The 30 Most Useful Kindle URLs

Digital Publishing vs. the Gutenberg press

Once a year, I assemble my “master list” of shortcuts to the 30 most useful pages for Kindle owners – like all of the free ebooks and blogs that Amazon’s making available. But instead of trying to memorize a bunch of complicated URLs, I’ve created these shorter, easier-to-remember addresses that still lead to the same pages.

And all 30 of them start with …

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…

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 this Saturday (December 31st), you’d see December’s 100 discounted books — and then on Sunday (January 1st), you’d see an entirely new selection!

If you’re in England, Amazon’s created a different page for their bargain ebooks — go to

And if you’re in France, there’s also a different URL for your (English-language) bargain ebooks — it’s at
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. For Christmas, Amazon discounted five holiday-themed romance novels to just 99 cents each, and they also slashed the price on “Call Me Mrs. Miracle” (from $12.99 to just 99 cents). Once they even discounted So Now You’re a Zombie: A Handbook for the Newly Undead!

You can also see past “Daily Deals” on their Twitter feed at — or on Facebook at And there’s also a new web page where they’re archiving the deals at

What were Amazon’s best-selling books for 2011? This URL takes you to a special Amazon web page where they’re all 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 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!

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, as well as an online contact form.
Amazon lets you return any ebook within 7 days, no questions asked. Just remember this address — — and you’ll always be able to get a refund if you’re not satisfied with your purchase.


It’s my list, so of course it includes shortcuts for two very special ebook projects that I worked on this year…
“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.
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! Since I released this ebook just before Christmas, 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 — but the whole “short picture scrapbook” is only 99 cents, and it offers a nice peek at a very wonderful dog…

Amazon actually publishes six free blogs for the Kindle — and you can find them all at this URL. Besides their Omnivoracious book blog, there’s also a blog about food (and fine dining) called “Al Dente,” and a blog about movies and TV shows called “Armchair Commentary”. If you’re into automobiles, Amazon offers the “Car Lust” blog, and there’s even a blog called “Toy Whimsy” with reviews and information about — what else? — toys!

They’re all available at the URL — but you can also get all of Amazon’s free blogs delivered to your Kindle in just one big super-subscription. Just look for the Amazon Daily blog — which is a great way to try them all out and see which ones you like best!
Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine has been publishing short SciFi stories and commentary for over 60 years — including the works of many 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.)

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.

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.
Amazon also released 25 free Christmas songs as part of a special promotion in December. Their “25 Days of Free” page features 25 different mp3 files that you can download for free — each one with a different Christmas song — and right now they’re still available online. There’s songs by Bing Crosby, Mannheim Steamroller, the Irish Tenors, and Celtic Woman — plus songs by more modern artists like Brian Wilson, and Macy Gray. And there’s even some Christmas songs by groups like the Flaming Lips, Shonen Kinfe, and even one by Twisted Sister.
Amazon’s also offering discounts if you’d like to buy a whole album’s worth of Christmas songs by your favorite artist. This page offers Christmas albums that have been discounted to just $4.99, including a great selection of both traditional and modern recordings. There’s Christmas with the Rat Pack (and A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra), Bing Crosby’s I Wish You a Merry Christmas, and an expanded version of Vince Guaraldi’s music for “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” But there’s also Christmas albums from Weezer, Christina Aguilera, Zooey Deschanel’s band “She and Him,” and even the cast of Sesame Street — plus some performers you wouldn’t expect, like Bob Dylan (and of course — the Twisted Sister Christmas album).

Amazon has a web page devoted just to all the games you can play on your Kindle. (There’s over 200 of them!) It’s fun to see all the colorful game “covers” collected together into one magical toy store-like page.

And there’s also a list of the 100 best-selling games for the Kindle — plus a list of all “Hot New Releases” — at (For the Christmas season, Amazon’s 25 most-popular games are still on sale for just 99 cents each, including Scrabble, Monopoly, and the new Kindle version of Battleship!)
Here’s the shortcut to a free web page where you can play chess against a computer. But you can also pull the page up in your Kindle’s web browser, so I named the URL “KChess”!

Amazon’s latest ad shows a woman arriving home and discovering that Amazon’s delivered her new Kindle Fire tablet. The ad’s official name is “Placing the Things You Love at Your Fingertips,” and you can watch the whole thing on YouTube if you point your computer’s web browser to this URL.

And you can watch all of Amazon’s Kindle TV ads at
Their 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!
This summer Amazon also ran a fun series of TV ads where a blonde woman insists she prefers things like “the rewarding feeling of actually folding down the page” of a book instead of reading a Kindle — though each ad invariably ends with her borrowing her friend’s Kindle instead.

But in September, when Amazon announced their new line-up of Kindles — including one for just $79 — they released one final ad where that blonde woman finally buys a Kindle for herself. To watch it on YouTube, point your computer’s browser to
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
On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart did a special segment this year 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.

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 Montana 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!”)

Amazon Announces Strange Sales Milestones

Steve Jobs biography is a rising sun over Mount Everest

If you bought a copy of the book Steve Jobs, you’re part of a very strange milestone. It was Amazon’s #1 best-selling book this holiday season, and today Amazon announced their customers “purchased enough copies…to create a stack taller than Mt. Everest!”

It’s an annual Amazon tradition — the fun (but nearly-meaningless) statistics about their massive holiday sales. For example, “The cumulative weight of the Bowflex 552 Adjustable Dumbbells purchased by Amazon customers would outweigh more than 70 adult elephants.” And “If you unfolded and stacked each pair of jeans purchased by Amazon customers this holiday, the height would be 2,500 times taller than the Statue of Liberty.”

But they’ve also included some real information in their annual press release. For example, Amazon’s announced their best-selling books for this year’s holiday season.

    “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson
    “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever”
    “11/22/63” by Stephen King

And they’re also releasing a separate set of figures for the holiday best-sellers in Kindle ebooks!

    “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
    Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins
    The Litigators” by John Grisham

It’s also interesting to hear stories about Amazon’s luckiest customer, who placed an order at 2:35 on Saturday afternoon — the day before Christmas — and actually received their order on the same day, just 3 hours and 40 minutes later! They’d ordered a rechargeable pack of batteries, and they shipped it using Amazon’s “Local Express Delivery” service. It offers one-day shipping for $10 in ten different cities — or just $3.99 if you’re just purchasing a gift card. (And it’s just $3.99 to deliver any order if you’re a member of Amazon’s Prime shipping program.) Not every item is always available for one-day shipping — check its “product description” page on to make sure. But here’s a list of the 10 cities where Amazon’s now offering the one-day shipping option — grouped by the cut-off time for placing your orders (using their local time).

