100 eBooks for November for $3.99 (or Less)

Amazon Kindle 399 ebook sale

Each month Amazon picks 100 Kindle ebooks to sell at a special discount — and there’s still a few days left to browse November’s deals. You can find all 100 ebooks at tinyurl.com/399books — and when December starts, there’ll be 100 more discounted ebooks at the same URL.

As always, Amazon’s discounting books from seven different genres, so there’ll be a nice variety to choose from. And it looks like this month, Amazon’s discounted some ebooks about business and investing. (I don’t remember ever seeing these discounts before on Amazon’s business ebooks!) Plus, there’s some additional discounts on “popular romances” at the bottom of the page, including holiday-themed ebooks like Kissing Under the Mistletoe and Christmas on Mimosa Lane.

Here’s some of the November discounted ebooks for November that I thought looked especially intriguing.

SuperFreakonomics ($3.79)

It’s a sequel to the wildly successful “pop economics” book Freakonomics by Steven D. Leavitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Their original has sold over 4 million copies, and according to the new book’s description at Amazon, “fans and newcomers alike will find that the freakquel is even bolder, funnier, and more surprising than the first.” It’s hard to resist the book’s tantalizing topics, like “What’s the best way to catch a terrorist? Can eating kangaroo save the planet? How is a street prostitute like a department-store Santa?” Amazon’s description promises that the two authors “mix smart thinking and great storytelling like no one else… By examining how people respond to incentives, they show the world for what it really is – good, bad, ugly, and, in the final analysis, super freaky.”

Ali in Wonderland – Enhanced Edition with Audio/Video ($3.99)

Ali Wentworth has written an “addictively funny and warm memoir,” according to Amazon’s description of the book — and what a life she’s led. Her mother was the White House social secretary for President Ronald Reagan’s wife Nancy, but Ali “rebelled against her blue-blood upbringing, embracing Hollywood, motorcycles, even a few wildly inappropriate marriage proposals.” She eventually became a comedic actress — Ali started her career doing sketch comedy in Los Angeles with Will Ferrell and Lisa Kudrow. And though her wild life story usually costs $25.99, Amazon’s selling it in November for just $3.99. (They’re billing it as a special “enhanced edition” with 25 audio clips of the author herself telling the stories, but there’s a disclaimer that says those clips are only available if you’re using the Kindle apps for the iPad, or the iPhone or iPod Touch!)

Overconnected: The Promise and Threat of the Internet ($2.99)

A surprising book offers a fresh perspective about the world of today by William H. Davidow, a former senior executive at Intel, who warns that the online world’s “overconnection” could have very bad consequences not just economically and politically, but also on our everyday lives. The book’s gotten some great reviews — James Fallow wrote that it “has the wonderful effect of explaining seemingly unrelated problems in a way that instantly makes sense once it is pointed out, and that also suggests feasible corrections,” calling it “clear, original, and worth being widely read.” And a Pulitzer Prize-winning history professor named David M. Kennedy has emphatically declared that Overconnected was “a bold and brave book.”

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope ($2.99)

A former reporter for the Associated Press teamed up with a young African named William Kamkwamba to tell a fascinating story. At the age of 15, in impoverished Malawi, young Kamkwamba decided to try to build a windmill for his village using discarded junk and some borrowed textbooks. It’s an inspiring story — Amazon picked it as one of the best books of the month when a reprint was released in 2009. Kamkwamba explains that the windmill “meant more than just power, it was freedom,” and the book’s publisher even boasts of an endorsement from former Vice President Al Gore, who described the book as “a moving and exciting story”.

Plus, this book comes with “Whispersync for Voice” capabilities — so you can switch from reading the ebook to listening to the audiobook edition on your Android or iOS smartphone. (The audiobook edition is sold separately, but the reduced price is reduced to $9.95 when you buy the discounted ebook.) And the audiobook/ebook combo can also be combined on any Kindle Fire tablet for “Immersion Reading”, so each word is highlighted as it’s being read in the audiobook.

Remember, you can find all 100 ebooks at tinyurl.com/399books

and when December starts, there’ll be 100 more discounted ebooks at the same URL!

