The Kindle Touch is Back!

Finger on Kindle Touch

Amazon stopped selling the Kindle Touch version of their e-readers back in October. (If you tried to go to its web page, Amazon would simply send your browser over to their web page for the Kindle Paperwhite.) But in a kind of pre-Easter miracle, the Kindle Touch has come back to life. It’s suddenly re-appeared for sale again at

For a shortcut, just point your browser to

I’m one of the few people who owns of of each kind of Kindle that Amazon has ever released — and the Kindle Touch has always been my favorite. In 2011 I began building a word game for the Kindle with my friend Jeff, and we’d both bought a variety of used Kindles so we could see how our game performed on the different devices! I also discovered that I really liked the jumbo-sized screens on the Kindle DX, but in the end
my favorite feature was the light weight and easy handling of some of Amazon’s later Kindles. And yet strangely, I never warmed up to the Kindle Paperwhite, so for me the best touchscreen Kindle ever made was its 2011 predecessor, the Kindle Touch.

To be fair, the Kindle Paperwhite got some glowing reviews — pun intended — but there were also a few complaints. Back in October, I noted that after 676 reviews, the Paperwhite had earned an average rating of less than 3 and a half stars on Amazon (out of a possible five), a lower rating than any previous model of Amazon’s black-and-white Kindles. Amazon seemed to be positioning it as “version two” of their touchscreen Kindles, but this just made the Kindle Touch seem more like a “lost Kindle” — the fondly remembered device that you just couldn’t buy any more. For example, one technology site remembers that the Kindle Touch was “the last fully functional device the company released that had speakers and support for audiobooks.” (And the Kindle Touch came with much more storage space — 4 gigabytes — which is double the amount of storage that Amazon built into the Paperwhite….)

I could never get past the glowing screens on the Paperwhite, but that’s probably just because I’m such a fan of Amazon’s e-ink screens. The glow from the Paperwhite just became an annoying reminder that I was still reading on an electronic device, instead of enjoying a book-like page on a naturally-lit, e-ink screen. Again, I know people who love the extra contrast and crispness of the Kindle Paperwhite. (And I still think our Kindle word game still looks absolutely gorgeous on the glowing screens of the Kindle Paperwhite…) But my favorite Kindle — out of all the ones Amazon ever made — was always the Kindle Touch.

And yet, one dark day in October, people began to notice that the Kindle Touch was now listed as “unavailable” at (Along with a warning that “We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.”) That seemed like the end of the Kindle Touch — forever.

Which is why I’m so excited that the Kindle Touch is back on sale again at

Are Tablets Killing the Kindle?

Apple's iPad Mini will compete with Amazon's Kindle Fire HD

People have been worrying about this for more than a year — ever since Amazon came out with their color, touchscreen Kindle Fire tablets. Amazon’s insisted that they remain commited to their black-and-white Kindles too, but CNN is reporting that other manufacturers of digital readers might not be so lucky. “As tablets boom, e-readers feel the blast,” reads the headline in CNN’s “Games and Gadgets” section. The popularity of tablet devices may be hurting sales of black-and-white “readers”.

They point to the dramatic collapse recently in sales of the Nook. (Barnes and Noble apparently reported that for the last three months of 2012, their Nook division actually earned 26% less than it had the previous year.) At first I’d thought the Nook was just losing its customers to Amazon’s own Kindle readers. But CNN cites some technology analysts who have a different theory.

“It’s not that the Nook failed,” argues one analyst from Forrester Research. “It’s that the world of tablets exploded…” The Kindle Fire and iPad-style tablets have proven more popular than anyone expected, and they’re now becoming a regular part of our lives and the way we use computers — “not just a handy device to consume a bit of media.” It’s strange to remember that the very first iPad was released less than three years ago. But CNN gives Amazon credit for proving that other companies could also successfully sell their own tablets, inspiring even more companies to enter the market.

Google entered the tablet market soon after with the Nexus 7, and CNN believes that the Kindle Fire “likely nudged Apple” into building a smaller iPad Mini. The end result is that there’s a tablet for every budget. But that may also make people less interested in buying a black-and-white reader that’s dedicated mostly just for ebooks, the article concludes — adding “this trend has been particularly unkind to the Nook.”

But could the Kindle suffer the same fate, losing its audience to the fancier color touchscreen tablets? CNN posed the question to another well-respected technology research firm called Gartner, who acknowledged that “It’s a rough market.” But he seemed to think it was rougher for companies which aren’t named Amazon. The iPad dominates the market for high-end tablets, and in the rest of the market, Amazon’s Kindle “brand” has already established itself. If I’m reading this right, he’s saying that the lower demand for black-and-white readers actually helps Amazon, because it makes it harder for new competitors to establish themselves against Amazon.