    1 p.m.

    11:00 a.m.
    Las Vegas:

    Washington, D.C.

    10 a.m.
    New York City (and parts of New Jersey)

    9:30 a.m.

    7:00 a.m.

Interestingly, the cut-off time for Seattle is supposed to be 1:00 p.m. But apparently the luckiest customer of the year placed their order more than 90 minutes later — and still received their batteries on the same day!

And if you look carefully, you can even extract some real numbers from the rest of Amazon’s descriptive statistics. For example, “Amazon customers purchased enough sweaters to outfit each of Santa’s reindeer during Christmas Eve deliveries for the next 14,000 years.” It’s like one of those “story problems” that high school students dread in their math class. (Eight reindeer — plus one more, if you count Rudolph — would need nine sweaters for Christmas Eve, so if Amazon outfitted them for the next 14,000 years, that’d be nine times 14,000 — or 126,000 sweaters….) That doesn’t seem like a lot of sweaters, until you remember that they were all purchased online at Though there’s still no way of knowing which sweaters, or how much they cost.

It’s as though Amazon is sending reporters on a fun scavenger hunt for their actual sales figures. They’re reporting that “Amazon customers purchased enough HeatMax HotHands Handwarmers to give a pair to each resident of Iceland.” According to Wikipedia, the population of Iceland is about 320,000, so that’s also the number of handwarmers that were sold — 320,000. But they’re distributed in boxes of 10, boxes of 40, and also individually, so there’s still no way to calculate how many boxes were actually sold. And it could be as low as 8,000 boxes, representing sales of just $160,000…

Here’s two more “math puzzles” from Amazon — some interesting sales milestones from the great holiday shopping season of 2011.

“Amazon customers purchased enough copies of Just Dance 3 to give 15 copies to each person who participated in setting the world record for simultaneous dancing.”

“Amazon customers purchased enough Rory’s Story Cubes to give a cube to each person watching the New Year’s Eve ball drop live at Times Square.”

But there’s one question that even Amazon can’t answer. They announced’d their customers “purchased enough copies of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs book to create a stack taller than Mt. Everest.”

So how many ebook versions would they have to sell to reach the top of Mt. Everest?

My Interview with a Best-Selling Author!

Kindle blogger Michael Gallagher

He’s written one of the 100 best-selling ebooks for all of 2011 — and he also writes Amazon’s #1 best-selling blog! (In fact, it’s been one of Amazon’s 100 best-selling blogs for over two years…) Michael Gallagher writes the blog “Free Kindle Books Plus a Few Other Tips,” but he’s also adapted it into one of the year’s top 100 ebooks! And as a Christmas gift, he’s agreed to share his story here in a special Christmas interview.

“Actually, I’ll be the first to tell you I didn’t know this version of the book was sitting at #72 for 2011 until I saw your email!” he told me earlier this week. “I am surprised, and my first smart*&% comment was ‘that’s worse than last year!'” Gallagher is regularly updating his 21-page ebook, so this really makes the second year that it’s appeared on Amazon’s list of the year’s best-selling ebooks. “Last year for the full year was #53, and was significantly helped by a few million people opening up Kindles under the tree on Christmas Day! ” he explained. “The week of Christmas in 2010, the sales for that week accounted for 50% of the total year’s sales. Not that I sold a million copies, but it was significant to me.”

His author’s page on Amazon describes him as “an obese, gray-haired, and desk-bound guy in Texas who spends way too much time with his Kindle.” But like the Ghost of Christmas Future, Michael Gallagher now has a prediction for all self-published authors. “If the last two years’ worth of history holds true, not only me but every other author should have a surge in sales from about the 24th of December to the end of the first week of January.” The holiday apparently brings a special gift to anyone who’s self-publishing on Amazon — new sales from enthusiastic new Kindle owners! And Michael agreed to answer a few questions from his unique perspective as one of Amazon’s 100 best-selling authors of the year.

Q: There’s one question I’ve been dying to ask you: how many ebooks did you sell?

A: I won’t share the exact number of copies sold of that title because there are a lot of copycats who picked up on the ranking of last year and have their competing products out there – and it’s certainly not rocket science on what I did – and I certainly don’t need other competitors but I will tell you this: the number of sales so far through the end of November of that one title equals all of 2010.

Q: eBook sales really seem to be increasing. It seemed really significant to me that this year the #1 and #2 best-selling ebooks of the year weren’t even available in print editions. Since you’re one of the year’s 100 best-selling ebook authors, I wanted to ask: do you have any official pronouncement on what lesson we should learn from this year’s best-sellers list?

Q: As far as an “official pronouncement”… the Kindle publishing platform for independent authors truly levels the playing field. Good books will rise to the top as word-of-mouth, the Amazon customer review/rating system, Kindle Discussion forum and blog posts, and good old-fashioned guerrilla marketing on Facebook, Twitter, etc. can equal and in some cases more than offset what the Big Six publishers can do. Of course, the Big Six are still there and will continue to be there, but small guys who have a good story to tell – yet may get shunned from the large publishers because they already have a stable of successful authors – can make it.

Q: You don’t just have the #1 best-selling blog for the Kindle. You’ve got five of the top 100 best-sellers, including Trivia of the Day, Bible Verse of the Day, and Kindle Books for a Buck (or Less). What’s it been like, publishing multiple best-selling blogs on Amazon?

A: Overall, the blog experience has been fun — I’ve “met” a lot of interesting people and characters, picked up more free books than most people can read in a lifetime, and learned more than enough about the Kindle than you can imagine. However, there is a certain level of disappointment as there is a real lack of support for blog publishers from Amazon. Granted, most of the blogs aren’t generating money for themselves or Amazon, but I think a lot of that has to do with no promotion from the Amazon side. I have seen membership for most of my blogs decrease for the last two months, when they had done nothing but increase each month for the previous 18 months. With the launch of the Kindle Fire and blogs not having a subscribe option, although you can certainly subscribe via the Pulse app on the Fire, I wouldn’t be surprised if this time next year Amazon drops the blog component – that would be a loss of some serious money for people in the Top 20 or so blogs.

Q: Well, whatever happens, when they write the history of the Kindle, they’re going to have to mention Michael Gallagher, the Kindle’s #1 best-selling blogger. Thanks for paying me a visit – and happy holidays!

A Very Special eBook – about My Dog!

