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As fantastic as it already was, Amazon Prime just got even better! From Amazon’s press release announcing the introduction of Amazon Prime Music (note – this isn’t just for Kindle Fire owners, there’s an Amazon Prime Music app available for Android AND Apple devices!):
What Prime Music means for Prime members:
Your music collection just got a lot bigger–for free with Prime: Over a million songs from artists like Daft Punk, P!nk, Bruno Mars, Blake Shelton, The Lumineers, Bruce Springsteen and Madonna, and hundreds of Prime Playlists, are now available for streaming and offline playback at no additional cost to your Prime membership, with new music added all the time.
Your mix. Your music: Mix Prime Music songs with your own personal music collection to create the library you’ve always wanted.
You be the DJ or let us be the DJ–it’s your choice: Build the perfect playlist by choosing songs you already love or songs you just discovered through Amazon’s personalized recommendations. Or, just sit back and listen to one of our hundreds of Prime Playlists designed for all types of genres, occasions, artists, moods and activities, like “Feel Good Country,” “Bad Boy Rock,” “Beards & Baristas: Indie Beats,” “Hip-Hop Workout,” “’90s One-Hit Wonders,” and many others.
No interruptions from ads: Enjoy an ad-free listening experience with unlimited skips and repeat plays.
Listen where you want: Enjoy Prime Music on Kindle Fire HD/HDX, iOS, Android, PC, Mac and any Web browser.
Take it offline: Download your favorite songs and Prime Playlists for offline playback on mobile devices. With offline playback, you can enjoy your music wherever you are–and you can avoid costly data plan charges.
Prime members in the U.S. can start listening to Prime Music today by [clicking here]. Kindle Fire HD/HDX devices will get Prime Music in an automatic, over-the-air update. Customers can also download the latest Amazon Music app in the Android and iOS app stores. Eligible customers who are not already Prime members can try Prime Music with a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime by [clicking here].
Amazon Prime is one of the most popular subscription services, with tens of millions of members. Prime members already enjoy unlimited Free Two-Day Shipping on more than 20 million items, unlimited streaming of tens of thousands of popular movies and TV episodes through Prime Instant Video and access to more than 500,000 books to borrow for free with the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
Amazon’s press office staffers have been earning their keep this month — the company has put out 16 press releases already in August, including 10 in the last 11 days, after averaging 11 per month during the first half of 2012 — but the real heavy lifting lies in the work that’s being done to prepare for what may become Amazon’s biggest press conference ever next Thursday, September 6.
updated eInk models including one or more with a front-lit display to remove any slight hardware advantage held by Nook’s Glowlight feature, and
major enhancements to Amazon Prime that could have the effect of transforming customer experience across the entire Amazon Store.
As a Kindle Nation Daily reader you will be well represented at next week’s press conference in Santa Monica, with KF-KND editor April Hamilton and contributing editor Len Edgerly (of The Kindle Chronicles) on the scene (April for same-day coverage and Len for an onsite interview that will be featured in the following Saturday’s Kindle Nation Weekender), and associate editor Candace Cheatham and myself stirring the pot from KND world headquarters.
Part of the challenge for Amazon in such an event is to find a way to distill dozens or even hundreds of product enhancements, feature roll-outs, and new or significantly expanded services into a single compelling story that Jeff Bezos can present to the world from a single stage within, one hopes, a single hour. Our expectation that this could be “Amazon’s biggest press conference ever” is based in large part on the impressive breadth of groundbreaking new announcements that the company seems poised to make, but figuring out how Amazon could break all that ground without stories A and B stepping on stories C, D, and E is way above my pay grade, and perhaps even Bezos’.
And we could be totally wrong, but we can’t think of any way that Amazon could layer an announcement like a new Kindle phone or, say, the acquisition of Spotify AB on top of the aforementioned items without totally losing focus on its various Fire, eInk, and Prime announcements. The image that comes to mind for me is of Henry Ford holding a press event to announce the Model A but also, at the same event, announcing the Model T, the Thunderbird, the Lincoln, the Falcon, the F-150 and more. Wouldn’t the glut of messages have made them all the Edsel? But it may be that we on the outside just lack sufficient imagination.
So let’s start with Amazon Prime.
“Amazon Prime is the best bargain in the history of shopping,” said Jeff Bezos again this week in one of Amazon’s press releases, and this time he teased us — and perhaps next week’s press conference as well — by adding the line “and it’s going to keep getting better.”
