Screenshot of update your Kindle menu choice for new software

People have been asking me what exactly is changing in Amazon’s newest Kindles. It turns out that’s it’s already possible to experience some of the changes today — and the rest are definitely worth waiting for.

In their yet-to-be-released Kindle Paperwhites, “We’ve added 62% more pixels and increased contrast by 25%,” Amazon brags on their web page, “so whites are whiter, and blacks are blacker.” But the Paperwhite also includes a built-in light that can shine down on your Kindle, which Amazon is calling “revolutionary”. It’s supposed to offer the same relaxing effect as reading on a regular Kindle, but without a computer’s back-lighting shining directly in your face. They’re just $119, though there’s also a 3G version for $60 more ($179), which Amazon promotes by saying “Never pay for or hunt for a Wi-Fi hotspot.”

You can order one of Amazon’s new Paperwhite Kindles at tinyurl.com/KindlePaperWhite. But even last year’s model of the Kindle is getting an upgrade! Amazon’s $79 Kindle now costs just $69, and according to Amazon, it now ships “with improved fonts and 15% faster page turns.” The high-contrast fonts are “crisper,” Amazon promises, and there’s also some additional new features in the software, including the ability to read comic books and graphic novels by zooming in on each panel. The new version of Amazon cheapest Kindle will now also include better ways to view images and tables, and there’s even some expanded parental controls, if you want to stop your children from accessing “Archived Items” or Amazon’s Kindle Store.

But if you bought one of those Kindles last year, you can also experience all these new features, just by downloading a software upgrade. Just point your web browser to tinyurl.com/KindleSoftwareUpdate. And there’s some other new features that I wasn’t expecting. Now Amazon will pull up the keyboard automatically in situations where you need to enter text (rather than waiting for readers to first press the keyboard button). And now when you turn off your wireless connectivity, a little airplane icon appears at the top of your Kindle, reminding you that you’ve switched into “Airplane Mode.”

Amazon promises fresh ebooks will start appearing in the Kindle Store over the next few weeks to take advantage of all of these new capabilities. I’ve already tested out its comic book-reading capabilities — and it did a nice job of rending a Catwoman graphic novel in a noir-ish black-and-white.

Black and white Catwoman Kindle screenshot image

And ebook authors are also excited about a new feature that’s coming to both the Kindle Paperwhite and the new Kindle Fire tablets. “About the Author gives readers easy access to your photo, biography, and bibliography,” Amazon explained in an e-mail to their self-publishing authors, saying readers “can learn more about you and your other books, which are only 60 seconds away. Readers can tap on any of your books to go to the Kindle Store. Also, any time you update your bio or claim a new book through Author Central, we will update About the Author on Kindle so your readers have access to the most recent information about you.”

I’ve already ordered a Kindle Paperwhite, so now I’m just anxiously waiting until Amazon finally delivers its. Because then I can finally test out all the new features for myself!


Buy a new Kindle Paperwhite at
tinyurl.com/KindlePaperWhite

Consumer Reports logo

Amazon’s latest tablets just received some great new reviews from a prestigious source.Consumer Reports magazine performed tests on 55 different tablet devices, and this week they’re finally annoucing the results. “Amazon and Samsung Models Stand Out in the Ratings,” reads the headline at their web site. “A Kindle Fire is the least-expensive tablet we’ve ever recommended.”

In fact, Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HD is described as “among the best 7-inch tablets on the market.” Out of all the 7-inch tablets they’d tested, it was the Kindle Fire HD that had the longest battery life. The magazine also had nice things to say about the cheaper $159 Kindle Fire, applauding Amazon’s second-generation version for its longer battery life — though what they really seemed to love best was its $159 price tag. But there’s a different story in the table of ratings in the print edition of Consumer Reports.

In the October issue, only the original version of the Kindle Fire appears to be listed, and at its old price of $200. (Presumably the magazine’s print edition was written before they’d tested the yet-to-be-released Kindle Fire HD.) And at that time, the magazine had only performed tests on 23 different tablets. But they’d already selected five of them for their coveted “best buy” recommendation — and Amazon’s Kindle Fire was one of them.
 
But the top scores had gone to Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, which they’d actually rated higher for battery life and portability. Out of all their criterion, it received a final score of 80, and even Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 scored higher than the Kindle Fire, with a score of 77 (beating Amazon’s device in the “versatility” category.) The Blackberry Playbook scored higher too, also receiving a better “versatility” rank and achieving a final score of 71. The Kindle Fire’s final score in the October issue of Consumer Reports is listed as just 67.

