New! Pair your Echo device with your Fire TV…and get voice control

August 2, 2017

New! Pair your Echo device with your Fire TV…and get voice control

I was very excited to see this! People have wanted it since the

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

was first released.

You can now control a Fire TV device (Stick or not) just by talking to your

Echo family (at AmazonSmile*)

(I’ll give you more of an idea of what works a bit later).

You can’t do everything, but you can do quite a bit.

I first found out about it when I asked our

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

something this morning, and it said I wasn’t connected to a video source.

Then, I got an e-mail from Amazon, which was basically this

press release

In your Alexa app, go to the menu, and then Music, Video, & Books.

You’ll see a choice for FireTV and one for Dish (if you get Dish right now, there’s a deal where they will give you an Echo Dot).

If you have more than one FireTV, you can choose which one to do first. An Alexa device can only be paired to one Fire TV at a time (just like a Fire TV remote). If you want to change it later, you’ll have to first unlink it, then link it again (one which is already linked doesn’t show up as an option).

I was given a choice of all of these types:

  • Original Echo (“The Tower)
  • Tap
  • Dot
  • Echo Show
  • Lexi (that’s an app)
  • Dash Wand
  • Amazon App (on iOS)

You can, by the way, have more than one Alexa device linked to the same Fire TV. So, you can have both your Echo Show and your Amazon App controlling the family room Fire. I can also see where two people with iPhones and no Echo device would want to have them both linked to the same Fire TV.

The linking was easy and ready to go right away.

Now, in terms of what it can do…

If you are talking about Amazon (not just Prime) Video, it’s good. I said, “Alexa, watch The Wizard of Oz”, and it started right away (that was a Prime video right now, so it didn’t have to stop to ask me if I wanted to buy it or rent it). Same thing with Orphan Black.

It did pause when I asked it to do that, and did fast forward. Amusingly, when I asked it to show me X-Ray (I meant the X-Ray feature of Amazon Video), it brought up a movie named “X-Ray” instead.

It also did understand categories: I asked for “science fiction movies”, and that worked. However, again, it didn’t limit it to Prime video…I’d prefer that, and maybe it’s an option, but I haven’t tested that yet.

Oh, another interesting thing: it did not show me my commands in the Alexa app home, which it normally does for conversations.

Another misfire: I asked it to “play Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, since the movie was in the top banner on the screen, and it thought I wanted the music so offered to play me a sample. I think “watch” is going to work better than “play”.

It will also open an app (I tested Hulu and YouTube), but it couldn’t find a show in Hulu.

Bottom line: it works better with Prime Video.

If you do have a

All-New Element 43-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV – Fire TV Edition (at AmazonSmile*)

you can ask it to “Tune to NBC”, for example. You can also turn it on and change the volume.

Does all this mean you don’t need a remote?

Nope.

Once I open Hulu, for example, I’ll need my remote to pick something. If you don’t have the actual TV, you won’t be able to control the volume. Still, this is cool. 🙂

As you play around with it, let me know if you have discoveries and/or questions.

One last thing…

I don’t have one, but I’ve been hearing about the

The Spot Outlet Wall Mount (at AmazonSmile*)

Seems like it would work well for this, although it would also work in the kitchen and other places. It mounts your Dot right on an outlet…you don’t have to screw it into the wall or anything. It has a 4.5 average out of 5 stars, with 135 customer reviews at the time of writing; that’s quite good. It’s $13.99 at time of writing.

This is once again Amazon giving us something more at no additional cost…its one of the reasons I caution people about judging an Amazon device when it is first released based on its capabilities and content at that time.

Thanks, Amazon!

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

September 2017 is coming: what devices have been around the longest?

July 30, 2017

September 2017 is coming: what devices have been around the longest?

September is about a month away, and Amazon has often announced new hardware in that month.

Last year, I looked at the current Amazon hardware shortly before that, to give my opinions on which ones I thought might be updated.

