Amazon Announces 2012’s Best-Selling Kindle eBooks!

The number 2012

As December finally approaches the end of 2012, Amazon’s honoring their annual tradition of revealing which books were their best-sellers for the entire year. And this year is especially interesting, because some of Amazon’s best-sellers are books that people wouldn’t necessarily admit they were reading — like the trashy erotica novel “Fifty Shades of Grade.” It’s a fun way to see what books Amazon’s customers are really reading. But it also provides clues about whether they’re reading them in print format, or on their Kindle!

To see Amazon’s list of their
top 100 best-selling Kindle ebooks of 2012,
point your browser to
tinyurl.com/Top2012eBooks

Amazon’s best-selling book for 2012 — in both formats — wasn’t 50 Shades of Gray — it was the third book in that trilogy (called Fifty Shades Freed). In fact, a box set of the whole trilogy also became the #2 best-selling print book of the year at Amazon. That boxed set also turned out to be the #4 best-selling Kindle ebook of the year, which allowed it to also claim the #3 spot on Amazon’s “overall” list which combines sales in both print and ebook format. (To celebrate, Amazon’s currently discounting the print edition of both of those books by more than 40%.)

But this led me to noticing something strange about Amazon’s list of the best-selling Kindle ebooks of 2012. It’s nearly identical to Amazon’s “combined” list that calculates which books sold the most total copies, counting sales in both their print and ebook formats. The Kindle ebooks are in a slightly different order on their list of the top 10 best-sellers for 2012, but there’s not one single ebook on that list which didn’t also become one of Amazon’s ten best-selling books on the “combined sales” list when you also added in their print sales.

Amazon’s 2012 Best-Selling Kindle Ebooks

1. Fifty Shades Freed: Book Three of the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E. L. James

2. Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn

3. Bared to You: A Crossfire Novel by Sylvia Day

4. Fifty Shades Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E. L. James

5. The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire) by Jennifer Probst

6. Reflected in You: A Crossfire Novel by Sylvia Day

7. The Racketeer by John Grisham

8. Defending Jacob: A Novel by William Landay

9. The Innocent by David Baldacci

10. No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen


Amazon’s 2012 Best-Sellers (Kindle and Print Books Combined)

1. Fifty Shades Freed: Book Three of the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E. L. James

2. Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn

3. Fifty Shades Trilogy: Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed 3-volume Boxed Set by E. L. James

4. Bared to You: A Crossfire Novel by Sylvia Day

5. No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen

6. The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire) by Jennifer Probst

7. Reflected in You: A Crossfire Novel by Sylvia Day

8. The Racketeer by John Grisham

9. Defending Jacob: A Novel by William Landay

10. The Innocent by David Baldacci


The moral of this story is unmistakeable. If you wanted to be one of Amazon’s 10 best-selling authors in 2012, you had to become one of their best-selling authors for people reading ebooks on their Kindle!

David Letterman’s Kindle Christmas Story

David letterman vs. the iPad and Kindle

I was wondering who’d gotten a new Kindle as a Christmas present. And then I remembered a funny story about David Letterman. Nearly two years ago, he showed off his tablet on his late-night talk show — and he seemed confused about whether he’d bought an iPad or a Kindle!


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

PAUL SHAFFER: Oh, yeah. Sure…

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

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


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


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

PAUL SHAFFER: You flip that. Yeah.

LETTERMAN:And the thing’ll…

PAUL SHAFFER: On the iPad and the Kindle…


Letterman was playing up his reactions as a technology curmudgeon — but he was building up to a complaint that I’ve heard before. But the punch line of the bit turned out to be that it was bandleader Paul Shaffer who had the perfect answer


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

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

LETTERMAN: Thank you. Thank you, Steve Jobs.


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

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

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


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

PAUL SHAFFER: No….

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

PAUL SHAFFER: No. There isn’t…

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

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

David letterman vs. the iPad and Kindle

Amazon’s Day-After Christmas Sale

Amazon's Black Friday deals

Amazon’s doing something special this week. They’re lowering the price on lots of Kindle ebooks, offering new discounts every day. You can check out the selection at tinyurl.com/DailyKindleDeal . And on December 26th, Amazon’s also offering some customers a big discount on Kindle accessories.