It still achieved the second-highest possible score in four of the magazine’s five test categories – Ease of Use, Portability, Display, and Touch Response. But it received the middle rating for its versatility. In a way, I’m surprised the magazine even published these results at all.
They’re obsolete almost as soon as the magazine hits the newsstands.

Because within a week or two, Amazon’s going to start shipping out entirely new versions of the Kindle Fire!

 

Click here to browse Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets

 

Amazon's original Kindle DX

There’s been big changes in the Kindle universe. The same day that Amazon was announcing their new devices, an Amazon Kindle executive named Jay Marine surprised one technology site with the news that Amazon is “pretty much done” with the Kindle DX. He stressed that Amazon’s not abandoning these older large-screen, black-and-white Kindles — though it wasn’t 100% clear what exactly he meant. “Marine did note that there may be a few more DX’s manufactured and it’ll continue to be sold online,” the techology site reported, “before it completely falls off of the face of the earth.”

But as one Kindle fades away, Amazon’s announced a new generation of devices that are ready to take their place. So how did shoppers react to Amazon’s newest Kindles? I’ve been studying the internet for clues, and there appears to be one very important lesson. It looks like Amazon’s customers really appreciate the lower prices – at least, judging by Amazon’s list of their best-selling electronic devices!

The first weekend after they were announced, Amazon’s #1 best-selling item was Amazon’s 7-inch Kindle Fire HD (which at $199, is also one of their cheapest color Kindles). Amazon’s also selling an upgraded version of their last year’s Kindle Fire tablets for just $159, and those were #4 on their list of the best-selling electronics. But the #2 and #3 spots went to the new black-and-white Kindle Paperwhite. And it was the cheaper “Special Offers” version (which sells for $119) which earned the #2 spot, while the ad-free version (which sells for $139) grabbed the #3 spot.

Amazingly, more than two weeks later, the top four hasn’t changed. The two cheapest Kindle Fire tablets still hold the #1 and #4 spots, while the #2 and #3 spots still went to the cheapest
Kindle Paperwhites!

But even that first weekend, the #5 spot also went to yet-another one of Amazon’s black-and-white Paperwhite Kindles — the more-expensive version with built-in 3G wireless capability (which sells for $179). There’s also an ad-free version which sells for twenty dollars more ($199), which had also risen up to #7. And the #6 spot went to the cheapest Kindle of all — Amazon’s 6-inch “Kindles”, which now costs just $69. You had to go all the way down to the #8 spot before you found one of Amazon’s more expensive 8.9-inch versions of their new Kindle Fire HD tablets. And even then, it was the cheaper WiFi-only version without the built-in 4G wireless (which sells for $299).

Two weeks later, it had dropped to the #14 spot, and the $499 and $599 versions didn’t even appear among the top-20 best-sellers. Even in that first weekend, the $499, 4G verson of the Kindle Fire had only reached the #9 spot, and the $599 version (with 64-gigabytes of storage) had come in at #10. I was surprised to see that even two days after Amazon announced their new Kindles, Apple still had the #15 best-selling electronic device — their Apple TV receiver. And it’s since risen to become the #6 best-selling electronic device on Amazon — after racking up more than 190 days in the top 100.

Of course, Amazon’s not selling Apple’s hottest new device, the iPhone 5. But if they did, I’m guessing it would also become one of Amazon’s best-sellers.

Amazon video of Kindle Paperwhite sneak preview

Amazon hasn’t shipped out their new Kindle Paperwhite devices yet — but they did play a fun trick on some of their customers. Amazon invited them in for interviews about their current Kindles, in a new video they posted to YouTube. “Then we distracted them…” Amazon’s video explains, “and swapped their Kindles for all-new devices!”

“You guys are sneaky that way,” laughed one of the interview subjects… But it’s really fun to watch their first reaction to the Kindle Paperwhite.

“That’s incredible.”

“The screen. Higher resolution. Clearer. Not that the old one was bad, by any means.”

“But it’s really so much sharper. It’s pretty obvious. “

You can find the whole two-and-a-half minute video on the Kindle web page at YouTube (at youtube.com/Kindle ) And it’s fun to think that these are some of the first people to see the built-in “glow” of Amazon’s newest Kindle. The video cuts from one amazed Kindle owner to the next, but their words merge into one unified reaction.

