The Secret Life of Amazon’s X-Ray Service

Ben Stiller reads free Audible audiobook of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

It seemed like a miracle. I was listening to music — and its lyrics started appearing (in time with the music)! It’s one of the new features of Amazon’s music-playing apps. But today I found myself wondering if it’s any better than guessing at the lyrics yourself…

“Lyrics display and scroll automatically line-by-line as the song plays,” Amazon explains helpfully on their web page — showing X-Ray in action on a Kindle Fire tablet. But I first encountered this magical feature on my humble Android phone, when lyrics started appearing in my “Amazon Music” app. I never signed up for the X-Ray service, but one day, it spontaneously appeared in my life. A song was coming down to me from the cloud — but now, so were its lyrics!

I should’ve been thrilled, but instead one of the first things I did was Google “How to turn off X-Ray lyrics”, because at first it just seemed distracting! (I liked it when Amazon’s app displayed a pretty picture of the song’s album cover — instead of shrinking that to make room for a line-by-line print-out of the lyrics.) Plus, Amazon’s lyrics aren’t available for every song, so they kept coming and going, winking on and off like a haunted teleprompter. Finally I realized I could just drag the “lyric window” down using a tiny rectangular handle at the window’s top-center. That revealed the album cover in all its glory, leaving behind just a thin gray rectangle with the words “X-Ray Lyrics”.

But here’s the dirty secret about the lyrics from Amazon’s X-Ray service: they’re not always right. I learned this dark truth after becoming obsessed with the meaning of a particularly fascinating song. I’d watched Ben Stiller’s blockbuster, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and even bought its inspiring sound track. And it begins with a roar — drums and cymbals — as Swedish indie singer Jose Gonzalez launches into an anthem urging “Step outside. Won’t you step outside. Better step outside. Time to step outside…”

But as a chorus of children sing their hearts out, the stakes of the song “Step Out” suddenly become impossibly high and almost nihlistic. “House on fire. Leave it all behind you,” they’re singing in unison — before the lyrics even begin. Or are they? One lyric-listing site decided the lyrics must be “Hearts on Fire. Leaving all behind you…”

I was delighted when I realized that X-Ray lyrics would display their interpretation of the song, so I could see who was right. But I soon realized they were just guessing, just like everybody else. They heard the first chorus as just “Step outside, time to step outside” — repeated over and over again. I can’t really fault them for just typing out “Whoa oh oh oh” once for the first line of the chorus — though that’s also its second and third line. But I have to say I was truly disappointed that they couldn’t solve the song’s most mysterious lyrics.

One site actually transcribed it as “Broke tooth one day, something’s not the same. Blank head, that guy sweeps the floor…” (I’m pretty sure that’s not it!) As the singer breaks it down to a hushed whisper — the one moment of calm after “House on fire, leave it all behind you” — I heard “Broke to Monday. Something’s not the same. Blank head, crossed eyes sweep the floor…” But Amazon’s X-Ray service also transcribed it as “Broke tooth Monday.” (What the hell would that even mean?!)

To be fair, the song’s lyrics are cryptic — and the gentle-but-mumbling delivery of the songwriter only makes them more mysterious. One YouTube video presented the chorus as dark as night “and a light to guide you,” but also made the intriguing suggestion that that despondent chorus wasn’t describing “Feeding appetites” (as Amazon suggested), but “feeding at the tides”… But maybe I should walk away from this experience with a new respect for Amazon’s X-Ray service for lyrics. Because it’s really easy to get the lyrics right when you’re just re-typing something from a CD booklet — but without that, it’s anybody’s guess!

But I’ll always remember a friend in high school who once suggested that songwriters shouldn’t tell their audience a song’s definitive interpretation — because finding your own meaning was part of the fun. So instead of relying on Amazon’s X-Ray service, maybe instead we should just follow the advice of this song’s lyricist. As the music culminates into a wall of sound, he can be heard gently mumbling one more lyric that Amazon’s X-Ray service also didn’t transcribe.

“Just believe, and…”

“Step outside. Take a step outside. Better step outside. Time to step outside…”

 



In some countries, Amazon’s Kindle Store has been offering
a free audiobook version of the short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”
read by Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller reads free Audible audiobook of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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New Book Explains the Singularity – and Everything Else

Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity

It’s described as “mind-stretching and entertaining” — a new book which explains the brain-boggling possibilities of “an international movement” called transhumanism. With science and technology, the movement suggests we can overcome all our human limitations — those so-called “natural” limits which technology melts away. But the most amazing part is that “Some of this is happening now,” the book’s page on Amazon explains. “Some of it is still in the minds of dreamers” — but all of it is absolutely fascinating.

For a shortcut to the book, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/TranshumanistBook

The complete title for the new book is Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity. And to write the book, Jay Cornell teamed with R.U. Sirius, who co-founded one of the most influential magazines about cyberculture, Mondo 2000. Walter Isaacson, who wrote that best-selling biography of Steve Jobs, called it “without doubt the most delightful guide to the radical future.” And after reading the book, one Silicon Valley forecaster (who teaches at Stanford) pronounced that “The future is weird, very weird!”

Super robots? They’re in here, along with more information about exciting tech topics like artificial intelligence and nanotechnology. They discuss virtual reality — and the creation of entire virtual worlds, in a free-wheeling encyclopedia whose entries cover everything from memory-editing drugs to cloning and “designer babies” to something called cyborg feminism. Author Mark Leyner described the book as “fascinating, ridiculously fun to read, and good for you!”

But my favorite review came from Andrei Codrescu, a humorist who contributes essays on NPR’s radio show All Things Considered. “Being of the same energy field as myself, I now throw a sack full of gold dust into the arena and dare anyone to be either funnier or smarter than this R. U. Sirius.” That’s the thing — this book is funny and entertaining, even while it’s tantalizing your brain with its lively and provocative insights into the shape of things to come. There’s even entries about Michael Jackson, sexbots, warbots, and the Mormon Transhumanist Foundation. And of course, there’s also some stunning information about what people are already doing now with 3D printing technology.

I loved reading Amazon’s selection of blurbs about the book, which described it as ” a hilarious breath of fresh air” or “A delicious funcyclopedia… deceptively light treatment of mind-blowing technologies…” But the thing that impressed me most was where those reviews were coming from. No less of an authority than my favorite science fiction web site, io9, called the book “Witty, snide, and incredibly informative.” And one of the writers at Hacked.com promised the book “will put your mind on fire.”

We live in interesting times now — but aren’t you curious what’s coming next?

Remember, for a shortcut to the book, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/TranshumanistBook

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Amazon’s New Free TV Shows!

Point of HonorThat Man in the High Castle - Amazon TV show
Mad Dogs Amazon StudiosThe New Yorker Presents

“Let’s watch more TV,” I said to my girlfriend. Amazon’s original programs are fascinating, and even when they’re not great, they’re original — never-seen-before attempts at not just new stories but entirely new genres. Now Amazon’s just released a brand new crop of 13 more original shows, promising more creativity and surprises.

For a shortcut to Amazon’s free TV shows, go to
tinyurl.com/2015Pilots

You can watch them all online for free (or on any Kindle Fire tablet, or with the Amazon Instant Video app on Fire TV, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii). My girlfriend even watches Amazon’s videos using her iPhone, streaming the high-definition video from Amazon’s app to the AppleTV box for her widescreen TV! And it’s our votes which will help choose which shows get picked up for an entire season of episodes. Amazon’s Vice President for their original programming said that not only are they excited about the shows themselves, but “We’re looking forward to getting customer’s reactions.”

“Our first pilot season of 2015 brings some of the greatest storytellers in the business…with works of novelty and passion.”

The New Yorker Presents

There’s even a pilot from The New Yorker — the prestigious literary magazine — with a sketch, a cartoon, a short documentary feature and an interview with an artist. “Seven new comedy, drama and docuseries pilots are available,” read Amazon’s press release — but there’s also six more new shows — pilots for children — for a total of 13.

And it looks like the “pipeline” for Amazon’s shows has come up with some interesting ideas…


That Man in the High Castle - Amazon TV show

  • The Man in the High Castle is based on a stunning “alternate history” novel by Philip K. Dick, set in a world in which the Nazi’s won World War II. Twenty years later, Germany and Japan have divided much of the planet, but spies and imposters fill a story with a message about both history and authenticity. And the executive producer for this show is science fiction legend Ridley Scott!


Point of Honor

  • Point of Honor is actually set during the Civil War, and shot entirely on location at a former Virginia plantation. It’s an ambitious, hour-long drama about a family torn by the desire to protect their lifestyle while fighting for their beliefs, directed by the writer and producer of Braveheart


Cocked - Amazon Studios

  • Cocked stars Jason Lee from “My Name is Earl” as a bachelor, playboy and gun aficionado who’s not happy when his brother — a former “corporate lapdog” — returns to Colorado to help run the family’s gun factory.


Salem Rogers

  • Salem Rogers includes Rachel Dratch from Saturday Night Live as the former personal assistant to a bratty supermodel who suddenly returns from rehab — after 10 years — intent on reclaiming her fame (and her reckless and wild life). It was nice to see Jane Kaczmarek — the mother on Malcolm in the Middle — as a hard-nosed agent!


Mad Dogs Amazon Studios

  • Mad Dogs is a dark story about old friends reuniting at the villa of a wealthy acquaintance, when “their trip becomes a labyrinthine nightmare of lies, deception and murder” (according to the show’s description at Amazon). They’ve packed a lot of twists into their hour-long pilot, and it’s based on a British show which is already extremely popular.


Down Dog

  • Down Dog is the story of a yoga studio catering to “the trophy wives, hot moms and aspiring celebrities of Santa Monica and Venice Beach,” according to the show’s description at Amazon. But there’s drama and comedy when the good-looking yoga instructor triggers chaos by breaking up with his current girlfriend…


Remember, for a shortcut to all of Amazon’s free TV shows, go to
tinyurl.com/2015Pilots

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January’s Kindle eBook Discounts!

900 Miles - a Zombie Novel by S Johnathan DavisThe Heart of Everything That Is - The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend

Regarding Ducks and Universes - science fiction book coverMoonshine - a Cultural History of Hooch

Every month Amazon picks a special selection of Kindle ebooks to sell for $3.99 or less. And this month has some fascinating books to expand your mind with both history and science fiction. But Amazon’s discounted over 100 different Kindle ebooks to just $3.99 or less, so there’s lots of bargains to choosse from.

For a shortcut to Amazon’s discounts, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/399KindleEbooks

Here’s some of the most interesting selections…


Moonshine - a Cultural History of Hooch

Moonshine: A Cultural History of America’s Infamous Liquor by Jaime Joyce ($2.99)

It’s a $25 history of moonshine – now discounted in Amazon’s Kindle store to just $2.99! “Hooch. White lightning. White whiskey. Mountain dew…” begins the book’s description at Amazon — promising “Nothing but clear, 100-proof American history.” The underground infamy of backwoods booze is an all-American tradition that dates back several centuries. But this book dips into the facts and the folklore behind untaxed liquors and unlicensed stills, whether brewed up by mountain people or the “craft distilling” that’s still being practiced today!


