fiction about Holmes, it is likely influenced (and some cases, specifically so) by those still under protection works…so that new unauthorized may be infringing.

The Supreme Court declined to review a lower court ruling saying that wasn’t the case…making it okay to write new Holmes works without obtaining permission or paying royalties, but keeps the ten stories which were under protection in that condition.

In other words, you can go ahead and write a new Holmes story…

Fun image

EBOOK FRIENDLY is especially good at finding clever e-book related images, and I thank them for the heads up on this one:

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/132996995221820561/

Star Libraries

This is a fascinating

Library Journal article by Ray Lyons & Keith Curry Lance

It analyzes libraries in some very intriguing ways. One thing is that people are now trying to measure the impact a given library has on the community…the article says specifically:

Outcomes are an entirely different matter. They are changes experienced by library users—changes in knowledge, skills, attitude, behavior, status, or condition.

One of the stats they give us is circulation per capita…and the library listed with the highest is in Avalon, New Jersey, with a very high 121.6. The next one only has 95.5, so you can see it is a stand-out.

Why your favorite author’s next book isn’t finished

This

Buzzfeed article by Arianna Rebolini

reports on a survey of authors by Stop Procrastinating about what distracts them from writing.

23% said “videos of animal internet celebrities”, while 4% said…sex.

Hm… 😉

What do you think? If you are a writer, what keeps you from writing? I hope reading is on that list! After all, that’s probably one of the best fuels for the literary engine. Are you satisfied with the outcome of the infringing site being taken down…or do you think that was too harsh or not harsh enough? Do you think libraries should be measured by their impacts…or should they simply stand as a public good with no performance evaluation? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

* 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.

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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