Of course, not everyone wants a multi-functional device that does more than display ebooks. (My girlfriend refuses to install any games on her Kindle, because she’s worried that she’ll then start endlessly playing those games — instead of reading on her Kindle, which is what she really loves doing!) But on the other hand, sometimes it’s hard for me to even remember what the world was like before the Kindle came along.

Just imagine how much the world could change again over the next five years — especially if people decide to start reading more their ebooks on tablet computers!

My Favorite Kindle Stories


There’s so many interesting things happening in the Kindle world, and I want to share as many of them as I can. So here’s another collection of my favorite recent Kindle news stories — awarding “Cheers” to the most exciting and interesting stories for Kindle owners, along with some occasional “Jeers” for at least one funny misstep!

Cheers to Amazon for Discounting Magazines

Looking for something new to read on your Kindle? I was thrilled to see that for the rest of March, Amazon’s offering discounts of up to 87% on more than 20 different magazines. (Just point your web browser to ) For just $7.49, they’re offering a one-year digital subscription to Maxim, Family Circle, or the Ladies’ Home Journal, and Every Day with Rachel Ray is just $4.99. And they’ve also discounted Popular Science, Field & Stream, ESPN Magazine, and 17 other magazines!

Jeers to Amazon’s Auto-Rip

Actually, I was delighted when Amazon announced a new service back in January which brought more music to my Kindle Fire tablet — for free. Whenever you buy a qualifying music CD from Amazon, they now automatically add free digital versions of every song into Amazon’s “Cloud Player”, so you can listen to it on your Kindle Fire tablet (as well as on the web, and in their Amazon MP3 apps.) And to inaugurate this new feature, I discovered, Amazon actually went back in time, and delivered digital versions of all the songs I’d purchased for more than 10 years — which I’m still listening to right now on my Kindle Fire tablet.

So I was really excited about the new feature — but at the technology site Slashdot, one of the commenters wasn’t as enthusiastic, and came up with a good reason to give Amazon some good-natured jeers. “The biggest flaw,” he posted, “is that I now have mp3s for CDs I gave as gifts. Unfortunately, my friends and relatives seem to have different music taste than I do, so now I have the Chicago soundtrack and Hannah Montana mp3s!”

Cheers to Free Comedies coming from Amazon

Amazon’s already letting users watch thousands of videos for free on their Kindle Fire tablets (or through the web) if they’re subscribers to Amazon’s Prime shipping service, including classic TV shows like the original Star Trek and Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. But soon even if you’re not a Prime subscriber, Amazon’s going to have some free videos for you to watch — and in fact, Amazon’s producing it themselves! Amazon recently announced that they’re creating six original comedy series for their members to watch free on Amazon’s Instant Video site — selected from more than 12,000 proposals that were submitted to “Amazon Studios.” . The comedies will include one by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau — titled Alpha House — which follows four Senators in Washington D.C. who end up living together in the same rented house. And Browsers will be a comedy by Daily Show writer David Javerbaum (directed by Don Scardino from 30 Rock ). Amazon will even be present a new comedy from one of the internet’s oldest comedy sites, The Onion, titled — what else? — The Onion Presents: The News!

Cheers to Photos for Book Lovers

This last link was too beautiful not to share, because let’s face it — we love our Kindles because we love reading. So it was a real delight to see photos of some of the world’s most gorgeous bookshelves. In 2009, someone even created a web site called Bookshelf Porn “showcasing the best bookshelf photos from around the world” — and some of them are absolutely gorgeous. (See the photo at the top of this blog post!) The site has now been featured in articles by book-lovers everywhere (including The New Yorker), and Time magazine even named it one of the best blogs of 2012. I always get a kick out of browsing their gorgeous photos — some submitted by readers — of the most breathtaking bookshelves from around the world.

And for even more fun, they’ve included a link which delivers a randomly-choosen photo from their archive over the last four years at

Amazon Denies Rumors of a $99 Kindle Fire HD

kindle-fire (via Reuters)

Wow! Wouldn’t it be awesome if you got a color, touchscreen Kindle Fire tablet — with an HD screen — for just $99? And one well-respected technology blog reported just that possibility on Wednesday. “We’re now hearing that a $99 Kindle Fire 7″ tablet is in production, and will be shipping this year,” wrote Sarah Perez at the technology blog TechCrunch.