Regarding Ducks and Universes - science fiction book cover

Regarding Ducks and Universes by Neve Maslakovic ($1.99)

It’s an awesome title, and this science fiction book lives up to its promise. “On a foggy Monday in 1986, the universe suddenly, without warning, bifurcated,” explains a description on Amazon. 35 years later, a food writer in “San Francisco of Universe A” discovers a photograph showing himself with his father, dated 10 days before the writer was actually born! Of course there’s only one thing to do — head to “San Francisco B”, flagrantly violating the rules of both worlds, and spying on his other self. But it turns out that someone knows he’s changed universes, and the answer to all these provokative mysteries lies, impossibly, in a rubber duck…


The Heart of Everything That Is - The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend

The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend by Bob Drury ($1.99)

The Lakota warrior chief was nearly 90 years old when he died in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, having served as chief for 41 years from 1868 until 1909. But his fascinating life included an 1875 visit to Washington D.C., according to Wikipedia, where he attempted to persuade President grant “to honor existing treaties and stem the flow of miners into their lands.” This 2013 biography was chosen as the best book of the year by Salon magazine, and it also became a New York TImes best-seller. It’s the story of of the only American Indian in history to defeat the U.S. Army in a war, and one reviewer praised its beautiful handling of the historical material, calling it “epic…big, blazing history, writ large on the High Plains.”


900 Miles - a Zombie Novel by S Johnathan Davis

900 Miles: A Zombie Novel by S. Johnathan Davis ($0.99)

This book describes its hero’s “harrowing 900 mile race against time to get to his wife just as the dead begin to rise.” There’s no rules left in society, only one man bringing rumors of an underground stronghold, and so a New York businessman teams up with an ex-army pilot in an intense and fast-paced thriller. “Zombies are not the only things to fear in a DEAD world…our fellow Man is!” wrote one reviewer on Amazon — one of 145 people who awarded the novel five stars. It enjoyed 8 months as one of Amazon’s top 100 occult horror novels, and spent several weeks in the #1 spot on Amazon’s list new ebooks. And after finishing this frightening story, one reader even posted a review on Amazon that was titled “It’s settled – when the zombie apocalypse comes, I’m stealing a humvee….”

Remember, for a shortcut to Amazon’s discounts, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/399KindleEbooks

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David Letterman’s Kindle Christmas Story

David letterman vs. the iPad and Kindle

At Christmas time, I always think about people who’ve been with us over the years — and I remember watching David Letterman all the way back in the 1980s. So it was nice to see him talking about the Kindle once, still making jokes about our funny modern world. This is the last year he’ll be recording his late-night talk show, but nearly four years ago on his late-night talk show he’d shown off the tablet that he’d just started using.

Around the holidays each year I like to revisit that story, because it’s a good reminder about how fast things have changed — and how sometimes the biggest challenge is simply our own stubborn human nature! Talking to the leader of his band (Paul Shaffer), Letterman at first actually seemed genuinely confused even about whether he’d bought an iPad or a Kindle!


LETTERMAN: For Christmas, I loaded up — I had one of them iPads, and they put a book in it. You know you can do that now?

PAUL SHAFFER: Oh, yeah. Sure…

LETTERMAN: And so I’ve been reading this book in this iPad thing, and I’m reading and I’m reading and I’m reading. And as you know, you don’t turn a page, in — when you’re reading on the — what do they call them, the Kindles or something?

PAUL SHAFFER: Yeah… They’ve got that, too, yeah. (Audience laughs)


Letterman was probably reading with a “Kindle for iPad” app. (Earlier that week, Amazon had pointed out that it’s one of the top 10 best-selling apps among iPad owners.) But as their conversation went on, Paul Shaffer gently tried to correct Letterman’s confusion as he explained how you turn pages.


LETTERMAN:And so you just — you just kind of do this with your finger.

PAUL SHAFFER: You flip that. Yeah.

LETTERMAN:And the thing’ll…

PAUL SHAFFER: On the iPad and the Kindle…


Letterman was playing up his reactions as a technology curmudgeon — but he was building up to a complaint that I’d heard before. The Kindle used to tell you only what percentage of a book you’d finished reading, without telling you how many real-world pages were left in the book. Now, of course, the Kindle can actually report how much time is left before you reach the end of book — or even the end of your current chapter. But back in 2010, this was irritating the late-night talk show host. Although the punch line turned out to be that his bandleader Paul Shaffer had the perfect answer!


LETTERMAN: And I’m reading, and I realize: something’s wrong here. Something’s desperately wrong. There’s no page numbers on my book!

PAUL SHAFFER: Right. No, well, there can’t be. There can’t be, because you can change the font, and if you have a larger font, then you’re going to have fewer pages and therefore you can’t possibly commit to a page number because as you electronically alter the page you number, you are going to have to change as well the number of pages that you have at your disposal…(Audience applauds)

LETTERMAN: Thank you. Thank you, Steve Jobs.


It’s nice to remember that story, as a reminder of how things have changed. (Amazon eventually even found a way to add page numbers to lots of Kindle ebooks, so maybe Letterman is happier now.) But I still always smile when I remember how skeptical he’d been about the iPad — even in earlier shows. When the device was first released, he’d showed one to his audience, then joked “The radiation this thing gives off is incredible. You’re supposed to wear a lead apron when you operate it!”

But it was especially interesting in light of a research study by J.P. Morgan. Back in early 2011, they’d determined that 40% of the people who own an iPad also own a Kindle — and that another 23% of them planned to buy one within the next 12 months!

It’s a hopeful sign that all iPad owners aren’t as confused as David Letterman! But I still would like to drop his comments into a time capsule, to be opened up by later generations. Even if books are all someday replaced by digital readers, it’ll be worth remembering just how uncomfortable some people were with the change.


LETTERMAN: But see, and then you just — you just whisk it away like that, and then — but look. What do you see? Do you see a page number?

PAUL SHAFFER: No….

LETTERMAN: No. You don’t see no page number.

PAUL SHAFFER: No. There isn’t…

LETTERMAN: How do you know when you’re done, is what I want to know? Or if somebody – somebody asks you, are you reading the — the book? And I say yeah. “What page are you on?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what page I’m on.” For example, this — I’m reading now the Alex Trebeck story, and I have no idea — uh…No, I can’t help you. Sorry!

David letterman vs. the iPad and Kindle

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The 100 Most Useful URLs for Kindle Owners

Digital Publishing vs. the Gutenberg press

Once a year, I assemble my “master list” of shortcuts to the 100 most useful pages for Kindle owners — like all of the free ebooks, games, and comic books that Amazon’s making available. But this year there’s 15 new links which highlight all the changes that happened in 2014 that became a part of the Kindle universe!

Instead of trying to memorize a bunch of complicated URLs, I’ve created shorter, easier-to-remember addresses that still lead to the same pages.

And all 100 of them start with TinyURL.com …

FREE EBOOKS AND GAMES

tinyurl.com/100freekindlebooks
Amazon’s 100 best-selling free ebooks are always available on this list (which is updated hourly!) And of course, the other side of the page also shows the 100 best-selling ebooks which are not free…

tinyurl.com/FreeKindleGames
There’s also free games for your black-and-white Kindle readers — 19 of them — most created by Amazon to show off the Kindle’s versatility.

tinyurl.com/ObamaKindleInterview
Amazon’s interview with President Barack Obama 18 months ago is available as a free Kindle Single.

tinyurl.com/AmazonEntrepreneurs
Transformations is a free 200-page ebook published in 2014 by Amazon about “authors, innovators, and small businesses” around the world who are all enjoying new success using Amazon.

tinyurl.com/BackOnMurder
My favorite free Kindle mystery — a 384-page detective novel following a police detective’s homicide investigation in Houston called Back on Murder.


FREE LAUGHS FROM AMAZON

tinyurl.com/FunnyFakeAmazonReviews
Amazon’s own list of their favorite funny fake customer reviews.

tinyurl.com/MoreFunnyAmazonReviews
Amazon’s second list of their favorite funny customer reviews.

tinyurl.com/AmazonTours
In 2014, Amazon finally started offering free tours of their own fulfillment centers in six different states!

Horse Head Mask from Amazon



FREE COMIC BOOKS

tinyurl.com/freeGraphicNovel
Amazon’s free full-length “graphic novel” called Blackburn Burrow – a fascinating horror comic book set during the Civil War that you can read in color on your Kindle Fire or Android smartphone, or in black-and-white on the Paperwhite, the Kindle Touch, or the Kindle.

tinyurl.com/FreeKindleComicBooks
All of Amazon’s best-selling free Kindle comic books. (For a shortcut to all of Amazon’s Digital Kindle Comics, just point your browser to tinyurl.com/KindleComicBooks

tinyurl.com/ComicsNewsletter
Amazon’s free newsletter about digital comic books. And when you subscribe, they’ll give you a free Kindle edition of Superman No. 1 from the “New 52″ series.


FREE MUSIC

tinyurl.com/FreeMp3List
I love how Amazon is always giving away free mp3s — and you can always find a complete list at this URL!

tinyurl.com/KindleChristmasSong
It’s that cute song from Amazon’s 2010 Kindle Christmas ad. (“Snowflake in my pocket, let’s take a sleigh ride on the ice…”) At this URL, you can download a free mp3 of the song “Winter Night” by Little & Ashley.

tinyurl.com/AmazonPrimeMusic
This year Amazon started making thousands of songs available for free to subscribers of their Amazon Prime service.


FREE VIDEO

tinyurl.com/PrimeInstantVideo
If you’ve signed up for Amazon’s free “Prime” two-day shipping service, they’ll also let you watch a ton of movies and TV shows for free on your Kindle Fire! (Or over the internet…) Browse through the complete selection here – everything from the original episodes of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone to modern favorites like Bones and even new shows created by Amazon!

tinyurl.com/GoodmanShow
John Goodman’s show “Alpha House” — written by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau — is exclusively available on Amazon Instant Video. Watch the first episode free online!

tinyurl.com/AmazonDailyShow
A delightful interview on The Daily Show with John Goodman about his new sitcom on Amazon Instant Video, where he explains “there’s a gizmo you buy with Amazon, and then you get free TV with it” — after first jokingly confessing that he doesn’t actually know how it works.

tinyurl.com/StewartBorders
On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart also did a special segment in 2011 when Borders bookstores announced that it was going out of business. (“Books! You may know them as the thing Amazon tells you ‘You might be interested in’ when you’re buying DVDs…”) Correspondent John Hodgman delivered some silly suggestions about how bookstores could re-vitalize their business model — like offering in-store appearances where customers could heckle authors while they’re writing novels. Or, simply converting bookstores into historical tourist attractions demonstrating the way books used to be sold in the 20th century.

tinyurl.com/KindleFlare
The Onion finally unleashed their fake news stories on the Kindle this year, joking that Amazon had released a Kindle with a very annoying new feature. (And you can also have The Onion delivered directly to your Kindle at tinyurl.com/KindleOnion

tinyurl.com/BezosMarketplace
A fascinating interview with the author of the controversial book about Amazon, “The Everything Store,” which includes a discussion (with audio) about the sound of Jeff Bezos’s laughter.

tinyurl.com/JeffBezosRemembers
Just 7 years after the launch of Amazon, Jeff Bezos shared its story with a roomful of young entrepreneurs, reminiscing about his site’s early days — and the library where he’d read books as a teenager.



