Amazon Kindle 399 ebook sale

Hurry! There’s only two more days to snatch up some great ebooks in Amazon’s special sale for July. They’re offering 100 Kindle ebooks for just $3.99 or less. And because it’s the last week of the month, this really means you’ll get 200 bargain ebooks to choose from — because there’s the 100 discounted “July” ebooks, and then 100 more different ebooks, starting on Wednesday!

Both sales will appear at this URL — tinyurl.com/399books.

Amazon’s discounting books from eight different genres, so there’s a nice variety to choose from. There’s romance, literature, mysteries, and even fiction for kids and teens — plus history, cookbooks, travel books, and more! I’ve taken a good look, and decided to highlight some of the more interesting titles (below). And there’s a few cases where some great ebooks aren’t in the category that you’d expect!


P.S. I Hate It Here: Kids’ Letters from Camp
Amazon stuck this book in their “general non-fiction” category, though it’s description notes that it’s “hilarious and heart-warming.” They’re real letters, written by children between the ages of 8 and 16, and they were all carefully collected together by a real mother who, yes, sent her children away to summer camp. “These letters reveal that kids are wittier and more sophisticated than we might assume,” according to the book’s page at Amazon, “and that the experience of being away from home for the first time creates hilarious and lasting memories.”


In Pursuit of Spenser: Mystery Writers on Robert B. Parker and the Creation of an American Hero
Amazon’s tucked this ebook into their mystery section, though it’s really a loving appreciation of a favorite mystery author. Robert B. Parker wrote 40 detective novels starring Spenser the detective — starting in 1973, and continuing for the next 38 years! But for this book, the best-selling mystery authors of today explain how he influenced the way mysteries are written. Publisher’s Weekly notes that Parker is “widely credited with reviving the hardboiled private investigator genre,” according to the book’s page on Amazon. And Amazon’s also cites another reviewer who calls it “a fun read that brings back wonderful memories of the man who created Spenser and so many other characters.”


Garbage Pail Kids
Art Spiegelman won a Pulitzer Prize for his graphic novel, Maus, but he started his career drawing parodies for bubble gum cards! In 1985, Topps launched a new series of cards parodying the Cabbage Patch dolls (which were that year’s hottest Christmas gift). But instead of cute children, these cards featured funny freaks! Spiegelman was one of the editors for the series, and this ebook collects all the dark fun together for the first time – including four previously unreleased cards. There’s a good introduction by Spiegelman himself – and the 206 color images will definitely bring some rowdy retro fun to your Kindle Fire!


Fun Inc.: Why Gaming Will Dominate the Twenty-First Century
A British journalist formed real connections with the people he met playing games in an online world. But exploring the topic much more deeply, he discovered that games really can tap into our deepest human needs – and concludes that they’ll become a bigger part of our lives in the years to come. Newsweek argued recently that the internet may literally drive some people crazy – though there’s also a positive side, too. A reviewer at the Irish Times called this book “A lively, thought-provoking and thoughtful read on an entertainment juggernaut many of us have failed to properly recognize…”


We Are All Weird by Seth Godin
You may remember a fascinating 2011 best-seller called Poke the Box, urging initiative and risk-taking as the keys to success. But its author also wrote this fascinating follow-up which, according to its description on Amazon, argues that “new era of weirdness is upon us.” In an era of mass production and conformity, Godin applauds the new breed of consumers who are “stepping forward and insisting that the world work in a different way.” Godin has an MBA, and once worked as a brand manager – yet he’s against the idea of a one-size-fits-all corporate solution, suggesting it’s more important to offer choices, to “allow people to survive and thrive.”


Remember, there’ll be ANOTHER 100 ebooks on sale starting on Wednesday. And both sales will appear at this URL…

tinyurl.com/399books.

Amazon summer beach resort Kindle ad

I love Amazon’s Kindle commercials. It’s really fun to see how a professional advertising agency captures the fun of owning a Kindle with flashy video clips and exotic music choices. Today I discovered there’s one great Kindle commercial that most people haven’t seen. It’s airing only in England, but you can also watch it online on Amazon’s official channel for Kindle videos!

For a shortcut to the video, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/UKKindleAd

This cheerful ad shows lots of happy people enjoying their Kindle while they’re “on holiday” at the beach. (“Pack your Kindle,” urge the words appearing on-screen at the beginning of the commercial.) Those words appear over the image of a carefully-packed suitcase, but all the other video clips show a fancy summer resort. There’s a woman relaxing by the pool, a tall glass of lemonade, and a room with a view of the beach. But of course, each clip includes a Kindle as part of the fun!

