Amazon Launches Special “Summer Reading” Page

Tony Stark, the Invincible Iron Man Marvel comic book cover

This is fun. Amazon’s created a special web page for “Summer Reading”, offering suggestions for over a thousand different books (and Kindle ebooks). Memorial Day was the “unofficial” first day of summer in the U.S. — a three-day weekend where the weather was finally nice. And if you’re looking forward to more fun times — whether it’s vacations, holidays, or just weekends in the sun — it’s nice to know that Amazon’s assembled a nice collection of Kindle ebooks to read!

For a shortcut, point your web browser to

They’ve created categories like Beach Reads, Summer Blockbusters, and even Editor’s Picks for Summer Reading. (Plus special summer picks for teenagers, and for children.) Further down the page, Amazon’s also classified their summer reading choices by category, so you can browse for a particular kind of book. There’s fiction and literature, romance, science fiction and fantasy, and mystery/thriller/suspense books — plus books about entertainment, history, and of course, travel. There’s a category for “outdoors” books and books about sports, plus memoirs and biographies, books about business, and even some comic books. For example, Marvel’s famous “Wolverine” graphic novel by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller is available for any Kindle for just $5.94…

So what else is Amazon recommending as a summer read?

Guilty Wives – Free Preview: The First 23 Chapters
By James Patterson and David Ellis

That’s right, it’s free — 23 whole chapters from James Patterson’s 2012 novel Guilty Wives. (“No husbands allowed,” reads Amazon’s description of the book, as four friends embark on a luxurious vacation in Monte Carlo, leading inevitably to a complicated mystery around the question — what exactly happened last night?) Guilt Wives “is the ultimate indulgence,” Amazon writes, “the kind of nonstop joy-ride of excess, friendship, betrayal, and danger that only James Patterson can create.” The complete ebook is only $4.99 — but why not try the first 23 chapters for free?

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls
By David Sedaris

Amazon named this collection of humorous essays as one of the best books of the month when it was released in April, gushing that Sedaris has “taken the snarky, sometimes crude, often hilarious, ultimately thought-provoking personal essay to the level of mastery.” You may remember Sedaris as the author of The SantaLand Diaries, or his other essay collections (which became New York Times best-sellers.) His collections of essays all have strange and ironic titles — like Me Talk Pretty One Day or When You Are Engulfed in Flames — and this book continues the tradition. “If you are a David Sedaris fan, any new book from the humorist is cause for celebration…” wrote USA Today, calling his newest book “quintessential Sedaris….There’s always a laugh-out-loud moment just around the corner!”

Invincible Iron Man
By Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca

For just $3.99, Amazon will deliver a 184-page collection of Iron Man comic books to any Kindle. (And you can even read the pages in color on your Kindle Fire tablet, or by using one of Amazon’s Kindle smartphone apps.) It’s a nice companion to Marvel’s summer blockbuster about billionaire Tony Stark and his flying suit of armor, and in print, this edition would cost $19.99. It collects seven full issues of the Invincible Iron Man comic book, and Amazon’s actually offering big discounts on seven different Iron Man collections!

A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Five
By George R.R. Martin

I’ve actually read some of George R. R. Martin’s books, and they’re popular for a reason — they’re very well-written! They’ve also become a literary phenomenon, making Martin one of the first authors to sell over 1 million ebooks in the Kindle Store — and of course, Game of Thrones has now become a popular series on HBO. Amazon’s suggesting the books as the perfect summer read — and they’re a lot of fun, set in a medieval fantasy world with both royal political intrigue and the occasional dragon and ghost. Caution: the books are real page-turners, and once you start reading one of them, you’re very likely to continue on to read the rest of the series.

For a shortcut, point your web browser to

How Popular Are Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deals?

Discount Sale

Every day Amazon features a new ebook at a discounted price on their “Daily Deals” page. But this weekend, the New York Times revealed just how many sales that can generate for an ebook. Their example was “Gone, Baby, Gone,” a 1998 detective novel which was released for the Kindle in 2009. On one Sunday this month, it sold just 23 copies. But the very next day it sold 13,071 copies — after being featured as one of Amazon’s “Daily Deals.”