“I love the light.”

“Oh, god. That is amazing. I never even knew I needed it. But I love it.”

“That is going to revolutionize everything.”

“I mean, it looks fantastic…”

I wondered whether I’d like the shiny effect of the Kindle Paperwhite, or whether I’d find the extra brightness to be distracting. But one of Amazon’s “sneak previewers” seemed to find the new technology both subtle and pleasing. “It doesn’t jump out at you,” says an aircraft fueler named Thornin. “It doesn’t cause any eye strain. It doesn’t even leave the screen…”

“I can’t stop smiling.”

“It’s a big step up…”

“This is exactly what Star Trek promised me would happen.”

It’s a very effective ad –featuring seven different customers. There’s a homemaker, two retirees, a career coach, plus a software developer and a production designer. (Besides the aircraft fueler). While gentle music plays in the background, the ad shows all these intrigued people giving Amazon’s newest device their intense scrutiny. And then they’re shown with a calm, intense delight — along with big smiles and excited laughter. And the ad closes with one last word for people who’ve already ordered their Kindle Paperwhites.

“It’ll be fun. I’m excited.”


And remember: You can pre-order the new touchscreen devices — with their new built-in lights — at tinyurl.com/KindlePaperWhite !

Blackburn Burrow - free Amazon graphic novel

Amazon’s just announced that they’re giving away a free graphic novel that you can read on your Kindle. It’s a good story — a supernatural “horror” comic that’s set during the Civil War — and you can download the whole thing to your Kindle at tinyurl.com/freeGraphicNovel

But it looks like Amazon has even bigger plans…

“If we made this comic into a full-budget feature film, would you go see it?” Amazon asks on the first page of the graphic novel. The graphic novel (and the possible movie) are both the brainchild of Amazon Studios, the new “content development division” launched at Amazon in November of 2010. In the last two years, they’ve pored through more than 10,000 possible movie screenplays, according to Amazon’s press release, and they ultimately settled on just 17 finalists (along with nine possible TV series). “Community feedback, gathered from Amazon Studios’ crowdsourcing model, triggered the idea for [this] popular project to be adapted into a digital comic that would be shared with audiences for feedback and tested for viability as a major motion picture.”

But either way, Kindle owners get a free (and original) graphic novel to read on their Kindles. There’s some comic-book gore, but I’ve always loved the way graphic novels look on the screen of my Kindle Fire. (“Virginia, 1864…” begins the narration on the first page.) I love the moody colors — the brown and orange sky, the leafless trees, the shadowy columns of a plantation mansion — and especially, the clean, crisp colors of the pictures. But you don’t even need a Kindle Fire to see the color pictures, because it’s also compatible with Amazon’s Kindle apps for handheld devices like the iPad and Android phones – and you can also read the comic book online!

It’ll even be compatible with Amazon’s new Kindle Paperwhite devices when they finally start arriving next month — and I’m impressed by the team Amazon lined up to create the final product. It’s being written by Ron Marz, who’s written dialogue for major comic book titles like Marvel’s Silver Surfer and DC’s Green Lantern, and it’s illustrated by Matthew Dow Smith, who’s worked on popular titles like X-Men Icons and Doctor Who. “Beyond entertaining lots of comic fans, we see value in digital comics as a new way to test screenplays and learn more about fan engagement,” explained Roy Price, the Director of Amazon Studios, in last week’s announcement. “The ’12 Gauge’ team has done beautiful work on the Blackburn Burrow digital comic and we are thrilled to share it with audiences to see how they react to the story of Blackburn Burrow.”

Amazon even plans to release a new issue of the comic every four weeks, as a way to test how audiences are enjoying the story. “This is a very exciting new venture for Amazon Studios,” says Roy Price, and it looks like some of Amazon’s customers agree. “It is clear to me that either Amazon contracted with Ron Marz to make this comic to show off the new comic capabilities of the new Fire devices, or Ron Mars is trying to leverage Kindle for something big.

“This comic is way too good for the free bin….”