80% Discounts on Kindle eBooks for Cyber Monday

Amazon ebook discounts Cyber Monday

“Today only, thousands of Kindle books are at least 80% off,” Amazon’s just announced. It’s a special sale for Cyber Monday. Check out the selection at Tinyurl.com/MondayEbookDeal (And for Cyber Monday, Amazon’s selling a Kindle Fire tablet for just $129 – see tinyurl.com/KindleFireMonday )

At another web site, the “geek” publisher O’Reilly and Associates is offering 50% discounts on all of their ebooks. But Amazon’s upped the stakes by discounting thousands of Kindle ebooks by 80% Amazon’s included their “Editor’s Picks” at the top of the page, where they’re touting some of the best books that they’ve discounted. For example, the novels below are available for just $2.02.

Mysteries of Pittsburgh (P.S.) and Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot (and all of its sequels)
Sophie’s Choice and The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Exodus and Armageddon by Leon Uris
The Great Santini and The Lord of Discipline by Pat Controy
From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line by James Jones
Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr.
The Magic Christian and Candy by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg

There’s also discounts on non-fiction titles, including James Gleick’s best-seller, Chaos: Making a New Science (which is also $2.02). And some ebooks are even less. Now you can get an ebook version of Albert Einstein’s The Theory of Relativity for just 99 cents. And Mr. Popper’s Penguins is just $1.32.

I’m impressed by the variety of discounts that Amazon’s offering. For example, one of the most popular books of last year was a parody of children’s picture books called Go the F**k to Sleep. For today, Amazon’s selling the ebook for just 99 cents. But Amazon’s also offering discounts on ebooks in 12 different genres.

Literary Fiction
Science Fiction
Teen Books
Mystery & Thrillers
BIographies & Memoirs
Politics & Current Events
Children’s Books
General Nonfiction

Check out the selection at Tinyurl.com/MondayEbookDeal

Amazon discounts Kindle Fire for Cyber Monday!

Cyber Monday Kindle Fire deal

For Cyber Monday, Amazon’s selling a Kindle Fire tablet for just $129! For a shortcut to the deal, just go to tinyurl.com/KindleFireMonday. Just enter the code “FIREDEAL” to claim the discount when you’re checking out.

And thousands of Kindle books are also at least 80% off.
Check out the selection at Tinyurl.com/MondayEbookDeal

Amazon discounts Kindle Fire for Cyber Monday - gift-wrapped for Christmas deal shoppers

Amazon waited until Sunday night to announce that they were going to be discounting their Kindle Fire tablets on Monday morning, as part of a special “Cyber Monday” sale. “Is Kindle Fire on your holiday shopping list?” they teased in a special announcement on Twitter. “Visit us on Cyber Monday to get our most affordable tablet at our lowest price of the year.”

Amazon announces Kindle Fire deal on Twitter

The announcement happened at 7:50 p.m., Pacific Time, and at that exact moment, Amazon also posted a nearly identical announcement on the Facebook page for the Kindle Fire. (“Is Kindle Fire on your holiday shopping list…?”) And within 15 minutes, more than 2,000 different people had already clicked Facebook’s “Like” icon for the announcement.

Cyber Monday sale on Kindle Fire announced on Facebook

That’s not surprising — more than 1.1 million people have already subscribed to Facebook’s status updates for the Kindle Fire. And within a half an hour, nearly 100 of them had shared Amazon’s announcement with their Facebook friends, so there will be a lot of people snatching up Amazon’s Kindle when the discounted price is finally announced on Saturday morning!

I’ve been wondering if Amazon is going to run out of their Kindle tablets before Christmas. This weekend I discovered that they’ve already sold out of the Kindle Paperwhite, and won’t be shipping any new ones until December 21st. A few days ago, Amazon even posted that their $69 Kindle was now only expected to ship “in 1 to 2 weeks”. Even now that that Kindle is back in stock, Amazon’s limiting orders to just two per customer. So if you’re shopping for a Kindle, move fast!

Amazon clearly doesn’t have enough Kindles on hand to keep up with the popular demand. And with Monday’s discount on the Kindle Fire, they’re about to become even more popular…!

For a shortcut to the deal, just go to tinyurl.com/KindleFireMonday.

Kindle Fire Discounts Announced for Black Friday

Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablet

Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet is the hottest gift this shopping season — and some great discounts have just been announced for Black Friday. To get these reduced prices, you’ll have to visit one of Amazon’s retail-store partners, like Best Buy, OfficeMax, Staples, or Office Depot. They’re reportedly not allowed to lower the actual price of the devices, so they’re doing the next best thing. If you purchase a Kindle Fire tablet, they’ll just give you some money back in the form of a gift card!