“[H]undreds of thousands of readers had received an e-mail notifying them of a 24-hour price cut,” the Times explains, adding that it’s helping even older novels turn into temporary best-sellers. “It works,” one publisher tells the newspaper, adding that it’s a great way to catch the interest of Amazon’s ebook shoppers. It’s easier for publishers to experiment with different prices on an ebook, since the price isn’t stamped in indelible ink on the cover (like the prices of most printed books). And in a world where fewer people are browsing through all the bookshelves at real-world bookstores, “Daily Deals” might ultimately become one of the new ways that readers choose what they’re going to read next.

The Times comes up more interesting examples — including an ebook by music journalist Tom Moon (a contributor to both Rolling Stone and NPR’s All Things Considered). He’d written a fascinating ebook titled “1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die” — which, unfortunately, was selling less than one copy a day (according to Amazon’s vice president for Kindle content). After being featured as a “Daily Deal,” it sold 10,000 copies in its first 24 hours. And the effect can be even more dramatic for an established author like Stephen King. When his novel “Under the Dome” was featured as a Kindle Daily Deal last December, it sold more than 30,000 copies!

There’s also an interesting statistic tucked away in the article — especially if you’re an aspiring writer. The sales seem to peak on Wednesday and Thursday, at least for the daily deals in Barnes and Noble’s Nook Store — presumably because readers are stocking up on ebooks that they’re planning to read over the weekend. “Those are really good days to get the right piece of content in front of someone,” says the Nook’s Vice President for ebooks. And there’s also a delightful story about an Oregon author was informed by her publisher that, for the first time ever, one of her novels had finally become a New York Times best-seller.

Of course, it’s important to remember that the high sales are at a lower price. So even that one-day spike of 13,071 sales for “Gone, Baby, Gone” represent sales of less than $30,000, and after Amazon’s cut, the publisher and author probably went home with even less. But the Times points out that these ebooks remain on the best-seller list for more than one day, and in at least one example, the ebook sold “steadily” even in the days after its one-day promotion — and at twice the rate that it had before.

That’s actually something I worry about. Will the Kindle’s best-seller lists get clogged up with nothing but past “Daily Deal” picks? Someday readers may have no real way of knowing which ebooks were so spontaneously attracted a mass following — because there’ll be so many other ebooks that achieved “artificially-generated” spurts of popularity on the same day. Of course, I use more than the best-seller lists to determine which ebooks I buy — and I’m sure other readers do, too.

And the discounts do make it really easy to try reading something new!

For a shortcut to Amazon’s “Daily Deals” page for ebooks, just point your browser to

Some Very Funny eBooks

Funny men laughing cartoon - you want it when

Last week I was fighting a stomach virus — which meant a lot of time in bed reading e-books! I learned to appreciate when an author can make me smile — especially when I’m feeling miserable — but I also discovered a special service from Amazon that makes Kindle reading more fun.

Today I also wanted to share three funny ebooks that I discovered. Two of them are free, but each of the three authors swears that his story is absolutely true! “Follow the author on his numerous Hollywood adventures,” reads one book’s description, “watching as he glides smoothly from forgery to pornography to crashing the Academy Awards under the alias of a nominated screenwriter, and eventually stumbles into acting in the highest-grossing movie of all time, Titanic.” The author is Emmett James, and he played a steward in Titanic — in the movie’s credits, there’s 60 different people whose name appears before his. But he’s written a fascinating memoir of his life as a film fan — first watching movies as a young teenager, and then appearing in them as an adult. (“Admit One: My Life in Film” is available in Amazon’s Kindle store.)

But while I was reading this book, I remember all the fun special services Amazon makes available for Kindle owners at For example, there’s a “flashcard”-type game which displays clippings from an e-book you’ve read on your Kindle. (It’s a fun way to see if you can remember what you’ve read — and to review your favorite passages from the book.) You can also pull up a big list with all the passages that you’ve highlighted in all of your e-books — and an interactive list that shows which e-books you’re currently reading now. Plus, Amazon even shares a list of the most-highlighted e-book passages of all time. (#3 is a witty observation from Jane Austen. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife…”)

Reviewing my highlights, I remembered a funny free e-book that I hadn’t read for a while — and again, the author swears that his story is entirely true. “I was young and ignorant,” Mark Twain wrote about the first time he came to the American west at the age of 26. “I little thought that I would not see the end of that three-month pleasure excursion for six or seven uncommonly long years!”