Over the past five years many of us have come to understand Amazon’s Kindle and now the Kindle Fire as a seamless, friction-free, almost instantaneous content delivery system for a growing catalog of entertainment and/or educational content that began with ebooks and now includes newspapers and magazines, blogs, audiobooks, music, movies, television programming, games and productivity apps, and other web content. Of course all of that content, in order to be deliverable almost instantaneously to handheld devices with no transmission or data cost, is digital in one way or another.
But Amazon is far from just a digital store: it has grown the rest of its retail store relentlessly across a growing number of departments, platforms and nations, with the result that it now offers tens of millions of physical products in nearly every imaginable category. And until Jeff Bezos and his team of innovators manage to turn Amazon into Nanozon by coming up with some way of digitalizing and then reifying physical products via some new wireless manufacturing-via-quantum physics functionality, Amazon Prime may offer the company and us its customers the best chance to revolutionize delivery, even if it doesn’t quite hit the “nearly instantaneous” sweet spot.
One possibility would be a major expansion of expedited Prime shipping options such as Amazon’s remarkable $3.99 overnight delivery service and the same-day delivery program that is now available for some products in the cities of Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Part of the trick for Amazon is to build as much value as possible into its Amazon Prime buffet while avoiding any increase in the same $79 per year membership price with which it kicked off Prime back in 2005 when its only real offering was free two-day shipping on about a million selected items. It’s a major feather in Amazon’s cap that the program is still just $79 seven years later with 15 million eligible items and the much newer additions of 22,000 free movie and television offerings under Prime Instant Video and 180,000 Kindle titles that can be borrowed free (up to one per month with no due dates) via the Prime-eligible Kindle Owners Lending Library.
Another possible addition to Prime features might involve the offering of 3G or 4G Kindle Fire connectivity for Prime members. Such an offering would be costly, but we always pay attention to what Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has to say, and we thought it was very significant when he told our contributing editor Len Edgerly in an exclusive interview earlier this summer that, of all of the company’s customers, the people who read the most (or buy the most books) are people who buy “our 3G version of the Kindle.”
“And the reason, I think, for that,” Bezos said, “is that it makes getting books even more frictionless, makes it even easier. You don’t have to look for a WiFi hotspot. You can just get them wherever you happen to be. And it roams globally at no charge, so people can figure that out, too, and get it wherever they are, even if they’re traveling around the world.”
Part of the DNA that has made Bezos and Amazon so successful, of course, lies in the capacity to take a conclusion like that one and extrapolate that adding 3G or 4G wireless connectivity for a new deluxe Prime-compatible Kindle Fire would almost definitely have a similarly salubrious effect on the shopping behavior of its owners for other content and products, both digital and physical, in the Amazon store. It remains to be seen whether Amazon could make free 3G or 4G wireless connectivity work for its tablets the way it has worked for the Kindle 3G and Kindle DX, but even limited connectivity to the Amazon cloud and the Amazon store would be a significant start. If Amazon could offer unlimited connectivity across the entire web, market share for the Fire tablet family would quickly grow well beyond the benchmark the company announced this week: “Kindle Fire has captured 22% of tablet sales in the U.S.”
Then there’s the very significant fact that the press conference is being held in Santa Monica, rather than in New York like past Kindle press conferences and announcement events. We don’t think the LaLa-land location is any accident, so we’re expecting that the event will include some real Hollywood star power, perhaps in support of original video content that might be free to Amazon Prime customers for viewing on the Kindle Fire and other devices — say, an original docudrama series based loosely on the agency model pricing conspiracy, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Meryl Streep, and John Lithgow?
Nor would we be surprised to see some stars onstage as voice actors in association with even greater Kindle integration and expansion of Amazon’s Audible.com subsidiary, following on the recent Audible roll-out of its “A-List” program of performances featuring Colin Firth, Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet, Samuel L. Jackson, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, and Jennifer Connelly.
No doubt it will all be great fun, and it may lead Amazon’s share price to rise even further beyond its current all-time high levels, but don’t get us wrong: after the confetti has landed and helium balloons have attached themselves to the ceiling, the event should be largely about the Kindle and especially a new Kindle Fire. Although Amazon announced this week that it is “sold out” of the Kindle Fire, this “sold out” status is not quite the same as the “sold out” status that occurred in November 2008 (and lasted for months) after Oprah went Gaga over the original Kindle. This time it is clearly the case of Amazon pulling the Kindle Fire’s Buy button ahead of the announcements contemplated by Bezos when he said in a release this week: “Kindle Fire is sold out, but we have an exciting roadmap ahead—we will continue to offer our customers the best hardware, the best prices, the best customer service, the best cross-platform interoperability, and the best content ecosystem.”