Let’s do that again. 🙂

Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers)

All-New Kindle E-reader – Black, 6″ Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) $79.99

The most recent edition is from  June of last year, and that’s when they added Bluetooth. They could update that, but they could also just lower the price. That’s a question for me at this point: do they really need four models of EBR now, and do the price points make sense? If the Paperwhite comes down $20 to get under $100, I don’t think they need two between $50 and $100. An under $50 Kindle could be attractive…I’m not seeing $80 as a good price point. I also think that EBRs are in competition with the Fire tablet line…it’s not the same experience, but I think many people are fine with reading on a backlit tablet, rather than having a dedicated reading device.

All-New Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) $119.99

It’s been more than two years since they updated this one. If someone wanted to buy a Kindle who had never owned one, this is still the one I’d recommend. The frontlighting makes it worth more money than the entry level model. I don’t find that the upgrades to the Voyage are worth the money for most people. If they wanted to update it and keep the price about the same, they could add Bluetooth and water-proofing. I could even see the price going up a bit.

Kindle Voyage (any configuration) (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) $199.99

Last updated in 2014. There are 12,972 customer reviews at time of writing. The Paperwhite has 47,415. Now, yes, the Paperwhite has been around longer, but I don’t sense the customer engagement with the Voyage. Could they simply drop this model? Maybe. They could also just leave it alone, maybe lowering the price, but I don’t see them doing much development on this.

The Oasis $289.99 (I’m not linking because it can’t be purchased without an animal leather cover)

This top of the line model came out in April of 2016. I’ve seen some very positive reaction to it, but a 4.2 star average isn’t exceptional (the Paperwhite has a 4.5). I don’t see them dropping this model: it’s good to have an EBR positioned as a luxury item. They could even update this one.

I could see this ending up with three promoted models (and maybe a dormant one): one for under $50, one for about $100, and one for well over $250.

Fire Tablets

Fire Tablets (at AmazonSmile*)

The Fire tablets were already updated this year. I don’t expect to hear much about this, unless they introduce a high end with something innovative.

Echo Family

Echo family (at AmazonSmile*)

We use our

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

every day. It’s even going to enable us to take a family member with mobility issues to a wedding…not for the ceremony itself, but at the social events around it. It will mean that people can walk up and talk to my relative, and our relative will be able to see what’s going on. I suspect that will be confusing for people at first, because they probably won’t realize our relative sees them. 🙂

I don’t expect that or the Dot (it’s doing too well) or the Look (I don’t think it’s gotten enough engagement) to be updated. The Tap is already off the family stripe (what the show you at the top of a strategy)…I use ours a lot (taking it to work with me), but I don’t think it’s been a hit, unfortunately.

As to the original

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

which I call “The Tower”, I think it is due.

That’s partially to deal with Apple’s device, so that would mean smaller and with better sound. It doesn’t mean cheaper, although it certainly could. My intuition is that people wouldn’t mind losing the big Tower design…I suppose they could also introduce one which is intermediate to the “hockey puck” Dot and The Tower.

I think there is still a lot of software innovation to come: one thing would be the ability of Alexa to recognize individual voices. In our house, for example, that might mean giving me the temperature in Celsius and my Significant Other the temperature in Fahrenheit, for example. That could also serve as one alternative for “password protecting” purchases (with an option for a number, when your voice isn’t recognized).

In terms of new Alexa devices:

I like the Dash Wand, but don’t use it that much.

A ring, a watch, a key fob…I could see a lot options for a tiny Alexa device (without “always on” technology).

An Alexa specifically for the car would make sense.

Fire TV

Fire TV family (at AmazonSmile*)

I do think these could see a significant upgrade…in addition to recent integrated Fire TV in a television (as opposed to the add on box or stick).

Our Fire TV, interestingly, could use more power. We recently got DirecTV HBO as part of our phone package, so I added that app…and it does seem to be pushing the limits of the device.