The discounted ebooks are in four different categories — including 10 biographies and memoirs. But Amazon’s also offering an 86% discount on Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the first book in the popular series by author/illustrator Jeff Kinney. It’s on sale for just $1.99, and they’re also offering the same price on a dystopian science fiction novel called The Handmaid’s Tale. Amazon describes it as “not only a radical and brilliant departure for respected Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Atwood, it is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast.” And Amazon’s even discounted the “mature and imaginative romantic thriller” The Host, which was written by Stephenie Meyer the author of the Twilight series.

But there’s 10 memoirs that are also on sale — eight for just $1.99, and two for $2.99.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (a.k.a. The Bloggess) – $1.99

Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres – $1.99

Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young – $1.99

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran – $1.99

My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler – $2.99

Just Kids by Patti Smith – $1.99

Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalvan – $1.99

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow – $1.99

Bad Habits: Confessions of a Recovering Catholic by Jenny McCarthy – $1.99

When We Were the Kennedys: a Memoir from Mexico, Maine by Monica Wood – $2.99

And finally, Amazon’s also offering big savings on accessories for your Kindle — including a wide selection of leather cases! It’s being offered through the “Amazon Local” page (at local.amazon.com), which is available in 29 different states. Leather cases can be pretty expensive, but Amazon’s offering a big 40% discount on models for nearly every kind of Kindle.

I guess Amazon’s offering discounts on both cases and ebooks, because they’re hoping we’ll start spending even more time on our Kindles in 2013!

My Favorite Free Christmas Stories

A Christmas Carol original book cover illustration

Amazon’s having a special sale on Kindle ebooks for Christmas Day. For December 25th only, they’re selling The Polar Express and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at a big discount (as well as five romance novels, plus The Lightning Thief, and even Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter) To see the sale, just point your browser to tinyurl.com/ChristmasDayEbooks.

But there’s also a lot of really wonderful free Christmas stories that are available all year long…

There’s one short Christmas story that I absolutely love — by one of my favorite authors. Ernest Hemingway called him “one of the two best authors in America” — and yet his greatest novel isn’t available on the Kindle. Nelson Algren wrote The Man With the Golden Arm, an unforgettable look at Chicago and its lowlifes, in 1950, and it won a National Book Award. But my personal favorite Algren book was always The Last Carousel, another dazzling collection of short works from throughout his career,which he’d published in 1973.

At the age of 64, the author had hand-picked each story himself – though unfortunately The Last Carousel also isn’t available on the Kindle. But one December I discovered that you can still read one of its most touching stories online. On December 4, 1949, the Chicago Sunday Tribune published “Merry Christmas, Mr. Mark,” a story Algren wrote at the height of career, at the same time as his award-winning novel. The 40-year-old novelist remembered being a young newsboy in the 1920s, braving the snows to sell The Saturday Evening Blade at an intersection by the cemetery — and how they’d tried to swindle their customers!

But by the end, they’ve learned a valuable lesson about Christmas.

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.

Two Years Before the Mast (Christmas chapter) by Richard Henry Dana
When I lived near San Francisco, it was especially fun to read what was essentially a blog post about Christmas in the city…written in 1836! Back then, the only people in San Francisco were the handful of hard-working sailors who ferried animal hides around the continent. And their life was still hard, even on Christmas Day!

Friday, December 25th. This day was Christmas; and as it rained all day long, and there were no hides to take in, and nothing especial to do, the captain gave us a holiday, (the first we had had since leaving Boston,) and plum duff for dinner. The Russian brig, following the Old Style, had celebrated their Christmas eleven days before; when they had a grand blow-out and (as our men said) drank, in the forecastle, a barrel of gin, ate up a bag of tallow, and made a soup of the skin…

This was 13 years before California became a state, and it was a special experience to read this book more than 175 years later. It’s one of the first moments where I’ve felt such an intimate connection to someone who lived nearly two centuries ago. While young Richard Henry Dana was traveling in what was then a foreign land, he seems lonely but intrigued, which gave him a special willingness to share his sincere human reactions with a touching humility.