Amazon Kindle 399 ebook sale

BARGAIN EBOOKS

tinyurl.com/399KindleEbooks
Every month, Amazon picks 100 ebooks to offer at a discount of $3.99 or less. There’s always a new selection on the first day of the month, so if you visited the page on the last day of the month, you’d see 100 discounted books — and then the next day you’d see an entirely new selection!

If you’re in England, Amazon’s created a different page for their bargain ebooks — go to tinyurl.com/399booksEngland

And if you’re in France, there’s also a different URL for your (English-language) bargain ebooks — it’s at tinyurl.com/399booksFrance
 
 
tinyurl.com/DailyKindleDeal
In addition, Amazon’s also created a special “Daily Deal” page, where they pick a new ebook each day to sell at a big discount for 24 hours. Past deals have included a James Bond novel by Ian Fleming and Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night — and I’m always surprised by the variety.

tinyurl.com/DailyDealsEmail
Amazon will also just e-mail you every “Daily Deal,” so you never have to worry about missing one of them!

tinyurl.com/KindleSelect25
Each week Amazon highlights 25 more books

tinyurl.com/KindleMatch
Discounts on Kindle editions of book when you’ve already purchased their print edition

tinyurl.com/CheapThrillers
Amazon’s special selection of “international thrillers” — all priced at $4.99 or less


KINDLE SINGLES

tinyurl.com/AmazonKindleSingles
All of Amazon’s short, cheap “Kindle Single” ebooks

tinyURL.com/KingOnGuns
Last January Stephen King published a 25-page personal essay titled “Guns”, which he’s selling as a Kindle Single for 99 cents.


NEW FROM AMAZON

tinyurl.com/AmazonPrints3D
Amazon introduced a new 3-D printing store in 2014. Its slogan? “Shop the future!”

tinyurl.com/TwitterWishes
In 2014 Amazon introduced the ability to add items to your Amazon “Wish List” just by tweeting about them!

tinyurl.com/TryAFirePhone
Amazon released their own smartphone in 2014 with a cool 3-D interface — available free if you subscribe to the “AT&T Next” service plan.

tinyurl.com/UnlimitedKindle
Amazon’s new service offers unlimited access to over 700,000 ebooks (and thousands of audiobooks) for just $9.99

tinyurl.com/EchoFromAmazon
Amazon’s new stand-alone “digital assistant” that plays music and answers questions – activated by your voice!

tinyurl.com/KindleFires
Amazon’s newest high-definition color Kindle tablets

tinyurl.com/NewPaperwhite
Amazon’s slick new, high-contrast version of their Kindle Paperwhite

tinyURL.com/KindleDX2013
Amazon also brought back their giant 9.7-inch black-and-white Kindle DX in 2013

tinyurl.com/KindleSending
Amazon’s free “Send-to-Kindle” plug-in for web browsers

tinyurl.com/CustomKindleCovers
Convert your own photos into a custom Kindle cover

tinyurl.com/KindleSerials
There’s a new format for Kindle ebooks called the “Kindle Serial.” Famous authors will now deliver new additional installments of their ebooks just as soon as they’ve finished writing them! The link above takes you to Amazon’s “Kindle Serials” store.



Roger Ebert - 1942 - 2013

FAVORITE AUTHORS

tinyurl.com/EbertEbooks
I’ll never forget Roger Ebert. Here’s the Kindle editions for all his ebooks.

tinyURL.com/XKCDAuthor
XKCD cartoonist Randall Munroe became a best-selling author in 2014, thanks to “What If,” his mind-blowing collection of serious answers to “absurd hypothetical questions.”

tinyurl.com/KindleElmoreLeonard
Elmore Leonard also left us in 2013 — but here’s Kindle editions of all his books.

tinyurl.com/SuckersPortfolio
An exclusive new serialized collection of seven previously unpublished works by Kurt Vonnegut.

tinyurl.com/KurtVonnegutEbooks
Every Kurt Vonnegut ebook in Amazon’s Kindle Store – including a free edition of his science fiction short story, “2 B R 0 2 B”

tinyurl.com/BukowskiEbooks
Every Charles Bukowski ebook in Amazon’s Kindle Store.

tinyurl.com/AgathaChristieEbooks
All the Kindle editions of Agatha Christie’s mysteries.

tinyurl.com/JamesBondEbooks
Every James Bond novel by Ian Fleming has been released as a Kindle ebook — officially licensed by Amazon publishing.

tinyurl.com/Dataclysm
One of the founders of the dating site “OK Cupid” released the stunning book “Dataclysm” towards the end of 2014, revealing the surprising insights achievable with massives amounts of data.

tinyurl.com/HungerGamesEbooks
Amazon’s discounted version of the Hunger Games trilogy.

tinyurl.com/BillyTheKidAudiobook
My favorite audiobook — a drawling narrator reads To Hell on a Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West.

tinyurl.com/BrightBooks
Classic children’s picture books revived by the loving granddaughter of author/illustrator Robert S. Bright.

tinyurl.com/KindleCalvin
Three different “Calvin & Hobbes” collections were finally released as Kindle ebooks in 2014. Here’s Amazon’s complete selection.

tinyurl.com/DilbertEbooks
My favorite newspaper comic strip is Dilbert, about the life of an office cubicle worker. In 2012, creator Scott Adams finally collected all the comic strips together into a series of ebooks that you can buy for your Kindle!

tinyurl.com/DoonesburyEbook
Doonesbury, the long-running newspaper comic strip by Garry Trudeau, is now finally available on the Kindle — in four massive ten-year retrospective collections!

tinyurl.com/PlayboyEbooks
Playboy announced for their 50th anniversary that they’d release 50 of their best interviews as 99-cent Kindle ebooks. They’re now available in the Kindle Store, including fascinating and sometimes even historic interviews with famous figures from the last 50 years, including Martin Luther King, Jimmy Carter, Muhammad Ali, Bill Gates, Hunter S. Thompson, Stephen Hawking, Jerry Seinfeld, and Jon Stewart.

TinyURL.com/TakeiBook
George Takei is the 75-year-old TV actor who’d played Mr. Sulu on Star Trek. But now he’s also a huge internet phenomenon — and last December, he finally released his first Kindle ebook, called Oh myy! (There Goes the Internet)

tinyurl.com/HarryPotterKindle
One of the biggest events in publishing was the release of all J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels as Kindle ebooks.

Two Maurice Sendak URLs
Where the Wild Things Are was written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, a beloved children’s book author who died in 2012 at the age of 83. Though his books were never released in Kindle Format, you can still download the full-length novel adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are that was written by Dave Eggers at tinyurl.com/SendakNovel. And you can even buy a DVD at Amazon of the rare 1970s adaptation of Sendak’s stories into television cartoons with narration by Peter Schickele — at tinyurl.com/SendakCartoons


MORE FUN EBOOK LINKS

tinyurl.com/100AmazonBooks
In 2014, Amazon created a fun list of “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime.” And there was also a second list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime — at tinyurl.com/100ReaderPicksselected by voters at GoodReads.

tinyurl.com/TopAmazonAuthors
This year Amazon released a new feature showing their most popular authors at any given moment — updating the list every hour!

tinyurl.com/BestBooksOfTheMonth
Amazon’s Editors pick the best new books of the month

tinyurl.com/BooksWithBuzz
The hottest new and upcoming books are featured here.

http://tinyurl.com/AmazonBooks2013
Amazon’s list of the top 100 best-selling Kindle ebooks for 2013

tinyurl.com/Top2012eBooks
At the end of last year, Amazon released this fun list of their top 100 best-selling Kindle ebooks of 2012.

tinyurl.com/BestBooksOf2012
There’s another list where Amazon’s editors also choose their selections for the “Best Books of 2012″. It’s a special web page with their picks in 30 different categories, including the best print books, the best Kindle ebooks, and the best biographies, mysteries, and even cookbooks!

tinyurl.com/2011Amazon
Curious about what were Amazon’s best-selling books for 2011? This URL takes you to a special Amazon web page where they’re all still listed — 25 to a page — along with a link to a separate list for the best-selling ebooks of the year. The #1 best-selling print book of 2011 was the new biography about Steve Jobs (followed by “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever.” ) But the #1 and #2 best-selling ebooks were The Mill River Recluse and The Abbey — neither of which was even available in print!

tinyurl.com/AmazonFallBooks
Amazon’s picks for the best books of autumn


Amazon office building in Seattle

AMAZON’S CUSTOMER SUPPORT

tinyurl.com/kindle-cs
Amazon’s Customer Service has drawn rave reviews. (If your Kindle is broken, Amazon will usually mail you a replacement overnight!) This page collects all of Amazon’s support URLs. And at its far left, there’s a special link labelled “Contact Kindle Support,” which leads to the support phone numbers for 10 different countries, and there’s also an online contact form and the ability to start a live text chat!

tinyurl.com/ReturnAnEbook
Amazon lets you return any ebook within 7 days, no questions asked. Just remember this address — tinyURL.com/ReturnAnEbook — and you’ll always be able to get a refund if you’re not satisfied with your purchase. (And you can also use this URL for returning Kindles!)


MY EBOOKS AND GAMES

It’s my list, so of course it includes shortcuts for a couple very special projects…

tinyurl.com/500Quotes
My very first Android app — “500 Inspiring Quotes” — is available free in Amazon’s Android store, and also in the Nook and Google Play Store.

TinyURL.com/ThrowInTheVowel
An original word game for Kindle became one of the top 100 most-popular games for the year — and I’m it’s co-author! Check out all the fun at TinyURL.com/ThrowInTheVowel, and discover why 45 people gave it a five-star review! And we’ve just released a brand-new sequel which you can see at TinyURL.com/ThrowInTheVowel2

TinyURL.com/TurkeyBook
“For Thanksgiving, try this game. Find the guilty turkey’s name!”

I wrote a special “mystery poem” that was finally published in November as a funny, illustrated ebook. There’s cartoon-y pictures which show four turkeys in a farmer’s pen on Thanksgiving Day. The farmer’s approaching with an axe — but one of the turkeys has a plan to escape! (“Can the farmer figure out which one? And can you?”) The short “Turkey Mystery Rhyme” is only 99 cents — a real bargain for a fun, holiday smile.

tinyurl.com/OurFunnyDog
Lucca is a cuddly Cocker Spaniel dog who was rescued from an animal shelter, and he now adores his new family — my girlfriend and me! My girlfriend’s been telling her friends how she received “the best present ever” — this short collection of funny photos of her dog, along with sweetly humorous captions that tell the story of his life. (Like the day he met that white cat that moved in downstairs…) If you want to preview a “sample chapter first, go to tinyurl.com/GoodReadsDog — but the whole “short picture scrapbook” is only 99 cents, and it offers a nice peek at a very wonderful dog…


GAMES

tinyurl.com/FreeAmazonApps.
Amazon’s Android app store offers a free app every day — both for your Kindle Fire tablet and for any Android smartphone.

tinyurl.com/allkindlegames
Amazon has a web page devoted just to all the games you can play on your Kindle. (There’s over 400 of them!) It’s fun to see all the colorful game “covers” collected together into one magical toy store-like page.


