Amazon Celebrates Pac-Man’s Anniversary!

Pac-Man on Amazon's home page

Friday Amazon surprised their customers by featuring a game of Pac-Man on their home page. “Happy 35th Anniversary, Pac-Man!” flashed their cheery message, below a row of golden pixels being eaten by Pac-man, as he turned a corner to avoid the blue-eyed “ghosts” chasing him. It was fun seeing all those familiar colors from the classic video game — the red, green, and orange ghosts — and Amazon even snuck in a pixelized version of the Amazon logo! And they’re also offering discounts on Pac-man games today — including a free version of Pac-man for Android phones and tablets!

For a shortcut to the free Pac-man app, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/FreePacmanApp

Amazon’s also offering a 75% discount on “Pac-Man Museum,” an app which officially collects together what it promises are “the greatest PAC-MAN games of all time.” Normally this collection costs $19.95, but today it’s been slashed to just $4.99. There’s also 75% discounts on “Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures,” a game based on the popular new Pac-Man TV show, and on a new game called “Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+”. (“There are plenty of different level designs,” writes one reviewer on Amazon,” adding “you can alter the visual style for each map, everything around you changes on the fly, you can be chased by dozens of ghosts at a time. It’s intense!”)

Google’s also celebrating Pacman’s birthday, but of course, you’ll have to search for it. If you type “Pacman” into Google’s search bar, the first result is their own online version of the game, which Google featured on their front page back in 2010 (celebrating Pacman’s 30th anniversary). And they’re also distributing the same free version of Pacman for Android devices in Google’s app “Play Store”.

I commemorated this anniversary by reading some fascinating trivia about Pac-man’s creator, Toru Iwatani (who was just 24 when he created the game!) According to Wikipedia, Toru maintained for years that his inspiration for the yellow character came from a pizza with a slice missing, but in 1986 he qualified this, saying that Pac-man actually was also designed to look like the Japanese character for the word mouth. Pac-man gets powerful when he eats an energizer button, which he says was inspired by Popeye, and he also wanted to encourage more girls to join in the fun of playing video games.

And by 1990, the game had earned more that $2.5 billion — one quarter at a time.

Remember, for a shortcut to the free and discounted Pac-man apps, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/FreePacmanApp

A Free $10 Credit from Amazon!

1000 Free Amazon Coins

I spotted a surprise in Amazon’s app store today. They’re giving away a free $10 credit! Of course, they’re paying you in “Amazon money,” but it’s still a $10 value!

For a shortcut to Amazon’s deal, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/10AmazonDollars

There’s five free apps at that URL — but for each one that you download, Amazon will add a $2 credit to your account. (The credit comes in the form of “Amazon Coins”, the virtual currency Amazon issues for in-app purchases, which can also be redeemed when buying an app). One “Amazon Coin” equals one penny, and if you download all five of these apps, Amazon will give you 1,000 of ’em. But ignore that extra layer of “abstraction” and just focus on the bottom line. If you download the apps, you get a $10 credit.

One of the five free apps is actually from the Food Network. It offers thousands of recipes, and lets you search based on a specific ingredient you want to use — or even for your favorite chef! And I was really intrigued by the second free app — which is called iHeartRadio. It lets you listen to radio stations live on your Kindle Fire or Android smartphone!

But why are they issuing these credits in Amazon coins? The strategy is to make it seem less like you’re spending real money and more like it’s just fun play pretend money. Forcing people to do this conversion in their head — from Amazon money to real money — makes it harder for people to remember their budget! But if you just download these five free apps, you’re already starting out ahead.

And you’ll end up with $10 worth of free credits to spend in Amazon’s Android app store!

Remember, for a shortcut to Amazon’s deal, point your browser to
tinyurl.com/10AmazonDollars

My New Free App in Amazon’s App Store!

500 Inspiring Quotes

For two weeks straight, I spent every waking minute trying to finish my first free app. But it’s finally here, and here’s the big announcement: it’s ready for downloads from Amazon’s “Apps for Android” Store. Unfortunately, it’s not available yet for the Kindle Fire (or for any Apple devices). But you can still download it now to your Android tablet — or even to an Android smartphone!

For a shortcut, point your web browser to
tinyurl.com/500Quotes

Yes, the app is called “500 Inspiring Quotes,” and it came out much better than I expected. My girlfriend took a wonderful photo during a visit to Alameda’s Crown Beach, and the night that I finally released my app, I surprised her by including it as the app’s “cover photo!” For over a year I’ve been struggling to learn how to write a computer program. That night was my chance to prove that I could really do it.