I love how the Kindle can connect you to different people in different places, and even from different times. And maybe that feeling is even more special on Christmas Day, because it reminds you of the grand traditions that have been handed down for centuries, and the universal feelings behind it.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Amazon’s Fun Free Kindle Christmas Games

Amazon Kindle game Picture Perfect Holiday Puzzles menu screenshot

Amazon has now released 18 different free games, and last year they released two that were designed especially for the holiday season! “We were going to wait to start talking about the holidays, but this new free game for Kindle is getting us in the spirit a little early,” read one announcement on the Kindle’s page on Facebook. “Check it out for yourself, but don’t blame us if you suddenly get the urge to start stringing lights and singing carols!”

That new game was “Picture Perfect Holiday Puzzles,” and within four hours of the announcement, it had already earned 208 “Like” votes and drawn 35 enthusiastic comments. (Like the woman in Minnesota who posted “OMG! OMG! OMG! This is my all time FAVORITE Kindle game, I’ve been waiting for a Part 2 forever!! YESSSS!!!!!!!”) It was a “sequel” to a free game Amazon released called simply “Picture Perfect Puzzles”. In both those games, users try to form a picture by darkening all the correct squares in a grid, making logical deductions from clues showing the number of squares that need darkening in each row and column. But for the second “holiday” version, Amazon created 35 more puzzles, each one with a fun holiday theme. (The puzzles were grouped into six categories: Winter Begins, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Continues, Kwanzaa, and New Years.)

And 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). Last Christmas, 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 amazon.com/santa_app

There’s books, of course, but also toys, games, video games, music, and even movies and TV shows — and you can browse the individual categories or search for specific items. By secretly tracking which gifts have been purchased, it can 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.”

Amazon Gives Away Free Christmas Music!

Little and Ashley - Amazon Christmas Kindle Commercial Song Winter Night

There’s a wonderful tradition that Amazon’s been observing for the last few years. Every December, they give away music for the holiday season, absolute free, through Amazon’s music web page. This year, in a new twist, they’re giving away five new songs every five days — starting on December 1st, and continuing through the 25th.

You can check out the newest batch at
tinyurl.com/5FreeChristmasSongs

For the next five days, Amazon’s giving away an old-fashioned “madrigal” style carol, a beautiful, acapella song by a group called Chanticleer. And there’s also a particularly dreamy free version of “O Holy Night” by Rick Springfield, who launched his career playing Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital in the 1980s (and again in 2005). I also liked the mp3 by a band named Sister Hazel — a soulful “alternative” version of the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. And Amazon’s also giving away a free mp3 by R&B artist Brian McKnight — his version of “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

There’s even a recording by the 1980s metal band, Twisted Sister — their hard-rocking version of “Deck the Halls.” But if you don’t like any of these songs, don’t worry. Amazon will be offering another new batch of five free Christmas songs this Friday (December 21st) — the last one before Christmas. And there’s also more free mp3s that are scattered throughout Amazon’s music store — including some more fun Christmas songs.

You can always find all of Amazon’s free mp3s at tinyurl.com/FreeMp3List

Here’s some more of the fun free Christmas songs I discovered this year…

  Jingle Bells by Brian Setzer
  The First Noel by Neil Sedaka
  O Holy Night by Go Radio
  We Three Kings by Justin A. Wilson
  Jingle Bells / Deck the Halls by Clay Crosse
  God Rest You Merry Gentleman by Joseph Patrick Moore Dan Baraszu
  What Child is This (Greensleeves) by Tony Elman
  O Come Emmanuel by Brandon Musser
  The Christmas Song by Mogwai
  Deck the Halls by The K5 Kids
  O Little Town Of Bethlehem by Nature’s Harmony
  The Twelve Days of Christmas by the 101 Strings Orchestra
  Silent Night by The Starlite Singers

There’s even a bluesy free version of Jingle Bells by Jen Carrozza, Jon Chalden, Sam Skelton, Joe Reda and John Carrozza. And there’s also some free mp3s offering some less-traditional Christmas songs.

