Another Free Game from Amazon

New free Amazon Kindle word game Thread Words

I tried to explain to my friend Len Edgerly last week just how much I enjoyed playing games on the Kindle. It’s fun to do something digital on a screen that isn’t backlit — and I always enjoy spending time with my Kindle. And it turns out that two weeks ago, Amazon released a brand new word game for the Kindle — for free. It’s one of several new games that are available for the Kindle — and most of them cost just 99 cents.

Amazon’s new free game is called “Thread Words”, and it’s sort of a cross between “Every Word” and “Boggle”. (There’s 25 letters in a 5 x 5 grid, and your goal is to create words by using one letter from each column, while only moving up and down by one row.) This marks the eighth free game that Amazon has released. (They’d released their slick version of “Dots and Boxes” just three weeks earlier, plus their own version of the classic number-grid game “Number Slide” on March 31.) I’d describe their latest game as “horizontal Boggle,” since you’re trying to form as many words as possible while still reading from left to right.

But on the same day, a new game company was releasing their very first game for the Kindle. Olmatech Technology has put together a nice version of the classic board game “Chutes and Ladders,” where players take shortcuts through a 100-square board — either traveling up on a ladder, or sliding backwards instead! Surprisingly, the game dates back to ancient India, according to Wikipedia, where its original name was “the ladder to salvation.” (It taught the concept that good deeds are rewarded while bad deeds are punished.) In the Kindle version, there’s a tiny little “Kindle” icon that represents your opponent — and if it slides backwards on the back of a snake, a cute little animation plays in the game’s lower right-hand corner!

There’s also a new kind of crossword puzzle that’s been released by Puzux games. (They’re the company that first brought to the Kindle those Jumble puzzles that you’d see in your Sunday newspaper.) In a mind-boggling twist, the grid is rotated 45 degrees, so the “across” words are formed using squares that only touch at their corners, in what would be a diagonal line in a conventional crossword puzzle. Their game is called Diamond Crossword, of course, and though there’s fewer words than a traditional crossword puzzle, this also means that it won’t take you forever to finally finish a grid!

Kindle Diamond Crossword game screenshot

But those aren’t the only new games for the Kindle. I’ve also been enjoying Strimko from Braintonik games – an interesting variation on Sudoku where all of the digits are connected by a line (instead of appearing in the same box). There’s an easy version (with the digits 1-4) and a trickier version with the digits 1 -7. And if you’d like to try the game before you buy it, just point your web browser to

But I think I’m most excited to see a new Kindle game called “Peg Solitaire.” I’ve always loved solving brain teasers, and there’s actually 40 different challenges packed into this game. It’s another classic puzzle
that’s finally reached the Kindle. (“Did you know…” the game asks at the bottom of one screen, “the first evidence of the peg solitaire game can be traced back to the court of Louis XIV in the year of 1697.”) I enjoy trying to think out my moves in advance — and even after I’ve solved one of the puzzles, I still get a special thrill if I can solve them again.

Kindle Peg Solitaire game screenshot

Hopefully one of these days, I’ll even be able to convince Len Edgerly to try playing games on his Kindle! ;)

War Erupts Between Kindle and Nook Over Battery Life

Amazon Kindle vs Barnes and Noble Nook Spy vs Spy cartoon

C|Net just received an angry response from the president of Digital Products at Barnes & Noble. I’d linked to C|Net’s story yesterday, so I was surprised that its facts were now being challenged. Barnes and Noble is now claiming that the Nook’s battery actually lasts more than two and a half times longer than a Kindle’s battery — at least under certain conditions.

“While reading at one page a minute, the all-new Nook battery lasts for 150 hours, where the Kindle battery, using the same page-turn rate, lasts for only 56 hours (both with Wi-Fi off)… In our side-by-side tests, under the exact same conditions, continuous use of the device resulted in more than two times Kindle’s battery life.”

If that’s true, then Barnes and Noble mangled the launch of their touch-screen Nook by botching their description of one of its main selling points. Paul Biba, a Kindle blogger, actually watched the official announcement live at a Barnes & Noble store in downtown New York City. And when the question of battery life came up, Biba reported, their official answer was that it was calculated “based on 1/2 hour reading per day with WiFi off. ”

The next day, Amazon claimed the Kindle could also run for two months on a single battery charge — if you only read it for half an hour a day.

You might wonder if Amazon was inventing new statistics — but apparently it’s the same claim that’s been around for years. In November of 2007, Popular Mechanics was already reporting that the Kindle’s battery would last for 30 hours — which of course breaks down into 60 half hours, or two months of reading just one half hour a day. (Assuming the battery isn’t also draining too much during the time that it’s not being read!)

And another obvious response is: who cares? How often would you need to read more than 30 consecutive hours without stopping to re-charge your Kindle? Obviously you can invent a few scenarios. (“What if I’m back-packing across hundreds of miles of Siberian tundra, and I’m also huddling in my tent each night trying to read War and Peace“?) But the distinction is a signal of a fierce competition between Amazon and Barnes and Noble, C|Net’s reporter points out, and “as these devices become more and more alike, marketing language becomes very significant, especially when it comes to selling points like battery life.”

Another blogger was more blunt. “Barnes and Noble pretty much called Amazon a liar for manipulating the battery life claims,” wrote Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader. But I’m more surprised by what Barnes and Noble was claiming about the Nook on Wednesday — since it’s very different than the performance statistics that they’d cited on Tuesday.

For example, Wednesday Barnes and Noble made an even more incredible claim. “While reading at one page a minute, the all-new Nook battery lasts for 150 hours.” Unless I’m missing something, that would come out to 300 days of usage (at a half hour a day) — which would be a whopping 10 months. I guess the battery must continue draining quite a bit during the 23.5 hours a day when the Nook isn’t running. Especially since the Barnes and Noble official also claims that the new Nook “offers more than 25,000 continuous page turns on a single charge.” But if you’re making just one page turn every minute, then shouldn’t that charge last 416 hours (or 25,000 minutes)? If so, that’d represent 17.36 days of non-stop use — but if you’re using your Nook for just 30 minutes a day, it comes out to 2.2 years.

And if the Nook can really run for 2.2 years on a single battery charge — then why didn’t Barnes and Noble just say so on Tuesday?

How the Kindle “Doubled” Its Battery Life

Kindle 3 vs new touch-screen Nook on battery life

A bright reporter at C|Net made the discovery. Amazon says the Kindle now has a battery life of two months. Wednesday morning Amazon released a new version of the “Kindle with Special Offers” — a 3G version that’s discounted to $164. But instead of promising the usual one month of use without a battery charge, Amazon now says this Kindle’s battery will last two months!

And Amazon’s also doubled the battery life that they’re reporting for the Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi…

So what’s going on? C|Net’s reporter has it all figured out. On Tuesday Barnes and Noble launched a brand new touch-screen Nook — and then claimed that its two-month battery life was double that of the Kindle (calling it “the longest battery life of any eReader”). “Amazon countered by magically upping the battery life of the Kindle to two months,” reports David Carnoy. But it turns out that Amazon may have had a good reason…

The Nook’s battery life was calculated by assuming just one half hour of reading time each day. “Let the math shell games begin!” joked one user in a Barnes and Noble discussion forum. “Anyone want to lay odds on who will go to 4-month battery life assuming a 15 minutes a day reading habit?”

The CEO of Kobo also took issue with the Nook’s ‘half-hour-a-day” figures, complaining “that’s not a typical usage scenario,” and arguing that the same lofty claim could be made about the battery life of the Kobo.
“It appears that [Amazon] just took issue with how its competitor was calculating and presenting its battery life numbers,” C|Net reports, noting that Amazon also updated their Kindle product descriptions with a full explanation.

“A single charge lasts up to two months with wireless off based upon a half-hour of daily reading time. If you read for one hour a day, you will get battery life of up to one month. Keep wireless always on and it lasts for up to 10 days. Battery life will vary based on wireless usage, such as shopping the Kindle Store, Web browsing, and downloading content. In low-coverage areas or in EDGE/GPRS-only coverage, wireless usage will consume battery power more quickly.”

So the Kindle’s battery hasn’t suddenly become twice as powerful as it was before. And I thought C|Net’s reporter gave this episode the perfect epitaph. “Amazon didn’t have any comment about its number changes, but it clearly shows that the competition is intensifying in the dedicated e-reader space…”

Is Amazon Planning a “Mini” Kindle?

New Amazon small Android tablet Kindle Nano or Mini?

Tuesday the Kindle got some new competition! Barnes and Noble announced a new touch-screen version of the Nook. And there’s also a new touch-screen version of the Kobo ereader.

But is Amazon planning their own surprise for the next generation of the Kindle?

Each digital reader is fighting for an early lead against its competition. (Barnes and Noble announced their new Nook today, even though they won’t actually be able to ship them until June 10.) It’s possible that they’re worried Amazon will steal the market by releasing their own touch-screen tablet device soon. But I wonder if Amazon has another idea.