Kindle on beach mattress

“Holds all your holiday books…” read the words next to the glass of lemonade. “Lighter than a paperback…” appears as a man flops onto a bed with his Kindle, with the lovely beach view in the background. Amazon manages to include all the Kindle’s key selling points, while creating a real sense of fun. “Now introducing Kindle Touch…” they add towards the end of the commercial. “Kindle £89 Kindle Touch £109…”

The video appears on Amazon’s official channel for Kindle videos at YouTube.com/Kindle. (On the same page, Amazon’s also webcasting some inspiring interviews with some self-published authors.) Altogether, Amazon’s online Kindle videos have been viewed more than 7,249,265 times. And yet so far, this fun summer ad has racked up less than 11,000 views.

I liked the bouncy song in the background, which adds to the breezy tone of the commercial. The song seems to have just two lyrics — “I love you, baby,” and “Oooh, oooh oooh…” But with some research, I discovered that the complete song is actually a lot darker. “When they fight, they fight. And when they come home at night they say, ‘I love you, baby’…” (It’s by a band called “The Generationals” — and it looks like Amazon’s using yet another new hip band from Louisiana for its Kindle ads….)

It’s not just the perfect song for a Kindle ad. The exact same song was used in a commercial for Bloomingdales, according to the band’s page on Wikipedia. The song’s swinging trumpet and bouncing bassline gives it a groovy ’60s sound — towards the beginning, there’s even a playful “wolf whistle.” But the effect seems to be ironic, since the song is actually chronicling the end of relationship

“He got the message she left on his car, in the rain…. And when it all comes crashing down, what can you do, to find what you’re looking for? And then the words will come to you, driving through the rain. But there’ll be no one there to say them to anyway….”


But at least some couples are still enjoying a lovely holiday together at the beach this summer — at least, judging by Amazon’s Kindle ad.

Kindle in bathing suit back pocket beach ad

Amazon Twitter $2.00 Discount .mp3 Music Sale

I’ve really enjoyed Amazon’s music give-aways – and I’m always amazed at how many there are. I think I’ve gotten more than a dozen music files for free, which I’ve loaded onto my Kindle for reading “background music,” but this week Amazon’s announced another sale. They’re giving away a $2.00 credit for free music downloads — any .mp3s — if you’re willing to let them post one appropriate message on your Twitter account.

“I just got a $2 credit for music from @amazonmp3 and @imdb. Get your credit here…”

Here’s my shortcut to the URL for Amazon’s free music offer – just go to tinyurl.com/TwoFreeAmazonMp3s

The offer is good through Saturday, July 28th, and it applies to any digital music downloads (but not CDs) purchased at mp3.Amazon.com. To accept the offer, you temporarily connect your Amazon and Twitter accounts — but you can revoke the connection just as soon as you’ve used your $2.00 credit. (Just click the “Edit Your Profile” button at the upper-right of your profile page, and then click the “Apps” links which appears at the right of your screen…)

I was surprised that Amazon’s offering more free mp3s so soon after their last free music give-away. But apparently they’ve partnered up with the movie web site, IMDB.com, who are listed as the “sponsors” of this latest round of free music. Now I’ve started keeping a “wish list” of songs I’d like for background music, so I’ll be ready the next time Amazon announces a free music give-away. You can keep up on all of Amazon’s music give-aways by “Liking” their page on Facebook (at facebook.com/amazonmp3 ).

For this week’s free music offer from Amazon, just go to tinyurl.com/TwoFreeAmazonMp3s

Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablet

I’ve been shopping for a Kindle Fire tablet, and I made a startling discovery. You can save a lot of money if you buy a second-hand tablet, either in an auction on eBay, for example, or through an ad on Craigslist. Over the last four days, I’ve checked 35 different auctions on eBay. And the average winning bid for those 35 auctions was just $140!

In fact, 13 different bidders ultimately won a Kindle Fire for less than $140. Two people even won one of Amazon’s color touchscreen tablets for just $113.88, and two more paid just $121. I’ve really been amazed at some of the low prices that bidders are getting on a used Kindle Fire. People have won the eBay auctions with bids of just $126.48 or $127.00, and I saw seven different people win a Kindle Fire tablet with bids between $130 and $139!

It’s a great way to save money, since most bidders end up getting a 30% to 45% discount. In addition, at least some of the auctions include an expensive case (which would normally be sold separately). It’s one of the advantages of buying from a individual, who may just want to get rid of their Kindles and accessories at the same time. Obviously there’s also some people who are selling damaged devices, but each of the 35 auctions that I checked included a Kindle Fire tablet that was fully-functioning, and without any obvious defects (like a scratch on the screen). And they should all be under warranty anyways, since Amazon released these devices less than a year ago.