Other possibilities:

  • They are doing more branded phone deals, and I think that will continue, with Alexa onboard being the draw. I do still want a fully functional Alexa app for my existing SmartPhones (Galaxy for my personal phone, iPhone for work)
  • I expect Amazon to get into virtual/augmented reality in a really noticeable way this year, and there could be an announcement around that. I’ve started referring to virtual/augmented reality hardware as “auggies”. I’m not saying Amazon would produce a branded headset, but something…that might also wait for closer to the holidays, though
  • It wouldn’t surprise me to see Amazon get into Amazon branded SmartHome devices (plugs, lightbulbs), and perhaps a hub

I have some other thoughts, but I’m interested in what you think. If Amazon introduces new branded hardware in September or August, what would you guess? Do you think they’d keep the Voyage and drop the Paperwhite? Is the Tap on the way out? Are recent unavailabilities of some devices a sign that they are being replaced? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

Amazon’s Q2 2017 Financials: Okay, investors, I get it this time

July 28, 2017

Amazon’s Q2 2017 Financials: Okay, investors, I get it this time

Amazon just released their 2017 2nd quarter financials, and investors didn’t like it, dropping the stock 3.68% in a day:

CNN Money graph

Investors never seem to like what Amazon has to say (although the stock has gone up 39.49% this year). Well, they don’t like these Amazon financial reports generally at least, and not being a stock expert, that sometimes baffles me.

This time, though, I get it.

For one thing, Amazon is predicting a possible $400 million loss in the 3rd quarter (although it could also be up to a $300 million gain). I would assume that big a range of prediction isn’t attractive (“You’ll either win the race…or end up in the hospital” 😉 ), but it’s also a potentially big loss even without the range.

There were also these (not forwarding looking, but retrospective) results:

“Operating income decreased 51% to $628 million in the second quarter, compared with operating income of $1.3 billion in second quarter 2016.

Net income was $197 million in the second quarter, or $0.40 per diluted share, compared with net income of $857 million, or $1.78 per diluted share, in second quarter 2016.”

So, I can see how someone looking for steady gains would find this scary.

I can also tell you, I’m not going to just say everything is rosy and the investors are just getting  it all wrong.

However…

This is what Amazon does. It invests in the future (and in its customers) and looks long term.

If you want it to be a profit machine, that’s your mistake. 🙂

It’s worth noting that they did not include the proposed Whole Foods purchase in these calculations…while it still seems likely, it hasn’t happened yet and has been seeing some challenges.

One commentator noted that if it happened right now and all at once, it would pretty much wipe out their cash on hand.

If it does go through and Amazon does make it a success (again, I consider both of those likely), it will be a profit maker…which Amazon will then spend on some other future feature.

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

was giant, having unprecedented sales…but that, of course, actually hurts the bottom line (by selling a lot of things for relatively little money).

They did sign up a gazillion (they don’t give us precise numbers, and that’s my word, not theirs)

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

members…which is another big investment in the future.

You just have to accept that Amazon isn’t like a snake swallowing a rabbit, taking time to digest it, and then getting bigger as a result. It’s like a filter feeding  whale shark…it may even stay stationary as it sucks in nutrients, and things flow through it.

Interestingly, they did mention e-books and physical books this time, and they don’t always.

One comment was about the physical bookstores…although it touted their ability to let people interact with Echo devices. 😉 There are eight Amazon bookstores open now, with five more in the works (including one near me).

Another thing they mentioned was the growth of subsers (subscription services), specifically mentioning e-books, which means

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

I don’t think they count Prime Reading as a separate subser.

The growth rate was 53% year over year for subsers, which is a good sign. Amazon does spend to improve subsers, but with any subscription (a gym membership, for example), you are paying for potential. Part of how it works is that most people don’t use more of the service than it costs…although some do, and some use a lot less.

With Amazon, there’s also the whole thing of inspired sales. You can lose money on one thing, if it gets that person to spend more money on something else. As I’ve said before (and as a former brick-and-mortar store manager) that customers tend to look at each transaction, and the businesses look at the entire set of transactions.

Something that reasonably concerned some people was that the growth of AWS (Amazon Web Services), which can really be considered Amazon’s core business now, was slower. It was still there, though.

I expect that we’ll see that Amazon has invested in VAM (Virtual/Augmented/Merged/Mixed Reality) this year, and that the second half of the year will still be building (which they are always doing). The Whole Foods acquisition, if it goes through, will also mean a lot of investment.

