Amazon Announces America’s Most Musical Cities

michael-jackson

Today is Michael Jackson’s birthday — and on Facebook, his personal chef promised it wouldn’t be forgotten. Today at his restaurant in Oakland, California, he’s expecting a flash mob to honor what would’ve been the singer’s 55th birthday — all dressed as Michael Jackson. And it got me thinking how in cities all across America, we all have a place for music in our lives– even if the ways that we’re listening to it are changing fast. (Nowadays if I’m listening to music, it’s probably on my smartphone or on my Kindle!)

And recently Amazon distributed one of the most fascinating press releases about music that I’ve ever seen. Earlier this summer, Amazon crunched through their statistics to try to determine who loved music the most — or at least, which cities were purchasing the most music. They compiled “per capita” figures to determine which cities had the most musical purchases per person. And then they announced the complete list — which they called “Cities That Rock” — revealing not just which cities bought the most music, but what kinds of music were most popular there!

For example, Cleveland Ohio is the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, because it’s the home of the radio announcer who first coined the term rock and roll. “But Amazon sales data suggests that the Rock capital is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” reads the press release. In fact, when it comes to purchasing music, Amazon’s sales data doesn’t even put Cleveland in the top 20! There may be a lot of people in Cleveland, but the ratio of purchases to people just isn’t as high as Pittsburgh — or even Cincinnati, which appears at #6 on the list.

But it’s interesting to note that even all those rock music purchases still didn’t make Pittsburgh the #1 most-musical city in all of America. That honor went to Miami Florida, which actually holds the #1 spot for the most heavy metal purchases per person — and also the #1 spot for the most dance purchases and Latin music purchases. In fact, Miami even has the highest rate of purchasing music for children. It must’ve been fun to be working at Amazon, and identifying the top musical cities — and then trying to guess if there was a pattern!

Because the #3 most-musical city is also in Florida, according to Amazon — the city of Orlando. Amazon points out that it’s the city that gave the world the Backstreet Boys (as well as ‘N Sync), and that per capita, it’s the #1 city in America for purchasing pop music. And further down, Amazon’s press release announces that “the most Country-loving city is the Tennessee River town of Knoxville, Tennessee.” Interestingly, that only earns Knoxville the #13 spot on the overall list — with the #4 spot going instead to Salt Lake City, Utah.

Coming in one notch above Knoxville was another southern town — Columbia, South Carolina, which had the 12th-most music purchases (per capita) of any city in America. But they aso had the distinction of being #1 for their purchases of rap music R&B music, and Christian music.

Hometown to artists like Alexis Jordan and Angie Stone, Columbia, SC topped not one, but three genre lists, including R&B, Rap and Christian. Columbia is the hometown of artists like Alexis Jordan and Angie Stone, Amazon points out — and it’s also identifies a few cities that are living up to their reputation. Amazon’s hip hometown of Seattle Washington had the most purchases per capita for indie rock music — and came in at #7 on the list. And Cambridge Massachusetts — home to Harvard University — bought more classical music from Amazon per capita than any other city in America. (While Berkeley California was their #1 city for jazz purchases.)

Amazon is still one of the biggest sellers of good old-fashioned music CDs — but they’re also helping transition the world to downloading songs and albums digitally. Now when I buy a song to listen to on my Kindle, there isn’t any physical CD that goes with it. In fact, one of my biggest delights with the Kindle is the way it can make music feel new again — because I’m listening to it in new ways, in new places, and at new times. So when compiling their list, Amazon made a point of counting not just CD sales, but also digital downloads of songs and albums — and even purchases of old vinyl records!

The music is still wonderful — and whether we notice it or not, Amazon is quietly becoming part of the way we listen to it. Today I was remembering the day when Michael Jackson died. He’d been such a huge star when I was younger, and I’d wondered if anyone else was thinking about all those albums from the late 1970s and early 1980s. And then I’d noticed in Amazon’s music section that their #1 best-selling album was Michael Jackson’s Thriller — and their #2 best-selling album was Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall..