Today a technology analyst described the reactions you’d have if you held the new Nook. First you’d admire it’s form factor, he said. (Besides the power switch on the back, the device’s only button is a shortcut for reaching the home page — plus a “fast forward” page-turning bar.) And I noticed a few other mild improvements, like the ability to look up definitions just by touching a word. (Though the Nook still doesn’t have a text-to-speech feature.) The new Nook is one inch smaller than the Kindle, and it weighs one ounce less. But inevitably, the analyst notes, you’d start comparing it to the larger, full-featured tablets. And eventually you’d begin thinking that the new touch-screen Nook “shouldn’t really cost a lot because it’s basically an oversized drink coaster!”

The analyst’s conclusion? e-ink readers like the Nook and the Kindle will drop below $99 by the end of the year. But one way to do that, I’m thinking, is by making the Kindle smaller! It’s a possibility that’s at least implied by the latest rumors about Amazon’s plans for a tablet-sized device. Besides a full-sized tablet device, there’s also speculation that Amazon might also be working on a powerful but compact 7-inch version!

But I’d like to see Amazon release a “Kindle Mini” — about the size of a smartphone, but with a fully-functioning e-ink screen. I say this partly because I’ve already seen Amazon’s Kindle app on a smartphone-sized screen — and it works great! A smaller screen must refresh faster than the larger ones, and that also would extend the device’s battery life. And besides e-books, it could also store music and audio files (creating a nice alternative to an Apple iPod).

And the device could also play audiobooks — available through the Amazon-owned web site One technology blogger is already listing the advantages, noting that an even-smaller Kindle could be carried in a shirt pocket. And he’d like to see something like a “Kindle Nano” — modelled after Apple’s smallest music-playing device — which was actually optimized for audiobooks.

I’d had the same idea, but this blogger is so enthusiastic that he’s issued a plea to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “Jeff, buddy, I know you’re out there. Give us our Kindle Nano.

“Don’t worry, we’ll buy it. You know we will.”

A New Kindle Single by Susan Orlean

Susan Orlean

She wrote the best-seller The Orchid Thief (which was made into a wonderfully strange movie called Adaptation starring Nicolas Cage). And her next full-length book will finally be released in October — though you can pre-order it on Amazon now. But just a few days ago, Susan Orlean came to Amazon’s Kindle Store with a brand new piece of writing that’s available right now. It’s apparently a Kindle exclusive — an essay about animals that she’s releasing as a short “Kindle Single” e-book, as a kind of a preview for her upcoming book!

She’s one of five best-selling authors who’ve released a new Single in the Kindle store, Amazon proudly announced this week. But there’s also more Kindle news. The Orchid Thief will finally be released as a Kindle e-book for the first time in August. (Amazon will automatically deliver the e-book edition to your Kindle as soon as it becomes available.)

And believe it or not, I’ve also got my own strange personal connection to the Susan Orlean story…

It’s not just that we both love dogs — but I did know as far back as 2006 that Orlean’s next book would be about Rin Tin Tin. (It was World War I when an American soldier in an abandoned French village had first found that shell-shocked puppy cowering in the rubble.) He’d scooped the dog up, and brought it back to the United States with him — and eventually Rin Tin Tin was discovered by several movie producers. It’s a wonderful story, so I wasn’t surprised that Orleans wanted to re-visit that Hollywood legend, as a way of discussing people who love animals — and their role in our culture.

But in both the Kindle Single and the upcoming book, Orleans seems to be applying the same combination that she used in The Orchid Thief: lots of exotic research and some carefully-crafted literary writing. “Susan Orlean has produced a hugely entertaining and unforgettable reading experience,” wrote one reviewer about an advance copy of the book. (And he added, “I was astonished to learn from this delightful book that he has existed for eleven generations over a century!”) In fact according to Wikipedia, early in his career Rin Tin Tin appeared in one movie that may have saved Warner Brothers from bankruptcy in 1924. But Orleans weaves her historical trivia with some great personal animal stories of her own.

Her new Kindle Single looks like it’s both funny and fascinating. One reviewer on Amazon remembers one particular story from Orlean, “[W]hen a boyfriend named John surprised her on Valentine’s Day by having someone named Rick drop by her Manhattan apartment with his pet lion in tow…” As an lifelong animal lover, Orlean “fed the beast a bowl of two raw chickens and then proceeded to stroke its back. Presumably the feline purred in gratitude…”

But it’s not just lions. She’s had every kind of pet from the usual dogs and cats to more unusual animals like chickens, cattle, turkeys, and guinea fowl. (“With guest appearances by horses, lions, and canaries,” notes the product description at of her Kindle Single.) Orleans has written for some of the top magazines in America, including The New Yorker, Esquire, Rolling Stone, and even Vogue — so she’s having a brilliant literary career. So I’m really impressed that was able to negotiate the opportunity to sell an original piece of her writing.

What’s my personal connection to Susan Orlean? It’s a story that I’ve never told before, but I once got an e-mail from the Orchid Thief. Orleans’ book included the profile of a wily rascal in Florida who poached rare (and valuable) orchids from a Florida swampland. As I read Orleans’ book, I followed the story of John LaRoche from one scheme to the next — and towards the end of the book, Orleans reveals that he’d moved on to a new online business. That’s when I remembered that I’d met a John LaRoche online back in 1995 — and that he’d been using the same nickname that Orleans mentioned in the book!

Back then we’d all wondered if he was crazy. He’d stormed into an online newsgroup in 1995, posting wisecracks (and making fun of newbies), and acting like he owned the place already. (“Cattle are so easy to please….” he posted derisively when someone praised their ISP’s customer service.) If I remember correctly, he was starting his own internet business — tonight I found an old e-mail from 1995 where I wished him luck. And eventually he’d written back to me that instead he’d sold the rights to his life story, and they were going to make a movie about it in Hollywood.

I still have the e-mail he sent me about it, 16 years ago this month. I didn’t believe a word of it, and I instantly forgot all about him — until I started reading The Orchid Thief!

And that same weekend they held the Oscar ceremonies — and the actor who’d played him won an Oscar.

Funny Reactions to Amazon’s Newest Kindle Commercial

Girl and Boy from new Kindle bookstore commercial

It’s one of the fun things about being a Kindle owner: recognizing yourself in Amazon’s Kindle commercials! Last week Amazon released a funny sequel to their commercial about the young woman who doesn’t have a Kindle (while her male friend does). In this commercial, she’s seen rushing off to a bookstore…

“Hey, where you going?”

“I want to get a book that came out today.”

“Me too!”

“Come to the bookstore with me.”

“I’m good. Got it! It takes less than 60 seconds to download a new book on my Kindle…”

“60 sconds? Wow. That’s the book I was going to get!”
           [She stares with delight]

“Weren’t you going to the bookstore?”


And this commercial struck a familiar cord with a couple in Scotland – at least according to the comment that the husband left on Facebook. “We used to have a Kindle,” he posted in the comments below the video. “Then my wife started using it. Now SHE has a Kindle!” I had to smile, because I experienced the same thing with my own girlfriend. I finally had to buy her a Kindle of her own.

The couple in the video also drew a positive reaction on YouTube, at, where one user posted that “These two have great chemistry.” Their verdict on Amazon’s new Kindle commercial? “Even cuter than the last one.”

I first found out about the video from the Kindle’s page on Facebook (at And the page also offered a handy tip if you want the notes in your Kindle e-books to include notes from your friends on Facebook! “When you link your Facebook account to you can see the Public Notes of your Facebook friends in your Kindle books,” Amazon explains, adding that you can also “automatically share your reading activity on your [Facebook] Wall.”

Of course, you’ll never see those notes until you get your Kindle back from that woman who borrows it on her way to the bookstore!

Amazon’s Giving Away a Free Kindle!

I’m having a lot of fun with Amazon’s “A-Z Sweepstakes”. Every week they’re giving away a new prize, “in celebration of the many ways ‘Amazon Prime’ members take advantage of free two-day shipping on millions of items…” But I’m also enjoying the comments that people are leaving as they see Amazon’s prizes.

Amazon will be giving away their prizes in alphabetical order over eight weeks, so in the first week, the prize was a Motorola Android tablet computer, with Amazon explaining that “A is for Android.” Now we’re up to the K’s — and of course, “K is for Kindle.” The lucky prize-winner will receive a new Kindle 3G with its own leather cover with a built-in light– plus a $50 Amazon gift card!

“How wonderful it would be to win this!” wrote one woman in Tennessee. ” Would definitely make up for my crappy Mother’s Day….”

To enter the contest, just point your web browser to (and then click on the Sweepstakes link). Amazon’s form asks for your e-mail address, name, and phone number (“to inform winners”), and there’s still a lot of prizes left to win. For the first week of June, the prize is an $800 digital Nikon camera (“P” for photography), and the next week the prize is an X-Box 360 game console. (“V” for video games). And in the last week — starting June 13th — Amazon’s actually giving away a $1,000 Amazon gift certificate “for your choice of the ‘zillions’ of things you can find at”

But this contest is fun for another reason. Amazon has been asking questions related to their prize, so this week’s question was related to the Kindle. “What would you read first on your Kindle?” Amazon asked on the contest’s web page — and over a 500 different people posted their answers.

Stephen King stuff
American Psycho
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The directions for the Kindle
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
A Dance with Dragons
Gone With the Wind
Alice in Wonderland

The answers kept rolling in, with hundreds of reading enthusiasts sharing the title of their next book. (And on another page, Amazon simply asked users to name their favorite books.) There were a variety of answers — and over 500 more comments — ranging from “”The Bible” to “Harry Potter”. And one user even said their next book would be The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway “because I’m headed to the festival San Fermin in Pamplona to run with the bulls!”