I’ll look forward to hearing comments from some of my readers…they often have insightful takes on Amazon financials.

To help you out, here are some resources:

Bonus story:

Verso Books

is having a 90% off sale on all of their e-books, today only, Friday July 28th. Worth checking it out…

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

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

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

Wednesday July 26th: KDD is “Up to 80% off select award-winning titles on Kindle”

July 27, 2017

Wednesday July 26th: KDD is “Up to 80% off select award-winning titles on Kindle”

Today’s

Kindle Daily Deal (at AmazonSmile…benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

is another great selection!

Now, I do want to stress that I am posting this relatively late in the day (my apologies…had some family things). This sale is for Wednesday, July 26th Pacific Time…you may not see it until Thursday. The prices may also not apply in your country, so as always, check the price before you click/tap/eye gaze that Buy button.

You can buy these at the discounted price, and then delay the delivery of a gift item, or even send it to yourself so you can print it out and give it whenever you want.

Titles include:

  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel | 4.4 stars out of 5 | 6,861 customer reviews | major movie adaptation| $2.99
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
  • The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)
  • Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
  • Blood and Money by Thomas Thompson
  • Lion (basis of the movie) by Saroo Brierley
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich (National Book Award)
  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (Newbery Medal)
  • The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
  • The Color of Water by James McBride
  • Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
  • Wild at Heart by John Eldredge
  • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (Pulitzer Prize)
  • Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates
  • Blindness by Jose Saramago (Nobel Prize for Literature)
  • Dragon’s Teeth by Upton Sinclair (Pulitzer Prize)
  • Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty (Edgar Award)
  • Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King (Pulitzer Prize)
  • Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson (National Book Award)
  • B*stard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
  • Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (National Book Award)
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
  • Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez (National Book Award)
  • Among Others by Jo Walton (Hugo Award Best Novel)
  • March by Geraldine Brooks (Pulitzer Prize)
  • A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (Printz Honor)
  • Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick (National Book Award finalist)
  • A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson (Gold Dagger)
  • Carolina Skeletons by David Stout (Edgar Award winner)
  • Bearing the Cross by David J. Garrow (Pulitzer Prize)
  • Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan (National Book Award)
  • Imbeciles by Adam Cohen
  • Small Island by Andrea Levy (Orange Prize)
  • Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos
  • The Confessions of Jack Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer

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

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

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

What books should a robot read to learn morality?

July 26, 2017

What books should a robot read to learn morality?

Sometimes good is harder than best.

If it’s just a question of math, a computer can come up with the best answer more reliably than a human.

If, however, it’s a question of good as in good and evil, most people would say that a robot can’t make that decision.

They are going to have to do that in the future, though.

As robots (and by robots, I mean anything that does work that humans or animals used to do…that’s the origin of the word in the play R.U.R.) become more and more part of our lives, they will encounter more of the situations we do. They will be less in controlled, limited circumstances.

Let’s take the most obvious example: self-driving cars.

I consider it inappropriate to call them “driverless” cars. That’s inaccurate, and unnecessarily scary. There is a driver: not a human, carbon-based driver, but a silicon-based one. 😉

Does the robot need to figure out if it can make the green light? No problem. Eventually, we won’t even need traffic lights, when the cars are communicating with each other and recognizing that there are pedestrians who need to cross.

It can stay in the lane and avoid obstacles.

However…

Let’s suppose that the car loses its brakes…on a mountain road next to a cliff.

The light up ahead is red, and the crosswalk is full of people.

The car does a quick calculation. If it goes straight ahead, it will hit and kill at least five people.

It could also swerve off the cliff, killing just one person, its passenger.

I think if you ask most people what they would do if they were driving the car, they’d say drive off the cliff.

Would you get in a car that would make that same decision?

My guess is that most people would say no.

That’s part of the problem.

We don’t want our technology to be just as good as we are, we want it to be perfect. If a “phone dialer” dialed the wrong number once in a thousand times, we’d consider it unreliable, even though humans do it more often.

If you were just programming the car, you could program it to drive off the cliff.

Let’s complicate it.

