Has the Kindle Killed the Nook?

Barnes and Noble store with Nook department

I knew the Kindle was successful — but I never dreamed it was literally destroying its competition. But last week, Barnes and Noble told its investors that not only did their Nook division lose money for the second year in a row. They also reported that its loss this year was going to be even bigger than their losses were last year — and a company insider suggested they’ll put a smaller emphasis in 2013 on trying to sell Nook devices.

The disappointing figures covered both Nook sales and whatever revenues they were earning from selling ebooks for the Nook. And Barnes and Noble is now lowering their predictions for how much they’ll be able to earn throughout all of 2013. On Monday, the New York Times reported that’s the worst news for the company’s investors. “The problem was not so much the extent of the losses, but what the losses might signal: that the digital approach that Barnes & Nobles has been heavily investing in as its future for the last several years has essentially run its course.”

But the most interesting detail in the Times’ article is that it’s not just investors who are losing hope for the Nook, but also the executives at Barnes and Noble. Citing a person “familiar” with the company’s inside strategy, they suggest that in 2013 Barnes and Noble may try to emphasize its vast library of digital ebooks in deals with other tablet manufacturers (like Samsung and Microsoft). “They are not completely getting out of the hardware business,” the source said, “but they are going to lean a lot more on the comprehensive digital catalog of content.”

One technology blogger even wrote that the Nook was in a “death spiral,” noting that Barnes and Noble had already issued an earlier warning in January about disappointing Nook sales over Christmas and during the last three months of 2012. “Companies very rarely warn twice in 40 days about the same problem,” writes a blogger at BGR.com, adding “When it happens, it usually indicates that something so unexpected is taking place that executives just cannot wrap their minds around it.” Amazon’s got a better distribution plan for their Kindle tablets outside of North America, but Barnes and Noble seems to be having problems even selling ebooks to their current Nook customers. For these reasons, he writes, “It is hard to see how the Nook’s revenue decline is going to be reversed in 2013.

“And it’s very hard to see why any new consumer who researches his or her purchase for even five minutes would now take the betamax risk of buying a Nook.

Sunday Sale on Oscar-winning Movies for Kindle

Marilyn Monroe movie poster

Today only, Amazon’s discounting over 100 Oscar-winning movies to just $3.99 for their online and app-based “Instant Video”! And you can download high-definition versions of the same movies for just $2.00. The movies will look great on your Kindle Fire (or Kindle Fire HD) tablet, but you can also watch them online. Amazon’s selling the discounted videos through their “Instant Video” store, which means you can also watch them online at video.amazon.com!

For a shortcut to the sale, just point your browser to tinyurl.com/399OscarMovies. (Remember, this is a special one-day-only sale.) Amazon’s timed it to coincide with Sunday’s Broadcast of the 85th Academy Awards. But fortunately, they’re also offering discounts on some past Oscar-winning movies.

Here’s a complete list of all of the great movies Amazon’s discounted to just $3.99…

Saving Private Ryan
Midnight in Paris
Forrest Gump
The Godfather
The Social Network
The King’s Speech
Fiddler on the Roof
Apollo 13
The Artist
The Usual Suspects
My Cousin Vinny
Slumdog Millionaire
Black Swan
My Week With Marilyn
Dances With Wolves
The Silence of the Lambs
Inside Job
Rain Man
West Side Story
War Games
Master and Commander
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Little Miss Sunshine
The Iron Lady
Some Like It Hot
Twelve Angry Men
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Out of Africa
Scent of a Woman
Erin Brockovich
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
All About Eve
King Kong
Coal Miner’s Daughter
The Invisible War
The Alamo
Babette’s Feast
Blue Valentine
The Madness of King George
The Big Country
A Separation
The Poseidon Adventure
Wall Street
Blue Velvet
Samurai Trilogy Part 1: Musashi Miyamoto
In the Heat of the Night
Ghost World
The Last King of Scotland
The Hustler
The French Connection
The Thomas Crown Affair
Hotel Rwanda
Henry V
A Fish Called Wanda
Irma La Douce
The Red Shoes
Rob Roy
Brokeback Mountain
The Devil and Daniel Webster
Leaving Las Vegas
Birdman of Alcatraz
Lillies of the Field
The Visitor
The Time of Harvey Milk
A Hole in the Head
The Constant Gardener
The Tin Drum
Born on the 4th of July
In a Better World
Midnight Cowboy
The French Lieutenant’s Woman
King Kong
Black Orpheus
The Woman in Red
Bowling for Columbine
Tom Jones
Six Degrees of Separation
The Defiant Ones
The Barefoot Contessa
I Want to Live
Separate Tables
The Purple Rose of Cairo