Here’s a complete rundown of all the discounts being offered on Black Friday for Kindle Fire tablets — and I’ve collected and confirmed them from reliable sources like Yahoo! Finance News. But remember that Amazon’s already offered at least one short-lived discount of their own. Earlier this month, Amazon reportedly sold Kindle Fire tablets for just $129 as one of their Lightning Deals (following a strict philosophy of “while supplies last”). So it’s always possible that when Black Friday rolls around, Amazon will unveil another stash of cheap Kindle Fire tablets — just to compete with these deals from Best Buy, Office Max, and Staples!

Best Buy Logo

Best Buy
$200 = $30 “gift card” and an Amazon Kindle Fire HD (7-inch high-definition display, 16 gigabytes)

$159 = $30 “gift card” and a Kindle Fire (7-inch LCD display, 8 gigabytes)

“That beats both deals from Staples and OfficeMax,” reports the Christian Science Monitor, noting that those two stores “only bundle it with $20 and $25 gift cards, respectively.” (But they’re also advising readers to see if Amazon.com will offer an even bigger deal…)

And if you buy the cheapest one, you’ll end up walking home with an improved version of last year’s model of the Kindle Fire for just $129.

The OfficeMax Logo

$199 = $25 “gift card” and an Amazon Kindle Fire HD (7-inch high-definition display, 16 gigabytes)

This information comes straight from Office Max themselves (via a press release on Yahoo! Finance News). And in addition to their discounts on the Kindle Fire HD, Office Max is also offering a 40% discount on cases for your Kindle Fire (from the case-manufacturer Belkin).

Office Depot Logo

Office Depot

$159 = $25 Visa card and a Kindle Fire

ZDNet is reporting this information came from a leaked version of the newspaper ad that Office Depot will be running for its Black Friday sales. “Office Depot has to sell Kindle Fires at the same price as competing bricks-and-mortar retailers,” writes their reporter Sean Pornoy “so it’s also dangling an incentive to purchase at its locations: You can get a $25 Visa gift card with the purchase of the second-generation Kindle Fire (non-HD version) for $159.99.

Staples Logo

$159 – $20 “gift card” and a Kindle Fire (7-inch LCD display, 8 gigabytes)

$199 – $20 “gift card” and a Kindle Fire HD (7-inch high-definition display, 16 gigabytes)

$249 – $20 “gift card” and a Kindle Fire (7-inch high-definition display, 32 gigabytes)

“Like other retailers…” reports PC Magazine, “Staples won’t be discounting Amazon’s Kindle lineup, but it will throw in a $20 gift card when you buy the 7-inch Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD.”

Special eBooks for Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Curious George book and Kindle ebook cover

Are you ready for some Thanksgiving fun? Thursday is the great American holiday, and if you’re traveling for the holiday – or just have some extra time to relax — I’ve picked out a few Thanksgiving-related ebooks.

It’s sort of a tradition, since last year I also recommended some Thanksgiving ebooks, and it made me feel like in some way I was celebrating the holiday together with my readers. I like to joke that we all have at least one thing that brings us together: we can all be grateful that we own a Kindle! And yes, I’m especially grateful, because it’s been exactly one year since I published my very first e-book. (A funny, short Thanksgiving mystery about turkeys written in rhyme – which is now free until Wednesday night!)

Anyways, for this year’s holiday, I’ve identified some of the best ebooks — in different categories — that are available for for Thanksgiving in Amazon’s Kindle Store.

The Best Romance
“Thanksgiving” by Janet Evanovich

Best-selling author Janet Evanovich wrote several funny mystery novels — but she actually began her career writing romance novels at the age of 45. One of her first books was “Thanksgiving,” written in 1988, describing how overworked Megan Murphy meets a good-looking doctor at historic Williamsburg, Virginia. (Megan’s enjoying a cup of hot cider and two sugar cookies from the Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop when she discovers the doctor’s giant pet rabbit is eating a hole through her skirt!)