Roughing It was the second book Mark Twain ever wrote — in 1870, at the age of 35, looking fondly back at the wild experiences that launched his career. His older brother (Orion Clemens) had been appointed the Territorial Secretary of Nevada for the three years before it became a U.S. state in 1864, and Mark Twain tagged along on the stagecoach ride out west. He remembers being amused that “My brother, the Secretary, took along about four pounds of United States statutes and six pounds of Unabridged Dictionary” — only to discover later that it would’ve been much easier to have copies mailed to Nevada. But mostly I love the book’s friendly spirit, remembering those moments on the trail when “we smoked a final pipe, and swapped a final yarn,” or the campfires “around which the most impossible reminiscences sound plausible, instructive, and profoundly entertaining.”

The brothers sleep in a stagecoach packed with mail sacks, often removing everything but their underwear to stay cool in the frontier heat. And at night as the stagecoach crosses through shallow streams, it tosses its sleeping passengers back and forth while traveling the steep hills on the river’s bank.

“First we would all be down in a pile at the forward end of the stage, nearly in a sitting posture, and in a second we would shoot to the other end, and stand on our heads. And we would sprawl and kick, too, and ward off ends and corners of mail- bags that came lumbering over us and about us; and as the dust rose from the tumult, we would all sneeze in chorus, and the majority of us would grumble, and probably say some hasty thing, like: “Take your elbow out of my ribs! — can’t you quit crowding?”

“Every time we avalanched from one end of the stage to the other, the Unabridged Dictionary would come too; and every time it came it damaged somebody…”

Ironically, it was because of Monty Python that I discovered the third funny e-book. In 1975, Monty Python’s Michael Palin appeared in a TV adaptation of the humorous travelogue “Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog),” with Tim Curry playing the part of the book’s author, Jerome K. Jerome. The adapted script was written by Tom Stoppard, the famous author who 20 years later would win an Academy Award for his screenplay for Shakespeare in Love. “Three Men in a Boat” is a great, classic piece of British humor, available for free at or for 99 cents in Amazon’s Kindle store. Even though it was written in 1889, the book still reads like a long comedy monologue, and even today it can always makes me laugh.

Here’s how Jerome K. Jerome describes how rainy weather can really spoil your boating expedition.

It is evening. You are wet through, and there is a good two inches of water in the boat, and all the things are damp. You find a place on the banks that is not quite so puddly as other places you have seen, and you land and lug out the tent, and two of you proceed to fix it.

It is soaked and heavy, and it flops about, and tumbles down on you, and clings round your head and makes you mad. The rain is pouring steadily down all the time. It is difficult enough to fix a tent in dry weather: in wet, the task becomes herculean. Instead of helping you, it seems to you that the other man is simply playing the fool. Just as you get your side beautifully fixed, he gives it a hoist from his end, and spoils it all.

“Here! what are you up to?” you call out.

“What are you up to?” he retorts; “leggo, can’t you…?”

I guess it’s just always fun to laugh at someone else’s troubles — especially when you’re sick in bed with troubles of your own!

More eBook Deals from Amazon!

Monopoly man gets bank error in his favor cash

I usually shop for ebooks using my Kindle — but there’s even more deals if you’re willing to shop online. The Kindle Store also has its own web page on Amazon — and I just noticed today that they’re advertising some great additional discounts on ebooks!

For example, Amazon is running a special selection of discounts that they’re calling The Big Deal. “Now through May 27, save up to 85% on more than 500 Kindle books,” Amazon promises — and the bargain prices are available in at least different categories. There’s fiction, mysteries, humor, children’s books, science fiction, history, nonfiction, biographies, romances, spirituality ebooks, and even ebooks for teenagers! Browse the complete selection at Amazon’s discounted three Kurt Vonnegut novels — Jailbird, Palm Sunday, and Hocus Pocus to the Watchmen graphic novel by Alan Moore. An “Editor’s Picks” selection highlights Arthur C. Clarke’s The Hammer of God and The Autobiography of Mark Twain. “[N]ot all deals are available in all territories…” Amazon warns — but where the discounts are available, there’s more than 500 of them!