Funny free Kindle ebook about our dog

My girlfriend actually cried when I showed her her birthday present this year. I’d written her a Kindle ebook about her dog!

I’d told her I’d hidden her present somewhere in the apartment — not in the kitchen or in the living room, but somewhere close to the bed. “Is it on your nightstand? Nope, there’s nothing here but your Kindle… But let’s turn it on anyways and take a look. Well, there’s nothing here on your home page. But maybe we need to look in the Kindle Store…”

I’d told her it was a scavenger hunt, and the first clue would come up when she typed in her dog’s name. So she did — and there he was! She saw a picture of her own dog staring back at her — as the cover of a Kindle ebook.

She sat there, stunned. Smiling, but stunned. Her eyes moistened. She didn’t move for a few seconds. I think she thought that I’d hacked into Amazon’s Kindle store somehow, and pasted her dog’s picture onto one of their ebooks. But then she pressed the button that brings up the ebook’s description on

Lucca is a cuddly Cocker Spaniel dog who belongs to a woman named TC. “I love TC very much,” reads the caption on one photo. “And she loves Lucca….”

Since I’d wanted to give her a special gift, I watched her face nervously to see her reaction. She’d started to read the rest of its page on Amazon, but then got too excited, and just downloaded the ebook straight to her Kindle. And when she opened it, every page seemed to dazzle her.

Dedicated to TC

with love

on a very special birthday

“TC says Lucca is the best dog in the world.
He cuddles with you on the couch while you’re watching TV…”

Last year TC had given me a smartphone for Christmas with a built-in camera, and I’d used it all year long to snap photos of her dog. (There’s 32 of them in the book.) Whenever Lucca did something cute, there was that camera in my pocket on the Christmas-gift smartphone. And that spring when our dog became friends with the cat downstairs, I was able to get some great pictures.

Dog Lucca and cat Finch become friends

You can see those pictures in color if you download the book to your smartphone (or to your Kindle Fire tablet). But the dog’s charm always jumps out from his shaggy face, even on a regular black and white Kindle. If you want to see a preview, just point your computer’s web browser to – but the whole ebook is only 99 cents, so you could just download the whole ebook to your Kindle (or to one of the free Kindle apps), and then give our dog a look, from this special URL. Dog

TC never did read the rest of the book’s description at Amazon, but I think she would’ve liked it. (“This ebook collects pictures with clever captions into a quick look at the life of a very happy pet dog…Our Dog Lucca takes you on a visit to that happy house where Lucca lives – and introduces you to a very charming dog.”) It’d feel a little weird to be making our pet dog into something famous, so if it became popular we’d probably donate most of the proceeds to an animal rescue shelter. Lucca is a “rescue” dog, and sometimes we wonder if that’s made him extra sweet.

But as I walked past our Christmas tree, at least I knew that Lucca had helped make my girlfriend’s birthday feel magical.

Download the ebook to your Kindle and see the dog ebook that made TC smile Dog

Funny free Kindle ebook about our dog

Amazon Announces Last-Minute Christmas Specials

Amazon offers free shipping on Kindles for Christmas

There was some real excitement right around Christmas time. It’s easy to buy a new Kindle, now that the cheapest Kindles cost just $79. And on December 21st, until 8 p.m. (in Seattle), Amazon offered free two-day shipping on any Kindle, so it’d arrive just in time for the holidays!

“[W]e’re making it even easier to give a new Kindle this Christmas with free two-day shipping,” an executive in Amazon’s Kindle department bragged (adding “The new Kindles are hands down the best gifts you can give this holiday season…”) They offered the free two-day shipping to any address in the (continental) United States for any of the new Kindle models — including the color touchscreen Kindle Fire tablets, the Kindle Touch, and the new $79 Kindle. And of course, Amazon’s announcement also reminded you that you can “gift” an e-book, and schedule it’s delivery for a specific day — like Christmas. And they offered one more helpful suggestion for how to spend money at Amazon. “For $79, customers are buying multiple Kindles to use as stocking stuffers!”

But there’s also some deals that lasted even after Christmas at Amazon. I see some of the best games for the Kindle have gone on sale now for the ultra-cheap price of just 99 cents! For example, last week Electronic Arts released a slick new Kindle version of the classic game, Battleship. They’d originally priced it at $4.99 — but right now, it’s available for just 99 cents! (Just point your computer’s web browser to

And it’s not the only great game that’s suddenly lowered its price. In fact, every game from Electronic Arts is now specially priced at just 99 cents. (Point your browser to .) There’s even a master game pack that’s called “POGO Hearts, Spades, and More” which also includes Euchre, Gin, and Canasta in a single download. Here’s a list of the other EA games which are currently on sale for just 99 cents.

    Trivial Pursuit
    Texas Hold’em

But it gets better, because Amazon’s announced their list of the best games for all of 2011 — and all of those 25 games are on sale now for just 99 cents! That includes Mobigloo’s version of Mahjong Solitaire — which normally costs $3.99, and which Amazon named the #5 best game of the year. (Mobigloo’s Jewels — normally $1.99 — also grabbed the #3 on Amazon’s “best games of the year” list.) But it was EA Games that took four of the top ten slots on the list, including the #1 spot (for Yahtzee) and the #2 spot (for Scrabble).

To see the complete list, just point your computer’s web browser to There’s New York Times crossword puzzles, many variations on Sudoku, and several apps with calendars, calculators, or Yoga poses.

And surprisingly, you can even get a discount on SpongeBob Squarepants’ Treasure Quest – since Amazon’s declared it the #16 best game of the year!

Did the Kindle Skew Amazon’s Year-End Best-Seller List?

Covers of Amazon 2011 Best-Sellers

Amazon’s released one more fascinating year-end list about their top-selling books. It’s the ten titles which sold the most in 2011 if you combined both their print and their Kindle ebook sales.

 1. “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson
 2. “Bossypants” by Tina Fey
 3. “A Stolen Life” by Jaycee Dugard
 4. “The Mill River Recluse” by Darcie Chan
 5. “In the Garden of the Beasts” by Erik Larson
 6. “A Dance with Dragons” by George R.R. Martin
 7. “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain
 8. “The Litigators” by John Grisham
 9. “The Abbey” by Chris Culver
10. “Inheritance (The Inheritance Cycle)” by Christopher Paolini

And this list proves again that ebooks are exerting a huge influence on Amazon’s total book sales. Even with no print sales whatsoever, two ebooks still crashed into the top 10 — The Mill River Recluse and The Abbey (in the #4 and #9 slots, respectively).