According to the book’s description on Amazon, “she meant to give its careless owner a piece of her mind, but Dr. Patrick Hunter was too attractive to stay mad at for long,” and soon “the two are making Thanksgiving dinner for their families.” And 12 different Amazon’s reviewers gave it five-star reviews, including one who wrote that “If you’ve enjoyed Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, you’re going to get a kick out of her stories for the Loveswept Romance imprint…”

The Best Cookbook
Thanksgiving 101 by Rick Rodgers

Perdue Farms sells over $4.6 billion worth of poultry every year, and for eight years, Rick Rodgers was their media spokesman. He traveled the country giving classes, according to Amazon’s description of the book, and delivers “everything, absolutely everything, you would want to know about buying, thawing, prepping, and roasting a turkey.

“You needn’t look any further. There’s a long question-and-answer-style section that anticipates any questions you might have. Then it’s right on to everything from Perfect Roast Turkey with Best-Ever Gravy to Holiday Meatball Lasagna.” And in addition, there’s lots of recipes for stuffings, side dishes, appetizers, and even leftovers. 29 of the book’s 34 reviewers on Amazon gave it five stars, while the other five
awarded it four. It’s a classic — Amazon’s first review of the book was written in 1998 — but even today, it’s become one of Amazon’s best-selling holiday cooking books.

The Best History Book
On Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford

Who better to tell the story of Thanksgiving than the pilgrims who lived through it? (My favorite chapter was the one about the very non-Puritan antics of Thomas Morton…) William Bradford began writing his history of America’s most famous pilgrims back in 1630 (according to my anthology of American literature), and he continued chronicling their life up to 1647. But the invaluable manuscript was never published in his lifetime, and after Bradford’s death, his family passed it down through the generations.

The precious unpublished memoir traveled its own complicated journey, down through Boston’s Old South Church, and eventually even back to England. Finally it was published in 1856 — a full 200 years after it was written. It never did arrive on the shores of Amazon’s Kindle Store, but you can download a free Kindle version from Project Gutenburg. I’ve always thought it’s excited that, thanks to the Kindle, today we can take peek into the lives of those very pilgrims who first started celebrating Thanksgiving.

The Best Children’s Book
Happy Thanksgiving, Curious George

Just 12 weeks ago, a new Curious George book appeared, and this one has a special surprise. Yes, you may have read other children’s books about the playful and accident-prone monkey… But this one rhymes!

George wakes up in the morning.
Something smells quite nice.
He knows for sure he wants some —
A piece, a smidge, a slice.

He rushes to the kitchen
and there he sees the man —
with yellow hat an apron,
A turkey in the pan.

The turkey’s in the oven.
It takes some time to cook.
But every now and then
George can’t help but take a look….

Uh-oh, I bet there’s going to be trouble.

Hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!

Amazon’s Black Friday Deals are Already Here

Amazon.com shipping boxes

Amazon’s starting a new tradition that they’re calling “Black Friday Deals Week”. They’re offering big discounts right now of up to 50% on computers and accessories, for example, and even high-demand gift items like laptops and tablets. All the deals appear on a special “Black Friday Sales” web page that used to say “Countdown to Black Friday.” But now (according to Amazon), the magic day is already here!

“You shouldn’t have to stand in a long line to get a great deal,” Amazon explains – and they’re not just discounting their own products. “We’ve been searching for the best Black Friday deals everywhere – including Black Friday deals other stores are planning–so we can bring them to you even earlier.” There may be a limited supply of the discounted items, Amazon warns, “but we’ll add new ones throughout the day, every day, so you can skip the long lines and still save a bundle.” My only question: Does that make this “Black Monday”?

I already see discounts of “up to 50%” on some Panasonic cameras. (For example, there’s a model called the Lumix DMC-GH2KK which normally costs $999, and Amazon’s selling it for just $499.99.) There’s three other Panasonic cameras that have been discounted by $220, and the savings are even bigger in the laptop section. A 15.6 inch ASUS laptop now costs just $399 — a 33% discount from its usual price of $599.

And if you’ve ever wanted ASUS’s high-end “Republic of Gamers” laptop, this is your chance. They normally cost $1,699, but Amazon’s offering them at a $420 discount. Plus, there’s also big discounts on monitors. (For example, a 24-inch widescreen monitor from Viewscreen now costs just $179, a 52% discount from its usual price of $368.)

But the biggest surprise is that Amazon is discounting tablet computers that compete directly with the Kindle Fire. A 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 now costs just $179 — a 28% discount from its usual price of $249 — and even the 10-inch model is being discounted $100 from its usual price of $399. Plus, there’s even a 23% discount on solar keyboard folio for the iPad! Does this make you wonder if Amazon’s holding back a big discount of their own for later in the week?