Remember, for a shortcut just point your browser to tinyurl.com/399OscarMovies

Kindle Comic Strips!

Amazon’s Kindle has turned up again in a newspaper comic strip. This time it’s in Frank and Ernest, and the joke is actually pretty clever. The two characters stand in the back of a classroom while one explains that it’s teaching beginners how to use their e-readers.

“Ah,” says the other character. “Kindle-garten!”

What’s really interesting is it’s not the first time that there’s been a Kindle joke in the Frank and Ernest comic strip. Back in 2010, another strip showed the two characters sitting on a couch watching Hawaii 5-0. One of them complained that they didn’t like the way the show’s catchphrase had been updated. Now when the police investigator arrested a crook, he didn’t tell his partner to “Book ’em, Danno”. He’d say “Kindle ’em, Danno!”

Whatever you think of the jokes, it feels like an exciting milestone when the Kindle finally starts appearing in old, traditional media. (Frank and Ernest has been running in daily newspapers for over 40 years, according to Wikipedia.) In fact, in 2006 the original artist died, and his son took over writing the daily comic strip. As he looked around at the world that his generation inherited, maybe he decided now it was time to start making puns about the Kindle.

I’ve been reading comic strips since I was a kid, so I love seeing this newspaper institution finally acknowledging the Kindle. There was a Ziggy comic strip more than two years ago where a Kindle was getting spammed by the public library! And sometimes it’s not just one comic strip, but an entire series of strips. The Crankshaft comic spent five days on a story where the strip’s grumpy bus driver starts to warm up to the idea of reading his beloved Tarzan novels as ebooks on the Kindle he received as a gift.

But two years ago the Kindle made what was possibly its strangest appearance ever in a newspaper comic strip: it turned up in one of the melodramatic storylines in Mary Worth. For entire week, the grey-haired do-gooder ended up arguing with her younger neighbor about whether or not she should be reading her books on a Kindle.

“The Kindle crashed it’s way into the stodgiest newspaper comic strip of them all,” I wrote at the time. (Mary Worth was first created over 70 years ago, according to Wikipedia, and in Amazon’s Kindle discussion forum, someone suggested that by now her character must be over 140 years old!)

But it’s still really nice to see an American institution like Mary Worth acknowledging that there’s something new and exciting that’s come into our world.

Is the Kindle Fire Conquering the World?


Who’s winning the tablet wars? Forbes magazine uncovered some interesting statistics. If you buy a tablet, and it’s not an iPad, chances are it’s running the Android operating system. And Amazon has apparently sold one-third of all the Android tablets in the world!

But wait, there’s an even more impressive statistic. The Kindle Fire isn’t available in every country. In fact, 89% of all Kindle Fire tablets are in either the United States or England, according to the statistics from a company called Localyties, which notes that the Kindle Fire currently isn’t even available in Canada. But if you look at the United States, where the Kindle Fire has always been available, Amazon has already sold more than half of all the Android tablets currently in use. There’s lots of competition, including Google’s Nexus 7 and Samsung’s Galaxy S, but in America the Kindle Fire has already claimed 56% of the market for Android tablets!

