How New Fire HDX 8.9 Mimics Paper with Dynamic Light Control

In this video clip made at the Amazon new product launch today in New York City, Jon Oakes, director of product management for Kindle, explains Dynamic Light Control. This clever capability enables the new Fire HDX to change the background of a book’s page to adjust to available light in a way similar to the effect of light on a paper page.

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It’s official! New Kindle hardware…and software

It’s official! New Kindle hardware…and software

I think that’s a record! Five press releases from Amazon in the same day…announcing two new non-Fire Kindles, three new Fires, and a new version of the Fire operating system!

Let’s break this down:

We’ll start with the non-Fire Kindles (all information is for the USA, although I believe all these models may be available elsewhere):

Kindle Voyage, 6″ High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Adaptive Built-in Light, PagePress Sensors, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) Also available with 3G+Wi-Fi, for $269 with Special Offers, $289 without them

This is the new top of the line, flagship model.

It’s $199 with Special Offers, $219 without them.

It will be competing with the Kobo Aura HD, which lists for $169.99 (about $30 cheaper).

Releasing on October 21st (pre-order now).

What’s new?

  • It’s thinner: .30 inches (7.6mm) versus .36 (9.1mm) on the Paperwhite
  • It has twice the pixels per inch (300) as the Paperwhite: that will make it much, much crisper. The more dots you fit in the same place, the more detail
  • Turn pages by applying pressure to the edge (the bezel), not the screen. You’ll still be able to swipe or tap, but this should keep the screen a lot cleaner (not that that has been much of an issue for me…they created a screen that doesn’t show the fingerprints much).  It should be smart enough not to accidentally turn the page for a typical user
  • The frontlight (like the Paperwhite…the most comfortable reading experience I’ve had, including paper) will adjust either automatically or manually)
  • The screen is supposed to feel like paper…um, okay

I’ll deal more with the software later in this post, because that will affect more than this one device.

Kindle, 6″ Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile*)

This is the new entry level model (which they once again insist on just calling a “Kindle”).

$79 with Special Offers, $99 without them.

Releasing October 2nd (pre-order available now).

What’s new?

  • Touchscreen…good-bye, five way controllers
  • Faster processor
  • We’re back to 4GB of storage

The Paperwhite will continue to be offered as the mid-range device: $119 with Special Offers, $139 without them.

Okay, let’s talk about new software features/services for the non-Fire devices (these do not show for the Paperwhite, but some may show up there eventually):

  • You’ll be able to link Amazon accounts! This is a huge difference. They are calling it “Family Library”, and specifically mention a “spouse or partner”…I wonder if you’ll have to provide proof of relationship?
  • Word Wise: this one automatically (you can adjust it) defines “difficult” words for you. It reminds me of a comedian who talked about how the movie makers new 1950s science fiction were going to be watched by kids. So, two of the greatest scientists in the world would be speaking to each other, and they’d define the words for the kiddos: “He’s growing in an accelerated…speeded up…fashion” ;) I suppose this may be useful for some people
  • About the Book: finally! The book will tell you where it is in a series, tell you about the author, and let you mark your Goodreads progress from your Kindle
  • Enhanced search: more search results in one place
  • More Goodreads integration

press release for the non-Fire Kindles

Now, on to the new Fires:

Fire HD 6, 6″ HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB – Includes Special Offers, Black (at AmazonSmile*)

$99 for 8GB with Special Offers
$114 for 8GB without Special Offers
$119 for 16GB with Special Offers
$134 for 16GB without Special Offers

Releasing October 2, pre-order now

This is a competitive tablet for under $100!

What’s new?