Everything in the app was meant to be both simple and positive, and I read thousands and thousands of quotes searching for 500 that could always deliver a real lift whenever you sat down to read them. There’s quotes by everyone from Oprah Winfrey and Jerry Seinfeld to Winston Churchill, Voltaire, and even Cervantes. But I also worked in quotes from some of my favorite authors — like Jack Kerouac, Toni Morrison, Henry Miller, and Mark Twain.

There’s not any ads in the app, since it was never meant to make money — just to share some warm moments of inspiration. And ultimately, it was a very personal experience, since I was weighing the words of the greatest minds of our civilization — and then trying to cherry-pick the words which would mean the most to the people who read them. I found some surprisingly great quotes from unexpected sources, like Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy and even tennis player John McEnroe. And this also gave me a chance to include some nice thoughts from both Roger Ebert and Annette Funicello, who both died this year, but are living on in their words.

In the end I even spent part of my birthday looking for more inspiring quotes — since it took a long time to find over 500 of them. So this app represents a personal triumph for me in more than one way. I finished all the quote-gathering, and finished all of the computer programming too. And now instead of downloading apps for my device, I can upload one instead, to share it with everyone else!

It’s ultimately given my app a very interesting relationship with Amazon. More than two years ago, Amazon started an Android store so they’d have their own place for selling apps when they eventually launched the Kindle Fire (back in the autumn of 2011). But all of those apps in Amazon’s store are also available on other Android devices, which is how you can download my app to other non-Amazon tablets and Android smartphones. Because my app is an Android app, I also uploaded it to Google’s own app store (the Google “Play Store”), which ended up with a very funny twist for this Kindle-loving man.

Even though I was trying to build an app for the Kindle Fire, so far (through the Google Play Store), it’s only available on the Nook!

For a shortcut, point your web browser to
tinyurl.com/500Quotes

Amazon Offers Free Kindle Fire Apps

COINS

If you own a Kindle Fire, and you live in the United States, Amazon’s announced another great new freebie. They’re offering $5.00 worth of free app downloads in their Kindle Fire store. You can browse the store’s selection at tinyurl.com/FreeAmazonApps It’s all part of a special promotion to celebrate the launch of a new service called Amazon Coins.

ABC News described it as Amazon’s “own digital currency for Kindle Fire owners”. (Or, in Amazon’s words, it’s “an easy way to purchase apps and in-app items on Kindle Fire.”) Amazon’s Vice President of Apps and Games proclaimed proudly that “Today is Day One for Coins”, and to commemorate the occasion, announced that “Today we are giving Kindle Fire owners $5 worth of Coins to spend on new apps and games, or to purchase in-app items, such as recipes in iCookbook, song collections in SongPop or mighty falcon bundles in Angry Birds Star Wars.” They even added a 10% discount on the purchase of coins — so you could create your own stockpile of virtual cash.

I’m guessing you could also use this credit to buy apps for your Android smartphone (since that’s where I’m mostly likely to play Angry Birds). In fact, one technology blogger wondered whether Amazon might someday extend the ability to use their Coins for all purchases on Amazon.. But Amazon’s move provoked a variety of strong reactions — not all of them positive. “We already have money, it’s called money,complained one app developer. He acknowledges that in the computer games industry, other companies are already offering their own currencies (like the Microsoft Points available for XBox systems). But his ultimate concern is that “at the end of the day, you’re still giving Amazon hundreds of dollars that you might not spend for months or that you have to worry about managing separate from, you know, your bank accounts.”

I’ll admit that I’m much more likely to spend money on an app than I am to spend in an app. But I still appreciate the fact that Amazon’s let everyone try out the program with 500 free coins. Even if I never spend another virtual dollar of Amazon’s money, I’ll still end up with $5 worth of free apps on my Kindle Fire.

Browse Amazon’s selection of apps at tinyurl.com/FreeAmazonApps

Amazon Android Store Angry Birds Rio app

Amazon’s Fun Free Kindle Christmas Games

Amazon Kindle game Picture Perfect Holiday Puzzles menu screenshot

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

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

And would you like to write to Santa Claus? There’s an app for that — at least, if you own a Kindle Fire tablet (or an iPad). Last Christmas, Amazon announced a free Santa app to create holidays wish lists, “for children and their parents…to share with friends, family and Mr. Claus.” They’ve identified more than half a million popular “kid-friendly” items available on Amazon, and according to the director of Amazon Mobile, the apps makes it “fun, easy and intuitive for kids to find exactly what they want.” Just point your browser to amazon.com/santa_app

There’s books, of course, but also toys, games, video games, music, and even movies and TV shows — and you can browse the individual categories or search for specific items. By secretly tracking which gifts have been purchased, it can helip different relatives avoid buying the same gift, and Amazon says the app offers “a great way for parents to spend some quality time with their kids…”

And, “to help make certain there’s a smile Christmas morning.”

