Woman in bikini reading at beach in Amazon Kindle Paperwhite ad

Watching TV, I just spotted a brand new ad for the Kindle. (Amazon’s touting the Kindle Paperwhite, so their ad shows a woman in a bikini enjoying an ebook in a beach chair — while the unhappy people around her struggle to read their own tablets in the bright sunlight.) There’s a short shot of the clear, crisp letters on her Kindle’s screen, and it always makes me want to ask the same question.

So what ebook is she actually reading?

Fortunately, you can pause the video long enough to read some of the sentences — and if you type them into Google, you can reveal the secret answer. It turns out that the woman at the beach is deeply engrossed in a 434-page thriller by Gillian Flynn. It’s called Gone Girl, and it became a best-seller in 2012 just a few weeks after it was released, ultimately selling more than two million copies.

For a shortcut to the ebook, point your browser to

It tells a darkly intriguing story about an unhappy couple that’s been married for five years — when the wife suddenly goes missing on their fifth anniversary. That’s why the book is titled “Gone Girl”, and the title of the chapter being read in the Kindle ad is “THE DAY OF…”

“…through it, trying to catch and pin down her thoughts. What are you thinking, Amy? The question I’ve asked most often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person who could answer. I suppose these questions stormcloud over every marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?

My eyes flipped open at exactly six a.m. This was no avian flutter­ing of the lashes, no gentle blink toward consciousness. The awaken­ing was mechanical. A spooky ventriloquist-dummy click of the lids: The world is black and then, showtime! 6-0-0 the clock said—in my face, first thing I saw. 6-0-0. It felt different. I rarely woke at such a rounded time. I was a man of jagged risings: 8:43, 11:51, 9:26. My life was alarmless.

At that exact moment, 6-0-0, the sun climbed over the skyline of oaks, revealing its full summer angry-god self. Its reflection flared across the river toward our house, a long…”

You can read the whole chapter onlineNPR Books published a much longer excerpt back in May of 2012 when the thriller was first released. I cheated and read a summary of the book’s plot on its page on Wikipedia, and I’ll just say that as expected, this book definitely has a lot of plot twists! And apparently there’s also a movie version that’s in production starring Ben Affleck as the possibly-murderous husband!

But best of all, you won’t have any trouble reading this page-turning thriller in the bright sunlight at the beach — as long as you’re reading it on your Kindle!

For a shortcut to Gone Girl, point your browser to

President’s Day on the Kindle

February 17th, 2014

President Abraham Lincoln reading a book

All across of America, it’s “President’s Day”, and it’s got me remembering the day when I almost met President Clinton. He was helping a school in my town install the cables for internet access in 1996 — along with Al Gore — and I was covering the event for a local alternative newsweekly. Some of the volunteers that day wore t-shirts that said “I connected our kids to the future.” And in the teacher’s lounge, I’d found the left-behind remains of sandwich from a local deli, with the word “president” written on a plastic cover. (It was left behind under a sign which read “Your mother doesn’t work here, so clean up after yourself!”)

It was a weird moment, when I realized that when there’s a new technology, we’re all “pioneering” our way towards it together. And 16 years later, when that future finally arrived, I feel like we’d ended up doing it again, moving together as an invisible group, this time towards a new reading technology. Shortly after the inauguration of President Obama, CNN reported that former President Bush had returned to Texas, where he was “meeting the neighbors, making trips to the hardware store, and catching up on some reading via a Kindle.” The same article notes that his wife Laura had a Kindle too. And that same month, former vice president Dick Cheney revealed he also had a Kindle.

But it’s not just that the Kindle was being used by a handful of White House occupants. After receiving a $7 million advance, former president Bush soon released his new autobiography. By the end of its first day — counting pre-orders — he’d sold 220,000 copies and delivered nearly $4 million in book sales. But the former president also discovered that nearly 23% of his readers were buying it as an ebook!

A new world may be emerging — an accidental community of early adopters — since the publisher’s spokesman said the figures demonstrated the “rapid growth” of the ebook market. (I calculated that thatwas over half a million dollars worth of ebooks sold in a single day!) The publisher also revealed that at the time, it was their highest one-day sales in six years — since they’d published the autobiography of former president Bill Clinton. But there’s also something significant about the fact that even Clinton’s biography is now available as a Kindle ebook, along with several by Ronald Reagan, and even more by Jimmy Carter…

And in 2011, even president Obama released a new book — and also decided to make it available on the Kindle. It was a children’s book called Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to my Daughters, and it’s got its own perspective on the way America has changed. It looks back to past presidents like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but also ordinary citizens who made a difference, likeMartin Luther King Jr., Helen Keller, Georgia O’Keefe, and Jackie Robinson. It’s fun to think that this will be the first generation of children who may be reading these classic stories of American history on a Kindle!

The world keeps on changing, both in big ways and in small. (One political blog reported that President Bush now seems more interested in his iPad than his Kindle, and according to his wife Laura, he’s “constantly” playing the Scrabble app.) But 14 years ago, The Washington Post once reported, there was an even bigger challenge confronting ebook author Barack Obama: obscurity! “In the summer of 2000 when he flew from Chicago to Los Angeles for the Democratic convention and no one knew him, his credit card bounced, and he left after a forlorn day hanging out as an unimportant face lost in the power-lusting crowd.”

It all goes to show that a lot can change in 14 years — both for politicians, as well as the rest of us!

Valentine’s Day Fun on the Web!

February 14th, 2014

Roses on an Amazon gift card

It’s Valentine’s Day all around the world — and some of the celebration has even found its way to the web. Amazon is sharing some fun ideas for last-minute Valentine’s Day gifts, and there’s also an ebook sale at Barnes and Noble, plus some special offerings from Google and O’Reilly Media!

“It’s Not Too Late” read a headline this morning on the front page of Amazon. They’re offering specially-designed gift cards with a Valentine’s Day theme that you can print out (today!) as a gift for your sweetheart. (And for some of the cards, they’ll even let you include your own picture!) But for an even fancier twist, they’ll let you deliver your digital Valentine’s Day gift certificate via Facebook — and one of their choices is a full-motion “Video Starring You”. You upload photos of yourself and the ones you love to, in Amazon’s words, “Create a hilarious JibJab video starring you or your friends.” (One of them features Sonny & Cher’s classic ’60s love duet “I’ve Got You Babe” — and the video splices your photos onto the bodies of two hippie flower children! )

Jib Jab video of Sonny and Cher singing I Got You Babe

Some of the other digital gift cards are also animated (like this lovely cartoon from Hallmark showing two doves kissing…) In fact, there’s more than 350 cards to choose from — though that’s their entire selection for the year, so some have a “birthday” theme or make specific mentions of other holidays. Of course, Amazon’s also offering a discount today on their Kindle Fire tablets. Amazon’s giving an $80 discount today on their big 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD (or $40 off on their newer Kindle Fire HDX). And the smaller 7-inch tablets have also been discounted, too — a Kindle Fire HD now costs just $124 today, and the Kindle Fire HDX is just $199…)

For a shortcut, just point your web browser to

Amazon Holiday Sale on Kindle Fire HDX

But Amazon’s not the only one who’s getting into the holiday spirit. If you visit the web site for O’Reilly Media today, you’ll discover that their technology ebook sale has a special Valentine’s Day twist. Their offering a 50% discount on any of their books which have a cover that’s pink! “This year, forego the mushy cards and chocolates and get to the heart of your passion,” reads the tongue-in-cheek message on their web site. (“From Python to Git to Erlang to C — and everything in between — these titles are sure to excite….”)