Music really is an experience that we share together. And whether we notice it or not, there are times when our new neighborhood record store is Amazon.

Elmore Leonard on the Kindle

Elmore-Leonard

Everyone I know loves Elmore Leonard’s books. He wrote wonderful crime stories that were full of lively characters — and many of his novels were adapted into some very popular movies. (Like Get Shorty, Mr. Majestyk, Out of Sight, 3:10 to Yuma, and even Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.) On Tuesday, his agent announced to the world that Elmore Leonard had finally passed away at the age of 87. But fortunately, you can still read a lot of his best novels on your Kindle!

In fact, four of Leonard’s novels are actually available for less than $4.00 in the Kindle Store. (The Bounty Hunters, The Law at Randado, Forty Lashes Less One, and Escape from Five Shadows.) Nine more books have been priced between five and six dollars — including Out of Sight (which you may remember as the 1998 movie starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez). Four more novels are available in the six-dollar range, and there’s even a three-novel collection that you can purchase for just $9.99 — the “Elmore Leonard Classic 3-Book Collection,” which bundles together Get Shorty, Tishomingo Blues, and Killshot.

In fact, every Leonard novel in the Kindle Store is currently priced at less than $11.00. I have to admit that I’m especially intrigued by Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing (which Amazon describes as ” the perfect writer’s – and reader’s – gift.”) And Be Cool — the sequel to Get Shorty — is priced at just $9.78. For a shortcut to all of Amazon’s Kindle ebooks by Elmore Leonard, just point your web browser to:

tinyurl.com/KindleElmoreLeonard

On Tuesday, the Washington Post ran a fascinating article describing just how much fun the author had when he was writing his book. “He thinks of, say, ‘two guys in a room, talking,’ usually about some criminal endeavor, and lets them ‘audition’ for leading roles. He shapes them by intense research – i n 1978, he hung out with the Detroit police’s homicide squad, an experience that shaped the rest of his writing – and then lets them wander deeper into trouble.

“If any passage sounds like ‘writing,’ he rewrites it. This nets two to four pages a day. The next morning, he’ll read over those pages and ‘add cigarettes and drinks and things like that’ and press forward…”

One of my favorite books by the author — which had one of his most intriguing titles — was When the Women Come Out to Dance. Published in 2002, it was a collection of nine different stories, each one about a female character who confronts the author’s trademark mix of challenging plot twists and some very untrustworthy people, according to the book’s review at Amazon. “In this collection of new and recently published short fiction, Leonard demonstrates the superb characterizations, dead-on dialogue, vivid atmosphere, and driving plotting that have made him a household name.” But I like how their review acknowledged that Elmore Leonard always seemed to have a real sympathy for every character — even the ones who aren’t helping the detective solve his case. “Once more this master of crime illustrates that the line between the law and the lawbreakers is not as firm as we might think.” (It’s available as a Kindle ebook for just $8.99).

Ironically, I used to always get Elmore Leonard mixed up with James Ellroy — since both men wrote crime stories. Confusing things even further, on Saturday — and Saturday only — Amazon’s offering a discount on James Ellroy’s first novel. (Brown’s Requiem has been reduced in price to just $1.99.) “In honor of the two year anniversary of Kindle Daily Deals, more than 65 of our most popular titles are $2.99 or less,” Amazon explained on their special daily deal web page.

I guess it just goes to show you that there’s a lot of great authors in the world — and a lot of wonderful ebooks waiting in the Kindle Store.

My Favorite Kurt Vonnegut Story

Kurt Vonnegut

Amazon’s still offering big discounts on the Kindle editions of books by Kurt Vonnegut. But I’d also like to share one of my personal favorite stories about the famous author — and a precious experience from a visit to Los Angeles. The Paley Center for Media preserves recordings of old and rare programs in a museum in Beverly Hills. So in 2006, I paid them a visit to watch the only television broadcast whose script was actually co-authored by Kurt Vonnegut himself!

