Thursday, November 19, 2015

How the 8 days of Black Friday sales will work ... Long listing of examples of top deals ... Paperwhite 3 vs Paperwhite 1 photos ... New Handmade store ... Martha Stewart American Made store ...Isis: Inside the Army of Terror + an online article in 3 parts, based on an interview with an ISIS spy. Updated 11/20.

While watching the news this week, I heard CNN Contributor Michael Weiss on a panel discussing ISIS and the Paris attacks and found his flow of details about the middle east situation more informative than the usual and looked him up to find he co-authored the New York Times bestseller "Isis: Inside the Army of Terror," which gets good reviews.  The one complaint I saw was that there are a lot of acronyms involved and they're hard to remember when explained only once.

  I thought that was true also of his 3-part series online, "Confessions of an Isis Spy," based on days of interviews with a "man claiming to be a member of the so-called Islamic State’s security services" who provided details on the inner workings of the group.

  The Kindle book has the "X-Ray" feature enabled, which means that if you see an acronym on a page and want to remember what it represents, you can tap on 'X-Ray' (menu option), then tap on "Terms," to get a definition plus links to each time the word or acronym is mentioned, along with applicable text on those pages.  This is probably my favorite Kindle book feature when reading non-fiction.

  It's a terrible subject, but I want to try to understand it where that's possible, and I thought others might too.

Yes, it's that time of the year again...
8 Days of ~Black Friday~ begin Friday Jan. 20 (tomorrow)
Here are the Black Friday links again that were given earlier for the "Countdown" period:

  Black Friday pages for the US, UK, and Canada

  The sometimes confusing lineup of Kindles and how to decide
  which ones would work best for you

  Since some will be interested in the sales on Kindle e-Ink eReaders or Amazon's Fire tablets, here's a set of links that should help clarify the differences between models and allow easier comparison of features and prices:

  • Amazon's Tablet Comparison table
  • Amazon's Comparison table for the e-Ink Kindle eReaders
  • Paperwhite 3 vs Paperwhite 1: photos
  • Yr 2015 lineup: Details
  • Which Kindles Where? (Models available)

  IN THE MEANTIME, today (Nov 19), the Fire Tablet 10 (10.1" HD display, 16GB) is on sale "for a limited time" for $199.99 (normally $229.99).

I'll include, at the bottom of this blog article, Amazon's very long list of examples of specific products that will be on sale.

  SIDE NOTE: In addition, Amazon has launched its new HANDMADE products store.
  • Handmade at Amazon
  • Martha Stewart American Made

  That's right. Martha Stewart left EBay for Amazon, and her new store opens today.  Amazon's announcement explains that the new Handmade store
"spotlights local artisans that are personally selected by Martha Stewart and the editors of Martha Stewart Living.  On Handmade at Amazon, artisans selling in the Martha Stewart American Made store will be identified in their artisan profile page with the official Martha Stewart American Made badge.  To start, hundreds of unique handcrafted items are offered from artisans that have earned the Martha Stewart American Made distinction."

From Amazon's Black Friday week announcement:
' deals [will be] added as often as every five minutes for eight straight days" at the Black Friday page.
 " Customers will have access to 10 coveted Deals of the Day starting at midnight on Thanksgiving, and up to 10 more on Black Friday. Customers can also shop limited-time Lightning Deals on thousands of sought-after products per day throughout the eight days of deals.

Plus, Prime members will get 30-minutes early access to the majority of these Lightning Deals.
[This means some of the best deals could be gone before the non-Prime members get a look at them.

HOWEVER, Amazon will recognize 30 day Free Trials of Prime (UK prime here) during the 8 days of Black Friday, and there is the option to cancel the free trial after that.]
This year, Amazon will introduce more than 150 hand-picked Lightning Deals on everything from electronics to kitchen gadgets only through the Amazon Mobile Shopping App available on Android, iOS, and Fire OS.

  These deals can be found on the “App Only Deals” tab and will be released daily from 3 pm PT to 11 pm PT starting Thanksgiving through Wednesday, December 9. In addition, Prime members in 20 metro areas can use the dedicated Prime Now mobile app to enjoy free two-hour delivery on select Deals of the Day throughout the holiday season.

 . . . This year, [Amazon adds the feature]  “Watch A Deal” which allows holiday shoppers to pick the deals they’re most excited about and receive a notification to their mobile device when the deal is live. With this new feature, Amazon customers can effortlessly take advantage of deals throughout the day and while on-the-go.

Steve Shure, Vice President, Amazon Consumer Marketing [added]: “...with App Only Deals, customers will have plenty of options when it comes to scoring great deals from Amazon.”

Following are examples of some of the top deals that will be available at various times between November 20 and Black Friday at [Amazon's Black Friday page, U.S.].

Kindle Paperwhite, $99.99
$30 off Kindle and Kindle for Kids Bundle
Fire, $34.99
Fire Kids Edition, $84.99
$25 off Amazon Fire TV
$15 off Amazon Fire TV Stick and Amazon Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote
Up to 45% off select Samsung and LG TVs, including Samsung 32” 1080p LED TV for $177.99, LG 49” 1080p LED TV for less than $370, and Samsung 75” 1080p Smart LED TV for less than $2,000
Top-selling 60” 4K LED TV, $799.99
TCL 55” Roku Smart LED TV, $348
Hisense 55” 4K Smart LED TV, $448 (App Only Deal)
50” 1080p LED TV, $149.99 (App Only Deal)
40” 1080p LED TV, $145
TCL 32” Roku Smart LED TV, $125
32” LED TV, $75
Acer Home Theater Projector, $299.99
VIZIO 38” 2.1 Home Theater Sound Bar, $79.99
$49 off SONOS 2-Room Streaming Music Starter Set
Save 40% on Polk Audio Omni S2 Wireless Speaker
Up to 25% off Denon HEOS 1 Wireless Speakers
50% off Sony Extra Bass Bluetooth Headphones
Save more than 50% on Sennheiser HD 598 Special Edition Over-Ear Headphones in Black (Amazon Exclusive)
More than 50% off top-selling point-and-shoot camera
Jawbone UP3, $99
Save $100 on an Intel-Powered Dell 2-in-1 Laptop
ASUS 15” laptop, $129
Up to 40% off select Acer desktops, monitors, chromebooks, and tablets
Save more than 20% on select Samsung Galaxy Tablets
Save up to 70% on select SanDisk memory cards and USB flash drives
Top-selling mobile printer for less than $100&

Baby, Toys & Pets:
Save 30% or more on select Graco Car Seats and Strollers
Up to 60% off select Disney apparel, toys, and more
Save 50% on select best-selling wooden preschool toys
40% off select Fisher-Price Musical Instruments
Up to 50% off select toys from favorite brands like Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price, and more
Save 50% on select construction toys from K’NEX, Lincoln Logs, and Tinkertoys
Up to 50% off select Lionel Train Sets, including Polar Express
50% off select wearable technology products and robotic toys for kids
45% off UDI R/C Falcon Drone with HD Camera
LEGO Star Wars Stormtrooper Figurine Alarm Clock, $15.99
Up to 60% off select Nylabone dog treats and chew toys
Save more than 50% on select Outward Hound dog toys
Up to 50% off select PetSafe pet products 