And if instead you’re the kind of geek more interested in mobile gaming, the Nook Store is giving away a free app today that plays 12 different card games — all for single players — “now including special Valentine’s Day graphics!” (And their discounted ebook of the day is complete box set of the Stars of Mithra trilogy by best-selling romance author Nora Roberts — all three volumes for just $2.14.)

This morning I noticed that even Google’s getting into the fun. Their Google Play Store has discounted five “romance reads” to just 99 cents, and they’ve also got a free video from Walt Disney studios with a Valentine’s Day theme. They’re also touting a “75% Off” sale on inspiring biographies that lasts all weekend long. But there’s also a very special animation on the Google home page with a very touching message. There’s six candy hearts, but when you click on them, a poignant audio clip starts to play. “For Valentine’s Day, as people everywhere search for love — something a search engine might not be the ideal tool for — each of these candy hearts brings you a true story of love,” begins the narration by “This American Life”. But then it switches to the voices of real people, who describe when they first fell in love.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!

Amazon vs. The Daily Show

February 9th, 2014

John Goodman represents Amazon on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

It’s always fun when the Kindle works its way into the public discussion — and Amazon too. Right now Kindle Fire owners can watch a new sitcom starring John Goodman just by going to “Videos” on their Kindle Fire tablets. It’s called Alpha House, and that same show is also available on the web. (For a shortcut, point your web browser to tinyurl.com/GoodmanShow )

The first three episodes are free for anyone, and the whole series is available free to members of Amazon’s “Prime” shipping service. But this all led to a fun conversation that I’d like to stow away in a time capsule. John Goodman appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to promote this Amazon-only series. And it perfectly captures that moment in time when the world realized: wait, Amazon is producing TV shows?!

Jon Stewart was baffled…

JON STEWART: How does this Amazon thing — I didn’t know Amazon did — did, uh, uh, television shows. Is that a…you click on the site? (Audience laughs) Is that — how… Is that how it happens? Can you use –

JOHN GOODMAN: I don’t know! (They both laugh) I don’t know! I’m selling their product…I’m just a cog in their machine of world domination! I just — as long as they out-point Walmart, I’m cool. No, I uh — there’s a gizmo you buy with Amazon, and then you get free TV with it.

STEWART: Oh this is — so it runs only on the Amazon?

GOODMAN: Yes, as far as I know. (Eyes dart nervously. Audience laughs…)

To watch their whole interview online, you can point your web browser to tinyurl.com/AmazonDailyShow. But what’s really interesting is that John Goodman was wrong! You can also watch Amazon Instant Video on the web (where the first three episodes of his show are already available for free)… The first episode even opens with a funny cameo by Bill Murray!

But then the interview gets into an interesting discussion about how the show is created — and the differences between online and broadcast television.

STEWART: Did they — let me ask you a question. If we go on real TV, we gotta bleep all the **** words out. And that’s the only pleasure of doing television these days, let’s just face it.

GOODMAN: It really is.

STEWART: So here’s how you know if it’s real or not. Do they pay you in Amazon points? If they pay you in Amazon points…

GOODMAN: Who doesn’t get paid in Amazon points?

STEWART: How did they — who was the creator of this program? How did this all…

GOODMAN: Garry Trudeau, the creator of Doonesbury

STEWART: (Audience applauds). Tremendous. That’s wonderful.

GOODMAN: He writes these incredible scripts. They’re very funny, and, uh, Jonathan Alter…

STEWART: Oh yeah!

GOODMAN: Yeah, The great political writer.

STEWART: Writer for Newsweek, and he’s written many different books…

GOODMAN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s a producer, he’s got the political angle on everything, he’s great to have around.

STEWART: That’s awesome. Trudeau is one of those guys, like my heroes, that — growing up and reading Doonesbury and just marvelling at the way he would take these storylines and carry them all the way through with the — you know, the quarterback who’s — working in — all the way through, in Vietnam and everything else. Remarkable guy.

GOODMAN: With the disabled veterans now. It’s an incredible ear. He’s a great writer.

STEWART: Is he on the set? Because I, you always…

GOODMAN: Crossing T’s and dotting I’s!

STEWART: Is he really?!

GOODMAN: Yeah! Yeah… “Well, you left an ‘and’ out of that sentence, John.”

“Hey man, you went to Yale. I don’t argue with that!”

The interview winds down — Goodman says fondly that he went to a state college, and Jon Stewart ends the segment with a burst of enthusiasm. “There you go, brother! John Goodman — never bad in anything.” But maybe because we’re in a unique place in internet history — or because online shopping has become such a phenomenon — they still couldn’t resist making one last joke about Amazon.

STEWART: Alpha House premiers on Amazon.com November 15th, you can watch the first three episodes for free! That’s not a bad deal.


STEWART: And then, uh, you ultimately end up, uh, ordering a power washer! For no apparent reason.

GOODMAN: But they’re damn good power washers!

The Everything Store - cover of Brad Stone book about Amazon

Brad Stone wrote a new book about about Amazon, and it’s already stirred up a controversy. I enjoyed Stone’s radio interview on Marketplace, but apparently Amazon isn’t one of Stone’s fans. “He had every opportunity to thoroughly fact check and bring a more balanced viewpoint to his narrative,” complains Amazon’s Vice President of Global Communications, “but he was very secretive about the book and simply chose not to.” And one of Stone’s detractors turns out to be the wife of Amazon’s CEO!

In an interesting twist, Mackenzie Bezos is expressing her displeasure with a negative one-star review of the author’s book on Amazon! And it opens with her own vivid and heartfelt perspective on the man she’s been married to for 20 years. “I worked for Jeff at D. E. Shaw, I was there when he wrote the business plan, and I worked with him and many others represented in the converted garage, the basement warehouse closet, the barbecue-scented offices, the Christmas-rush distribution centers, and the door-desk filled conference rooms in the early years of Amazon’s history…”

Her review is titled “I wanted to like this book”, and it’s already received 3,154 “helpful” votes from other Amazon customers. er first complaint is there’s inaccuracies in the book which contradict her own her firsthand memories of the Amazon story. And her second complaint is the negative quotes about the tension in executive meetings create a “lopsided and misleading portrait” of the culture at Amazon. So for balance, she presents some warm and positive quotes drawn from a personal collection — “an archive of the thousands of thank you messages written to Jeff over the years”.

I cried as I read the Career Choice announcement on Amazon today. What Amazon is doing to help its employees is affecting lives in the most meaningful way I can think of. It restores my faith in humanity…

Mrs. Bezos acknowledges that some people in the book describe a “supportive and inspiring culture”, but argues that the author dismisses them as robots throughout the book. And her third complaint is the book speculates about what Jeff Bezos was thinking or feeling, writing that “Hollywood often uses a more honest label: ‘a story based on true events.’” But in the end she points out one of the miracles of life on the internet. Since this book is about real people, the “characters” in the book can step forward “and speak for themselves!”

For example, she cites another review of the book posted on Amazon by Rick Dalzell, who was Amazon’s Chief Information Officer at Amazon for 10 years starting in 1997. “Brad Stone did a lot of research and the result is a glimpse into the history of one of the world’s most exciting companies,” Dalzell acknowledges, though he’s titled his review “Intriguing stories, incomplete and unbalanced history,” and awarded the book just three stars. Dalzell was actually interviewed for the book (along with 300 past and current Amazon employees), and he devotes a whole paragraph to debunking Stone’s interpretation of what it means when Jeff Bezos laughs. “Jeff’s laugh is spontaneous, sincere, warm and endearing. It diffuses stressful situations.” In Stone’s book, Dalzell is cited as saying that Bezos “often” wields the laugh to punish people who aren’t meeting his high standards…

“While I found [the book] rather interesting, lots of stories are missing or just inaccurate. Brad painted a one-dimensional picture of Jeff as a ruthless capitalist. He completely missed his warmth, his humor, and his empathy — all qualities abundantly present in the man.”