Paley Center for Media - Museum of Television and Radio - Beverly Hills

It was an adaptation of a story which Vonnegut would later publish in “Welcome to the Monkey House,” though in 1953 the only place it appeared was the Ladies Home Journal. Five years later, Vonnegut’s sister died, within a few days of her husband, and as he adopted their children, Vonnegut wondered — at the age of 36 — whether he should give up writing altogether. But somehow in that same dark year, his name ended up on the teleplay of a very dramatic episode of G.E. Theatre.

It was hosted by Ronald Reagan, and starred a young Sammy Davis Jr. in the story of a black soldier whose troop passes by a German orphanage shortly after World War II. (One online review calls it “one of the great moments in television history,” since it was one of the first starring roles ever for a black actor on TV.) A black boy in the orphanage mistakes the lonely soldier for his father, and “Private Spider Johnson” soon has to make a very difficult choice. Reportedly even the production crew cried during the broadcast’s final scene, when the solider collapsed to his knees, sobbing.

It’s never been released as a DVD, but I watched on a viewing station at the museum. It’s impossible not to be deeply moved by the story of the orphans left behind by the war. (“Had the children not been kept there…they might have wandered off the edges of the earth,” Vonnegut wrote, “searching for parents who had long ago stopped searching for them.”) The story’s title is D.P., which stands for “Displaced Persons” — the technical military term for the desperate children. And it’s because of this story that my favorite Kurt Vonnegut book has always been “Welcome to the Monkey House”.

Earlier this month, Amazon had discounted the Kindle edition of this 354-page collection of Vonnegut’s short stories to just $8.99. (For a shortcut to all of Amazon’s Kindle ebooks by Kurt Vonnegut, just point your web browser to tinyurl.com/KurtVonnegutEbooks ) I’ve met so many people who tell me that Kurt Vonnegut is one of their favorite authors, so it’s nice to be able to remind them that he’s now available on the Kindle. Here’s a list of just some of Kurt Vonnegut’s books which are now available in Kindle editions!

Slaughterhouse Five
Cat’s Cradle
Breakfast of Champions
The Sirens of Titan
Player Piano
Welcome to the Monkey House
Mother Night
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
Galapagos
Fates Worse Than Death
Slapstick
Bagombo Snuff Box
Timequake
Jailbird
Bluebeard
Deadeye Dick
Hocus Pocus
Palm Sunday

Enjoy!

My Favorite Free Mystery

BackOnMurder
It was a cold Saturday afternoon when my Kindle and I went looking for a good new book to read – and I stumbled across a great free mystery. Back on Murder is part of a trilogy about a police detective in Houston, and the publisher has decided to give away the first book in the series for free. Because it’s from a big publishing house, it’s a top-notch read, a fully-developed 384-page mystery detective novel. And it’s already attracting some great reviews, including a reviewer for The Weekly Standard who wrote that “The narrative energy is relentless.”


For a shortcut to the book, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/BackOnMurder

Here’s the ultimate testimonial. This year I’ve started over 100 ebooks on my Kindle — but this is the only that I’ve actually finished! I kept turning the pages on this one to see what was going to happen next, and I felt invested in the detective and his hunt for answers. “The police procedure has a feel of authenticity,” wrote The Weekly Standard, “with extensive detail of weaponry and forensics, and the course of the investigation bears some of the messiness of real life.” They conclude that the author of the series, J. Mark Bertrand, ” is a major crime-fiction talent — one of the best police procedural writers I’ve come upon in years.”