All year long I’ve been waiting for one specific piece of news: that Amazon’s finally going to offer a big discount on their Kindle Fire tablets during the week of Black Friday. Last year they surprised everyone with a 32% discount on the big-screen Kindle DX on Thanksgiving Day, and then on Black Friday also slashed the price on the “previous generation” of their Kindle Keyboard to just $79. And exactly one year before, in 2010, Amazon also made big cuts in the price of their “previous-generation” Kindle Keyboards to just $89. (This was at a time when the Kindle 3 cost $139.)

It drives me crazy, because I know Amazon’s planning a big “anchor” discount for this year’s Black Friday sales. But will it be a Kindle Fire tablet, a Kindle Paperwhite, or one of the older Kindle keyboards — or another model of the Kindle? I’d be happy if Amazon just brought back the Kindle Touch for one last hurrah.

But all we know for sure is that, according to Amazon, Black Friday “Deals Week” has already begun!

Check out Amazon’sspecial Black Friday Deals Week page at

My Free Thanksgiving Turkey eBook

I wrote a funny ebook for Thanksgiving, and I’d like to share it with all of my readers for free. Just point your computer’s web browser to TinyURL.com/TurkeyBook , and Amazon will send it to your Kindle at no charge. And if you read it on your Kindle Fire (or on one of Amazon’s apps), you’ll even be able to see the illustrations in color. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s the backstory…

After years of blogging about new authors writing exciting new ebooks for the Kindle, I’d decided last year that I had to try writing one too. So I dreamed up a wild story about four talking turkeys all awaiting the farmer’s axe on Thanksgiving Day – but one of them has a plan for escaping! To try to make it even more interesting, I included 12 different illustrations, and I even wrote the whole thing in rhyme.

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

But Amazon surprised me by publishing my book within just 12 hours from the time I’d submitted it to the Kindle Store. (I’d heard longer estimates of “24 to 48 hours.”) So I woke up the next morning to discover that somehow my turkeys had already snuck onto Amazon’s list of the best-selling children’s ebooks about animals – and they’d stolen the #73 spot from a book about Curious George!

Curious George ebook

I still get a smile when I remember that Thanksgiving. Within another hour, The Turkey Mystery Rhyme had made it into the top six on Amazon’s list of children’s ebooks about birds, one notch above a book I’d first read back in first grade! I wrote to one of my friends that “I was almost paralyzed with excitement when I finally saw it for the first time on Amazon.” And it also made me pause for a minute during the holidays, and think a hopeful thought about the future.

“I love books, And when I read books, I go to a special place. And now I’m in that special place – I’m on the other side of the page, so to speak. And that makes me feel somehow like I’ve inherited some of the importance of the other books I usually read. (Now instead of looking at other people’s books at Amazon.com and their thumbnail images, it’s my book, and my thumbnail image…)

I’ve really been struck and blind-sided by how easy it was – how it all came together, and how everything I needed was already there…”

It was the day when self-publishing first started to feel real to me – with all the big things that that implied about the future of books. And with that in mind, I ended the e-mail by saying “I’ve tried to savor this day because it will always be my only first ebook.”

So visit this URL to check out my free rhyming Thanksgiving turkey mystery…


And I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving.

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

Amazon Announces “Best Books of 2012”

Amazon's List of the Best Books of 2012

The editors at Amazon have just announced their list of the very best books of 2012. They’ve also chosen their Best Book of the Year — and created 24 more “top 10” lists for different categories, including fiction, romance, mystery, and this year’s 10 best Kindle Singles. They’ve even got a list where Stephen King chooses his Top 10 favorite books of the year, along with other famous authors like Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald. Plus, each individual category also has its own a “best book of the year.”

Visit Amazon’s “Best Books of 2012” page at tinyurl.com/BestBooksOf2012

“We are confident that we’ve chosen a list that customers will be excited about,” announced Amazon’s Editorial Director for the Kindle and Books at Amazon.com, Sara Nelson. And on a special web page, Amazon explains that “All year, the Amazon Books editorial team reads voraciously, tracking down and sharing the most fascinating, compelling, enlightening, and entertaining books…” Their pick for the best book of the year was The Round House, about a teenager’s investigation into a family tragedy on a reservation in North Dakota. Here’s Amazon’s complete list of the Top 10 Books of 2012 — and what they had to say about them.