Amazon apparently isn’t displaying those results on their web site, but they’d announced the rankings in a special press release on Monday. “We’re really excited that Kindle Direct Publishing authors have taken two of the top spots this year for book sales overall,” added the Senior book editor at “After the year of recommending books to our customers, it’s always fun to see what books really resonated with them. We chose ‘Steve Jobs’ as one of the Top 10 best books of the year, and even though it was published in October, the sales have been phenomenal in both formats.”

In fact, the biography about the founder of Apple became Amazon’s #1 best-seller for the entire year (both for print sales and for combined sales of print and ebooks). But it seems to be the exception, since for most books, their print sales exerted a much smaller influence on their final year-end rank. Just look at a new chart on the internet at . For five more of the best-sellers, you can see “book” icons hovering much higher up on the graph — indicating its print sales earned a rank much further away from the top 10. (Besides the two ebook-only best-sellers, where book icons don’t even appear!)

For example, Tina Fey’s biography only ranked #7 among printed books. But it shot up five more ranks — to the #2 slot — if you included its ebook sales. What’s really interesting is that it didn’t even appear on Amazon’s list of the 100 best-selling ebooks of the year! It looks like Amazon sold so many ebooks in 2011 that there were lots of high-selling books, even beyond the first 100. (The same is also true for George R. R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons, which was the #5 best-selling printed book. It was also able to claim the #6 slot for combined sales even though its ebook sales didn’t even appear in the top 100.)

And eBooks also influenced the ranks of two books which had barely made it into the top 20 for printed books — The Paris Wife and John Grisham’s The Litigators. When you included their 2011 ebook sales — #4 and #8, respectively — both books rose into the top 10! Of course, the opposite is also true. Inheritance only reached the #37 spot on the ebook best-seller list for the year. But in print, it was the #3 best-seller, which gave it the #10 spot on the best-seller list for both formats.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the world of book publishing really is starting to change. If you wanted to make Amazon’s list of the ten best-selling books of 2011 — you had to sell some ebooks to Kindle owners!

Four MORE Free Christmas eBooks

A Christmas Carol original book cover illustration

I’ve already written about how much I enjoy reading special Christmas ebooks on my Kindle each year. I’ve done a little research through Amazon’s site, and each year it’s full of fun surprises. It’s just delightful when you discover a new ebook about Christmas especially when it’s by an author that you already know. And yes, 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?”

Will Self-Published Authors Create New Kinds of Books?

Yoshi drawing with a crayon

I’ve always wondered whether self-publishing was as popular as it seems. But it’s at least earned some new attention from The Wall Street Journal. In October they dug up some actual statistics on the new growth in self-published titles. They contacted the publisher of Books in Print,” who had calculated that in 2010, there were 133,036 self-published titles.

That doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s more than the 51,237 self-published titles that they’d estimated for 2006. And of course, their estimates haven’t been updated yet to include 2011. There was a 66% increase in self-published titles from just 2009 until 2010, and if that trend continues, by the end of this year there should be more than 87,000 more. And that would bring the total of self-published ebooks to at least 220,000 by the end of December…

But many authors publish more than one book, so the number of self-publishing authors is probably much smaller, maybe even less than 100,000. And the Journal argues that self-publishing “is increasingly a tale of two cities,” with big sales going mostly to established authors (who have established audiences) while the earnings of new authors fall into a smaller, second tier. Author Nyree Belleville clearly falls in the “big sales” category, earning half a million dollars in just 18 months for her ten romance novels. In the “small” category would be Derek J. Canyon, who’s sold $10,000 worth of his four novels and a how-to book about self-publishing.

My favorite part of the article was these stories about different authors, and what happened when they explored a new kind of publishing. Nyree Belleville had been going through a traditional print publisher for her romance novels for seven years, according to the Journal. (She writes under pseudonyms like “Bella Andrea” and “Lucy Kevin”). But since April of 2010, she’s sold 265,000 copies of her ten romances as self-published books, and earned more than $500,000. The Journal notes that Amazon lets self-published authors keep 70% of their revenue — more than what they’d get from a print publisher (which is usually less than 25%). Previously the most Nyree had ever earned from a book was $33,000.

The Journal also tells the story of Darcie Chan, who self-published a “women’s fiction” novel about a secretive Vermont widow in May. In the last six month’s it’s sold “hundreds of thousands of copies,” even though it had already been rejected by several mainstream publishers. It’s all got me wondering if this will ultimately lead to new kinds of books. With hundreds of thousands of brand new writers in the Kindle Store, maybe some of them will have original new ideas that actually re-define what we’ll expect to find in books.

Just as an example, imagine the first ebook published by a teenaged reporter at a high school newspaper. If they collected their memories of their senior class, it probably wouldn’t attract a national audience. But would that really matter? Hundreds of other students in their own high school might download the ebook – and maybe also even their relatives (including curious grandparents and aunts and uncles). The high school student would be thrilled with sales in the hundreds of dollars, and maybe the book could be positioned as a kind of “alternative yearbook” — a personal and subjective counterpart to the high school’s official yearbook.

I’m not saying I know what the next big ebook will be. I’m just saying there may also be thousands of interesting “little ebooks” that carefully target a very small audience — and then make them very happy.

Which eBooks Were Amazon’s Best-Sellers for 2011?

The Top 100 list

It’s really surprising. Amazon’s just announced which books (and which ebooks) were their best-sellers in 2011. And it turns out the two lists are entirely different!

To see Amazon’s lists, just point your computer’s web browser to – or browse both lists on a single page here. But just look at the the top ten ebooks of the year. Three of the 10 best-selling Kindle ebooks didn’t make into the top 100 bestselling printed books of the year — because they’ve never even been released in a printed edition! And that includes the #1 and #2 best-selling ebooks of the year…

      The Mill River Recluse (#1)
      The Abbey (#2)
      Caribbean Moon – A Manny Williams Thriller (#10)

And meanwhile, four of the top 10 best-selling printed books didn’t even make it into the top 100 best-selling ebooks of the year.

      Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever
      Go the **** to Sleep
      A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
      Bossypants by Tina Fey

The “Wimpy Kid” book is only available for the Kindle as an audiobook, and “Go the **** To Sleep” is a parody of children’s picture books, so it’s understandable that more people would want the print edition. But the other titles are available in both ebook and print editions — and they seem to prove that Kindle owners just buy different books than the people shopping for print editions!

Look again at the the top ten ebooks of the year. Only three of them also appeared on the list of the ten-bestselling printed books.