The author spent some time learning his craft, and actually earned a master’s degree in creative writing before publishing Back on Murder. (Reading the book, I’d started to wonder if he’d actually worked as a police detective, because he seems to understand that world so well!) The book was first released in 2010, and it’s still Amazon’s #1 best-selling “police procedural” in their Mystery section. One Amazon customer even wrote that “This is the kind of book the Kindle was made for. The built in dictionary allowed me to quickly understand terms…and the note/bookmark feature allowed me to note/review my speculations on plots and twists!”

So if the author isn’t a former police detective, then who is he? I had to solve that mystery, so I tracked down the author’s personal web site. It turns out that he did in fact grew up at least close to Texas, in what he describes as Louisiana’s “humid swampland [where] he soaked up some atmosphere.” And he did eventually live in Houston, though his wife ultimately insisted that they move to South Dakota “after one hurricane too many.” So his police procedural came partly from his own memories of Houston…

The author describes himself as “a Southern ex-pat living far away…”, and part of what makes this book so compelling is there’s more at stake than simply solving the crime. The detective has been moved out of the police department’s murder investigation unit, and he’s got one chance to prove that he deserves another chance to rejoin their team. But as a reader, I was equally fascinated by just the vivid glimpses of the day-to-day life of a police detective — the behind-the-scenes banter, the hopes and the doubts, the support and the rivalries. It kept me turning pages, just to spend more time in that world, and to learn how it all came out!

It’s intriguing to see that there’s an audiobook version for just $2.99 — and that the narrator tries to change his voice for each character to give them a distinct personality. At least a few of the characters return throughout the series, according to reviews I’ve read. (The other two books in the trilogy are Pattern of Wounds and Nothing to Hide.) Some of the murder-scene details are a bit gritty, but I thought they just helped to give the story an extra kick. And in the end, I’d say this book earned the highest compliment that you can give to a mystery novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.


For a shortcut to the book, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/BackOnMurder

Amazon Officially Recognizes Their Funniest Fake Reviews!

Amazon Front Page Recognizes Funny Fake Reviews

Customers have been posting funny fake reviews on Amazon for more than 15 years. But this Friday Amazon did something truly surprising. On the front page of Amazon, in big orange letters, they posted “You guys are really funny.” And then — next to a picture of a rubber horse head mask — Amazon linked to a list of some of the very best satirical reviews their customers have submitted over the years…

For a shortcut to the reviews, point your web browser to
tinyurl.com/FunnyFakeAmazonReviews

Here’s a few samples.

“I was very disappointed to have my uranium confiscated at the airport. It was a gift for my son for his birthday. Also, I’m in prison now, so that’s not good either…”

That’s for a product labeled simply “Uranium Ore” — a low-radioactivity sample being sold in a metal can for educational purposes. But that didn’t stop Amazon’s reviewers from imagining some alternative worst-case scenarios. “It is not cat food….” warned another reviewer in West Virginia. “The cat’s huge and well, doesn’t really look much like a cat anymore.”

“Enjoy this collection of some of the funniest, top-voted reviews written by your fellow customers,” Amazon writes at the top of their web page — though they also gently remind visitors that this is not how you’re supposed to write your reviews. “Helpful product reviews written by Amazon customers are the heart of Amazon.com,” the top of the web page explains, “and we treasure the customers who work hard to write them.

“But occasionally customer creativity goes off the charts in the best possible way…”


Horse Head Mask from Amazon
Horse Head Mask


“It’s not big enough to completely cover a horse’s head, and it doesn’t provide enough air flow for them, either.” — Selig7

“By wearing this mask, I was able to get anything and everything I needed. Plenty of hay, lots of time to run and, best of all, I no longer have to wear pants.” — T. C. Zimmermann


To be fair to the reviewers, it’s worth noting that some of these products really are pretty crazy – and their reviews are simply calling attention to that in the form of a parody. Here’s a list of the 10 products where Amazon’s acknowledging the fake reviews.


     Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer
     Three Wolf Moon T-Shirt
     BIC Cristal For Her Ball Pen
     Wheelmate Laptop Steering Wheel Desk
     Avery Durable View Binder
     Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 gal
     Uranium Ore
     Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable
     Accoutrements Horse Head Mask
     How to Avoid Huge Ships


Interestingly, the fake reviews seem to give these products a surprising amount of popularity. The book titled “How to Avoid Huge Ships” is now only available from third-party sellers, and the lowest asking price is $598.98.

And at least one of the fake reviews was voted as “Helpful” by a whopping 27,351 people. It was for the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer, a kitchen gadget that you press into a banana to instantly chop it into slices, and a reviewer named “Mrs Toledo” decided to make fun of its importance by sarcastically gushing about the device — in a review titled “Saved My Marriage”. (“My husband and I would argue constantly over who had to cut the day’s banana slices… The minute I heard our 6-year-old girl in her bedroom, re-enacting our daily banana fight with her Barbie dolls, I knew we had to make a change…”)

Amazon is even letting users nominate more reviews (or submit comments about the ones that Amazon picked) with a special form to the right of their web page. “Share your thoughts,” Amazon encourages their visitors, “or tell us about a funny review that you’d like to see on the list.” But what’s really fascinating is that often the review’s Amazon quotes weren’t even the most popular reviews for these ridiculous products. One review which Amazon didn’t quote for the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer actually racked up 47,799 “Helpful” votes .

Though I’m guessing Amazon may have felt its storyline got a little too wild…

“For decades I have been trying to come up with an ideal way to slice a banana. ‘Use a knife!’ they say. Well…my parole officer won’t allow me to be around knives. ‘Shoot it with a gun!’ Background check…HELLO…! Then, after a fit of banana-induced rage, my parole officer introduced me to this kitchen marvel and my life was changed. No longer consumed by seething anger and animosity towards thick-skinned yellow fruit, I was able to concentrate on my love of theatre and am writing a musical play about two lovers from rival gangs that just try to make it in the world….


Read all these funny, fake Amazon reviews at:
tinyurl.com/FunnyFakeAmazonReviews


And don’t forget: Amazon’s also offering a $40 discount on their Kindle Fire HD tablets through Sunday at:

tinyurl.com/KindleFireHD159

New $40 Discounts on Kindle Fire HD!

Kindle_Fire_HD_discount

Wow! Amazon’s just started offering a $40 discount on their Kindle Fire HD tablets! This is the high-definition version of their 7-inch color tablets, and it normally sells for $199. Amazon’s slashed the price to just $159 in what they’re describing as a “limited-time offer”.

For a shortcut to the sale, point your browser to:
tinyurl.com/KindleFireHD159

Amazon’s promising “the ultimate HD experience” — though what’s really strange is this high-definition version of the Kindle Fire now costs just as much as a plain Kindle Fire tablet (which Amazon’s also selling for $159)! But the HD tablet offers twice as much storage space — 16 gigabytes — even though it actually weighs 2 ounces less than Amazon’s original (non-high definition) Kindle Fire tablets. The high-def model also will last three hours longer than the original version without needing a recharge, according to the specs posted on its web page at Amazon. That’s 11 hours of continuous use — versus just 8.5 hours for the original Kindle Fire.

There’ve been rumors that Amazon’s about to release an even better model of their Kindle Fire tablets, and these discounts may just be part of a larger plan. When CNN’s Money site reported Amazon’s new $40 discounts, they reported “That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Considering Amazon has unveiled a new tablet in September of the past two years, chances are they’re just trying to clear out inventory before it rolls out an updated model.” And they also pointed out a big advantage with Amazon’s high-definition tablets. ..

I was never convinced that I needed a high-definition screen — even though it offers a high “pixel density” of up to 720 pixels per inch. But CNN’s Money site points out that’s a great feature if you read a lot of ebooks and magazines on your Kindle, because it reduces the strain on your eyes. Of course, you can also use the tablets for watching movies and TV shows, and playing the games that you’d usually play on your phone — but on a much wider screen. When I first got my Kindle Fire, I even told a friend of mine that there was really only one drawback to owning a color multimedia tablet-styel Kindle. “There’s so many more things to do on a tablet. How do people ever get back to just reading their ebooks?”