And Mrs. Bezos also applauded another review of the book posted on Amazon by Jonathan Leblang, who actually went to high school with Amazon’s founder, and has since become the director of the company’s Lab126 in Menlo Park. He awarded the book four stars, calling it “Interesting, but flawed,” saying it was interesting to see how the company where he worked would be seen by an outsider — but that there were mistakes.

“[A]s with any book where the subject is not an active participant, the book is slanted toward those episodes where Stone can find someone to talk about them. And of course, he includes that which supports his thesis… Overall, from the parts that I know about, about 80% is correct and 20% isn’t (often in details, but incorrect nonetheless). That, of course, taints my view of the book as a whole, because I have to assume that 20% of the stuff I don’t have personal knowledge of is also incorrect.

But even with his concerns about accuracy, he still managed to find something positive (and funny) about The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.

“That said, I would still recommend the book (and especially the picture of Jeff in High School!)”

Check out the book (and the reviews) for The Everything Store:
Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

Ben Stiller reads The Secret Life of Walter Mitty in a free audiobook

Amazon is giving away a free new audiobook edition of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s read by Ben Stiller, the star of the big Hollywood remake of the story that was just released in December. “Discover the story that inspired the film,” reads an announcement posted on the front page of Amazon — and it looks like the whole project was a labor of love.

For a shortcut to the free audiobook, just point your browser to

You can listen to it on any Kindle Fire tablet, or even on your smartphone, using Amazon’s “Audible” app. And I thought the audiobook was surprisingly effective, with Ben Stiller giving a thoughtful performance and showing some real affection for the characters. He not only starred in the new $90-million film — he was also the movie’s director. I wondered what it must’ve felt like to be involved in such an elaborate project that’s all about realizing your dreams – and you can tell from the audiobook that Stiller’s given this a lot of thought!

He’s reading the very first version of this story by James Thurber, which appeared in The New Yorker in 1939. But it’s interesting to remember that Hollywood spent the last 20 years trying to create a worthwhile movie remake for this classic American short story. Steven Spielberg was interested in the project, according to Wikipedia, and so were other famous Hollywood directors like Ron Howard and Gore Verbinski. Actors considered for the lead included Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Owen Wilson, and even Sacha Baron Cohen… But when all the dust had finally settled, it was Ben Stiller who was starring in the movie — and directing it.

“We all have something inside us waiting to get out,” Stiller says, adding that “all it takes is the courage to stop dreaming and start living.” And then there he is, at the center of a story about a man who spends his life looking at photographs of other people’s journeys — and daring to imagine something more. I just have to say that having seen the movie, I really loved all of its new plot twists. (And especially the way Stiller used the song “Major Tom”…)

One of the most inspiring things about the movie was its artwork, and it’s nice to see it used as the icon for this audiobook. But there’s something special in this audiobook, as the narrator seems to show a special fondness for the same character that he’d played himself. It must’ve been fun to read, since you get to act out all the dialogue from Mitty’s elaborate fantasies. (Stiller delivers a good reading of the line “ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa….”) But as his voice changes to suggest the transition from daydream to reality, I also thought I detected some real affection for the gentle domestic moments of the 1939 couple.

“Not too fast! You’re driving too fast,” says Mrs. Mitty. But whether you’re hearing the original story or watching the 2013 remake, the message is the same.

“We all have something inside of us waiting to get out…”

For a shortcut to the free audiobook, just point your browser to

Ben Stiller reads free Audible audiobook of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Amazon's next new secret Kindle project

Amazon’s hiring engineers to build a brand new product, which they’re predicting “will be bigger than Kindle!” I didn’t even know there was a department at Amazon that was called “Kindle New Initiatives” — but there is, and they’re hosting a meet-and-greet event at their lab in Massachusetts just next Friday. “I hate to help Amazon hire even more people in Cambridge who will no longer return my phone calls or e-mails,” joked a Boston technology columnist, “but this is a pretty intriguing description of what they’re up to…”

He quotes an earlier invitation from Amazon promising that they’re building “a new revolutionary Version 1 product that will allow us to deliver Digital Media to customers in new ways and disrupt the current marketplace.” And the clues are starting to pile up. When Amazon opened this lab in 2011, they announced new hires would be working with Amazon’s “digital products” team — the group responsible for Kindle ebooks, as well as Amazon’s Instant Video (and all the mp3s in their digital music store), plus Amazon’s “cloud” storage service.

So who’s in Amazon’s crosshairs? Some have suggested it’s “an A-Phone” — Amazon’s own version of an iPhone (which woould play digital media like music and videos, but would also let you access your library of Kindle ebooks). While I believe Amazon will enter the phone market at some point, I just don’t think they’d use the word “disruptive” to describe it. A better slogan for what Amazon’s working on might be…

“I Want My A-TV”

It started with a question. Why is Amazon producing TV shows? For the past few years they’ve been “greenlighting” new shows, which are only avalable on the web and on Kindle Fire tablets. It’s a weird business model — unless Amazon was already secretly envisioning a much larger audience for the shows they’re creating. So maybe Amazon is releasing a device that plugs right into your TV, letting you stream all the movies and TV shows that are available from Amazon.

It could be just like Google Chromecast — except Amazon has a lot more video to distribute. Instead of YouTube videos, you could watch all of the shows in Amazon’s “Instant Video” library — everything from Duck Dynasty and The Daily Show to new movies (along with Amazon’s original programming). Amazon would instantly become “the new NetFlix”, and The Motley Fool is already arguing that Amazon “is in a better position to compete with Netflix for the 49 and up age group, which is where much of the remaining growth of streaming video will occur.” Plus, people wouldn’t even have to sign up for the new service (since most of them would probably have an Amazon account already). And this opens up a fascinating new possibility: TV shopping.

Imagine browsing Amazon’s site on your wide-screen, high-definition television set. Amazon’s already encouraging ontent providers to include videos for the products they distribute — which may suggest they’ve been thinking about video shopping. In fact, one Amazon page already points out that the products that see the biggest increase in sales tend to have “innovative or complex features” — and they give the example of several expensive pieces of technology. Customers may be more likely to purchase a product if they’d seen video footage about the way it works, which would mean even bigger sales for Amazon. It seems like they’d have to be intrigued by the prospect of an even better way to sell things to online shoppers, and for customers it’d be an exciting new 21st-century kind of expaerience — watching giant video demos of the products you want to buy.

And then completing the purchase with your remote!

Kindle Fire HDX sale

Amazon’s just announced a big sale on their Kindle Fire HDX — a $30 discount. But it expires at midnight today, and they’re offering the sale for what appears to be a very surprising reason. “Game on, $30 off,” reads the text linking to Amazon’s discounted tablet, next to a doodle showing three NFL football players.

It’s like they’re celebrating Seattle’s victory Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers, and Seattle’s biggest opportunity yet to finally win the Super Bowl.

For a shortcut to Amazon’s special offer, point your browser to tinyurl.com/GameOn30 . (Enter the promotional code “GameOn30″ to claim the $30 discount). It’s for the 7-inch model, bringing its price down to just $199. Earlier this month a reviewer for ZDNet even declared Amazon’s newest tablet was “far better than an iPad”!