But that’s not the only deal being offered on the front page of the Kindle Store. Amazon will also let you choose one of 16 ebooks to receive for free. It’s a special thank-you for new subscribers for Amazon’s daily e-mail about discounted ebooks. You can always find those discounts on the web at, but Amazon will also send you their “Kindle Delivers Daily Deals” e-mails as a reminder. If you’re interested, just go to and click the yellow “sign up” button. (Be sure you’re logged in to your Amazon account.) The 16 ebooks you can choose from are all shown at the bottom of the page, Amazon explains, and “If you are a first-time subscriber to the Kindle Daily Deal Newsletter, you will receive an e-mail with your unique promotional credit that will allow you to purchase one of the selected Kindle books below for free!”

Amazon’s also started identifying the “Kindle Select 25”. I’ve seen this when I shop for ebooks on my Kindle, but they’ve also got a link to it on Amazon’s online web page for the Kindle Store. Amazon describes it as “Our List of 25 Exciting Books for This Week,” and it’s always fun to see what they choose. Browse the whole selection at

Now I just need to find someplace where I can buy more time to read!

More Free Comic Books For the Kindle Fire

Tony Stark from Iron Man 3

There’s a special tradition in May that happens all around the world. (Or at least, in America, England, Canada…) The first Saturday in May is always “Free Comic Book Day,” where you can walk into any comic book store and receive free comic books as a thank-you from their publishers. This year, the event has come to the Kindle Store — and it seems to be continuing through the whole month of May. And I’ve also discovered a great way to get free Marvel comic books on your Kindle Fire as well as comic books from D.C.!

I’m a big fan of “Free Comic Book” day. It’s exciting to see big crowds descend on your local comic book store, and some stores even feature greeters who are dressed up in superhero costumes. The stores get some support, the fans get a special treat, and it’s nice to see parents introducing their children to a fun new medium. Plus, I get free comic books — and this year I discovered that two of those same titles are also being distributed for the Kindle Fire in Amazon’s Kindle Store!

Point your browser to for a list of Amazon’s best-selling comic books — and then click on the “Free” tab for these great free comic books…

Superman: Last Son of Krypton #1 — Special Edition
The first chapter of a new graphic novel written by Richard Donner and Geoff Johns (illustrated by Adam Kubert)

D.C. Nation: Beware the Batman / Teen Titans Go! #1
Amazon’s description calls this a “super sampler…the perfect place to check out two sensational series, Beware The Batman and Teen Titans Go,” which are coming to the Cartoon Network on Saturday mornings.

In addition, you can also still download a free issue of Superman by John Byrne (which finds the man of steel fighting a deadly kryptonite-enhanced robot!) at And remember D.C. Comics is also releasing a regular free comic book that includes samples from their whole “universe” of characters, called D.C. Comic Digital Sneak Peeks. But where are the rest of the comic books from Free Comic Book Day? And what if you prefer Spider-Man — or The Avengers, or Captain America, or even the X-Men?

Amazon doesn’t have a deal with their publisher, Marvel comics — but I’ve still found a way to read Marvel Comics on my Kindle Fire…and to find a bigger selection of titles from Free Comic Book Day. The “secret sauce” is an app that’s called ComiXology, which is available in Amazon’s Kindle Store. Once downloaded, you can shop for comic books — including Marvel titles. And there’s even a nice selection of free comic books, including digital editions of these “Free Comic Book Day” titles.

The Steam Engines of Oz
Worlds of Aspen
Aphrodite IX
Buck Rogers: 25th Century A.D.
Molly Danger /Princeless
NFL Rush Zone:
Prince Valiant
Scratch 9
The Smurfs

There’s also free issues of two 2012 comic books — Avengers Prime (Volume 1, #1), which features Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, plus Secret Avengers #16, featuring the Black Widow, Captain America, and The Beast. Also free is Marvel’s official comic book prequel to their 2011 movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, and a 2012 issue of Uncanny XMen #10. But my favorite comic is probably the stunning free issue of The Amazing Spider-Man from 2001, which pays tribute to the firefighters who died in the 9/11 attacks. (It’s written and illustrated by some of the biggest names at Marvel Comics — J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita Jr. and Scott Hanna.)

And there’s a wide variety of other free titles available in the Comixology app for Kindle Fire. (Where else could you find Battlestar Galactica with The Best of the Three Stooges, Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew, and Garfield and Company?) But best of all, they’ve got a really nice interface for their comic books which may even be better than downloading the comics straight to your Kindle Fire. For comparison, Amazon lets you tap on a panel of a comic book to increase its size — once — but the Comixology app lets you “pinch and expand” the panels to whatever size you want.