Improve web functionality with less reliance on truncated “mobile” representations
Allow an SD Card
Offer 3G/4G wireless connectivity, possibly free with Amazon Prime
Keep the $199 price point for the new 7” Fire and offer a larger Fire for under $250
Allow greater user control of font sizes on the web and in apps
Allow full input/output functionality for apps such as Google Docs/Google Drive documents
Enhance curb appeal so that teh Fire looks and feels as good as the Nexus 7
Add external volume controls
Provide camera functionality similar to that on the iPhone
Provide Siri/Iris Capability that hits the sweet spot both for information and for commerce
Add a microphone
Place the power switch (and an external volume control) on the upper right edge
Allow greater user personalization and customization
Add full-featured GPS for a 3G or 4G model
Add maximum Android platform compatibility
Add access to Google’s Android Market
Seize every available opportunity to make the Fire a replacement for netbooks and notebook computers
See what we mean? Even half of that is a lot to announce in one day. And there are plenty of other possibilities, including even the possibility of a dual screen tablet/eInk combo, but we’d rather see Amazon focus on making each of these very different devices, as well as the Kindle phone that will surely follow, as good as it can be.
We’ve been planning for a while to devote some serious space to introducing (or re-introducing) you to a nifty little Amazon program called Amazon Prime and how it can help you get the most out of your Kindle, and this week’s events elevated that plan to the level of top priority.
One of the things about which I constantly have to remind myself — especially when I am writing for the citizens of Kindle Nation — is that a lot of things that may be clear to me about Amazon and how it works may be worth some additional explaining for others. And, of course, on some things, I may just arrive at different conclusions than those at which many of our loyal, highly valued readers arrive. That, as they say, is what makes a horse race.
After all, I’ve been a very active Amazon customer for the past fifteen years, an Amazon Prime member since 2006, a Kindle owner since the Kindle first launched, and a participant in Amazon Marketplace, zShops, Amazon Advantage, and the Kindle and CreateSpace digital publishing platforms. When it comes to Amazon, I’ve been to night school.
Prime: It Keeps Getting Better
So, after five years of saving tons of money on free shipping (along with millions of other Amazon Prime members), I was pleased several months ago when Amazon began offering me — for the same $79 a year — a free “Prime Instant Video” library of thousands of movies of TV shows. And Thursday I was thrilled to learn of a new program where that same $79 would allow me one free download each month from among over 5,000 Kindle ebook titles including many current or former bestsellers and plenty of books priced at $9 or $10 and above.
But when Amazon issued a middle-of-the-night press release and reorganized much of its Kindle ebook database to launch its new Kindle Owners’ Lending Library program, there were plenty of Kindle owners who were not thrilled. For some people this was due to the fact that several websites including our own experienced a glitch for a few hours when titles from the new program were commingled with free titles, leading to bad customer experiences ranging from people being charged for books they thought were free to feeling like they were the victims of bait-and-switch tactics. (None of this was intentional, of course, but I am very sorry that it happened. It resulted from the perhaps unavoidable fact that Amazon rolled out the program without warning to affiliate websites, but the good news is that for any readers who were charged for a book today due to confusion between free books and the new Kindle lending library program for Amazon Prime members, Amazon’s Kindle customer support is always glad to provide a no-hassle return and refund within 7 days of your purchase. You can contact them via email or phone at http://amzn.to/tL7YwJ.)
But I will have to admit that it took me by surprise that, even after everything was going smoothly and seamlessly on everybody’s websites, there were still a vocal group of our Kindle Nation readers who felt the new program was confusing at best, and a rip-off at worst:
Jo wrote: “Some ‘lending library’ … you can only borrow one a month, that’s 12 a year. You have to be a Prime member to borrow books, that’s 80 bucks a year. 80 divided by 12 is 6.67 per book! Cheaper to buy some and be able to loan them to friends for free! Thanks for nothing Amazon…”
Elizabeth chimed in: “So much for the ‘library’ idea. Easier (and much cheaper) just to head to my local library. This is a rip off!”
“It is a bad idea Amazon…and you saw what happened with the banks,” said Sam.
Sandi asked “is that how so many customers that bought into the Kindle will now be treated? Are big businesses just not getting it? Follow the news on BOA and Netflix? I hope it ain’t so.”
Confusing? Yes, I’ll grant you that. Amazon could have executed a smoother program launch if:
it had avoided branding the new program with the “lending library” label in which it suffers by comparison with public libraries that do not charge dues and do not limit borrowers to a single title per month;
it had resisted the temptation to use a much larger font size for the “program” price so that customers’ attention would be drawn away from the details until they had already purchased and been charged for the book; and
it had shared details about the program with websites such as Kindle Nation Daily so that we could have played a helpful role in clarifying — and, yes, promoting — the program to our readers rather than scrambling to re-write bargain-searching code after the fact while, unfortunately, also posting some phrasing that contributed to the confusion. (Following Amazon’s lead, we made the mistake of referring to the program as Amazon’s “new approach to free books,” and we apologize for that.)