But I had to laugh when I saw Amazon’s doodle of the football players, because most of my friends were rooting for San Francisco! For the third year in a row, the 49ers suffered yet another heartbreaking defeat in their post-season, each one capped with a spectacularly unsuccessful play that left them missing out on Super Bowl glory yet again. So I wonder what my friends would think if they’d logged onto Amazon.com this morning. Its front page was taunting them with a playful doodle of two hapless tackles from the San Francisco 49ers trying in vain to stop Seattle’s charging running back!

To be fair, I’ve heard other football fans saying they’re delighted that a team who has never won the Super Bowl will be getting a chance this year. (Seattle also has the distinction of being the only team to play in championship games for both the AFC and the NFC.) According to Wikipedia, their stadium even holds the Guinness World Record for the loudest crowd noises ever recorded. The team acknowledges their loyal and noisy fans as “the 12th man” on the field, and even raise a flag in the fan’s honor before the start of ever home game. But maybe they’ve also got another secret fan.

Maybe the 13th man is Amazon!

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today all across America, people are celebrating Martin Luther King Day. And it’s interesting to see how this national holiday even seems to find its way into the Kindle. I was surfing the web on my Kindle Fire when I found the complete text and video of King’s most famous and inspiring speech. And searching Amazon’s Kindle Store also turned up 14 different ebooks that let you remember the words of the famous 1960s activist for civil rights — most of them now available for just than $10.

For a shortcut to Amazon’s Martin Luther King ebooks, go to tinyurl.com/KindleMLK. But not only can you read the “I Have a Dream” speech on several free web pages. One site even accompanies the speech’s text with an actual audio recording of King himself delivering the speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963! It’s wonderful to hear his voice rise and tremble with emotion, as the audience joins in with encouragement.

In front of a crowd of 250,000 marchers, King was reading from his prepared text, when a moment happened that changed his speech into something even more powerful. On the stage with him was gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, and as he read from his prepared remarks, Mahilia shouted out “Tell them about the dream, doctor…” She repeated it, one participant remembered later, and King was moved to improvise a more powerful message. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’…

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character… This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day…

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Martin Luther King was a truly inspirational speaker. (According to Wikipedia, it was ranked the greatest American speech of the 20th century in a survey of 137 American academicians who study public speaking.) But it’s important to remember that was just one speech in a longer career of activism. One of King’s most eloquent works was his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. It’s part of a longer book — titled Why We Can’t Wait — which became a best-seller when it was released in 1963. And 50 years later, it’s now available as a Kindle ebook.

There’s also two collections of King’s speech — A Knock at Midnight and A Call to Conscience. Both books include introductions for each speech written by other spiritual and political leaders, including the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Senator Ted Kennedy. I’m tempted to purchase the audiobook version, so I can listen to it on my Kindle Fire.

There’s also an audiobook version of Martin Luther King’s autobiography — read by Levar Burton — as well as a Kindle ebook. And it does give me a warm feeling to see people remembering his life and his works. Browsing Amazon’s selection of the works of Dr. King, I even discovered a poignant children’s picture book that was based on his “I Have a Dream” speech. It opens with a lovely watercolor of the crowd gathering around the Lincoln Memorial on a sunny day, and excerpts some of the speech’s most important passages. “I say to you today, my friends, that even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream…” the book begins.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’… ”

Mark Twain writes a play with Bret Harte

When the New Year started in 2014, I’d wanted to honor a Kindle tradition I started nearly four years ago. It’s remembering one of my favorite memories about books, a special moment when time itself seemed to magically turn into something that you could hold in your hands. It gave me a feeling that I’ll never forget about books…and about the authors who write them. And for a second “history” seemed to be another word for a special glow that you could actually feel…

And it also led to a few fun free Kindle ebooks!

This adventure all started a few years ago, when I was surfing the web and discovered that Mark Twain had once co-authored a play with a forgotten writer named Bret Harte. (Once their legendary meeting was even depicted in the ad for Old Crow whiskey pictured above). Here’s how Twain himself described it.

“Well, Bret came down to Hartford and we talked it over, and then Bret wrote it while I played billiards, but of course I had to go over it to get the dialect right. Bret never did know anything about dialect…”

In fact, “They both worked on the play, and worked hard,” according to Twain’s literary executor. One night Harte apparently even stayed up until dawn at Twain’s house to write a different short story for another publisher. (“He asked that an open fire might be made in his room and a bottle of whiskey sent up, in case he needed something to keep him awake… At breakfast-time he appeared, fresh, rosy, and elate, with the announcement that his story was complete.”) I was delighted to discover that 134 years later, that story was still available on the Kindle, “a tale which Mark Twain always regarded as one of Harte’s very best.”

Bret Harte’s short story (as a free Kindle ebook)

Biography of Mark Twain by his executor (as a free Kindle ebook)

Right before Christmas, I wrote about how Harte’s words had already touched another famous writer — Charles Dickens. Before his death, 58-year-old Dickens had sent a letter inviting Bret Harte for a visit in England. But ironically, that letter didn’t arrive until after young Harte had already written a eulogy marking Dickens’ death. It was a poem called “Dickens in Camp,” suggesting that to the English oaks by Dickens’ grave, they should also add a spray of western pine for his fans in the lost frontier mining towns of California…

But two of Harte’s famous short stories had already captured Dickens’ attention — “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” and “The Luck of Roaring Camp.” John Forster, who was Dickens’ biographer, remembers that “he had found such subtle strokes of character as he had not anywhere else in later years discovered… I have rarely known him more honestly moved.” In fact, Dickens even felt that Harte’s style was similar to his own, “the manner resembling himself but the matter fresh to a degree that had surprised him.”

The Luck of Roaring Camp and other stories
Forster’s Life of Charles Dickens (Kindle ebook)

So on one chilly November afternoon, I’d finally pulled down a dusty volume of Bret Harte stories from a shelf at my local public library. I’d had an emotional reaction to “The Outcasts of Poker Flats” — and an equally intense response to “The Luck of Roaring Camp.” But Harte’s career had peaked early, and it seems like he spent his remaining decades just trying to recapture his early success. (“His last letters are full of his worries over money,” notes The Anthology of American Literature, along with “self-pitying complaints about his health, and a grieving awareness of a wasted talent.”) Even in the 20th century, his earliest stories still remained popular as a source of frontier fiction — several were later adapted into western movies. But Harte never really achieved a hallowed place at the top of the literary canon.

Yet “The Luck of Roaring Camp” ultimately became the very first ebook that I’d ever ordered on my Kindle. (I’d been looking for print editions, but hadn’t found a single one at either Borders, Barnes and Noble, or a local chain called Bookstores, Inc.) It was several days later that I’d decided to try my public library, where I discovered a whole shelf of the overlooked novelist (including an obscure later novel called The Story of a Mine). And that’s when I noticed the date that the library had stamped on its inside cover.

“SEP 21 1905.”

Bret Harte library book - checked out in 1905Close-up of library check-out date for Bret Harte book

I felt like I was holding history in my hand. The book was published just three years after Harte’s death in 1902, and there was an old-fashioned card, in a plastic pocket glued to the inside cover, which showed some of the past check-out dates, including FEB 12 1923 and APR 8 1923.

Bret Harte library book - old check-out datesCheck-out dates for old library book

More than a century later, my local librarians had tagged this ancient book with an RFID chip so you could check it out automatically just by running it across a scanner. A computerized printer spit out a receipt, making sure that the book wouldn’t remotely trigger their electronic security alarm when it was carried past the library’s anti-theft security gates.

I hope that somewhere, that makes Bret Harte happy.