Free Kindle Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine cover illustration

FREE AND DISCOUNTED KINDLE MAGAZINES

tinyurl.com/FreeSciFiMag
Fantasy & Science Fiction is the famous magazine where Stephen King first published the stories that later formed the basis for The Dark Tower. It’s now available as a free Kindle magazine. It’s been publishing short SciFi stories and commentary for over 60 years — including the works of many other famous authors. In 1978 they published Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” short stories, and in 1959 they ran Robert Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” as a serial. (They also published the novella “Flowers for Algernon” and short stories by Harlan Ellison, and even published a short story by Kurt Vonnegut in 1961, which later appeared in his collection “Welcome to the Monkey House.”) Amazon’s now offering free Kindle subscriptions to a special “digest edition”. (The print edition, published six times a year, is a massive 256 pages.) The digest includes all the editorial content – editor’s recommendations, the “odd books” section, film and book reviews, plus cartoons and ‘Coming Attractions’ (highlights of each issue) – along with one short story. (And if you want the full 256-page version sent to your Kindle, you can subscribe for just 99 cents more.)

tinyurl.com/FreeKindleMagazine
Amazon gives away free “trial issues” of the Kindle edition for several magazines!

tinyurl.com/KindleMagazineDeals
These magazines have been heavily discounted when delivered to your Kindle.


A VERY SPECIAL KINDLE BLOG

tinyurl.com/MeAndMyKindle
It’s my blog! (That’s the URL for its page on the Kindle Store.) If you want to tell your friends how to find me, this URL makes it easy to remember. Just practice saying “TinyURL . com/MeAndMyKindle” and soon we’ll all be sharing the latest Kindle news together.


KINDLES ON TV

I love Amazon’s Kindle TV ads — and you can watch them all online at YouTube.com/Kindle. One of my favorite ones is this British commercial for the Kindle and the Kindle Touch, at tinyurl.com/UKKindleAd

tinyurl.com/KindleFireSong
There was a spectacular new TV ad when Amazon announced their new Kindle Fire tablets. It showed the evolution of print from a quill pen dipped in ink to Amazon’s latest full-color multimedia touchscreen tablet. But I loved the song they played in the background, by a new Louisiana-based band called the Givers. (“The words we say today, we’ll say… we’ll see them again. Yes, we’ll see them again…”) I’d called it an ode to all the self-published authors who are finding new audiences on the Kindle — and at this URL, you can hear the entire song on YouTube!


tinyurl.com/AmyRutberg
Before she became “the woman from that Kindle commercial,” actress Amy Rutberg appeared in a zany stage production called “The Divine Sister.” Playbill (the official magazine for theatre-goers) had her record a backstage peek at the theatre and its cast for a special online feature — and it’s a fun way to catch a peek at another part of her career. That URL leads to the video’s web page on YouTube, and there’s also a second part which is available at http://tinyurl.com/AmyRutberg2


MISCELLANEOUS

tinyurl.com/kindlemap
Ever wonder where all the Kindle owners are? Someone’s created an interactive online map, where Kindle owners can stop by and leave “push pins” showing their location! There’s big clusters on the east and west coast of America (though you could still leave the first push pin for Arizona or Nevada!) It’s an adapted version of one of Google’s maps of the world, so you can also spot “Kindlers” in Iraq, Romania, and Ethiopia. And if you click on the push pins, you’ll find the Kindler’s name and sometimes a comment. (One Kindler in Spain simply posted: “Tengo un Kindle DX!”)

tinyurl.com/GoldBoxPage
Every day Amazon also offers discounts on a new item — sometimes even expensive electronics equipment. And you can always find them all at tinyurl.com/GoldBoxPage

tinyurl.com/BurningTheBook
A new ebook by the Amazon manager who was in charge of the Kindle on the day it launched!


And here’s the most useful URL of all.

tinyurl.com/100KindleURLs

It’s a shortcut to this page — so you can find all of these URLs in 2014!

Happy New Year!

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Dilbert Creator’s Advice for 2015

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big - The Kind of Story of My Life by Dlibert creator Scott Adams

Just in time for the new year, I discovered Scott Adams’ funny new book about business. Tuesday his publisher just released its new paperback edition, and its counter-intuitive advice has already prompted a fascinating argument with the richest man in the world. But fortunately, the rest of us can also enjoy the book’s Kindle edition for just $7.99.

For a shortcut, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/Dilbert2015

Scott Adams created the Dilbert comic strip, and last week he used it to mock Warren Buffett’s advice about succeeding by finding a job that you’re passionate about. “Woo-hoo! I forwarded an e-mail!” jokes Dilbert’s sarcastic receptionist, trying to fake enough passion to improve her career. “I have to fake the passion because everything I do in this job is mindless and boring…”

But Dilbert’s creator told one newspaper that there actually is a serious message behind that comic strip — that passion can just as easily be formula for failure. A banker even told him once years ago that he’d never lend you money if you’re passionate. “You’re in business for the wrong reasons, and if things start turning unhappy, you’re going to bail!” Adams said — or even worse, making irrational “passionate” decisions. The Omaha World-Herald cites Adams as saying that whether you’re starting a new business or tackling a new job, “the last thing you want to do is become passionate.

“It’s almost the opposite of what you want to do…”

It’s a mind-blowing challenge to conventional wisdom — and it’s one of many in his new book. Instead of an inspiring ode to hard work, Adams titled his book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.” Amazon’s description calls it a “funny yet serious” book that’s full of Adams own personal stories, saying he shares “the strategies he has used to invite failure in, embrace it, then pick its pocket.” Behind the comic strip is a very smart man who’s come up with his own thoughtful advice.

  • Goals are for losers. Systems are for winners.

  • A combination of mediocre skills can make you surprisingly valuable.
  • You can manage your odds in a way that makes you look lucky to others.

Of course, after all this Warren Buffett still belives in the power of passion — even after hearing about this new critique from the creator of Dilbert. “Having passion for something is far from an automatic guarantee of success, but I think it helps,” he tells the Omaha World-Herald. Buffett is from Omaha, and he told the same newspaper that when he was just 12 years old, he’d already started reading every book in Omaha’s public library about how to succeed in business. And Buffett also offers the newspaper another compelling example. “It’s hard to imagine very many athletes succeeding without a passion for their sport, though obviously many who are equally passionate fall on their face (count me among those).”

I have to admit that the back-and-forth got me to thinking. But finally I concluded that it’s okay to fail if you’re failing passionately (because, since most startups fail, why not enjoy the ride?) And ultimately Warren Buffett gives the newspaper a similar response. “I tell the college students who visit Omaha to try to find the job that they’d take if they didn’t need a job… They may not enjoy wild success but they will certainly enjoy life more than if they go to a job they find uninteresting.

“And, on balance, I believe they will enjoy more success.”

Buffett is actually a fan of Dilbert– and Scott Adams says the feeling is mutual — and it was nice to see both men speaking sincerely on the topic of passion. But I have to declare Warren Buffett the winner of this argument, because of the way he cleverly co-opts Scott Adams’ own example. “Despite what Mr. Adams says, I retain a slight suspicion that he has a passion for delivering important messages in a highly entertaining manner.

And I’d be surprised if this passion didn’t predate his success.”

Remember, for a shortcut to Adams’ book, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/Dilbert2015

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Calvin & Hobbes Discounted In Kindle Store

Calvin and Hobbes - the Days are Just Packed

Amazon’s discounting six “Calvin & Hobbes” collections to just $1.99 each in their Kindle Store today! Normally they cost up to $18.99, so this represents a massive discount of over 90%. In print, these treasuries include 256 pages of the original newspaper comic strips — including the weekly color strips that ran on Sunday!

For a shortcut, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/KindleCalvin

The comics can be displayed in color on Kindle Fire tablets, or any device equipped with Amazon’s Kindle app. And you can also read them in black and white too on most of Amazon’s newer Kindle readers. It’s fun to see the comics in a whole new way, shining up from the screen of a handheld reading device. It’s almost like they’ve been transmorgified, or traveled through time into the future!

Here’s the six Calvin & Hobbes collections that have been discounted by Amazon.

Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons

The Essential Calvin & Hobbes

Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat

The Authoritative Calvin & Hobbes

The Indispensable Calvin & Hobbes

The Days are Just Packed

Three of these collections were just released in September — and the other three have only been available for about 12 months. It’s a nice way to remember one of the world’s greatest newspaper comic strips of all time. And it also reminds me of one of the greatest moments of 2014, when their reclusive creator, Bill Watterson, stunned the world by anonymously contributing artwork to the Pearls Before Swine comic strip. After 20 years of retirement, it was a real thrill to see him again.

It was touching to know that Bill Watterson would be reminded one more time of just how much people had always enjoyed his work. And it’s comforting to know that his comic strips are now also available on the Kindle.

Maybe it’s Amazon way of welcoming new Kindle owners to the world of digital comics!

Remember, for a shortcut, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/KindleCalvin

The Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson back cover

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Amazon Discounts Every James Bond Kindle eBook!

James Bond montage

Today Amazon’s discounting every James Bond ebook in their Kindle Store.
Casino Royale, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and more — each of 14 original original James Bond novels — are all priced today at just $1.99! They’ve even discounted Ian Fleming’s final collection of Bond stories, published posthumously (which includes “The Living Daylights”).

For a shortcut to Amazon’s deal, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/JamesBondEbooks

It’s a special version of Amazon’s “Daily Deal”, where they highlight one set of books with a special price for just 24 hours. Amazon may be trying to catch the attention of book buyers who received their first Kindle for Christmas. It’s nice to see new audiences returning for the classic Cold War super spy. The first James Bond book was published more than 60 years ago — and it was 50 years ago the first James Bond movie was released!

But now the famous secret agent has found his way into the world of ebooks. In 2012 Amazon announced a 10-year license for the every one of Ian Fleming’s “James Bond” books for North America — both in print and as Kindle ebooks. “We believe that Amazon Publishing has the ability to place the books back at the heart of the Bond brand…” announced the managing director of Ian Fleming Publications, Ltd., praising Amazon for ” balancing traditional publishing routes with new technologies and new ways of reaching our readers.” They seemed intrigued by the reach of the Kindle, and the possibility that it could open up an entirely new market. “We are excited to be using the opportunity of this re-license to introduce Ian Fleming’s books to a broader audience in the USA.”