1. The Round House by Louise Erdric
“Likely to be dubbed the Native American To Kill a Mockingbird, Erdrich’s moving, complex and surprisingly uplifting new novel tells of a boy’s coming of age in the wake of a brutal, racist attack on his mother.”

2. The Yellow Birds: A Novel by Kevin Powers
“With this compact and emotional debut novel, Iraq War veteran Powers eyes the casual violence of war with a poet’s precision, moving confidently between scenes of blunt atrocity and almost hallucinatory detachment.”

3. Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn
“Masterfully plotted from start to finish, the suspense doesn’t waver for one page. It’s one of those books you will feel the need to discuss immediately after finishing. The ending punches you in the gut.”

4. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
“As much an homage to literature as to the mother who shared it with him, Schwalbe’s chronicling of his mother’s death to cancer—they wait, they talk, they read together—is nothing less than captivating.”

5. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: A Novel by Ben Fountain
“Debut novelist Fountain follows a squad of marines as they engage in a ‘victory tour’ in the States. Set mostly during halftime at a Dallas Cowboy’s football game, Fountain skillfully illustrates what it’s like to go to war, and how bizarre and disconcerting it can be for these grunts to return from combat to the country they love.”

6. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
“This searing portrait of life in a Mumbai slum reads like a novel, but it’s all-too-true. Pulitzer Prize-winner Boo’s writing is superb, and the depth and courage of her reporting from this hidden world is astonishing.”

7. A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
“Both disturbing and funny, this novel from onetime wunderkind Eggers shows surprising depth. A man’s wayward attempt to find himself and retake his life delivers him to Saudi Arabia but the journey abroad is also internal, and it ends up saying as much about life in America as in the Middle East.”

8. The Middlesteins: A Novel by Jami Attenberg
“A quick read that’s more complex than it seems at first, this story about a Midwestern Jewish family is both recognizable (sometimes uncomfortably so) and entertainingly idiosyncratic.”

9. Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
“Like the late author himself, this book is funny, smart, entertaining and unflinching to the end. Mortality has the power to change ideas that you might have held immutable—which is one of the best things you can say about a book.”

10. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
“This soulful novel originally written for teenagers tackles big subjects – life, death, love – with the perfect blend of levity and heart-swelling emotion.”

There’s a humorous note on the web page where Amazon’s announcing their final list. “Picking the best of anything is always difficult, but this year Sara Nelson and the gang had a different kind of difficulty: an embarrassment of riches. All year long we read and loved so many books that the usually spirited Best of the Year meetings were, well, especially spirited.” I can only imagine what that discussion must’ve looked like, but in the end, Amazon explains, we arrived at a list that we’re proud of, offering something for everyone.


Visit Amazon’s “Best Books of 2012” page at tinyurl.com/BestBooksOf2012

Amazon Celebrates Veterans Day

Amazon Military logo

Veterans Day is this weekend, and there’s a non-profit group called “Operation Homefront” that supports members of the service who have been wounded, as well as their families. Amazon’s just announced that they’re donating 2,000 Kindles to the group, “continuing its commitment to support transitioning military service women and men.”

It’s a good way for Amazon to help out the returning soliders and their families, according to the group’s CEO. “These Kindle devices will greatly enhance their quality of life,” he said in a statement, “as they progress through their challenging recovery process.” But it’s not the only way Amazon is supporting the veterans. They’re also promising to hire at least 1,200 more veterans within the next year.

“Amazon is committed to supporting veterans as they transition from military life to civilian life…” an Amazon executive said in a statement, which also included a comment from a United States Senator — Patty Murray, from Amazon’s home state of Washington. “Many of our service members, who faced challenges abroad, return home to find a whole different set of trials as they work to figure out how their specific military skill set translates into a civilian job.” She applauded Amazon, and other companies like them, “for committing to help our military heroes adjust to being home by ensuring they have access to quality employment.” Amazon already employs hundreds of veterans across the United States in their fulfillment centers, and has a team devoted to hiring more veterans for careers at Amazon.