But just hours later, a business news blog was reporting that Amazon had already issued an official denial of that report. “It’s not happening,” BusinessInsider quotes Amazon as saying. “We are already at the lowest price points possible for that hardware.” Of course, BusinessInsider had already run their own story about the possibility of a $99 high-definition Kindle Fire Tablet — citing as their source that first blog post which appeared on TechCrunch. It now appears below Amazon’s official denial, and BusinessInsider is probably glad they’d added a few skeptical sentences (noting, for example, that TechCrunch had called the story a “rumor” that she was “hearing”.)

It’s a really fun idea, though, so I enjoyed reading the rest of the analysis from BusinessInsider. (“It’s a stunning price point, but it’s not totally crazy from Amazon…”) They note that TechCrunch reported Amazon may have gotten a discount on the chips for their tablets, and adds that “it’s not hard to envision Amazon selling a Kindle Fire tablet at or just below its manufacturing cost.” BusinessInsider‘s best estimates are that Amazon spends $174 to build the 7-inch version of their tablets, but their reporter also notes that Amazon’s CEO “says he wants to make money when people use a Kindle, not when they buy one.

“This makes Amazon completely different than Apple, which makes money on hardware, and picks up some additional revenue from apps and content…”

It’s almost obligatory for articles like this to ask who wins and who loses. Microsoft and Google would both be threatened by a $99 tablet, BusinessInsider concludes, because neither company has significant traction yet in the market for selling tablets. Apple wouldn’t be threatened now, but “In the long run, like in five years, it will be a problem for Apple because the price of an Amazon tablet isn’t going up. The software and hardware aren’t going to get worse, they’re only getting better.” And what’s fascinating is that all of that is absolutely true, even if Amazon isn’t releasing a $99 version of their high-definition Kindle Fire tablets.

Inevitably, reporters have to play these elaborate games of “What if…?”, because it’s all part of sorting out whether the rumor really is plausible. But it’s also a fun exercise on its own, reminding us that we do indeed living in interesting times, where you really never know what’s coming next. Wow! Wouldn’t it be awesome if you got a color, touchscreen Kindle Fire tablet — with an HD screen — for just $99?

Yes, it would….

Send Web Pages to Your Kindle!


You’ve found an interesting web page, and you want to read it on your Kindle. There’s been tricks in the past that could make that happen — but Amazon’s just relased their own slick, official solution. Now any web site on the internet can just add a “Send to Kindle” icon right to their pages. Clicking that icon brings up a window with a preview of the article, along with a big yellow “Send” button that will deliver it straight to your Kindle!

You can try out the new icons on the web pages at Time magazine’s site ( But that’s just the beginning, because Amazon’s also created some other fun ways to send web pages to your Kindle, as well as documents off your own hard drive, and even documents on your smartphone! So even if a web site hasn’t included “Send to Kindle” icons, Amazon’s also offering some other options. Amazon’s collected them all together into a special “Send To Kindle” web page.

For a shortcut, just point your browser to

For example, Amazon’s created a special “extension” for two of the most popular web browsers — Firefox and Chrome — with promises that they’re also working on a third extension for Apple’s Safari browser. “We just send the content you want, and not the distractions,” Amazon brags — meaning that they’ve eliminated most of the banner ads that usually accompany web pages (along with at least some of the images that are part of the article). And I like how the articles are formatted like a book instead of a web page (Meaning you flick your finger to the right to advance to the next page, rather than swiping it down to move lower on one single continuous page.)

The best thing about the browser extension is it’s easy to use. It just puts a cute little “K” icon to the right of the search window, and you click that to bring up a window which will either send or preview the web page first. If you have more than one Kindle, Amazon gives you checkboxes where you can select which Kindles should receive the web page. And there’s even a checkbox to select whether you also want the web page to be stored in your Kindle’s “Archive” collection.

But Amazon has more some fun options, if you want to send your Kindle even more things to read. Their “Send To Kindle” web page reminds you that it’s always been possible to e-mail a document to your Kindle, just by finding its e-mail address as Even PDF files and Microsoft Word documents will be converted into a Kindle-friendly format. (I had a lot of fun sending cute pictures of my dog to the Kindle, just to see how he’d look when the pictures were converted into black and white.) And Amazon’s even got a way to send documents to your Kindle from your smartphone or tablet! As long as it’s running the Android operating system, Amazon’s app can convert those documents into a Kindle-ready format and deliver them to your Kindle’s home page.

You don’t even need a Kindle to read the documents, since you can also pull them up on your Kindle App. I was disappointed that “Send to App” wasn’t one of the choices that Amazon gave me in the settings for their Send-To browser extension. But if you select the checkbox that stores the article in your Kindle’s “Archive” collection, it should still be accessible from the Kindle Apps. And on their web page, Amazon makes a point of reminding users that you can even use Kindle apps on an iPad, an iPhone, or an iPod Touch.