Amazon noted that the books have already sold more than 100 million copies — and that the James Bond series of films is “the world’s longest-running film franchise.” But more importantly, “We are devoted fans of Fleming’s Bond novels here at Amazon Publishing,” noted business development director Philip Patrick. In a statement, he said that Amazon’s book-publishing arm could offer famous authors “a new life for great backlist titles” (adding that Ian Fleming was “the perfect fit.”) So how does it feel to be keeping Ian Fleming’s books alive on one of Amazon’s own publishing imprints?

“We’re thrilled…”

Here’s a list of all the James Bond titles which will be available as Kindle ebooks.


Casino Royale (1953)
Live and Let Die (1954
Moonraker (1955)
Diamonds Are Forever (1956)
From Russia with Love (1957)
Dr. No (1958)
Goldfinger (1959)
For your Eyes Only (1960)
Thunderball (1961)
The Spy Who Loved Me (1962)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963)
You Only Live Twice (1964)
The Man With The Golden Gun (1965)
Octopussy (1966)
The Living Daylights (1966)

In addition, Amazon’s also publishing two interesting non-fiction books written by Ian Fleming — The Diamond Smugglers, a true-crime story from 1957 analyzing the illegal trade in precious stones, plus Thrilling Cities, a 1963 collection of travel stories.

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Fun, Free Kindle Christmas Games!

Amazon Kindle game Picture Perfect Holiday Puzzles menu screenshot

Merry Christmas! And here’s a special holiday treat. Amazon has now released 18 different free games for their black-and-white e-ink Kindles. And for Christmas a couple years ago, they released two more that were specifically for the holiday season!

“We were going to wait to start talking about the holidays, but this new free game for Kindle is getting us in the spirit a little early,” read one announcement on the Kindle’s page on Facebook. “Check it out for yourself, but don’t blame us if you suddenly get the urge to start stringing lights and singing carols!” That new game was “Picture Perfect Holiday Puzzles,” and within four hours of the announcement, it had already earned 208 “Like” votes on Facebook and drawn 35 enthusiastic comments. (Like the woman in Minnesota who posted “OMG! OMG! OMG! This is my all time FAVORITE Kindle game, I’ve been waiting for a Part 2 forever!! YESSSS!!!!!!!”) It was a “sequel” to a free game Amazon released called simply “Picture Perfect Puzzles”. In both those games, users try to form a picture by darkening all the correct squares in a grid, making logical deductions from clues showing the number of squares that need darkening in each row and column. But for the second “holiday” version, Amazon created 35 more puzzles, each one with a fun holiday theme. (The puzzles were grouped into six categories: Winter Begins, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Continues, Kwanzaa, and New Years.)

And did you want to write a letter to Santa Claus this year? Just remember that there’s a free app for that — at least, if you own a Kindle Fire tablet (or an iPad). Two years ago Amazon proudly announced a free Santa app to create holidays wish lists, “for children and their parents…to share with friends, family and Mr. Claus.” They’ve identified more than half a million popular “kid-friendly” items available on Amazon, and according to the director of Amazon Mobile, the apps makes it “fun, easy and intuitive for kids to find exactly what they want.” Just point your browser to amazon.com/santa_app

There’s books, of course, but also toys, games, video games, music, and even movies and TV shows — and you can browse the individual categories or search for specific items. By secretly tracking which gifts have been purchased, it can help different relatives avoid buying the same gift, and Amazon says the app offers “a great way for parents to spend some quality time with their kids…”

And, “to help make certain there’s a smile Christmas morning.”

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Amazon Declares War on the Hyphen?

High Moor II Moonstruck (with hyphens)

It’s a battle we never expected — and a surprisingly exciting story. There’s an author facing accidental censorship at the hands of robot runs amok, and a giant corporation confronting an internet-empowered artist. And what’s at stake is the quality of the words we read every day — or at least, the words that we’re reading on our Kindles.

But it all starts with a humble horror novel by author Graeme Reynolds…

Sunday Reynolds told another story on his web site — that Amazon had removed his ebook from their site. It was a full year and a half after he’d published it, but apparently Amazon had just now noticed something that they really didn’t like. (They probably didn’t fully review his book — and in fact, probably aren’t reviewing any ebooks that authors are submitting.) But this time, one of their customers had complained.
The complaint? There were too many hyphens in his ebook.

“[W]hen they ran an automated spell check against the manuscript,” Reynolds explains on his blog, “they found that over 100 words in the 90,000 word novel contained that dreaded little line. This, apparently ‘significantly impacts the readability of your book’ and, as a result ‘We have suppressed the book because of the combined impact to customers.'” The author shares some colorful thoughts about the originator of the complaint, but followed up with an e-mail to Amazon pointing out that the use of a hyphen was 100% proper English.

It must’ve been particular galling, because (according to his post) he’d spent nearly $2,000 to have his ebook edited by a professional editor. But it was even more galling when he received a follow-up response from “Melania G” at Amazon which refused to resolve the situation! Melania’s e-mail said “quality issues with your book negatively affect the reading experience,” and reiterated Amazon’s position, that “we have removed your title from sale until these issues are corrected.”

It was fun to read the reactions at a technology site like Hacker News. (“Amazon is probably trying to correct publishers who copy-and-paste their hardcopy texts…taking with them artifacts from the print designer, like forced hyphenation.”) And another commenter pointed out this wasn’t really war on the hyphen, then. “So really the title of the post should be ‘Collateral damage when Amazon went to war against bad punctuation,’ which casts Amazon’s motives in a different light.”

The novel’s author was still upset, judging by his blog post, where he explored the ramifications of Amazon’s decision. (“Is J.K Rowling going to have to take down Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince until she sorts out the blatant hyphenation in the title?”) But it looks like an honest mistake, since his post now ends with a happy update from the author. “The book is now back on sale.

“Common sense seems to have prevailed….”

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My Favorite Amazon Shopping Stories

Amazon_front_page_December_holiday_Kindle_deals

Amazon’s got more holiday deals today. A Kindle is now just $59, and their voice-activated “Fire TV” set-top box is just $79. And they’re also offering a $114 Fire HD7 — and a Fire Phone for just $229.

For a shortcut to Amazon’s new holiday specials, go to
tinyurl.com/AmazonHolidaySpecials

But I have to admit that shopping on Amazon at times feels like a “guilty pleasure”. For example, on a rainy morning last week, I did what feels like a terrible thing. There was a wonderful book that was on sale at Barnes and Noble, and I’d wanted to buy it as a Christmas gift. But that morning I’d been planning to enjoy a warm, cozy morning in that bookstore’s Starbucks. So after I settled in with my hot tea, I’d fired up my laptop, went straight to Amazon’s web site, and found a copy of that book that was $5.00 cheaper.
And then I ordered it from Amazon — while I was sitting in Barnes and Noble.

Barnes and Noble did get some money from me — when I paid for that delicious (but over-priced) Starbucks tea! And in the end, even when I purchased the book, it was just giving money to one giant corporation instead of a different giant corporation. You could argue that it’s reasonable (and very “American”) to shop wherever the price is cheapest. And of course, sometimes this can work against Amazon, too…

For example, this morning Amazon announced that they’re discounting their “Fire TV” stick to just $79. That feels like a great price, and my girlfriend and I do enjoy watching Amazon’s shows with her “Apple TV” set-top box. But that’s been complicated to set up, since we first have to start Amazon’s app on her iPhone, and then get the phone to communicate with Apple’s box. I thought maybe my girlfriend would appreciate Amazon’s easier solution, since it’s already connected to all of Amazon’s Prime TV shows — and can also be activated using voice commands.

But then I found even cheaper FIre TV sticks that were turning up for sale on Craigslist. There were even some eBay auctions selling Fire TV sticks which were brand new — and still sealed up in their original packaging — for less than $50. And if I didn’t want to wait for Craigslist, I could drive across town to pick up one today from somebody who lives in my community. Plus, I’d get to see another human face, hold the merchandise in my hands, and have an actual conversation about why they were selling it, when they’d bought it — and how they were enjoying their holiday season!

That’s the one thing you can’t buy from Amazon…

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Fun Free Kindle eBooks for Christmas!

A Christmas Carol original book cover illustration

Every Christmas, I really enjoy reading some fun and special Christmas ebooks on my Kindle each year. Amazon’s Kindle Store is full of surprises every year, and it’s really delightful when you discover a new ebook about Christmas. (Especially when it’s by an author that you already know!) It turns out that some of the greatest authors in history have written Christmas stories — and they’re all available for free in Amazon’s Kindle store!

A Christmas Carol by Charlies Dickens
It’s not just a story about Christmas. It’s partly responsible for the way that way celebrate it. The story by 31-year-old Charles Dickens “was one of the single greatest influences in rejuvenating the old Christmas traditions of England,” according to Wikipedia, which notes it was published just as new customs were established like tree-decorating and Christmas cards. The book helped to popularize these traditions, though ironically, the story was immediately pirated after Dickens published it, and he realized almost no profits from the story himself!
I’ve enjoyed the way Charles Dickens writes, with simple yet very moving stories — and I’m not the only one. On Amazon’s list of the best-selling free ebooks, A Christmas Carol is currently #11. And interestingly, it turns out that Charles Dickens followed this up with even more Christmas stories — including The Cricket on the Hearth, The Chimes, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain.

All there stories are available for free in Amazon’s Kindle store.

Old Christmas by Washington Irving
He was America’s first internationally popular author, and he wrote two timeless stories — Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. But he also fathered many of our Christmas traditions. At the age of 29, when he was starting his career in 1812, Irving added five nostalgic Christmas stories to a collection of writing, and for one dream sequence, imagined what would happen if St. Nicholas flew over the forests in a flying sleigh. That’s believed to have inspired many of the subsequent stories about Santa Claus and his flying reindeer!
And the stories had an even greater impact. Irving also researched holiday traditions as far back as 1652, and according to Wikipedia, and his popular stories “contributed to the revival and reinterpretation of the Christmas holiday in the United States.” Even Charles Dickens himself said that Irving’s stories influenced his own famous novella, A Christmas Carol.

A Visit From Saint Nicholas by Clement Clark Moore
Here’s something fun to download: the original text of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” (One historian called it “arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American,” according to Wikipedia.) But you can only find the free ebook if you search on its original title — “A Visit from Saint Nicholas”. If you search for its first line — “Twas the Night Before Christmas” — Amazon’s Kindle Store will only show paid versions

There’s some interesting trivia about this story. In its first printing in 1823, Santa’s reindeer were named “Dunder” and “Blixem,” which are the Dutch words for “thunder” and “lightning.” But over the years their names changed into the more familiar-sounding “Donner” and “Blitzen”!

Christmas Eve by Robert Browning
He’s one of the most famous poets of the 19th century — and he in 1850 wrote a stark but thoughtful poem about visiting St. Peter’s church in Rome. It ultimately turns into a discussion about the nature of faith, but it was the first poem he published after his marriage, according to Wikipedia, and gives rare hints about the famous poet’s own religious views. One reviewer on Amazon described it as “A strange flighty trek in and out of trances and chapels to see rainbows and versions of God.” But another reader complained that they’d found it difficult to even read the poem, because the ebook wasn’t formatted properly.
“Who in their right mind eliminates line breaks and thinks they can get away with it?”