Superman Comes to the Kindle

Cover of Superman - Action Comics 1 - 2011 - Grant Morrison - Kindle Fire

“From Batman to Superman,” Amazon announces on a new web page, “individual issues of your favorite comics are now available on Kindle.” And many of them cost just 99 cents — which is actually cheaper than the printed comic books! It’s a new direction for Amazon, and it may offer a hint about their hopes for the next generation of Kindles.

Check out Amazon’s complete selection at tinyurl.com/KindleComicBooks

I’m surprised that these single-issue comics are only listed as available for the Kindle Fire and Android devices, since it’s also possible to read graphic novels on the Kindle Paperwhite and the regular $69 Kindle. But I’m guessing Amazon will extend their availability sometime in the near future — and in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying single issues of comic books using the Kindle app for my smartphone. Graphics seem to be a new priority for Amazon, maybe because they’re hoping to compete with Apple’s iPad tablets. Amazon’s release notes for their “Kindle for Android” app already brag that it supports “illustrated children’s books, comic books, and graphic novels, including fixed-layout books.”

Now with single-issue comic books, Amazon is trying to open up a whole new “category” of things you can download to your Kindle. Most of the titles are from D.C. Comics — I’m seeing Green Lantern, the Justice League, Batman, and a series called “Arrow” (following the character Green Arrow/Oliver Queen.) But I was also intrigued to see Swamp Thing and J. Michael Straczynski’s Before Watchmen: Moloch #1″. Amazon’s only showing 69 different comic books now that you can buy for your Kindle — but I’m guessing that’s because Amazon’s just opened this online store. In the months to come, they should be selling both new issues and back issues, which should expand the selection quite a bit.

In fact, every single one of the titles from D.C. Comics will be available for the Kindle, according to a press release last Wednesday. And they’ll also be available through Apple’s iBookstore and the Nook Store. “As e-readers and tablets continue to explode in popularity, it’s important for us to offer consumers convenience and choice in how they download digital comics and graphic novels,” said an executive from D.C. Publishing, “and these new distribution deals with the top three e-bookstores do just that.”

Right now I’m just happy that they’re headed in that direction – because there’s still a geek inside of me who enjoys reading comic books. There’s been a debate in the comic book industry about how the big publishers can increase their sales. But maybe Amazon’s offering their own answer: that comic books should “go digital”.

Check out Amazon’s selection at tinyurl.com/KindleComicBooks

Single Issue Comic Books for Kindle Fire and Android

Free Halloween Kindle Fire/Android app – with Charlie Brown!

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown Halloween Kindle Fire Android app

Here’s a Halloween surprise! Amazon’s giving away a free app today for both Kindle Fire and Android devices. And it’s a special Halloween app that’s sure to bring back some fond memories of hallowed evenings past. The name of the free app they’re giving away?

“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”

You can download the free app today in Amazon’s app store. (For a shortcut, just point your web browser to tinyurl.com/CharlieHalloween .) It’s an interactive version of the famous TV special that finds Linus spending Halloween night in a pumpkin patch. You can actually poke your fingers into the drawings, to make all the Peanuts characters jiggle around. And it’s narrated by Peter Robbins, who provided the voice for Charlie Brown in the original 1966 TV special!

Because it’s an Android app, you can play it on your Kindle Fire or any Android phone. And I was impressed by the smooth interface, which includes an old vinyl record on the game’s menu page to represent the narration (which you can turn on and off). It’s got all the sequences you remember from the TV special, with some of the artwork laid out like a newspaper comic strip. It was a real thrill to see Charlie Brown’s pile of autumn leaves again — and then to see Linus trying to jump into it while holding a wet lollipop!

If you don’t have a Kindle Fire, there’s still some other Halloween games available at Amazon. Yesterday I wrote about “Futoshiki Halloween Edition, and there’s also a Halloween version of the game Blossom. There’s even a Halloween version of Mahjong Solitaire, and if you’re looking for something scarier, there’s also a text adventure “Choice of the Zombies”.