      Steve Jobs

      A Stolen Life by Jaycee Lee Dugard

      In the Garden of Beasts:
      Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin

And even if you look at the whole top 25, there’s still only four more printed books which also made it onto Amazon’s list of the 25 best-selling ebooks.

      The Paris Wife: A Novel
      The Litigators by John Grisham
      The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
      Dead Reckoning: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel

It couldn’t be more clear that Kindle owners are choosing their material from an entirely different universe of books. Stephen King’s new novel, 11/22/63 — is the #11 best-selling printed book. But it didn’t even make it into the top 25 on Amazon’s list of the best-selling ebooks. (Maybe because its $14.99 price tag made it less competitive against other ebooks.) On the ebook list, King’s new novel only ranked #32,and ironically, it placed lower than another Stephen King tale — Mile 81 — an 80-page short story about a haunted highway rest stop that King released exclusively as a Kindle Single for just $2.99. Now at the end of the year, it’s become the #26 best-selling Kindle ebook.

The signs are everywhere that it’s an entirely different set of books which are becoming popular in print. In fact, even if you look at the top fifty best-sellers, there’s still only eight more ebooks which have also made it onto both lists.

      Explosive Eighteen: A Stephanie Plum Novel

      The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus Book 2)

      Inheritance (Inheritance Cycle, Book 4)

      The Throne of Fire (the Kane Chronicles, Book Two)

      Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that
      Changed America Forever
(co-authored by Bill O’Reilly)

      State of Wonder

      Smokin’ Seventeen: A Stephanie Plum Novel

      The Affair: A Reacher Novel

And nothing changes if you expand your focus to the top 100 best-selling books of the entire year. Even then, there’s just 24 more books that both lists have in common.

      Full Black: A Thriller (Scot Harvath)
      V is for Vengeance (Kinsey Millhone Mystery) by Sue Grafton
      The Land of Painted Caves: a Novel by Jean M. Auel
      The Tiger’s Wife: A Novel
      SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper
      The Night Circus
      Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography by Rob Lowe
      Against All Enemies by Tom Clancy
      The Marriage Plot: A Novel
      Caleb’s Crossing: A Novel
      Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
      The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris
      Now You See Her by James Patterson
      The Drop (Harry Bosch) by Michael Connelly
      A Discovery of Witches: A Novel
      Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson
      Before I Go To Sleep: A Novel
      The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly
      Zero Day
      Buried Prey
      The Next Always: Book One of the Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy
      Portrait of a Spy (Gabriel Allon)
      Tick Tock by James Patterson
      Shock Wave (Virgil Flowers)

That means that of the 100 best-selling ebooks of the year — 60 of them didn’t even appear among the top 100 best-selling printed books. And the same is true in reverse. Just 40 of the top 100 best-selling printed books even made it onto Amazon’s list of the top 100 best-selling ebooks.

What’s going on? Five of the best-selling ebooks were “Kindle Singles”, short “idea-sized” ebooks between 5,000 and 30,000 words, which aren’t available in print editions.

      Second Son (Kindle Single)

      Mile 81 (Kindle Single) by Stephen King

      No Time Left (Kindle Single)

      Leaving Home: Short Pieces (Kindle Single) by Jodi Picoult

      Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson,
      Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way (Kindle Single)

And at least five of the best-selling ebooks are by authors who earned their popularity in ebooks, like Amanda Hocking and John Locke. (Both authors sold over one million ebooks in Amazon’s Kindle Store before they received publishing deals this year to release their novels as printed books.) Amanda Hocking’s Ascend (A Trylle Novel) was the #14 best-selling ebook of the entire year, but it still won’t be released in a print edition until late April of 2012. And Locke’s Vegas Moon — the Kindle’s #25 best-selling ebook of the year — won’t even be available in print until the end of next July.

The #24 best-selling ebook is also another book in Locke’s “Donovan Creed” series — A Girl Like You — but there’s not even a release date listed on Amazon for an upcoming print edition. Two other Locke ebooks were also among the top 100 best-selling ebooks this year — The Love You Crave (another Donovan Creed novel) and Follow the Stone (an Emmett Love Western). But while those two books are also available in print editions, neither print edition reached the top 100 on Amazon’s year-end best-seller list.

Heather Killough-Walden also landed two ebooks in the top 100 from her “Big Bad Wolf” paranormal series — The Spell and The Strip. The first one is only available as an ebook, and second one isn’t even available as a printed book or an ebook. (Though Amazon shows plans for an audiobook to be released at the end of December.) And I was surprised to see a familiar name among the best-selling authors of the year. Kindle Blogger Michael Gallagher wrote one of the 100 best-selling ebooks of 2011 — titled Free Kindle Books and How to Find Them.

So what print books are readers buying that didn’t become also become Kindle best-sellers? There’s celebrity memoirs by Ellen Degeneres, Steven Tyler, and Chelsea Handler, plus a backstage look at ESPN — and several political books, including Dick Cheney’s autobiography, Ann Coulter’s Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America and After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. But print buyers also made a best-seller out of Neal Stephenson’s new novel Reamde, a techno-thriller about a multiplayer gaming universe which surprisingly didn’t appear among the 100 best-selling ebooks (though it’s been available since this September).

Amazon’s 2011 lists are sending us a very clear message: the world of publishing is changing. People who own Kindles are just reading different books than the people who buy printed books. But what’s really interesting is those books are being written by different authors.

2011 may be remembered as the year that hundreds of new voices finally found their audiences…

Is Amazon Building a Kindle Smartphone?

Will Amazon build a Kindle smartphone instead of an app

It was almost a year ago that we listened to all those rumors about an upcoming color Kindle from Amazon. When Amazon finally announced the Kindle Fire this September, everyone already knew what to expect — an iPad-style tablet with a touchscreen that could also play videos. Now a few months later, there’s a brand new rumor in town. The next Kindle-riffic device coming from Amazon may be a smartphone!

“Amazon will try to compete on price, like it does with the Fire,” reports one business analyst, suggesting Amazon could reduce the smartphone’s price until they’re just breaking even. Amazon would produce smartphones for around $170 — and then try to earn money by selling “media” (like music files, videos, apps, and of course, ebooks). The device would be cheaper than “high-end” phones, but Amazon still faces a lot of competition.

“This seems totally crazy,” responds a technology reporter in San Francisco. “Amazon doesn’t do anything significantly better than other smartphone vendors…” But Amazon’s mastered the art of selling, and they’ve fine-tuned it over more than a decade. So the reporter also identifies what may be Amazon’s secret weapon: they know all about your shopping habits.