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50% Off on a Kindle Fire HDX 4G!

Amazon Christmas Kindle sale

“Today only!” reads the headline on the front-page of Amazon. They’re offering a 50% sale on their best version of the Kindle Fire HDX. Normally the 4G version costs $279 — but they’ve slashed its price to $139.

For a shortcut to Amazon’s two deals, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/HalfOffHDX

Amazon’s actually discounting two versions of their Kindle Fire HDX. For just $20, you can get the same table with a massive 64-gigabyte storage capacity. Of course, both devices also come with unlimited storage in Amazon’s “cloud”, so it’s not as important as it used to be. But the biggest advantage is their 4G network connectivity, which makes downloads much faster for movies and music.

Their screen resolution boasts a whopping 323 pixels-per-inch, so the colors always look rich and video. And of course, there’s a front-facing camera, so you can enjoy live video chats on Skype. But another great thing about HDX Kindles is they come with Amazon’s built-in Mayday button. Press the device, and a live Amazon operator can be viewing your screen with you and delivering free technical support!

Amazon’s discounting these because they’re the third-generation models (rather than the more-recently released versions). But it’s a great value for the price, and it’d still make a great Christmas gift. But if you’re interested, you’d better hurry. “This offer is valid today only, December 8…” Amazon warns on its web page, adding “or while supplies last.” I’ve always wondered if people purchase the discounted tablets — and then try to sell them later on eBay at full-price.

At prices like this, I’m almost tempted to try that myself!

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Massive Kindle eBook Sale for Cyber Monday

Amazon Cyber Monday 2014 (front page)

Wow! Amazon’s discounting over 2,000 Kindle ebooks in a huge Cyber Monday sale. “The Biggest Kindle Book Deal of the Year,” reads a new headline on their front page. And it links to a massive selection of discounted Kindle ebooks in nearly a dozen different categories.

For a shortcut to Amazon’s ebook sale, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/AmazonCyberMonday2014

O’Reilly Books — another online bookseller — is offering their own massive new sale through Tuesday, December 2nd: 50% off on every ebook. They focus more on technology titles, but they’re very popular with tech-savvy shoppers. And their ebooks can be uploaded onto a Kindle (or synced with online cloud services like Dropbox or Drive). They’re boasting that their ebooks are DRM-free — so it’s another great place to shop for ebook bargains.

I see 2,034 different titles listed on sale at Amazon.com — and it’s fun to see which one became the #1 best-selling ebook for this Cyber Monday sale. Currently it’s Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street by John Brooks, a contributor to The New Yorker. It was just published in 2014, so it’s a brand new book with a lot of “buzz” — but author Pat Conroy also land two of his novels on Amazon’s list of the best-selling ebooks for Cyber Monday. (Prince of Tides and The Great Santini.) And several other popular authors also have discounted ebooks on Amazon’s best-seller list today, including Michael Chabon, Carl Hiaasen, James Herriot.

Of course, Amazon is discounting more than ebooks today. There’s a separate web page for their other Cyber Monday Deals, which include and At one point they were selling Halo 4 (the popular videogame) for just $14.99 — and even if every copy gets “claimed,” there’s a wait list for more people who are also interested in the special price.

But even if you’re only interested in ebooks for your Kindle, today’s the one day of the year where they’ve discounted over 2,000 of them…

Amazon Cyber Monday 2014

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Amazon’s Big Thanksgiving/Black Friday Kindle Sale!

Amazon Black Friday Kindle sale

Amazon’s announced a special Black Friday sale on Kindles which is starting today! This morning Amazon began discounting all of their Kindle readers and color tablets, meaning you can now buy a Kindle for as low as $49. A banner on the front page of Amazon announces “Black Friday starts now!”

For a shortcut to all Amazon’s sales, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/ThanksgivingKindleSale

Amazon Black Friday Knidle sales

You can also buy Amazon’s color, high-definition tablet HD6 for just $79. That’s their smaller six-inch device, but even Amazon’s seven-inch HD7 tablets are on sale for just $109. (Normally they’re $139, so it’s a savings of over 20%.) And Amazon’s also discounted their glowing “Kindle Paperwhite” readers. Their newest black-and-white readers are now finally priced below one hundred dollars — at $99.

Those are the four deals featured on Amazon’s front page — but there’s one more deal if you click through on their link. Now you can get Amazon’s Fire Phone for just $199– a savings of over $250. It’s “unlocked”, meaning you can use it with any carrier now (instead of a mandatory contract with AT&T). And when you purchase your $199 phone, you’ll also get a full one-year membership in Amazon’s Prime service (which gets you free movies and TV shows, and even free Kindle ebooks!)

It’s a larger selection of deals than Amazon has ever offered before. (Although Amazon has traditionally started their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day, instead of waiting for all the other discounts on Black Friday.) Some people are waiting in line right now to be the first through the door at the big “box” stores” for their limited-supply discounts on Black Friday.

But if you’re shopping for a Kindle, you can always just enjoy the holidays at home — and then order one online!

tinyurl.com/ThanksgivingKindleSale

Amazon Black Friday Starts Now

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Amazon’s Accidental Mystery Anthology Best-Seller

The Turkey Mystery Rhyme - a free children's book for Thanksgiving

A funny thing happened on the way to Thanksgiving. I did my traditional holiday give-away for my ebook The Turkey Mystery Rhyme, making it free for three days. But then I noticed that Amazon had included this short rhyming “mystery” for children in its free “Mystery Anthologies” category.

And that it had become one of their top 5 best-sellers!

There it was, my cartoon turkey, peeping out from its cover next to “Lust For Blood” and “Detective Riker Short Stories: Tales of the Greatest Private Eye in London.” To be clear, I did list it as a children’s mystery, but I never thought it belonged in Amazon’s “Mystery Anthologies” category. But now not only was it appearing there — it was climbing its way towards the top! And now all of those hard-boiled, murder-investigating detectives were sharing their screen with a cartoon turkey…

Free rhyming children's Turkey mystery ebook becomes a best-seller

No Mercy promised “Edge-of-the-seat dark, disturbing, police procedural murder mysteries.” The Depot investigates the “secrets of a murder that took place eighty years ago.” There’s stories about police detectives, about blackmail, and about revenge. And then, my children’s story.

     “For Thanksgiving, try this game.
     Find the guilty turkey’s name….!”

A less-ambitious crime, to be sure. (Maybe the real mystery is how Amazon categorizes the ebooks in their Kindle store?) I know there’s all kinds of mysteries in the world, but it’s still hard to see how Amazon could mistake this for an anthology. (It’s the only book on the page that’s written entirely in rhyme!) Although there is still a mystery to be solved…

     Now the farmer, laughing, said
     to the turkeys by his shed
     “Was my turkey-keeping lax?
     Which of you destroyed my axe!”

I’m chalking this up to a Thanksgiving miracle. The ebook is fun and funny, so maybe some people will overlook its odd categorization on their way to their next anthology of detective stories. So to anyone who found their way to “The Turkey Mystery Rhyme” in Amazon’s “Mystery Anthologies” section…

Now I have one more thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

Happy holidays, everyone…


(And for a shortcut to this free Thanksgiving ebook,
just point your browser to…)

tinyurl.com/TurkeyBook

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A Funny Free eBook for Thanksgiving!

A funny turkey ebook

Yes, it’s that once-a-year tradition, sharing this funny free ebook about turkeys — mine! It’s a fun short mystery that’s written entirely in rhyme, with 12 cartoon-y illustrations that tell the story of four turkeys on Thanksgiving Day waiting for the farmer’s axe. (“But one of the turkeys has a plan to escape!” read’s the book’s description at Amazon. “Can the farmer figure out which one? And can you?”)

For a shortcut to this free Thanksgiving ebook, just point your browser to
tinyurl.com/TurkeyBook

It’s called “The Turkey Mystery Rhyme,” and it was a real labor of love. (Every November before Thanksgiving, I make it available for free in Amazon’s Kindle Store.) Over the years the ebook has even had some strange adventures of its own. The day after I published it, I’d discovered that my turkeys had snuck onto Amazon’s list of the best-selling children’s ebooks about animals – and stolen the #73 spot from a book about Curious George!

And my friends surprised me one year by insisting that we all read the whole ebook out loud on Thanksgiving Day. They’d connected their widescreen TV to their computer, so it was mirroring whatever appeared on its desktop, and then they’d pulled up Amazon’s Kindle app on that computer, and led it to The Turkey Mystery Rhyme. It was a great way to get some real reactions to the story, especially since most authors never get to actually be in the room while their ebook is being read! And then we all took turns reading the rhyming story out loud.

“For Thanksgiving, try this game. Find the guilty turkey’s name…”

I remember we had a teenager in the room, and his mother asked if he knew which turkey had launched the daring plan for escape. But that mother was a sharp cookie, and she challenged one of the book’s important fictional premises.

Fearing folks on every street
hungering for turkey meat,
In the farmer’s yard’s a spread
where Thanksgiving turkeys bred.

When the daylight brightly broke
all the farmer’s birds awoke.
And, since it’s a holiday,
all turkeys can talk today…


“What?!!” she said, to laughter from the room. “Since when can turkeys talk on Thanksgiving Day?”

Everyone knows that,” I joked. “You’ve just never been on a farm…” And then we laughed some more, and continued reading…


Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Read the free rhyming Thanksgiving turkey mystery at
tinyurl.com/TurkeyBook

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Amazon’s Surprise Sale on Kindle Tablets

Amazon front-page announcement about a sale on Kindles

There’s a surprising announcement on the front-page of Amazon. “Limited time only…” it reads. Amazon’s color Fire HD7 tablet is now just $119!

For a shortcut to Amazon’s special sale, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/HighestThanks

It’s a “thank-you sale”, according to Amazon. Customers voted Amazon into the #1 spot — “highest in customer satisfaction” for tablets — in a survey of by J.D. Powers. Apple’s iPad came up short, finishing second, and in third place was Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. But Amazon was so excited, they’ve rushed out a discount on their Fire HD 7 tablets.

Normally it retails for $139, but Amazon’s offering a special 15% discount. If you want an even cheaper tablet, Amazon also offers a six-inch “Fire HD 6″ tablet Fire for just $99. You may even start to wonder if Amazon’s selling these at a loss, because Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 4 costs a full $199. Amazon’s tablet has the exact same high-resolution display — with 216 pixels per inch — and the same two built-in cameras. And of course, Fire HD 7 tablets are available in five different colors (Yellow, Pink, Blue, Black, and White)!

But the low price may be helping Amazon in more ways than one. The voting for “highest satisfaction” was incredibly close, and on a scale of 1 to 1,000 the top three tablets were all within six points of each other. Amazon beat Apple by just three points, and Samsung’s tablets were just three more points behind. For years Apple had always won the “highest satisfaction” award, every year that the survey was taken, in an unbroken streak, according to Computerworld — until the end of 2013, when they faced a surprise upset by Samsung’s tablets.