Free Comic Book Day was started to “introduce everyone to the joys of reading comics”, according to its page on Wikipedia. But if you missed it when it was happening on the first Saturday in May, you can still join in on the fun with your Kindle Fire!

Price Wars on Mother’s Day War

Price Wars on Mother's Day

Is Amazon trying to kill its competition? Amazon’s been offering new $20 discounts on four of their Kindle Fire HD tablets through this Sunday — which is Mother’s Day in the United States. (For a shortcut to the sale, just point your browser to , and enter the code “Fire4Mom” to claim the discount.) But what seems like a nice gift idea may actually just be Amazon’s way of remaining competitive. Because Barnes and Noble had already announced big discounts on their own digital reading device, the Nook. (They’ve lowered the price of their 9-inch, high-definition Nook by over $90, to just $179…)

And they’re both fighting competition from another digital reader — the Kobo. This week I was surprised to see some slick television ads been touting the Kobo as the perfect Mother’s Day gift. It shows heart-warming footage of mothers reading to their children, closing with an announcer reminding viewers that “She gave you the gift of reading. This mother’s day, give it back.” Of course, my first thought was that same slogan could be applied to the Kindle — and it looks like Amazon had the same idea. Last week I received a promotional email for Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite which was using a nearly identical slogan!

“Mom sparked your love of reading. Give her the perfect thank you gift…”

What’s going on? I think the answer lies in a 2010 study, which concluded that 47% of all Kindles were received as a gift. Amazon knows there could be a one-time spike in sales for Kindles this month from all those people who are shopping for the perfect Mother’s Day gift — and apparently, both Barnes and Noble and Kobo Inc. reached the same conclusion. But the situation may be even more desperate for the Nook — at least, according to a Friday rumor. The technology blog TechCrunch reported that Microsoft may be about to purchase the Nook, adding that if it happens, Amazon’s War with Barnes and Noble “could be over.”

At first I thought the acquisition might be good news for the Nook — but most of the technology pundits seem to disagree. “Microsoft will probably simply kill it on purpose,” writes a columnist at Forbes. “The reason is that Microsoft will have no interest in continuing to sink money into a weak performing Android line of devices.” (Microsoft, after all, markets their own line of tablets that are powered by the Windows operating system.) And by the end of the day, Amazon’s stock had shot up in value by 1.3%.

“This will indeed be good news for Amazon and Apple,” Forbes continues, for the simple reason that “Killing off any competition is good.” So when Mother’s Day rolls around again in May of 2014, consumers just might have one less digital reader to choose from. Maybe that’s why Barnes and Noble offered such steep discounts this year on the price of the Nook.

This year’s “Mother’s Day Price War” may also be remember as The Nook’s Last Stand.

100 More Discounted eBooks for May!

Amazon discounts 100 ebooks for less than four dollars

I was really excited about this month’s crop of discounted ebooks at Amazon. Last week I wrote about their discounts on science fiction books and thrillers, but I forgot about an even bigger sale. Every month Amazon also highlights a special selection of ebooks — their “100 ebooks for $3.99 or Less”. As always, you can find the whole collection at — and this month’s ebooks look especially interesting.

But in addition to that, Amazon’s also trying a new kind of sale, called “30 Kindle Books for $3 Each”. You can find them on the same page (at the bottom), giving you 130 different ebooks to choose from for less than four dollar each. This month I actually recognized some of the titles, which is why I say the selection looks especially interesting. Besides some very famous authors — and some justly famous novels — there’s at least one novel thta I’d actually characterize as “notorious!”

Naked Came the Stranger by Penelope Ashe ($2.99)

“Naked Came the Stranger” was one of the most bizarre literary experiments ever. It was written by 24 different authors in 1969, each describing a different romantic encounter with a predatory talk show host named Gillian Blake. Amazon describes it as “A steamy, bestselling tale of Long Island lust, written as a daring literary hoax by Newsday columnist Mike McGrady and two dozen of his colleagues.” McGrady was trying to prove that books became bestsellers solely because they contained lots of sexy scenes — and then set out to prove it, by instructing his co-authors to just emphasize the sex in each part of the book (avoiding anything that would approach literary excellence). “Naked Came the Stranger was an attempt to produce the steamiest and most wildly over-the-top novel of all time,” explains Amazon’s description, “good writing be damned. A sensation upon its first release, forty years later the book remains one of the most sinfully amusing potboilers ever published…”) And according to Wikipedia, it ultimately sold more than 400,000 copies…)

Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski ($1.99)

I’ve always been fascinated by poet/novelist Charles Bukowski, and Amazon notes his semi-fictional autobiography is widely hailed as the best of his many novels.” Written in 1982, when the author had just turned 60, it finds Bukowski describing a rough childhood in Germany, becoming an awkward teenager during America’s Great Depression, and “his adolescent discoveries of alcohol, women, and the Los Angeles Public Library’s collection of D. H. Lawrence….” It’s fun to read its reviews on Amazon, from fans who applauded “The Bard of Booze and Broads” to the woman who complained there was no redemption for the novel’s main character. (“I felt like there must be something wrong with me as I trudged through it, waiting for some kind of light at the end of the tunnel…”) But 192 reviewers have given the book a very high average of four and a half stars, and Amazon calls the book “crude, brutal, and savagely funny”.

The Third Life of Grange Copeland by Alice Walker ($3.49)

She was the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple — but it was just 12 years earlier that Alice Walker published The Third Life of Grange Copeland as her very first novel. It’s a story about a tenant farmer who leaves the Deep South, fails, then returns to the family he left behind, and according to Essence magazine, Walker “dares to reveal truths about men and women, about blacks and whites, about God and love…And we, like Alice Walker’s marvelous characters, come away transformed by knowledge and love but most of all by wonder.” If you’re a fan of the author, there’s an additional treat at the back of the book — an illustrated biography including some rare photos from her personal collection.

The Year the Music Changed by Diane Thomas ($1.99)

My girlfriend loved this book — and I thought it had a fascinating premise. It imagines the letters between a teenaged music fan in the 1950s, and a young singer named Elvis Presley, just before he became a star. I liked how Elvis really became a character in the book, and the letters capture his voice the way you’d imagine it — friendly, humble, and struggling with the onset of success. But it’s really the story of the teenaged girl, wondering why her mother is so unhappy in her marriage, and some of the passages are beautifully written. The whole story is told in the form of letters where she opens up to Elvis — with his own smaller story told in his responses — and at 260 pages, one reviewer on Amazon describes it as “a fast, intensely satisfying read.” I ultimately couldn’t resist reading this book, just because of all the enthusiastic words being used to describe it, like the review in Publisher’s Weekly which described it as simply “Warm, lively and immensely readable.”

I’m always impressed by the variety of ebooks that Amazon is selling. They’ve separated them into seven categories — Fiction and Literature, general nonfiction, kids and teens, mysteries and thrillers, biographies, romance, and science fiction/fantasy. (If you remember R.L. Stine from the Goosebumps series, you might want to try his horror novel for adults — Red Rain.) This month Amazon is also selling nearly two dozen romance novels that have been discounted, with titles like “Standoff at Mustang Ridge”, from the Harlequin Intrigue Series, and “Three Cowboys: Virgil\Morgan\Wyatt”.

There’s even one called “Confessions of an Improper Bride,” plus a title that also seems like a rebuttal — “Ain’t Misbehaving”! But Amazon’s also selling a lot of good “literary” fiction too. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter-House Five is only $2.99, and there’s an intriguing novel by George Orwell about the life of an Englishman living abroad, called Burmese Days. So there’s something for everybody!

And remember, you can find the whole collection at

Explaining the Popularity of George R. R. Martin

George R R Martin - Game of Thrones book cover

There’s a special place in Kindle History for George R. R. Martin. In 2011, the author of the Game of Thrones series became only the 11th author to sell over one million ebooks in Amazon’s Kindle Store. “Groucho Marx once said, ‘I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member,'” he joked when he heard the news, “but even Groucho might have made an exception for the Kindle Million Club.” And then he thanked his editor, his publisher, “and most of all, my readers.”

In fact, the print edition of A Dance with Dragons was Amazon’s fifth best-selling book for 2011. (Before it was even released it was already one of Amazon’s top 100 best-selling ebooks, just from pre-order sales.) At the end of the year, Time magazine even put Martin on their list of the 100 most influential people in the world. And this December, Martin will release yet another book based on his popular Game of Thrones series — this one titled “The Wit and Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister.”