But this was my favorite response of all. One reader announced that if they won Amazon’s prize this week, “I’d give this Kindle to my sister so I could read the 600> books on my Kindle in peace!”

What’s Behind Amazon’s New Hiring Spree?

help_wanted sign

Amazon is suddenly hiring new employees for customer service centers in six different states. Is this yet-another clue that Amazon’s planning to release a tablet-sized computer soon?

Just Wednesday Amazon announced they were building a new customer fulfillment center in Washington — 500,000-square-foot facility creating “several hundred” new full-time jobs. But last week Amazon also tucked six different press releases onto their web site, each one advertising a new hiring campaign at Amazon’s order fulfillment centers in one of six different states. (“Candidates should be highly motivated with drive, ambition and a passion for providing customers a first-class shopping experience.”) The press releases cite new hiring in each of the following regions.

Phoenix, Arizona
Goodyear Arizona
Coffeyville, Kansas
New Castle, Delaware
Fernley, Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada

The press releases are identical, except that there’s no mention of any technical support openings in the press release for Kentucky. And in addition, according to the Seattle Times “Amazon is looking for hundreds of additional technology workers for its expanding headquarters complex in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.

It’s hard to imagine why Amazon suddenly needs so many new employees all across the country — unless they’re anticipating a sudden spike in purchasing. And it seems to me that that “trigger” could be the release of a tablet-sized computing device. Amazon would pre-load the devices with a slick shopping application, and would probably offer ways to connect the devices into their discount shipping program. If Amazon were planning the release of such a device, they’d definitely want to build up their ability to fulfill the extra orders!

And there’s one reason why Amazon would need service centers all across the country. Amazon’s “Prime” shipping program specifically promises free two-day shipping on orders — and a discount on the even speedier one-day shipping. Maybe Amazon anticipates a flood of new tablet owners signing up for the Prime” program, making it even more important to fill orders from a nearby state, ensuring the speedy delivery times while reducing Amazon’s own shipping costs.

Of course, it’s possible that is just expanding beyond its current capability. “Many years ago, Amazon’s requirements reached a point where many of our systems could no longer be served by any commercial solution,” Jeff Bezos revealed Wednesday in a letter to shareholders, because “our key data services store many petabytes of data and handle millions of requests per second.” Maybe he’s learned a lesson — especially since this year Amazon’s sales have been 38% higher than they were for the same period a year ago. But it’s also possible that he’s learned a different lesson from Amazon’s experience with the Kindle.

Namely, the value of selling consumers a really cool device which lets them buy things from

The Kindle Teams Up With Wal-Mart


“Starting this week, Kindle will be available in over 3,200 Walmart stores nationwide,” Amazon announced Tuesday. But instead of formally announcing the news in Amazon press release number KS7N87PRB8G6 they quietly tucked the news onto the Kindle’s page on Facebook at — linking to a story on Amazon’s Kindle blog, The Daily Post.

“Most stores will have a Kindle on display so you can check out all the features before you buy,” the blog explained, noting that Wal-Mart isn’t the only chain store where you’ll now be able to purchase Amazon’s latest digital readers. “Walmart is the latest in a growing list of retailers offering Kindle, including Target, Best Buy, and Staples, among others.” (Since February, the Kindle has also been also available at the chain of 125 Fred Meyer stores.)

I had to smile when I read the news, because Wal-Mart had already worked the Kindle into a heart-warming community re-investment program. Since late 2010, In 100 different cities across America, Wal-Mart has been making donations to a charity dedicated to teenagers. (“Boys & Girls Clubs of America Getting Teens Excited About Reading,” read their official press release.) Walmart’s been giving $10,000 grants to 100 local chapters of the “Boys and Girls Club of America” — and some of them are using the money to buy Kindles!

The “Bright Spot” program was designed to launch a new reading initiative to get teenagers more interested in reading. (For example, in Stanton, California, the money will be used to help create a reading center, to train its staff, and encourage “intercommunity relationships.”) But in Central Arkansas, they’re also making Kindles available to the children — along with magazines and music. And the same thing is happening at a Boys and Girls club for teenagers in Lodi, New Jersey.

“Our goal is to make them avid readers,” the club’s executive director told a local newspaper, “which of course, leads to other things like higher learning,” His is one of three clubs in New Jersey receiving grant money, and they’ve used Wal-Mart’s donation to buy five different Amazon Kindles, plus a slew of printed (and teen-appropriate) books. The club is also using the money to fund fields trips — like to the New York Public Library — and to hire mentors for their program. (They’ve already got 66 middle school- or high school-age teenagers in their program.)

But I know that Wal-Mart was the world’s single largest public corporation last year — and that they’ve got 8,500 stores, in 15 countries (according to Wikipedia.) Their annual sales are actually close to half a trillion dollars, coming in at over $408 billion last year.

But it’s still nice to think that some of that money is going to encourage teenagers to read by buying new Kindles.

A New Free Kindle Game From Amazon!

Amazon Free Kindle game screenshot - Dots and Lines

Thursday Amazon released yet-another free game for the Kindle. It’s called Dots and Boxes, and it’s a very attractive rendition of one of the classic mathematical strategy games.

Amazon’s game was actually invented more than 150 years ago, by a famous French mathematics professor named Edouard Lucas. (According to Wikipedia, he invented another classic math game — the Tower of Hanoi puzzle — which was also recently adapted into a game for the Kindle 120 years after his death.) Lucas once discovered a 40-digit prime number by performing all the calcuations by hand! But what’s funny is that Lucas himself tried to market a version of “Dots and Boxes” back in the 1800s, saying the game’s author was “N. Claus de Siam” (which was really just an anagram for “Lucas d’Amiens” — acknowledging the city in north France, where he was born).

It’s a game which is traditionally played with a pencil and paper, but Amazon’s created a slick update. Players take turns drawing lines between the dots on a grid — and if a player’s line forms the fourth side of a box, a picture of an animal appears inside to show that they’ve claimed the entire square. “Your goal is to beat your opponent by completing more boxes than they do,” Amazon explain in the game’s instructions, but the game is surprisingly difficult. The first time I tried playing a game against my Kindle, the Kindle actually managed to beat me! (“Wow! The Kindle is really smart and very tricky,” posted one reviewer on

But I really liked how Amazon indicated which player had claimed the square — using either a lion’s head or the head of an elephant. There’s also a nice illustration of the two animals above each of the menus (which are framed with vines and flowers.) Even when you’re scrolling through the menus, the “selection indicator” is an elephant’s head on one side and an lion’s head on the other. I think it would’ve been fun if Amazon had just decided to call the game “Elephant Heads and Lion Heads.”

This makes the seventh free game that Amazon has released. (Less than a month earlier, Amazon released — Number Slide — and there’s also two free card-based games, Video Poker and Blackjack.) Amazon’s also released two (free) word games — Every Word and Shuffled Row — and of course, the first free game for the Kindle was Minesweeper. There’s a link built into “Dots and Boxes” that leads to Amazon’s own game page in the Kindle store where you can donwload all of their other free games to your Kindle.

This game brought back fond memories for at least one Kindle blogger. “I can remember being in the back of the car on a long trip with a large pad of paper with a 100 square grid playing with my sister,” remembers Michael P. Gallagher. In a review he posted to Amazon’s web site, he suggests that the Kindle version reminded him of some of that childhood drama.

“We were usually good to be a little more quiet for ten minutes or so until one or the other would get frustrated with losing, or gloaring a little too much with winning!”

Amazon’s Special Kindle Sale for Mother’s Day

Amazon Kindle Mother's Day special

Amazon will give you a free $25 gift certificate if you buy a new Kindle during the next 11 days. It’s to encourage you to purchase a Kindle as a Mother’s Day gift — the offer ends at midnight on Mother’s Day, May 8 — and it only applies to the Kindle 3G and the large-screen Kindle DX. Now when you visit the Kindle’s page at, you’ll see the special offer written in pink at the top of the page.

“The Perfect Deal For Mom,” the headline announces…

The offer appears at the left of the page, below Amazon’s usual yellow “Add to Cart” button. Under the heading “Add Kindle Accessories,” there’s a very attractive offer — to “add a $25 Gift Card at no extra cost.” They’re limiting the offer to just one for each customer, and of course, if you return the Kindle, then Amazon will charge you the full cost of the $25 gift card before refunding the price of the Kindle. But you can also use the gift cards at the Amazon-owned fashion site, (“Shoes and more,” reads their tagline, since the site also offers jewelry and designer handbags)

Amazon will mail the gift card and Kindle to the address that you provide during the check-out – but that’s just one way that they’re helping shoppers celebrate Mother’s Day. Amazon’s book blog, Omnivoracious, has launched a charming promotion in which they’ll provide personalized book recommendations for the perfect Mother’s Day gift. “If you tell us a bit about your mom’s reading habits — what kinds of books she likes to read, favorite authors, least favorite authors, hobbies… — we’ll get back to you with some books we think she’ll like, and a bit about why we think each one will fit.”

They’re promising to post a new response every day on their blog, urging readers to “ask us, stump us, amuse us!” You can contact the editors of Amazon’s book blog through the blog’s comments page, or by leaving a comment on their web page on Facebook. (And remember, you can subscribe to their blog on your Kindle for free.