“Their US success suggests they could quickly dominate the Android tablet market worldwide,” reports Localytics — assuming Amazon can come up with the right kind of distribution — and they add that Amazon seems poised to bring their success in the U.S. to the rest of the world. “[A]t an event launching the Kindle Paperwhite to Canada, Amazon’s VP in charge of the Kindle noted that they are working hard to launch the Fire lineup worldwide.” Localytics gathered information from more than half a billion devices, so they’re working with a pretty good snapshot of the “universe” of tablet devices today.

By comparison, the Nook from Barnes and Noble seems to have just 16% of the U.S. market — and just 10% of the market around the world. And the figures from Localytics also show that the market share is even smaller for Amazon’s other competitors in the Android tablet market. The Samsung Galaxy accounts for just 15% of the U.S. market, and 9% of the world market for Android tablets — and the Nexus 7’s U.S. market share is just 13.5%, with an 8% share around the globe.

Interestingly, Localytics also found that 59% of the Android tablets in the world were located in the United States, so it’s a great place for Amazon to launch its global conquest of the tablet market. (“Kindle Fire Dominates US Android Market,” wrote Forbes in their headline, “but Seemingly Non-existent Outside the US.”) At the bottom of the article, their reporter offers a disclaimer that his family actually owns shares of Apple’s stock, but he still seems pretty bullish on Amazon.

“When the Kindle Fires become available in more countries they could take a significant amount of market share in the international Android market,” he writes, “and put some pressure on Apple’s iPad!”

Will Amazon Expand Same-Day Deliveries?

Post Office mascot Mr Zip
There’s a fascinating article on the technology news site Wired.com. America’s postal service will stop delivering mail on Saturdays starting in August. (Except for packages and mail delivered to a postal box.) It’s a move to save money, but Wired‘s reporter sees hints of an even more interesting scenario. Amazon could start renting post office mail carriers to offer same-day deliveries for Amazon’s packages!

it’s not as crazy as it sounds. Amazon has already been testing same-day delivery in 10 cities since 2009, according to the Christian Science Monitor, and last month they reported rumors that Amazon might be expanding the program. And meanwhile the post office is already offering same-day delivery capabilities to businesses — at least in San Francisco. For the last eight weeks, the post office has been quietly testing this service (as a way to offset the money they’re losing from deliveries of traditional mail). It’s expected to raise up to $50 million after its first year just in San Francisco, according to an article in the Associated Press., which reports that “If things run smoothly, the program will quickly expand next year to other big cities such as Boston, Chicago and New York.”

The post office has noticed that package deliveries are actually increasing at a rate of more than 10%, according to the article. (Maybe because people are ordering more things online?) And it also notes that Walmart — a major competitor to Amazon — is already offering same-day deliveries. Meanwhile, Amazon has been building more and more distribution centers in more and more states. Are we looking at the beginning of a war, to see which retailer can deliver packages the fastest?

But Wired asks a more interesting question: who’s going to be doing the delivering? FedEx and the other delivery services seem to insist on an intermediate step where all the packages are first collected together at their own distribution centers before being re-routed back out for deliveries. “To make same-day work, the orders must travel straight from the distribution centers to customers,” Wired notes — adding that post office seems to have a lot of carriers now with fewer and fewer letters to deliver.

To get a definitive answer, Wired even called a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal service, who seemed enthusiastic when he agreed that “We already have the existing infrastructure in place. That’s what sets us apart.” He wouldn’t speculate about whether the post office was going to end up offering same-day delivery services for Amazon’s packages, but he did hedge that traditional mail carriers can offer an attractive choice for companies who are exploring the same option. And to that possibility, he had one more hopeful thing to say.

“We’d never close the door on ways to expand our revenue.”

New Amazon Ad Mocks Apple’s iPad

Retina comparison ad for Amazon Kindle

Amazon’s just started broadcasting a fun new ad on television that mocks the high price of Apple’s popular iPad tablets. (That’s a screenshot at the top of this post, and you can watch the whole ad at youtube.com/Kindle .) It’s a simple ad — in fact, the narrator says just 40 words. But its message is unmistakeable…

This is the iPad with Retina display. And this is the new Kindle Fire HD with an 8.9-inch display. Stunning HD, stunning HD. In fact, you may not be able to tell the difference.