But if you’re already in the market for a high-definition Kindle, now you can get one for $40 less!

For a shortcut to the sale, point your browser to:
tinyurl.com/KindleFireHD159

Amazon Discounts 100 Kindle eBooks for $3.99 or Less!

Neal_Stephenson_2008
Science Fiction Author Neal Stephenson

Each month Amazon throws a big sale, with 100 new Kindle ebooks discounted to just $3.99 or less. But I’m really surprised this month by just how many of the ebooks I’d actually want to read! Here’s my picks for some of the most interesting ebooks discounted by Amazon for the month of August.


Check out all the great discounts at
tinyurl.com/399books

Reamde: A Novel by Neal Stephenson ($2.99)

Neal Stephenson is one of the best-known science fiction writers of his generation, and a pioneer in the “cyberpunk” genre. Now Amazon is describing his newest novel, Reamde, as “a high-stakes espionage thriller about a wealthy tech entrepreneur caught in the very real crossfire of his own online fantasy war game!” One reviewer called it one of 2011’s “smartest, fastest-moving, and most consistently enjoyable novels,” adding that it was “painstakingly-researched, deftly-plotted roller-coaster of gigabytes and gunplay, a pitch-perfect pastiche of Robert Ludlum or Tom Clancy-style techno-thrillers and a comment on contemporary digitality and the ubiquity of online interconnectivity


Factotum by Charles Bukowski ($2.99)

I was thrilled to discover Amazon was discounting another Charles Bukowski book for the Kindle this month — this one described as a “beer-soaked, deliciously degenerate novel” following an aspiring writer as he drifts across America, “always needing money but never badly enough to keep a job….as he makes his bitter, brilliant way from one drink to the next.” But then I noticed that Amazon’s Kindle Store was actually showing discounts for several of Bukowksi’s books — including many priced at just $1.99. Also on sale are the novels Women and Pulp (Bukowski’s last novel), as well as a collection of poetry (Love is a Dog From Hell<) and a collection of short stories called Hot Water Music. There’s even a nice introductory collection called Run With The Hunted: A Charles Bukowski Reader — priced at just $1.99. If you’ve never read any Charles Bukowski, this is a great month to give him a try on your Kindle!

Browse all of Amazon’s discounted Bukowski ebooks at
tinyurl.com/BukowskiEbooks


The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: A Novel by Ron Hansen ($2.99)

“I Shot Jesse James” has always been one of my favorite movie westerns, delving into the true story of the notoriety that clung to the man who claimed the reward for killing outlaw Jesse James — because he’d shot him in the back. Apparently that same story also fascinated author Ron Hansen, who’d already begun mixing stories about America’s Old West into the novels he was writing in the 1970s. When he turned his attention to the story of Robert Ford, his novel almost immediately became a finalist for the prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award for the best work of fiction of 1983. Nearly 25 years later, it was finally adapted into a movie (starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck), and was nominated for two Academy Awards. One Amazon reviewer this novel “a wonderful blend of history and narrative,” noting that the author’s extensive research — using old newspaper articles, courtroom transcripts, and memoirs — all helped to create an “intelligent, exceptionally well-written tale.”


Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West ($2.99)

It’s “one of the most shocking works of 20th century American literature,” according to the books description at Amazon, “as unnerving as a glob of black bile vomited up at a church social: empty, blasphemous,and horrific.” Miss Lonelyhearts starts innocently enough — a newspaper columnist is assigned to write an advice column answering questions from the paper’s readers, “but as time passes he begins to break under the endless misery of those who write in, begging him for advice.” This Kindle ebook pairs the novella with Nathanel West’s second most famous work, The Day of the Locust, another critical look at American society, and the ebook comes with a new introduction by author Jonathan Lethem (author of the novel Fortress of Solitude). When Modern Library created their prestigious list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century, Day of the Locust was ranked #73!