“If you’re an Amazon customer, it knows what you buy, when you bought it, who you bought it for, and how often you return. It also has a bunch of other customer buying habits which it could use to predict what you might be interested in.” Instead of just selling media files from Amazon’s web site, Amazon could sell you real-world items from the stores in your neighborhood. And because they know your purchasing patterns, Amazon could tie the “special offers” to your known interests – and, to your location!

The phones could include a “digital wallet” that’s tied to your Amazon account, the reporter speculates, which might communicate with a special Amazon kiosk that retailers could install, taking e-commerce off the web, and creating “mobile commerce”. (Like the Kindle Fire tablet, it’s not just a handheld device – it’s also a shopping platform!) And the reporter also points out that Amazon has already invested in “Living Social”, a service which offers Daily Deals to share among your digital friends. Could Amazon tie this all together into a new way to shop?

I’m excited about the possibility, but for an entirely different reason. I’ve always wanted a Kindle “Mini” — an iPod-sized screen that just displays ebooks, so the cost still stays nice and low. I like using the Kindle app on my smartphone, because then there’s always something for me to read waiting in my pocket. It almost feels like a “cute” technology – reading ebooks on an adorable miniature screen.

Amazon’s probably realized that a lot of people are already reading their Kindle books with a smartphone app. The only question now may be what to call Amazon’s new Kindle phone. The KPhone? The Phindle?

The Kindle Spark?

My Interview with My Favorite Author!

Author Thomas S. Roche

My friend Thomas S. Roche started publishing fiction nearly 20 years ago, and he’s written hundreds of crime, fantasy, and horror short stories. Back in 1999 he’d even shown me the manuscript for a great unpublished action novel — but he’s finally published his first novel for real. (Or at least, the first novel under his own name!)

It’s a zombie apocalypse thriller called The Panama Laugh. But nearly a decade earlier, before the Kindle was even invented, I’d already started thinking of Thomas as “my professional fiction-writing friend”. So I’m thrilled to be able to finally interview him about what he thinks of the self-publishing revolution, the Kindle, and e-books in general — and of course, his new zombie thriller, The Panama Laugh.

   *                              *                              *

Q: For a while, Amazon was automatically adding their standard link at the left side of your book’s page that shouts “Tell the Publisher! I’d like to read this book on Kindle…” I’ve always wanted to ask an author how you feel about that. (Their next sentence is “Don’t have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App…”)

THOMAS S. ROCHE: Oh, I think that’s just typical Amazon marketing — for a while they weren’t just trying to win readers; they were trying to convince publishers to publish in e-book format. I think that battle has been won.

With its Kindle marketing, Amazon committed a brilliant coup. It handled the press like it was an army of well-trained Chihuahuas. Amazon did this because it knew that it could control the e-book market in ways that it could never control the print market. By putting out press releases about how many e-books they’d sold, they augmented the public perception that “everyone is doing it.” The result is that more people tried e-books….people who might not have tried e-books, otherwise.

I don’t believe this derives from any fundamental shift in technology that enabled the Kindle… that is, the e-ink. In other words, I don’t think the e-ink technology helped, other than providing a series of talking points: “It looks just like a book! It seems just like paper! You can read it in direct sunlight!” All of which, combined with the widespread perception that e-books were becoming more common, convinced people that e-readers were worth trying.

Q: Okay, but I’ll admit that once I tried e-books, I absolutely loved them. (And I’m not the only one!) So what do you personally think about the brand new craze for “virtual” books that can be downloaded into digital readers?

THOMAS S. ROCHE: As I found when I started reading e-books on the Palm Pilot in about 2000, the advantages of e-books are enormous. There’s something really nice about settling down with a big fat paperback or a gorgeous hardcover, and e-books are never going to take that away. But there’s also a huge advantage to having a hundred or a thousand books in your pocket…being able to get virtually any public domain work in English for free in about 10 seconds with a wireless connection… being able to buy books about organized crime in Indonesia for $10, when a year ago it would have taken me six weeks to get it through inter-library loan, or cost me $100. I’m never going to give up books, but e-books have vastly enriched my reading experience!

Q: Here’s what I consider the million-dollar “what-if.” All the Kindle bloggers are buzzing about a former insurance executive named John Locke, who became the first self-published author to sell one million e-books in Amazon’s Kindle store. (And he then, just recently, landed a contract with Simon & Schuster for his “Donovan Creed” novels.) Is this opening the door to wonderful changes in the world of reading, when any voice with a personal story to tell can skip past the gatekeepers at the publishing-house? Or are we losing something precious, which more experienced authors like yourself can fully appreciate?

TSR: I honestly have no idea… I’ve read some self-published works that were absolutely amazing. I’ve read lots more works from mainstream publishers that were wretchedly, indescribably terrible, like nightmares turned into words, and not in a good way. Many of these works that I considered awful were hugely successful, not just with readers but with the reviews establishment… So I don’t know that I see much of a difference happening.

I think the “gatekeeping” has been hugely upset by the advent of e-books, but it already was being upset by the advent of the web. What made a huge difference is that now it’s easier for a writer to produce a revenue stream, even in small amounts, without the support of a publisher. But everything’s changing every day.

Q: I can feel that everything’s changing — but what changes, exactly, are you seeing today?

TSR: I think the huge advantage of e-books, with fiction, is the potential profitability not so much of self-published work, but of work published by small houses staffed by people who genuinely love the hell out of a genre. I don’t know that a self-publishing writer is necessarily the best judge of his or her best work. But a fanatic who may have no professional credentials or credits, but just loves writing in a particular genre, may be able to start a small no-budget publisher to share work they love, and that’s awesome.

Q: Speaking of publishers, your book The Panama Laugh came out in a Kindle edition and a print version. So who exactly decides if a book available in an e-book — you or the publisher?

TSR: I don’t think that today a publisher would buy print rights without buying e-book rights, unless they were a small publisher specializing in limited editions, or buying non-exclusive rights for some reason. I could be wrong, but I think they’re all acquiring e-book rights as a matter of course.

This is a new development, however — even two or three years ago, some publishers didn’t acquire e-book rights. I don’t think a publisher worth a damn would put the money into acquiring, editing and marketing a book without making it available as an e-book nowadays — unless they’re a specialty publisher, doing limited editions, collectibles, that sort of thing. In which case they would likely be looking for non-exclusive rights, or doing reprints.