  Punk Rawk Christmas by MxPx
  (Don’t Call Me) Mrs. Christmas by Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler
  Christmas Anthem by Landon Smith & The Real Matt Jones
  Christmas Train by Carey Bell

I was surprised to discover that there’s even a free six-minute mp3 of “Waltz of the Flowers” from The Nutcracker by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. And of course, Amazon is also offering some big discounts on entire albums of holiday music. You can browse the whole selection at tinyurl.com/AmazonXmasMP3s . But my favorite free Christmas song has a very big connection to the Kindle…

It’s the song “Winter Night” by Little & Ashley, which Amazon used in some of their first Christmas commercials for the Kindle. (They’re the ones with the stop-motion animation, showing a woman in an ever-changing background symbolizing the large variety of stories you can enjoy on a Kindle.) Two years later, Amazon is still giving this special song away as a free mp3 — just point your browser to tinyurl.com/KindleChristmasSong. As a piano plunks away away in the background, you’ll hear a happy young couple singing…


“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!”

A Thought for Connecticut

Friday a friend of mine in California posted her thoughts on Facebook. She has two young children, and wanted to shelter them from hearing the bad news that was coming out of Connecticut. I have no idea how to respond, but my girlfriend made a good suggestion. Take an extra moment today to appreciate the ones that you love.

And then I’d stumbled across my own answer on Sunday morning – a Kindle ebook for children with a much more comforting story. I discovered the true story of five little kittens who were trapped in a burning warehouse in Brooklyn – until their mother rushed in and saved them all, one by one. One reviewer on Amazon described it as “a powerful story that a young child can comprehend and enjoy.” She’d read the book to a four-year-old “whose eyes grew wider as the text progressed, yet she never showed fear, only that rapt attention of wanting to know how the story would end…”

New York Hero Cat Scarlett

The book received 16 five-star reviews on its web page at Amazon. (For a shortcut, point your web browser to tinyurl.com/HeroCatEbook .) But best of all, the ebook is on sale for only $1.00 if you live in one of the regions in 29 states where Amazon is offering their “Amazon Local” discounts. I discovered today that they’re using that service to offer a free “voucher” which lets you purchase 50 different ebooks for just one dollar apiece — including Hero Cat. And some of the other discounted ebooks are pretty interesting too. For another dollar, you can buy a collection of six Jane Austen novels — or a complete collection of every Sherlock Holmes story!

If you want a shortcut to all of the “Voucher” ebooks, just point your web browser to tinyurl.com/VoucherEbooks. But even without the discount, Hero Cat costs only $3.99 as a Kindle ebook. And I was touched just by reading some of the reviews. “There was one thing that was not covered…that was so touching,” wrote a woman in Alaska. The brave little cat “had many scars from her fiery rescue, but her new owner was reported to have sung the song ‘You Are So Beautiful’ to her, every day that she lived.”

I discovered that the “Hero Cat” — whose name was Scarlett — even has her own page on Wikipedia, which shares some even more touching details. “After saving the kittens she was seen to touch each of her kittens with her nose to ensure they were all there and alive…and then she collapsed unconscious.” But when news then spread of this stray cat’s motherly bravery, over 7,000 people offered to adopt her and her kittens.

Ultimately Scarlett the cat found a home with a woman who had her own story to tell. “As a result of losing her cat shortly after being injured in a traffic accident herself, she had become more compassionate and would take in only animals with special needs,” Wikipedia reports. The Kindle ebook turns the cat’s real-life adventure into “a wonderful story of Mother love and devotion,” according to the reviewer in Alaska — and she also enjoyed the book’s illustrations.

I thought it was a good way to remember a story where an entire family confronts an unexpected danger — and then safely passes through it all, thanks to the love and devotion of their mother. The best children’s books can teach us something about ourselves, like the fact that we all have more power than we think.

And it’s as good a way as any to take an extra moment to appreciate the ones that you love.

Amazon Announces Holiday Deals on eBooks!

Amazon Holiday Deals on discounted Kindle ebooks

I’ve been waiting for this. Amazon’s already been offering discounts on their Kindle devices for the holiday shopping season. But now on a new web page, they’ve also announced a big sale on hundreds of ebooks! “Now through December 22…save up to 88% on more than 500 Kindle books!”