The prices seem to be even cheaper on Craigslist (though that depends on what city you’re in). And of course, there’s no “selling history” available when you’re shopping on Craigslist. But my girlfriend pointed out the biggest disadvantage of buying a second-hand Kindle now. Soon, Amazon’s expected to release a newer version of the Kindle Fire tablets. So if you buy one now, you’ll be missing out on all the new improvements which are just around the corner!

I think that might explain why the prices are so low on eBay – but I don’t want to wait. And there’s always an easy solution if you purchase a Kindle Fire now, and then decide later that you want to upgrade to the newer model. Let’s say Amazon does release an exciting new model of their color touchscreen tablets sometime in October.

Then you can always go back to eBay, and try to sell off your own Kindle Fire!

Is the Kindle becoming unpopular

There’s been some discouraging headlines. For example, Amazon’s facing new competition for its color Kindle Fire tablets from Google’s new Nexus 7, and there’s even a rumor that Apple will release an “iPad Mini”. “[A]nalysts are beginning to wonder how Amazon will continue to fare in the hyper-competitive market,” warns the executive editor at C|Net, citing an investment analyst who’s just downgraded Amazon’s stock. But that’s only the beginning of the bad news for Amazon…

Target stores have stopped carrying all Kindles, C|Net notes, which obviously gives Amazon fewer places to find new customers. And Amazon’s Kindle Fire may also be stealing attention away from Amazon’s black-and-white e-ink Kindles, according to a new theory from Kevin Kopelman, an analyst at the Cowen Group. According to C|Net’s article, he’s now predicting that Amazon’s Kindle sales will
grow by just 3% in 2012, where before he’d been estimating a massive 30% increase. He’s now calling that “unrealistic,” citing Amazon’s delay in releasing any new Kindles — though he still expects
16.3 million Kindles to be sold in 2012.

It’s not just Google and Apple that are threatening Amazon’s market share. There’s also some interesting statistics about the Kindle’s biggest competitor, the Nook. According to this article, it now accounts for about 25% to 30% of the ebook market. Over the last year, they’ve sold more than twice as many ebooks as the year before, reporting an increase of 119%. Sales of the Nook itself increased by 45%, and Nook-and-ebook sales together increased by even more, up 47.7%, to a total of $1.3 billion!

It’s not just one analyst who’s souring on Amazon’s growth prospects. Another analyst at Pacific Crest has studied Amazon’s supply chain, and is now estimating that Amazon will sell 3 million fewer Kindles than he’d originally expected earlier in the year. He’s still predicting that Amazon could sell up to 15 million Kindle Fires, according to this article at Forbes. And their technology reporter puts all this speculation into perspective. “[W]e will never know if his unit forecasts are right or not..

“Amazon does not report unit sales figures.”

Vintage phonography gramophone record player

Amazon’s doing it again! Last week they’d picked 20 “essential summer jams,” and then dropped the price for downloading each song to just 25 cents. But they also promised they’d discount more songs,
and sure enough, they’ve finally announced their second selection of twenty more songs. You can download them all to your Kindle, your mp3 player, or your computer for just 25 cents each!

See the whole selection at
tinyurl.com/20moreSongs

Amazon’s calling this batch of 20 songs their “Customer Picks Playlist.” (“Recently we polled our Facebook and Twitter followers to find out what songs they wanted to see for $0.25 each…”) There’s more cheery summer classics, like “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & the Waves and “The Boys of Summer” by Don Henley. But there’s also a surprising selection of recent artists, like Flo Rida and Linkin Park, plus some hard-rocking tunes from Metallica, Green Day, and even Led Zeppelin. Plus, as I told my friends on Facebook, Amazon’s even discounted that “We Are Young” song by Fun that the radio keeps playing over and over again…

And remember, even if you don’t buy anything, you can still have some fun with this sale. The web page plays a free 30-second sample of each song, so even if you’re really cheap, you can still listen to a 10-minute “montage” of music — the best “summer jams” as selected by other Amazon customers! Below is a complete list of all the new songs that Amazon’s discounted to just 25 cents.