Suppose there is a ten percent chance the car can make it so the passenger (we’ll start saying “you”) will survive and so will the people in the crosswalk. There’s a 90 percent chance if it tries it that the five people will die, and the passenger live.

What if it was a twenty-five percent chance?

Fifty-fifty?

Seventy-five percent chance it comes out fine?

Ninety percent chance everyone makes it…and ten percent chance they all die and you survive?

It’s just math, right?

Let’s back up and make an inevitable choice.

This time, there are five people in half of the crosswalk, and one person in the other half…the car can pick a lane, and kill one person or five.

We could program the car that killing fewer people is better than killing more people, right?

What if the five people are serial killers…and the one person is a four-year old child?

Does it matter if it’s a twenty-four year old instead of a four-year old? Five twelve-year olds versus a ninety-four year old?

There are too many variables to come up with just math.

Nowadays, the most advanced types of AI (Artificial Intelligence) aren’t programmed, anyway.

They use “machine learning”…in a sense, they learn by example.

AIs have figured out the rules of scissors/paper/rock just from watching videos.

There is an AI system at use in many public transit systems (we have had it in the San Francisco Bay Area)…at least, that used to be the case. It would watch videos of the station, and figure out normal patterns (on its own). When it saw something strange (such as someone jumping a turnstile, or being on “the wrong side of a fence”, both real examples), it would alert a human for an evaluation.

This

The Guardian article by English professor John Mullan

considers the idea of using fictional characters to teach robots morals, as is being tried. The above article references this

Georgia Tech article

I’m going to provide a brief excerpt from the Georgia Tech article (which is from February of 2016):

“Researchers Mark Riedl and Brent Harrison from the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology believe the answer lies in “Quixote” – to be unveiled at the AAAI-16 Conference in Phoenix, Ariz. (Feb. 12 – 17). Quixote teaches “value alignment” to robots by training them to read stories, learn acceptable sequences of events and understand successful ways to behave in human societies.”

When I read this this morning and flipped it into the

free ILMK magazine at Flipboard

it really got me thinking.

What would I have a robot read to learn morality? More interestingly to me, what would you have them read?

I need to set a few ground rules:

  • Only fiction. Nothing that is non-fiction philosophy, no religious non-fiction (including the books which “define” the major religions)
  • The works must have been originally published for humans to read, not created to teach robots morals
  • You can not instruct the robot as to what is good or bad in the book…or even who the hero is. We will accept that the robot has an excellent understanding of English (or whatever language you are having it read), including subtleties like humor. Think of it as an intelligent human being, but one that is naive about morality

While I’d like a robot to think like Doc Savage (one of my fictional heroes), those books have a lot of bad behavior in them. Doc also has a self-sacrificing streak I don’t think I’d want to see in my robot…and what if the robot modeled itself after the relatively bloodthirsty Monk Mayfair? Monk “wins” as much as Doc does, although Doc is more respected by others. I’m guessing that’s part of how a robot would learn, by judging the reactions of other characters to determine what is a good thing to do.

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

is a possibility…assuming that the robot would look to Atticus Finch for guidance. Atticus isn’t perfect, but I’m not looking for perfect. Atticus also isn’t the main character, and it would be much trickier if the robot also read

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

Hm…this is harder than I would have first thought.

Sherlock Holmes? Maybe if it chose Watson as the model, but not Holmes, certainly.

How about Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight? Maybe…

Clearly, I have to think about this more.

What do you think? What would you want a robot to read to learn morals? Is that the right way for a robot to learn what’s right and wrong to mold its behavior? Are Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics good enough…even though they were imperfect in Asimov’s own works? Would you accept imperfect morality in a robot, that it might rarely make a bad choice, one that humans would see as more evil than good? 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 The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

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

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

July 24, 2017

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

The original

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

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

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

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

The

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 2017 Kindle book releases

July 24, 2017

August 2017 Kindle book releases

While I don’t generally pre-order Kindle store books myself, I know many of you do.