Ironically, Apple iPad’s reclaimed the #1 spot in the “highest satisfaction” survey release May of 2014, but only to lose it again this month — to Amazon! It was Amazon’s “Mayday” feature that customers seemed to like, according to another article in Computerworld. They’d interviewed a senior director at the surveying company, who explained that after talking to 2,700 tablet owners all acros America, they saw a surprising jump in Amazon’s popularity. After finishing fourth in the May survey, “I figured [Amazon’s] scores would improve, but I didn’t think they’d take the top spot!”

Today Amazon is blasting the news. “Fire tablets ranked ‘Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Tablets,’ screams the announcement on their front page. But of course, it’s also becoming a win for holiday shoppers.
“To say thanks, save $20 on Fire HD 7 — limited time only…”

For a shortcut to Amazon’s special sale, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/HighestThanks

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Introducing Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo


“When it first arrived from Amazon, I didn’t know what it was,” says a little girl in Amazon’s new online ad. And she wasn’t alone — I was also stumped by Thursday’s announcement of Amazon Echo. But it looks like Amazon has created an entirely new category of device!

For a shortcut to Amazon’s Echo page, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/EchoFromAmazon

But let’s let Amazon have the first word. Their ad shows a family — the dad is excited — opening a newly-arrived package from Amazon. We learn that Echo is always on, but it only hears you when you say a “wake” word out loud: Alexa. “Alexa, what do you do?” asks the father.

“I can play music, answer questions, get the news and weather, create to-do lists, and much more.”

“Awesome!” says the family’s teenaged son. “Alexa, play rock music.” And she does!

It’s a little black cylinder — just over 9 inches tall, and three inches wide. (Imagine bending the top of a ruler to get a sense of its size…) And Amazon’s ad shows a surprising number of cases where Echo would come in handy. How tall is Mt. Everest? How do you spell cantaloupe? How many teaspoons in a tablespoon? What day is this?

Echo answers every question — and can even launch your music playlists whenever you ask. A “companion app” lets you control the device from your phone (or your Kindle tablet). Amazon’s Echo device can also function as a gentle alarm clock, or deliver “flash news briefings” from your local radio stations (or ESPN, or NPR…) And I was impressed that Echo even recognizes te command “Tell me a joke!”

With Echo you can also add things to your shopping list — or a to-do list — just by saying them out loud. I wasn’t sure what it was — but it didn’t fool the headline writers at Apple Insider, who called it “a stand-alone Siri-like assistant for your home.” But it seems to me that’s missing the point, since Siri is only on when it’s back in your charger (and not in your pocket). Imagine having a separate device in your home, just for taking dictation or providing a voice-activated way to instantly look up information.

Best of all, it’s only $99 — if you’re an Amazon Prime member, and you’re lucky enough to get an “invitation” from Amazon to try it out. Echo will ultimately be tapping “the cloud” for some of its information — along with Wikipedia — so Amazon may want to first try a “soft roll-out” with just a smaller number of users. When it’s released to the general public, Echo will retail for $199.

Echo can stream music from Pandora, Spotify, and even from iTunes. And of course, it also plays music from your Amazon Music Library, as well as the 1 million-plus songs available through Amazon Prime Music. And honestly, it seems like it’d make a really awesome Christmas gift.

“Alexa, play ‘Tonight, We Are Young’ by fun….”


Remember, for a shortcut to Amazon’s Echo page, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/EchoFromAmazon


Amazon Echo

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Amazon Sets New Zombie eBook Record!

Cover illustration from R. L. Stine's Goosebumps zombie high school ebook

I have a special holiday tradition. Each year on Halloween, I creep up on the Kindle Store, and take a peek at just how many zombie titles have crawled out into the marketplace. On Halloween night in 2011, there were 2,269 different Kindle ebooks with their word “zombie” in their title. But by 2012, that number had more than doubled to more than 4,874, and it nearly doubled again in 2013, to 8,052 zombie titles.

And this year? OMG!

Amazon’s Kindle store now has 11,430 zombie ebooks!

I’ve joked about the “rising zombie ebook invasion,” but the numbers really do show an unmistakeable trend. One Halloween, I noticed that one of the top 100 free ebooks in the Kindle Store was something called Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb. But the real message may be that each Halloween, there’s more and more self-published authors who are writing zombie fiction. Even the Library of Congress only has 783 books with the word “zombie” in their title (up from just 523 in 2011 and 674 in 2013). Oh my god, run everybody — Amazon’s Kindle store now has nearly 15 times as many zombies!!!

Even if they’re not real zombies, there’s something that’s almost viral about their popularity, suggesting that the Kindle store’s amateur authors are especially attracted to the zombie genre. Or are they? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the amateurs from the pros. Take a peek at the new titles, and you’ll be startled at just how many zombie ebooks there are. Don’t look now, but the living dead could be shambling up to your Kindle!

Here’s some of the stranger ebooks.


Zombie Girl Invasion
Wesley and the Sex Zombies (Free!)
The Scarlet Zombie Sketchbook #1
A Girl’s Guide To Falling In Love With A Zombie

Zombie Road Trip
Jesus vs. the Zombies of Perdition
Zombie Day Care (Free!)

Rock And Roll Reform School Zombies
My Life as A White Trash Zombie

Zombie Lust and The New Flesh


To be fair, “Texas Biker Zombies From Outer Space” is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, “intentionally designed to give the reader an interactive experience using the advantages over print that E-Books allow.” And Zombie Spaceship Wasteland was written by actor/comedian Patton Oswalt, using the horror movie monsters as a metaphor in a collection of essays “vividly evoking his zombie-like co-worker,” according to Booklist‘s review. Even 71-year-old literary author Joyce Carol Oates — twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize — named her 1996 novel Zombie (P.S.) It’s about a serial killer — named Zombie — who keeps a diary as he pursues his victims.

But yeah, most of the titles in the Kindle Store aren’t as ambitious.


I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It
Married with Zombies
Zombie Blondes
Confessions of a Zombie’s Wife

Zombie Erotica: An Undead Anthology
Never Slow Dance with a Zombie

Zombie Queen of Newbury High
Zombie Fight Song
Jesus Camp Zombie Bloodbath

Battle of the Network Zombies
Hungry for Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance
Diary of a Duct Tape Zombie


I can understand why some of these books aren’t in the Library of Congress. (It’s probably more surprising that there’s any zombie books in the Library of Congress.) But to explore the popularity of stories about the shambling undead, I asked my friend Thomas Roche, a professional writer for more than 15 years, who’s just published his first novel about zombies. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten a quote back.

I think zombies may have actually eaten his brains.

Or maybe he’s just busy reading all the ebooks he’s competing with…


Goddamn Redneck Surfer Zombies
Zombie Dawn Apocalypse
Breaking News: an Autozombiography
Brains For Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku?!

Road Kill: A Zombie Tale
I, Zombie
The Christian Zombie Killer’s Handbook

Zombie Combat Manual
The Zurvivalist – Real Life Solutions to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse
Zombology: A Zombie Anthology
Brains: A Zombie Memoir

Zombie Sniper
You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News
Zombie P.I.
Why I Quit Zombie School


That last book is actually the newest book in R. L. Stine’s popular “Goosebumps” series of scary stories for younger readers (which have sold more than 350 million copies. I used its colorful cover at the top of this blog post. It’s easy to laugh at the titles, but they may have tapped into a storyline with some primal universal appeal. Some authors have enjoyed wild success by re-creating our darkest nightmares, and maybe that’s the ultimate irony.

It’s not that the zombies are attracted to our brains. It’s that our brains are attracted to zombies!


Zombies vs Unicorns
Zombies Sold Separately
Zombies and Power Tools
Every Zombie Eats Somebody Sometime: A Book of Zombie Love Songs

Zombie Safari
Zombies for Jesus
Attack of the Shark-Headed Zombies

Jailbait Zombie
What Do You Do With Dead Zombies?
Zombiestan
Forward, Shamble!: A Bob the Zombie Novel

The Art of War for Zombies – Ancient Chinese Secrets of World Domination, Apocalypse Edition
Superheroes vs Zombies
The Adventures of Zombie Boy
Zombie Butts from Uranus


There’s even zombie Christmas books, believe it or not, including A Christmas Carol of the Living Dead: a zombie holiday tale. (Plus A Zombie Christmas and “A Christmas Wish: A Zombie Tale for the Holidays.”) If you think that’s confusing, try reading The Christmas Zombie: The story of why zombies celebrate Christmas. And if you’re just looking for holiday cheer, there’s It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies (Christmas carols “composed specifically for…the decomposing).”

Some authors have also tried their hand at creating zombie books for other holidays. (Like Dangerous Hunts: A Zombie Father’s Day Tale.”) And A Very Zombie Holiday even follows a zombie father as he attempts to celebrate every holiday with his living family. And for educational purposes, there’s also something called Zombie Ed Counts To Twenty, and its sequel, Zombie Ed Loves Halloween. (“Text-to-speech enabled… Finally! A zombie book for children! “)

And — uh-oh. Here comes another wave of more strange zombie ebooks…


Zombies vs. Nazis
The Zombie Cookbook

501 Things to do with a Zombie
Zombies Wearing Hats
Zombies Hate Vegetables, Too
Grampa’s Zombie BBQ

Love in a Time of Zombies
An Inconvenient Amish Zombie Left Behind The Da Vinci Diet Code Truth
Zombies Don’t Play Soccer

Dr. Zombie Lives Next Door
Paul Is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion

This trend probably all started when real-world bookstores started seeing big sales of a 2009 parody novel called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (crediting Jane Austen as a co-author). It rose to #3 on the New York Times best-seller list, according to Wikipedia, apparently spawning a new generation of even stranger zombie novels — and zombie ebooks.

And there’s zombie parodies of other books — like Zombies of Oz (and The Terrible Zombie of Oz). There’s also The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim and Wuthering Heights and a Werewolf…and a Zombie Too.” Someone’s even written zombie versions of a Sherlock Holmes story, a book of zombie fairy tales, and a zombie version of The War of the Worlds (“plus Blood, Guts, and Zombies”). And if you liked Great Expectations, you might try Pip and the Zombies, by Charles Dickens and Louis Skipper.

In the two years since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the concept has apparently festered its way into a full-fledged literary movement. I was surprised to see a book titled simply Zombies for Zombies — until I realized it was a parody of the “For Dummies” book (receiving thirteen 5-star reviews). There’s also The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Zombies, which strangely is not a parody, but an official title in the “Idiot’s Guide” series, which traces the origin of zombie stories with chapters about books, movies, and comic books. But just when it couldn’t get any creepier, I discovered that there’s even some zombie books that are actually about personal investing.


Zombie Economics: A Guide to Personal Finance
How to Prosper During the Coming Zombie Apocalypse
Workplace Of The Living Dead: What Zombies Can Teach Leaders About Engaging Employees
Zombie Project Management


And there’s also some zombie history books. (Which, honestly, throws some doubt over their historical accuracy.)