I’ve been trying to explain just how intensely fans feel about George R. R. Martin — and I came across a fascinating statistic that Barnes and Noble shared with The Wall Street Journal last summer. Most people who started reading the ebook version of A Dance with Dragons (on a Nook) actually finished the book, spending an average of 20 hours reading the 1,040-page novel. “An elaborate series like this is great on Kindle,” Amazon’s vice president for Kindle content noted when Martin crossed sold his one millionth ebook in the Kindle Store, “because you can turn the last page of book three at 10:30 at night, then buy book four, and be on its first page at 10:31!

And some of my readers seem to be doing exactly that. (One proudly told me that the first book they’d ever bought on their Kindle was Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, which is book one in the Game of Thrones series, and “Since then, I’ve bought the rest too!”) But the best testimonial I’ve seen actually came from my girlfriend, who wrote an enthusiastic explanation of just how easy it is to get hooked on George R. R. Martin’s series — especially if you own a Kindle! I wanted to publish it below, as either a book recommendation — or maybe a warning!

                        *                        *                        *

Recently my cable company opened up On-Demand to show Game of Thrones to hook people so they would then pony up the money for HBO. I happened to be really sick that week and I watched two seasons of Game of Thrones in three days. Awesome! Engrossing! Fascinating characters, snappy dialog, plots thick with intrigue! Damn you, cable company, I got HOOKED!

I posted on Facebook, hoping to find someone with HBO who was also hooked so I could invite myself over to watch every week. I planned on offering my brownies as bribes (I’ll bring delicious brownies if you let me come watch…). But alas, no response. Did I cave? NO.

Because, I READ. Yes, folks, before there was the HBO series, there were books, by the same author, with the same story line and the same characters. Imagine that! I was jonesing to find out what happened to Tyrion and Arya and Dany, so I pulled out my Kindle and, just like the ads on TV, had the book in my hand in 30 seconds. Oh joy!

I started with the third book (A Storm of Swords), which picked up where the second season left off and started racing through the chapters. The third book in the series introduces a few new characters, but is set mainly in the same places as the first two seasons, so I easily picked up the narrative thread and devoured the book. Still recovering from the illness, I dragged myself home from work, crawled into bed, and went off to Westeros.

From my recent Advanced Writing Workshop (shout out to Linda Watanabe McFerrin), I admired the way each chapter is it’s own short story, with an intriguing start (“The invitation seemed innocent enough, but every time Sansa read it her tummy tightened into a knot.” “He woke to the creak of old iron hinges.”) and bang-up finish. Then you jump to another character in another corner of the universe and the first line is so intriguing you get sucked in again. Great writing, great technique. Very hard to put down.

I must say, however, that I’m glad I started with the HBO series. There are a LOT of characters and having seen actors in the roles, it made it a lot easier to keep them straight. I finished the Storm of Swords in a week (I read freakishly fast. According to the Kindle, it’s print length is 1216 pages.) No problem! Back to the Kindle store and in another 30 seconds, A Feast for Crows is available for my reading pleasure.

I jumped in eagerly, but started getting bogged down. This book introduced a lot of new characters, and by introduced, I mean described them, explained where they were from and the entire history surrounding their tiny part of the world, sometimes going back centuries. And religions! Fire (“the night is dark and full of terrors”), Water (the drowned men), the Old Gods (trees), the New Gods (The Seven), then the holy place where Arya finds herself where all gods are One. Some of my favorite characters became minor actors while these new characters took center stage. We followed Brienne, the Maid of Tarth on her ill-fated search for Sansa Stark, which was by-and-large pretty boring. George (R. R. Martin) is really, really into details in this book. Or maybe it’s just the slew of new characters. The plot stops at the 91% mark, and the remaining 9% is list upon list of characters, separated by House, with info about the houses thoughtfully provided. Still, I slogged through and followed the plot lines, hoping that more Tyrion and Arya and Dany would appear. But no, just a lot of Brienne, Jon at the Wall, Bran being carried by Hordor, and Jamie Lannister, whose golden luster is wearing off.