But, all that being said, I strongly resist the notion that either Amazon Prime or the new (and perhaps poorly named) Kindle Owners’ Lending Library program is a rip-off. In order to illuminate the benefits of Amazon prime, we’ll focus on the following:
I’m waiting for my Kindle Fire, along with thousands of other citizens of Kindle Nation. It’s supposed to arrive on November 16, but wouldn’t we love it if Amazon surprised us by shipping the Fire tablet a few days early?
In the meantime Amazon continues to whet our appetites by teasing us with the content that will soon be available on the Kindle Fire, including new PBS programming announced this morning in an on-sire letter from Jeff Bezos and an Amazon press release, programming that will be free to Amazon Prime members through Prime Instant Video:
Prime members will have access to more than 1,000 episodes of popular
PBS television, which will roll out on the service over the next several
months. PBS titles will include NOVA, Masterpiece and Antiques
Roadshow, along with the Ken Burns series of documentaries featuring The
Civil War, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, Baseball, Jazz and the acclaimed new series Prohibition, which
premiered on PBS stations earlier this month. Prime instant video will
also offer popular PBS news programs with day-after air availability
from shows like Frontline and Washington Week. Beginning
in early November, and for the first time ever on digital video, PBS
brings Prime members 200 episodes of The French Chef with the
world renowned Julia Child.
Amazon Prime, just in case it’s new to you, combines free two-day delivery of millions of items in the Amazon Store with free instant streaming of thousands of video movies and programs, all for an annual rate of $79 or a free introductory month with your Kindle Fire. Learn more here.
So while I work this morning, with no Kindle Fire tablet yet to be found in my home, the first episode of Ken Burns’ Prohibition, which I missed last weekend, is playing on the MacBook Pro on my desk. When it’s finished I’ll probably switch over to listen to some music on the Cloud. But I’m counting the days (28, I think) before the Fire ships, not only because it will make the process more seamless and enjoyable but because the Fire will take its place alongside an e-Ink Kindle as my go-to device for video, music, newspapers and magazines, apps for productivity and fun, and sometimes even reading.
Stay tuned for more, including a new initiative from Kindle Nation itself whose aim will be to help you explore all the new pathways and portals that the Kindle Fire tablet will help to open for your brain.
Is Amazon about to send out a free Kindle to each of its millions of Amazon Prime customers? That’s what TechCrunch reporter Michael Arrington said in a post last week, quoting “a reliable source.” Amazon Prime customers, as you probably already know, pay an annual fee of $79 for free two-day (or $3.99 overnight) shipping on all eligible purchases, including all book shipped directly by Amazon.
While there have been some wild claims made in the past about things that Amazon or its competitors might or might not do, this one actually makes a great deal of sense, and Arrington has a stronger track record than most of the gadget press in his Kindle-related reporting. Personally I would find it a little easier to imagine Amazon making a special offer to Amazon Prime customers in which they would deeply discount the Kindle to, say, $99. But then I haven’t spoken to Arrington’s “reliable source.”
It would significantly grow the base of our fellow Kindle owners, provide more of an audience for Kindle Store content, and help Amazon to divert interest from other ebook devices and platforms at the pass. While there would probably be a short-term loss for Amazon in the initial transaction, the company has good reason to be confident that once its loyal Amazon Prime customers try the Kindle they won’t be able to resist buying a lot of Kindle books. One result could be that Amazon’s actual shipping costs for Prime customers could decline as they opt for more ebooks and fewer print editions.
If Arrington’s report is true, and you don’t already have an Amazon Prime account, there’s no time like the present to lay out $79 to get one, especially if it means saving, in effect, at least $180 on that Kindle you have always wanted. (For all the details on Amazon Prime, click here).
How would Amazon handle those current Amazon Prime customers who already own Kindles? Or for that matter, all those Kindle owners who, with or without an Amazon Prime account, have already laid out anywhere from $259 to $489 for a new Kindle? Some early adopters of the Kindle may feel like it is another instance of the old early-adopter tax, but in the long run it is probably also true that the more that Amazon is able to grow its base of Kindle owners, the better it will be for all of us when it comes to pricing and selection for Kindle content.
References to prices on this website refer to prices on the main Amazon.com website for US customers. Prices will vary for readers located outside the US, and prices for US customers may change at any time. Always check the price on Amazon before making a purchase.