The Everything Store - cover of Brad Stone book about Amazon

I love listening to the radio — and last month I heard a wonderful interview about the man who founded Amazon. Brad Stone has just written a new book about the company (after interviewing more than half a dozen senior Amazon executives). And it was really fun to hear him talking about what he’d learned with Kai Ryssdal, the enthusiastic host of Marketplace on public radio.

To listen to the interview, just point your browser to

Amazon “is a force — maybe the force — in the retail economy today,” begins the segment. But soon the interviewer has honed in on a fascinating personal detail about Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon. “There’s a thread that runs through this book — you mention it early, and you mention it often. It’s part of Bezos’s personality, I guess you would say. And since this is radio, we’re just going to hit you with a little bit of it here, and then I want to talk about it.”

And then he played the sound of Jeff Bezo laughing…!

” ‘Jeff Bezos’s laugh,’ you write, ‘precedes him down the hallway. You hear it in meetings, it will come after a volcanic outburst of temper. I mean, it’s this defining thing for him.’ ”

It’s a great way to start they’re discussion, and the author points out that Jeff’s laugh is unusual in another way. Brad Stone has personally spoken to Jeff Bezos, and “He’s not always laughing with you. It’s difficult to put your finger on, but one of his colleagues literally said, ‘He’s punishing you.’ It’s that his standards are so high, and his intellect is so fierce, that sometimes it’s you’re not catching up with him. And that is what he finds funny!”

I wonder what he talked about with Jeff Bezos (since reportedly the book is based more on his interviews with other Amazon executives). And the radio interviewer moves to a second observation — that for people who work at the company, it’s not always pleasant. “He doesn’t want it to be a country club for his employees,” the author counters, saying that the extra pressure is “by design… [Bezos] wants everyone giving the proverbial 110% percent.”

And there’s a good side to that too, the author points out in the interview. Besides Amazon’s slightly elevated turnover rate, “It also might be why this is a company that has achieved so much over the last two decades.”

But the most interesting part of the interview was about Amazon Web Services, the massive online platform which lets companies offer services and storage from “the cloud” — all hosted on Amazon’s own servers. “You say — and I agree with you — that [Jeff Bezos] has changed the world, and he’s done that just with Amazon.com, the retail shopping site, and he’s changed our behavior. But there are a couple of things that sort of have come from that that arguably have changed the world even more… This idea of us all living in ‘the cloud’ — which now we take for granted — started with Bezos and Amazon, in some degree.”

The author notes that NetFlix uses Amazon Web Services, but then brings up an even more impressing customer — the CIA! “Amazon just won a contract against IBM. The CIA will soon be running its operations on Amazon’s servers. A bookseller! And now they’re running the government!”

“Wow… Think about that for a minute,” the interviewer responds….

Next, their conversation turns to Amazon Prime — and both the author and the interviewer admit that they’re already subscribers. “It makes it really easy to buy stuff off of Amazon,” the interviewer says.

“It turns you into an Amazon addict,” the author responds (to which the interviewer agrees). “I think it’s a little CostCo, in a way, buried inside Amazon. CostCo magically has this business model where you have to pay to shop there — a good business, if you can get it. And now the same is true of Amazon. You’re paying $79 a year for the luxury of spending even more money on all these add-on services!”

The interviewer actually mutters, “Now you’re making me feel stupid, man.”

And the author just replies, “Well, I pay it too…”

The book is called The Everything Store:
Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

Get a Kindle Fire HD for $109

January 10th, 2014

Amazon voted #1 in customer satisfaction

“Just Announced” reads the headline on Amazon’s front page. Amazon’s discounted their high-definition Kindle Fire tablets to just $109. And they’re offering $30 off on every Kindle Fire tablet for the next two days.

For a shortcut, point your browser to

It’s a two-day offer — so it expires at midnight on Saturday night. (That’s Pacific Standard Time — basically, “midnight in Seattle”.) Amazon’s limited the deal to just one discounted tablet per customer, and they caution that it’s only available “while supplies last”. But in a special announcement on Amazon’s home page, they’ve tied the offer to an important milestone for the company. Amazon was voted #1 in customer satisfaction — for the 9th year in a row!

It’s based on a survey of over 67,000 shoppers between November 29th and December 17th. The survey asked about their satisfaction shopping at the top 100 retailers, and there was a big surprise in the results. Amazon actually achieved a 90% satisfaction rate — the highest score ever recorded by the survey. And besides high marks for online shopping, Amazon also scored “significantly out front” of the other retailers when it came to shopping on a mobile device!

“To achieve such high customer satisfaction scores and sustain them over time is a remarkable feat,” the study concluded, “that remains unmatched by any other e-retailer.” It also hinted that customers now expect better service from retailers, but that Amazon is still keeping up with those expectations, and is “truly setting a new bar for an excellent customer experience.” Of course after such a glowing review, Amazon wanted to make sure that people noticed. So they’ve created a special page with the most positive quotes. And they’re linking to it in their home-page announcement about the big Kindle Fire discounts.

“To say thank you,” reads the announcement, “we’re taking $30 off all Kindle Fire tablets…” (Just be sure to enter the promo code MAYDAY30 when completing your purchase.) “Amazon voted #1 in customer satisfaction 9 years running…” read the big bold letters at the top of the page — under that little orange banner that says “Just announced”.

And on the picture of the discounted Kindle Fire, they’ve drawn the word “Thanks!”

Amazon writes thanks on discounted Kindle Fire


Another year has gone by — and Amazon’s released a fascinating new list revealing which books which most popular in 2013. But they’re not just looking at the Kindle best-sellers (or the print best-sellers). Amazon’s combined print and ebook sales, and calculated which books were read more than any others last year — regardless of their format!

For a shortuct to Amazon’s list, point your browser to

Here’s Amazon’s list of the 20 best-selling books of 2013.

1. Inferno by Dan Brown
2. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
3. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
4. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
5. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
6. The Hit by David Baldacci
7. Sycamore Row by John Grisham
8. Entwined with You by Sylvia Day
9. Never Go Back by Lee Child
10. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
11. Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson
12. Doctor Sleep> by Stephen King
13. 12th of Never by James Patterson
14. Damaged: The Ferro Family by H.M. Ward
15. Killing Jesus: A History by Bill O’Reilly
16. Second Honeymoon by James Patterson
17. Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts
18. The Billionaire’s Obsession: The Complete Collection by J.S. Scott
19. Surrender Your Love by J.C. Reed
20. Six Years by Harlan Coben

The first thing you notice is that James Patterson is really popular. He wrote four of the 20 most popular titles of 2013. But the second thing you notice is he’s not nearly as popular in print. Just one of those four books made it onto Amazon’s list of the top 100 best-selling print books of 201312th of Never (which came in at #77).

And yet six James Patterson titles are among Amazon’s top 100 best-selling Kindle ebooks of 2013. In fact, all six of them are in the top 60, and three of them made it into the top 15 !

Alex Cross, Run (#10)
12th of Never (Women’s Murder Club) (#12)
Second Honeymoon (#13)
Gone (Michael Bennett) (#40)
Mistress (#53)
Private Berlin (#55)

The moral of the story is probably that 2013 was a good year for James Patterson. He even landed another book on Amazon’s list of the best-sellers in their “Kids & Teens” category — a mystery novel titled Confessions: The Private School Murders. Maybe Amazon moved it onto their “Kids & Teens” list to try to free up a spot for another author who wasn’t James Patterson. But another message might be that in order to make it onto Amazon’s best-seller list — you had to sell a lot of Kindle ebooks.