Throw in the Vowel - a Kindle word game

It’s just 99 cents now to purchase the new Kindle word game, “Throw in the Vowel.” (I know, because I’m the game’s co-creator!) :) Take a look at this URL…

http://www.tinyURL.com/ThrowInTheVowel

But I was really excited to see new five-star reviews piling up for the game. It’s gotten 16 of them so far, from all around the country — from Alabama, Florida, California, Kentucky, Oregon… Those five-star reviews have helped to make it one of Amazon’s top-rated Kindle games — we’re actually two ranks above Yahtzee — and it’s always a thrill for me to read what other people are saying.

“I find myself unable to put it down…” wrote the reviewer in Louisville.

“This game is one of the neatest and most different I have ever done… Definitely a great word game if you are not into crosswords and get tired of word search.

Here’s a screenshot showing how the game actually looks. (I almost cried when I saw how beautiful the background image was, thanks to our very talented graphic designer…)

Throw in the Vowel Kindle game screenshot

I spent over a year creating this game with my business partner, Dr. Jeffrey Prince, so it was really rewarding to finally see actually people playing with what we’d built – and enjoying it! “If you love word games, you’ll love this!” wrote a reviewer in Pennsylvania, who said it became “one of my favorite Kindle games.” And Len Edgerly, the podcaster behind the popular “Kindle Chronicles” online broadcasts, described it as “Invigorating fun with words.”

“Throw in the Vowel is made to order for taking a break that refreshes and entertains. Highly recommended!”

We just launched the game this spring, but we didn’t release the Kindle Touch version until just this June! And right now our game is still one of Amazon’s top-50 best-selling Kindle games! (In fact, it’s now the #5,097 best-selling item in the entire Kindle Store!) I’m actually not sure how many days this special 99-cent offer is going to last, so this is your best opportunity to see what everyone’s getting so excited about it. As we ask on the game’s web page at Amazon…

Can you “Throw in the Vowel”? :D


Check out the game and its five-star reviews at
http://www.tinyURL.com/ThrowInTheVowel

Free Magazines For Your Kindle!

September 14th, 2012

Forbes Powerful Women magazine cover on a Kindle

I love magazines — and now Amazon’s making it even easier to try reading them on your Kindle. For the rest of September, they’ll deliver free issues of 61 different magazines straight to your Kindle! The color pictures look great on a Kindle Fire tablet, but Amazon will deliver most of these digital magazine issues to any Kindle device.

Browse the complete selection at tinyurl.com/FreeKindleMagazine

Amazon sent out an e-mail Thursday saying they were “excited” to be offering this special deal — and what’s got me so excited is that these are magazines that I’ve actually heard of. They’ll deliver free issues of Esquire, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, or PC Magazine — and even some big-name titles like Martha Stewart Living and O, the Oprah Magazine. With over five dozen magazines to choose from, it looks like there’s something for everybody, whether it’s Maxim or National Geographic.

Here’s a complete list of all 61 of the magazines for which Amazon will deliver a free issue to your Kindle….

National Geographic
Cosmopolitan
Better Homes and Gardens
Fitness
Maxim
Reader’s Digest
O, The Oprah Magazine
Seventeen
Marie Claire
HGTV Magazine
Elle
Family Circle
Food Network Magazine
Parents Magazine
Do It Yourself
Parents
Do It Yourself
Every Day with Rachael Ray
Everyday Food
EatingWell
Martha Stewart Living
Good Housekeeping
More
Taste of Home
PC Magazine
Forbes
ESPN Magazine
Healthy Cooking
Country Living
The Family Handyman
Ladies’ Home Journal
Woman’s Day
Smithsonian Magazine
Whole Living
Esquire
Popular Mechanics
Simple & Delicious
Harper’s Bazaar
Car and Driver
Food & Wine
Taste of Home Holiday
Martha Stewart Weddings
Traditional Home
Birds and Blooms
Country Woman
Poets & Writers
Midwest Living
FamilyFun
Travel + Leisure
Redbook
Veranda
Inc.
Reminisce
Fast Company
Diabetic Living
Motor Trend
Town & Country
House Beautiful
Country
Hot Rod
Elle Decor
Farm & Ranch Living
Siempre Mujer


Remember, you can browse the complete selection at tinyurl.com/FreeKindleMagazine

Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite TV ad

In all the excitement, I almost forgot to mention: Amazon also has a new ad for their Paperwhite Kindle. It starts with some of the same text as their ads for the Kindle Fire HD. (“We’re the people with the smile on the box. We’re the re-inventors of normal….”) But then it segues into an explanation of what’s revolutionary about the new Kindle Paperwhite.