  • It comes in five colors! Black, Magenta, White, Citron, and Cobalt
  • 1280×800 HD screen, 252 pixels per inch: brighter, whiter
  • 1.5 ghz quadcore processor…much faster
  • Front and rear-facing camera (2MP for the rear-facing)
  • WPS Office integration: edit Excel and Word without a separate app
  • Family profiles
  • Family Library (see above: link accounts)
  • Advanced Streaming and Prediction (ASAP)…it guesses what you will want to watch and pre-loads it. I really like this on my Fire TV, although you might think it’s a small thing. It’s nice not to wait for things to load when you want to watch them (that’s often the case). The Fire TV is so much faster than my Roku! I really notice that with YouTube (which is presumably not due to ASAP)…it takes many times longer on the Roku for the app to load
  • Firefly real object and media recognition, like my Fire Phone
  • Fire OS 4, which I’ll cover separately

Fire HD 7, 7″ HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB – Includes Special Offers, Black (at AmazonSmile*)

Basically the same as above, except an inch bigger screen and stereo instead of mono speakers.

$139 8GB with Special Offers
$154 8GB without Special Offers
$159 16GB with Special Offers
$174 16 GB without Special Offers

Releasing October 2

Fire HD 6 Kids Edition, 6″ HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB, Blue Kid-Proof Case (at AmazonSmile*)

$149 for six inches
$189 for seven inches

Releases October 21st (look for this one in particular to sell out…I’m guessing manufacturing those kid-proof cases slows the supply chain).

People have wanted something like this for a long time…a purpose-built kids’ device. If the kids break it in the first two years, Amazon will replace it…for free.

  • Comes with a free year of Kindle Unlimited
  • Amazon Freetime camera and photo…kids can take pictures, but can’t share them on social media

Looks like a powerful (it has the quad-core processor) tablet, and probably a good choice for kids.

Fire HDX 8.9, 8.9″ HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile*)

$379 16GB with Special Offers
$394 16GB without Special Offers
$429 32GB with Special Offers
$444 32GB without Special Offers
$479 64GB with Special Offers
$494 64GB without Special Offers

Releasing October 21st, pre-order now

  • A massive 2560 x 1600 display, 339 ppi (4 million pixels), 30% more pixels than the iPad Retina display
  • 20% lighter than iPad Air
  • 2.5 GHz quad-core processor
  • Twice as loud as iPad air, with Dolby Atmos for headphones (says it is the first tablet with that)
  • Mayday and Firefly
  • 8MP rear-facing camera (compare to the 2MP above), front-facing camera

Fire HDX 8.9, 8.9″ HDX Display, Wi-Fi and 4G LTE, 32 GB – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile*)

Like the above, but with unlocked GSM (including AT&T)…this has the cellular connection.

$529 32GB with Special Offers
$544 32GB without Special Offers
$579 64GB with Special Offers
$594 64GB without Special Offers

Releasing October 21st.

Fire HDX 8.9, 8.9″ HDX Display, Wi-Fi and 4G LTE, 32 GB – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile*)

Verizon version, otherwise same as immediately above, including pricing and release date.

Kindle Fire press releases:

09/17/14 Introducing the All-New Fire HDX—Higher Performance, Exclusive New Audio, the Fastest Wi-Fi, and Still Startlingly Light with a Stunning HDX Display Printer Friendly Version
09/17/14 Introducing the All-New Fire HD—The Most Powerful Tablet Under $100 Printer Friendly Version
09/17/14 Introducing Fire HD Kids Edition—The Kids Tablet That Has it All, Including the First-Ever 2-Year Worry-Free Guarantee

Now, on to the new Fire OS (Operating System):

  • This will be on the new Kindle Fires, and will come to the 3rd Generation (most recent) Kindle Fires through an over-the-air update
  • They again named it after an alcoholic drink…I’d prefer that they don’t do that, but it looks like that’s the pattern right now
  • “… adds Profiles so each family member can have their own individual email, Facebook and Twitter accounts, settings such as display brightness, bookmarks, spot in a movie, and game levels.”
  • Based on KitKat
  • Up to 25% more battery life with a “smart suspend” feature…proactively turns wireless access on and off
  • Family Library (see above…shared accounts)
  • Also coming to Fire Phone
  • Private Mode and print support coming to the Silk Browser
  • Free unlimited Cloud storage of photos taken on Fire devices


Some of these features won’t be there at launch, and will be “coming soon”.  The Fire Phone won’t get Fire OS 4 until “early next year”.