Browse the selection at tinyurl.com/NewEbookDeals

There’s discounted ebooks in lots of categories, including Mysteries and Thrillers, Science Fiction, Comics and Graphic Novels, and even Romance. Plus, there’s a special category they’ve named “Gift Ideas & Editors’ Picks.” I was surprised to find that Agatha Christie actually wrote a mystery novel called Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. And now through December 22, Amazon’s selling it for just $2.99.

Plus, Amazon’s also discounted some Kindle ebooks that were the basis for famous movies. For $1.99, you can buy the novel “Howl’s Moving Castle,” and there’s also a science fiction title that I recognize. The classic movie The Incredible Shrinking Man was based on a science fiction novel by Richard Matheson. Amazon’s reduced it’s price through December 22 to just $2.99.

Surprisingly, in the nonfiction category there’s some discounted ebooks that were written by rock musicians. Steven Tyler remembers his time as a judge on American Idol — and touring with his band Aerosmith — in the book Does the Noise in My Head Bother You. And Amazon’s also discounted a memoir by Marilyn Manson titled The Long Hard Road Out of Hell. Both these ebooks are just $2.99.

I see over 32 cookbooks that have been discounted — plus 45 romance novels, and even some literary fiction. There’s ebooks from children, like Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle ($1.99). Brave New Worlds by Aldous Huxley has also been discounted to $2.99. And there’s even an intriguing ebook called Geek Mafia that’s on sale for $1.99.

I spend a lot of time shopping in the free section of the Kindle Store — because I’m trying not to spend too much money on ebooks. This might be a good time to stock up on some great titles — especially since there’s now 500 discounted ebooks to choose from!

Browse the selection at tinyurl.com/NewEbookDeals

Fun With Amazon’s Customer Support

Tom the cat chases Jerry the cartoon mouse

I laughed so hard on Saturday night. And I’ve got a great little story about Amazon’s customer support. I don’t usually share personal stories, but this one feels like it’s worth an exception. It all started because it had been a long weekend, and I’d just wanted to curl up and watch a video on my Kindle Fire…

Unfortunately, the Kindle’s video store ended up warning me that the video I’d ordered was taking longer than expected to download – and then never delivering it! It wouldn’t let me place the order again, but the video still wasn’t showing up. I’d tried Amazon’s web site, but got the exact same error message. So I clicked on the “help” link — and that’s when the fun began…

Now let me explain something. It was raining, and after running around town doing holiday errands, I’d just wanted to relax. And I’d rememered that Amazon gave me a $3.00 credit for videos for my Kindle Fire, but I only had one more day to use it. I’d spent $2.00 to watch an episode of South Park, but there was still $1.00 left. And I’d wanted to watch something comforting, maybe an old favorite from my childhood…

It turns out that one of Amazon’s options for customer support was to have an online chat in real-time. And yes, I wanted my video and I wanted it now, so it seemed like the best solution. Besides, I could test Amazon’s customer support, to see just how good they are at troubleshooting. And I was impressed that someone turned up right away — though since it was 7 p.m. on a Saturday, I suspected he might be in India…

“You are now connected to Saransh from Amazon.com,” explained the text that Amazon displayed in a chat window on the screen. And I was a little embarrassed about having to admit what I’d been trying to watch to a live person. “I ordered a Tom & Jerry cartoon on my Kindle Fire,” I explained sheepishly, “but it keeps giving me an error about how it’s taking longer to arrive than expected…”

“A member of our Amazon Instant Video team will need to help you with this,” Saransh typed, adding “Please hold while I transfer you. One of our Amazon Instant Video Specialists will assist you shortly.”

All this fuss over a cat-and-mouse cartoon from the 1940s, I thought to myself. But I was really impressed at the instant customer support Amazon was providing. And I didn’t have to wait too much longer before another support association started typing in the window. His name was Sneha, and he typed hello, then added, “I will look into this straight away for you. May I place you on hold for two minutes, while I look into this?”

“Hi Sneha,” I typed, not sure how friendly I was supposed to be. “Sure. Go ahead.” And he began researching the problem.