A Zombie’s History of the United States
A Tale of Zombies in Czarist Russia
A Tale of Zombies in the Old West
Everything My Grandmother Taught Me about Killing Zombies
The Eagle has Re-Animated
Pappy’s Old Time Zombie Radio Show
Zombies Take Manhattan


There’s something strangely inspiring about the sheer number of books that have ultimately been inspired about zombies. It’s nice to see this massive outpouring of new creativity, as people all around the globe start wondering what’s going to happen in their own imaginary zombie scenario. In fact, zombies are turning up in a surprising variety of different kinds of books. Though some authors even seem to think that maybe the lonely zombies just need a friend…


Zachary Zombie and the Lost Boy
Jude and the Zombies
Peter Crombie, Teenage Zombie
Nobody Wants to Play With Zombie Jesus

Jasper, the Friendly Zombie
How I met Barbara the Zombie Hunter
Zombie Joe and the Pogo Stick legs

Growing Up Zombie
Oh No, Our Best Friend is a Zombie!

Zombie Mommy
Phredde and the Zombie Librarian
Day of the Field Trip Zombies



So I had to laugh when I saw an ebook titled “Where are the Zombies?”

Dude, you’re not paying attention. They’re everywhere!

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Free Halloween eBooks for your Kindle

Edgar Allen Poe

Every year I enjoy the whole week before Halloween — and not just that new chill in the air or the dead leaves blowing by. There’s a special mood for the end of October, and it’s the perfect time to try reading some of the greatest scary stories ever written. Especially since now, they’re all available as free Kindle ebooks!

And Kindle Unlimited subscribers can even listen to their audiobook versions for free!


The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

Ichabod Crane had heard the ghost stories about a headless horseman that rides through the night. On that very night, traveling home alone himself, under the light of a full moon he has his own legendary encounter with…ah, but there’s a twist at the end. And all these years after first hearing the story, I’ve discovered it’s just part of a much larger work. Washington Irving was the very first best-selling author in America, and he’d followed up his first sensational debut with a new collection of essays and stories — including some scary new folk tales that he’d actually made up himself! This collection also includes the famous story of Rip Van Winkle, who falls asleep before the American Revolution — and wakes up 20 years later, after the colonies have revolted and formed their own independent nation!


The Complete Tales of Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe wrote a surprising number of America’s best-known horror stories, including Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. His poetry is also very dark — Ulalume actually takes place around Halloween night — but his obsession with morbid themes also ultimately led him to become the author of the first detective story every written. It’s a murder mystery, of course — you’ll never guess who actually committed The Murders in the Rue Morgue — and Poe later even wrote two more stories using the same detective — The Mystery of Marie Rogêt and The Purloined Letter. But there’s also a surprisingly scary tale where a murderer is unmasked in the most shocking way possible — entitled “Thou Art the Man”. Twist endings were actually very popular in Poe’s time, and I’ve been surprised just how well some of his stories hold up!


Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Percy Shelley died when he was 29 — though he was acclaimed as one of England’s greatest romantic poets. Some of this is through the efforts of his wife Mary, who promoted and edited his poems. And it’s been said that he may have had an infleunce himself on her intense novel, Frankenstein. Its idea came from a nightmare, and turned into her gothic story about about a promising young man who suffers the death of a loved one, and then embarks on a scientific experiment which he’ll later come to regret. It was first published anonymously in 1818, though it’s since gone on to become a classic monster story. (And Wikipedia has uncovered another strange historical twist. Mary WollstonecraftShelley was actually romantically interested in Washington Irving, the author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow!)


Dracula by Bram Stoker

Written just 126 years ago, Dracula is relatively modern for a classic horror story. Its author, Bram Stoker actually died in poverty just 14 years after publishing Dracula, according to Wikipedia, and his horror novel didn’t become popular until well into the next century. (It just goes to show how the invention of moving pictures changed everything — including the way we experienced our monster stories.) But interestingly, an early fan of the novel was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the Sherlock Holmes series. If you reach back 100 years, you’ll find lots of clever authors who appreciated both mystery and menace — and the joys of a good scary novel.

And 100 years later, you can read them all for free on your Kindle!

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A Charlie Brown Halloween app!

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown Halloween Kindle Fire Android app

Here’s a Halloween treat! Amazon’s dropping the price for the Charlie Brown Halloween app for both Kindle Fire and Android devices. It’s a special surprise that just might bring back some fond memories of “hallowed evenings” past. And I feel a little smile every time I see tbe title: “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”

For a shortcut, just point your web browser to tinyurl.com/CharlieHalloween

Last year I passed out our trick-or-treat candy while entertaining myself with this app. It recreates the classic TV special perfectly, with the original voices and a nearly identical artwork — except now the story is interactive! Linus is still spending Halloween night in a pumpkin patch, but you can actually poke your fingers into the drawings to make all the Peanuts characters jiggle around. And it’s narrated by Peter Robbins, who provided the voice for Charlie Brown in the original 1966 TV special!

Because it’s an Android app, you can play it on any of your color Kindle tablets or on any Android device! And I was impressed by the smooth interface, which includes an old vinyl record on the game’s menu page to represent the narration. (Which you can turn on and off…) But best of all, it’s got all the sequences you remember from the TV special, with some of the artwork even laid out like a newspaper comic strip. It was a real thrill to see Charlie Brown’s big pile of autumn leaves again — and then to see Linus trying to jump into it while holding a wet lollipop!

If you don’t have a Kindle Fire, there’s still some other Halloween games available at Amazon for the black-and-white Kindles. I love “Futoshiki Halloween Edition, and there’s also a Halloween version of the game Blossom. There’s even a Halloween version of Mahjong Solitaire, and if you’re looking for something scarier, there’s also a text adventure “Choice of the Zombies”.

But I have fond childhood memories of watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. So if you’ve always wanted a free app that revives this Halloween tradition…there’s a special treat waiting for you tonight in Amazon’s appstore.


Remember, for a shortcut, just point your web browser to tinyurl.com/CharlieHalloween

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Amazon Discounts their Kindle Fire HDX!

Kindle Fire HDX discount

Amazon’s just announced a big sale on their Kindle Fire HDX — a $20 discount! “Built for work and play” reads their headline, describing “the 7″ tablet with an with an ultra-fast quad-core processor, powerful graphics engine, world-class Dolby Audio, a perfect-color HDX display, and Mayday.” Now you can get a new one for just $179!

For a shortcut to Amazon’s special offer, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/HDXdiscount

It used to cost $50 more when it was first released, but even then its reviews were amazing. “Far better than an iPad,” wrote one reporter at ZDNet, adding “what Apple bought to market, Amazon has improved upon dramatically.” Even at $229, its price was much lower, but there were also more tangible benefits too. “Side-by-side, the display on the Kindle Fire HDX blows away that of the iPad.

“Not only do the colors look superior and more vivid, but also the brightness is better and the way blacks are handled – especially in video – is much more even…”

Of course, Amazon has even cheaper tablets. I’m amazed that a Fire HD 6 now costs just $99, and the Fire HD 7 is just $139. But the HDX has a stunning high-definition display (with 323 pixels per inch), and a faster quad-core processor which makes it extra responsive. Even its battery will last 11 hours without a charge

But the best thing about the Kindle Fire HDX may be its special on-device “Mayday” button. You can actually summon a live Amazon representative whenever you want, so any technical issues can be resolved instantly. Yes, some Amazon customers abuse the privilege with silly questions like “Will you read me a bedtime story?” But when I’ve got a technical problem with my device, I want it gone just as soon as possible.

Because then I can go back to having fun with my high-definition tablet…!

For a shortcut to Amazon’s special offer, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/HDXdiscount

Kindle Fire HDX discount

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Some Geeky New Books for October

Neil Patrick Harris - Choose Your Own Autobiography      Go and Add Value Someplace Else - a Dilbert book by Scott Adams

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution      Prince Lestat - The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice

We all love reading Kindle ebooks, but today I noticed a very special page on Amazon. Their own editor’s had assembled a collection of what they considered the best new books of October. It’s a great selection of brand new books and Kindle ebooks — and a fun way to browser for something new to read..

For a shortcut to Amazon’s page, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/BestOctoberEbooks

Amazon’s editors even broke down their selections into 16 different categories. (There’s the best new biographies, children’s picture books, and even the best new Graphic Novels…) “We’re happy to share with you the unique mix of books that our editors have hand picked as this month’s best,” Amazon says at the top of the page. Here’s a look at some of their picks for the most interesting new ebooks of October.


The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson
His last book, Steve Jobs, became a record-breaking best-seller (based on 40 interviews between the author and Jobs over the last two years before his death). Now Walter Isaacson looks beyond Apple Computers to the other pioneers — both past and present. Steve Wozniak gets some attention, along with Bill Gates, Larry Page, and Tim Berners-Lee. But Isaacson also looks back to female pioneer Ada Lovelace who in the 1840s wrote about an “analytical engine” proposed by Charles Babbage — and also wrote the very first computer program.


Neil Patrick Harris - Choose Your Own Autobiography

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris
Maybe you remember him from How I Met Your Mother. (Or from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle…) But this Tuesday, Neil Patrick Harris takes his unpredictible personna to a whole new format. “Tired of memoirs that only tell you what really happened…reads his books description on Amazon. “Seeking an exciting, interactive read that puts the ” back in ‘aUtobiography’…?” Calling it “a Joycean experiment in light celebrity narrative”, Harris has written an entire autobiography that’s written in the second person — all about you!

“You will be born to New Mexico. You will get your big break at an acting camp. You will get into a bizarre confrontation outside a nightclub with actor Scott Caan. Even better, at each critical juncture of your life you will choose how to proceed. You will decide whether to try out for Doogie Howser, M.D. You will decide whether to spend years struggling with your sexuality. You will decide what kind of caviar you want to eat on board Elton John’s yacht.

“Choose correctly and you’ll find fame, fortune, and true love. Choose incorrectly and you’ll find misery, heartbreak, and a hideous death by piranhas…”


Prince Lestat - The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice

Prince Lestat: The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice

After more than a decade, Anne Rice returns to her “Vampire Chronicles” series with a new 480-page novel about the vampire prince Lestat. “The newly resurrected, but no less rebellious, Lestat addresses a mysterious twenty-first century vampire genocide,” Amazon writes in their description of the book, “with the same panache, self-absorption, and drama readers have come to know and love. ” The book jumps from the present to the past, and its sprawling story “raises interesting questions about the boundaries of science, conflicting beliefs, and a universal need to belong”. Even more interesting, the book has already become Amazon’s best-selling suspense novels — three weeks before the book is released on October 28th!


Go and Add Value Someplace Else - a Dilbert book by Scott Adams

“Go Add Value Someplace Else: A Dilbert Book” by Scott Adams
Scott Adams will release a brand new collection of Dilbert cartoons in just three weeks (on October 28th). And the Kindle edition is just $8.49. For past collections, at least some Amazon reviewers complained that the cartoons were hard to read on their small handheld Kindles. But comic strips have always looked great on the larger screens of Amazon’s Kindle full-color tablets — so hopefully this collection will find a happy audience of satisfied readers!

Remember, for a shortcut to all of Amazon’s “Best Books of October”,
point your browser to

tinyurl.com/BestOctoberEbooks

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