Q: You’re someone who’s actually had a publishing career before the big rise in e-books. So does that change the way you felt about e-books and the Kindle in general?

TSR: I don’t think having a publishing career before the advent of e-books really changed the way I feel about them; I always approached them more as a reader than as a writer.

As a writer, though, the huge advantage of wider adoption of e-books is that publishers pay higher royalties for e-books. Self-publishing enterprises are far more likely to make money without the print costs. That makes a huge difference, and every little dollar helps. The higher royalties associated with e-books make niche publishing far more feasible, so that, for instance, a reliable and prolific genre novelist with just 1,000 or so dedicated fans can now have a viable career, even without the support of a publisher…

I think the big potential problem for all self-publishing fiction writers with e-books is over-self-promotion. I feel like we have to hit and hit and hit and hit and bleat and scream and howl to be heard above the fray. It’s exhausting, and it means that the writers who aren’t spending the time writing, or learning to write, are more likely to get found by consumers.

That’s the main disadvantage of not having a publisher — having to do it all yourself, so you spend time learning skills that take away from your writing.

Q: I’ve already asked how you feel about e-books in general — but are your feelings any different now that you’re making a big push on your new zombie novel?

TSR: I just want people to read my book — or, if they don’t like my book, then they should read something they do like. Either way, I think the act of reading book-length fiction and nonfiction is a profoundly transformative, enriching and educational act. So I want people to find the platform that works for them, and use it! If that’s e-books, I’m all over that!

I will never stop loving having a hard copy in my hand, but e-books are wonderful for a host of other reasons…

Click here for a free sample chapter from Thomas’s new zombie apocalypse, The Panama Laugh

Thomas S Roche - author of the zombie crime novel The Panama Laugh

Four Free Christmas eBooks

Four free Kindle Christmas ebooks

Are you feeling the holiday spirit? Every year I like to stuff my Kindle full of Christmas mp3s and Christmas ebooks. It’s become my own personal holiday tradition, a great way to enjoy the special season in an entirely new way. And this year I’ve discovered some fun new Christmas ebooks have also found their way into Amazon’s “free ebook” section!

O Little Town by Don Reid

Even I’ve heard of the Statler Brothers, the country band that Kurt Vonnegut once called “America’s poets.” But now at the age of 66, their lead singer has launched a second career as a writer of sentimental stories about life in a small town. It’s Christmas time in his story, and three different families are experiencing both happy and bittersweet moments of friendship and faith. “I live in Staunton, the hometown of the Statler Brothers, and know Don Reid and his wife, Debbie..,” reads one review on Amazon. “The last chapters, in which all the main characters attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service where the Pastor delivers a sermon about forgiveness, spoke to my heart… Thank you, Don, for a beautiful Christmas story.”

A Dixie Christmas by Sandra Hill

Elvis Presley never meant much to Clayton Jessup the III. But in this book, he’s inherited a Memphis hotel called “the Blue Suede Suites,” and discovers it’s the home to a tribe of Elvis impersonators who’ve used it to create a living Nativity scene! It’s one of two Christmas stories here by romance-writer Sandra Hill that both take place in the South. The other one describes a former NASCAR star trying to win back his ex-wife who somehow ends up in a wild Cajun variety show. They sound like fun stories, and it’s currently the #1 free ebook in the entire Kindle Store.

The Mouse and the Christmas Cake (Author Unknown)

“This poem about a mouse that builds a house in a decoration castle on top of a Christmas cake was first published in New York in 1858…” explains one review on Amazon. This ebook even includes five original pictures from the 1858 edition, and another reviewer described it as a “Cute, easy-to-read-aloud poem with old-fashioned illustrations [that] brought a smile.” It’s a children’s poem with just a few pages of text, but I really enjoyed it…

“A pretty story I will tell, of Nib a little Mouse
Who took delight, when none were near, to skip about the house.”

The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Andersen

A Charlie Brown Christmas was partly inspired by this fairy tale. Lee Mendelson, who was asked to help write a script for the TV show, remembered the previous Christmas when he’d read this story to his children. It’s the story of Christmas from the tree’s perspective — a little fir tree that “was not happy, it wished so much to be tall like its companions.”

“Sometimes the children would bring a large basket of raspberries or strawberries, wreathed on a straw, and seat themselves near the fir-tree, and say, ‘Is it not a pretty little tree?'”

It’s fun to peek in on a Christmas in 1844 — even as the tree anticipates a long journey from the woods into a celebrating home. Like many fairy tales, there’s a bittersweet ending — but it’s a story you’ll never forget!

100 Kindle eBooks Now $3.99 or Less!

Amazon discounts 100 ebooks for less than four dollars

Every month Amazon picks 100 ebooks to feature in the Kindle Store for just $3.99 or less. They’re “hand-selected” by Amazon’s editors, according to the tagline at the top of a special web page. You can always reach this month’s selection by pointing your computer’s web browser to . And Amazon’s finally unveiled their new collection for December.

There’s lots of names you might recognize — but also a few surprises!

Dangerous Games by Michael Prescott ($1.99)
Amazon describes this as a “psychologically complex thriller” about the hunt for a serial killer with new appearances by characters from some of Prescott’s previous mysteries. In fact, it’s the first story in a trilogy about maverick FBI agent Tess McCallum and “freelance security agent” Abby Sinclair. But there’s also apparently an interesting story behind this story, since I see Prescott listed on best-seller lists at USA Today as a self-published author using Amazon Digital Services. Dangerous Games was written in 2005, but in 2010 Prescott re-released as an ebook for the Kindle and other digital readers, and by November of 2011, it was among the top 40 best-selling books, according to USA Today.

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler ($2.99)
This book was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize when it was released in 1985, and it actually won the prestigious annual award from the National Book Critics Circle. It’s the dramatic story of a man in a failing marriage who moves in with his two divorced brothers and an unmarried sister. It “chronicles his journey from lonely self-absorption to an ‘accidental” new life’…,” according to the novel’s description on Amazon. A movie adaptation was nominated for four Academy Awards when it was released in 1988, and it ultimately won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for a role played by Geena Davis.