His first search seemed to come up empty-handed. “I do not see the order on your account pertaining to Tom and Jerry,” Sneha typed. “Were you able to place to place the order or you were in the process of doing that?” But then he typed, “Okay. I see the order now. Sorry…” Unfortunately, by then I was already typing away.

“I placed the order on my Kindle Fire, and also tried again on video.amazon.com.” I realized that I hadn’t given him the exact title, so I also typed in. “It’s called ‘Puss Gets the Boot.’ Tom & Jerry are just the name of the characters…” But then I realized he didn’t need anything that I’d typed. Look at me, I thought, jabbering away with all this extraneous info…

“Yes, I got it ,” Sneha typed. “Thank you :)” So then, just for laughs, I typed…

“Tom is the cat, and Jerry is the mouse.”

I described the whole surreal moment to my girlfriend, and then joked about even more extraneous things I could’ve typed into the chat window, if I’d wanted to seem like even more of a clueless user. “They chase each other around. The cat is grey. See if you can find a cartoon like that. Because it’s probably them…”

And we laughed and laughed…

But I really have to hand it to Sneha, because he did solve my problem almost instantly. He told me to log out of the Instant Video page on Amazon, and to basically try turning my Kindle Fire off and on. My girlfriend joked that it was like the catch-all advice that was always offered by the geeks in a British sitcom called The IT Crowd — but in this case, it really worked. The video page on my Kindle Fire now showed one more video in my library: the Tom and Jerry cartoon Puss Gets the Boot.

And not only did Amazon solve my problem immediately, but Sneha also endeared himself to me with the way he responded after I’d explained that Tom was the cat, and Jerry was the mouse. He typed back into Amazon’s support window…

“Its my favorite cartoon show…”

Surprise Discount on the Kindle Fire HD!

Amazon discounts the Kindle Fire HD with a red gift bow for the Christmas holiday

“Today only,” Amazon’s just announced on a special web page, “save $50 on Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch”. That means you can pick up the 16-gigabyte model for just $249 (WiFi-only) — and even the 4G + WiFi version, with 32 gigabytes of storage, now costs just $449.

You can view the special offer at tinyurl.com/Save50onAKindleFire . Enter the discount code FIREHD89 when checking out.

Remember, these are the “high-end” models with an 8.9 inch screen. (The original models — which are still available — only offer a 7-inch screen.) Amazon warns that this deal is limited to just one Kindle Fire HD per customer — and while the sale ends Monday, it’s also only available “While supplies last.” It’s the kind of sale that makes you wonder if Amazon is considering an upgrade to their line of high-definition Kindle Fire tablets. Are they trying to clear out their inventory before replacing them with an upgrade model?

But I think there’s an even simpler explanation: Amazon wants to attract shoppers who are looking for a nice Christmas gift. They plastered this discount on the front page of Amazon.com, describing it as their “Deal of the Day.” Historically Amazon has always showned a big spike in their sales during the month of December. Maybe this year they want as many people as possible to buy a Kindle Fire HD.

There’s a couple of reasons why Amazon wants you to buy a Kindle Fire HD. The biggest one is it makes it easier to buy more things from Amazon! Even if they sell the tablets at a discount, they’ll still earn more money from those customers when they start downloading movies and music to the devices from Amazon’s store. Plus, Amazon’s probably even more interested in “mind share.” Once all those purchases are tied to your account, it makes it harder to switch to a tablet from another vendor — like Apple — because you’d lose access to all of the media that you’ve already purchased from Amazon!

I’m sure Amazon’s given it a lot of thought, but in the end, that’s their problem to deal with — and we as consumers are the ones who are going to benefit. Because if you were looking to purchase a Kindle Fire HD, you can now do it for $50 less!

See the special offer at tinyurl.com/Save50onAKindleFire . Enter the discount code FIREHD89 when checking out.