But I have fond childhood memories of watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. So if you’ve always wanted a free app that revives this Halloween tradition…there’s a special treat waiting for you tonight in Amazon’s appstore.


Remember, for a shortcut, just point your web browser to tinyurl.com/CharlieHalloween

Free Christmas mp3s from Amazon.com!

Celtic Woman Christmas song Ave Maria - Believe album cover

Amazon’s giving away a free Christmas mp3 — and not just for today, but every day, for the next 25 days! Just keep pointing your computer’s web browser to tinyurl.com/25xmasMP3s. (If your Kindle has an mp3 player, you can finally stock it with some holiday music!) And Amazon’s also created a free “Santa” app for the Kindle Fire (and the iPad) which lets children create a wish list of Amazon items — for Santa Claus!

The free mp3s are on a special “25 Days of Free” web page that’s designed like an advent calendar, where a new surprise gets revealed every day as a countdown to Christmas. Except here, the calendar’s squares get replaced by album covers!

Advent_Square

For December 1, Amazon’s offering a lavish Christmas song by the Celtic Woman group — their rendition of the traditional song Ave Maria. It’s a preview of their yet-to-be-released new album, “Believe,” which won’t be available until January 24 of next year!

“Every day through Christmas, we’re unveiling a new holiday song available to download free,” Amazon announces on the web page, specifying that the free downloads are available “for a limited time.” (So it’s not clear if each one is free for just 24 hours, or if Amazon will also let you “catch up” on the free downloads from previous days.) Also available for free is the complete version of the song “Winter Night” by Little & Ashley, which Amazon used last year in their Christmas Kindle commercials (with the stop-motion animation). (Just point your browser to tinyurl.com/KindleChristmasSong .)


Snowflake in my pocket, let’s take a sleigh ride on the ice.
Northern lights are glowing and reflecting in your eyes.

Underneath a starry sky.
Dream with me this winter night.

And of course, Amazon also points users to their “MP3 Holiday Store,” which includes a special section of 100 different holiday mp3 albums that are bargain-priced at just $5 each. I’d laugh this off
except the selection actually does includes some of my all-time favorite Christmas albums, including Christmas with the Rat Pack, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby’s I Wish You a Merry Christmas, and an expanded version of Vince Guaraldi’s music for “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”. There’s also Christmas albums from Weezer, Christina Aguilera, Zooey Deschanel’s band “She and Him,” and even the cast of Sesame Street – plus some performers you wouldn’t expect, like Bob Dylan and Twisted Sister.

All these and some other $5 Christmas album downloads are at tinyURL.com/AmazonXmasMP3s

Or would you like to write to Santa Claus? There’s an app for that — at least, if you own a Kindle Fire tablet (or an iPad). Wednesday Amazon announced a free Santa app to create holidays wish lists, “for children and their parents…to share with friends, family and Mr. Claus.” They’ve identified more than half a million popular “kid-friendly” items available on Amazon, and according to the director of Amazon Mobile, the apps makes it “fun, easy and intuitive for kids to find exactly what they want.” Just point your browser to amazon.com/santa_app

There’s books, of course, but also toys, games, video games, music, and even movies and TV shows — and you can browse the individual categories or search for specific items. By secretly tracking which gifts have been purchased, it can helip different relatives avoid buying the same gift, and Amazon says the app offers “a great way for parents to spend some quality time with their kids…”

And, “to help make certain there’s a smile Christmas morning.”

A Free Holiday Game From Amazon – and More!

Amazon Kindle game Picture Perfect Holiday Puzzles menu screenshot

I’m always amazed at how many new games keep coming to the Kindle Store. Now there’s another free game from Amazon designed especially for the upcoming holiday season. “We were going to wait to start talking about the holidays, but this new free game for Kindle is getting us in the spirit a little early,” read an announcement on the Kindle’s page on Facebook. “Check it out for yourself, but don’t blame us if you suddenly get the urge to start stringing lights and singing carols.”

The new game is “Picture Perfect Holiday Puzzles,” and within four hours of the announcement, it had already earned 208 “Like” votes and drawn 35 enthusiastic comments. (Like the woman in Minnesota who posted “OMG! OMG! OMG! This is my all time FAVORITE Kindle game, I’ve been waiting for a Part 2 forever!! YESSSS!!!!!!!”) This makes the 14th free game that Amazon has released, and it’s a “sequel” to a free game Amazon released in July called simply “Picture Perfect Puzzles”. In both those games, users try to form a picture by darkening all the correct squares in a grid, making logical deductions from clues showing the number of squares that need darkening in each row and column.