“Reading your documents and web content on Kindle is now easier than ever,” Amazon brags at the top of their web page, and they’ve come up with a catchy four-word slogan that sums it all up.

“Send Once, Read Everywhere!”

An Update on the Kindle Phone!

Image of Amazon tablet Press Conference announcement September 28th

I love my Kindle — but there’s now of fascinating rumors about new ebook-reading devices that will be coming from Amazon. We’ve already heard how Apple might be building a watch with an iPhone-like interface. But now there’s reports that seem to confirm that Amazon’s building its very own smartphone!

In December Amazon had already placed orders for 5 million Kindle-branded smartphones, according to one technology blog. It could be as cheap as $100, and no more than $200, according to the report — so you could get a Kindle-branded phone for about the cost of one of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets. And it’s being developed by the same people who have been producing Amazon’s Kindle e-readers (and their Kindle Fire tablets). That’s the good news — but unfortunately, Amazon “may not be able to release its first smartphone in the second quarter of 2013 as originally scheduled” (according to sources within the supply chain for Amazon’s electronic parts).

Right now they’re conducting “engineering verification testing” to work out some issues — which at least one hardware blog concludes must be related to porting the Kindle operating system to a phone. The theory is that Amazon is adapting the same version of the Android operating system that they’ve been using with their Kindle Fire tablets. Amazon’s smartphone is one of those in-demand products which has never actually been released. “The device was expected to be among the latest batch of Kindle Fire tablet refreshes last fall,” notes the hardware blog, “but that never happened.” In fact, Amazon may be less worried about Apple, and more about Microsoft. The blogger reports the general presumption at the time was that Amazon “was waiting to tackle Microsoft’s own Surface-branded offering until the first report of delays began to surface.”

Here’s my favorite part of his story. He notes that Amazon has never, ever actually said that they’re building a smartphone — “but it hasn’t denied its existence either.” In fact, on a recent interview on the Charlie Rose talk show, Amazon’s CEO was asked point-blank whether the rumors were true, and a he gave a less than convincing denial. “I agree that there are a bunch of rumors that we might do a phone,” Jeff Bezos replied.

“You’ll just have to wait and see.”

Amazon Discounts Their High-Definition Kindle Fire Tablets!

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

Amazon’s just lowered the price on their large-screen Kindle Fire HD tablets! Now the 8.9-inch tablets are just $269 (for the Wi-Fi only version), and $399 for the version with built-in connectivity to Amazon’s 4G wireless network. Len Edgerly, who does the Kindle Chronicles podcast, described it as “big developments for Amazon’s biggest Kindle Fire HD model”. And Amazon’s also announced that these large-screen tablets will now also be available in England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Japan.

Check out the tablets at

Amazon calls the 8.9-inch tablets “our highest resolution, largest high-definition display”, and in a press release Wednesday they bragged that it’s “perfect for web, apps, movies, games and magazines.” My girlfriend complains that the 7-inch version of the Kindle Fire tablet is too small for enjoying a big-budget Hollywood movie, but these larger tablets also have dual stereo speakers with Dolby audio, which according to Amazon will deliver a “crisp, rich sound”. There’s even a front-facing camera for taking high-definition photos and making video phone calls. And there’s an extra significance in the way Amazon is now releasing these high-def tablets to the rest of the world.

Less than two months ago, a research firm noted that the Kindle Fire “practicaly doesn’t exist” outside the United States. Localytics had determined that 89% of all of Amazon’s tablets where in America, with most of the rest were in the United Kingdom, “After those two, no other country has even one percent of worldwide Kindle Fires,” their report concluded. But where Amazon had made their tablet available, it had been a big success — for example, in America, where Amazon’s Kindle Fire made up one-third of the entire market for Android tablets.

Based on that, the researchers concluded that if Amazon comes up with a good plan for distributing their tablets globally, Amazon “could quickly dominate the Android tablet market worldwide!

A Kindle in Your Car Dashboard?


There’s a fascinating new rumor about Amazon’s plans for the Kindle. One of the top technology sites argues that now that Amazon has brought their ebook-reading technology to the world of tablets and smartphones, “The car is the logical next step, considering how much time people spend their automobiles on their daily commutes and simply running errand.” Writing for the blog GigaOm Kevin Fitchard makes the point that it’s not just readers who would be excited about the technology. In the competitive world of car-selling, “The automakers would fall all over themselves lining up to support it!”