Plus, Amazon’s also keeping the prices low on last week’s selection of “essential summer jams,” which means there’s now a total of forty songs that you can download for Kindle background music…

1. Oh Love by Green Day
2. Runaways by The Killers
3. It’s Time by Imagine Dragons
4. We Are Young (featuring Janelle Monáe) by Fun.
5. Ho Hey by the Lumineers
6. Pontoon by Little Big Town
7. Wanted by Hunter Hayes
8. The Boys Of Summer by Don Henley
9. Enter Sandman by Metallica
10. No Quarter by Led Zeppelin
11. Burn It Down by Linkin Park
12. Too Close by Alex Clare
13. Whistle by Flo Rida
14. Go Get It [Explicit] by T.I.
15. OMG by Usher (featuring will.i.am)
16. Over And Over by Hot Chip
17. Tongue Tied by Grouplove Never Trust A Happy Song
18. Good Time (featuring Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen) by Owl City
19. Smooth by Santana (featuring Rob Thomas)
20. Walking On Sunshine by Katrina & The Waves

Download any of the songs listed above at
tinyurl.com/20moreSongs

1. Wild Ones (Feat. Sia) by Flo Rida
2. Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen
3. California Gurls (Feat. Snoop Dogg) [Explicit] by Katy Perry
4. Nothin’ On You [Feat. Bruno Mars] (Album Version) by B.o.B
5. Three Little Birds by Bob Marley
6. I’m Yours (Album Version) by Jason Mraz
7. (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay by Otis Redding
8. Hot In Herre by Nelly
9. In The Summertime by Mungo Jerry
10. Good Vibrations (2001 – Remastered) by The Beach Boys
11. Sunshine by Matisyahu
12. Lights by Ellie Goulding
13. Everybody Loves The Sunshine by Roy Ayers
14. Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
15. Love Shack (Album Version) by The B-52′s
16. Some Nights by Fun.
17. Blister In The Sun by Violent Femmes
18. California Girls by David Lee Roth
19. Hot Fun In The Summertime (Single Version) by Sly And The Family Stone
20. Red Solo Cup by Toby Keith

Download any of these 20 songs at
tinyurl.com/20SummerSongs

Is Your eBook Reading YOU?

July 16th, 2012

Book with eyes

So it turns out that Amazon knows more than just what ebook you’re reading, and exactly what page you’re on. They can also guess what ebook you’re going to read next – and maybe even how you’d like it to end! I recently wrote about how The Wall Street Journal reported that ebooks “are providing a glimpse into the story behind the sales figures, revealing not only how many people buy particular books, but how intensely they read them.” But their article also examined the implications of startling new technological capabilities: that the way we read has become something that can actually be measured…

In fact, we’ve already taken the next step. “Retailers and some publishers are beginning to sift through the data, gaining unprecedented insight into how people engage with books,” the Journal reports. In the past, publishers only had two ways to measure their readers’ reactions: sales figures and reviews. But now they’re embracing all the giant new pools of data that are coming in from ebook-reading devices like the Kindle.

Honestly, the article seems a little short on specifics, but at least one publisher even began releasing it digital titles first, so they could solicit feedback from readers before releasing the print edition. And Scholastic books monitors their online message boards for feedback, which they’ve used to shape their popular book series, “39 Clues.” A company called Colloquy took it one step further, offering an ebook in the “choose-your-own adventure” format – and then tracking the choices that readers make, so they could improve future entries in the series! The author of the Kindle Game “Getting Dumped” was planning to eliminate the boyfriend of its main character – until she learned that 29.7% of its readers chose the game path where she’s still pursuing him

“Your ebook is reading you”, warned the article’s headline, though it stresses that the data is analyzed as a giant pool of “aggregate” data rather than studying any individuals. It does make you think about what kind of future may be waiting forus. Author Scott Turow was excited about the possibility that he could someday learn who was actually reading his books, and whether they’d like the books to be longer or shorter. But at least one publisher argued that the reader shouldn’t be the ones who determine the length of a book. “We’re not going to shorten War and Peace because someone didn’t finish it.”

And one privacy advocate at the Electronic Frontier Foundation had an even blunter perspective. When the Journal asked them for a comment, they argued that in our society there’s an ideal, that “what you read is nobody else’s business. Right now, there’s no way for you to tell Amazon, I want to buy your books, but I don’t want you to track what I’m reading.” And security expert Bruce Schneier also agreed, pointing out that readers could even avoid ebooks about sensitive topics, because they don’t want their purchases tracked.

“There are a gazillion things that we read that we want to read in private,” he tells the newspaper…

Katy Perry, Ellie Goulding, The Beach Boys, and David Lee Roth

Amazon’s announcing another fun sale on music for your Kindle. To celebrate summer, they’ve slashed the prices on 20 “essential summer jams”, discounting the price of each song to just twenty-five cents! There’s everything from a classic Beach Boys single to “Wild Ones” by Flo Rida. I’m really impressed by the great variety in Amazon’s “essential playlist”.

To see the selection, point your web browser to tinyurl.com/20SummerSongs

So what counts as a summer song? Well for starters, there’s two different versions of California Girls — one by David Lee Roth, and “California Gurls” by Katy Perry (with Snoop Dogg). Brian Wilson, the lead singer for the Beach Boys, actually performed the background vocals on David Lee Roth’s version, and for another quarter, you can also download the Beach Boys’ own hard-to-find summer classic, “Good Vibrations”. To see a complete list of all 20 songs, just go to the bottom of this blog post!