I enjoy reading Omnivoracious, and their blog post even provides a helpful link to Amazon’s own page of Mother’s Day gift ideas.

And of course, Amazon’s Kindle is listed at the very top of the page…

Win A Free Tablet from Amazon!

New Amazon Android tablet computer contest

With all these rumors about a tablet-sized version of the Kindle, it’s nice to see that Amazon is also thinking about tablets. Monday they announced a special contest where you could win a tablet computer from Motorola (running the Android operating system). “In celebration of the many ways Amazon Prime members take advantage of FREE Two-Day Shipping on millions of items, we’re giving away some popular Prime-eligible items from A to Z,” a promotional announcement explained.

“This week A is for Android…”

To enter the contest, point your web browser to to enter (and then click on the Sweepstakes link). The form asks for your e-mail address, name, and phone number — but of course, there’s a small catch. “If you click ‘Allow”’in the Request for Permission window that appears after you click ‘Enter,’ you will be providing ongoing consent to the Sweepstakes/Contest application, which may offer other sweepstakes and contests in addition to this one,” Amazon explains on the page. It’s not as bad as it sounds, since “You may change this consent at any time through your Facebook privacy settings.”

And it turns out that Amazon isn’t going to contact me 26 times, to remind each week about its A to Z contest. (“Come back next week to enter again for your chance to win the next prize,” the sweepstakes page urges when you first enter the contest.) Instead the sweepstakes only goes for eight weeks, with eight different items being given away in alphabetical order. So I don’t mind the extra eight reminders, since apparently it means I could end up with a free Android tablet computer! And during the week of May 16th, the prize is even going to be a free Kindle!

The prizes get even better as the contest winds up in June, with a $797 digital Nikon camera (“P” for photography), and then an X-Box the next week (“V” for video games). And Amazon concludes their alphabetical contest with a “Z” item during the week of June 13th — a $1,000 Amazon gift certificate “for your choice of the ‘zillions’ of things you can find at” But is this also another hint about Amazon’s plans for the Kindle? It’s not just that they’re trying to get people excited about an Android-powered tablet device. They’re trying even harder to excite people about Amazon’s $79-a-year “Prime” shipping service.

One rumor has it that Amazon plans to lower the price of the Amazon Kindle to anyone willing to pay the Prime program’s yearly fee. And now it looks like Amazon is putting some real muscle into promoting the program. Are they seeing this as a stepping stone to something even bigger? It’s got me wondering if Amazon is planning a big announcement in eight weeks, when their Prime-promoting contest finally ends.

Maybe they’re trying to attention to the Prime shipping program — right before they offer Prime subscribers a new, big discount on Kindles this summer.

Amazon releases a new Kindle commercial – and more!

Girl in Amazon Kindle vs printed book ad

I always get excited when Amazon releases a new commercial for the Kindle. And this time it’s just one of several interesting new videos that Amazon is making available online!

Their new Kindle ad probably belongs in a time capsule, because it seems to capture the exact moment when the way we read starts to change. In a breezy conversation, a young blonde woman complains that “I only read real books” to a young man holding a Kindle, which starts a conversation about how the printed book doesn’t have any advantages over a Kindle.

“Oh, I’m reading a real book.”

“I can read my book in the sun, where there’s a lot of glare.”

“Well, so can I. See? The screen looks just like a paper book, so it’s great for reading in bright sunlight.”

“But you can’t fold down the page when you want to save your place.”

“My Kindle does that for me.”

“But you don’t get the rewarding feeling of actually folding down the page. [She dramatically reaches her arm forward to bend down the page’s corner, and smiles a forced smile] Ahh…

Then there’s an awkward pause where the two exchange significant glances, and then woman asks to borrow the man’s Kindle.

“Wow. The screen looks amazing.”


It’s the first ad where Amazon has touted the new lower prices of the ad-supported devices at the end of the commercial. (“The all new Kindle,” reads the ad’s closing shot.”From $114.”) The commercial will be broadcast for the first time on TV tonight, but this morning Amazon slipped a “sneak preview” link onto the Kindle’s official page on Facebook (at Within a few hours, over 1,600 people had clicked the Facebook icon indicated they liked the new ad. (Although one woman in England seemed to be grateful that it was different than an earlier Kindle ad, posting “As long as it hasn’t got a dog licking a kindle…”)

You can watch the new ad at – but it turns out it’s not the only new video that Amazon is making available. In a press release this morning, Amazon announced they’d created a new web page called The Backstory. (“Find author interviews,” its tagline promises, “and essays, guest reviews, recipes and much, much more.”) And to give the new page a big launch, Amazon is featuring five video interviews with authors, including celebrity chef Tom Douglas and Gossip Girl producer John Stephens (as well as authors Joshua Foer, Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.) They’re calling the series Author Interviews @ Amazon, and there’s many more authors to come. “New author interviews will be announced via the Books Facebook page,” the company explained in a press release this morning, “and on, the Books blog.”

Amazon will even let you post questions for the authors on the Facebook page, or e-mail your questions to (The final interviews will also be available on the book’s “detail” page at “We’re extremely lucky to have fascinating and talented authors gracing our hallways here at Amazon and taking time to chat with us,” Amazon’s Managing Editor of books said this morning.

“We love these conversations so much that we wanted to share them with our customers.”

New Kindle ad –   
Author Interviews –

Oprah Gives Kindles to Past Audience Members!

Oprah last favorite things - Kindle

Oprah gives audience Kindles

Oprah Winfrey may just have committed the strangest promotional give-away ever. She just tracked down the 352 audience members from a show she’d taped two and a half years ago — and then gave all of them a Kindle.

It’s part of the count-down to Oprah’s final show, which airs May 25 (in just six weeks). After 24 years and 5,000 episodes, Oprah’s been looking back on her legacy. And there was one particular audience that she felt had been short-changed.

“You know the saying that it’s the thought that counts?” Oprah said in an introduction. “Depends on what the thought was.” Calling it a “holiday oopsie gone wrong,” she remembered the day in November of 2008, when her audience entered the studio, and noticed that her set was decorated with enormous props shaped like Christmas presents. Each Christmas, Oprah taped a show where each audience member received a lavish gift package, each containing a complete set of “Oprah’s favorite things”. “Could it be? they wondered. Could they have scored the hottest ticket in television…”

Thursday, in a special episode titled “Oprah’s Bloopers, Blunders and Funniest ‘What Were We Thinking?’ Moments,” Oprah described that audience’s reaction as she then informed them that this year’s show was going to be different. “We thought that since we were in the throes of the recession, instead of favorite things, we should do a show about how to have a thrifty holiday.” Oprah had wanted to emphasize the real meaning of the holidays, saying that bringing that back would be her favorite thing this year. “So instead of walking away with bags full of fabulous gifts, this audience got tips on what we thought would be the perfect present that year: an empty box.”

Oprah audience members who didn't get Oprah's Favorite Things
[The show’s camera then panned across the
faces of horrified members of the audience…]

During yesterday’s show, Oprah remembered her audience’s reaction. “I went back into the control room, which is behind that wall, during that show, and I go, ‘I think they’re mad at me! Everybody’s looking real mad!'” Yesterday she even flew in two people who’d been in her audience for that ill-fated show, just to have them describe the emotional roller-coaster. “We thought, ‘Oh my god! We made it! We’re here!” one woman remembered. “It’s the Favorite Things show!” And then the other woman jokingly added what she thought the Christmas show had meant.

“We’re going to see Santa!”

“Yeah, I could feel y’all turning on me…” Oprah joked. “It has now been three years, and my producers still feel badly about disappointing everybody in that audience. So we made a few calls, and the FedEx Elves agreed to make a special delivery to you both. Elves?” (Two FedEx deliverymen then entered carrying two boxes.)

Each box contained a tote bag from Land’s End, some spring wedges from Ugg boots, a Flip video camera, and, yes, a Kindle 3G. (The audience’s cheers actually surged loudly when Oprah announced that the gift packages included Kindles.) “And of course, for everybody in today’s studio audience? You get the same!”

And then the audience rose to their feet and cheered wildly as more FedEx deliverymen — dressed in elf hats — entered with hundreds of gift packages from the back of the studio.

Oprah gives Kindles to her audience

E-Book Sales Have Tripled in the Last Year!

Stack of books graph shows ebook sales

Today the Association of American Publishers finally released their estimated sales statistics for February. It’s conclusion? E-book sales have more than tripled from where they were just one year ago!

I’ve updated this post because originally I hadn’t realized just how much the sales had increased. “According to AAP’s monthly sales estimates, e-book sales jumped 202.3% at the 16 publishers that reported results, hitting $90.3 million,” Publisher’s Weekly reported this morning – and a 200% increase means the sales are triple where they were from the year before. Again, these are the official statistics from the official trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry, which reported that e-book sales “have enjoyed triple-digit percentage growth, 202.3%, vs February 2010.” And they also acknowledged today that people really love to read e-books.

“The public is embracing the breadth and variety of reading choices available to them,” announced the association’s president, adding that while the reading public maintains an interest in printed books, they’ve “made e-books permanent additions to their lifestyle.”