In fact, for the second year in a row, Amazon’s been named to a list of military-friendly employers, and they were named one of the top 100 companies for recruiting veterans last month (by U.S. Veterans magazine.) Most veterans “want to ensure their work has a continued sense of purpose,” a former enlisted Army soldier explained in Amazon’s press release. He began his Amazon career as a temp at one of Amazon’s fulfillment centers, and worked his way up to a position as general manager, and he’s thankful to Amazon for the opportunity. Amazon’s even put in place a mentoring team made up of veterans, who also offer career support.

There’s one specific program in place at Amazon that I found really touching. In 2011, they created a special “Virtual Contact Center” providing costumer support, which allows employees to work from home. Amazon has actively recruited military spouses for the program, as well as our nation’s wounded warriors. It’s nice to think that Amazon’s philosophy is reflected both in the experience they’re delivering to Kindle owners, and to the policies they have for their employees. According to the veteran they quoted in their press release, whether you’re shopping at Amazon or working there, “Amazon’s commitment to hiring and developing veterans reflects its customer-centric focus…”

Can the Kindle Catch the iPad?

Apple iPad in a hand

There’s an old saying that journalists love a horse race. Current events are more interesting when there’s one side that’s winning and one side that’s losing. That’s why blogs like to focus on the “war” between the iPad and Amazon’s own Kindle Fire tablets. Unfortunately, neither company releases their sales figures, but periodically you’ll get some good estimates from the “market analysts” at professional research firms.

And that’s what happened on Monday, when some surprising new numbers were released by the technology analysts at IDC. It’s a research firm that focuses specifically on consumer technology, and they’d made two interesting observations. In just three months — July, August, and September — they’re estimating that 27.8 million tablet computers were sold. And that means that nearly three tablets were sold this year for every two tablets that were sold in the same period in 2011.

Even if you just compare tablet sales to the previous three months, total tablet sales have now still increased by 6.7%. But what’s even more interesting is that Apple’s share of the tablet market is getting smaller, IDC notes. According to their calculations, more customers are now choosing instead to buy devices with the “Android” operating system — like Amazon’s Kindle Fire!

Of the 27.8 million tablets sold between July and September, 14 million of them were from Apple (all the various versions of the iPad). That barely gives Apple half of the new sales for tablet computers, with a share of 50.4% (versus 65.6% in the previous three months). The next-biggest vendor was Samsung, who sold 18.4% of the tablet computers bought between July and September. But Amazon’s share of the market during that same period was 9% — which was nearly double what it had been in the previous three months!

That may not sound like much, but Amazon waited until September, the last month in the quarter, before announcing their newest tablets. “Here’s why Amazon’s tablet share is going dramatically higher,” writes a blogger at ZDNet, noting that Amazon’s newest version of their Kindle Fire tablet can compete with the iPad on both price and features. He also notes that during September, Amazon was only selling their Kindle Fire HD tablets within the United States. But as Amazon expands their sales to the rest of the globe, their share of the market should increase.

Of course, there’s also another story behind Apple’s figures, according to the analysis by IDC. “We believe a sizeable percentage of consumers interested in buying an Apple tablet sat out the third quarter, in anticipation of an announcement about the new iPad mini. Now that the new Mini, and a fourth-generation full-sized iPad, are both shipping we expect Apple to have a very good quarter.” But they note that the iPad Mini is still relatively expensive at $329, which opens up a market opportunity for Amazon and their Kindle Fire tablets.

Now with the Christmas shopping season approaching, IDC reports that Apple’s missteps “leave plenty of room” for companies like Amazon to “build upon the success they achieved in the third quarter!”

Hurricane Sandy vs. Amazon

Sand bags for hurricane Sandy in New York City

My friend Nate lives in New York City — and he’s really grateful to Amazon. On Friday Nate told a remarkable story about life in the water-damaged city after it was hit by Hurricane Sandy. It was the largest hurricane ever to come out of the Atlantic Ocean, and it had had a huge impact on the millions of people who lived in the big city.

New York’s subway system wasn’t providing any service below 34th street “for an undisclosed period of time,” Nate posted on his Facebook page, “and cabs cost about $25 each way to work right now (and sometimes more).” But Nate felt guilty using any gas-powered vehicle, since it was obvious that there was going to be an ongoing shortage of gasoline. The answer turned out to be surprisingly simple: Nate decided to get a bicycle! “I tracked down a decent folding bike for less than it’ll cost in taxis next week alone,” he eventually posted on Facebook.