I understand the fun of just having the book show up, but I figure I’ll order when I want it…since I could have it within a minute, usually.…

However, it’s worth noting that pre-ordering at a low price will tend to preserve that price. Back when the Agency Model was solidly in place, Amazon couldn’t guarantee that books sold by the publishers using that structure wouldn’t go up in price after you pre-ordered them. It wasn’t likely, it was just that Amazon couldn’t control it. We have largely returned to the Agency Model, but Amazon is allowed to discount in some circumstances

These aren’t necessarily the most popular of the pre-orders…I’m just going to list ones that catch my eye. Since we might not agree on that, here’s a link to the 6,947 titles listed as being released in the USA Kindle Store in June 2017 (404 fewer than last month):

August 2017 USA Kindle store releases (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping* )

Of those, by the way, 1,051 (339 fewer than last time) are in

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

As usual, I won’t be deliberately linking to books which block text-to-speech access blocked**.

We’ve gone back and forth recently on whether the top four were the

Kindle First (at AmazonSmile)

picks for this month. Amazon doesn’t do these by popularity any more, they do them by featured…and this month, they are back on top, reversing the trend of the past couple of months.

Some of those Kindle Unlimited titles are way up on the list (one of the top ten, compared to five last month). I’m concerned (and I’ve alerted Amazon about it) that people are confused: they think they are pre-ordering a KU borrow, when they are actually pre-ordering a purchase. In other words, they may be thinking they’ll get the book at no additional cost, and actually be charged for it. Amazon has confirmed for me: you can not pre-order a borrow from KU.

Okay, books!

  • No More Fake Reading: Merging the Classics With Independent Reading to Create Joyful, Lifelong Readers (Corwin Literacy) by Berit Gordon
  • Managing Change by Bernard Burnes
  • Y is for Yesterday (A Kinsey Millhone Novel) by Sue Grafton
  • The Myth of Individualism: How Social Forces Shape Our Lives by Peter L. Callero
  • When Women Rule the Court: Gender, Race, and Japanese American Basketball (Critical Issues in Sport and Society) by Nicole Willms
  • The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter
  • WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures: A Commentary by Wolfgang Müller
  • The Last Tudor (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels) by Philippa Gregory
  • Mary McCarthy’s Italy: The Stones of Florence and Venice Observed by Mary McCarthy
  • Keep Your Airspeed Up: The Story of a Tuskegee Airman by Harold H. Brown and Marsha S. Bordner
  • Telling the Story of Translation: Writers who Translate (Bloomsbury Advances in Translation) by Judith Woodsworth
  • Everyday Words and the Character of Prose in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture) by Jonathan Farina
  • I Know a Secret: A Rizzoli & Isles  by Tess Gerritsen
  • The Kent Family Chronicles: Volumes One Through ThreeAug 8, 2017 | Kindle eBook
    by John Jakes
  • Ready or Not!: 150+ Make-Ahead, Make-Over, and Make-Now Recipes by Nom Nom Paleo by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong
  • The Adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser: Swords and Deviltry, Swords Against Death, and Swords in the Mist by Fritz Leiber
  • Outposts on the Frontier: A Fifty-Year History of Space Stations (Outward Odyssey: A People’s History of Spaceflight) by Clayton C. Anderson and Jay Chladek
  • Planet Hunters: The search for extraterrestrial life by Lucas Ellerbroek and Andy Brown
  • Welcome Home Diabetic Cookbook: 450 Easy-to-Prepare Recipes for the Slow Cooker, Stovetop, and Oven by Hope Comerford
  • Twentieth Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment by Jeffrey Paul Thompson and Michael Troyan
  • Disqualified: Eddie Hart, Munich 1972, and the Voices of the Most Tragic Olympics by Eddie Hart and Dave Newhouse
  • Running the City : Why public art matters by Felicity Fenner
  • The Holistic Dog: Inside the Canine Mind, Body, Spirit, Space by Laura Benko and Susan Fisher Plotner
  • Soul Survivor: A Biography of Al Green by Jimmy McDonough
  • The Honest Body Project: Real Stories and Untouched Portraits of Women & Motherhood by Natalie McCain
  • Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea Ritchie and Angela Y. Davis
  • Inside Animal Hearts and Minds: Bears That Count, Goats That Surf, and Other True Stories of Animal Intelligence and Emotion by Belinda Recio and Jonathan Balcombe
  • Compounds and Compounding (Cambridge Studies in Linguistics) by Laurie Bauer
  • The World of Tiers Volume One: The Maker of Universes, The Gates of Creation, and A Private Cosmos by Philip José Farmer
  • Fugitive by Magic: a Baine Chronicles novel (The Baine Chronicles: Fenris’s Story Book 1) by Jasmine Walt and Judah Dobin (KU)
  • Whale Quest: Working Together to Save Endangered Species (Nonfiction — Young Adult) by Karen Romano Young
  • All the Beautiful People We Once Knew by Edward Carlson
  • Dark Rites: A Paranormal Romance Novel (Krewe of Hunters)Jul 25, 2017 | Kindle eBook
    by Heather Graham
  • Peppers of the Americas: The Remarkable Capsicums That Forever Changed Flavor by Maricel E. Presilla
  • Haunts of Old Louisville: Gilded Age Ghosts and Haunted Mansions in America’s Spookiest Neighborhood by David Domine
  • Lazgood’s Boys (Hardcore Station Book 1) by Jim Starlin
  • The Girl Who Dared to ThinkAug 9, 2017 | Kindle eBook
    by Bella Forrest
  • The Power of Purpose: Inspire teams, engage customers, transform business by John O’Brien and Andrew Cave
  • The EC Archives: Shock SuspenStories Volume 1 by Al Feldstein and Various
  • The Amos Walker Mysteries Volume One: Motor City Blue, Angel Eyes, and The Midnight Man by Loren D. Estleman
  • Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery
  • Glass Houses: A Novel (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel)Aug 29, 2017
    by Louise Penny
  • Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties: From the Creator of Captain Underpants (Dog Man #3) by Dav Pilkey
  • Crime Scene by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman
  • Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber
  • Dragonsworn (Dark-Hunter Novels) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Exposed (A Rosato & DiNunzio Novel) by Lisa Scottoline
  • Seeing Red by Sandra Brown
  • Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell and Craig Sanborn
  • The Right Time by Danielle Steel
  • Hidden Universe Travel Guides: Star Trek: The Klingon Empire by Insight Editions