Absolute Mayhem by Monica Mayhem ($1.99)
I wondered why this book had such a trashy cover, until I noticed its subtitle — “Secret Confessions of a Porn Star.” Apparently Monica Mayhem is an Australian “adult film actress,” and at the age of 33 she’s written a raunchy autobiography. According to the book’s description on Amazon, she jokingly writes in the first paragraph, “Here’s what a ‘busy day at the office might mean for me…” Apparently she started out as a stock broker, but her career took an unexpected turn…

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Outcast by Aaron Allston ($1.99)
This is the first in a series of nine novels “expanding” the fictional universe from the Star Wars movies. It takes place after the first Star Wars movie (which, for fans of the franchise, is referred to as “Episode IV: A New Hope”.) “In a shocking move, Chief of State Natasi Daala orders the arrest of Luke Skywalker,” according to the book’s description on Amazon, “for failing to prevent Jacen Solo’s turn to the dark side and his subsequent reign of terror as a Sith Lord. But it’s only the first blow in an anti-Jedi backlash fueled by a hostile government and suspicious public.”

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield ($1.99)
This is a new motivational/self-help “manifesto” that’s drawn some pretty good reviews on Amazon. It argues that we don’t need better ideas — we just need, well, to do the work! “There is an enemy. There is an intelligent, active, malign force working against us,” reads a quote from the book on “Step one is to recognize this. This recognition alone is enormously powerful. It saved my life, and it will save yours…” But my favorite quote appears in one of the user-submitted reviews on Amazon. Why should we dare to actually do the work? Because “The gods, witnessing our boldness, look on in approval…”

This listing includes something I’ve never seen before. For members of Amazon’s Prime shipping service, they’ve flagged this as one of the books that can be checked out for free from the Kindle Lending Library. Of course, you can only check out one ebook a month — which seems a little wasteful, since for December they’ve cut the price by 85%. Amazon’s leaving users to select from two very appealing choices. Do you want that ebook for free for 30 days — or forever, for just $1.99?

And don’t forget — Amazon also discounts a new ebook every day. To see the special deals, just keep pointing your computer’s web browser to

Ellen Degeneres’ Audience Gets Kindle Fire Tablets

Ellen Degeneres' 12 Days Giveaway is a Kindle Fire tablet

Ellen Degeneres surprised her studio audience Friday during her daytime talk show — by giving every one of them a new Kindle Fire tablet! In a daily segment called “12 Days of Giveaways,” she’s been treating her audience each day to a big bundle of Christmas presents. Friday’s bundle was worth over $2,000 , but she saved the Kindle Fire tablets for last! As her audience cheered with excitement, she smiled and said “Have a wonderful weekend…”

But I liked the way Ellen teased the audience first. She’d introduced an a capella singing group to perform the song “Silver Bells” — but after several false starts, they just couldn’t find the right key. Suddenly a real bell went off — the signal for Ellen’s gift giveway — and a giant dancing Christmas wreath appeared on the stage. The audience cheered as an Andy Williams song played in the background — “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” — as stagehands came out dressed in candy-cane pin strips and elfish-green skirts, and Ellen danced with the wreath.

In fact, the Kindle Fire almost got lost in the excitement, since Ellen handed out so many other gifts. She’d already told the audience that each of them would receive a $200 gift card for coffee brewers, tickets to a new Cirque du Soleil show, a GPS system, and a trip to a new resort spa that’s opening in Carlsbad, California. And then she told that audiece that, finally, they’d be getting a copy of her book. (“I might be biased, but if there’s one book you should read this holiday season, or year, or really ever, it should be my book…”) But of course, she still had one more gift…

“Now, how would you like access to over 18 million movies, TV shows, music, magazines, apps, games — and especially my book? Now you can have it all on this season’s hottest e-reader, the Kindle Fire, everybody!”
(The audience cheers)

I have to wonder if Ellen is secretly a fan of the Kindle, or if the bit give-away was Amazon’s idea? I know Oprah Winfrey was always a fan of the Kindle, and she’d made a point of giving them away to her audience. In one show, Oprah even tracked down the audience for a show she’d taped two and a half years earlier — because she felt like they’d been disappointed because she hadn’t given them enough gifts. Now that Oprah has retired, maybe Ellen’s just trying to continue that Kindle-giving tradition.

Ellen seems to have a good relationship with Amazon, since she wrote a “guest blog post” on Amazon’s Kindle blog back in October to promote her new book. Amazon later named it one of their “best books of 2011l,”
and even two months later, it’s still ranked #236 on Amazon’s list of the best-selling items in the Kindle Store. The title of Ellen’s book?

“Seriously… I’m Kidding!”

Free Christmas mp3s from!

Celtic Woman Christmas song Ave Maria - Believe album cover

Amazon’s giving away a free Christmas mp3 — and not just for today, but every day, for the next 25 days! Just keep pointing your computer’s web browser to (If your Kindle has an mp3 player, you can finally stock it with some holiday music!) And Amazon’s also created a free “Santa” app for the Kindle Fire (and the iPad) which lets children create a wish list of Amazon items — for Santa Claus!

The free mp3s are on a special “25 Days of Free” web page that’s designed like an advent calendar, where a new surprise gets revealed every day as a countdown to Christmas. Except here, the calendar’s squares get replaced by album covers!


For December 1, Amazon’s offering a lavish Christmas song by the Celtic Woman group — their rendition of the traditional song Ave Maria. It’s a preview of their yet-to-be-released new album, “Believe,” which won’t be available until January 24 of next year!

“Every day through Christmas, we’re unveiling a new holiday song available to download free,” Amazon announces on the web page, specifying that the free downloads are available “for a limited time.” (So it’s not clear if each one is free for just 24 hours, or if Amazon will also let you “catch up” on the free downloads from previous days.) Also available for free is the complete version of the song “Winter Night” by Little & Ashley, which Amazon used last year in their Christmas Kindle commercials (with the stop-motion animation). (Just point your browser to .)

Snowflake in my pocket, let’s take a sleigh ride on the ice.
Northern lights are glowing and reflecting in your eyes.

Underneath a starry sky.
Dream with me this winter night.

And of course, Amazon also points users to their “MP3 Holiday Store,” which includes a special section of 100 different holiday mp3 albums that are bargain-priced at just $5 each. I’d laugh this off
except the selection actually does includes some of my all-time favorite Christmas albums, including Christmas with the Rat Pack, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby’s I Wish You a Merry Christmas, and an expanded version of Vince Guaraldi’s music for “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”. There’s also Christmas albums from Weezer, Christina Aguilera, Zooey Deschanel’s band “She and Him,” and even the cast of Sesame Street – plus some performers you wouldn’t expect, like Bob Dylan and Twisted Sister.

All these and some other $5 Christmas album downloads are at

Or would you like to write to Santa Claus? There’s an app for that — at least, if you own a Kindle Fire tablet (or an iPad). Wednesday Amazon 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

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 helip 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.”