Amazon Donates Children’s eBooks to Africa

Twas The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore illustration

This is a sweet deal — in more ways than one. I was browsing the children’s picture books at Amazon, and discovered an unexpected announcement. “This holiday season, when you purchase any Amazon Children’s Publishing book for yourself, your friends or family, you’ll also be helping to make digital books available to children and young adults in Africa. Buy any Amazon Children’s Publishing book in print or ebook format between Saturday, December 1, 2012 and Monday, December 24, 2012 and we’ll donate an Amazon Children’s Publishing ebook to the Worldreader program.”

Browse the selection at tinyurl.com/KidsBookDonations

This was a surprise — and it gave me a warm feeling inside. Imagine reading The Night Before Christmas, and knowing that you’ve also introduced that same book to a far-away corner of the world. “I looked at a number of illustrated versions of this book and this particular one had the best pictures,” noted one reviewer on Amazon. “They are large and realistic, with beautiful with candy colors.”

Of course, then I worried that children in Africa might not be celebrating Christmas, and wondered if it’d be better to buy Little Lost Tiger or Hippo Goes Bananas. (Or even a humorous children’s book that’s titled The Hiccupotamus.) But the important thing is whatever book you buy, it’s ultimately helping children learn how to read. Worldreader is a non-profit that’s trying to make ebooks and Kindles available to both children and young adults in the “developing” world (primarily Africa).

I’ve always loved the story of this charity. In 2008, a man took his family on a tour of the world. While visiting an orphanage in South America, he asked what was behind the padlocked doors of a tin building. The answer was disturbing: it was books. In fact, it was the local library. The materials had become outdated, and the library fell into disuse.

And then he had an idea. Throughout the trip his own daughters had been reading ebooks on their digital reader. He got the idea of starting a charity with one simple goal: to use ebook technology to “put a library of books within reach of every family on the planet”. He named it World Reader.org, and four years later, Amazon’s helping them out. I love the idea that they’ll send these children a copy of the same ebooks that I’m reading.

There’s one important caveat. At first I thought Amazon would donate any children’s picture book to the WorldReader program, but they’re actually only donating the ones that are published by Amazon Children’s Publishing. (And the books have to be purcahsed through Amazon.com.) But there’s a lot of titles to choose from.

And it’s an easy way to feel like you’ve done something nice this holiday season!

George Takei comes to the Kindle

George Takei Oh Myy ebook cover

He’s the TV actor who’d played Mr. Sulu on Star Trek. But now he’s also a huge internet phenomenon — and he’s written a great ebook about the experience. It’s called Oh myy! (There Goes the Internet), and last night George Takei surprised fans by announcing it had just become available on the Kindle (in addition to the Nook). “Surprise!” he posted on Facebook. “The folks at Amazon sped through my approval process, and my new book…is now as available as Katie Holmes.”

Check out the ebook at TinyURL.com/TakeiBook

It’s already racked up 35 five-star reviews — though that’s understandable, since George Takei has over 3 million followers on Facebook. (“As a starfleet officer, Sulu was dedicated to peaceful exploration,” Forbes magazine once wrote. “But when it comes to Facebook, he’s a conquerer.”) What surprised me even more is just how much I enjoyed the book. It’s a warm and thoughtful read, and it’s also genuinely entertaining.

That’s partly because he has a great story to tell. At the age of 75, George Takei has become one of the most popular people on Facebook, and he brings his humble humor to the tale of his success. “I’m not sure exactly when this shift occurred,” he writes, “but it delights me to know that, though I am separated in age by some 40 or 50 years from most of my fans, they have welcomed me into their lives. As my fan base demographic tilts even younger, fewer and fewer fans will know me merely as ‘that guy who played Sulu.'” And then he lets readers share in some of the fun of his success – like his Twitter showdowns with celebrities like Donald Trump, Tracy Morgan, Victoria Jackson, and even the Aflac duck.

I’ve always been a big Star Trek fan, so I pre-ordered a digital copy of the book, and it came with a special additional chapter. (Takei fondly remembered his very first Star Trek conventions — and the surprise when it went from 12 fans in a hotel conference room to a thousand people in an auditorium.) Maybe that biased me towards a positive review, but this feels like a very personal book. “It gives me great joy to feel back on the ‘cutting edge’ of things,” Takei write, “and to know that the best years may yet lie ahead. So thank you, again, for buying this book early and supporting me in this new endeavor.