Wanting to find out What Happens Next, I went back to the Kindle store and got A Dance with Dragons, thinking that Dany would finally get to riding her dragons, and THEN, boy, some interesting stuff was going to pop! But alas, a lot of this book was also full of boring details, and I found myself paging quickly through most of the book without reading. A whole NEW set of characters, three slaver cities, all with people and history, a long sea voyage for Tyrion (boring despite the storms), and Dany going about the boring task of ruling, when she should be out riding dragons. I sped through the book, skimming to get the gist of the plot line, and was disappointed that nothing was resolved at the end.

A trip to Google assured me that the sixth novel in the series will be out this summer. I’m hoping that there’s a lot fewer new characters (we have enough history already), a lot fewer descriptions of traveling (boring) and a lot more plot (pretty please). George has promised two battles, one North by the Wall and one South in the slaver cities.

Even with the overload, I’m anxious to find out what happens. These are really fascination books, well written and take me to a place I’ve never been. I feel the cold at the wall. I feel dirty and cold when the characters ride through the rain.

But what I really want for Dany to take her dragons to the Wall and waste all the Others with their fire. Alas, it looks like that is going to be a good 2,500 pages away.

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To browse Amazon’s collection of George R. R. Martin ebooks,
click here

Secret Deals from Amazon

shh - finger to lips - secret rumor

I was surprised to see just how many Kindle ebooks are on sale today. Amazon’s special “Daily Deal” page used to offer a discount on just one ebook each day, but now there’s dozens of ebooks on sale. The regular daily deal now includes four different ebooks — including one for teens, one science fiction ebook, and one romance. But Amazon’s also letting you browse through even more discounted ebooks, grouping them into categories like romance, science fiction, and even Star Wars graphic novels.

Check out all Amazon’s discounted Kindle ebooks at

There’s one set of discounts that’s only available for the next four days. “Now through May 5, save up to 87% on top-rated Kindle religion and spirituality books,” Amazon announces on the page. (“From Christian fiction to everyday Zen wisdom, these books will challenge and satisfy the hungry spirits of book lovers.”) I wasn’t sure what to expect in this section, but there’s a surprising variety of subjects, including a best-selling biography about Buddha that was written by Deepak Chopra.

And one set of discounts isn’t even advertised on the “Daily Deals” page — a special sale on science fiction books. I’d signed up for Amazon’s promotional “Kindle Delivers” emails, and this morning they reminded me that they’re offering 50% off on 35 different science fiction books. For 99 cents, you can buy Oz Reimagined: Off to See the Emperor, a short story by Orson Scott Card — and Amazon’s selection of discounted science fiction ebooks also includes 14 more stories from the Oz Reimagined anthology.

Emeralds to Emeralds, Dust to Dust
The Great Zeppelin Heist of Oz
The Boy Detective of Oz: An Otherland Story
Lost Girls of Oz
One Flew Over the Rainbow
The Cobbler of Oz
Beyond the Naked Eye
A Tornado of Dorothys
Blown Away
City So Bright
Dorothy Dreams
Dead Blue
The Veiled Shanghai
A Meeting in Oz

All these stories are also available as a 365-page collection for just $5.99 (which includes a foreword by Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked). I’m impressed by how much imagination went into the project, but there’s also 20 more fiction ebooks that have also been discounted in Amazon’s SciFi sale.

For a shortcut, just point your browser to

And there’s also a smaller section of nine discounted “International Thrillers” which isn’t linked from Amazon’s “Daily Deals” page. For a shortcut to second “secret deal”, just point your browser to

But Amazon’s “Daily Deal” page also reminds me that they’re not just discounting one Star Wars graphic novel — they’re discounting forty of them! It’s a popular series from Dark Horse Comics, which includes lines like the Clone Wars Adventures and The Old Republic, but also a series called Star Wars Adventures with some titles that sound like a lot of fun. (Like Chewbacca and the Slavers of the Shadowlands or Princess Leia and the Royal Ransom…) The color illustrations will look great on a Kindle Fire or one of Amazon’s Kindle apps, but you can also read these graphic novels on Amazon’s original black-and-white e-ink Kindles — and each one is just $3.99.

And there’s always more discounts towards the bottom of the Daily Deals. For example, there’s 20 romance titles which are all $3.99 or less. But don’t forget — if you visit the page tomorrow, the top of the page will always feature four new ebooks as that day’s Daily Deal. I always end up visiting that page several times a week — just to make sure I’m not missing a chance to buy my next ebook at a discount!

Check out all of Amazon’s discounted Kindle ebooks at