“Amazon MP3″ posted the news Wednesday on their Facebook page, also promising they’ll update the list with more songs next week based, on the comments they received. But even if you don’t buy anything, you can still have some fun with this sale. Amazon’s web page for this summer special plays a 30-second sample of each song. So even if you’re really cheap, you can still listen to a 10-minute “montage” of music — 30 seconds from each of Amazon’s 20 “essential summer jams!”

I think it’s a fun way to add some “seasonal” fun to your Kindle. Amazon brags about the ability to read your Kindle on the beach – and now there’s a sale on some appropriately beach-y music! When you’re doing some light summer reading, sometimes it’s nice to have some happy, sunny sounds in the background. Here’s a list of the 20 “essential summer jams” that Amazon’s selling for 25 cents each!

1. Wild Ones (Feat. Sia) by Flo Rida
2. Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen
3. California Gurls (Feat. Snoop Dogg) [Explicit] by Katy Perry
4. Nothin’ On You [Feat. Bruno Mars] (Album Version) by B.o.B
5. Three Little Birds by Bob Marley
6. I’m Yours (Album Version) by Jason Mraz
7. (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay by Otis Redding
8. Hot In Herre by Nelly
9. In The Summertime by Mungo Jerry
10. Good Vibrations (2001 – Remastered) by The Beach Boys
11. Sunshine by Matisyahu
12. Lights by Ellie Goulding
13. Everybody Loves The Sunshine by Roy Ayers
14. Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
15. Love Shack (Album Version) by The B-52′s
16. Some Nights by Fun.
17. Blister In The Sun by Violent Femmes
18. California Girls by David Lee Roth
19. Hot Fun In The Summertime (Single Version) by Sly And The Family Stone
20. Red Solo Cup by Toby Keith

Amazon flag

Last week I wrote about a list from the Library of Congress identifying “88 Books that Shaped America.” Yet nearly a third of the books aren’t even available in Amazon’s Kindle Store! Out of all the books ever written, these were the ones which had been selected as the most influential on the lives of Americans. So I created a list of the 29 “missing American classics,” and thought about what the list implies for the future of reading, and the way that we’ll relate to our past.

Some of the missing titles were just influential children’s picture books, like The Cat in the Hat, Goodnight Moon, The Snowy Day, and Where the Wild Things Are. (Though you could listen to these stories on your Kindle, as audiobooks!) But for some reason, the Kindle Store doesn’t seem to have a version of the longer children’s novel, Charlotte’s Web – either as an ebook or as an audiobook. And there’s even more influential “books for grown-ups” that seem to be missing from Amazon’s Kindle Store.

The two missing books that surprised me most were To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye. (Though some all-American entrepreneurs have apparently written ebooks about these books, just so that interested readers have something else to purchase.) When I went to high school, these books were both considered modern classics, yet you still can’t read them on your Kindle. I’ve heard theories that the aging authors of these two books are insisting that they’ll be made available only in printed form.

For some reason, Amazon’s Kindle Store only has a French-language version available for Benjamin Franklin’s influential 1751 study “Experiments and Observations on Electricity.” (And Streetcar Named Desire is available only as an audiobook, though you could also rent Marlon Brando’s famous movie version for your Kindle Fire tablet. ) But I also couldn’t find a complete copy of The Weary Blues, an influential collection of poetry by Langston Hughes. On the other hand, I’ve never heard of a few of the books on the list from the Library of Congress – like Peter Parley’s Universal History from 1836.

Some books may have had an influence in past centuries, while being almost completely forgotten by the 21st century. But does that mean that the books that we’re writing today will suffer the same obscurity. And is it possible that going forward, America will be shaped more by ebooks from amateur authors?

Maybe in the future, the Library of Congress will recognize 50 Shades of Gray as an influential ebook. Or The Mill River Recluse. Or at least John Locke’s How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months


29 “Books that Shaped America” That Aren’t in the Kindle Store

The American Woman’s Home by Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe (1869)

The Autobiography of Malcolm X Malcolm X and Alex Haley (1965)

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss (1957)

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951)

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (1952)

Experiments and Observations on Electricity by Benjamin Franklin (1751)

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (1947)

A Grammatical Institute of the English Language by Noah Webster (1783)

Howl by Allen Ginsberg (1956)

Idaho: A Guide in Word and Pictures by the Federal Writers’ Project (1937)

Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer (1931)

Mark, the Match Boy by Horatio Alger Jr. (1869)

