Archive for Amazon
One of the joys of reading has always been the ability to share books with your loved ones –how many times have you found a new favourite book that you can’t wait to discuss with the people around you? While there have been band-aid solutions and workarounds for a while now, being able to share digital book purchases from Amazon hasn’t been possible… until now! Amazon’s new Family Library feature includes support for household sharing that extends to books, apps, Prime Instant videos, audiobooks, and games.
Taking their existing Kindle loan program a step further (that only allows books to be loaned once and for a limited time period), the Family Library will give up to six users the ability to share content (allowing two adults to manage up to four children). Cleverly, this feature will work on Kindle devices (including the Kindle Fire phones, tablets, and e-ink readers), but will also extend to any third-party device running Amazon’s apps.
While I do appreciate their need to limit the number of people the app can share with, the 2 adults/4 children number seems a bit arbitrary. I’ve always liked the approach that says ‘anybody using the same home network’, but I may be alone on this one.
Along with the Family Library announcement, Amazon also added the ability to create user profiles for Kindle devices (building on the FreeTime feature they already released that creates kid-safe sections of their tablets). This is a very nice feature for any families that share devices, allowing each user to save their preferences for things like screen brightness and progress through each book or video they have on the go.
Movies, music, and television shows are not included in the Family Library, but for the moment we will take what we can get! They may have to re-think that choice though, when competing services like those offered by Apple do include this content as well.
Do family sharing features like this make you more likely to choose an Amazon device (or even just use their app)?
Amazon has realized that making tablets geared towards kids is big business. Samsung, V.Tech, Fisher Price and a number of other entrants consistently release new hardware with bright, bubbly interfaces and are aimed primarily at the little ones. In order combat these companies, Amazon has just unveiled the Fire HD Kids Edition.
The Fire HD Kids edition comes in two different sizes and price points. You will lay down $149 for a 6” tablet and $189 for a 7” and both come with an unlimited two year warranty, because kids break stuff right? Parents will also be able to choose between three different colors, blue, green and pink.
The Fire HD Kids tablet comes with the same hardware internals as the HD6 and HD7 tablets announced today. It has a different interface and comes with a kid-Proof Case is designed to be the perfect solution for parents who need worry-free protection against drops, bumps, and the typical mayhem caused by kids at play. Designed to be durable and lightweight, the Kid-Proof Case fits perfectly in little hands without adding unnecessary weight to your Fire HD tablet.
Fire HD Kids Edition comes with Amazon FreeTime, which offers innovative parental controls that encourage learning before play and that help manage screen time. With FreeTime, you select all of the content your kids can see, and you can limit your kids’ screen time by content type—for example, you may choose to limit videos and games, but make reading time unlimited. FreeTime blocks stores and in-app payments, so you don’t have to worry about additional expenses. There is currently 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games—at no additional cost available.
Spotify fans in the US, with a premium subscription, now have an additional incentive to enjoy the popular music streaming service: full support for Amazon Fire TV. For those who may not be familiar already, Spotify offers on-demand access to more than 20 million songs instantly (with no Internet connection required and no interruption for advertisements).
In their launch statement, Spotify announced:
Using Spotify Connect on your Amazon Fire TV allows you to control your music using the Spotify app on your mobile or tablet. You can seamlessly switch your favorite music from your mobile to the TV and continue to make calls, use other smartphone apps and go out of wifi range, all without interrupting the music.
Amazon Fire TV was released in April, intending to rival devices like Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku. Initial reviews for the Fire TV have been positive, particularly given the increasing popularity of Amazon’s Prime streaming service.
If you haven’t tried Spotify for Android, download it now and start your 30-day free trial; when you become addicted, the service will cost you an affordable $9.99 per month.
There is a vast segment of Kindle owners that download pirated eBooks from the internet. It is estimated that up to 20% of eBook downloads stem from bit-torrent or pirate sites. There is a new online threat that is targeting Kindle owners, that may hijack your entire Amazon account.
Digital Books have a great deal of metadata that assists online retailers and publishers in understand reading habits and key metrics. Most of this data is harmless and can be equated to cookies, when you visit internet websites. A new vulnerability has been discovered, that targets pirated eBooks and key metadata in the header or authors name can run external scripts and compromise your Amazon account.
Here is how the vulnerability works. Hackers have been injecting links to external websites in the book’s title or in the field reserved for the name of the author, or in both. The script is triggered when you visit the Amazon Kindle Management page and have used the Send to Kindle Plugin. The Kindle Library takes whatever is inside the book’s title or author fields and inserts it into the Kindle Library web page. As a result, if the title or author fields contain HTML code, this code becomes part of the Kindle Library web page and is treated as if it had originated from Amazon’s server.Send to Kindle remains a very popular function, Amazon has an official version and many 3rd parties have developed alternatives for Android, Chrome, Firefox or iOS. It basically allows you to send documents and eBooks directly to your Amazon account to be read by a Kindle e-Reader, tablet or official reading app.
Piracy has been running rampant ever since the Kindle was first released. The Publishers Association issued 115,000 legal threats to websites to stop free pirated books in 2011, a rise of 130% on 2010. Many websites and file sharing services allow anyone to download them, and the person who cracked it normally just wants to give it away. This new vulnerability should give you pause, that a free eBook may come with a catch.
In an update that has been a very long time coming, Amazon has made their Prime Instant Video service available to Android users on-the-go! All you need to get started is the core Amazon shopping app, giving you instant access to the entirety of Amazon’s online retail catalog.
As an added incentive, users are also being offered 5GB of free photo storage using Amazon’s Cloud Drive.
Moves like this are extremely important (and timely) for Amazon, with Google Play making recent expansions to their Movies and TV offering, including a recent update to their iOS app that now allows for offline media streaming.
Consumers have been enjoying Amazon Fire TV in the US since the launch in April of this year, but now the device is also available to those waiting eagerly in the UK. Plugging the small Fire TV box into your HDTV allows for you to instantly enjoy access to services like: Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Demand 5, Spotify, Sky News, Curzon Home Cinema, YouTube, as well as low-cost video rentals (not to mention giving you the ability to share your photographs, music and games to anybody in view of the set).
Initial reviews of the Fire TV are positive, with most users ranking the device higher than Apple TV and Chromecast (particularly as it applies to speed and playback fluidity –helping you enjoy 1080p HD video and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound). Even if you ignore that the price is right, there are plenty of reasons to choose the device, including: voice search functionality that actually works (just speak the name of a movie, TV show, actor, director or genre to get started watching your next favourite), hundreds of low-cost games (with titles like Minecraft and the Walking Dead) that can be played using the Amazon Fire Game Controller that is available separately, X-Ray for movies and television shows (telling you everything you wanted to know and more about the on-screen cast and crew), and seamless integration with Amazon’s Cloud Drive.
If you happen to be reading this from the UK and want to give Amazon Fire TV a try, now is the time –the hardware is available for the next four days at a bargain €49 directly from Amazon (with the price hiking up to €79 after this initial offer).
Amazon has always offered plenty of tools for authors to craft their own eBook, but kids books are a different story. In order to make Kindle Direct Publishing more relevant to children’s authors, Amazon has just unveiled a standalone program called Kindle Kids’ Book Creator.
Kindle Kids’ Book Creator is a free tool for authors and publishers to turn their illustrated children’s books into great-looking Kindle books. Kindle Kids’ Book Creator makes it easy for authors and publishers to import artwork, add text to pages, and preview how their book will look on Kindle devices.
With the click of a button, authors also can add Kindle Text Pop-Ups to make it easy to read their book on any device, including smart phones, tablets, and PCs. Authors then can publish to Kindle and share their story with tens of millions of Amazon customers worldwide.
Kindle Kids’ Book Creator supports multiple layouts for children’s books, including facing page spreads. Kindle Kids’ Book Creator accepts the most popular graphic file types, so authors are free to create art in their preferred design tools. Authors can even import a book from a multi-page PDF, making it easier to ever to take a book originally created for print and turn it into a Kindle book. When you are ready to publish your book, simply go to Kindle Direct Publishing to upload your book.
Kindle Kids’ Book Creator also makes it quick to preview how the content will look across Kindle devices. With an integrated preview feature, authors can validate that their books look beautiful on Kindle Fire tablets.
We’ve been hearing from Amazon that they plan to shoot their 2014 original series lineup in 4K (which you can enjoy if you happen to own a Samsung Ultra HD TV). Until now, we just didn’t know when. Samsung has now revealed that this will be happening in October of this year, stating that they plan to support Amazon’s Prime Instant Video UHD streaming on their 4K TVs.
This is great news for those of you with the fancy televisions that support 4K content, with very little available in that enhanced resolution. Samsung has more in store, with a CES announcement this year sharing that in addition to Amazon, the company has established major partnerships with Netflix, Comcast, and DirecTV.
It hasn’t been announced yet whether Amazon’s 4K service too extend to additional manufacturers, but it seems probable once any kinks have been worked out.
Amazon’s Fire Phone has only been available since July, but usually the hype and excitement makes the initial launch of a new smartphone the most profitable sales period. Unfortunately for Amazon, that doesn’t appear to be the case for their device. While Amazon doesn’t release sales figures of their own (famously), analysts are able to draw their own conclusions by examining ad activity data from sources like Chitika.
Review of the ad network activity Chikita provided shows that in the 20 days following the Fire’s release, only 0.02% of activity can be attributed to the device. When combined with data from ComScore evaluating smartphone subscriber market share, these results suggest there are as few as 26,400 Amazon Fire phones in use. Using a whole bunch of calculations that would take ages to explain and possibly cause you to fall asleep, correcting for under-indexing and margins or error brings the estimated total up to a meagre 35,000 total Fire phones activated.
Amazon has yet to confirm or deny this guesstimate, but even at numbers exponentially higher, the news is bad. It might be failing because of the high price-point ($200 on contract, similar to other top smartphones), or the device’s exclusivity to AT&T as a carrier… or just as likely, consumers see it as a pet project for Amazon and not lasting or true competition.
It’s doubtful that Amazon can turn these results around in a meaningful way anytime soon, but should they decide to release a second generation of the Fire phone –they had better provide real innovation as an incentive for consumers to buy-in.
Sources close to The Wall Street Journal are indicating that instead of Google, it is Amazon that is readying to acquire the Twitch.tv video game streaming service. Rumoured to be selling for a meagre $1 billion, Twitch.tv is considered to be a true streaming video giant. Using the service, over 50-million monthly active users are able to stream live video of themselves playing their favourite games.
When we first heard that Google was interested in purchasing the service, it seemed like a logical move for the company that controls YouTube. So what does Amazon want with Twitch.tv? So far it is just speculation. Perhaps they are going to try and compete with Google in the streaming amateur video arena, but that seems like a difficult place to succeed. Other thoughts swirling around the rumour mill wonder if Amazon may be wanting to extend their own video rental and sales offering –or if they plan on trying to sweep in and dominate the growing eSports genre.
Update: Amazon has purchased Twitch for $970 million in cash. Twitch’s founders have attempted to quell any concerns that the Twitch’s community may have about the acquisition.
“We chose Amazon because they believe in our community, they share our values and long-term vision, and they want to help us get there faster,” wrote Mr Shear in a letter to users.
“We’re keeping most everything the same: our office, our employees, our brand, and most importantly our independence. But with Amazon’s support we’ll have the resources to bring you an even better Twitch.”
Amazon WhisperSync for Voice is a system that includes immersion reading and was designed to pick up where you left off in an eBook in the audio edition. It also allows you to both listen to the audiobook, while reading the eBook and text is highlighted as the words are spoken aloud. The service has just rolled out in the United Kingdom and 25,000 Kindle books and 25,000 audiobooks are supported.
Audible founder and CEO Donald Katz said: “We hear from many Kindle and Audible customers in the US that Whispersync for Voice has profoundly changed the way they read. In fact, switching back and forth between reading and listening has become their preferred way of experiencing stories. We are thrilled to be able to open this up to UK listeners and readers for the first time.”
Jorrit Van der Meulen, VP of Amazon Kindle Europe, said: “We’re working hard to help customers find more moments each day to enjoy a great book
I think WhisperSync for Voice is one of the those programs that never caught on in a big way, but people who enjoy the audiobook experience can get more synergy with the digital book edition. I know many people who read the book at night and then listen to the audiobook on the way to work or walking the dog. Its fairly cool to have both mediums synced whether you are using the iOS or Android apps, or using hardware like the Kindle Fire.
Amazon.com today announced Amazon Local Register, a secure card reader and mobile app that provides local businesses with the tools they need to quickly and easily accept credit and debit cards from a smartphone or tablet and keep track of their growing business. Amazon Local Register customers will have access to the Amazon.com award-winning, fully dedicated customer support team, as well as in-app tracking tools. Customers who sign up for Amazon Local Register before October 31 will also receive a low promotional rate of 1.75 percent per card swipe on all major credit and debit cards until January 1, 2016. Additional details are available at localregister.amazon.com.
“From clothing stores to contractors, food trucks to accountants, businesses and organizations using Amazon Local Register will enjoy industry-leading low rates, trusted and secure payment processing, and access to award-winning customer support,” said Matt Swann, Vice President of Amazon Local Commerce. “We understand that every penny and every minute counts, so we want to make accepting payments so easy and inexpensive that it no longer gets in the way of a business owner doing what they love – serving their customers and growing their business.”
Customers can get started with Amazon Local Register in three simple steps: create an account on localregister.amazon.com, purchase a $10 card reader, and download the free mobile app from Amazon Appstore, Apple App Store or Google Play. Starting today, the card reader is available with Free Two-Day Shipping on Amazon.com. Beginning August 19, customers can also purchase a card reader at Staples retail locations nationwide. The Amazon Local Register card reader and free mobile app are compatible with a variety of smartphones and tablets, including Apple devices running iOS7, Kindle Fire tablets, select Android smartphones, and coming soon to the new Fire phone. Each customer’s first $10 in transaction fees will be credited back to the customer’s account once Amazon Local Register is in use – allowing customers to fully recoup the cost of the card reader. Money from transactions can be deposited directly into a bank account within one business day, or spent on Amazon.com within minutes – see the website for more details. Amazon Local Register also provides:
Exceptional value: Amazon Local Register accepts all major credit and debit cards for a low, flat rate with no hidden fees. Plus, there are no long-term contracts. Customers who register before October 31 will receive a low promotional rate of 1.75 percent per card swipe until January 1, 2016. Customers who sign up after this promotional period will pay a flat rate of 2.5 percent on all swiped transactions.
Amazon customer support: Access the award-winning, fully dedicated customer support team, available by phone and email. Plus, Kindle Fire HDX owners can take advantage of the Mayday button to connect to an Amazon tech advisor 24 hours a day, 365 days per year – for free.
Secure and stabilized card reader: A stabilized card reader limits swivel, making it easier to swipe once and go. Plus, each transaction is backed by the same services that securely power Amazon.com purchases.
Business tracking tools: In-app reporting enables a business to quickly check bottom line performance, sales trends, peak sales times and more. All reporting is easily accessible from a smartphone or tablet and is password-protected.
Compatible accessories: Shop for compatible accessories including cash drawers, receipt printers, smartphone cases and stands. Find everything needed to build a point-of-sale system including massive selection, available at the best price, all on Amazon.com.
Early users of Amazon Local Register share their experiences:
“Amazon Local Register has simplified, organized and improved efficiency for my business. The feature I am most impressed with is the outstanding customer support I receive any time I have a question or for whatever help I need. The reports are easy to understand and help me figure out how my business is performing.” Erin H, hair & makeup artist
“I’m always looking for ways to reduce my business expenses. Amazon Local Register’s low price means that I can invest more in my business, while still ensuring that I’m accepting customer payments safely and securely.” – Kevin L, gallery and event venue owner
“My customers used to always ask if they could pay with a credit card and I always said no, as it always seemed too complicated to set up. It was easy to get started with Amazon Local Register, and taking payments is a breeze. My customers are VERY happy and prefer to pay with their card. Another benefit is that I don’t have to deal with going to the bank to deposit cash and checks.” Jannine H, massage therapist