It’s not as far-fetched as it seems. Less than two months ago, Amazon integrated its music-playing capability into the dashboards on new Ford cars. It’s the same “Amazon Cloud Player” technology that already lets your Kindle Fire tablet play any music purchased digitally from Amazon’s store. (And because the music is stored on Amazon’s servers, you can also listen to that same music through Amazon’s web site, as well as on their Amazon Mp3 smartphone apps.) “Recognizing that the car is a perfect vehicle for mobile apps, Ford launched a new developer program…” reported GigaOm in January, “and announced nine new smartphone apps for its Ford Sync platform.” Besides Amazon’s Cloud Player, the voice-controlled apps included three broadcast and internet radio services — Rhapsody, Aha Radio, and Greater Media — plus on-demand audio programming from The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, plus a selection of magazine articles from a service called Kaliki.

Of course, no one should be reading ebooks while they’re driving, but Amazon is already well-positioned to deliver those same ebooks as audiobooks. They own, of course, but more importantly, they’ve also introduced a special audiobook feature called WhisperSync for Voice. Now if you’re reading the text of an ebook on any Kindle, you can instantly switch over to its audiobook version in a Kindle app, and the audiobook’s narrator will continue reading right where you left off! Since Amazon has already created this service, “It would be cinch for Amazon to integrate that technology into the car,” writes the blogger at GigaOm.

My favorite part of his article was when the blogger tried to confirm the rumor with Amazon. “While an Amazon spokesperson confirmed that the company today has the technology to seamlessly switch between book formats, Amazon wouldn’t comment on any future connected car plans.” That’s the classic spokesperson response — neither confirming nor denying — and the spokesperson even spelled that out specifically, saying that “as a matter of policy Amazon doesn’t comment on future product plans.”

But the blogger also notes that Honda’s cars already include a library of audiobooks, and the automakers have been quick to add lots of other audio services to their “connected” car dashboards. So it may not be long before you really will start seeing a Kindle in your car dashboard.

Get The Hunger Games trilogy for $5.00!

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

I couldn’t believe it. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins includes three of Amazon’s top 100 best-selling Kindle ebooks. And suddenly, bloggers noticed this week that the entire trilogy had been discounted to just $5.00!

For a shortcut to the discounted ebooks, just point your browser to

In print, all three books would normally cost you $53.97, Amazon points out on their web page — and even the three ebooks would cost $48.97 — so this represents a savings of over 91%. I don’t know how long this sale is going to last, but it’s been going on since Thursday. In fact, The Hunger Games Trilogy has now become the #1 best-selling ebook in the Kindle Store.

Individually, the three ebooks in the trilogy “have been on the best seller list for over 900 days,” notes a bargins blogger at, “which is just nuts!” Though she wasn’t sure she’d like the futuristic fantasy about teenagers who fight to the death, “I read all 3 of these books in one week which is crazy. I literally couldn’t put them down!” And the series has also been especially popular with Kindle owners. In 2011, their author — Suzanne Collins — became only the sixth author to ever sell more than one million ebooks in Amazon’s Kindle Store.

Later that year, I discoved that she’d also become the most-highlighted author in the Kindle Store, with three of 10 most-highlighted passages. (In fact, she also wrote 13 of the 100 most-highlighted passages.) And on a second list Amazon had created showing the most-highlighted passages from the recent past, Collins was the undisputed champ, with quotes from her books claiming six of the top 10 spots! Over the next 12 months, her series became even more popular with the release of a Hunger Games movie, and it was almost exactly one year ago that Amazon made a special announcement: Suzanne Collins had become the Kindle’s all-time best-selling author.

And now you can buy her entire for just $5.00!

For a shortcut to the discounted ebooks, just point your browser to

Kindle News Stories: Cheers and Jeers!

Uma Thurman reads the Cat in the Hat

I see alot of interesting stories about Amazon’s Kindle, and it seemed like it’d be fun to do a special “lightning round”, taking quick note of both the best and the worst stories from the last few weeks. There’s at least one heart-warming story, one provokative developments, and at least a few people who are definitely deserving of some jeers. In fact, I wanted to make this list partly just so I could give a special jeer to all of the authors cited in this story in the Wall Street Journal.