That’s why we created our newest Kindle, with the world’s first Paperwhite display that reads without glare in bright sunlight, at night and every minute in between.

Because the only thing more perfect than reading is more reading….

You can see the video in the Kindle’s channel on YouTube at youtube.com/Kindle — and within six hours, the video had already received dozens of comments. It’s fun to see how it generated a real ripple of excitement this morning around the world, and it’s apparently now been preserved online forever. “I want it now!” posted a 31-year-old woman calling herself DeniGirl2, leaving the very first comment on the video. And a nearly identical comment came later from a 32-year-old nearly 5,000 miles away.

“I want this!!!” posted a viewer in Turkey — who will probably have a hard time ordering one…

“Ordering as soon as it’s possible!” posted a 32-year-old using the handle AdamHitt. (“Congrats Amazon!” he added. “It’s beautiful!”) And a 62-year-old in England also posted “I WANT IT,” but they had another reason for delaying their purchase. “I already have two kindles tho :(”

There was also a lot of discussion about how exactly Amazon will provide the lighting on the screen. “Isn’t this Paperwhite display just another way to call a LCD display…” asked one users (adding “I hope I’m wrong.”) And within one hour, another YouTube commenter had set them straight. “It’s still e-ink, just like before. [Amazon] added a light around the rim of the screen (plus a special film to make the light even) on top of the e-ink display.

“If you turn the light off, it’s just like the old kindle (but better resolution)!”

One user wondered if it’d be hard to find the new Kindle Paperwhite in the dark, so you’d be able to then turn on its light. But I was impressed by the observation that came from another comment. “With the light on the battery will still last 8 weeks, so most people will just never turn it off, even in properly lighted areas.”

I’m excited about Amazon’s newly-announced Kindles, so it’s nice to see there’s other people online who are also sharing my excitement. A retired home entrepreneur had just three words for Amazon’s newest ad. “Awesome! Love this!” And at least one user was more interested in the obvious advantage of the Kindle’s new built-in lighting.

“Guess I won’t have to read my Kindle in bed with an LED Headlamp on anymore if I had this!”

And remember: You can pre-order the new touchscreen devices — with their new built-in lights — at tinyurl.com/KindlePaperWhite !

Kindle serials

Amazon made another big announcement on Thursday. They’re actually launching a new kind of ebook — the Kindle Serials — where the purchase price covers not only all the current chapters of an ebook, but any new chapters that the author writes in the future. “Kindle Serials are stories published in episodes,” Amazon explains on a new web page in the Kindle Store. “When you buy a Kindle Serial, you will receive all existing episodes on your Kindle immediately, followed by future episodes as they are published.”

And in a new twist, Amazon’s creating discussion areas dedicated to each serialized books, so authors can monitor ongoing discussions about what they’re writing in real-time — and maybe even get some new ideas about how to finish their stories

You can browse the complect selection of available Kindle Serials at tinyurl.com/KindleSerial.

To celebrate, Amazon is releasing free editions of two famous 19th-century novels that were both originally published in a serialized format in monthly magazines. And they’ve also lined up eight more serial novels to inaugurate the launch of this new format for Kindle content. The selection includes Neal Pollack’s new thriller, Downward-Facing Death, and Amazon featured him prominently in their announcement of the program. “When Amazon Publishing told me about the Kindle Serials program, I wanted to participate right away,” Pollack admits in Amazon’s press release. “I’ve been writing serialized fiction since I was a kid, and I’m thrilled to be doing it again, nearly 30 years later, with an (at least somewhat) adult sensibility.”

The page for Pollack’s book in the Kindle Store gives a good idea of how the program will work. The book’s description identifies how may “episodes” are already written — right now, just one, published on September 6th — and it provides a schedule for when new episodes will be released. Pollack is estimating that he’ll ultimately write a total of six episodes, with a new episode being delivered once a month — whereas the web page for Andrew Peterson’s new thriller promises his new episodes will be delivered every two weeks. “Serialized fiction is perfect for contemporary book culture,” Pollack added in Amazon’s press release, “where writers interact with their readers directly and books can be delivered with an immediacy that the old pulp writers never could have imagined. It’s fast and fun and you barely have time to blink.

“I can’t wait to see how my book ends!”