But your wallet definitely can.

Retina price comparison ad for Amazon Kindle

It’s been fun to watch the reactions to Amazon’s ad around the web. “[I]t’s not beating around the bush this time,” jokes a technology blogger at Mashable. “The ad is a direct comparison with Apple’s iPad, claiming the two devices’ screens are virtually identical, while the price for the Kindle is much lower.” But in the comments to his post, some of his readers disagreed. ” OK, let’s compare the price of a BMX bike to that of a Corvette shall we?” wrote one. “If you’re looking to only read books, surf the web and watch movies, get a Kindle. If you want access to 10s of thousands of games and productivity tools including spreadsheet, presentation and Word-like apps, a camera, the ability to have video chat, movie editing, artistic and music creation apps as well as a large enough hard drive to handle all of those files. get an iPad…”

At a site called Mobile Mag, another blogger seemed to agree with that analysis, writing that that there are indeed more apps available for the iPad, it has a larger display, and its operating system is a lot more sophisticated. But even he seemed to enjoy the rivalry between the two top tablet makers. “Whether you are for the Kindle or against it, it is nice to see that someone is trying to take down the all-mighty Apple,” he writes.

But he added sardonically, “It’s a shame that we all can’t just be friends.”

Grammy Meets Kindle


So I was lying on my couch Sunday reading a Kindle. I switched over to my Kindle Fire, and decided to pull up its Facebook app. In the background I was listening to my favorite album — some classic jazz to help me unwind for the night — when I spotted an announcement on Facebook from Amazon’s music page.

“Need some new tunes? Get current and past GRAMMY-nominated songs for $0.69 each.”

It seemed too good to be true, but within minutes I was sharing the news to all of my friends. (“Guess what happens when you go to tinyurl.com/GrammyMp3s ? Amazon’s discounted 73 past and present Grammy-winning songs to just 69 cents!”) Amazon’s discounted songs by some of the biggest names in music, including Beyonce, Dave Matthews, Bruce Springsteen, and John Mayer.

And then I discovered that Amazon had also discounted over 168 Grammy-nominated albums — some as low as $2.99.

See the selection by pointing your browser to tinyurl.com/GrammyAlbumMp3s

There were discounts on several classic albums are on sale for just $2.99, including Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising, Carol King’s Tapestry, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and Billy Joel’s 52nd Street. But there were also discounts on more recent albums, like Wild Ones by Flo Rida, as well as two albums by Coldplay, two by Bonnie Raitt, and two by Kelly Clarkson. There were sales on digital music albums by everyone from Bob Dylan to Barbra Streisand, and even an album by Cannonball Adderly and MTV’s special “Tony Bennett Unplugged”. In 2004, at the age of 73, Ray Charles had recorded his final album, a new collection of duets with famous musicians called Genius Loves Company. Amazon’s discounted that album to just $3.99.

With 168 albums to choose from, it’s a great way to look back at the history of music as seen by the Grammy awards — all the way up to the present. (The Lumineers were nominated as “Best New Artist of 2012” — and Amazon’s discounted also two of their songs to just 69 cents.) But I learned tonight that there was also a lot of excitement over the surprise upset win in an unusual Grammy category — “best spoken word album”. First lady Michelle Obama and former president Bill Clinton were competing against Janis Ian, a singer-songwriter who’s probably best known for her thoughtful 1975 song, “At Seventeen”. Other nominees included Ellen Degeneres and Rachel Maddow, but in the end, Janis Ian won the award for a heartfelt recording of her autobiography — Society’s Child.