press release on Fire OS 4

I would say that this is not a conservative product cycle. It will be interesting to see how these shake out in terms of popularity. I’m interested in what you think (and what questions you might have). Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

First Impressions of the New Kindle Lineup

Len and KindlesAs my flight from New York approaches Denver International and the media embargo ends, I want to share impressions from today’s Amazon’s media demonstration of the new Kindles. My group of about 12 journalists—one of several such gatherings throughout the day—convened at Milk Studios, 450 West 15th Street, for a little more than two hours of presentations and time to try the devices and chat ask questions. It was a beautiful, sunny day on Manhattan, and we began on the top-floor patio with a view of the Hudson River next to a table with stickie buns, coffee, juice and other treats.

I will hold my observations about the new Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and the Fire HD models for later, because I want to focus here on the new Kindles, the brand-new Kindle Voyage and the new and improved basic Kindle.

As I’ve mentioned several times in recent months, I expected Amazon to step up this fall with a serious refresh of the eInk Kindles, based on comments by executives during the year. These guys are not just going through the motions when it comes to pressing ahead with innovations on the Kindle dedicated eReaders.

One clue was that the first demo station was for the Kindles. They were not an afterthought. They were first out of the chute.

As for the devices themselves, I found them very impressive.

First impressions tell a lot, and when Senior VP Dave Limp handed me one of the Voyages as we sat in a circle in couches off the patio, I fell in love with it. The moment reminded me of the day in Boston when Amazon’s Jay Marine reached into his suit jacket pocket and pulled out a gray Kindle Keyboard, five years and four generations ago. Man, I thought. This thing is sweet!

Likewise with the Voyage. It’s thin, light, and the screen jumps up at you in 300 pixels per inch splendor, with a brighter built-in light. As with each improvement in eInk screen technology, this one makes the previous one look old-fashioned and muddled. We’re getting really close to paper here.

The Next and Previous Page controls move off the screen on the Voyage, to the bezel, but we’re not talking buttons here, as in older models of the Kindle. Which means we are not talking things that go click in the night, when your bed partner may be trying to sleep while you plow ahead in War and Peace until you’re ready to sleep yourself. I slight squeeze of the bezel changes the page, and you know you’ve done it right when you feel a little haptic love tap on your finger. Customers are going to love this, I’m sure Amazon execs are saying, and I believe they’re right. I did my best to accept the elimination of Next/Previous physical controls on the Touch and the Paperwhite, but I am quite happy on this new Kindle to have the screen be left for nothing but the story.

I care about the basic Kindle, because we’ve shipped more than a thousand of them to U.S. Troops deployed overseas through E-Books for Troops. We plan to purchase one last group of basic Kindles and donate them to a VA Hospital as we wind down the program. With this new $79 basic Kindle on offer, the last Soldiers will be getting a terrific eReader and not an after-thought.

I will of course pre-order a Kindle Voyage tonight, but that’s what I do. I’m not saying, in my enthusiasm for the improvement in the device, that an upgrade from the Paperwhite is obvious. Especially since the significant software improvements announced today will be rolled out to the Paperwhite as well.

One of the most notable OS innovations for the Kindles is named Word Wise. It will be great for readers learning English and kids learning to read, because it hovers definitions over difficult words right in-line with the book’s text. There is a slider control that determines how many words will have hints. You can tap on one of the hints to bring up the full definition.

Wise Words reminds me of Vocabulary Builder, an earlier gee-whiz tool to help readers improve their comprehension. I love how the Kindle team presses into raw invention with these capabilities. They don’t all change the world, but a few of them will, especially for individual readers with specific needs.

X-Ray gets expanded powers of seeing into the bones of a book in the new software. There is now a tab for images, so you can scroll through all the graphics in a book. And graphics, by the way, look fantastic on the higher-resolution Voyage display.

Goodreads gets closer to our reading on the Kindle with the new OS. You can access and update your reading status from within the book, something I’ve thought would be nice to have.