My first reaction is that Amazon’s discussion boards really could offer a radical and exciting new way for authors to create fiction. Amazon’s calling it “another innovation for authors and readers,” and bragging that it extends the Kindle’s “already rich and unique content ecosystem” (which also includes the ability to publish shorter ebooks as “Kindle Singles” and the special Kindle Owner’s Lending Library that’s available for Amazon Prime customers). I’m not sure if the new feature is targetted at amateur authors, in order to attract the next big sensation into Amazon’s own publishing universe — or if this feature is designed to appeal to big-name, established novelists. But there’s one very important caveat: Kindle Serials are made available exclusively in Amazon’s Kindle Store, so authors that choose to publish them for Kindle audiences apparently won’t be able to reach readers on, for example, the Nook.

It’s an interesting approach, and Amazon’s press release insisted that, “As with Kindle Singles, we’re aiming to open up new ways for authors to write and customers to enjoy great writing,” adding “we think people are going to love this format.” And I really have to give Amazon some credit. They announced this new program in one of the most philosophical press releases that I’ve ever seen.


Long before the advent of digital publishing, great writers like Charles Dickens wrote many of their works serially, a practice that offered a particular rhythm, often punctuated by cliffhangers to keep readers looking forward to the next episode….

“Serialized content, whether it’s a TV show, movie trilogy or written work, is a great and much-loved form of entertainment – it leaves viewers and readers wanting more, eagerly anticipating the fates of their favorite characters,” said Jeff Belle, Vice President, Amazon Publishing. “With Kindle Serials, we’re bringing episodic books to readers in a unique way that’s seamless and hassle-free, with new episodes being added to the book as they’re published.

And readers can discuss the stories on Amazon discussion boards as they’re being written – like virtual water cooler conversations – perhaps even influencing where the next episode may go…!”

Two children play with a touchscreen Kindle in Amazon's new TV ad

Amazon’s just released two slick new ads to promote their new Kindle Fire HD tablets. You can watch them all on YouTube at youtube.com/kindle — and they provide some interesting glimpses into the way Amazon is planning to sell these new devices — as well as Amazon’s own view of their role in the 21st century.

When I discovered these ads Thursday on YouTube, only 300 people had seen them. But soon Amazon should start broadcasting them on TV during prime-time commercial breaks, where they’ll presumably be seen by millions. So what does Amazon want to tell these people about their new Kindle Fire HD tablets — and about Amazon? Here’s a transcript of the text for their new ad for the Kindle Fire.


“We’re the people with the smile on the box. We’re the re-inventors of normal. We dream of making things that change your life, then disappear into your everyday. Of making the revolutionary routine.

“Our accomplishments are things you barely think about, but can’t imagine not having. Connecting your mouse to your front door was our moon landing. Creating Kindle — our four-minute mile. Customer reviews – our light bulb. And when we build you something new, you can expect everything to change a little more.

“Look around. What once seemed wildly impractical is now completely normal. And ‘normal’ just begs to be messed with.”

There’s some touching footage in the ads of a family receiving an enormous box from Amazon, and another one showing a small box from Amazon — presumably a new Kindle — arriving as just another package in a stack of mail. It shows children touching the screen of a Kindle, and even a woman who’s reading her Kindle while brushing her teeth, all to make the point that now Kindles are becoming part of our lives. And I thought Amazon came up with a great way to tout the fact that you don’t even need a light now to read on one of their new Kindles. They show someone relaxing in a hammock on their deck overlooking the city — enjoying their Kindle outside, at night, without even needing a reading lamp.

Amazon TV ad shows Kindle in a hammock on a city deck

But I wondered if, when Amazon created this ad, they were thinking of Steve Jobs. Apple’s legendary “Big Brother” ad in 1984 helped to launch the whole personal computing revolution, and Steve Jobs himself helped write Apple’s inspiring “Think Different” campaign (which showed footage of famous people as the narration explained that “they change things. They invent. They imagine… They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward…”) The grandiose comparisons created an aura of excitement around Apple’s new products, and now that they’re competing directly with the iPad, maybe Amazon’s now trying to claim some of that same gravitas for themselves. They’re basically equating the ability to shop online at Amazon.com with the first time humans walked on the moon!