And best of all, it’s available for the Kindle — both as an ebook, and as a Grammy award-winning audiobook. It’s available at both Amazon and at Audible.com, which describe her memoir as “a relentlessly honest account of the successes and failures – and the hopes and dreams – of an extraordinary life.” But just three ago, Janis Ian had one more story to tell. On her Facebook page, she shared the news that first lady Michelle Obama had just posted about her on Twitter — a message of congratulations. (Ian responded on Facebook: “OMG.”)

Once a year, the Grammy awards remind me of how many different artists there are who are trying to create some really great recordings. And it’s especially nice that this year, there’s a way to enjoy them on your Kindle!

Amazon Discounts their 8.9-inch Kindle Fire!

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

I just noticed a surprise announcement at Amazon.com. They’re offering a 10% discount on their 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD tablets through Friday. It’s apparently Amazon’s way of encouraging customers to buy one as a Valentine’s Day gift. “A deal you’ll love,” reads the message on the front page of Amazon.com. “A tablet they’ll adore.”

You can view the special offer at tinyurl.com/Save50onAKindleFire . Enter the discount code FIRELOVE

It’s a $50 savings if you purchase the model with the built-in 4G wireless connectivity (which normally costs $499). But you can also save $30 on the WiFi-only version of the Kindle Fire HD. Usually it costs $299, but through Friday Amazon’s discounted it to just $269 . That’s just $69 more than the cheaper 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, which still sells at its regular price of $199. And of course, you can buy one of Amazon’s original (non-HD) tablets for just $159.

Ironically, Amazon’s stock dropped nearly 2% today, though I don’t think it’s related to the sale. (Amazon’s involved in a lawsuit over whether or not it’s going to pay state sales taxes in more jurisdictions.) But if you’re thinking about buying a high-definition tablet from Amazon, this is a nice way to save a little extra money.

I asked my girlfriend if she wanted to use my original Kindle Fire, and she said she really didn’t like the smaller screen. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but it made me realize that there are some drawbacks to reading web pages and watching videos on on a 7-inch display. I was going to surprise her with a larger tablet for Valentine’s Day, but she already went out and bought one for herself!

Another Amazon Sale on eBooks!

I’m enjoying a cozy weekend of reading, and I just realized something delightful. A new month has started — which means Amazon has discounted another 100 Kindle ebooks to just $3.99 (or less!) They’ve grouped their discounted books into seven different categories, including science fiction, “fiction and literature,” and a category called “general nonfiction.” And at the bottom of those pages, Amazon seems to have hidden some additional discounts, including “hard-boiled” mysteries and thrillers for just $2.99, plus a selection of 20 children’s books for just $2 each.

Remember, you can browse the whole selection at tinyurl.com/399books

Here’s some of the discounted Kindle eBooks that looked especially intriguing…

West of the Tularosa by Louis L’Amour ($1.99)
He’s one of America’s best-selling authors of western fiction, and Amazon’s web page reminds you that he’s sold over 265 million books. But this month, Amazon’s releasing a fascinating 274-page collection with eight of his early western short stories (which were first published in magazines devoted to western fiction). The author later went back and re-edited some of his earlier stories (according to one reviewer on Amazon), but this book captures the way the stories appeared in their original form. It’s a great way to experience the author through eight different stories. “Each Chapter is so completely different,” one Amazon customer wrote enthusiastically, “and about the right length to read before bedtime each night…Keep it up Kindle!”

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories by Gavin J. Grant ($3.99)
It’s hard to explain the steampunk genre — but I thought Amazon gave it a good description on this ebook’s page. This book collects 14 stories in an world “where romance and technology reign. Where tinkerers and dreamers craft and re-craft a world of automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never were…” One of the stories is by Cory Doctorow, who I know as a contributor to the popular blog BoingBoing, and it’s nice to see an ebook that takes advantage of some new Kindle features. If you’re reading on a Kindle Fire (or with one of Amazon’s Kindle apps), this ebook supports Amazon’s “WhisperSync” functionality, which lets you switch instantly from this book to its audiobook version, in which every story is read out loud by its author!