Home & Kitchen:
Save $50 on Samsung SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit
Save up to $200 on select Dyson vacuums
Save 40% on Silhouette Cameo Starter Bundle
$25 off with select DEWALT purchases of $100 or more
$20 off select orders of $100 or more in Porter-Cable tools
DEWALT 18-Volt Compact Drill/Driver Kit with Two Batteries, $89
More than 45% off Miracle-Gro AeroGarden Ultra LED Indoor Garden with Gourmet Herb Seed Kit
Up to 60% off select products from FoodSaver, Oster, Krups, Nespresso, T-fal, Wilton, and more
More than 55% off select Imprint Cumulus Comfort Mats
More than 50% off select Instant Pot Programmable Pressure Cookers
Save up to 40% on select cookware from Circulon and Rachael Ray
More than 40% off Rabbit 6-Piece Wine Tool Kit
Save 20% on Soma Sustainable Carafe and Plant-Based Water Filter, available through the new Amazon Launchpad program for startups 
Sports & Travel:
34% off Skywalker 15-Feet Jump N’ Dunk Trampolines
Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress with Never Flat Pump - Queen, $87.99
BARSKA Starwatcher 400x70mm Refractor Telescope, $49.50
30% off Reebok Professional Deck Workout Bench
25% off Nautilus T614 Treadmill
STIGA Triumph Table Tennis Table, $299.99
25% off select Timbuk2 Command Messenger Bags
25% off select Under Armour fleece
adidas Originals Men’s Sport Essentials Tee, $19.99
Save up to 50% on select adidas footwear for men, women, and kids
Save 70% or more on Samsonite Two-Piece Spinner Sets
Up to 45% off RV and camping supplies, including select products from Camco and Valterra
Up to 55% off select Automotive D-I-Y items
Fashion & Beauty:
Up to 70% off select clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry, and watches for men, women, and kids
30% off select clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry, and watches with promotional code 30BLACKFRI
Up to 70% off select diamond jewelry gifts
Up to 50% off select luxury watches for women
Select Levi’s Jeans for men, $39.99 or less
45% off select New Balance shoes for men, women, and kids
50% off select Steve Madden shoes for men
50% off select Steve Madden and Madden Girl shoes for women and kids
50% off select Stride Rite shoes and more for kids
Select baby and kids’ coats, fleece, hats, and more, $14.99 or less
Save up to $30 on Oral Care, including Oral-B electric toothbrushes
Up to 25% off select skin care products, including Dove, Olay, and more

Books, Music & Video Games:
80% off Transformers: The Covenant of Primus
Save more than 50% on Deathstroke Volume 1 Book and Mask Set
Save on more than 10 autographed CDs, including Kenny Rogers, Megadeth, and more (Amazon Exclusive)
Save 15% or more on select vinyl records
Save $20 on Need for Speed
Save $30 on Rock Band 4 Wireless Guitar Bundle
$50 off Xbox One Consoles
$50 off PlayStation 4 Uncharted Bundle
$25 off Metal Gear Solid V
Hundreds of PC download deals up to 70% off

All prices available at select times and while supplies last.

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Amazon's additional Kindle book deals for November ... Black Friday page has Countdown (current) deals ... Amazon Local coupons-feature ends Dec. 18 ... More on e-book pricing situation ... Free Kindle books for November. Updated.

Some Amazon changes

Amazon is ending, on December 18, its Amazon Local feature and app for locally-focused coupons.  Amazon Local was launched in 2011 with the help of Living Social.

  According to MarketWatch, ...the site and app will cease offering deals on Dec. 18, and the daily email featuring deals ceased Friday, though deals that customers have purchased or buy through Dec. 18 will be honored after that date."

  BusinessFinanceNews adds:
... [Amazon] also [had] bought stake in ... “LivingSocial” for $200 million.  [Living Social] ... recently cut its workforce by 20% and shifted its focus to long-term deals.  Amazon has 30% stake in the company, which was once valued [at] $1 billion.  It fell $242 million by 2014 end.  According to GeekWire, Amazon recorded a $169 million write down on the investment.

  'From October 30, 2015 until December 18, 2015, you can continue to purchase deals at Amazon Local as usual,' Amazon announced.  'All purchased vouchers will not be affected by this change and remain valid according to their terms.'

Special Kindle Daily Deal page offering: Up to 85% off selected Kindle books for November
  Amazon's own daily deals remain, of course, and the current "Kindle Daily Deal page" is also featuring a big special for the holidays.  As seen in the article image, Amazon's offering Kindle books at "up to 85% off" -- this is similar to its (now removed) "Big Deal").

REGULAR Monthly Kindle books offered at between $.99 to $3.99 [Updated to correct amounts]
This is the ongoing MONTHLY Kindle books deal of books offered at $.99 to $3.99.  The image and book links in this paragraph will take you to this particular monthly feature for November 2015's Kindle books, a feature which differs from the Special Kindle Deal page offer seen above that's for November as well.

  Amazon had a good quarter report with a big boost in sales and, possibly in connection with the premise of the article I saw last month in Observer, they're offering more deals than before on Kindle books.

  Side Note: E-book pricing and sales:
  The title of the Observer article (which references a Wall Street Journal article) is "Do E-Books Earn More Money at Lower Prices?" and it points out that while the large publishers who re-negotiated contracts that allow them to set the prices, the WSJ reports that they "reported declining e-book revenue in their latest reporting periods.
  "The new business model for e-books is having a significant impact on what [the big] publishers report," said one publishing executive.  "There’s no question that publishers’ net receipts have gone down."

  The Observer mentions that "more writers are producing more books and making more money than ever before. A lot of that increase has occurred outside major publishers, though."  And they remind us of Amazon's rare look "into its data around prices and e-book sales.  The Amazon Books Team posted on the Kindle Forum, writing:"
"For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99.

  So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99.  Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000.  Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000."
November'sfree Kindle books (contemporary or non-classics)
    October 2015  November 2015.
    Also, all currently free non-classics sorted by:
    Publication Date   Bestselling    High ratings

A reminder: On the first 2-3 days of the month, the current month's free Kindle books listing will have many that are chapters for a book, or shorter works, and some Not-"family-safe" content that can creep in there when Amazon is asleep.  In that case, check the previous month's free Kindle books offerings ("October"), which is sorted by most-recently published first.

BLACK FRIDAY PAGE starts up again, quietly
Black Friday (US, UK, and Canada) is already back, in the form "Countdown to Black Friday," with some special deals daily until the usual official launch day.  In the UK and Canada, it's more subtle, but the "Black Friday" page shows current deals that will be changing.

Here's a bit more on Amazon Flex that I meant to include earlier in the previous article.  A cousin in San Francisco had a very similar positive experience to the one described below in this Geekwire article
  Re the Under-1-hr free delivery for Prime members from restaurants
"After I placed my order, I could watch my delivery rider making his way across town on a real-time map. I received an automated text message about two minutes before he arrived."
. . .
"It wasn’t until after he left that it dawned on me the impressive feat Amazon had accomplished. It usually takes about 20 minutes for a restaurant to prepare a carryout order, and the restaurant I chose is about a 12 minute ride from my apartment — up an infamous hill. That leaves just 5 minutes of wiggle room for my order to be able to show up within 37 minutes like it did."

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Amazon news: Kindle for iOS v4.12 ... Amazon Cloud Drive v1.2 ... AT&T increases data cap. Also, Things to know: Clarification of Prime Rule changes a couple of months ago ... Manage your Prime acct page ... Amazon Video compatible devices. UPDATED Prime-sharing info 10/15/15.

These are some items I'd noted that probably aren't widely read but should be of some interest to users of Amazon devices and to Prime members.  Most are links to information for those interested, and I've filled in some basic details given in a response to CNet questions.

It had not been clear who can share or what content in Prime Sharing.
I've updated Prime-sharing information below.  (originally posted 10/14/15)

LINKS for new info:
1. What's new in Kindle for iOS v4.12

2. Android and Kindle app for Cloud Drive, v1.2 adds file and folder deletion from the device finally.

3. AT&T Increases Data Cap In Face Of $100 Million FCC Fine.  This should be of interest to those who bought Fire Phones or tablets with cellular network access and have contracs with AT&T.

Manage your Prime page
I didn't know there was a page for managing your Prime membership but ran across it recently.  This briefly describes each Prime membership feature and offers quick access to each, with control over aspects of some of those features shown on the 'Help' pages for each feature.

Amazon Prime Rules - the actual changes that occurred earlier and were or are misunderstood by some.
There was initial misunderstanding as shown in Techcrunch's article at the time -- this is included just to show what some were unhappy about due to some misreading, but I made a comment at the bottom of the article, clarifying what actually was changed, rather than what was described in the article.  What they did change was previously having prime-shipping shareable with 4 other people in a 'household' (the latter interpreted widely by customers) while video-streaming was NOT shareable at all.

Now they've made a Households feature or category.

 This is comprised of up to six members.
  • Two adults, each with their own Amazon account.
  • Up to four children, who don't need Amazon accounts in order to be a part of the household

  Within this feature is "Family Library" -- two accounts can be linked and their books *shared* on your Kindle and "other compatible Amazon devices and media apps."

  Probably more important for some is that another adult household member without a Prime account can share another adult household member's eligible Prime benefits now, including video streaming.

  Another customer confirmed the added benefit.  I still see some misunderstanding in this area.  What they did remove was multiple-sharing of *free-2-day shipping*, which is now available only to another adult member of the Prime member's household (both must share one credit card each and therefore must really trust each other), although Amazon is "grandfathering in" those already sharing Prime under another member's account.  Once any of those people leave the 'household' the slot for someone sharing the benefits disappears.

  What I explained in two Comments to the article:
' Andrys Basten · Blogger at Kindleworld
Actually, my understanding had been that all along, "Amazon previously allowed anyone with an Amazon Prime subscription to share its shipping benefits and a few others, [BUT *NOT*] including Prime Instant Video access, with up to four other “household” members."

In other words, they could share the free 2-day shipping benefits with up to 4 others sharing the same household (and street address, although I don't think the latter was strictly monitored) but they could not share the Prime Instant Video with anyone at all.

The recent addition of the "Amazon Household" feature allows the Prime Instant Video to be shared with another adult in the household now [and, it would appear, up to 4 children in that household].'
' First, with 'Household' they =added= the perk of being able to share a Prime Instant Video benefit with another adult in the same household.  That's new.  There's no scaling back on that particular benefit.

Updated info 10/15/15
CNET received responses from Amazon to the initial brouhaha over what was felt to be a downgrade of Prime benefits.
' For instance, Amazon Households requires the two adults on the account to be able to share credit cards -- a change made to let those users share purchased television shows. However, having shared credit cards may not sit well with dorm roommates or distant friends.

Despite the concerns raised, [Amazon spokesperson Julie] Law said the changes were not made for financial reasons. "It was how do we allow people to share more of their benefits -- particularly Prime Instant Video -- among a family," she said.

She added that Amazon doesn't actively seek out people skirting the rules on their memberships. So, not only are those grandfathered accounts still active, but also users who have shared one account log-in with multiple family members will likely still be able to do that without getting a nasty call from CEO Jeff Bezos.

"This change isn't related to those types of outliers," Law said about people using their accounts fraudulently. "This change was related to our most active Prime shoppers...It's something we wanted to offer our customers for a long time." '
See more at cnet's full article.  [End of updated info]

  Similarly, for about 7 years+ they've allowed (although publishers dislike this) people to have their Kindle devices under another person's account, in order to share the Kindle books in that account, and in that case, the guest device could then order as well, with the acct owner's credit-buy setup -- so 'trust' between members sharing was a large requirement there also, which discouraged sharing between people who aren't at least close friends.

  One might have access to the other adult household member's credit cards with 'Household' sharing program but for a second adult in that household -- the trust thing matters and they're less likely to use the other person's credit card without permission.  The video publisher streaming contracts are much tighter than the ebook ones (which are already quite tight). Amazon has had a history of trying to find ways to make sharing somewhat easier than publishers want but not so blatantly easy that the publishers would object and withdraw their content. '

The Consumerist, usually hard on Amazon, had a good article explaining that Amazon was NOT 'cracking down" on shared prime and described what the changes actually were and the probable reason(s) for it.

Amazon Video compatible devices page - Just one more useful reference page.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Amazon News Roundup: Amazon 'Flex' delivery coming. Early reactions to new device line details. Yr 2014 and 2013 HDX 8.9" tablet availability (US and UK). Amazon halts sales of Google and Apple streaming devices from Amazon and its Marketplace vendors, citing incompatibility problems with Prime Instant videos. New Echo feature to control garage-door opening and closing. Updates1 and 2 , 10/3/15

'Amazon Flex' begins in Seattle
Amazon is hiring everyday or 'average' people who can do 2, 4, or 8 hr shifts (and even 12 hour ones) on days they choose, delivering packages for Amazon, described by reporters as similar to the Uber system.

Drivers must be over 21, pass background checks, have their own car, and an Android phone (iPhone won't work for this at this point).  Amazon's offering $18-$25/hr.

While it's been launched only in Seattle at this point, they plan to expand this service soon to (in alphabetical order) Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, Miami, New York, and Portland.

The original order shown is: New York, Miami, Portland, Ore., Baltimore, Austin, Dallas, Chicago and Indianapolis.
  Interesting idea.

  The illustration they use is for Prime Now, which is a current service for 1-2hr service for Prime members.

  I wonder what happens, on 2-hour or 2-day service, when an average person (not an employee) doesn't feel well and calls in (or doesn't call in), sick.  But they must have thought of that.  People can apply to provide Flex delivery at

Early reactions to new lineup of tablet and streaming-tv
(Note that the original or first (main) post about the new Yr 2015 Amazon devices was updated several times,
  and if interested in that, you can read the continuing updates at the original blog article.

For updates for this News Roundup that you're reading, see Update1 and Update2.

  1. From mainstream articles, a couple of points made that might not have been clear in early reports.
    Wired: "Amazon Has 6 New Devices — And an Actual Plan for Hardware"
' ...Next to the carousel-filled, dark-on-dark interfaces Amazon’s built before, Fire OS 5 is a refreshing and desperately needed change. Now, you get a light background and a grid of content; your favorite stuff on one page, your recent stuff on another, all your movies on another yet. It feels usable, really for the first time.
On the TV side, the Fire TV has been maybe the best set-top box on the market since the day it came out. (Or at least since whatever day it finally got HBO.) Now, with Alexa, the voice search should be even more useful.

  And not only do the new set-top boxes offer 4K streaming, they use a better kind of video encoding (called HEVC) that uses less bandwidth to stream video. That means you’re more likely to get a high-definition stream, even when you have a bad connection...

  ... When Amazon does its job well, it makes finding and consuming stuff easier than anyone else. '

    The $99.99 Fire TV box now uses Amazon's cloud-based personal assistant Alexa (the voice for the Echo device), which will allow viewers to check the weather, look up sports scores and play music by request.

  Amazon said that Fire TV viewers could soon also control home appliances through Fire TV, a function available on that Echo, which has been able to regulate thermostats and lights -- and today it was announced that the Echo will also be able to let you know if your garage door is open, without having to go outside.  Of course that requires a gizmo for it:

  SIDE item - New Echo feature, using Alexa (which means it'll come to the FireTV also) :
  The new Echo feature - Garageio Garage Door Controller - announced today
' Garageio is a simple and convenient way to control and monitor your garage door--without needing to replace your existing opener. With the Garageio Smart Garage Controller, and the new Garageio Alexa skill, you can now check if you left the garage open (and close it) using just your voice. ...

  To get started, install the Garageio controller, enable the Garageio skill using the Alexa App, then ask "Alexa, ask Garageio to begin setup." Next, connect Garageio to Alexa by following the instructions in the Alexa App and ask:

- "Alexa, ask Garageio if any of my doors are open."

- "Alexa, tell Garageio to close my door." '

  2. First reactions in Kindle customer forum
    This one on the Fire 10.1" tablet is the first discussion I've seen on the Kindle forums of any of the new tablets.  Pro and con.
    And here's the second discussion, this one about the $50 Fire 7" tablet.

    Also, as of about 6pm on Oct 2, Amazon began posting customer reviews on the product pages for these new tablets.
    The product page customer reviews for the $50 Fire tablet is topped currently by a very honest, blunt, and also hilarious review, another one below it that has good pros and cons, and a third one that is mostly a very-informative video review that shows what the tablet display is like, for videos, and for text, as well as giving example of the this $50 tablet's functioning.  [End of Update1]

  3. Re the new dedicated game controller for the Fire TV, it was noted in a couple of articles that Apple had insisted that developers use the Apple TV remote for its new unit rather than a dedicated controller.

  4. Amazon has made readily available the higher-resolution and speedier Yr 2014 HDX 8.9" Fire Tablet and even the Yr 2013 one (!) -- the latter is the one I still use daily after two years -- while the UK seems to have both the Yr 2014 HDX 7" and 8.9" tablets available.

    I have no idea whether this is until they run out (they were unavailable for a bit after a huge 1 day sale just before the announcement).

    For the Amazon links to these earlier-Kindle pages whenever you need them, you can always see this blog's current Kindles table, which itself includes links to the OLDER tablets table.

  NOTE: Those earlier or older Kindles have higher-resolution and speedier chips but are more expensive, but they are also ON SALE today, I just noticed, probably for a limited time, the way Amazon works.  The prices had been reduced for these but they were further reduced today.  At these lower prices, they can be a good deal for those preferring higher resolution and a somewhat faster experience.

The new Yr 2015 devices have been shipping the last 3 days, so we'll get a closer look at these.  I saw one tech-site review yesterday that lamented that these budget-oriented models are not as fast as the more expensive ones of previous years.  Notice their expectations seem to be the same as for much more expensive tablets.

Amazon halts sales of Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast
Bloomberg reports that
' The Seattle-based Web retailer sent an e-mail to its marketplace sellers that it will stop selling the Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast since those devices don’t "interact well" with Prime Video.  No new listings for the products will be allowed and posting of existing inventory will be removed Oct. 29, Amazon said.  Prime Video doesn’t run easily on its rival’s hardware. '
See the Bloomberg story for more details and an analysis of what it means for Amazon and consumers who've looked to Amazon to buy these.

Update2 ... Adding an interesting set of points from the Amazon Kindle Forum on this, although there is obviously the danger for Amazon that it is sending paying customers to Google Store, benefiting Google more than Amazon in the long run:
' HJ Leonard says:
Keep in mind that Apple and Google refuse to sell the Amazon equivalents in their stores, too.  It's just another step in their battles.

  T. J. Hawkins says:
Not only do they not sell the Amazon equivalents they do not allow the Amazon video app on their devices.  So anybody who bought one thinking they could watch their prime video... well I guess you are just going to have to pay to buy it in the Google or Apple store or else subscribe to an alternative like Netflix.

It's true that Neither Google Play or iTunes are available on the Fire either.  But when you buy a product from a company you will likely expect that the companies services will work on that product. If I bought something from Apple I would expect iTunes to work on it.  If I bought something from Google I would expect the Play store to work on it.  So Amazon would be completely brainless if they continued to sell a product that Prime Video did not work on.

That's why I prefer Roku. Both Amazon and Google Play work on it. iTunes doesn't of course since Apple will never allow their service to work on any streaming device except an Apple product. '

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Rumored new Amazon devices materialized today. 4 new Fire tablets (ALL with MicroSD slots !) and 3 new powerful FireTV devices. Added tablet and firetv comparison table links. UK pages added to Global List. Misc Updates 9/22-10/3/15

  I'm highlighting the things you should know and I'll follow up later today with updates on the new offerings.

Note that ALL the new 7" 8" and 10" tablets have MicroSD slots that allow you to expand the total storage capacity by 128 GB.
  And the TV Fire Stick now comes with a voice remote.

  The UK new Kindle info pages are linked to on the Global Listing page.

FIRE tablet - $49.99
  "This is a groundbreaking new tablet for under $50. The new Fire tablet includes a quad-core processor, 7" IPS display, front- and rear-facing cameras, up to 128GB of expandable storage, exclusive Amazon features and services, and access to the world's best content ecosystem -- all for just $49.99.  Customers can also choose to buy Fire as a six-pack for less than $250. "

  The businesswire quotation:
' Introducing Fire -- Setting an Entirely New Standard for a Tablet under $50
The best display on any tablet under $50, almost 2x more durable than the latest generation iPad Air, and 2x more processing power than Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite

  Fire OS 5 “Bellini” features an updated user interface, adds hundreds of new features and platform enhancements, and provides instant access to Amazon’s vast content ecosystem of more than 38 million movies, TV shows, songs, books, apps, and games

  Includes Amazon Underground with unlimited access to over $10,000 in paid apps, games, and even in-app purchases that are actually free

  Prime members get instant access to a lending library of hundreds of thousands of books, over a million songs, free photo storage in the cloud, and tens of thousands of movies and TV episodes—all at no additional cost. '

I WILL add now that I have been following all the rumors that used actual government approval data sheets, and the speaker in these IS a mono one, and the storage space rumored was 8 GB and that's what it is, with 5 GB used for system files.
  With everyone using the Cloud to move things onto and off their devices, these are choices made to lower the cost for those who need to budget.

  HOWEVER, even this $50 model has a 128GB MicroSD slot.  I bought, during an Amazon sale I blogged a couple of weeks ago, a 64 GB Sandisk Ultra MicroSD card for $19.95.

Amazon's pricing on Sandisk cards (these have been reliable for me) tends to be attractive.  Here is a page showing Sandisk MicroSD cards, with ratings shown and reviews accessible.  And here's a page with ALL MicroSD cards, sorted by average customer rating.
  Note that the Sandisk cards are currently priced $5 to $20 lower than if bought with the tablets.

  Display resolution is somewhat less than the current 7" HD model's for Year 2014, but that difference won't be particularly noticeable to most, and this is a no-worry tablet at only $50 when a family has younger folks who want to just read, play games, or watch free streaming videos.

  Note the quote above that Amazon's offering a "6-pack" of these $50 tablets for the price of 5, or $250, useful for families or organizations -- and still less than one iPad Pro, it's been noted.

Fire HD 8 - $149.99 and Fire HD 10 - $229.99
  "These new tablets are designed from the ground up for entertainment with a stunning 8" or 10.1" widescreen HD display, an incredibly thin and light design, quad-core processor, stereo speakers with Dolby Audio, front- and
rear-facing cameras, and microSD card support providing up to 128GB of expandable storage..."

  The Businesswire quotation
'Introducing the All-New Fire HD: Powerful Tablets ... stunning HD display with over 1 million pixels, fast quad-core processor, stereo speakers with Dolby Audio, front- and rear-facing cameras, expandable memory via microSD, and almost 2x more durable than the latest generation iPad Air—all of this for just $149.99 for 8” and $229.99 for 10.1

The best entertainment experience on a tablet with Fire OS 5 “Bellini,” which features an updated user interface, adds hundreds of new features and platform enhancements, and introduces exclusive features like On Deck, Activity Center, Mayday Screen Sharing, and more

First tablets with Amazon Underground built-in, delivering a one-of-a-kind app store experience where over $10,000 in apps, games, and even in-app items are actually free—including extra lives, unlocked levels, unlimited add-on packs, and more '
The display resolution in both the 8" and 10.1" tablets is not as high as that used in past HD models, with price apparently being a main consideration for families as well as a slimmer, lighter weight tablet.

Fire Kids
" Last year, we introduced Fire HD Kids Edition at $149 -- and parents and kids alike loved it. Today, we're making it even more affordable." [$99.99]
  Businesswire quotation:
' Introducing the All-New Fire Kids Edition -- Built from the Ground Up for Kids, Now Under $100
New Fire Kids Edition comes with an all-new Fire tablet, a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, a kid-proof case, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee—if anything happens, simply return it and we’ll replace it for free -- no questions asked

Kids now get access to over 20,000 age-appropriate websites and YouTube videos  -- all hand-curated by a team of Amazon experts -- kids can dive in to this content immediately with no set up or extra costs

Includes a year of FreeTime Unlimited, with more than 10,000 books, videos, educational apps, and games -- a 2x increase in selection over last year -- that have been curated for age-appropriateness '

New Devices - Comparison Tables
Here's Amazon's Yr 2015 tablet-comparison table
Amazon's Yr 2015 FireTV-comparison table

  These can be useful kept in a separate browser window when looking through the various product pages while reading about specific features and wondering if they're in the other models.

Fire TV 2015

  INCLUDES Fire TV ($99.99) and Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote ($49.99) (standard remote optional, for $39.99 instead - but WHY not choose Voice search rather than typing in a search, for $10 difference?)

  "Last year, we introduced the first Amazon Fire TV, combining voice search
that actually works, fast and powerful performance, and an open ecosystem to
deliver the easiest way to watch Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO NOW, Hulu,
WatchESPN, and more on your big-screen TV. Since launch, Fire TV has become
the #1 best-selling Amazon device category, with Fire TV Stick quickly
becoming our fastest-selling product ever.

  Today, we are making those best-selling products even better. Today we are intrducing the next generation of Fire TV -- the new Amazon Fire TV with support for 4K Ultra HD,
and the new Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote."
  Businesswire quotation
' Introducing the New Amazon Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD and Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote
The new Amazon Fire TV is 75% more powerful, with best-in-class Wi-Fi, support for Alexa, and 4K Ultra HD—and is still less than $100

Amazon Fire TV offers the most 4K Ultra HD movies, and is half the price of any other 4K Ultra HD streaming media player

  Voice features on Fire TV just got better: Alexa, the brain behind Echo, is now available on Fire TV devices -- ask for music, information, weather, traffic, and more

  Over 3,000 channels, apps, and games now available -- more than Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, or any other streaming media player -- plus you can now add up to 128 GB of additional storage via microSD to take advantage of this great selection

  New Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote—simple and easy-to-use voice search and Alexa integration via included remote—all for less than $50 '

Fire TV Gaming
  "Today we also introduced a new version of Fire TV designed for affordable,
high-quality gaming. Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition includes the all-new Fire
TV, the new Fire TV Game Controller, a 32 GB microSD card, and two popular
games: Shovel Knight and Disney's Ducktales -- all for just $139.99 (regularly
  Businesswire quotation:
' Introducing the New Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition—Take Game Night to the Next Level
  Fire TV Gaming Edition combines the new Amazon Fire TV, new game controller, a 32 GB microSD card, and two included games: Shovel Knight and Disney’s Ducktales—all for $139.99

  New Amazon Fire TV Game Controller includes an all-new ergonomic design, a headphone jack, and voice search -- available as part of the Gaming Edition or as an optional accessory for Fire TV

  The all new Fire TV has 75% more processing power, 2x GPU performance, plus expandable microSD storage up to 128 GB—offering incredible value and powerful performance for gamers

  Amazon Fire TV has more games than any other streaming media player - new popular games include Minecraft Story Mode, Pac Man 256, Disney’s Ducktales, and Shovel Knight. '

Their Fire Stick page points out that (until Google updates its stick again) Fire TV Stick is the only video-streaming stick with Voice-Remote Control and has "4x the storage and 2x the memory of Chromecast plus a dual-core processor, 1 GB of memory, and ASAP" for fast Amazon video loading.

Updates (As of 9/22/15, 12:20 pm PDT)
I'll do a separate blog entry for highlights from some tech site reactions I've read, mostly quite positive.
  • Mainstream tech sites point out, of course, that Apple released this week its new Apple TV update without support for streaming 4K 'Ultra HD' video until later on.
  Forbes was pretty clear on the situation.

  • Note that ALL the new Fire tablets -- including the "kids" version with 2 year warranty (no questions asked) which also has an IPS screen -- have MicroSD card slots that allow you to expand storage space by 128 GB.

  • Here are comparison tables for the new Fire tablets and FireTV devices.  They can be kept in a separate window that you can switch to and from while reading about features on an individual product page.

  • I asked Amazon for info on the MicroSD card types compatible with the new devices.
      Here is the response:
      " - We support class 4 and above, including Class 10, UHS etc.
           For best performance we recommend Class 10 cards or above.

      " - It supports both SDHC and SDXC.

      " - The tablets provide the amount of on-device storage you've purchased with
           the tablet, plus up to an additional 128GB via microSD card."

    My Microsoft Surface Pro 2 laptop's MicroSD slot supports only (at least officially)
    a 64GB MicroSD card.

  • I added a note to the $50 Fire to highlight the Amazon reference to a "six-pack" for for the price of five.

  • In the Comments area of this blog, it's been pointed out that the new UI emphasizes sets of regular-sized icons for favorite content, including ones recently accessed, so many are hoping the huge Carousel icons are gone.  The reader comments themselves may be of interest to those with questions about the latest offerings.

  • The comparison chart shows that even the $50 tablet gets "Mayday" help (but first, phone or email is tried and if that doesn't work, then an Amazon rep can help by working on your tablet with you, live).

  • Added a note that the display resolution chosen for the 8" and 10.1" tablets is somewhat lower than for the previous HD/HDX units, in a trade-off for more attractive pricing and a slimmer, lighter tablet.

  • Added, within the blog section for the $50 model, a link to Amazon's nicely-priced Sandisk MicroSD cards.  This will give an idea of the cost after adding any extra storage wanted, though the unlimited, free Cloud storage for Amazon-purchased content can help.

        And here's a link to ALL MicroSD cards, sorted by average customer rating.

          The Sandisk cards are currently priced $5 to $20 lower than if bought with the tablets.

  • Added UK product pages to the Global Listing of Kindles.

  • Had not pointed out that the new Fires don't offer cellular network 3G or 4G access options, only WiFi.

  • While the $50 Fire TV cannot 'mirror' to an HDTV what you're doing on the tablet, it DOES come with the 'Fling' feature.
  "Fling" lets you send, from even this inexpensive tablet, an Amazon video to the TV so that it plays from the Cloud instead of from the tablet, freeing it so that you can use the tablet for other things -- whether just to read about what you're seeing ('Xray' feature) or do normal tablet things on it (read a book, play an app) while the movie or TV show displays on the HDTV for everyone in the room, with none of the buffering issues common to other ways of doing this.
 This can be done using a Fire TV or Fire TV stick, which both offer Amazon's Fling technology.

  This can be a workaround for those whose TVs no longer function with Amazon Instant Video due to changes.  Amazon Instant Video no longer has support for Google TV and no longer functions on some smart tv's.  Software updates may help in some cases.

  • See this article which takes information from several sites, about changes that affect watching Amazon Instant on certain TVs.
  In connection with that, here is Amazon's page for its database listing of every compatible device and television. (It doesn't include, yet, the new Fire tablets and FireTV, Fire-Stick devices.)

  • Note the follow-up blog article 10/2/15 for reactions to the delivered tablets as well as the product reviews posted by Amazon Friday night.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Quick photography-alert: Sandisk SD cards (incl'g micro) at up to 60% off today only. Some at 68% off actually. Amazon Locker still a feature for those who want deliveries nearby when not at home. September's free-Kindle-book search links.

Amazon Lockers: How to find them. Order Online and Pick up there

The Amazon lockers at my Staples store were removed over a year ago and I didn't realize there were others available nearby.  Since I can't always be home and my neighborhood has a problem with theft when a package is left at your doorstep and is visible form the street, this is a nice option.  There's no cost involved.  You can find any that are nearby by using this Amazon Locker look-up page.

Also, here's an animated guide to using these lockers, with illustrated steps.

Discount Alert for the Photography-inclined. Today only, Sept 8, 2015
Samsung SD cards, including micro-ones, are on a big one-day sale as Goldbox Deal of the Day.

I bought a 64GB Ultra micro SD card for my laptop, for $20, and a 64GB Extreme card (very fast) for my camera ($31).

September's free Kindle books (contemporary or non-classics)
    August 2015  September 2015.
    Also, all currently free non-classics sorted by:
    Publication Date   Bestselling    High ratings

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Amazon Underground: A new feature that offers normally Paid-Android apps that are "Actually Free" - no tiered-level costs added - for both Android tablets and Kindle HD-HDX tablets. UPDATE-1 (how developers get paid + more info)

AMAZON UNDERGROUND: $10,000 worth of "Actually Free" apps and games replace Free Amazon App of the Day

Huge change to Amazon's former "Free Android App of the Day" feature.  It's gone.  In its place is Amazon Underground app.

  The first stories I read left me unclear on what this actually means for customers and how this will work.

Amazon, though, has a suitably underground-looking graphic on its Amazon Underground page.  While you can read it easily on a desktop or larger tablet, it's harder to see on a phone or smaller tablet.   I found a text copy of it and am including it here for much easier reading and I've highlighted the more important aspects of the new feature.

  I was glad to see that the apps that are designated 'Actually Free' -- despite these apps normally having paid tiers -- will be automatically available on the Kindle Fire HD and HDX tablets as well as on any Android tablet.

' Dear Customers,

Amazon Underground is a new app for your Android phone. It has all of the functionality of our regular Amazon mobile shopping app... plus an exciting addition: over ten thousand dollars in apps, games and in-app items that are actually free.

Many apps and games that are marked as "free" turn out not to be completely free. They use in-app payments to charge you for special items or to unlock features or levels. In Underground, you will find 100% free versions of popular premium titles like OfficeSuite Professional 8, Goat Simulator, and PhotoSuite 4 and popular titles with in-app purchases like Frozen Free Fall, Star Wars Rebels: Recon Missions, Angry Birds Slingshot Stella, Looney Tunes Dash! and many more.

We’ve made this possible by working out a new business model with app and game developers: we’re paying them a certain amount on a per-minute played basis in exchange for them waiving their normal in-app fees. To be clear, we’re the ones picking up those per minute charges -- so for you it’s simply free. Just look for apps and games marked with an "Actually Free" banner.

Normally you’d go to Google Play to download an Android app onto your phone. But Google’s rules don’t allow an app that offers apps or games to be included in Google Play.  So, you need to download the Underground app directly from

  (Underground apps and games are automatically available on Fire HD and Fire HDX tablets.)

One last point on this. The Amazon Underground app is a long-term program rather than a one-off promotion. Over time, we’ll continue to invent and add more benefits to Underground. For now, enjoy some actually free apps and games!'

This is quite a challenge to Google Play!

Amazon adds, on their Amazon Underground webpage that there are two ways to Get the Amazon Underground App.

  Visit from your Android Phone
  Enter your email or mobile number to receive a link to download

NOTE: After posting this so you can see this sooner, I'll add any interesting aspects I become aware of that are not covered here, so bookmark this blog entry for more information as it goes.

Mainstream tech sites are still exploring what this actually means for customers and for developers both and Amazon is being more open on how they've been able to offer this and what the details are that encouraged developers to allow offering the apps for free and what those incentives are.  One factor is that developers found that customers are not eager to pay at each new level reached.
Wired.Com writes:
  ' More recently, and far more dramatically [than with Apple's recent Pay Once and Play], Amazon introduced Underground, an Android app that contains a huge number of traditionally paid or freemium apps that will cost its users absolutely nothing to use ...

  ' "For many customers we were hearing that sometimes it’s frustrating when you’re involved in a game and have to stop and make a transaction,” says Amazon Appstore director Aaaron Rubenson. “What we realized is that a model like the one we rolled out in Underground, where customers can simply download and use all of the features of a given app, or explore a game without having to worry about transactions in the middle… would be wonderful for customers.”
  ' “In general, the industry has to think about how to innovate on the business model.”

' Which brings us back to Amazon Underground, the most aggressive innovation of that sort you’re likely to see.
' ... It’s also why, while Amazon footing the bill for both its customers and developers is a genuine win-win, it’s not no-brainer.  It’s also not a model you’re likely to see anyone else replicate any time soon. '

That Wired article is a long, analytical look at this. Read the rest here.

AndroidPolice has detail on how developers will be paid by Amazon.
' ... the gist of it is that developers will be paid 1 penny for every 5 minutes an Underground customer is using their app.
'For some, this could work out really well on the development side of things.  It's not out of the question for certain types of games to have individual users reach 100 hours of gameplay, which would make you $12 on one person. Amazon's example is getting users for 4 hours per month, netting a developer roughly $0.50 per user each month until they quit using the app. There will probably be some big winners here since they won't ever stop making money from the people using their app.

'Still, users who play a freemium game that much are also those most likely to splurge on big IAPs [In-App Purchases]. The question some developers have to answer is whether Underground will attract the huge spenders that their app may depend on, cutting off major sources of income, or if it will instead only bring on users who would never pay '

That article cites Ars Technica's report that, for Amazon's part (how do they not lose money on this?), the Underground apps are heavily ad-supported.  If an app proves more popular than before, might Amazon offer a No-Ads version? That latter would be beneficial to developers who see smaller profits from the new opt-in system.

  Another article by AndroidPolice reported a confirmation by Amazon (though I thought the announcement was clear) that apps marked "Actually Free" will have zero in-app purchases involved.
' In the game that I tested, Jetpack Joyride, the IAP items I was used to seeing had all their prices marked as zero, and processing them through Amazon resulted in a "$0.00" charge to my account. Neat.'

I'll keep watching the user response to this and the program in general and will update here if I see anything of special interest.  It's a very creative move by Amazon.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Further Amazon e-Ink Kindle eReader new software-feature updates, v5.6.5, with Kindle models further identified. Tuesday's Free Android App of the day: PianoMaster, normally $2.99.

Free App of the Day - Piano Master

Free for one day (Tues.), the Full version, normally $2.99

Further Updates on E-Ink Kindles Last week
This software update, v5.6.5 was released the day after I wrote about other software updates and it's being slowly being received over the air, receivable when you're connected to WiFi.

TIP for anyone not seeing enhancements in enabled Kindle books
The new features are available on books prepared to use the enhancements.  A couple of people have experienced no changes seen in enabled Kindle books but found that if they deleted the Kindle book from their Kindle devices and re-downloaded it from the 'Cloud' then the enhancements were shown.

  The new Bookerly font is very readable, as I've written in a past blog article on the Paperwhite 2 update that got this font earlier.  In my case, I still use the Helvetica font because it has the most contrast.  The Paperwhite 2 did not receive the new layout features at the time, however, and they're available to the mentioned models now.

 This blog article quotes the Amazon announcement made at their forums and highlights a few items in bold face, with added information in brackets to further identify the models affected.
'Software Update for Kindle Voyage, Kindle Paperwhite, and Kindle

We have a free software update available for Kindle Voyage, Kindle Paperwhite (7th Generation) Paperwhite 3 ], the previous generation Kindle Paperwhite Paperwhite 2  ], and Kindle (7th Generation) current Kindle basic model with Touch screen ].

In addition to performance improvements for your Kindle, new features include:
Smart Cards
A redesigned Smart Lookup makes it easier to get to the actions you want to take while reading - highlight, create a note, share a quote, and more, while keeping your favorite Smart Lookup features like Dictionary, Wikipedia, and X-Ray easily accessible.  Just tap and hold on a word, phrase, or sentence to bring up Smart Lookup and swipe right to see the next card.
Reading Improvements
   These reading improvements are:
~Bookerly, a new font specifically designed for digital screens and tailored for Kindle books, is now available on Kindle Voyage, the previous generation Kindle Paperwhite [Paperwhite 2 ], and Kindle (7th Generation) current basic Kindle model ], in addition to Kindle Paperwhite (7th Generation) current Paperwhite model ].  It introduces a lighter, more graceful look that's akin to the best traditional fonts found in print books.

~Improved word spacing, which results in faster, easier reading across all fonts. When words are unevenly spaced on a line of text, or the spacing between words varies from line to line, it's harder for the eye to scan a passage of text while reading. So Amazon's new technology uses advanced rules for breaking words across lines with hyphenation while adjusting the space between words, to create paragraphs that are more even and consistent line to line.

~Improved character placement, which increases word-recognition speed. Digital fonts in browsers lack the subtle variable adjustments between characters that make high-quality print materials look great. Amazon's reading technology now applies kerning, which looks at neighboring pairs of letters in context and adjusts the character spacing to suit the word.

~Large font optimizations, which reduce visual distractions when customers choose larger font. The text is automatically left aligned to reduce gaps, and margins, indents, nested lists, borders and drop caps all get special treatment to keep the page easy to read with less effort.

~Enhanced page layout with typographically correct drop caps, and images and graphics that fit the page as the author meant them to be displayed, scaling correctly to reflect the page size and the customer's preferred font size.

~Footnotes, endnotes and chapter notes are displayed in a pop up panel, either at the bottom of the page when the note will fit in the bottom-third of the page, or full screen if the note will not fit in the bottom-third of the page.

Personalized Recommendations on Goodreads on Kindle
Now you can access book recommendations personalized just for you inside the Goodreads app on your Kindle. The Goodreads algorithms analyze more than 20 billion data points and deliver surprising suggestions-all to help you find the book you'll want to read next. If you haven't used recommendations on Goodreads before, simply tell us your favorite genres and rate some books, and we'll provide you with personalized recommendations.
  To learn more about a recommended title, just tap on the book cover to see more details. The more books you rate, the better your recommendations will be.

These features will be delivered automatically as part of a free, over-the-air software update in the coming weeks, or you can visit Amazon's software update pages for the U.S. and for the UK to download the software update. '

  For daily free ebooks, check the following links:
Temporarily-free books - Non-classics
USA: by:
   Publication Date  
   Bestselling   High-ratings

UK: PubDate   Popular
The Kindle Daily Deal
What is 3G? and "WiFi"?       Battery Care
Highly-rated under $1,  Newest: $1-$2, $2-$3
Most Popular Free K-Books
U.S. & Int'l (NOT UK):
   Top 100 free
   Top 100 free
USEFUL for your Kindle Keyboard(U.S. only, currently):
  99c Notepad 1.1,   99c Calculator,
  99c Calendar,   99c Converter

  *Click* to Return to the HOME PAGE.  Or click on the web browser's BACK button

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(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
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Monday, August 10, 2015

A special Kindle eReader limited time sale. Amazon Software Updates - some alerts and workarounds - tablets and eReaders. Amazon is working on resolving video display problems on some tablet updates. Updated free Kindle book search-links for August.

AMAZON Software Updates

First -- CURRENT, Limited Time Sale - $20 off the recent-discounted prices on Kindle eReaders

"Limited-Time Offers: $20 off Kindle $79 $59 and Kindle for Kids Bundle $99 $79"
On the basic Kindle eReader (7th Generation), Amazon has been discounting the price from $99 to $79.  There's an additional $20 off, for a limited time, bringing the temporary price down to $59.  This basic eReader is not front-lighted the way the Paperwhite and Voyage models are, and the special features are fewer, but it's for those who just want an inexpensive, simple eReader.

The "Kindle for Kids Bundle" offers the same basic Kindle model but with "2-Year Accident Protection, Blue Kid-Friendly Cover" added, for the temporary price of $79.  The features, bought separately would normally cost $139 or so.

There have been a number of silent software updates recently, automated and over the air, although the update-files are available for manual installs if they're wanted earlier.  However, in the case of the update for Kindle Fire and Fire tablets, OS software version 4.5.5, there have been reports of problems with videos not displaying in Youtube and other websites after the update.

Note that these are considered updates made available for "general improvements and performance enhancements" but they include no new features.

  Mine came over the air on August 6, and I haven't experienced the problems with videos that others have, and it could be because I added a Flash file that's used by the alternate Dolphin browser but which may be helping even when using Amazon's default 'Silk' web browser.   I also made sure my video settings at Amazon are are for 'flash' (for my tablets) rather than "Silverlight."  All this is explained in the blog article on how to get video working on webpages that are, for some reason, balking at delivering video content to the tablet.

  Customers at the Kindle Forums have been discussing notes sent to and received from Kindle device support staff. While some have luck with the appropriate software update files, others began experiencing video problems after theirs was installed over the air by Amazon.  BUT, Amazon will sometimes place a newer update file on their update pages without changing the update version number.  The one I received on my Year-2013 8.9" Kindle Fire HDX at first hesitated to show videos but resolved itself within a few minutes.  The "Settings / Device / System updates" area on the tablet shows no newer update since August 6.

  The software update files, while helping some with the video-play problem (on webpages and youtube) did not help others, and some even found that after their tablets had gone into sleep mode, something changed, and videos were working again after waking up the tablet  So, I'd wait before doing anything.
  Amazon support reps tell customers requestiong help that it'll take only a couple of days to fix the problems.

  Another tip given by "angry old man" at the forum advised:
  "Amazon told me to clear the Appstore data.  I did it and my device will stream now.
   Just go to the settings at the top of the screen, hit "more" [or "Settings" if a later model] subject "Applications," "installed applications" [or "Appstore" directly if a later model], select Appstore, and hit Clear Data."

[On my somewhat later Yr 2013 HDX model, there is no appstore data to clear, but I do choose the setting of "Off" for "Collect App Usage Data" and maybe that was why I didn't experience the video problems associated with app data that has required 'clearing' in some cases.  Amazon would prefer to have the setting enabled to collect data on how apps are used, but I prefer to keep my use simple.]

UPSHOT - I recommend NOT doing anything about the update file(s) until Amazon resolves this, as they are well aware of the problems.  It could be that older Kindle Fire models are more affected by it.

Kindle eReader software updates reports that there are also updates for

Amazon Kindle 5th Generation -- Firmware 4.1.3

the older Amazon Kindle Touch (released after Kindle Keyboard 3) -- Firmware

It's difficult to identify the Kindles affected, considering Amazon's odd device-name decisions, and I'm showing the models affected using the software-updates page, but AGAIN, I would do nothing and let Amazon install these automatically, since these are just for general improvements and performance enhancements and I don't think they're worth installing manually.  I've not seen forum messages about any problems with these.

 You can check your model's device software version against these version numbers.  Remember that you can always call Kindle Support at 1-866-321-8851 when you need help on your devices.

ECHO Updates and PRIME household sharing changes (the latter misunderstood by some mainstream tech columnists).
I'm doing separate blog entries for these.

August's free Kindle books (contemporary or non-classics)
    July 2015  August 2015.
    Also, all currently free non-classics sorted by:
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   Bestselling   High-ratings

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Most Popular Free K-Books
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Friday, July 24, 2015

Amazon replaces Walmart as world's biggest retailer ... HBO Now available on some Amazon tablets ... Fire TV and Stick updated to access hotel WiFi with log-in screens, a how-to guide ... Other new features installed in Fire TV and TVFire Stick ... HBO Collections in Amazon Prime ... Unusual discounted Kindle books alert for 7/23-24 ... amusing, less-known facts about Amazon's history

Amazon and Kindle news updates
The photo at the left -- or in the center for Kindle Blog Edition subscribers who get the most-recent 20~ blog posts in each Kindle version (14-day free trial) -- is from a wonderful look by at the original Amazon page 20 years ago when Amazon made its first appearance.

The story includes 14 other things most of us did not know about ye olde Amazon, including why it was named 'Amazon' in the first place (the original name chosen is hilarious and I think the company probably wouldn't have been quite as successful with it) and what that underlying arrow in the logo means.

The article mentions Amazon's oft stated 4 principles:
"• Customer obsession rather than competitor focus
 • passion for invention
 • commitment to operational excellence and
 • long-term thinking."

It's somewhat fitting then that on its 20th birthday Amazon has suddenly become (last night) the world's largest retailer by market value, replacing Walmart as #1 after Amazon stock surged almost 17% when their latest quarterly report exceeded expectations, even including a profit for once.  Amazon has preferred to invest money back into expanded operations and new services of every conceivable type.  Its market cap is now approximately $264 billion to Walmart's $235 billion.

 The BT article on Amazon's history includes a picture of the company's first office building after the business graduated from Jeff Bezos' garage.  It's always amazing to me what one person with a vision and laser-focused energy can accomplish in this world

A little break here for a more mundane note, a small tip on the Kindle Daily Deal today (for those not watching daily)
  For fans of NY Times bestseller Michael Koryta
  Three of Koryta's thrillers are available at $1.99 each today only.

  And, probably even better, some unusual SHORT-term Kindle book discount alerts for the last two days
  NOTE: These last usually 1-3 days, but too often just one day.

N E W:
HBO Now (ad-free) is now available for Android devices and Amazon's Fire tablets. The PR release mentions "latest" Fire tablets, 6", 7", and HDX but does not mention the older tablets and I asked for clarification.  Found, at the app page that my Yr 2013 HDX 8.9" is eligible, And Amazon responded with this list of eligible Kindle Fire and Fire tablet devices.
 •       Kindle Fire HD 7
 •       Kindle Fire HDX 7 WiFi
 •       Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 WiFi
 •       Fire HD 6
 •       Fire HD 7
 •       Fire HDX 8.9 WiFi

  HBO Now will also be available in a few weeks for FireTV and Fire Stick - for those hoping to free themselves from Cable.  This will be at $15/mo. but if that can get some viewers off Cable TV's ever escalating monthly fees, it may be worth it for HBO watchers.
   I subscribe to Hulu (formerly known as Hulu Plus), and Showtime is going to be there with no need for a cable TV subscription, for $9/mo.

  This differs from the HBO Collection of older series already available on Amazon Prime.

How to attach Fire TV to a public WiFi network (hotel etc)
Amazon announced the software update that enables using Fire TV and FireTV Stick with hotel networks requiring a login screen.
   Mainstream tech sites had reported it was coming, although slowly over several weeks and 'over the air' to Fire TV and Fire TV Stick.
  That was back in late March:

  Now it should be generally installed, so here are the Instructions for or guide to doing this.

  As Verge explained from the Amazon press release:
' Amazon says both devices are the first media streamers to support the "captive portal," or Wi-Fi networks that require web-based authentication. You'd typically find these at hotels, where it's often hard or impossible to connect your own Apple TV or Chromecast to the Wi-Fi network. But now Fire TV owners can replace the hotel's own lacking entertainment options with the content they'd normally watch at home. '
'the OTA release will add a few significant new features, led by support for expandable USB storage for the set-top box. You'll be able to plug in an external USB drive to boost the amount of space for your Fire TV apps and games — if you've somehow already managed to exceed the built-in storage, that is.'
  [Note that the support for an external USB drive isn't of course available for the little FireTV Stick though.]

'Curated playlists from Prime Music, hidden PIN entry (to keep the kids from seeing your code), and quicker shortcuts for putting the Fire TV to sleep or activating screen mirroring round out the latest update.'
More tidbits from that BT article on Amazon
Also from that BT article on things we didn't know about Amazon, there were some interesting actual numbers on some items sold on the infamous PrimeDay.  I had seen that, early that day, they'd sold 4,000 Echo's in 15 minutes, at $50 off, but here are some other items noted:
' To celebrate its 20th birthday, Amazon launched Prime Day with exclusive discounts for Prime members. 56,000 Lord of the Rings trilogy box sets, 47,000 televisions and 14,000 iRobot Roomba 595 Pet Vacuum Cleaning Robots were sold; in the case of the latter, this compared to just one the previous Wednesday. '
Intrigued by what the iRobot Roomba was like that involved 14,000 buys that day vs one purchase the week before, I went to see the product listing and saw that it's $380 now and wondered what the discount was when it sold so many.  I've always been curious about it but not at that current listed price.

There is more news to catch up on, but I've been able to drop one larger project that was keeping me away from this blog and will be able to be here more often again, so will report the rest in a couple of days.

Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

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(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
If interested, you can also follow my add'l blog-related news at Facebook and Twitter
Questions & feedback are welcome in the Comment areas (tho' spam is deleted). Thanks!

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