Friday, February 28, 2014

Amy Tan draws attention to a need for school library books in the Philippines after a devastating typhoon. UPDATE: Other ways to help.

The following is from Amy Tan's public Facebook postings reporting a need for good books suitable for kids and teens for the rebuilding of school libraries in cities leveled by a typhoon last November, in the Philippines.

  After she wrote that she'd been asked to spread the word to other authors who could help, her readers offered to make book donations and she confirmed that the organizers would appreciate good books in good condition from anyone willing to donate them.
  See Updates, including donations for shipping costs.

 From her postings:
' Fellow bandmate and author Mitch Albom is in the Philippines, which was devastated in November by a typhoon.  He is helping to resurrect school libraries and, as a first step, he called upon bandmates to donate 10 copies of their books suitable for kids and teens.  Everyone clamored they were in: Dave Barry, Scott Turow, James McBride, Greg Iles, Stephen King, Sam Barry and me.

  He asked if we would forward the plea to writers I knew. The response was immediate, with pledges for books coming in within hours from Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler), Alice Hoffman, Harlan Coben, Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman, Yiyun Li, Robert Haas, Brenda Hillman, Rabih Alameddine, Arthur Golden, Mark Childress, HarperCollins, Billy Collins, Sheila Kohler, Jason Roberts, Lisa See, and more folks, as I write this.  The teachers and kids are thrilled, Mitch said, that they have not been forgotten. '

  It became clear that her readers were, of course, interested in helping, and here are excerpts from posts in reply to questions on what the team would appreciate getting and with information on where to send the books.
' [Amy Tan] - They have NO books, barely enough bricks to rebuild the schools...Books are being sent to a US address and shipped from there...

    [Question: Would they want children's books that are 20 years old?

[Enmei Tan] - If they are in good condition and are good books, I would think they'd be welcomed.  My criteria has more to do with whether they are good books, the kind you would want your child to read if he or she had only a few books to choose from.

    [Question: Where to send books for the kids/teens]

[Amy Tan] - An outpouring of books!  Mitch said to bring it on.  The folks there will be thrilled by the books and the caring.
Those who wish to donate books for kids/teens to help restock the school libraries can send them here:

    Miguel Ramos/National Book Store Philippines
    c/o Starkargo
    150 Shoreline Dr.
    Redwood City, CA 94065

    The National Book Store will then ship them to the Philippines. Thanks to all!
    [Question: Books in English?]

[Amy Tan] - English is one of the official languages of the Philippines.  So books in English are perfect.
  Kids need all kinds of books from all over the world.  They need to read, read, read.  They need to love reading.  That gives them a huge advantage in life.  They need to imagine in all kinds of ways to develop a universal humanitarian mind.

  One last thing: Mitch's request for books was one of many things he is doing.  For example, he donated 40 yellow boats so that fishermen can get back to earning a livelihood and rebuild their homes.

In another posting, Tan listed the books she'll be sending (which will give an idea of the types of books they're expecting) and humorously mentioned what she wouldn't be sending: her latest book.

  "I am donating 20 illustrated children's books, Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat, and The Moon Lady.  I'm also sending 45 copies of The Joy Luck Club and various other novels that I know are read in high schools in the US.  I am not sending them The Valley of Amazement! : )"

Reader Michael W. Perry, of Inkling Books, makes some good suggestions in the Comments area. One was:

  "... Instead of shipping direct... books, you might want to donate money for the shipping costs."

  That's a very good idea, so I used Visa to donate some money and they give you the option to direct your donation to a specific project -- "D.R.Y. (Donated Reading to Youth in the Philippines)" -- in this case, and in the comments area I did specify that it could be used for "the cost of shipping books," but of course they can best decide how to use it.

  The Financial Transparency page explains more and, included in the information, are the statements:

  "No salaries are paid for any of the directors or board members of our charities.
  Every dollar of your gift goes directly into the daily operational needs of the causes and persons profiled here."

  So, if you'd like to help -- you can see what happened to the area in Nov. 2013 via an article below and and now they're rebuilding -- but you don't have school books to donate, you could instead send them something to cover some costs of doing this.  The $-donation page is linked from the red-orange box near the bottom of the page explaining what the D.R.Y. team is doing.

  Commenter Perry also recommended:
  "If you've got a set of printed encyclopedias, you might want to donate those too.  Not every school has a fast Internet connection or enough computers for all their children to use.
  And if you've got a lot of books to ship, the USPS has a special media rate for inside the U.S. that's about half the rate for parcel post."

. Mitch Albom's Donate Your Reading Libraries page.
. The Typhoon in the Philippines and its effects, Nov. 2013

  For daily free ebooks, check the following links:
Temporarily-free books - Non-classics
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Highly-rated under $1
,  Newest: $1-$2, $2-$3
Most Popular Free K-Books
U.S. & Int'l (NOT UK):
   Top 100 free
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Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.

USEFUL for your Kindle Keyboard (U.S. only, currently):
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  99c Calendar,   99c Converter

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

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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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kindle News: Newish "100 Books of a Lifetime" pages. Prime program fees being increased (UK and US). Kindle for iOS app update v4.1.2. US/UK Kindle HDX/HD2 software updates v11.3.2.1, v13.3.2.1, and v14.3.2.1. China gets the latest Kindle tablets. Kindle-compatible Kaplan GMAT course available for business school students. Sony Reader closes its bookstore: reactions. Kindle HD 8.9"-1st gen price has gone up. A good DSLR camera bundle.

Amazon has a newish book feature and set of pages
that recommend '100 books to read in a lifetime' - featuring:
  1. Amazon Editors' choices
     (This is the feature's "Main page" link, also used for the image.)
' We wanted the list to cover all stages of a life (which is why you'll find children's books in here), and we didn't want the list to feel like homework. Of course, no such list can be comprehensive – our lives, we hope, are long and varied – but we talked and argued and sifted and argued some more and came up with a list, our list, of favorites '
  The Editors' choices total 149 as of today (one way to settle arguments for a list of 100).
  If you scroll to the bottom, you can choose to see these sorted by Amazon's usual alternate viewing options.

  2. Readers' picks from Goodreads

  This set of readers' choices IS kept to 100 books.

  U.S. mostly:
Amazon announced during their 4th quarter earnings call that they are "considering" raising the price of Prime two-day shipping (U.S.), which includes 40,000+ movies and full tv episodes as instant video streamable at no added cost in the US and the ability to borrow one Prime Eligible Kindle book per calendar month from a choice of 527,000+ books, with no waiting period or due-date.

  It's been $79/yr (or $6.58/mo., broken down) and they may raise it by $20 to $40.  (A $40 increase will not work for most, in my opinion and would be a destructive move.)  It's possible they'll begin to charge monthly or quarterly, in addiiton to annually, to encourage customers to sign up and/or stay with the program.

  Amazon CFO Thomas Szkutak said, "...shipping costs have gone up a lot. Fuel costs have gone up a lot."

Amazon UK HAS already announced new Prime program pricing effective YESTERDAY.  The older £49/yr rate went up, to £79 Feb. 26.  They had 'new' signups for the lower rate but that ended last night; I didn't read about it until yesterday.  Regular users of the UK site will have seen the offers though.
' Prime members in the UK are seeing the price increase in the wake of Amazon's 2011 purchase of LoveFilm.  That company's offerings will become the linchpin in Amazon UK Prime's streaming movie and TV service, which will provide unlimited viewing and access to such content across a broad variety of devices... '

  In connection with the above, Amazon UK has rebranded the Lovefilm feature to 'Prime Instant Video' for UK.
  Trusted Reviews has an excellent article on "How Amazon Prime Instant UK Affects Lovefilm and Amazon Prime Users":
' When you break the new charges down, it's much better value if you currently maintain a Prime and Lovefilm Instant account. A Lovefilm Instant subscription currently runs to just under £72 on its own. Add that to the current Prime charge, and you’re looking at a saving of £42. ' [vs the new £79/yr that covers both].

  There is also a new deal between Warner Bros. and Lovefilm/Amazon Instant Video

UK KINDLE HDX/HD SALE TODAY - Feb 27 - through March 4
I saw that Amazon-UK is celebrating the launch of Amazon Prime-UK with a 20% Sale on the Kindle HDX/HD tablets.  This is the popup box I got just now:
' Limited-time Offer - Save 20% on all Kindle Fire Tablets
To celebrate the launch of Amazon Instant Video and Prime Instant Video, we are offering a saving of 20% on all Kindle Fire Tablets, for a limited time only

Limit two per customer, while supplies last.  UK customers only.  Discount valid on all versions of Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire HD 8.9", Kindle Fire HDX, and Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" tablets sold and shipped by Amazon EU Sarl. It does not apply to the same products sold by other sellers. Amazon reserves the right to cancel the promotion at any time. Promo applies to the lowest priced qualifying item and may not be combined with other offers. If you return items purchased using a promo code, we will subtract the value of the discount from your return credit. Offer expires March 04, 11:59 PM GMT. Offer not valid with 1-Click ordering. Void where prohibited. '

They're spelled out on the
* Prime-US and
* Prime-UK pages.

Those who've been interested in the U.S. Prime program but have never subscribed should watch for announcements of price increases.  In the UK, Amazon gave them a few days to decide to take advantage of the lower rate until the launch on Wednesday, and something similar to that will likely happen with the U.S. program.
  I'm back on the blog (probably every other day) and will check for announcements.

  Kindle for iOS 4.1.2 has been out quietly for a few weeks and this update seems to have solved most of the problems that people were having with the handling of the Collections feature in update v4.1.1. An example:
' In reply to an earlier post on Feb 4, 2014 10:43:32 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 4, 2014 10:47:13 PM PST
Cindy says:

My library is 10,800 approx and I can find the oldest book in my cloud in less than a minute. It seems very fast. Awesome. I meant to add that my collections didn't change they are exactly how they were before the update and I was able to put that oldest book into a collection easily and quickly. '
You can of course install the update from iTunes, and if you're having any problem doing that, some recommend you UNinstall the current Kindle for iOS app and then install the current updated version.

  SOFTWARE UPDATE version x.3.2.1 (for latest tablet line)
The new HDX/HD line of tablets released late 2013 has had a minor maintenance update that's already gone "over the air" via WiFi, when enabled, to probably most regular users.

  This update would include performance and battery life improvements, and bug fixes, and those who noticed the update reported it's solved some problems for them.

  These updates are being delivered, as mentioned, wirelessly as usual in a distribution over a few weeks -- but if you didn't get it and would rather not wait for the automated update, you can do a manual update by downloading the software and updating your device via a USB cable.  Here are direct links to the software-update pages for the 3 tablets involved (emphases are mine):

  Update Page for Kindle Fire HD 7" 2nd Gen
  Update Page for Kindle Fire HDX 7"
  Update Page for Kindle Fire HDX 8.9"

  Here's the UK software updates main page

  Notice that at the intro page for each tablet type, there's an almost now unnoticeable link to a page that shows you how to Determine Your Software Version.  You'll see this link in light-blue on the once-again re-worked pages for even-whiter layout (which is almost blinding for me, and the light blue text links are harder to read on the glaring white layout that most larger website programmers love -- programmers tend to be young people with no eye probs yet).

If the determining page indicates your device's software does not have the latest one installed, you can follow the instructions to do a manual download and install.

The previous software update (versions x.3.1) for these tablets added several major features.  Version x.3.2.1 has mainly performance improvements in connection with these.

PRICE CHANGE ON HDX 8.9" 1st Gen (U.S.)
Amazon's current pricing as of today for the First Generation Kindle HD 8.9" tablet (with microHDMI ouput) went back UP to $299 (from $229, its price most of the time in recent months).   I first noticed this on Feb 24 and have no idea why the price went back up.

QUICK LINKS TO OTHER NEWS in a Kindle world:
1. "Kaplan Test Prep has collaborated with Amazon to bring its GMAT course book directly to students enrolled in Kaplan courses using the cross-platform Kindle reading apps and Kindle Fire tablets—making it the first Kindle-compatible Kaplan GMAT course available for aspiring business school students.  Kaplan GMAT students will have the ability to study across multiple devices—Kindle Fire and Android tablets, iPads, PCs and Macs—and take advantage of features such as note taking, highlighting, tracking progress, word look up, searching and syncing across Kindle reading apps and Kindle Fire tablets. The digital offering will enable increased study flexibility for Kaplan GMAT students."

2. "Angry Customers Raise Valid Points about Sony Closing Reader Store and Switching to Kobo", by Michael Kozlowski

These are Sony eReader customer reactions to the news "that Sony was closing their online Reader Store and transitioning all of their North American customers to Kobo."

3. The HDX/HD line of tablets go on sale in China

A good bundled camera kit
Amazon's camera-deals for the week included one of special interest to me because the Canon Rebel involved is the updated version of the camera I use and it's a DSLR with HD Video (while mine doesn't have video).  The Canon Rebel t3i bundle comes with not only the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens (you can get the basic camera + lens for $500 at Amazon) but also the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Telephoto Zoom Lens, for $599 for the bundle. (List price is $1,049, but one really never has to pay list price), and currently this bundle has 132 customer reviews with an average 4.8 stars rating.  This is a Prime-eligible product with free shipping.

Here's a recent photo I took with the Year 2006 Canon EF 70-100mm telephoto lens, which is not one of Canon's "L" lens models but provides sharp pictures in good light (and is 3 times the list price of the 75-300 lens bundled here).

  While the bundled large-zoom lens gives you added flexibility for Amazon's bundled additional $100 (50% of List for the zoom lens), it's less expensive than other Canon zoom lenses (at $200 List) because it does NOT have image-stabilization (anti-shake), normally very important with zoom lenses in lower light, and it uses a different, slower motor for auto-focusing.

  Canon's site describes it this way:
  "The optical system, construction, and exterior are the same as the EF 75-300 mm f/4-5.6 III USM’s. The difference is that it uses a DC motor instead of a USM to drive the AF."

The quality of the picture should be good, outdoors, in very good light; otherwise you'd need a tripod to get a sharp photo.

  Here are reviews of this zoom lens with pros and cons listed, at the Canon site.  If shooting on a high-contrast day and pointing up to tree limbs or tall buildings, there will be some "chromatic aberration" (Purple-fringing). Photo-editing software can remove it though.  One important benefit is that it's lighter than most 300mm-capable zooms.
  And here are the Amazon customer reviews of the zoom lens, which normally cost $158 at Amazon.

  For the added $100 for this kit, the Amazon customer reviews indicate a high level of satisfaction with this set with the normal-angle lens and the 75-300mm zoom lens for $600 total.

I'm writing about it because I will tend to blog more often if I can add other material than just Kindle-related products, and blog stats show me that the Kindle book-reading audience is interested in more than e-readers and tablets.

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.

Send to Kindle

(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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