Father Abraham:Lincoln’s Relentless Struggle to End Slavery by Richard Striner ($2.99)
Amazon’s included a whole section of discounted biographies and memoirs this month, including ebooks about Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, and two about Abraham Lincoln. One of the Lincoln books is a new 86-page biography by Pulitizer-Prize winning author, James M. McPherson. Released on the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth (in 2008), Amazon’s description calls it “the best concise introduction to Lincoln in print, a must-have volume for anyone interested in American history or in our greatest president.” But for one dollar more, you can buy Richard Striner’s 322-page exploration of one of Lincoln’s greatest accomplishments. According to Amazon, this biography will “illuminate the anger, vehemence, and sheer brilliance of candidate Lincoln, who worked up crowds with charismatic fervor as he gathered a national following…”

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: Practical Guide for Improving Communication by John Gray ($2.99)
Everyone’s heard about this book, but I was surprised to learn just how popular it was. It’s sold more than 50 million copies, according to Wikipedia, and “according to CNN it was the ‘highest ranked work of nonfiction’ of the 1990s and spent 121 weeks on the bestseller list.” Amazon’s description also claims this book was “Based on years of successful counseling of couples and individuals,” and “has helped millions of couples transform their relationships” (adding that it’s now seen “as a modern classic.”) And this is another ebook which supports Amazon’s WhisperSync functionality, so now you can switch over from reading the text to hearing it read by the author himself!

The Kindle and the Super Bowl


I’m always fascinated how the Kindle becomes part of our every day life. And I thought it’d be fun to see how Amazon and their Kindle did (and didn’t) play a role in all of the fesitivites during Sunday’s big football showdown. There was an unexpected lull in the second half of the Super Bowl when a partial power outage stopped the game for more than half an hour. With 178 million people watching the half-darkened stadium, I’m sure that somebody, somewhere, must’ve pulled out their Kindle and just started reading!

Super Bowl Football

I say this because right about that time, my friend Richard announced on Facebook that he was in fact spending some quiet time at a real bookstore — drinking coffee, and enjoying some reading. I envy the calm, quiet afternoon he must’ve enjoyed, and he added in his Facebook update that there seemed to be no one else at the store! But even if you’re not a football fan, it’s easy to be affected by the massive spectacle, knowing that it’s captured the attention of a good chunk of the world’s population. I’m impressed that so many aspiring authors cranked out football ebooks specifically targeting readers who were thinking about Sunday’s big football event.

There’s new ebooks with Super Bowl trivia questions and recipes, books about football player controversies, and over a dozen ebooks offering “numerology” analysis for individual players. There’s even a thriller about a Super Bowl referee who’s secretly being extorted by a gang of criminals. And I was intrigued that a few years ago, one author even found a way to combine the Super Bowl with American History — author Don Steinberg , with his Kindle ebook America Bowl: 44 Presidents vs. 44 Super Bowls in the ultimate matchup!. (“Each chapter compares one President to one Super Bowl game,” he explains on the book’s page on Amazon. “It’s a crazy concept…but it turns out to be a really fun way to read about history and football.”)

Of course, not every ebook about the Super Bowl will deliver championship-calibur writing, and there aren’t any ebooks about the Super Bowl that made it into Amazon’s list of the top 100 best-selling ebooks. But I thought it was cool that right in the middle of the game, Amazon posted this on their Faceboook page for digital music.

If you’re curious about which songs are playing during the game tonight, follow us on Twitter. We’ll be live-tweeting links: http://www.twitter.com/amazonmp3

So it was fun to visit Amazon’s Music Store and browse through its special web page the next day just to see how many of the songs I remembered. (For a shortcut to their complete list, just point your browser to tinyurl.com/SuperBowlSongs .) If you have a Kindle Fire, you can even watch all those ads again in your web browser at www.youtube.com/user/superbowladsman . I was a little disappointed that Amazon didn’t run an ad for the Kindle during the Super Bowl. But at least their pumped-up songs would still provide good background music for reading on the Kindle — especially for new Kindle ebooks about the Super Bowl!