But here’s the funny part. Nate just placed his order on Amazon.com, around 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon. “I’ve got Amazon Prime, so the order shipped for free…” he posted the next morning on Facebook. And his bicycle had already arrived! “In 16 hours,” he posted in amazement. “A BIKE. To Post-Sandy NYC. For Free.

And Amazon was also delivering supplies to other New Yorkers, too. (“Take a guess,” joked The Huffington Post. “Why were two-gallon gas cans one of the most popular items sold on Amazon this week?”) People were also ordering gas-powered generators and even lanterns from Amazon, according to the Post‘s article. Difficult times called for creative solutions, and to get the supplies they needed, at least some people turned to Amazon.com for things they couldn’t find locally.

New York City after hurricane Sandy - the Plaza Shops underwater

In fact, in a comment on the article, someone reported that my friend Nate wasn’t the only person who was riding a bicycle across the gas-starved city. “There are thousands of them on the streets of New York City right now.” New York’s transportation department estimated that just on Thursday, there were 17,000 more bicyclists crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and the three other biggest bridges in Manhattan, Queensboro, and Williamsburg. Most of the bikes were probably in New York before the flood, but Nate was delighted that he could actually get one shipped in!

After the hurricane, people began to look at the world a little differently, and it was nice to hear stories about people reaching out to help others. One fitness center even posted a sign offering free hot showers or an outlet for recharging cellphones to anyone who needed it, Nate posted on Facebook. “I’m trying to figure out how I can order stuff from Amazon to be delivered to the people who need it on Staten Island or the Jersey Shore,” he added later, “because apparently Amazon are the only people who can get things places right now.” It’s nice to see Amazon’s expertise in shipping having a positive impact on people who really need it.

One of Nate’s friends even joked, “Maybe the government should commandeer Amazon until the crisis is over.” But Nate wasn’t even sure that was a joke, because he’d been so amazed by the way Amazon performed after the hurricane. “That was kind of my point. I was looking at getting some solar panels or generators shipped out using Amazon Prime. They have them.

“Apparently they could deliver them in 16 hours if I ordered them!”

Surprise Amazon Announcement: “Early Black Friday” Sales!

Amazon early Black Friday deals
Amazon announces early Black Friday sales on TVs and laptops
“Black Friday isn’t until the day after Thanksgiving,” Amazon explains on a special web page, “but since you’re here already…we got the deals going a little early!

“We’re counting down to Black Friday Deals Week with, yes, even more deals, all day, every day. Black Friday sales, Amazon’s best deals–you’ll find them right here.”

I’ve been hoping that Amazon will announce a discount on the Kindle HD or the Kindle Paperwhite on Black Friday, but there’s already some other great deals that are available now. For a shortcut to their special page, point your web browser to http://tinyurl.com/AdvanceBlackFriday . “The deals destination will feature a Deal of the Day, along with limited-time, doorbuster-style Lightning Deals,” Amazon explains in a press release, “and other huge savings on the hottest electronics, toys, clothing and more, now through Black Friday weekend.”

So what exactly is Amazon giving away? There’s laptops, cameras, and plasma (and LED) TVs. Here’s some of the specific details that Amazon’s released about deals they’ll have this November.

– up to 60% off on popular TV series, including the first two season of The Walking Dead

– up to 60% off on children’s books (including Disney Bedtime Favorites)

– up to 50% off on winter clothing (including accessories and outerwear)

– discounts on both men’s and women’s watches

– a special sale on the Xbox 360 (250 gigabytes, with Kinect)

They’ll also be discounting expensive consumer electronics, including the Panasonic Plasma and LED television sets, and the Samsung Premium Ultrabook (series 9). In fact, Amazon’s vice president of Consumer Electronics specifically promised that for the next 21 days, their page would be featuring “a large selection of the most anticipated products of the season, all for a great price.” But if you visit the page today, Amazon will give you a peek of the “lightning deals” which are coming up later today. If you move fast, you’ll be able to get a great price on a Canon camera, an HP Pavillion laptop, and a giant 72% discount on a paper shredder.

To make it easier to find gifts, Amazon’s even created their own “curated” list of the top-rated and newest items available this shopping season. That’s a screenshot of its logo at the top of this post.

And yes, their newest Kindles are both featured prominently…

Amazon Kindle and Black Friday sales

Check out Amazon’s special “early Black Friday” page at http://tinyurl.com/AdvanceBlackFriday