The July version had 50 different picture grids — but now Amazon’s created 35 more puzzles, and each picture has a fun holiday theme. (The puzzles are grouped into six categories: Winter Begins, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Continues, Kwanzaa, and New Years.) “This is just as addictive as the original Pixel Perfect,” reads one review of the game at Amazon.com. “I decided to pace myself so I could stretch the fun over a few days. That lasted 3 days. Oh well.”

“With reset, the pictures are erased and I can work through the puzzles again. Maybe, I can stretch the fun to last for a week!”

But several more new games have also been released for the Kindle in just the last month. In October Electronic Arts unveiled a Kindle version of the popular “Trivial Pursuit” game. (When the board game version was first released in the early 1980s, it sold over 20 million copies in just one year, according to Wikipedia.) The new $4.99 Kindle version — called “Trivial Pursuit: Master Edition” — still has the same familiar board design (a six-spoked wheel), and your score is still tracked using the wedges of a pie. Some Amazon reviewers are complaining that there’s too many “Entertainment” questions that have slipped into other categories — but the game’s description on Amazon promises there’s 1,500 new questions — and you can play the game by yourself, or with others using the “pass and play” mode.

Of course, there’s competing trivia games already available on the Kindle, including Triviac (a quiz game released in Oct 18) and It’s All About Sports — a brand new game that was just released on November 8. And offering a new twist, there’s also trivia game that seems to alternate trick questions with easier questions — called Moron-o-meter. “A clever blend of serious, not-at-all serious and downright tricky questions will be asked,” warns the game’s description at Amazon.com, “in an attempt to bamboozle you into thinking you might be a moron.”

And besides games, there’s also been a couple useful new applications that have been released for the Kindle — including two spreadsheet programs. Anywhere Spreadsheet was released on Oct 4, and less than a month later, another company released EFRAC spreadsheet. And there’s also a new Day Planner and Calendar app that was released for the Kindle in September, along with a similar app that’s called “Task List professional.” September saw the release of an Address Book app, plus another one called Contacts. And if you’d like to look up nutritional information, there’s even a new app called “MyFood.”

I’m guessing there must be close to 200 games now available on the Kindle — and it seems like more and more are released every month. If you’d like to check for any new games that you might’ve missed, Amazon’s created a special web page where they’re announcing all the new games as they’re released. (Just point your computer’s web browser to tinyurl.com/TopKindleGames )

I’ve always thought of the holidays as the perfect time to take some time off and play. And now it’s finally possible to do some of that playing on a Kindle!

New Halloween Games for the Kindle

Kindle game Futoshiki - Halloween edition

It’s two weeks until Halloween, but the holiday is already having a strange effect on the game section of the Kindle Store. There’s several new “Halloween” versions of some popular Kindle games. And Amazon has also released yet another free mystery game of their own!

It’s fun to see game developers taking their established Kindle titles, and updating them with special Halloween editions. The best-selling game in the Kindle Store right now is the “Ultimate Halloween Quiz” — and it’s one of the top-40 best-selling items in the entire Kindle store! HandyX has already created seven other “interactive quiz” games, but this one promises questions about monsters, magic, and other October-appropriate topics. “Do you know Mary Shelley from Marilyn Manson, or Freddy from Jason…?” asks the game’s description at Amazon.com “Questions topics include horror movies, Halloween facts, scary novels, gruesome history, magical creatures, myths and legends. Halloween will never be the same!”

And there’s also a spooky new version of the Sudoku-like logic puzzle, Futoshiki. “Futoshiki Halloween Edition takes an eerie twist as witches and zombies take over in a graveyard game board,” warns the game’s page in the Kindle store. There’s a dangerous-looking tree in the background of the game board, and the top of the screen even includes the silhouette of a witch. But somehow, the stark contrast on the Kindle’s black-and-white screen seems to fit the holiday perfectly.

Both those games were released just last Wednesday — and there’s also a new Halloween version of the game Blossom. This has always been one of my personal favorite Kindle games, and it’s fun to see it getting a holiday makeover. In the original version, you’d rotate squares in a grid to connect a network of pipes to make some flowers blossom. But in the Halloween edition, those restful flowers have been replaced by jack-o-lanterns — and instead of a watering can, they’re connecting to a black witch’s cauldron!

Kindle game Blossom - Screenshot of Halloween edition

And believe it or not, there’s now even a Halloween version of Mahjong Solitaire. “This game is so fun it’s scary!” reads its description in the Kindle Store, which promises to complement its 13 different layouts with two special Halloween tile sets. Their pictures include pumpkins, tombstones, and even something that looks like a smirking ghost. At $3.99, it’s one of the more expensive Kindle games — but if you like Mahjong Solitaire, this looks like a fun novelty.

And there’s one more new game in the Kindle Store with a special connection to Halloween. The makers of Slingo have just come up with “Poker of the Dead” — which combines the challenges of the classic “Texas Hold ‘Em” card game with…zombies! It’s a seven-day tournament (with 10 hands per day), with a dramatic backstory adding the complication of an onslaught by the living dead. But fortunately, according to the game’s description, your zombie opponents “have no brains, never fold, and will always call your bet.” The phrase “winner takes all” gets a whole new meaning, but if you defeat all these poker-playing zombies, you’ll live to fight another day.

Amazon’s newest free game isn’t quite as creepy — but they’ve taken a classic logic puzzle and given it a nice Kindle adaptation. “Grid Detective” recreates those story problems you may remember from puzzle magazines — where, for example, there’s four people receiving four kittens that are four different colors. So who got which kitten? The game offers a series of cryptic clues — but you can “crack the case” if you carefully track them all, and also make the right inferences. In the paper-and-pencil version, you’d have to draw your own grid to keep track of all your deductions, but Amazon’s made this game much simpler to play by creating their own detailed interface. It may not be the most mysterious game ever, but the whole “intrigue” theme seem appropriate for Halloween.

Are we seeing a trend of things to come? Next month will we see special Thanksgiving editions of games for the Kindle — and even more versions for other holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Days? My crystal ball remains hazy, but I do think this is more significant than it seems. Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets will include lots of homegrown apps from outside developers, so there’ll eventually be hundreds of extra brains trying to dream up new ways to entertain us. Maybe this is our first taste of what that future will be like.

But whatever happens, I’m glad to see that there’s already independent Kindle developers out there who are dreaming up their own fun new ways to use a Kindle to celebrate Halloween!

Amazon Promises Still More New Kindle Features!

Amazon has announced even more new-and-exciting features that are coming up for the Kindle.

* When can you give an ebook as a gift? That’s the question bothering a reporter at PC World — and he took it straight to Amazon. They’d organized a press event which included executives from Amazon, and “Since I had Russ Grandinetti, Amazon’s vice president of Kindle Content, in the room, I decided to get to the bottom of this…”

Amazons’ response? “Stay tuned. We know gifting is important. We have a long experience with trying to make people’s holidays really good…” And then he’d added that Amazon is, in fact, working on making this year’s holidays good.

“He wouldn’t get into detail on how this might work,” the reporter notes, “but I think it’s a good bet that gifting novels will become a reality this year.” And he predicts that when Amazon does it — Barnes and Noble will offer the same feature for the Nook almost immediately!

* Is Amazon building a Kindle App store? Back in January, Amazon announced plans for a kind of Kindle “app store” like the one that’s currently selling fun third-party software for Apple’s iPhones. Amazon had already lined up top-notch developers, and promised there’d even be some free applications (plus apps with a one-time fee, and some requiring a regular monthly subscription). But in the six months since, Amazon hadn’t said a word.

Fortunately, BusinessInsider magazine didn’t forget, and a few days ago they phoned Amazon demanding an update. Amazon’s response? “We’re working on it. We have some great developers in the beta…”

* Are the Kindle’s competitors doomed? There’s a dire prediction from another reporter at PC World — that Amazon’s new $139 Kindle “spells disaster for other e-reader makers, who have either relied on prices or features to hold some kind of edge on the Kindle.” The argument goes that it’s almost impossible to compete…now that there’s a cheaper and multi-featured new version of the Kindle. The article then goes on to list four digital readers “whose future is now in jeopardy” — Sony’s Reader, the Kobo from Borders, plus Plastic Logic Que and Spring Design Alex.

* And finally, there’s a professional football whose name is Sergio Kindle. This has nothing to do with Amazon’s book-reading device whatsoever, but some people apparently haven’t figured that out. I swear I’ve seen feeds on Twitter which seem to automatically share the URL for any news article that mentions Amazon’s device — but that are only searching on the word “Kindle.” So sometimes instead of learning about Amazon’s ebook reader — you end up reading news articles about an NFL linebacker!