“May we live long and prosper together.”

One reviewer on Amazon hit on something that I’d noticed, too. “While the first 69 pages or so are, as one might expect, the tale of a man in his sixties coming to grips with the modern internet… George Takei is, fundamentally, a geek. And brilliant. And given to reverse-engineering everything he comes across. So the last two-thirds of the book ends up being one of the most coherent, insightful, and accessible explanations I’ve ever seen on how to build and maintain a social media presence.” Even seen as a social media guide, the reviewer notes that “this one’s actually fun to read.”

But the book also comes across as a very special experience, a man warmly sharing stories of wonder and amazement. I found myself thinking that it was true to the Star Trek spirit – a celebration of humanness and laughter that would’ve made Gene Roddenberry proud. Maybe all the fans magically amplified the show’s positive vibe, and George Takei somehow absorbed it over four decades of Star Trek conventions. His ebook is gracious and fond, but it lets them all share one more voyage together.

“Our dazzling tech-driven society today stimulates and inspires me,” he writes — giving him one more reason to sincerely say… “Oh myy!”

Check out the ebook at TinyURL.com/TakeiBook

Even More “Best Books of 2012” – from Amazon Canada!

Flag of Canada in a love heart

When Amazon announced their list of the “Best Books of 2012”, they also issued a second press release with an entirely different list chosen by the book editors at the Canadian version of Amazon.com. “From new books by beloved Canadian authors like ‘Dear Stories,’ to memoirs like ‘Waging Heavy Peace’…” announced the “country manager” for Amazon.ca, “there is something for everyone on this year’s list.” But in just the top 10, their editor’s independently picked five of the same books that were chosen by Amazon’s American editors!

Click here to browse the special Canadian version of Amazon’s “Best Books of 2012” list. Of their five other choices, four of them were written by Canadian authors, and they haven’t been released in the U.S. There’s Carnival, a literary novel by Rawi Hage about a city cab driver during the chaotic Carnival. And Amazon Canada also selected the novel Above All Things by Tanis Rideout as one of the 10 best books of 2012. (It’s the story of the first man to climb Mt. Everest…and his wife.)

Their third Canadian-author choice was 419 by Will Ferguson, a crime novel based on those Nigerian e-mail scams. And their fourth Canadian-author choice was a mystery in the “Chief Inspector Gamache” series — The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny. But their fifth unique choice for their top-10 list of the bests book of 2012 was The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver. The American blogger predicted the outcome of two U.S. presidential elections with uncanny accuracy, and he’s turned his attention to the larger question of predictions in general — and why so many of them turn out wrong! Amazon’s American editors also selected the same book, but didn’t place it in their top 10.

Here’s the five books that Amazon’s American editors chose instead for their top 10 (which didn’t make it onto the Canadian top 10 list.)

     Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: A Novel by Ben Fountain
     A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
     The Middlesteins: A Novel by Jami Attenberg
     Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
     The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

But even when the same books were selected by the editors of both the American and Canadian versions of Amazon, the Canadian editors ranked those books in an entirely different order. Here’s their list of the 10 best books of 2012, along with the ranks from the Amazon’s American editors (shown in parentheses).

     1. (3) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
     2. Above All Things by Tanis Rideout
     3. (1) The Round House by Louise Erdrich
     4. (2) The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
     5. (4) The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
     6. 419 by Will Ferguson
     7. (6) Behind the Beautiful Forevers:
             Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
by Katherine Boo
     8. Carnival by Rawi Hage
     9. The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
     10. The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver


I really enjoy these lists, because there’s always something new on them that I’d never even thought about reading — so I’m delighted to discover this second list with even more titles from Amazon Canada. The idea is that no matter who you are, there should be something intriguing among all of the new choices, according to the announcement from Amazon’s country manager for Canada.

“From new books by beloved Canadian authors like Dear Stories, to memoirs like Waging Heavy Peace, and thrillers like our top pick, Gone Girl – there is something for everyone on this year’s list.”


Click here to browse the special Canadian version of
Amazon’s “Best Books of 2012” list.