I took another look at Amazon’s list of the best-selling Kindle ebooks of 2013, which offers convincing proof about the importance of ebooks sales. In fact, for a moment, I had to confirm that I was reading the right list, because Amazon’s list of Kindle ebook best-sellers is nearly identical to Amazon’s list of the overall bestsellers for 2013. In many cases, a book ranked much lower on Amazon’s list of print best-sellers — but still earned a high rank on the overall list because of its high position on the list of the best-selling Kindle ebooks. And amazingly, some of their overall best-selling titles for the year didn’t even appear anywhere on Amazon’s list of the top 100 best-selling print titles.

Here’s Amazon’s list of the best-selling Kindle ebooks of 2013

1 Inferno: A Novel (Robert Langdon) by Dan Brown
                                   [#1 on Overall list]
                                   [#2 on Print list]

2. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
                                   [#4 on Overall list]
                                   [Not on Print list]

3. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
                                   [#3 on Overall list]
                                   [#12 on Print list]

4. And the Mountains Echoed: A Novel by Khaled Hosseini
                                   [#2 on Overall list]
                                   [#4 on Print list]

5. The Hit (Will Robie) by David Baldacci
                                   [#6 on Overall list]
                                   [#40 on Print list]

6. Sycamore Row by John Grisham
                                   [#7 on Overall list]
                                   [#15 on Print list]

7. Entwined with You (A Crossfire Novel) by Sylvia Day
                                   [#8 on Overall list]
                                   [#24 on Print list]

8. Never Go Back: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child
                                   [#9 on Overall list]
                                   [#38 on Print list]

9. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
                                   [#10 on Overall list]
                                   [#53 on Print list]

10. Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson
                                   [#11 on Overall list]
                                   [Not on Print list]

11. Damaged: The Ferro Family by H.M. Ward
                                   [#14 on Overall list]
                                   [Not on Print list]

12. 12th of Never (Women’s Murder Club) by James Patterson
                                   [#13 on Overall list]
                                   [#65 on Print list]

13. Second Honeymoon by James Patterson
                                   [#16 on Overall list]
                                   [Not on Print list]

14. The Billionaire’s Obsession: The Complete Collection Boxed Set (Mine For Tonight, Mine For Now, Mine Forever, Mine Completely) by J.S. Scott
                                   [#18 on Overall list]
                                   [Not on Print list]

15. Surrender Your Love by J.C. Reed
                                   [#19 on Overall list]
                                   [Not on Print list]

16. The Bet by Rachel Van Dyken
                                   [Not in Overall top 20]
                                   [Not on Print list]

17. Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts
                                   [#17 on Overall list]
                                   [Not on Print list]

18. Six Years by Harlan Coben
                                   [#10 on Overall list]
                                   [#92 on print list]

19. Falling Into You by Jasinda Wilder
                                   [Not in Overall top 20]
                                   [Not on print list]

20. High Heat: A Jack Reacher Novella by Lee Child
                                   [Not in Overall top 20]
                                   [Not on print list]

For a shortcut to Amazon’s lists, point your browser to

The 90 Most Useful Kindle Urls

January 3rd, 2014

Digital Publishing vs. the Gutenberg press

Once a year, I assemble my “master list” of shortcuts to the most useful pages for Kindle owners – like all of the free ebooks, music and comic books that Amazon’s been making available. But this year there’s 40 new links which highlight all the changes that happened in 2013 that became a part of the Kindle universe!

Instead of trying to memorize a bunch of complicated URLs, I’ve created shorter, easier-to-remember addresses that still lead to the same pages.

And all 90 of them start with TinyURL.com …


Amazon’s 100 best-selling free ebooks are always available on this list (which is updated hourly!) And of course, the other side of the page also shows the 100 best-selling ebooks which are not free…

Amazon’s interview with President Barack Obama, available as a free Kindle Single.

All the Kindle editions of Agatha Christie’s mysteries (one of which is free!)

My favorite free Kindle mystery — a 384-page detective novel following a police detective’s homicide investigation in Houston called Back on Murder.

Read the original adventures of Mr. Toad in The Wind in the Willows as a free Kindle ebook.


Amazon’s own list of their favorite funny fake customer reviews.

Amazon’s second list of their favorite funny customer reviews.

Horse Head Mask from Amazon


A free Kindle edition of Superman #1

Amazon’s free full-length “graphic novel” called Blackburn Burrow – a fascinating horror comic book set during the Civil War that you can read in color on your Kindle Fire or Android smartphone, or in black-and-white on the Paperwhite, the Kindle Touch, or the Kindle.

All of Amazon’s best-selling free Kindle comic books. (For a shortcut to all of Amazon’s Digital Kindle Comics, just point your browser to tinyurl.com/KindleComicBooks

Amazon’s free newsletter about digital comic books.


I love how Amazon is always giving away free mp3s — and you can always find a complete list at this URL!

Grammy-winning songs — discounted as low as 69 cents

Grammy-winning albums — discounted as low as $5.00

All the songs used in ads broadcast during the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans (when the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers )

Amazon Kindle 399 ebook sale


Every month, Amazon picks 100 ebooks to offer at a discount of $3.99 or less. There’s always a new selection on the first day of the month, so if you visited the page on the last day of the month, you’d see 100 discounted books — and then the next day you’d see an entirely new selection!

If you’re in England, Amazon’s created a different page for their bargain ebooks — go to tinyurl.com/399booksEngland

And if you’re in France, there’s also a different URL for your (English-language) bargain ebooks — it’s at tinyurl.com/399booksFrance
In addition, Amazon’s also created a special “Daily Deal” page, where they pick a new ebook each day to sell at a big discount for 24 hours. Past deals have included a James Bond novel by Ian Fleming and Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night — and I’m always surprised by the variety.

Amazon will also just e-mail you every “Daily Deal,” so you never have to worry about missing one of them!

Amazon’s special selection of discounted Kindle ebooks

Each week Amazon highlights 25 more books

Discounts on Kindle editions of book when you’ve already purchased their print edition

Amazon’s special selection of “international thrillers” — all priced at $4.99 or less


All of Amazon’s short, cheap “Kindle Single” ebooks

Last January Stephen King published a 25-page personal essay titled “Guns”, which he’s selling as a Kindle Single for 99 cents.



Amazon’s newest high-definition color Kindle tablets

In 2013 Amazon released a slick new, high-contrast version of their Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon also brought back their giant 9.7-inch black-and-white Kindle DX in 2013

Amazon’s free “Send-to-Kindle” plug-in for web browsers

Convert your own photos into a custom Kindle cover

There’s a new format for Kindle ebooks called the “Kindle Serial.” Famous authors will now deliver new additional installments of their ebooks just as soon as they’ve finished writing them! The link above takes you to Amazon’s “Kindle Serials” store.

If you’ve signed up for Amazon’s free “Prime” two-day shipping service, they’ll also let you watch a ton of movies and TV shows for free on your Kindle Fire! (Or over the internet…) Browse through the complete selection here – everything from the original episodes of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone to modern favorites like Bones and even new shows created by Amazon (including one starring John Goodman).

Roger Ebert - 1942 - 2013


Roger Ebert left us in 2013 — but here’s the Kindle editions for all his ebooks.

Elmore Leonard also left us in 2013 — but here’s Kindle editions of all his books.

An exclusive new serialized collection of seven previously unpublished works by Kurt Vonnegut.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat Cradle.

Every Kurt Vonnegut ebook in Amazon’s Kindle Store.

Every Charles Bukowski ebook in Amazon’s Kindle Store.

My favorite audiobook — a drawling narrator reads To Hell on a Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West.