Remember: Check out all the great discounts at
tinyurl.com/399books

Amazon Loves Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut

I was surprised last week when Amazon had a special announcement about Kurt Vonnegut. And it was accompanied by discounts on some of his most famous books. Amazon’s also obtained the exclusive rights to seven previously-unpublished stories by the famous author. And right now, there’s even another short story by Kurt Vonnegut that’s available in Amazon’s Kindle Store for free!

Kurt Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five in 1969, and it was later hailed as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. But he’d already enjoyed earlier success in 1963 with a satirical science fiction fantasy novel called Cat’s Cradle. Its Kindle ebook edition is on sale now at Amazon for just $8.99.


For a shortcut, just point your web browser to
tinyurl.com/CatsCradleEbook

Amazon calls Cat’s Cradle Vonnegut’s “most ambitious novel,” and there’s a fun story about how it actually brought Vonnegut some recognition in a very surprising form. In the 1940s, Vonnegut had dropped out of the anthropology program at the University of Chicago after they’d rejected each idea he’d proposed for a thesis. “Twenty years later,” Vonnegut once told The Paris Review, “I got a letter from a new dean at Chicago, who had been looking through my dossier. Under the rules of the university, he said, a published work of high quality could be substituted for a dissertation, so I was entitled to an M.A. He had shown Cat’s Cradle to the anthropology department, and they had said it was halfway decent anthropology, so they were mailing me my degree!”

Amazon calls Cat’s Cradle “one of Vonnegut’s most entertaining novels…filled with scientists and G-men and even ordinary folks caught up in the game [who] chase each other around in search of the world’s most important and dangerous substance, a new form of ice that freezes at room temperature.” For an additional $3.95, you can also purchase the professionally-narrated audiobook edition of Cat’s Cradle on the same page. “At one time, this novel could probably be found on the bookshelf of every college kid in America,” Amazon writes in their review, adding “it’s still a fabulous read and a great place to start if you’re young enough to have missed the first Vonnegut craze.”

But it’s now also part of a fantastic project that Amazon has launched called Kindle Worlds. They’ve secured the legal right for authors to self-publish Kindle ebooks which are set in the fictional worlds created by other authors — including Kurt Vonnegut. “This is a natural extension of his legacy,” announced Donald C. Farber, a trustee of the Kurt Vonnegut Trust, “and a testament to the enduring popularity of his characters and stories.

“Billy Pilgrim, unstuck in time, is going to quickly become a Kindle Worlds favorite.”

The Kindle also has another connection to Kurt Vonnegut, according to Amazon’s press release. “In 2012, Amazon Publishing’s Kindle Serials released Sucker’s Portfolio, an exclusive serialized collection of seven previously unpublished works by Vonnegut.” Checking today, I see the 199-page collection is still available in the Kindle Store for just $3.99.

For a shortcut, just point your browser to
tinyurl.com/SuckersPortfolio

And there’s also some other great Vonnegut discounts on Vonnegut ebooks. Right now you can buy Welcome to the Monkey House as a Kindle ebook for just $8.99. This 354-page collection showcases some of Vonnegut’s great early short stories, some of which were originally published in science fiction magazines. Many of the others appeared in the most popular magazines of the 1950s, including Collier’s, Esquire, The Saturday Evening Post, and even Playboy.

For 99 cents, you can also buy a nice collection of two more short stories by Kurt Vonnegut — “The Big Trip Up Yonder” and “2 B R O 2 B”. But the second one is also available for free, with at least one Amazon reviewer calling it “A thought provoking short story.” In a future where the population has been stabilized at exactly 40 million people, every new birth requires that another life be displaced, according to their review, and “The easiest way to accomplish this is to call the Federal Bureau of Termination (phone number: 2 B R (naught) 2 B)…”

“You’ll have to read the story to find out what happens next…” they warn. adding “Just be sure to leave yourself a little time at the end to contemplate the story, and re-read or peruse various bits of it. You won’t be disappointed!”