Jeers to the “Authors Who Buy Their Way Onto Best-Seller Lists

About 10 days ago, the Journal published a startling expose of a company called ResultsSource, which promises authors that it can deliver specific sales milestones, including “over 100,000 copies sold” or even an appearance on the best-seller list. The article cites publishing industry insiders who are worried that “bulk purchases are being made to appear like single sales to qualify for inclusion in best-seller lists,” and even when the books drop off the best-seller list, it still becomes a credential that the authors can tout as they hunt for speaking and consulting gigs. For one business book, more copies were later returned in a single week than were sold in that same week, which was still a win for the author since he’d already reached the best-seller list. At least one author admitted he’d paid between $20,000 and $30,0000 for an artifical boost to his book sales — though I should probably also award Cheers here to Amazon, who told the Journal that they were no longer willing to do any business with ResultSource. But…

Jeers to Amazon for deleting eBooks from their App

Amazon had just wanted to update the Kindle app they’d created for Apple’s iOS — but for a short time last week, a bug apparently actually deleted the ebooks which had already been downloaded into the app. “Now I have to upload over 130 books from the cloud,” one user complained to the technology blog Mashable, which also reports that Amazon eventually updated their update to fix the problematic behavior.

Cheers to Uma Thurman
I didn’t want to let the week go by without acknowledging one of my favorite, heart-warming stories. Last Friday movie actress Uma Thurman read The Cat in the Hat to more than 250 schoolchildren — many of whom were wearing special red and white-striped hats just like the cat in Dr. Seuss’s book. It was all part of “Read Across America” Day, which boasts 45 million participants, as a partnership between the Random House, the National Educationa Association, and Dr. Seuss Enterprises. (Each child in Manhattan got a free copy of The Cat in the Hat.) But there’s some fun footage of the event on the NEA’s web site (at ) which includes a clip from Manhattan’s public library showing Thurman delivering an especially dramatic rendition of the children’s classic.

“I saw there with Sally, we sat there we too, and I said, ‘How I wish we had something to do…'”

Cheers for the funny “Kindle at the beach” ad.

I love Amazon’s TV ads for the Kindle, and when I first saw this one on TV, it felt like another one I’d already seen before, where a man and a woman at the beach discuss how it’s still possible to read on a Kindle in the sun. It’s a shot at the iPad (and other tablets), which reflect the glare of the sun when you’re trying to read at the beach — but this ad ends with a surprising twist. The man buys himself a Kindle, and then turns to the woman and says “We should celebrate.”

My husband’s bringing me a drink right now,” she tells him.

“So’s mine!” the man replies.

You can watch the whole thing at, along with all of Amazon’s other Kindle ads — including another 30-second ad with no dialogue at all — just 30 seconds of people reading their Kindles at the beach!

The Kindle Joins the PTA

The PTA endorses Amazon's Kindle

America’s Parent Teacher Association includes millions of parents and teachers — but this year, they’re letting Amazon’s Kindle be the exclusive partner of a new program. To improve the reading skills of grade school students, the program will teach parents some fun ways to get involved in their children’s reading — and for the rest of the year, the program will officially be called The PTA Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle.

Besides ebooks, “The progam also encourages use of real books,” notes Fast Company magazine, “but it’s definitely a PR coup for Amazon, whose rival Apple has also been moving to increase its e-book educational appeal.” Amazon’s even created a special web page identifying themselves as “the official e-reader of the National PTA”. The page argues that the Kindle “was designed to make great books as accessible and engaging as possible, and kids say their enthusiasm for reading increases with e-books.”

“Parents love to see their children inspired to read more, especially with a device like Kindle that’s focused solely on reading.

It’s fascinating to see the way Amazon has now started marketing their e-readers as a family-friendly educational tool, with a pitch that the Kindle is “the perfect complement to children’s print books.” (Their web page also notes the Kindle’s storage capacity of over 1,000 books, “making heavy backpacks lighter,” and that each Kindle has a built-in dictionary which “supports real-time vocabulary development, while adjustable fonts and text sizes make each book just right for a child’s eyes and reading ability.”) Amazon’s even titled their page “Kids and Parents Love Kindle,” and they’ve also lined up an enthusiastic quote in the press release announcing their endorsement. “National PTA is honored to work with Kindle to provide parents with proven techniques for improving their child’s reading fluency, comprehension and passion…”

But the real question isn’t just whether this will help Amazon sell more Kindles, but also whether it help them sell more ebooks. So to that end, Amazon’s also created a new web page of “PTA Family Favorites”, which also touts their relationship with the new organization. “Kindle and the National PTA are working together to help families get more involved in their children’s reading and enhance their emerging interest in books, Amazon writes at the top of the web page. “These featured titles were most frequently cited in a survey of PTA members as books they love to read together as a family.”

I admit I enjoyed browsing the selection, to see if there were any books I recognized from my childhood. Amazon’s highlighting their ebook versions of “PTA Family Favorites”, separated into ebooks for different reading levels, with The Magic Treehouse series recommended for first and second graders (along with the Junie B. series and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day)). For third and fourth graders, the page recommends the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, along with Beverly Cleary’s books about Ramona. Their selection for fourth and fifth graders includes C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series, and their older-reader selections include The Lightning Thief, The Hobbit and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.

I could think cynical thoughts about how Amazon’s involvement with the PTA is just another new way to promote the Kindle and Amazon’s Kindle Store. But mostly I’m just glad to see children being encouraged
to read some very good books.

Dr. Seuss on your Kindle?

Dr Seuss The Cat in the Hat

Dr. Seuss’s birthday was this weekend, and I’d decided to celebrate it by downloading some of his books onto my Kindle. Unfortunately, most of Seuss’s classic books aren’t available in Amazon’s Kindle store. But I still found some fun ways to remember the life and work of Dr. Seuss using my Kindle.

The Early Works of Dr. Seuss – Volume 1

There is one Seuss ebook you can download to your Kindle — a collection of his first work as a satirist and commercial artist. Dr. Seuss — who’s real name was Theodore Geisel — was born on March 2nd in 1904, and by the 1920s he’d already begun publishing his own funny cartoons and illustrated stories. There’s some political cartoons in this collection, and he even wrote and illustrated an informational pamphlet for soldiers in World War II. It seems like a good way to appreciate the rest of his career, and get a glimpse at the artist before he created The Cat in the Hat. Some Amazon reviewers complained that the text is small and hard to read on some Kindle screens, and reviewers at Publisher’s Weekly warned that it’s not a the collection of sweet children’s stories that you might be expecting. But they acknowledge that this 172-page ebook “occassionally reveals images reminiscent of Geisel’s famous characters: Yertle-ish turtles standing atop each other’s backs and Horton-like elephants….”

Green Eggs and Ham and Other Servings of Dr. Seuss
An audiobook read by Jason Alexander, David Hyde Pierce, and Michael McKean

Dr. Seuss’s rhyming stories should make great audiobooks — and his publisher’s lined up some fantastic celebrities to read them! For $11.95 you can load this collection of 9 complete Dr. Seuss stories onto any audio-enabled Kindle — with some very funny readings by Seinfeld‘s Jason Alexander, Frasier‘s David Hyde Pierce, and comic actor Michael McKean (who you may remember from This is Spinal Tap or Laverne and Shirley). There’s even some whimsical music in the background of these stories — you can hear a five-minute sample if you point your web browser to Amazon’s web page for the audiobook. Here’s a complete list of the 9 stories available in this collection!

     Green Eggs and Ham read by Jason Alexander
     One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish read by David Hyde Pierce
     Oh the Thinks You Can Think! read by Michael McKean
     I’m Not Going to Get Up Today read by Jason Alexander
     Oh Say Can You Say? read by Michael McKean
     Fox in Socks read by David Hyde Pierce
     I Can Read With My Eyes Shut read by Michael McKean
     Hop on Pop read by David Hyde Pierce
     Dr. Seuss’s ABC read by Jason Alexander

The Cat in the Hat and Other Dr. Seuss Favorites
An audiobook read by John Cleese, Kelsey Grammer, Billy Crystal, John Lithgow, Walter Matthau, and more

Another audiobook of Dr. Seuss stories features an even more impressive cast of readers. Imagination Studios lined up 11 different celebrities, and then had each one of them read a different (complete) Dr. Seuss story. This longer collection offers more than two hours of Dr. Seuss — you can hear an eight-minute sample at Amazon’s web site where Kelsey Grammer reads The Cat in the Hat. But I’m more intrigued by the other readers, which include John Cleese, Dustin Hoffman, and Walter Matthau (reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Here’s a complete list of the 11 stories available in this audiobook, along with the celebrity who reads it!

     The Cat in the Hat read by Kelsey Grammer
     Horton Hears a Who read by Dustin Hoffman
     How the Grinch Stole Christmas read by Walter Matthau
     Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? read by John Cleese
     The Lorax read by Ted Danson
     Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose read by Mercedes McCambridge
     Horton Hatches the Egg read by Billy Crystal
     The Cat in the Hat Comes Back read by Kelsey Grammer
     Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, Gertrude Mc Fuzz, and The Big Brag
     read by John Lithgow

The Day I Met Dr. Seuss
by Anne Emerick

Amazon’s Kindle Store rescued another work of fiction about Dr. Seuss which otherwise might never have been published. Author Anne Emerick admits that she never actually met Dr. Seuss — though she’d tried to arrange an interview with him back in 1989 (when Seuss was still alive). But she transforms her curiosity about the author into a charming rhyming story of her own — which, unfortunately, was rejected by every publisher she showed it to. Some literary agents praised her “great creativity”, though, and 23 years later, “I came to the realization that many people enjoyed the story,” the author announced in a press release, “and so why not share it with other Dr. Seuss fans.”