So all in all, today was a great day for those of us who may love tablets but continue to have a soft spot for the device that really did change the way we read, the original gray and white Kindle—now much improved, standing proud, and clearly still the darling of the team of innovators and dreamers that conceived it and keeps on making it better.


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What’s New Tonight from Amazon – Summary of New Kindles and Fires

Len with FiresHere are the new devices you can pre-order as of tonight (Wednesday, September 17th) at 9 p.m. ET at the Amazon home page:

Kindle Voyage$199 WiFi and $269 3G.

This seventh-generation eReader is the thinnest, lightest, brightest, and smartest Kindle to date. You press the bezel for silent movement to the next or previous page, and you feel a friendly haptic response as the page turns. The screen is 39 percent brighter. It automatically adjusts to surrounding light. And—get this—it dims gradually after you start reading in the dark, matching how your eyes take time adjust to darkness.

The “wow” that I experienced holding a Voyage at today’s embargoed media briefing in New York City reminded me of the first time that I held a Kindle Keyboard. That was five years ago, at the birth of the third generation of Kindles. The Kindle 2 immediately seemed bigger, clunkier, and old-fashioned. The same thing happened to the beloved Paperwhite that I brought to New York when I placed it on a table next to the new Kindle in town.

New Basic Kindle – $79

Amazon today confirmed that it’s serious about making Kindle technology available to as many book lovers as possible by giving an impressive update to the entry-level dedicated eReader, called simply “Kindle.” It has twice the storage, and its processor is 20 percent faster than the previous basic Kindle.

The most noticeable improvement is a full touch screen that replaces the pain-in-the-neck five-way controller. No more pressing up, down, left, or right to move the cursor across an alphabet grid in order to enter text. Just tap the virtual keyboard. The updated Kindle can do all the new software tricks of the Voyage and Paperwhite, which remains in the lineup as the new middle child.

The new basic Kindle’s screen isn’t as omigod bright and contrasty as the Voyage’s, and there is no built-in light bathing its screen. But it’s going to be great for a kid’s first Kindle or a beach reader you toss in your bag with sunscreen, Frisbee, and goggles.

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9” – $379 WiFi 16 GB  , $429 WiFi 32 GB , $479 WiFi 64 GB

This new HDX is really thin and light–13.2 ounces or 20 percent lighter than an iPad Air. The tech specs impress, as follows: It’s the first tablet powered by the most advanced quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor, and the graphics engine is 70 percent faster than the previous-generation Fire HDX. At the demo table, the new HDX seemed fast, fluid, brilliantly colorful–and thin.

For book reading, the new HDX has a clever way of taking another step toward the holy grail of parity with paper books. It’s called Dynamic Light Control, which changes the white point of the display based on the ambient lighting. The demo units that we saw gradually adjusted their appearance after you tapped on a book in the carousel. The idea seems to be that a book on the HDX will look different in a soft, yellow light in your den than it will in glaring fluorescent light in an office. You won’t see this on the HDX until later this year, though, because it will arrive as part of a free, over-the-air software update.

The new HDX is the first tablet with Dolby Atmos, Amazon execs told us. We put on headphones to hear how it sounded in an action movie where all sorts of stuff was blowing up and moving around us with eerie effect. Dolby Atmos is rolling out in some movies but not others, and you’ll be able to hear its magic on the HDX 8.9.

The HDX’s Battery life—up to 12 hours for reading, surfing the web, watching video or listening to music—gets a boost from Smart Suspend, which develops a profile specific to your device based on when it is typically not in use. That’s when it will turn the wireless off to conserve power, but it will sneak back onto the net now and then to grab new emails or app notifications while you’re asleep.

The HDX 8.9 can be paired with the coolest Bluetooth keyboard I’ve seen. It costs $59.99, weighs just 7 ounces, and is 4.8 mm thin. It also has a trackpad, so you don’t have to switch from typing to tapping the screen. You can place the keyboard with the HDX inside the new Origami Cover ($54.99), which also serves as a landscape or portrait stand. Everything snaps together with a satisfying magnetic click.