For a shortcut to all of Amazon’s Kindle ebooks by Kurt Vonnegut,
just point your web browser to:

tinyurl.com/KurtVonnegutEbooks

Fun Friday eBooks!

Amazon Big Deal 99-cent ebook sale

I’ve been amazed by just how many discounts Amazon’s started offering on their Kindle ebooks. Right now there’s at least three different sales going on, plus at least one fascinating free ebook that just turned up in Amazon’s Kindle Store. And there was some surprising news about Amazon this week — including an article about how they’re pricing their books. Here’s some fun links to both the sales and the stories — to help you celebrate the arrival of the weekend with your Kindle!

Amazon Discounts 500 More eBooks!
The best discount is a surprise discount, and browsing Amazon this week I discovered a very special announcement: “The Big Deal: Kindle Books Up to 85% Off!” These deals are only available through this Sunday, August 4th, but there’s hundreds of ’em, and in lots of different categories. (Graphic Novels, Professional & Technical, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Humor & Entertainment…) And some ebooks have been discounted to just 99 cents!

For a shortcut to the sale, just point your browser to tinyurl.com/TheBigEbookDeal


A Free Kindle Single — interviewing President Obama!
“The phone rang last Thursday afternoon as the word came from the White House…” begins Amazon’s newest Kindle Single. President Barack Obama was visiting Chattanooga, Tennessee to visit Amazon’s fulfillment center for a speech about jobs and the American economy, and “Did Amazon’s Kindle Singles, by any chance, want to talk with him about it?” He ultimately sits down with the head of Amazon’s Kindle Singles program for a very candid 15-page interview. (“I think you’re the first president to have his credit card declined…” Amazon’s editor jokes at one point.) I enjoyed the sense of immediacy in this interview — it was conducted on Tuesday — and it’s already become Amazon’s #1 best-selling free Kindle ebook.

For a shortcut, just point your browser to
tinyurl.com/ObamaKindleInterview


Amazon Slashes Price on Best-Sellers
Publisher’s Weekly also noticed that Amazon’s begun offering big discounts on new best-sellers — at least, in the hardcover format. On Monday, the site reported, “Amazon.com quietly began discounting many bestselling hardcover titles between 50% and 65%, levels we’ve never seen in the history of Amazon or in the bricks-and-mortar price wars of the past.” The discounted books all come from major publishers, and “are far below the usual 40%-50% range sometimes offered by Amazon, warehouse clubs and other discounters and are more typical for remainders than frontlist hardcovers.” The article notes that sometimes the hardcover books are even cheaper than their Kindle editions, and one bookstore owner complained this was “an open declaration of war against the industry.” Discounted books include Inferno by Dan Brown, And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. And I was really surprised to see that the Kindle ebook edition of one best-seller was now priced at just $3.99 — The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (which Time magazine called the very best fiction book of 2012.)


Amazon Won an Emmy!
Yes, it’s true. This morning Amazon issued a press release announcing that they’d be receiving their very first Emmy Award for their Instant Video service. I’ve been enjoying Amazon Instant Video on my Kindle Fire, though you can also enjoy the same movies by accessing their page with a web browser — and Amazon’s creating their own original video programs, as well as offering a large library of movies and TV shows to choose from. The Emmy award isn’t for any TV show they created, but instead for Amazon’s whole “Instant Video” service, and the way it can offer personalized recommendations. (For example, “Customers who watched this also watched…”) Amazon’s press release points out that Amazon can also recommend TV shows (and movies) based on what kind of instant videos their customers have already watched in the recent past. And though YouTube received the same award earlier in the week, it’s still nice to see Amazon’s innovations being officially recognized by The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences!