Saturday, March 28, 2015

Kindle tips: 18 Fiction Favorites on one-day deal today (Mar.28) ... Amazon announces new photo storage plan + an 'Everything Plan' ... A really good Amazon Echo video-demo plus a tip to shorten delivery time on a current Echo order.

Today's Kindle Daily deal (March 28 only) includes 18 Fiction Favorites for up to 80% Off
For those who don't check the daily Kindle book deal, there are 18 to choose from today in the Fiction category and they're described as "Favorites."

Amazon Echo - Excellent demo of this creature, on a Youtube video
plus a tip on how to speed up delivery

  (Reminder: Kindle Blog Editions don't do video, but you can view the video on a computer instead.)

There's now a Youtube video that gives a good, somewhat frantic demonstration of what the Amazon Echo can do, as of January 30.
  Since the video is fast-paced vs an earlier one which was narrated in almost slow-motion, quite a bit is covered.
The Deal Guy throws questions at Alexa and interrupts her answers with other questions, and you can hear the general response time.

  If you already ordered it and it won't be delivered for 2 months:
I took a tip from a forum note and changed my delivery speed to one day instead of free 2-day Prime to see if I might get this gizmo earlier than May 27 to mid July as had been noted on my order since mid-January.  I opted for the one-day delivery option to see how much the date would change and, while the charge would be $6, the shipping date range changed to March 24 - April 8.  I went for it, my curiosity driven by the several thousand notes on the Echos already received and discussed.  It's now March 28, and it's not shipped yet.  Amazon normally tends to ship earlier than planned, so these appear to still be relatively backlogged, although my new earlier date range is still to April 8, rather than to mid-July.

  Caution - Someone tried just 'confirming' the order, and this resulted in a later shipping date.
  In any case, there should be no rush for most, but this tip is for those who do want to get it earlier.

Amazon offers unlimited photos storage plan + an unlimited-every-type-of-file plan
Those who are Amazon Prime members already get Unlimited free storage of photos (+ video files smaller than 2 gigs).  I described what's involved in the Prime feature, in detail, in the earlier article on the Prime version.  The free storage is there for Prime members as long as the Prime memberships are kept.
  Many don't know that this is available to them, since November 2014.

  Yesterday Amazon announced another way to get Unlimited cloud-storage of photos ($11/yr) or Unlimited Everything for $59/yr (equivalent of $~5/month).  They're offering a 3 month trial to try either plan.  Here's the key part of their announcement:
  • Unlimited Photos Plan (free 3-month trial, then $11.99 per year-- equivalent of less than $1 per month): Store an infinite number of photos in Cloud Drive without worrying about taking up space on phones, cameras, or other devices. Customers can upload existing collections and store all future photos taken. This plan also includes 5 GB of additional storage for videos or other documents and files.

  • Unlimited Everything Plan (free 3-month trial, then $59.99 per year-- equivalent of less than $5 per month): Store an infinite number of new and existing photos, videos, files, documents, movies, and music in Cloud Drive.

Again, Prime members already have the equivalent of the first plan (and even better since videoclips are included).
  Amazon also emphasized that these two new plans allow customers "to securely store their existing content collections and automatically [if wanted] upload endless amounts of new content, including photos, videos, movies, music, and files. ."  So, there'd be "no worry about storage space" ... with an affordable, secure solution to store unlimited amounts of ... files in one convenient place."

  To learn more about Amazon Cloud Drive and the Unlimited Cloud Storage plans, visit

  I don't know what the retrieval speed would be like, but I take advantage of the free feature that imports my Facebook photo albums to the Amazon space, and when I access them to view them from the Cloud on a tablet or phone, it's very fast.  At any rate, both plans have the 3 month free trial, so we can try them out before deciding.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

What Amazon has been up to ... Drone experiments approved ... Prime Now 1-2 hr deliveries ... Sunday deliveries ... Amazon's first physical store and its New York midtown plans . Windows 8 video tutorial ... surface pro 2 price worth a look


Amazon granted permission to experiment with drones for quick delivery
  Last Thursday, against most expectations, the FAA issued Amazon "a certificate to experiment with unmanned aircraft for research, development and crew training."

Amazon is required to follow the guidelines listed below:

 "The flights must be conducted at 400 feet or below during daylight hours.
  The drone must also remain within the line of sight of the pilot and observer.
   The person flying the aircraft, meanwhile, must have a private pilot’s certificate and current medical certification. Inc. must also provide monthly data to the FAA on the number of flights conducted, pilot duty time per flight, unusual hardware or software malfunctions and other information."

  The The Register, UK weighs in with, "The only problem is it's completely useless to the online retailer as it contains a line-of-sight requirement that would make its main aim of delivering packages impossible."
  Amazon hasn't responded to The Register's questions on this.  Regulations and laws can be modified.  I'm personally not keen on delivery drones overhead when I'm out and about though!

Speaking of speedy deliveries:
Amazon's expands one-hour Amazon Prime Now delivery service for daily essentials from two to four city areas. expands its one-hour delivery Prime Now service for "tens of thousands of Daily Essentials" to Baltimore and Miami.

  Currently available in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the One-Hour delivery program is also being made available in some ZIP codes in Baltimore and Miami.

  This will work only through the Prime Now mobile app for products such as paper towels, shampoo, books, toys and batteries in certain areas of the four cities mentioned.
  Amazon plans to expand in each city soon.
' The service is available to customers enrolled in Amazon Prime [US], a service that costs $99 a year and includes free two-day shipping on a range of products and instant content-streaming options [plus thousands of free instant-streaming movie and TV-show videos and over a million free music mp3's].
  . . .
  All Prime members can download the Prime Now app, available on iOS and Android devices, and be notified when the service is available in their local area.

  In Miami and Baltimore, Prime Now is available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

  Two-hour delivery is free and one-hour delivery is available in select ZIP codes for $7.99

  Current caveats seen in reading customer feedback
1. Manhattan and Brooklyn users seem happiest with it, but even then many are not comfortable with the mobile-app only method of using the feature and want to be able to use it on desktops and laptops.

2. The app (which is for Android 4.2 and above as well as iOS) considers itself 'incompatible' with a large number of Android devices and is not compatible with the Kindle Fire tablet currently.  I have a Samsung Android tablet with OS v4.34 but it's considered incompatible too.  It could be that Amazon sees my Samsung as pre-OS v4.3 -- before I updated the OS.  Supposedly the app can be read on devices in cities where the program is not yet available, so that you can get information on the mobile device about when the program DOES become available in your area.

3. Growing pains - Some newly using this in Baltimore and Miami are having some struggles with the functioning today.

4. The recommended (but optional) $5 tipping on free 2-hour deliveries cannot be done with cash, but that means that people would pre-pay a tip on the credit card before the delivery services is completed.

Those for whom the app works tend to love the 1-2 hour delivery capability though.  With time, it should get better, and Amazon is making the announcement before 99% of the U.S. customers can even use it.

Amazon IS stepping up deliveries where it has warehouses nearby in your state, I guess.  I ordered some color-ink supplies for my Brother printer on a Friday, with Prime 2-day delivery, and expected it on Monday. I was startled to get US mail package delivery on Sunday but the arrival was very welcome. Staples, 4 blocks away, had 20% off on ink supplies during that time but Amazon's prices were still better.

  I think I should support a brick and mortar store more, but I did buy my (favorite e-device) Surface Pro 2* at Staples, since no one was discounting that tabtop, it wasn't available to places like Amazon yet, and for that kind of thing I do prefer humans nearby that I can go to with the product if there's a problem, and Staples has been pretty good, which is why I drop in and look around still.  I just think printer ink is over-priced, generally, so I go for the less expensive option while no longer experimenting with 'compatibles.'

  * I just looked to see if Amazon is selling it now that the Surface Pro 3 is the current model, and what I bought for $1,300 + $120 magnetically attachable keyboard cover in Nov 2013 is now $715 w/ prime shipping, with a 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM.  Incredibly fast, stable touch-'laptop' while the backlight "Type cover" [real keyboard and not bluetooth] is another $85, at Amazon.

  What I most like is that you can move your head around and the image stays the same - No shift in brightness and contrast based on angle.  At less than 2 lbs., it can be dropped into my purse if it's needed outside.  I love the pen stylus too (if you lose it and need a replacement, Amazon Marketplace vendors are currently marking it up 4 times -- get Microsoft's refurbished one for the Surface Pro or Pro2 for $24 instead.)
  I imagine you'd need to let the unit auto-update Windows v8.1 considerably during opening-setup; the latest update is a huge improvement over the original horror of Win 8..

  (And re that horror, the older completely non-intuitive horrible interface of Windows 8 was made understandable for those who knew about the free video tutorial, "The Missing Windows 8 Instructional Video - 25 minutes."  I can't recommend it enough for the basics, although Microsoft finally paid attention and has added back the standard clues on-screen for what an icon means AND added icons at all (you used to have to try to find them).

  Staples is in the process of acquiring the only other large national office supplies store, Office Depot, and that means acquiring its debt too, while regulatory approval will take time if it comes at all, since Staples was denied an acquisition of another office supplies stores in the past due to concerns about a monopoly -- but that was before the onslaught of the online retailers, which has hurt both stores.

  One thing struck me.  It mentions that online retailers like Amazon "do not face the same encumbrances from real estate costs."

  But now I see Amazon has opened its first physical store at Purdue University and "has similar arrangements with the University of California, Davis and the University of Massachusetts Amherst."

  Not only that, they're said to be "planning to open a store on Midtown Manhattan’s famed 34th Street after agreeing to a 17-year lease to rent a 470,000 sq-foot space in the heart of New York’s major shopping district."

There's more but since this is long already, and the others are software offerings, I'll do a separate post on those.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Kindle tips: The Big Deal - Over 400 Kindle books at up to 85% off is back, through March 29. Amazon's ongoing SD card discounts. UPDATE. LINK fixed.

The Big Deal: Kindle Books Up to 85% Off

Starting March 13, 2015 through March 29, 2015, save up to 85% on more than 400 Kindle books.
Amazon's The Big Deal is back for the most of the rest of March (starting today, March 13) and promises, this time,
  "Up to 85% off on more than 400 Kindle Books" in that small print.

This special pricing is good through March 29, and carries the usual disclaimer re varying selection and pricing of books offered outside the U.S.
  [UPDATE: Somewhere I saw March 31 as the end date but it's through March 29 instead.
    I've also fixed the first link, which was to the wrong page.  Gads.  Apologies.]

   Last year in March, this feature's page was organized using a more limited set of 5 categories or genres.  This year, there are nine categories:

  Mystery and Thrillers,  Romance,  Science Fiction & Fantasy, Contemporary Fiction
  Biography & Memoirs, Teen Books, Children's Books, Literature & Fiction,
  Religion & Spirituality

On the right of the page is a list of the Top 10 Best Sellers and an option to "See all Best Sellers in The Big Deal"
  Those latter list shows the top 100 out of the 400 offered.
' These lists, updated hourly, contain bestselling items. Here you can discover the best The Big Deal in Amazon Best Sellers ... For non-U.S. customers, Kindle content availability and pricing will vary. '
The bottom of the page is a scrolling list of 431 books, one by one, with a default sort of "New and Popular" and alternate sorts:
  16 per page, if you choose (inside the gray strip bar above the list) the Orange grid for "Detail"
  60 per page, if you choose the 4-cell icon for "Image" which will show mainly book covers and basic info.

  Shortcut if you type it:

Side Note:
For photo buffs and snapshooters:
 Last year, the following link was to special pricing, but the page now seems to be Amazon's ongoing, mostly 50% off pricing on SD and SDHC memory cards.
  These are primarily name brand memory cards.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Amazon's $25,000 Shopping-Spree Sweepstakes details ... Great AppleWatch selection aid ... Firefly coming to smaller Kindle Fire HD's 6 and 7"

Amazon's $25,000 Shopping-Spree Sweepstakes
Just saw this today -- the feature was announced yesterday, to feature the Amazon appstore offerings.

  US residents 18 years of age or older are invited to enter the Giveaway ("Sweepstakes") to win $25,000 in Gift Cards.

  The sweepstakes period is from March 9 through April 15 at 11:59pm PDT.  I asked for and received clarification that although the announcement is "specifically targeted" to users of the Android for Phone app because it's the ONE way you can be automatically entered into the sweepstakes - when you download, from Apps and Games category, any app -- paid or free.  

  There are two ways to get a chance at the big prize.
  While the Giveaway announcement page mentions that "Apps & Games are now available for download from within your Amazon App for Android Phones," they've been available all along but they're alerting us to the automatic sweepstakes-entry when using the app to download one app from the appstore during the sweepstakes period.  Here's a link to the Official Rules page.

  To enter, use one of the following two methods:
  1.  If you have an Android phone, fill out the short entry form at the bottom of the Sweepstakes page, which will take you to a page that will launch or begin downloading the latest version of the Amazon Android for Phones App (available only from the Amazon appstore store and NOT from GooglePlay store).  Then:

     "From within the Amazon App for Android Phones, navigate to Apps & Games and download any app or game – paid or free.

  2.  "Alternatively, you may enter by mailing a (postage pre-paid) 3x5 card with your name, address, e-mail address and phone number to Appstore Sweepstakes, 2202 US Highway 41 N, Unit E, PMB 172, Henderson, KY 42420.  Mail-in entries must be postmarked by April 15, 2015 and received by April 22, 2015. All other entries must be received by 11:59:59 p.m. (PT)   on April 15, 2015.

 Limit one (1) entry per person using only one (1) account or e-mail address, regardless of entry method.  You may not use multiple customer accounts to enter the Sweepstakes, and entries submitted through multiple accounts will be disqualified.

  Worth the time to make an entry.  With the automatic app-download entry, Amazon will count only the first app-download.

Apple Watch launched yesterday.

Is it for you?  Here's a bit of help.  
   Just before posting this blog entry, I saw this in my news feed, and it's such a hilarious selection-aid that I think others might enjoy it also.

New: Firefly feature coming to Kindle Fire HD 6-7" and HDX 7" tablets
   The larger Year-2013 and 2014 Kindle Fire HD 8.9" tablets received this feature earlier.
   What is 'Firefly' though?

It's a visual search on a mobile device that, when you take a photo of an object or use the microphone on a sound you're hearing, analyzes what is seen and/or heard and tries to identify it, whether it's a video, a song, a CD album, artwork, or a general everyday product.

  I have an 8.9" Kindle HDX and have the Firefly app "listen" to music and analyze  a movie showing on my TV and it was able to identify both.

  Amazon first put their Firefly feature on the Amazon 3D Fire Phone.  Despite the unusual features of that phone, the complex phone interface was reported to be confusing for many consumers and -- with the dilemma of phone and data plans that would need to be put in place or replaced with a purchase of a different phone -- it did not see much interest from consumers at the price initially chosen  (AT&T nixed the additional option of a scaled down budget version, I read, but is now 99c with a data plan).

  However, the Firefly feature impressed reviewers and owners of the phone.  Slashgear gives a good description of the phone's Firefly capabilities and also the more limited version coming to the smaller tablets.
' Snap up a photo of a thing and Amazon will analyze it and point you to the corresponding product on its virtual shelves ... consider all the other things that Firefly can do.  Scan a business card and it will be able to analyze the text there.  Show it a video on TV and it can identify what TV show or film it is.  And, as of last December, it can even recognize about 2,000 artworks.

That functionality ... is the one that is coming to Kindle Fire HD tablets in the US, the UK, and Germany.  Those include the super wallet friendly, and also least powerful, Fire HD 6 and Fire HD 7.  It seems, however, that not all of Firefly's scanning abilities will make it, with only song, movie, and product search mentioned to make the cut. '

  At about the same time Slashgear did a review of the small, inexpensive (and of course somewhat limited) Fire HD 6.

  PC Authority also reviewedthe Fire HD 6 as well that week.  Both reviews are balanced ones.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Kindle Tips: Amazon has upgraded Kindle book samples ... Overdrive fixed its Kindle public library books problem ... 3M's library access - how it's done on Kindle Fires ... Today's specials on computer items and accessories, up to 50% off March 2 only ... March's free Kindle books (contemporary). Updated.

I'm just back from an unexpected vacation from the blog after 6 years but have monitored blog comments for any questions that people might have.

Will be catching up with some Amazon and Kindle news I did log, mainly for those who are too busy to keep up with that.

Four items before I get to others my list:

Amazon has made the Kindle book samples more useful
Amazon's email explained:

"- Samples that you download from the Kindle book store will now be saved in the cloud so that you can access and read them on any supported Amazon device or Kindle reading app.

 - You can delete your samples from the cloud on any supported devices or Kindle reading apps, or from Manage Your Content and Devices. (

Amazon devices and free Kindle reading apps that support these sample improvements are:
Fire HDX, Fire HD, Kindle Fire HDX, Kindle Fire HD (2nd Generation), Kindle Voyage, Kindle Paperwhite (2nd Generation), Kindle (7th Generation), Fire phone, Kindle for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch version 4.5 or greater, and Kindle for Android version 4.7 or greater."

More info at Amazon's Kindle Samples Help page.

Update on Overdrive for Public Libraries and Kindle Books
For January and February 2015, a number of eBooks added to their catalog were not available in the Kindle format, and Kindle customers brought this to their attention without getting explanations from Overdrive.  The situation was corrected on Friday (Feb. 27).
' This has now been resolved, and the Kindle format of the affected titles is now available in OverDrive’s Marketplace.  All U.S. libraries’ digital collections will be automatically refreshed with the Kindle format for any titles they have purchased that may not have had the format at the time of purchase.

As always, we will continue to add daily to our world leading catalog of over 2.6 million titles with all available formats. We look forward to continuing as the only provider of Kindle format eBooks for our U.S. library and school partners. '

Now, I don't know what they mean by 'continuing as the only provider of Kindle format eBooks' for their U.S. Library and school partners except for the following:

  3M is a rival provider, but it is definitely harder to use to access Kindle books, as it is NOT available for Kindle e-Ink eReaders (but can be transferred from computer downloads to Nook and Kobo eInk readers) and the recommended way is to use Kindle Fire tablets to download Kindle-formatted books.  Obviously, Amazon and 3M haven't come to an agreement similar to Overdrive's, which works with Amazon's easy download system.  However, some public libraries apparently don't offer Overdrive.

  Here are step-by-step instructions from the 3M public library Kindle Fire page (updated February 10, 2015).  Note that they say this is for the Kindle Fire HDX and doesn't mention the HD models.  However, in the initial steps of clicking a settings box to allow installation of a non-Amazon store app, it mentions that you'll find it under Settings/Device -- but in the HD and earlier models, this box is found under Settings/Applications.  Maybe that's the difference.

  If you don't have an HDX (or an HD that the 3M instructions might work on, here are alternate instructions that may work for the older Kindle Fire HD and and even earlier Kindle Fire from Washington County libraries system, as their steps incorporate 3M's own instructions for the Kindle Fire (linking you to the 3M page after a certain point) but they add advice on the various steps.

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

  There are only a few shown on the first few days of any month, and these include pre-orders due that month -- most of these are listed as "free preview" of whatever chapters chosen, some are short stories, and a few (overnight) not-entirely-family-safe titles may show up.

To see the monthly Kindle book discount deals available for March (these change monthly
and some of them are less-known), the February 2 blog entry was updated today, March 2,
to include revised information to reflect March's book selections.

Amazon's Deal of the Day in electronics
Today they're focusing on items for the PC -- up to 50% off for today, March 2 Only.
"Select Computer Components & Accessories." You'll see these at PC deals March 2
' Today only, enjoy special savings on select PC components and accessories from top brands. This one-day offer is valid on March 2, 2015, or while supplies last. Discount is already included in the current price. Applies only to purchases made from and does not apply to products purchased from third-party merchants on the website. Return to the Gold Box page. '

That's it for this morning.

image credit:

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