Note: The Fire HDX 7”, which happens to be my favorite Amazon tablet, will receive an update to the Fire OS 4 software, named Sangria and based on Android KitKat. But sadly there are no hardware improvements for the 7-inch HDX.

Kindle Fire HD 6” 8 GB ($99) , HD 6″ 16 GB $119, and HD 7” 8 GB ($139), HD 7″ 16 GB ($159)

For the Fire HD, Amazon played a game it loves to play—how much better can we make a device that someone is now selling for too much money? In this case the target was the low end of smaller tablets. Customers have complained to Amazon that these devices, made by other companies, are unreliable, have lousy performance, and sound crummy.

So these new Fire HDs are tough. When you drop an iPad mini and a new Fire HD to a concrete floor from a meter high, the iPad mini breaks apart twice as often as the Fire HD, we were told. Lesser competitors fail 20 times more often than the Fire. We watched a video in which one hapless Brand X tablet literally exploded into pieces when it hit the concrete. The Fire HD bounced like a superball with no harm done.

I was surprised to learn that this new tablet will not have the amazingly great Mayday support offered on the Fire Phone and the HDX tablets. Customers love Mayday, as Amazon likes to say. But it’s obviously very expensive to provide year-round 24/7 video support with hands-on control of the device if desired. So when you are aiming at an ambitious price point, something’s gotta give. You can still get fast, smart, convenient tech support for the Fire HD by chat and phone. But still. I suggested to Dave Limp, Amazon senior vice president for Kindle devices, that customers might be willing to pay for a Mayday premium on the Fire HD, so we’ll see.

Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition 6” ($149) and 7” ($189)

Based on the same Fire HD devices, this package for kids includes an impressive two-year, no-questions-asked guarantee. In other words, if Junior feeds his HD to the family basset hound, Amazon will replace it with a new or refurbished unit.

The Kids Edition HD also comes with a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, a $120 value that provides unlimited access to 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games.

It doesn’t mention this in the press releases we were given, but during the demo I thought the Amazon rep said the Kids Edition HD comes with a free protective case in pink, green or blue. You could probably drop this one from two meters above concrete and the Fire HD might survive.

Summary and Note

All of these new products are available for pre-order, with shipment in October. I will update the links for the specific products as soon as possible. For now, please feel free to explore them using this link, which is coded with my Amazon Associates information, so if you use them to make your purchase, it will benefit the podcast.

I am writing this post on the flight from LaGuardia to Denver, which is due to arrive at 9 p.m. ET just as the media embargo comes off. As soon as Frontier 507 touches down at DIA I will fire up a Hot Spot on the Fire Phone and do my best to get this information faster than a speeding quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor.

And of course, this week’s episode of the Kindle Chronicles will be chock full of interviews, color commentary, and more analysis of today’s gaggle of great new Kindles and Fires.


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Using the Kindle store’s Advanced Search

Using the Kindle store’s Advanced Search

Like a lot of people, I’m surprised sometimes at how unsophisticated the search in the Kindle store is.

You can put an author’s name into the searchbox at the top of a page and count on finding just books by that author.

You can’t search for books that came out this week easily, or the ones that have the most customer reviews, or ones published in a particular country, or that were originally published in a certain century, and so on.

If you get beyond the page top searchbox (say that three times quickly), it’s a bit better, but still not great.

The place to go is to

Kindle eBooks: Advanced Search (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

You have some parameters you can enter there:

Keywords: this is the broadest category. Try anything here…authors, “Swahili edition”, Legos…whatever. If you put a minus sign in front of a term, that should keep that word from being used. If you want to see books about the Kindle, but not about the Kindle Fire, you could do Kindle -Fire. Of course, that’s an example of where it won’t work all that well…a book might be called, “Chess sets of the 19th Century, optimized for the Kindle” and it would appear.



Publisher: the tricky thing here is that the tradpubs  (traditional publishers) have many imprints. Grand Central is an imprint of Hachette…if you search for Hachette, you won’t find those Grand Central titles.

Subject: there are a lot of choices here. These are picked by the publisher, and you may not agree with them…I’ve seen the same book classified as fiction and non-fiction, for example.