Both the classic Apple ads and Amazon’s newest ads use “change” as their theme, trying to capture the excitement that a new technology can bring into the world. Interestingly, Amazon has also filmed a shorter version of the same ad that starts with the same first two sentence — “We’re the people with the smile on the box. We’re the re-inventors of normal…” — but then cuts straight to their point. “So when we bring you a new Kindle Fire, you should know that normal is going to change. Again.” Despite the fact that this ad is a full 30 seconds shorter, it still actually lists out more of the specific selling points for Amazon’s newest tablet. (“With an HD screen, HD camera, and dual-speaker Dolby sound, and 22 million movies, TV shows, songs, apps, books and more…”) And I thought the way that they ended this commercial made all of Amazon’s points with just four scrappy words

“Hey normal — take that!”

Amazon's new Paper white Kindle

Amazon just announced a brand-new, high-contrast Kindle called the PaperWhite! (You can pre-order the new touchscreen devices — with their new built-in lights — at tinyurl.com/KindlePaperWhite ).

But the way Amazon handled today’s announcement left me wondering if they’d made a big mistake…

I still remember that big day last September when Amazon announced their new Kindle Fire tablets. Besides a press conference, there was a message from Amazon’s CEO on the front page of Amazon.com. (“There are two types of companies,” he wrote, “those that work hard to charge customers more, and those that work hard to charge customers less…We are firmly in the second camp.”) A month later, Amazon revealed that that historic day had been Amazon’s “biggest order day ever” for a newly-released Kindle, “even bigger than previous holiday peak days.” But this morning I was wondering if Amazon was missing their chance to make history again.

Because while they were announcing two new Kindles, including a black-and-white reader called the Paperwhite, it wasn’t possible to buy it at Amazon.com. You couldn’t pre-order the Paperwhite, and there were no information pages at Amazon.com, until nearly 4 p.m. EST. Even during Amazon’s big press conference about the new device, if you searched Amazon for the Paperwhite Kindle, it didn’t return any matches.

Amazon didn’t actually list their newest Kindle at Amazon.com until nearly 1 p.m.! “I want my Paperwhite. Now!” someone posted Thursday morning in a customer discussion forum at Amazon.com. “Or at least let me order it now. :)”

“I’m with ya on this one!” posted another anxious Amazon customer…

“I have no patience, I can’t wait to order,” added a third customer. Someone even jokingly posted a link instead to Amazon’s web page for some flower seedlings — the paperwhite Narcissus. (“Very Fragrant!”) Ironically, you could already buy a two-year warranty for your new Paperwhite Kindle by Thursday morning. It just wasn’t possible to actually buy the Kindle yet!

Amazon’s web page for the extended warranty even featured a link titled “Add a Kindle Paperwhite to your cart.” But when you clicked it, it just took you to Amazon’s standard error page that said “Looking for something? We’re sorry. The Web address you entered is not a functioning page on our site.”

It was fun to read the comments that Kindle owners left in anticipation of the new device. “At least you have the option of new Kindles in the US…..” complained one poster in Amazon’s discussion forum. “Nothing as per usual for the UK market :-(” But an American poster responded that at least U.K. shoppers had access to one of England’s independently-produced ales. “On the other hand, we in the USA have a heck of a time finding Theakston’s Old Peculier.”

There were at least half a dozen eager purchasers (who apparently couldn’t find a link on Amazon where they could buy the device all morning). I only saw one negative comment — a complaint that Amazon was only releasing a touchscreen version. It seems like Amazon had a lot of potential buyers for their new Paperwhite Kindle, who could’ve helped Amazon reach a new sales record. But you can’t sell any new Kindles until customers have a web page where they can actually buy them!

Fortunately, Amazon revealed the web page Thursday afternoon, and you can now pre-order these elusive new touchscreen devices — with their new built-in lights — at tinyurl.com/KindlePaperWhite

Playboy magazine interviews are now Kindle ebooks

There was a surprising announcement yesterday morning. Playboy magazine is now making content available for the Kindle! But there was something even more surprising about the announcement. The content Playboy was making available was their interviews with famous people. (And not their notorious centerfolds…)

“Playboy has curated 50 of its best interviews from the past 50 years in a special 50 day promotion,” reads the announcement. It promises a new interview will be released every day for the next 50 days – and each one will cost just 99 cents. Today’s interview is with one of football’s most famous all-star quarterbacks, Joe Namath. And they kicked off the promotion Tuesday, publishing Playboy’s very first interview from 1962, with jazz legend Miles Davis.