McGuffey’s Newly Revised Eclectic Primer by William Holmes McGuffey (1836)

New Hampshire by Robert Frost (1923)

Our Town: A Play by Thornton Wilder (1938)

Peter Parley’s Universal History by Samuel Goodrich (1837)

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred C. Kinsey (1948)

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (1962)

Spring and All by William Carlos Williams (1923)

A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks (1945)

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (1947)

A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America by Christopher Colles (1789)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

A Treasury of American Folklore by Benjamin A. Botkin (1944)

Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader (1965)

The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes (1925)

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963)

The Words of Cesar Chavez by Cesar Chavez (2002)

Nexus 7 tablet from Google

Google just announced a new tablet-sized device to compete with the Kindle Fire tablet. Google will release it in about a week, but it’s already getting some great reviews. Amazon had enjoyed one big advantage when competing with Apple’s iPad: their Kindle Fire tablet only cost $199. But Thursday, a New York Times reporter wrote that there’s also a $200 price tag on Google’s new Nexus 7 tablets, which “pretty much blows the Kindle Fire’s value proposition into a cloud of ash.”

Both devices have the same screen size, “but this time, you don’t get any sense that its creators skimped to keep the price down,” writes the Times’ David Pogue. He’s seen the Kindle Fire, which Amazon released last winter, but seems to prefer the designs of Google’s device even better. “It’s sleek and beautiful, with rounded edges, unlike the sawed-off rectangular back of the Fire, and a ‘pleather’ back panel that feels great. And it weighs 2.6 ounces less than the Fire, which makes a world of difference. It’s slightly thinner, too…”

I’m such a Kindle loyalist, that originally I’d laughed off Google’s Nexus tablet. But Kindle owners may be the ones who benefit most, in the long run. For a while we’ve heard rumors that Amazon’s releasing a newer version of their Kindle Fire tablets very soon. But Amazon will have to make their tablets even better if they have to start competing now with a slick, low-priced new tablet from Google.

And in a way, Amazon has already done a big favor for the shoppers who buy tablet devices. The New York Times asked Google’s Nexus team “if it was playing a game of razors-and-blades here, losing money on every tablet with the intention of making money by selling books, movies, music and TV shows.” That’s Amazon’s business model — selling the devices almost at cost – and now it looks like it’s become an industry standard. The Times reports that Google isn’t earning a profit when they sell the tablet, either through their web site or in an offline store…

But what else is there to like, besides the low price, in Google’s new tablet? For starters, there’s a built-in GPS system, which makes it perfect for navigation. (You can even save a city’s worth of Google maps to its drive, so you can navigate without using an internet connection.) The Times’ reporter also liked the way Nexus had a built-in bluetooth and WiFi capabilities, plus a camera in the front of the tablet for making video phone calls.

But there’s still some things he preferred about Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets. With the Nexus 7, you can only download a song that you’ve purchased twice. In Amazon’s store (and in the Apple Store), you can re-download a song whenever you feel like it. And watch out if you want to watch TV shows. Google’s store doesn’t have anything from either CBS or Fox — or from the biggest cable networks, like WB, HBO, and MTV/Nickelodeon. I like the way the reporter ended his article, concluding that the Nexus tablet was “sweet,” with a smoothness to both its hardware and software that rivals Apple’s iPad.

“[I]ts luxury humiliates the Kindle Fire,” he writes, while noting that Google now has to hope that its cool device can attract some cool content into their store. “[I]t’s possible that this tablet may finally help solve Google’s chicken-and-egg problem.

“Maybe once it becomes popular, people will finally start writing decent apps for it, and more movie and music companies will come to the Google Play store.”

shh - finger to lips - secret rumor

Ever wonder how other people read? It’s finally possible to know, using new data collected from ebooks. Last week Barnes and Noble leaked the patterns they were seeing among Nook readers to The Wall Street Journal, towards the end of a fascinating article called “Is Your eBook Reading You?” Citing the Nook data, the Journal reported…

  • “Nonfiction books tend to be read in fits and starts…”

  • “Novels are generally read straight through…”

  • “Nonfiction books, particularly long ones, tend to get dropped earlier.”

  • “Science-fiction, romance and crime-fiction fans often read more books more quickly than readers of literary fiction do, and finish most of the books they start.”

  • “Readers of literary fiction quit books more often and tend skip around between books. “

Some of the things they’ve determined are actually pretty obvious. For example, the first thing most people do after reading The Hunger Games is to download the next book in the series. But others have determined patterns which are even much more specific. For example, “It takes the average reader just seven hours to read the final book in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy on the Kobo e-reader – about 57 pages an hour,” the Journal reports. And “Nearly 18,000 Kindle readers have highlighted the same line from the second book in the series: ‘Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.’”

The data finally confirms something that I’ve always suspected. When people read the first book in a series, they usually go on to read the entire series, “almost as if they were reading a single novel. ” And the article got an even more specific example from the makers of the Kobe. “Most readers who started George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novel A Dance With Dragons finished the book, and spent an average of 20 hours reading it, a relatively fast read for a 1,040-page novel.”

But where is this all leading? At Barnes and Noble, there’s now a Vice President for eBooks who’s already begun sharing their data with book publishers, hoping they’ll eventually create books that are even more engaging. It’s still early, they tell the Journal, but Barnes and Noble has already begun to begun to act on the data. When they realized people weren’t finishing the longer nonfiction ebooks, they launched “Nook Snaps” to offer shorter dollops of information on hot topics like Occupy Wall Street or how to lose weight. And that might be only the beginning. “The bigger trend we’re trying to unearth is where are those drop-offs in certain kinds of books, and what can we do with publishers to prevent that?”

Amazon also offered a nice perspective on their ability to identify “popular highlights” and share them on their web page. “We think of it as the collective intelligence of all the people reading on Kindle.” And the Journal also notes that Amazon is both a seller and a publisher of ebooks. I was baffled when Amazon started selling “Kindle Singles” last year, since they basically seemed to me just like shorter ebooks.

But maybe Amazon has learned the exact same lesson — that readers tend to drift away from their nonfiction ebooks!

Free 4th of July eBooks

July 4th, 2012

Thomas Jefferson

I have a tradition for the 4th of July – and it involves my Kindle. Every year, I point my web browser to Wikipedia’s web page with the fascinating history of the Declaration of Independence. Now Amazon’s Kindle Store has a free copy of the declaration available for downloading (as well as a free copy of the U. S. Constitution).

Just seven months before the famous document was signed, author Thomas Jefferson had written “there is not in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do. But, by the God that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament propose; and in this, I think I speak the sentiments of America…”

Wikipedia’s page walks you through all the events that led up to July 4, 1776 — and also provides the complete text of the famous document, along with some good historical context. As the country celebrates the day it declared its independence, I like taking a moment to read some good history – and my Kindle really makes it easy. I think it’s funny that Amazon customers are now leaving reviews of the Declaration of Independence, which currently has a rating of 4.7 stars out of 5. (“As a graduate student in philosophy and history, I heartily recommend this timeless classic to anyone who is interested in political philosophy, and history…”) In comparison, the free version of the Constitution received only four and a half stars. (“Accurate reproduction and free, but does not include any amendments…”)

And because of the Kindle, you don’t have to content yourself with a Wikipedia for your American history fix. When he was 65 years old, another American patriot — Benjamin Franklin — began writing a fascinating autobiography of his own life, and it’s available in the Kindle Store as a free ebook!

In fact, more than 200 years later, it’s now become one of Amazon’s best-selling e-books. Franklin had continued working on his biography over the last 20 years of his life, until his death at age 84 in 1790 — noting wryly that “the Affairs of the Revolution occasion’d the Interruption…” It’s especially poignant that Benjamin Franklin began writing it in 1770 as a loving letter to his son. But soon Franklin’s son had sided with the British druing the American Revolution, and Wikipedia notes that they were hopelessly estranged by the time Franklin sat down to write part two in 1784. Now he was 78, and laying down his thoughts in the year 1784 about his the ideas for…a public library. And in part three — written in 1788 at the age of 82 — Franklin also remembered inventing his famous Franklin stove…and then declining to patent the invention because he’d created it for “the good of the people.”

It’s a great way to answer the question: What kind of men launched the American Revolution? And it just goes to show you that with a little research, the Kindle can give you an almost magical glimpse into the realities of our past… But there’s also a fascinating story about how the Declaration of Independence first came to be online. 40 years ago, a student at the University of Illinois launched a mission to make the great works of literature available for free to the general public. Remembering the man who’d revolutionized the world of reading by inventing the first mechanical printing press, he named his collection “Project Gutenberg”. By 2009, they’d created over 30,000 free e-texts, according to Wikipedia. And it’s a cause that’s near and dear to the hearts of a lot of geeks online.

But here’s my favorite part of the story. He’d launched this lifelong campaign back in 1971, anticipating all the great literature that he’d be sharing with the entire world, and even making available for new generations to come. So on that first day, 40 years ago, which great work of literature did he choose as the very first one?

The Declaration of Independence.

88 Books that Shaped America - Library of Congress

Last month, a fascinating exhibit opened at the Library of Congress. It identified and celebrated 88 different books which had “shaped America”, even changing the lives of many Americans. The list is available online, along with a thoughtful explanation for each of the selections. And best of all, 61 of the books are available in Amazon’s Kindle Store — and most of them are free!

I really enjoyed reading their descriptions of each book and the ways they’d impacted America. ” Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, for example, is described as “The first science fiction novel to become a bestseller,” and they note that it’s now considered a science fiction classic. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is included as “The defining novel of the 1950s Beat Generation (which Kerouac named)…,” a book which “influenced artists such as Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Hunter S. Thompson…” There’s even three books on their list which are older than America itself — two influential books by Benjamin Franklin from the mid-1700s, and Thomas Paine’s revolutionary tract, Common Sense

If your favorite book isn’t on the list, it might be later. The Library of Congress is asking the public to nominate other books to be included on the list, and to share their stories about how they’ve been changed by the influential books that they’ve read. “This list is a starting point…” announced James H. Billington, the official Librarian of the U.S. Congress. “[T]he list is intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on this initial list or not.”

He added a hope that Americans would read these books and have conversations about them. Sure enough, soon blogs around the web were weighing in with their thoughts. One CNN blogger called it “admirably inclusive… The Library of Congress list also includes lowbrow literature alongside the serious novels you might find in the ‘Harvard Classics’ anthology, most notably children’s books from The Cat in the Hat and Goodnight Moon to Little Women and Where the Wild Things Are. And someone calling themself “The Delaware Libertarian” complained that they’d left out what are also some of my favorite books, including Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and the wonderful USA Trilogy by John Dos Passos.

But maybe that’s the ultimate way to celebrate America: By recognizing that everyone has their own story — their own personal memories of books that had changed their life. I remember being inspired to drive across America after reading On the Road – but I also know that there’s many more books which have probably touched their readers in equally powerful ways. Benjamin Franklin himself formed the first public library in America, specifically because he believed that simply having books available could improve the lives of the people around him. He’d be honored that three of his books made it onto this list, but he’d probably be even more proud to know that more than 250 years later, Americans are still reading books — and celebrating them.


Below is the complete list from the Library of Congress of
88 Books that Shaped America

Library of Congress

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)

Alcoholics Anonymous by anonymous (1939)

American Cookery by Amelia Simmons (1796)

The American Woman’s Home by Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe (1869)

And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts (1987)

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957)

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley (1965)

Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown (1970)

The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss (1957)

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951)

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (1952)

Common Sense by Thomas Paine (1776)

The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by Benjamin Spock (1946)

Cosmos by Carl Sagan (1980)

A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible by anonymous (1788)

The Double Helix by James D. Watson (1968)

The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams (1907)

Experiments and Observations on Electricity by Benjamin Franklin (1751)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

Family Limitation by Margaret Sanger (1914)

The Federalist by anonymous (1787)

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (1963)

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (1963)

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (1940)

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (1936)

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (1947)

A Grammatical Institute of the English Language by Noah Webster (1783)

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

Harriet, the Moses of Her People by Sarah H. Bradford (1901)

The History of Standard Oil by Ida Tarbell (1904)

History of the Expedition Under the Command of the Captains Lewis and Clark by Meriwether Lewis (1814)

How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis (1890)

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1936)

Howl by Allen Ginsberg (1956)

The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O’Neill (1946)

Idaho: A Guide in Word and Pictures by Federal Writers’ Project (1937)

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1966)

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952)

Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer (1931)

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1906)

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (1855)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (1820)

Little Women, or Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

Mark, the Match Boy by Horatio Alger Jr. (1869)

McGuffey’s Newly Revised Eclectic Primer by William Holmes McGuffey (1836)

Moby-Dick; or The Whale by Herman Melville (1851)

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass (1845)

Native Son by Richard Wright (1940)

New England Primer by anonymous (1803)

New Hampshire by Robert Frost (1923)

On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)

Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (1971)

Our Town: A Play by Thornton Wilder (1938)

Peter Parley’s Universal History by Samuel Goodrich (1837)

Poems by Emily Dickinson (1890)

Poor Richard Improved and The Way to Wealth by Benjamin Franklin (1758)

Pragmatism by William James (1907)

The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin, LL.D. by Benjamin Franklin (1793)

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1895)

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett (1929)

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey (1912)

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred C. Kinsey (1948)

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962)

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (1962)

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois (1903)

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929)

Spring and All by William Carlos Williams (1923)

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert E. Heinlein (1961)

A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks (1945)

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (1947)

A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America by Christopher Colles (1789)

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1914)

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

A Treasury of American Folklore by Benjamin A. Botkin (1944)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)

Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader (1965)

Walden; or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau (1854)

The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes (1925)

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1900)

The Words of Cesar Chavez by Cesar Chavez (2002)