Amazon Tablet Soon?

According to an article from PC World, Amazon is making an announcement of some sort this Wednesday, 2011-09-28. They speculate this may be the introduction of Amazon’s much-anticipated tablet computer.

In a possibly related forum post, it is postulated that Amazon Prime membership may soon include some sort of e-book lending service, along with the already available free movie and video streaming for Prime members.

It would therefore appear that Amazon may be able to give some interesting competition to Apple and other tablet makers by way of Amazon’s name recognition, along with movie, music, and e-book content already in place for the new device. I for one will be very interested to see what the price points will be.

Amazon Debuts ‘Cloud Reader’

Amazon.com announced today the debut of their Kindle Cloud Reader, which is a web-based application for reading Kindle e-books via your web browser. I have not had time to really give it a good going-over yet, but wanted to get this info out now so that you can take a look yourself if you are interested.

Currently it only supports the Google Chrome browser (PC, Mac, Linux, Chromebook) and Safari browser (PC, Mac, iPad), but Amazon says support for other browsers is coming “soon.” While the press release says that no downloading or installation is necessary, that is not entirely true: if you want to read books locally while not connected to the internet, you have to install a browser plug-in to allow you to right-click and then “download and pin” a book. The feature list from the press release includes:

  • An immersive view of your entire Kindle library, with instant access to all of your books
  • Start reading over 950,000 Kindle books instantly within your browser
  • An embedded Kindle Store optimized for your web browser makes it seamless to discover new books and start reading them instantly
  • New Kindle Store for iPad is built from the ground up for iPad’s touch interface
  • Your current book is automatically made available for offline use, and you can choose to save a book for reading offline at any time
  • Receive automatic software updates without the need to download new software
  • Select any book to start reading, customize the page layout to your desired font size, text color, background color, and more
  • View all of the notes, highlights, and bookmarks that you’ve made on other Kindle apps or on Kindle
  • Sync your last page read across your Kindle and free Kindle apps so you can always pick up where you left off

Here are a couple screen shots of the Chrome version (click to view full-sized image):

Cloud Reader home screen

Cloud Reader sample page

One suggestion I’ll be firing off to Amazon soon is to make the user interface more friendly to those of use with less than optimal vision. That gray-on-black scheme is not a good choice, usability-wise.

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Finalists

Amazon has announced this year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award finalists for this year, 3 each in two categories, general fiction and young adult fiction. An excerpt of each is currently available as a free download:

General Fiction

Young Adult Fiction

No, I have not read any of these yet and have no idea if I’ll vote for any of them; but since voting is only open until June 1, I figured I’d better post this now.

Amazon Reports e-Books Outselling Print

In case anyone still doubts the significance of the e-book revolution, Amazon announced today that Kindle e-books are now outselling all print books in their on-line store (hardcover and paperback combined).

Amazon began selling hardcover and paperback books in July 1995. Twelve years later in November 2007, Amazon introduced the revolutionary Kindle and began selling Kindle books. By July 2010, Kindle book sales had surpassed hardcover book sales, and six months later, Kindle books overtook paperback books to become the most popular format on Amazon.com. Today, less than four years after introducing Kindle books, Amazon.com customers are now purchasing more Kindle books than all print books – hardcover and paperback – combined.

In the same statement, Amazon also said the the US$114.00 “Special Offers” Kindle is now the best-selling member of the Kindle family of e-reader devices. This would appear to once again illustrate that Amazon seems to be doing a pretty good job of keeping on top of what the e-book market wants, especially “sometime later this year” when they plan to embrace the EPub e-book format, the primary alternative to the MOBI format (upon which their AZW format is based) and the most popular format used for e-book lending in the US.

If you like factoids, here are some more from the press release:

  • Since April 1, for every 100 print books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books. This includes sales of hardcover and paperback books by Amazon where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher.
  • So far in 2011, the tremendous growth of Kindle book sales, combined with the continued growth in Amazon’s print book sales, have resulted in the fastest year-over-year growth rate for Amazon’s U.S. books business, in both units and dollars, in over 10 years. This includes books in all formats, print and digital. Free books are excluded in the calculation of growth rates.
  • In the five weeks since its introduction, Kindle with Special Offers for only $114 is already the bestselling member of the Kindle family in the U.S.
  • Amazon sold more than 3x as many Kindle books so far in 2011 as it did during the same period in 2010.
  • Less than one year after introducing the UK Kindle Store, Amazon.co.uk is now selling more Kindle books than hardcover books, even as hardcover sales continue to grow. Since April 1, Amazon.co.uk customers are purchasing Kindle books over hardcover books at a rate of more than 2 to 1.

Free Instant Video for Amazon Prime Members

While not exactly e-book related, thanks to the Pixel of Ink blog for alerting me that an Amazon Prime membership now includes unlimited free instant video viewing from a currently available selection of over 5000. See the Amazon Instant Video page for specifics on viewing movies and TV shows.

For those of you not in the know, the Amazon Prime program provides members free second-day shipping and discounted next-day shipping on most products sold and shipped by Amazon (as opposed to other vendors who may use the Amazon “storefront”). Now at no additional cost (currently $79 per year), Prime members will also have free access to Amazon’s on-line video library.

This may the final straw that leads me to canceling my NetFlix subscription — not that there is anything wrong with their service, but I don’t think I’m using it enough these days to rationalize the cost.

For more information, see the Amazon press release.

Amazon.com’s Top 100 Books of 2010

Amazon announced today its Top 100 Books for 2010, in time, naturally enough, for the Christmas shopping season. Actually, there are two top 100 lists: one from the Amazon editors and one based on customer sales. Only books which were published for the first time in 2010 are included. I have no numbers at this time as to how many are available for Kindle*, but I figured these lists could be a good starting point for my readers (and myself) to look for something new to read, add to holiday wish lists, or purchase as gifts for others.

Here are the top 5 editorial picks for your quick reference:

  1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
    by Rebecca Skloot: From a single, short life grew a seemingly immortal line of cells that made some of the most crucial innovations in modern science possible. From that same life, Skloot fashions a rich and haunting story that redefines what it means to have a medical history.
  2. Faithful Place by Tana French: The past haunts in French novels. In this compelling and cutting mystery, Frank Mackey (the beloved undercover guru from “The Likeness”) returns home to investigate the cold case of his teenage sweetheart, and faces down his family.
  3. Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes: A breathtaking debut (30 years in the making) by a decorated Vietnam veteran that takes readers deep into the jungle, and offers a new perspective on the ravages of war, the bureaucracy of the military, and the peculiar beauty of brotherhood.
  4. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand: As she did with “Seabiscuit,” Hillenbrand has unearthed another unlikely and inspiring tale from our past. Louis Zamperini was an Olympic athlete as a teenager, an airman in World War II, an ocean crash survivor, and a prisoner of war before returning home for another half-century of life.
  5. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson: Through the eyes of three families, Wilkerson gives vivid life to one of the great untold epics of American history: the migration between the two world wars of millions of African Americans from the South to the North and West.

_______
* Thanks to GMUHistorian’s comment below, I am now aware of the Kindle Editors’ Top 100 Picks page.

Amazon Announces Kindle Singles

No, “Kindle Singles” is neither a convenient food item nor a place to meet eligible e-book readers. It is a new program announced today by Amazon to provide a platform for authors and publishers to produce works that are too long for a magazine article but too short for a book. The idea is that in the traditional print publishing world there had been no place for such writings, as they did not have the “heft” to be marketed as a book, yet could not be accepted by magazine publishers.

“Ideas and the words to deliver them should be crafted to their natural length, not to an artificial marketing length that justifies a particular price or a certain format,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Kindle Content. “With Kindle Singles, we’re reaching out to publishers and accomplished writers and we’re excited to see what they create.”

The press release states that Kindle Singles will have their own section of the Amazon on-line Kindle store, and that they will be priced “significantly lower” than Kindle books, though no specific prices were suggested. From the release, it seems the emphasis was more on nonfiction works, whether they be scientific, political, or sociological — no mention was made of fiction, though it was not excluded, either.

Interested authors and publishers are directed to contact Amazon at digital-publications@amazon.com.

KindleMinds blog may move, or just go away

I just received an email from the Amazon associates program (what supposedly can make me a little money if you buy something from them via links from this site, but frankly at best might pay for the web hosting if I’m lucky).

Dear Associate, We’re writing from Amazon.com to remind you about our policy of not permitting Amazon trademarks (including the trademark “Kindle”) to be used in domain names. We sincerely appreciate your enthusiasm for Kindle, but under trademark law, we have a responsibility to watch how others use Amazon’s trademarks. In addition, we want to avoid confusion from customers who see the name and wrongly assume the Web site and its content is sponsored or written by Amazon. By requesting that you use another domain name, we are attempting to make sure that there is always a clear distinction between the official “Amazon” site and other third party sites. For more information, please review the Associates Program Operating Agreement:

https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/agreement

Please choose a new domain name and transfer your content to that name. Amazon will purchase your domain KINDLEMINDS.NET for the initial registration price, provided that you agree to not register any domains containing Amazon brands, or a misspelling of those brands, in the future.

We value our relationship and appreciate your cooperation and prompt attention to this matter. If you have any questions or wish to discuss the matter, please use the Contact Us form available on Associates Central or by following this link:

While I think this is “biting the hand that feeds you” on Amazon’s part, the choices would appear to be to keep the current domain and get rid of all Amazon associate links — which would require a bit of work on my part to search them all out and delete them — move to another non-kindle domain name, or just say “screw it” and close it down.

I’ll wait until I’m a bit less aggravated before making a decision.

Amazon Press Release Says Kindle 3 Started Shipping Today

According to an Amazon press release today, if you were among those who pre-ordered your Kindle 3 and are lucky enough to be at the top of their “list”, it may already be shipped — two days ahead of schedule. The statement also said that the two models combined (3G/WiFi and WiFi only) are their best-selling product. “In the four weeks since the introduction of the new Kindle and Kindle 3G, customers ordered more Kindles on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk combined than any other product, continuing Kindle’s over two-year run as the bestselling product across all the products sold on Amazon.com.”

Also in the four weeks since their introduction:

  • Kindle and Kindle 3G are the most gifted and most wished for products on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk combined.
  • Customers in 125 countries on six continents from Austria to Zimbabwe have already placed orders for the new generation Kindles. Some of the most remote shipments will be sent as far away as Mongolia and the Northern Mariana Islands.
  • Customers are already ordering books to read on their new Kindles. The most popular are the books in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, “Star Island” by Carl Hiaasen and “The Rembrandt Affair” by Daniel Silva.

So for all you early adopters of the Kindle 3, enjoy, and know how jealous I am.