Amazon’s discounted version of the Hunger Games trilogy

Classic children’s picture book revived by the loving granddaughter of author/illustrator Robert S. Bright

“The Essential Calvin & Hobbes” – released as a Kindle ebook in November of 2013

My favorite newspaper comic strip is Dilbert, about the life of an office cubicle worker. In 2012, creator Scott Adams finally collected all the comic strips together into a series of ebooks that you can buy for your Kindle!

Doonesbury, the long-running newspaper comic strip by Garry Trudeau, is now finally available on the Kindle — in four massive ten-year retrospective collections!

Playboy announced for their 50th anniversary that they’d release 50 of their best interviews as 99-cent Kindle ebooks. They’re now available in the Kindle Store, including fascinating and sometimes even historic interviews with famous figures from the last 50 years, including Martin Luther King, Jimmy Carter, Muhammad Ali, Bill Gates, Hunter S. Thompson, Stephen Hawking, Jerry Seinfeld, and Jon Stewart.

George Takei is the 75-year-old TV actor who’d played Mr. Sulu on Star Trek. But now he’s also a huge internet phenomenon — and last December, he finally released his first Kindle ebook, called Oh myy! (There Goes the Internet)

The Simpson’s once made a joke about the Kindle — though ironically, there are aren’t any ebooks about The Simpsons anywhere in Amazon’s Kindle store – or any ebooks by Matt Groening. But at least you can watch episodes of the Simpsons TV show on your Kindle Fire tablet or on Amazon’s “Instant Video” page — including the episode where they make their joke about the Kindle!

One of the biggest stories of last year was the release of all J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels as Kindle ebooks.

Two Maurice Sendak URLs
Where the Wild Things Are was written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, a beloved children’s book author who died in 2012 at the age of 83. Though his books were never released in Kindle Format, you can still download the full-length novel adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are that was written by Dave Eggers at tinyurl.com/SendakNovel. And you can even buy a DVD at Amazon of the rare 1970s adaptation of Sendak’s stories into television cartoons with narration by Peter Schickele — at tinyurl.com/SendakCartoons


Amazon’s list of the top 100 best-selling Kindle ebooks for 2013

Amazon’s Editors pick the best new books of the month

At the end of last year, Amazon released this fun list of their top 100 best-selling Kindle ebooks of 2012.

There’s another list where Amazon’s editors also choose their selections for the “Best Books of 2012″. It’s a special web page with their picks in 30 different categories, including the best print books, the best Kindle ebooks, and the best biographies, mysteries, and even cookbooks!

Curious about what were Amazon’s best-selling books for 2011? This URL takes you to a special Amazon web page where they’re all still listed — 25 to a page — along with a link to a separate list for the best-selling ebooks of the year. The #1 best-selling print book of 2011 was the new biography about Steve Jobs (followed by “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever.” ) But the #1 and #2 best-selling ebooks were The Mill River Recluse and The Abbey — neither of which was even available in print!

You can also review Amazon’s picks for the best books of the autumn of 2011 at tinyurl.com/AmazonFallBooks. And here’s an even handier trick. Amazon also creates a special page each month for the best newly-released books, and they’ll always take you to that page if you point your browser to the URL tinyurl.com/BestBooksOfMay

Amazon office building in Seattle


Amazon’s Customer Service has drawn rave reviews. (If your Kindle is broken, Amazon will usually mail you a replacement overnight!) This page collects all of Amazon’s support URLs. And at its far left, there’s a special link labelled “Contact Kindle Support,” which leads to the support phone numbers for 10 different countries, as well as an online contact form.

Amazon lets you return any ebook within 7 days, no questions asked. Just remember this address — tinyURL.com/ReturnAnEbook — and you’ll always be able to get a refund if you’re not satisfied with your purchase.


It’s my list, so of course it includes shortcuts for three very special projects…

An original word game for Kindle became one of the top 100 most-popular games for the year — and I’m it’s co-author! Check out all the fun at TinyURL.com/ThrowInTheVowel, and discover why 42 people gave it a five-star review! And we’ve just released a brand-new sequel which you can see at TinyURL.com/ThrowInTheVowel2

My very first Android app — “500 Inspiring Quotes”. (Available in Amazon’s Android store, and also in the Nook and Google Play Store)

“For Thanksgiving, try this game. Find the guilty turkey’s name!”

I wrote a special “mystery poem” that was finally published in November as a funny, illustrated ebook. There’s cartoon-y pictures which show four turkeys in a farmer’s pen on Thanksgiving Day. The farmer’s approaching with an axe — but one of the turkeys has a plan to escape! (“Can the farmer figure out which one? And can you?”) The short “Turkey Mystery Rhyme” is only 99 cents — a real bargain for a fun, holiday smile.

Lucca is a cuddly Cocker Spaniel dog who was rescued from an animal shelter, and he now adores his new family — my girlfriend and me! My girlfriend’s been telling her friends how she received “the best present ever” — this short collection of funny photos of her dog, along with sweetly humorous captions that tell the story of his life. (Like the day he met that white cat that moved in downstairs…) If you want to preview a “sample chapter first, go to tinyurl.com/GoodReadsDog — but the whole “short picture scrapbook” is only 99 cents, and it offers a nice peek at a very wonderful dog…


Amazon’s Android app store offers a free app every day — both for your Kindle Fire tablet and for any Android smartphone.

Amazon has a web page devoted just to all the games you can play on your Kindle. (There’s over 400 of them!) It’s fun to see all the colorful game “covers” collected together into one magical toy store-like page.

Here’s the shortcut to a free web page where you can play chess against a computer. But you can also pull the page up in your Kindle’s web browser, so I named the URL “KChess”!

Free Kindle Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine cover illustration


Fantasy & Science Fiction is the famous magazine where Stephen King first published the stories that later formed the basis for The Dark Tower. It’s now available as a free Kindle magazine. It’s been publishing short SciFi stories and commentary for over 60 years — including the works of many other famous authors. In 1978 they published Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” short stories, and in 1959 they ran Robert Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” as a serial. (They also published the novella “Flowers for Algernon” and short stories by Harlan Ellison, and even published a short story by Kurt Vonnegut in 1961, which later appeared in his collection “Welcome to the Monkey House.”) Amazon’s now offering free Kindle subscriptions to a special “digest edition”. (The print edition, published six times a year, is a massive 256 pages.) The digest includes all the editorial content – editor’s recommendations, the “odd books” section, film and book reviews, plus cartoons and ‘Coming Attractions’ (highlights of each issue) – along with one short story. (And if you want the full 256-page version sent to your Kindle, you can subscribe for just 99 cents more.)

Amazon once gave away free “trial issues” of the Kindle edition for several magazines earlier — and now the same URL points to a page where you can always download free magazine apps! The apps deliver full-color magazine content straight to your Kindle Fire — or to your Android smartphone. There’s one for each of these six popular magazines.

     Entertainment Weekly
     Real Simple
     National Geographic
     Better Homes and Gardens

Deliver magazines to your Kindle at a big discount


It’s my blog! (That’s the URL for its page on the Kindle Store.) If you want to tell your friends how to find me, this URL makes it easy to remember. Just practice saying “TinyURL . com/MeAndMyKindle” and soon we’ll all be sharing the latest Kindle news together.


I love Amazon’s Kindle TV ads — and you can watch them all online at YouTube.com/Kindle. One of my favorite ones is this British commercial for the Kindle and the Kindle Touch, at tinyurl.com/UKKindleAd

There was a spectacular new TV ad when Amazon announced their new Kindle Fire tablets. It showed the evolution of print from a quill pen dipped in ink to Amazon’s latest full-color multimedia touchscreen tablet. But I loved the song they played in the background, by a new Louisiana-based band called the Givers. (“The words we say today, we’ll say… we’ll see them again. Yes, we’ll see them again…”) I’d called it an ode to all the self-published authors who are finding new audiences on the Kindle — and at this URL, you can hear the entire song on YouTube!

Before she became “the woman from that Kindle commercial,” actress Amy Rutberg appeared in a zany stage production called “The Divine Sister.” Playbill (the official magazine for theatre-goers) had her record a backstage peek at the theatre and its cast for a special online feature — and it’s a fun way to catch a peek at another part of her career. That URL leads to the video’s web page on YouTube, and there’s also a second part which is available at http://tinyurl.com/AmyRutberg2

It’s that cute song from Amazon’s 2010 Kindle Christmas ad. (“Snowflake in my pocket, let’s take a sleigh ride on the ice…”) At this URL, you can download an mp3 of the song “Winter Night” by Little & Ashley.

On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart did a special segment in 2011 when Borders bookstores announced that it was going out of business. (“Books! You may know them as the thing Amazon tells you ‘You might be interested in’ when you’re buying DVDs…”) Correspondent John Hodgman delivered some silly suggestions about how bookstores could re-vitalize their business model — like offering in-store appearances where customers could heckle authors while they’re writing novels. Or, simply converting bookstores into historical tourist attractions demonstrating the way books used to be sold in the 20th century.


Ever wonder where all the Kindle owners are? Someone’s created an interactive online map, where Kindle owners can stop by and leave “push pins” showing their location! There’s big clusters on the east and west coast of America (though you could still leave the first push pin for Arizona or Nevada!) It’s an adapted version of one of Google’s maps of the world, so you can also spot “Kindlers” in Iraq, Romania, and Ethiopia. And if you click on the push pins, you’ll find the Kindler’s name and sometimes a comment. (One Kindler in Spain simply posted: “Tengo un Kindle DX!”)

Every day Amazon also offers discounts on a new item — sometimes even expensive electronics equipment. And you can always find them all at tinyurl.com/GoldBoxPage

A new ebook by the Amazon manager who was in charge of the Kindle on the day it launched!

And here’s the most useful URL of all.


It’s a shortcut to this page — so you can find all of these URLs in 2014!

Happy New Year!


Amazon’s announced their list of the best-selling ebooks of 2013 — and it’s got a big surprise. Stephen King had two of the top 10 best-selling print books of the year –but neither one of them is among the top twenty best-selling Kindle ebooks. In fact, 13 of the top 20 best-selling print books don’t even appear anywhere on Amazon’s list of the top 100 best-selling Kindle ebooks. It’s like print book buyers are living in an entirely different world!

For a shortcut to Amazon’s lists, point your browser to

Here’s Amazon’s list of their 20 best-selling print books of 2013

1. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
                                   (#27 among Kindle best-sellers)

2. Inferno by Dan Brown
                                   (#1 among Kindle best-sellers)

3. Killing Jesus by Martin Dugard
                                   (#40 among Kindle best-sellers)

4. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
                                   (#4 among Kindle best-sellers)

5. Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics by Charles Krauthammer
                                   [Not on Kindle list]

6. The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia by Akira Himekawa
                                   [Not available as a Kindle ebook]

7. Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton
                                   [Not on Kindle List]

8. Joyland (Hard Case Crime) by Stephen King
                                   [Not available as Kindle ebook]

9. Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander by Mark Schlabach
                                   [Not on Kindle list]

10. Doctor Sleep: A Novel by Stephen King
                                   [#22 among Kindle best-sellers]

11. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
                                   [Not on Kindle List]

12. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
                                   [#3 among Kindle best-sellers]

13. The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic by Mark R. Levin
                                   [Not on Kindle list]

14. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays: 140 Step-by-Step Recipes for Simple, Scrumptious Celebrations by Ree Drummond
                                   [Not on Kindle list]

15. Sycamore Row by John Grisham
                                   [#6 among Kindle best-sellers]

16. It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great by Gwyneth Paltrow
                                   [Not available as Kindle ebook]

17. The FastDiet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting by Michael Mosley
                                   [Not on Kindle list]

18. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
                                   [Not on Kindle list]

19. Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance by Glen Cordoza
                                   [Not available for Kindle]

20. Soul Healing Miracles: Ancient and New Sacred Wisdom, Knowledge, and Practical Techniques for Healing the Spiritual, Mental, Emotional, and Physical Bodies by Zhi Gang Sha
                                   [Not on Kindle list]

Yes, four of the top 20 best-selling print books simply weren’t available as Kindle ebooks. But nine of them were available as Kindle ebooks — and yet still failed to even make it into Amazon’s list of the top 100 Kindle best-sellers for 2013. In some cases there’s other reasonable explanations. (For example, Humans of New York is a coffee table book filled with photographs.) And in some cases, the explanation is even more interesting.

Stephen King made it onto both lists with Dr. Sleep, a fascinating horror novel which lets its readers catch up with the little boy from The Shining. (Danny Torrence is now “a flawed middle-aged man with a tragic past”, according to the book’s description…) But Stephen King had a special place in his heart for his new contribution to the “Hard Case Crime” series of books, according to its page at Amazon. King called his new novel Joyland “One of my favorites,” and said “I also loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we’re going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being. Joyland will be coming out in paperback, and folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book.”

In fact, it’s not just Stephen King who was enjoying mystery novels in 2013. “Last year’s best seller list was filled with Fifty Shades and contemporary romance,” noted Amazon’s Editorial Director of Books and Kindle. But in a statement announcing this year’s best-sellers, she noted that “in 2013 Mysteries & Thrillers captured readers attention, with 11 of the top 20 books falling in that category!” And she had one more interesting piece of trivia. If you look at Amazon’s top 20 best-sellers, 19 out of the 20 sold more Kindle ebook editions than their printed editions.

The only exception was Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.

Here’s Amazon’s list of their top 20 best-selling Kindle ebooks.

1 Inferno: A Novel (Robert Langdon) by Dan Brown
                                   [#2 on Print list]
2. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
                                   [Not on Print list]
3. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
                                   [#12 on print list]
4. And the Mountains Echoed: A Novel by Khaled Hosseini
                                   [#4 on print list]
5. The Hit (Will Robie) by David Baldacci
                                   [#40 on print list]
6. Sycamore Row by John Grisham
                                   [#15 on print list]
7. Entwined with You (A Crossfire Novel) by Sylvia Day
                                   [#24 on print list]
8. Never Go Back: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child
                                   [#38 on print list]
9. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
                                   [#53 on print list]
10. Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson
                                   [Not on print list]
11. Damaged: The Ferro Family by H.M. Ward
                                   [Not on print list]
12. 12th of Never (Women’s Murder Club) by James Patterson
                                   [#65 on print list]
13. Second Honeymoon by James Patterson
                                   [Not on print list]
14. The Billionaire’s Obsession: The Complete Collection Boxed Set (Mine For Tonight, Mine For Now, Mine Forever, Mine Completely) by J.S. Scott
                                   [Not on print list]
15. Surrender Your Love by J.C. Reed
                                   [Not on print list]
16. The Bet by Rachel Van Dyken
                                   [Not on print list]
17. Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts ‘
                                   [Not on print list]
18. Six Years by Harlan Coben
                                   [#92 on print list]
19. Falling Into You by Jasinda Wilder
                                   [Not on print list]
20. High Heat: A Jack Reacher Novella by Lee Child
                                   [Not on print list]

For a shortcut to Amazon’s lists, point your browser to