At Amazon, each interview’s description includes the story of how this tradition got started. “In mid-1962, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was given a partial transcript of an interview with Miles Davis. It covered jazz, of course, but it also included Davis’s ruminations on race, politics and culture. Fascinated, Hef sent the writer – future Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Alex Haley, an unknown at the time – back to glean even more opinion and insight from Davis. The resulting exchange, published in the September 1962 issue, became the first official Playboy Interview and kicked off a remarkable run of public inquisition that continues today…”

But you won’t find them if you search the Kindle Store for Playboy. (Although you will find some amateur erotic fiction, a tell-all memoir by Hugh Hefner’s girlfriend, and a chance to subscribe to Maxim magazine). There’s also the Playboy book of cigars and a collection of the magazine’s Playboy Advisor” columns. But you have to specifically search on Playboy interview to find these new releases. (Or, point your browser to this shortcut — tinyurl.com/PlayboyEbooks .)

Thursday they’ll publish their interview with Martin Luther King as an ebook. Friday’s interview will be Jack Nicholson. They’ll even be republishing their headline-making interview with future president Jimmy Carter. “50 Years of the Playboy Interview features one-of-a-kind in-depth, provocative interviews with the world’s greatest celebrities and icons,” their announcement promises, “such as Tina Fey, Francis Ford Coppola, Howard Stern, Fidel Castro and Robert DeNiro.” They’ve even created special “covers” for the ebook editions — both front and back — featuring their photos of the celebrities, and some especially intriguing quotes. (For Jimmy Carter, the quote was “I’m a human being. I’m not a package you can put in a box….”)

Browse the available interviews each day at
tinyurl.com/PlayboyEbooks

A Funny Kindle Moment

September 1st, 2012

Funny men laughing cartoon - you want it when

My girlfriend reads on her Kindle a lot — and it lead us to a very funny conversation about ebooks. As we laughed and laughed, and enjoyed a spontaneous moment somewhere in the 21st century, it made me think about the way that we read books now. And also about how it’s changed…

It was sometime after midnight, and I was exhausted as I crawled into bed. But my girlfriend wasn’t ready to put down her Kindle yet. “I’m at 98%,” she explained. She was engrossed in another ebook, and she’d finally reached it’s dramatic conclusion…

My girlfriend reads several books a week, so she tries to stick to the free section of Amazon’s Kindle Store. She’s read dozens of original novels, many by amateur authors who are writing their very first ebook. When she finds a good one, she’ll often read all the way through in one sitting. I respected that, so I didn’t want to interrupt her.

“It’s a science-fiction fantasy,” she said hurriedly — then went back to her reading. But that obviously still left me with a lot of unanswered questions. Before I drifted off the sleep, I still wanted one last piece of conversation. “At least tell me the title…”

She had a little trouble even remembering where to look for the title on her Kindle, but she finally found it at the top of the screen. “Cloak,” she said.

“Oh…” I said.

And then the word hung in the air….

It was like we were both considering how little the title really told me. In the friendly silence, it was begging for a wise-crack. And then finally, I broke the silence.

“I hear he wrote a sequel. It was called…Chair.

It was quiet for a second — until we both busted up laughing. And then we laughed at how hard we were laughing. And then I tried to milk the joke even further. “I heard there was also a pre-quel. It was called…Coverlet.” And we laughed some more…

I love those magic minutes at the end of the day, so I understand that it’s the perfect time to read on a Kindle. It feels like “extra” time, where the day’s business has already begun falling away into yesterday. The Kindle delivers an endless supply of new stories, in some kind of science-fiction future where novels are free. But it’s also the perfect time for a silly joke.

“In his first draft, the book was called Sock,” I teased. “But then the author decided ‘I need something more dramatic…’”

To be fair, my girlfriend really enjoyed the book — and other reviewers on Amazon seemed to agree. “I was blown away by the sheer depth of the author’s imagination,” wrote one reader on Amazon. “This is one creative, original book. I was so excited that I let my daughter read the chapters as I finished them… The characters are quirky, well-developed, and loveable.”

And of course, I told my girlfriend that the book’s one-word title had already given me more laughter than I’d ever expected. But the next morning, she told me that she’d looked up the book on Amazon, and the author was, in fact, going to write a sequel to Cloak. “It’s called, Dagger,” she said.

And then we giggled and giggled and laughed some more…