“This story is dedicated to Theodor Seuss Geisel,” she writes in the book’s introduction, calling him “a literary legend whose work continues to brighten our days while helping children learn to read.”

100 New eBook Discounts for March!

Amazon Kindle 399 ebook sale

It’s the first day of the month, which means that Amazon’s discounted a new set of 100 Kindle ebooks! Each ebook has been discounted to just $3.99 (or less!) for the month of March. As always, you can find the whole selection at

And this month, Amazon also has a special section of “Editor’s Picks”, seven extra-special books that they’ve discounted to $2.99 or less

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes ($1.99)
Lamb by Christopher Moore ($1.99)
The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage by Sarah Silverman ($1.99)
Dracula (Illustrated Classics) by Bram Stoker – $2.99
Anathem by Neal Stephenson – $1.99
Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke ($2.99)
The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined by Salman Khan ($1.99)

Amazon’s also discounted some famous suspense novels, like The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty and The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin. But here’s a list of five more discounted ebooks that look especially interesting!

Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella ($2.99)

The movie Field of Dreams was based on this book — though in the novel, it’s a ghostly baseball announcer’s voice who first whispers to an Iowa farmer one night that if you build it, he will come. “[T]he dreaming, idealistic man knows just what he is supposed to do,” explains the book’s description at Amazon. “He knows that digging up the corn field in the back of his house will inspire the return of baseball legend Shoeless Joe Jackson, a man whose reputation was forever tarnished by the scandalous 1919 World Series.” In the novel, the farmer also seeks out real-world author J. D. Salinger (whose book Catcher in the Rye had been an inspiration). According to Wikipedia, Salinger was furious when he heard he’d been portrayed in a novel, so when the book was adapted into Field of Dreams, Salinger’s character was replaced by an entirely fictitious author named Terence Mann, who was played by James Earl Jones!

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke ($2.99)

He wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey, but 15 years earlier, when he was just starting his career, Arthur C. Clarke penned a 218 page novel which many readers and critics both still consider to be his very best novel (according to Clarke’s official biography ). It was just five years after he began his writing career, and Childhood’s End tells the story of humanity being confronted by a powerful alien presence, according to the book’s description at Amazon. “Their demands, however, are surprisingly beneficial – end war, poverty, and cruelty. Their presence, rather than signaling the end of humanity, ushers in a golden age – or so it seems…”

Oddkins: A Fable for All Ages by Dean Koontz ($1.99)

Best-selling horror novelist Dean Koontz released a fascinating new book this September. It’s his first novel for teen readers, which Amazon describes as “a beautifully illustrated and visually stunning story about a magical band of living toys who learn to overcome the fears we all face in the dark.” Through 180 magical pages, they confront a strange allegorical adventure, since “Locked up in the dark sub-basement, another group of toys is climbing out of boxes and crates and coming to life as well…” It looks like a fun read from a master of suspense, since “The stormy night is perilous and the Oddkins face a danger that threatens not only their magic…but the magic in us all!”

The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men by Judy Gelman ($3.99)

Normally this special cookbook costs $16.95, but Amazon’s slashed the price more than 75%. “Ever wish you could mix an Old Fashioned just the way Don Draper likes it?” reads the book’s description, “Or prepare Oysters Rockefeller and a martini the way they did fifty years ago at one of Roger Sterling’s favorite haunts, The Grand Central Oyster Bar?” Yes, this unorthodox cookbook is “unofficial and unauthorized,” the description warns, but it still promises that readers can “dine like Draper and drink like Sterling with more Than 70 recipes from the kitchens, bars, and restaurants seen on Mad Men.”

When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories by Molly Ringwald ($2.99)

Making it’s second appearance as a discounted ebook is this debut novel by Molly Ringwald, the star of those iconic teen comedies from the 1980s directed by John Hughes, like Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club.) Now that she’s 44, Molly Ringwald “mines the complexities of modern relationships,” according to the book’s description at Amazon, “in this gripping and nuanced collection of interlinked stories.” In this 237-page novel, Ringwald describes a Los Angeles family and their friends, “revealing the deceptions, heartbreak, and vulnerability familiar to us all…” revealing “a startling eye for the universality of loss, love, and the search for connection.” It’s only been available since August, and it’s already racked up 77 five-star reviews.

And remember, you can find the whole selection at