That’s only a small fraction, and just ones that caught my eye. If you have other books being released to the USA Kindle store in July 2017 to suggest for me and my readers, you can do so by commenting on this post. If you are directly connected to the book (the author, the publisher) that’s okay…just identify yourself as such and make your comment in your own words (not as an ad).

Enjoy!

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

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

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

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

 

One of today’s Kindle Daily Deals: Mists of Avalon for $1.99!

July 23, 2017

One of today’s Kindle Daily Deals: Mists of Avalon for $1.99!

On of today’s

Kindle Daily Deal (at AmazonSmile…benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

is a book that my customers bought many times when I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore. It’s a beloved, respected, best-selling (as a trade paperback) Arthurian tale by Marion Zimmer Bradley. 4.6 out of 5 stars with 1,396 customer reviews. It’s the #30 best-selling paid book right now in the entire USA Kindle store.

Gee, can you tell I think this is a great buy? 😉 Whether you buy it for yourself, for a gift, or to have for your guests when they visit, I think this is one of the best deals I’ve seen in a Kindle Daily Deal.

It’s

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

for $1.99!

You wouldn’t have to ask very many people to get a recommendation for this one, I think, but if you “piece buy” books at all (paying for one book at a time to own it), this is one where I would say buy it as a gift, have it sent to yourself so you can give it whenever you want…or perhaps, buy it now for someone you know would enjoy an epic fantasy.

Do check the price before you click/tap/eye gaze that buy button…it may not apply in your country, and you might see this after the sale is over.

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

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

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

Congressional request for review of Amazon/Whole Foods deal

July 22, 2017

Congressional request for review of Amazon/Whole Foods deal

When I first wrote about Amazon’s proposed takeover of Whole Foods:

The largelthiest storket in the world! Why does Amazon want to buy Whole Foods?

I was questioned on a couple of things.