It’s nice to see that book publishers are aware of the changes rocking their industry, and that they’re approaching it with a sense of history. The association’s president noted today that “publishers are constantly redefining the timeless concept of ‘books,'” and identifying new audiences they can serve in new emerging technologies. “Publishers have always strategically expanded into all the markets and formats where readers want to find books,” he added enthusiastically, “whether it was Trade Paperback, Mass Market or now digital.”

But the statistics tell an unusually compelling story. Publishers are selling more e-books than they are books in any other format, according to a larger survey of over 84 different publishing houses. And in fact, nearly every kind of printed book has shown a decline in sales from the sales they reported just last year. For example, in February hardcover sales dropped a massive 43% from the year before, and they’re now earning the publishing houses just $46.2 million.

And mass-market paperbacks didn’t fare much better, dropping 41.5% in February (down to just $29.3 million) from their sales figures a year ago. In fact, combining every category of printed book, you’d still see a drop of 24.8% in their February sales this year. There was only one kind of printed book which showed any increase in sales this year: religious books, which sold 5.5% more in February than they did in February of 2010 (earning $48.5 million). But no matter how you approach these figures, e-books still come out as extremely popular.

So what’s their explanation? E-books apparently got a big boost from the people who received a Kindle (or another digital reader) as a gift this Christmas. There’s not only more reading devices to choose from, but now there’s also more digital titles available, their report noted today. And people may even be reading more once they purchase a digital reader, the report seems to suggest. “Additionally, trade publishing houses cite e-books as generating fresh consumer interest in — and new revenue streams for — ‘backlist’ titles, books that have been in print for at least a year. Many publishers report that e-Book readers who enjoy a newly-released book will frequently buy an author’s full backlist.”

This may be the year that everything changes — when digital texts really start to replace the printed book as we know it.

Will Amazon release a $99 Kindle?

Sale for 99 on a sign

“A Kindle priced below $100 seems almost a sure thing.”

That’s the opinion of Chad Skelton, who’s both an investigative reporter and blogger for the Vancouver Sun. He predicts that Amazon’s going to make big cuts in the cost of a new Kindle — because it will bring them more customers. “Amazon has already shown a willingness to make deep price cuts on the Kindle,” Skelton writes, documenting the drops from its original $399 price to just $139. He does disagree with the prediction that Amazon may give away a free Kindle (and then try to earn back their money on e-book sales). But he notes that “there are likely a bunch of customers who Amazon can bring into the market once they drop the price down to two digits.”

“The only question is when. If I was a betting man, I’d figure Amazon would drop the Kindle’s price to $99 in time for the holiday shopping season.”

He isn’t the first person to predict Amazon will keep lowering the Kindle’s price. Last August, a technology columnist at Slate argued that Amazon would drop the price of a Kindle to $99 before Christmas of 2010! They didn’t — but it’s still a fascinating article, because it broke down the actual cost Amazon paid for the parts of a Kindle. Over a year ago, E-Ink collaborated with a silicon chip manufacturer to create a way to run the Kindle with a much cheaper semiconductor. And in addition, at least one Amazon’s competitor unveiled a $99 digital reader last July.

“All of these trends likely guarantee that Amazon will release a $99 e-reader someday,” Slate‘s columnist concluded. (And he compared Amazon’s pricing to that of an aggressive salesman in a TV ad, joking that Amazon’s CEO was “the Crazy Eddie of the e-book business: Every time a rival gets close to the Kindle’s prices, Bezos goes even lower. He will not be undersold!”) But there’s already been research into how consumers would react to a $99 Kindle, Slate‘s reporter also notes. While less than 20% of the adults in America would consider a reader costing more< than $100, “nearly 65 percent said they would consider one” if the price were below $100, “and almost 40 percent said they’d buy it within six months!”

Imagine what that would mean for Amazon. Suddenly there’d be three times as many people who wanted to buy the newest Kindle. Presumably they’d triple the sales of e-books in Amazon’s Kindle store. This would give Amazon even more leverage with publishers — though I don’t know whether it would ultimately result in lower e-book prices.

It’s hard to predict the future — as Slate’s columnist found out when he started writing that “tech companies usually ramp up production and lower their prices for the holidays.” But maybe he was right about everything except which holiday Amazon. It’s still possible that Amazon will roll out a $99 Kindle for Christmas.

But instead of Christmas of 2010, it could be Christmas of 2011.

M-Edge Lets You Design a Kindle Jacket!

M-Edge MyEdge customized Kindle covers

Yesterday M-Edge slashed prices on their Kindle 2 covers — but later that day, they delivered some even bigger news. Tuesday they launched a new service that lets you design your own custom jacket for
your Kindle 2 or 3!

A web interface lets you upload an image from your computer, then position it and crop it in an online simulation of your Kindle’s jacket. Within two weeks, you’ll be holding an actual Kindle jacket with your
image printed on it, according to Tuesday’s announcement. And you can also print your own text on the jacket, select a background pattern, and even choose the jacket’s color. “MyEdge turns you into the designer,” the new web site promises.

Screenshot of MyEdge Kindle iPad jacket interface

You can choose from either the black or mocha-colored leather spine and stitching, and the final jacket is given a coat of protective Scotchgard. Best of all, it all costs just $40. “Our goal is to offer high-quality and unique accessories at affordable prices,” the company’s CFO said in a press release, “and we’re proud that MyEdge will give our customers another option to convey their one-of-a-kind style to the world.”

There’s also a “style library” where you can choose from existing designs, and even browse through the jackets that were designed by other users. It’s already offering over 313 different styles to choose from, including what looks like photos of pet cats and dogs, and one design that apparently even features a couple’s wedding photo. The Style Library also features the official NCAA-licensed logos for several colleges, including the Universities of Virginia, Washington, Maryland, “for students and alumni looking to showcase their school spirit.” But there’s also some fascinating Kindle jackets that are displaying the covers from vintage print editions of classic books (like Slaughterhouse 5, Naked Lunch, and even The Lord of the Flies).

It’s the result of a unique partnership with a clothing company called “Out of Print,” which has also been printing the classic covers on a line of t-shirts. “For each shirt we sell,” they explain on their web site, “one book is donated to a community in need through our partner Books For Africa…” The web site describes how they’re ultimately motivated by a deep love of books. “It’s unclear what the role of the book cover will be in this new era, but we feel it’s more important than ever to reflect on our own individual experiences with great literary art before it’s forever changed.”

I’ve always said that the Kindle’s huge popularity could be a moment of history that’s happening right before our eyes. But it’s refreshing that the two companies are having fun with it, using cutting-edge manufacturing techniques to reproduce some very old-fashioned printed book covers. It’s like they’re successfully standing in both eras, acknowledging a heritage while creating something new for Kindle owners. “For those who love the new reading technology but miss the feeling of holding a traditional hardcover in their hands,” the jacket-maker explained in their press release, “MyEdge is the ultimate opportunity to put a little of the book back into the e-reader.”

Save 72% on a Kindle 2 jacket!

M-Edge leather Kindle jacket

I’ve never seen savings like this. They’re authentic leather jackets from M-Edge for the Kindle 2 — and they’re on sale for just $14.99!

Normally they’d cost between $39.99 and $54.99, but a special sale started today at a store called Tuesday Morning. Ten times a year — on the first Tuesday of each month — they’ll announce their biggest new specials on brand-name merchandise. It’s a chain of 842 stores in 47 different states, according to Wikipedia, and it’s “known for its deep discounts on gifts and accessories seen in more upscale department stores.” (Find your local branch here.) I didn’t see any Kindle 3 jackets, but for the Kindle 2 there’s lots of different colors available. This afternoon I saw red, purple, tan, and cream at my local store — and the cashier said the supply should last.

In fact, she also said that she hadn’t sold any all day — and it’s not hard to guess why they’ve been discounted. These M-Edge jackets have built-in straps to hold your Kindle in place, but they’ll only fit around an 8-inch Kindle 2 — and not the newer Kindle 3 (which is 7.5 inches tall). Amazon stopped selling the Kindle 2 in August, so the market for these jackets has to be dwindling. The store’s corporate profile notes they provide “upscale closeout” items, and sure enough, many of the jackets are currently listed as “unavailable” on

But they’ve received dozens of favorable reviews from customers, and it’s really a nice Kindle jacket. Tuesday Morning is offering discounts on their “Latitude” jacket, which offers a built-in zipper, as well as the “Go!” jacket. (“Selection will vary by store,” their newspaper ad explains.) But both versions offer a slot where you can insert the tiny e-Luminator booklight, and the Go! jacket even doubles as stand, so you can prop up your Kindle and read it with no hands!

Kindle e-illuminator book light by M-Edge

It comes with a package insert promising the product is “Amazon approved,” and their slogan is “Everything EReader.” It’s my very first leather Kindle jacket, and I love the way it feels under my fingertips. Instead of touching cold, white plastic — I’m finally touching real leather. It’s a beautiful cream color, with a tan, saddle-stitched strap, and the interior is a super-soft microfiber. (“Soft, plush interiors protect e-Reader from damage,” the ad explained.) It’s even easier to hang onto — since it adds some extra thickness around the Kindle, which makes it easier to grip.

For me it feels like a whole new way of enjoying the Kindle. (And according to the store’s newspaper ad, the jackets are available “in a wide variety of colors and styles.”) You can view the ad online by pointing your browser to — and then flipping to page 5.

Tuesday Morning April newspaper ad for M-Edge Kindle leather jacket

And if you can’t find your way to a Tuesday morning store, there’s still a few jackets that are available online.

Amazon Releases a New Free Game

Free Amazon Kindle Game Number Slide screenshot

It sounds like an April Fool’s Day joke — but it’s not! Amazon’s just released a brand-new free game for the Kindle. It’s a beautiful rendition of the classic “number slider” puzzle — this time with a couple of twists.

To start with, there’s just one empty square on a grid of numbered titles, which makes it possible to slide just one tile at a time, either up, down, or sideways. “Your goal is to use the empty space to slide the numbered tiles until they are in order,” Amazon’s instructions explain. “When the tiles are in order with the empty space in the bottom right, you win!”

But Amazon also lets you select a new difficulty level for the puzzle, offering grids that are either “small, medium, or large.” (That is, you can slide the numbers in a small three-by-three grid, a trickier four-by-four grid, or an even more challenging five-by-five grid.) And if you choose the “automatic” setting, a tile will move as soon as you highlight it, so you don’t even have to press in the select button. (And if you instead you choose the “manual” setting, you can cursor past several tiles, and then move them all at once by selecting the one that’s farthest away!)

“You know, the last thing I need is yet another addictive game on my Kindle!” complained blogger Michael P. Gallagher. This morning he posted the game’s first review on its page in the Kindle store, writing that “The graphics are very crisp and the response time is very fast on my Kindle 3 as compared to the slowness I saw on the free Kindle poker game…”

“Now, if I can just find time to read on my darn Kindle….”

This game is part of an unacknowledged trend, since gradually all of the classic games are starting to become available on the Kindle. Just yesterday Oak Systems Leisure Software released Codewords and Cryptograms for Kindle. It’s the familiar cryptograms that appear in your daily newspaper, where a quote from a famous person is hidden with a “substitution” code where different letters are swapped in to represent every letter. (And they’ve also bundled in a fascinating variation on the classic crossword puzzles, called “Codewords,” where you try to perform the same de-ciphering in a crossword puzzle grid!)

That company also released the first Kindle version of Chess in February (as well as a Word Search game). And if you’re looking for traditional crossword puzzles, The New York Times has released six different volumes. One week ago, two different companies even released two different Kindle versions of the board game checkers on the exact same day. And just Tuesday, the same thing happened again, when two companies released competing versions of the disk-flipping game Reversi.

In February, a company named 7 Dragons released a Kindle version of the game Tic Tac Toe (as well as a new game called Flip It) — but two weeks ago, they even unveiled a Kindle version of the classic text-document application, “Notepad.” And there were already two competing versions of the software. So game development is definitely starting to happen on the Kindle platform.

I agree with Michael Gallagher — all these games are cutting into the time that I’d normally spend reading on my Kindle. Number Slide marks the sixth free game that Amazon has released. Below is a complete list of all Amazon’s free Kindle games — in case you’re looking for more fun ways to spend this year’s April Fool’s Day.

Video Poker
Shuffled Row
Every Word
Black Jack
Number Slide

Sports Illustrated vs. the Kindle

Sports Illustrated logo on baseball magazine cover

Today is the first day of baseball season. And perhaps fittingly, CNN’s web site just ran a very strange article complaining about the Kindle and e-books — by a baseball writer for Sports Illustrated.

It headline? “My Bookstore is on Death Row.” Author Jeff Pearlman continues the morbid theme by writing “I just just returned from the morgue… It is dark inside. Smells stale. The walls are decayed, the echo resounding.” But he’s describing a recently-closed bookstore — his local Borders in Scarsdale — which was “adjacent to a Starbucks and a gym and a couple of overpriced clothing shops…”

Even writing later on his personal blog, Pearlman still seems deeply moved. “It’s an odd thing,” he writes in a new blog post. “Five years ago I would have never imagined feeling glum over a Borders or B&N shutting down. Nowadays, however, it symbolizes a shifting tide. Technologically. Culturally.”


Pearlman has a special fondness for this particular bookstore, because it was where he wrote his third book, “at a rickety wood table inside the store’s small cafe.” He fondly remembers all the people he met there — like “the clerk with tattoos running down his arm who, one day, left to join the army and fight in Iraq…” But more than that, he remembers the feeling of the bookstore. “Borders was cozy; safe; easy…

“Now, the shop is next up on death row.”

It’s a fairly traditional argument against e-books — though the personal details make it feel more poignant. Flashing forward to the present, Pearlman notes the deep discounts at the closing Borders, where “people pick at the remains like vultures atop a rotting calf.” Then he looks ahead to the future, and writes sadly about the “seemingly inevitable extinction of print.” (” “Look on the bright side,” my sister-in-law recently said. “More people will read. The Kindle books are cheaper, so they’re going to be more widely embraced. This will work in your favor.”)

“I just don’t know. …” Pearlman writes glumly.

“At the risk of sounding like my great aunt, I love books. I love holding books. I love thumbing through books. I love marking up pages, I love perusing bookshelves, I love feeling the paper between my fingers.

As a boy growing up in Mahopac, New York, I used to rush to Waldenbooks at the nearby Jefferson Valley Mall for the start of every sports season. My mission was to pick up “Zander Hollander’s The Complete Handbook of (fill in the league)” annuals. Upon making the $6 purchase, I’d rush home, lie on my bed, stare at the mug shots of Magic Johnson and Joe Montana and Steve Kemp, read the bios, imagine myself one day joining their ranks. Those books — all 27 of them — remain inside my home, yellowed and tattered and beautiful. I turn to them often. For nostalgia. For joy.

He concludes by saying that he’d still prefer a book. But there may be more to the story. It turns out that Pearlman has already written four different printed books over the last six years — three of them about baseball, and two of which became New York Times best-sellers. And all four of them are already available as e-books in Amazon’s Kindle store.

In fact, each one has achieved an impressive rank in one of the Kindle store’s special sub-categories. (For example, “The Bad Boys Won” is the 10th best-selling baseball biography in the sports section, and “Boys Will Be Boys” is the section’s third best-selling football biography.) And meanwhile, Zander Hollander’s “Complete Handbook” series of sports annuals apparently stopped publishing long ago. Even before Amazon invented their Kindle, one beloved childhood book had already fallen a victim to the high costs of traditional printing.

So when Pearlman’s sister-in-law says more e-book readers will simply mean more sales for his book — she’s probably right. (Pearlman’s best response is an ambiguous “I just don’t know…”) I e-mailed Pearlman through his web page to ask how he feels about the new readers he may be finding on the Kindle? (And whether he’s worried he’ll earn less money through e-book sales than he will in print.) But so far, I haven’t heard a response.

I’m a little surprised that Sports Illustrated isn’t available on the Kindle yet — though that’s true for nearly every sports magazine. (In fact, currently there’s only one magazine available in the Sports magazine section of the Kindle Store — “Winding Road Weekly”, a magazine about cars). But maybe it’s also because sports writers prefer a sunny stadium outdoors to exploring all the technical specs of a new electronic gadget. Taking another look at his article, I realized that most of Pearlman’s understanding is based on a sports writer’s gut instinct.

For example, printed books still represent a large majority of all books that are sold, but Pearlman already feels that books are old news. Why? “[J]ust ride a train and glance around. Everyone — everyone — is holding a Kindle. Or a Nook. Or an iPad.” But the biggest “tell” comes from his statement that he’s not interested in a reader like the Kindle because “Come day’s end, I’m tired of staring at a screen. I do it all day, I do it through much of the night.”

I just think he’d change his mind if he’d actually tried reading on the Kindle’s e-ink screen — mainly because I also spend a lot of my day staring at a screen. Once I discovered the Kindle’s screen, it was such a wonderful relief to discover it didn’t have any of the glare that usually comes from a back-lit screen. And for me, the most interesting part of the article was where Pearlman inadvertently revealed that real-world bookstores had their own unique disadvantages. “When nobody was looking, I’d do the ol’ author two-step and relocate my books from the bottom of the sports shelves to the ‘Must Read’ sections,” he writes.

“If you think I’m the only writer who does this, you’re on crack.”

Is Amazon building a new tablet-size Kindle?

Amazon iPad-sized tablet computer - Kindle DX

“I bet Amazon is developing their own tablet computer.”

That’s what technology columnist Andy Ihnatko wrote in an insightful new article in the Chicago Sun-Times last week. Amazon had just announced their new app store for smartphones and tablet devices running the Android operating system. Was it the first step towards a color, iPad-style multimedia computing device? “I don’t know that they’re doing this,” Ihnatko wrote. “But I do know that Amazon has all of the required pieces in place and that they…are clearly in the best position to challenge Apple and the iPad.”

And here’s some more possible evidence from within the last week.

  • Yesterday Amazon’s older tablet-sized Kindle DX suddenly went on sale at a 20% discount at Best Buy and Staples. Were they selling off their inventory before introducing a better model?

  • Thursday Amazon added a link in the Kindle’s built-in store for downloading audiobook files. Were they encouraging Kindle owners to explore the Kindle’s audio capabilities?

It’s starting to feel like a not-so-secret secret. “Amazon has been working on a multi-touch color device with Wi-Fi since at least early last year,” reported Matt Buchanan of Gizmodo, “if not earlier. It bought a multi-touch company called Touchco, and merged it with Lab126, the subsidiary that works on Kindles. Then it put out calls LCD specialists. Another name for a multi-touch color screen device? A tablet.” Buchanan also suggests that there’s not much money for Amazon to make selling apps — unless they’re really planning to sell a new device that runs them.

It’s a move which seems to make a lot of business sense. Right now the only real competition to the Kindle is the Nook — an Android-based tablet which offers a back-lit color screen. But just Friday Barnes and Noble confirmed big improvements are coming for the NOOK Color in April, which reportedly include e-mail, an app store, and even support for Flash animation and video. They’ve sold millions of the device in the last six months, according to the business magazine Fast Company. Are they pressuring Amazon to come out with their own color multimedia reader?

Watch closely, and it seems like Amazon is already putting into the place the very things that some pundits are recommending. “If a Kindle tablet had a ‘Recommend this thing I’m looking at right now’ button…that one feature would be a force-multiplier for the commercial impact of the whole platform,” Andy Ihnatko wrote. But of course, just recently Amazon added a “Before you go” feature to the Kindle 3. (“When you reach the end of the book, you can immediately…share a message about the book with your social network,” Amazon explained when they announced the upgrade last month.) If Amazon proves it can generate sales for content, “it wouldn’t take much for Amazon to legitimize itself as the friend to independent producers of books and music and video,” Ihnatko writes. Apple needed its iTunes store before people would buy the iPod, and their app store to sell the iPad. But now Amazon could be offering up some real competition.

Of course, maybe Amazon is just trying to spook Apple — to give them some leverage over Apple’s threat to demand royalties off any sales which happen in the apps run on Apple products. But it’s the question that just won’t go away, and it’s fascinating to read the speculation. “The Kindle engineering team has always had a knack for zeroing in on the critical function of the device and then refusing to get precious about anything that isn’t absolutely necessary to that goal…” Ihnatko points out. “Amazon keeps the Kindle on message. Although Amazon isn’t in the business of technological innovation, they have a proven track record for making inexpensive devices that people instinctively like.”

I’m enjoying the what-if scenarios because they brings out some great analysis, and whatever happens, this conversation is helpful for understanding the world today. And I loved how Ihnatko concluded his 2,800-word masterpiece — the last reason he offered for an iPad-style Kindle. “Amazon can succeed like Apple and maybe exceed Apple’s success in many places because it has the single greatest asset that any tech company can possibly have: It’s run by a crazy billionaire… Listen to me: Jeff Bezos has his own space program. I never tire of saying that. This is clearly not a man who’s intimidated by the scale of a project or the expense.

“If there’s a real chance of success, he’s willing to pour in the money, the focus and the motivation that are necessary for his people make it happen.”

A Big Sale on a Big Kindle

Kindle 3 versus a Kindle DX side-by-side

A 20% discount? That’s what people are seeing at their local Staples store — and at Best Buy! It’s for the Kindle DX, Amazon’s big-screen Kindle, which normally retails for $379. Now the two mega-stores are both selling the tablet-sized Kindle for just $300 — and with the right coupon, you may even be able to purchase one for just $269!

Plus, even is lowering their prices on the Kindle DX — sort of. Throughout this weekend I saw Amazon selling refurbished models for just $319.99. (Only nine months ago, it cost a whopping $489 to buy a Kindle DX — until Amazon introduced a newer model with better screen contrast last July.) Amazon lowered the device’s price to just $379, and changed its color from white to graphite. But even at the new price, the Kindle DX was still costing twice as much as the Kindle 3.

The Staples offer appears on page 8 of their weekly deals flier flier, under a black headline announcing “lowest price ever!” (“3G and a 60% bigger screen… Save $80…”) There was even a display at my local Staples store urging “Try it out! Take one home today.” A store clerk explained that Staples has a 14-day return policy with “no questions asked.” The Best Buy offer appears on their web page. But for both stores it’s an “in-store only” offer.

Staples Discount Sale Ad for Kindle DX

Amazon is also offering savings on the Kindle 3 — though they’re not as dramatic. They’re selling a refurbished Wi-Fi Kindle 3 for just $129.99 and a 3G Kindle for $179.99. (When purchased new, the same Kindles each cost $10 more.) And on the Kindle’s page at, they’re also touting a lower price for a Kindle jacket. It’s the M-Edge “Latitude” jacket, with a nylon canvas exterior with zippers and a grey microfleece interior. It’s now selling for $29.99 (instead of the usual $34.99), and it’s available in six different colors. (Black, Navy blue, teal, pink, purple, and red.)

But I’ve always been most excited about the Kindle DX, and the lower prices make it really easy to buy one. An iPad has a screen with a 9.7-inch diameter — which is exactly the size of the screen on the Kindle DX. (The Kindle 3 has a 6-inch-diameter screen.) With that extra screen space, I could finally read those PDF files where the text was too small. And I really like the idea of playing a game where it’s spread out across the larger screen.

Of course, a Kindle DX always weighs twice as much as a “regular” Kindle — it’s 18.9 ounces (versus the 8.7-ounce weight of a Kindle 3). It’s either bulky and hard to hold, or there’s more Kindle to love. I always thought this would be the perfect gift for someone who really loves their Kindle. Give them another Kindle, but one that’s even bigger, so they can finally walk around with the biggest Kindle on the block!

And I’ve also heard rumors of an online coupon that can save you an additional $30 on your purchase at Staples. It’s for purchases of over $150, but I haven’t been able to confirm if the offer is legitimate. But at least two lucky shoppers found an even better deal on their Kindle DX. Saturday Amazon listed a used Kindle DX which was sold for just $275. And the other lucky shopper was the winning bidder in a fast auction on eBay.

They landed their Kindle DX for just $250!

               *                              *                              *

To check for Amazon deals on a refurbished Kindle DX, point your web browser to

To check for Amazon deals on a refurbished Kindle 3, go to

Amazon adds Audio Books to the Kindle Store!

A few minutes ago, Amazon made a big announcement. If you point your Kindle 3 to Amazon’s Kindle store, you’ll now see a new link at the top of the page — “Audible Audiobooks”. Amazon will now wirelessly deliver audio books — read by a human voice — directly to your Kindle 3 over a Wi-Fi connection! You can now purchase these audiobooks right there on your Kindle, including 3,747 mystery/thriller books, 5,255 children’s books, and 14,449 works of fiction.

“We’re very excited to announce that more than 50,000 Audible Audiobooks are now available for purchase or download on the latest Kindle via Wi-Fi delivery,” Amazon posted in the Kindle’s discussion forum at And they’ll give you two free audio books — the digital version of a “book on tape” — if you sign up for a 30-day free trial! It’s always been an intriguing way to use your Kindle, and Amazon’s new policy should make it much easier to enjoy a new audio book. Prior to today, “you had to transfer it,” an Audible representative told me this morning. You’d use your web browser to download the audio book to your computer’s hard drive — and then you’d have to connect your USB cable to your Kindle, and manually upload the audio book.

“Now you can do either way,” she explained. Using your Kindle 3’s ability to make a WI-Fi connection to your computer, you can transmit the audio books directly into your Kindle…

Of course, you don’t have to listen to the audio book on a Kindle. You can also listen to the same file on your iPod, iPhone, or Blackberry, or even on an mp3 player. What they’re selling is the convenience of enjoying a book with your ears. “Now you can catch up on books even when you can’t read,” boasts Amazon’s web page, “during your commute, while working out, anytime and anywhere.”

I was surprised by the selection of audio books that are now available. There’s even an audio version of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and several books which are actually read to you by their author, including two by Jon Stewart and Donald Rumsfeld’s “Known and Unknown.” For the next three months, they’ll let new customers explore Audible’s service at a lower monthly subscription price — just $7.49 a month. (After three months, the cost of the subscription increases to $14.95.) These subscribers get one free audio book each month, plus a 30% discount on any subsequent audiobook purchase. And they’re even throwing in a free daily subscription to audio versions of The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.

But what’s also interesting is the way Amazon announced this change. They didn’t issue a press release. Instead they quietly slipped the news into Amazon’s Kindle discussion forum at There was also a post on the official Twitter feed of the Amazon Kindle team. (“The latest Kindle now offers wireless delivery of more than 50,000 Audible Audiobooks via Wi-Fi.”) And of course, Amazon also snuck an announcement onto the Kindle’s official page on Facebook (at

The news created a small frenzy of excitement. (Within an hour more than 250 people had clicked the announcement’s “Like” icon.) And it’s been really fun to read the real-time reactions from Kindle owners. “isn’t the term ‘audible audiobook’ redundant?” someone asked — before being reminded that Audible is the name of the web site! But another user posted enthusiastically that “That is awesome I have been waiting for this option.

“I will be downloading audio tonight!”

Strong Reactions to Amazon’s New App Store

Amazon Android Store Angry Birds Rio app

Today Amazon opened a new app store for Android smartphones and tablet devices! And it’s also raising questions about whether Amazon is preparing to release their own iPad-sized Kindle that runs the Android operating system.

Amazon “did not respond to requests for comment” when contacted by the Wall Street Journal. But today the newspaper reported that industry observers “widely expect” Amazon to release a multimedia Kindle “that may run on Android.” And whatever they do next, Amazon has just entered into a high-stakes war with the largest players in the entire technology industry — including Apple, Google, and Microsoft. With or without an Android-based Kindle, at least one stock analyst already predicts that Amazon could be “a leader” here, based on how powerful they’ve already become in online shopping.

Amazon “has a key advantage over Google,” the Wall Street Journal reports — “untold millions of paying customers who have already provided critical credit-card information.” And Amazon attacked Google directly in their press release today when they announced the U.S. launch of their app store, the Journal observed. “In a thinly-veiled swipe at Google, Amazon noted that it will test all Android apps before they’re made available to consumers in its app store.” There’s over 150,000 apps in Google’s own store, the Journal notes, which makes it more difficult to test the apps individually, “a policy that came back to bite Google earlier this month when it was forced to remove dozens of malicious apps from its market.”

Obviously all these fun and useful “app”-style programs won’t run on the current-generation Kindles, but Amazon’s new store can sell its apps for all the current smartphones and tablets that run the Android operating system. And “the Amazon Appstore for Android” is already drawing some very positive reviews. Compared to Google’s “Android Market,” Amazon’s store “is much more pleasurable to navigate,” PC World reported, “immediately presenting you with a long list of popular free and paid apps.” They also point out that Amazon’s store has nearly 4,000 apps available on its very first day, and “What Amazon loses in quantity, it gains in quality…this is obvious when you run a search for popular apps like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja. Clones, spam apps and irrelevant results abound in the Android Market, but Amazon’s store returns exactly what you’re looking for–and nothing more.”

“Our customers have told us that the sheer number of apps available can make it hard to find apps that are high quality and relevant to them,” Amazon announced today in their press release. And they’ve also added a special new feature called “Test Drive,” which actually lets you preview an app on your PC before downloading it to your phone.

The launch of the Android-phone app store has already provoked Apple into action. Friday Apple even filed a lawsuit against Amazon, trying to force them to stop using the term “app store.” It seems to me Apple is worried that an iPad-sized Kindle — complete with its own app store — could create some unwanted competition. (“We’ve asked Amazon not to copy the App Store name because it will confuse and mislead customers,” an Apple spokeswoman told Bloomberg News.) Friday Apple actually filed an official complaint in a federal courthouse in California, citing both “trademark infringement” and unfair trade practices (and requesting both an injunction on the use of the phrase “app store” and a legal award of damages.) Apple claims the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had already approved an application for a trademark on the phrase “app store”.

But the approval of an application isn’t necessarily an approval of the trademark itself. Apple’s trademark application remains in an “opposition period” where other players in the industry — including Microsoft —
now file legal arguments for or against the granting of an official trademark. It looks like it’s going to be a brutal and intense legal struggle. On March 11, Microsoft even complained that Apple was cheating by using a smaller font to cram more words into their 31-page response. (“Under the rules, Apple’s brief cannot exceed 25 pages in its entirety…and must be printed in at least 11-point font…”)

All the legal and economic arguments are really just a distraction from the giddy fun of the launch of a new app store. You can access it at these shorter URLs

And there seems to be a lot of excitement. This afternoon when I tried to install the Amazon Appstore on my smartphone, I received a “server busy” message for nearly half an hour! Amazon is giving away “Angry Birds Rio,” the newest version of a popular bird-shooting game for smartphones. (“Birds away!” reads Amazon’s description, promising “you’ll unleash an arsenal of angry bird artillery through 60 levels of cage-busting vengeance.”) They’re advertising it as an Amazon appstore exclusive, and it’s already the best-selling item in Amazon’s app store — but it’s not the only free game in the store. In fact, there’s hundreds of free apps in the store today, including free versions of all the following classic games.

Connect 4
Word Search
Texas Hold ‘Em,
Tic Tac Toe

There’s even two more free Angry Birds games, plus Guitar Hero 5. (And there’s even a version of Pac-Man.) Of course, there’s non-game applications, like Oprah Mobile, E! Online, and Zagat to Go. But the most interesting feature is Amazon’s promise of very aggressive pricing if you’ll keep visiting their app store. The store’s current tagline?

“Get a great paid app for free every day.”

Teacher Earns $20,000 in Kindle E-Book Sales

Elisa Lorello author of the e-book Faking It
Image of “Faking It” author Elisa Lorello at work
from The Charlotte Observer

It’s a story that makes you feel good. “Teacher Hits It Big with E-Book,” writes her local newspaper.

“Elisa Lorello of Raleigh had no literary agent, no publisher and nothing to lose when she decided to self-publish her first novel, Faking It, as an e-book for Amazon’s Kindle… Early last year, Faking It hit No. 6 on Kindle’s bestseller list, beating out big-name authors and giant publishing houses.” They report that she’s sold over 52,000 copies of the book and it’s sequel Ordinary World. And last week her amazing success took an even bigger turn, leading Elisa to a unique publishing deal with!

Until today, I’d never even heard of Elisa Lorello. But it turns out the different pieces of her amazing life story are scattered around the web — including a feature on the web site for North Carolina State University.

“Lorello brought along a draft of her first novel, “Faking It,” when she moved from Massachusetts to Raleigh in 2006 to take a job as a full-time lecturer teaching first-year writing in the English department. She spent several years revising the book – a romantic comedy she describes as “When Harry Met Sally crossed with “Sex and the City”… Ultimately, she self-published it in 2008 through Raleigh-based, but sales were slow. “I sold less than 100 copies,” Lorello says. So, in June 2009, she published the book on Kindle through…

There it still sold just 70 copies in its first month, and 10 copies the next. (“Of course, I was ecstatic,” Lorello remembers, since that was more than she’d sold in the self-published print edition.) She lowered the book’s price to just 99 cents, and that’s when the miracle began to happen. Judging from the article, it looks like more than 15% of the author’s sales occurred in a single week. Seven months later, in the last week of January, 2010, Lorello’s e-book suddenly sold 8,000 copies, according to the college’s profile, which reports Faking It finally peaked at the #6 spot on the best-seller list in Amazon’s Kindle store (behind five e-books which were all available for free). By mid-February, total sales had reached 15,000, and in March the book remained one of Amazon’s top 50 best-sellers.

A picture in the newspaper shows Elisa hard at work on her laptop at the “It’s A Grind” coffee shop in Cary, North Carolina. And she seems very committed to the craft of writing good fiction. Even when she was considering a bittersweet sequel, “I was resistant at first because by then I had gotten so close to these characters and didn’t want them to be hurt,” she acknowledged in an interview at “But when a story or a truth needs to be told, as a writer you have to honor that and get out of its way.”

She’d already published the book’s sequel — Ordinary World — in November of 2009 — and by March of 2010 it had already sold 9,000 copies. The sequel later peaked in the Top 40, according to a profile on the college’s Department of English site, and “Both novels stayed in the Top 100 for about six weeks.” Assuming the sales were split evenly between her two books, Elisa ultimately sold about 26,000 copies of each one. Yet by the end of the year, she’d earned more than $20,000, according to the newspaper profile — a figure that’s much higher than the book advances enjoyed by most print authors. Lorello “counts herself part of a self-publishing revolution that’s upending the book business…” according to the newspaper’s profile. “At stake? The future of the $24 billion publishing industry.”

They note that e-books now represent a much larger percentage of the new e-books — 9 percent in 2010, versus just 3 percent in the previous year — and that Amazon is now selling more e-books than they are paperbacks. “Today, if you can use a computer, you can publish your book,” the article concludes, noting that besides the downside of more bad self-published ficition, it’s also unmistakeably creating “a booming self-publishing industry.” But Elia’s story took an even bigger turn, when Amazon itself took notice of her exceptional success.

“Even great books can be overlooked,” Amazon had announced in a 2009 press release when they founded their own e-book publishing company, AmazonEncore “to help readers discover exceptional books from emerging authors.” Amazon studies customer reviews (and other information) to “identify exceptional, overlooked books and authors that show potential for greater sales,” and then “partners with the authors to re-introduce their books to readers through marketing support and distribution into multiple channels and formats, such as the Amazon Books Store, Amazon Kindle Store,, and national and independent bookstores via third-party wholesalers.” Eventually Elisa Lorello turned up on their radar. (In a September press release, Amazon describes Lorello’s books as “exceptional” and “compelling”.) And looking back, it seems ironic that Elisa had added her e-book to Amazon’s Kindle store within a few weeks of when Amazon first started their publishing company.

Last week Lorello shared her gratitude in a personal message on her blog. “Tomorrow’s the big day. Faking It launches as an AmazonEncore title with a brand new cover (which I love, by the way) and editing, will be available in select bookstores, and will be available in print and Kindle editions. Who would’ve thought that, back in June 2009 (when I self-pubbed on Kindle–it had already been a Lulu title for six months), I’d be making such an announcement? Seriously, it’s way cool.

“But I’m able to make this announcement thanks to you, my readers…Thank you to every single person who made the 99-cent investment and were kind enough to say that they’d have gladly paid more. Thank you to everyone who told a friend or family member. Thank you to every male reader who wasn’t ashamed to say that they loved what was essentially marketed as a chick book…

“If there’s anyone I left out, please know that in my heart, I am profoundly grateful.”