One was my quirky words. 🙂 I was trying to combine “largest store” and “healthy market” (sort of), but I’ll admit that even for me, that was a stretch. 😉

The other was that I was referring to it in indefinite terms…not committing to it happening.

Well, I’m not going to say now that it’s not going to happen for sure…I think the challenge I’ll write about below is not going to derail it. However, I still think it’s not 100% yet, although I do think it’s likely to happen.

Here’s one story on it:

Reuters article by Ginger Gibson

On what?

Twelve Congressmembers of the minority party have sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission asking for a more in-depth examination of the proposed Amazon/Whole Foods deal.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union made the letter public:

http://www.ufcw.org/2017/07/21/amazonwholefoodsletter/

The two arguments in the letter seem…well, I’ll go with “unconvincing”.

The one has to do with the availability of healthy food to disadvantaged communities.

I’m sorry, but I just can’t see anyway that Amazon is going to make food less available than it is currently at Whole Foods. If anything, prices should come down (due in part to efficiencies, but also because of corporate philosophies). Delivery and access should also become easier for more people.

The other one is a concern about closing retail stores. I don’t see that that is specifically a problem (despite having been a manager of a brick-and-mortar bookstore, a gamestore and more).

I also think this deal will make it more likely that a brick-and-mortar store continues to be around, rather than less likely.

So, my guessed outcomes would be the opposite of what the letter suggests, on both of their issues.

Another thing that seems weird about this? Jeff Bezos hasn’t been a friend of the President…which should, essentially, align the Amazon CEO (Chief Executive Officer) with the people who signed the letter.

I’ll keep my eye on it, and I do think other challenges may arise, including other suitors and other legal questions.

What do you think? Will anything come out of this letter? Will something else derail the deal? Do you personally see a problem with the deal, and if so, what is it? Feel free to tell me and my users what yu think by commenting on this post.

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

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

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

Amazon Spark: a new social network (and product discovery) for iOS

July 20, 2017

Amazon Spark: a new social network (and product discovery) for iOS

I have these bizarre mixed ideas of what product/service development at Amazon is like.

There are times when I see it as super high tech, like something Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne would have in their basements.

There are others when it feels like a mad scientist’s laboratory, in a castle on a imposing mountain with lightning crashing in the background, and mood lighting by Strickfaden (and, of course, controlled by Alexa).

Then there are times when it seems like the Invention Exchange segments on Mystery Science Theater 3000. 😉

I’m not quite sure where

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

falls yet.

The very basic idea, of being able to share how you feel about an Amazon product, makes sense. Of course, we can write reviews on Amazon, but I don’t think most people discover your comments that way. Not everything is a review, either…it might just be a comment or a question.

However…

This implementation is quite limited, at least at this point.

It only works through the Amazon Shopping App, and right now, only on iOS (Apple).

My concern there isn’t just that it isn’t available for Android: it’s that it can only be seen through the app, and that I can’t add things when I’m shopping on my computer.

That isn’t really very social for a social network. 😉

It makes it feel more like an attempt to lock people into using the app.

If that’s the case, I don’t think it’s going to get people to add one more social network into their day. I already don’t do Facebook much myself, because I don’t feel like I have the social energy/capital to spend on it. If I was active on Facebook, I can see how I would spend an hour a day, and I just don’t have that in terms of my creative priorities.

That’s going to be the case with Spark as well, although I did just post something to test it.

It took a while bouncing around to even get it to show up. It’s supposed to be in the menu under Programs and Features, but it wasn’t there for me at first.

The interface is not really intuitive, but it works okay. There isn’t enough discovery in the discovery yet.

It could work, but this one doesn’t seem like one of Amazon’s home runs to me. It’s like the posting we used to do in Kindle books…that eventually faded, even though it was an interesting idea.

I’ll be interested in your opinion on it, if you try it. Hm…somebody did just smile on my post, so it is already working. Maybe I’ll be wrong about this, which would be great!

In the mean time, I’ll keep waiting for Amazon to burst into the VAM (Virtual/Augmented/Merged/Mixed Reality) space, which I expect to happen later this year. 🙂

Feel free to let me know what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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

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


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