  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Kindle Singles
  • Advice & How-to
  • Arts & Entertainment
  • Biographies & Memoirs
  • Business & investing
  • Children and Teens
  • Comics & Graphic Novels
  • Computers & Internet
  • Cooking, Food & Wine
  • Fantasy
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • History
  • Humor
  • Literary Fiction
  • Mystery & Thrillers
  • Parenting & Families
  • Politics & Current Events
  • Reference
  • Religion & Spirituality
  • Romance
  • Science
  • Sports
  • Travel

Reader Age:

  • All Ages
  • Baby – 3 Years
  • 4 – 8 Years
  • 9 – 12 Years
  • Teen


  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Spanish

Publication Date (this is the date the publisher tells Amazon…not necessarily the date of first publication). First, you choose: All Dates; Before; During; After. Then you pick a month, then you enter a year

Sort Results by:

  • Relevance
  • Bestselling
  • Price: Low to High
  • Price: High to Low
  • Avg. Customer Review
  • Publication Date

There you go! If you enter into more than one field, your conditions will combine. In other words, you could search for Stephen King and Spanish.

That’s better than the general searchbox, although I hope Amazon is still working on search.

One other thing: in your search results, look to your left to see more filtering you can do. You may be able to pick a particular author or series, and you typically can further filter for Prime eligible, Whispersync for Voice, and I’ve seen Kindle Unlimited as a choice. Sometimes I even see tags put on by customers, but it appears to be inconsistent.

Hope that helps…

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Another visit with Mr. McGee

Over the past year or two, I've been enjoying finally discovering John D. MacDonald's classic Travis McGee series, which the prolific author wrote from the 1960's until his death in the 1980's. This is the eighth entry in the series, and this time our self-described "salvage expert" McGee tries to figure out where a friend's late husband's fortune disappeared to after his death.

As fans of these books are well aware, the gimmick (though that's really too cheap a word to employ here) of the McGee series is that our man Trav spends as much time communicating his various philosophies to the reader- on topics as diverse as credit cards, human mating rituals, the best way to cook a steak, etc., etc.- as he does discussing the current book's case at hand. Due to the skill of the author, McGee's frequent speeches are, thankfully, always thought-provoking and a lot of fun, even if you don't agree with them all.

In fact, it was one of Travis' social topics this time out that made this book particularly interesting. Along with the imaginative, often very dark, plot about the dead husband and his estate that disappeared before anyone could inherit it, I enjoyed this installment a lot because it addressed a seeming contradiction that's become pretty apparent now that the series has reached book eight: namely, Travis has often lamented the superficiality of most male/female relationships, pointing out that the "new permissiveness" has mainly resulted in people using each other and moving on to the next person, with little true appreciation- especially by men- of the special, sacred aspects of human connection (I'm paraphrasing there, but I think I accurately summed up the character's frequently-expressed view). 

And where's the contradiction, you say? Only in the fact that, over the eight books so far, Travis has routinely moved through one to three women per book, with nothing ever lasting very long. Talk about glass houses.

So, here, in One Fearful Yellow Eye, we finally get a little introspection and speechifying by Travis about this seeming contradiction, and it's interesting. It'll also be interesting to see how some of Travis' conclusions will be applied to his future dealings with women.

But for those mainly looking for a decent mystery story, don't worry, this novel definitely delivers that, too. There's danger, very creepy antagonists, surprising revelations regarding who was behind what, and some very effective suspense. Dark secrets, mortal danger, and all under the radiant sunshine and gorgeous blue skies of southern Florida. What more can readers want?

Between all that, and a new, even more self-aware Travis McGee, One Fearful Yellow Eye amounts to one of the richer installments of the series so far.

Round up #269: how Amazon spent the summer, AmazonShack?

Round up #269: how Amazon spent the summer, AmazonShack?

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Should Amazon buy Radio Shack?

Several articles are talking about Rob Peck of SunTrust Robinson Humphrey’s suggestion that Amazon could buy Radio Shack if the latter declares bankruptcy. Here’s one that I thought had a good discussion of the idea:

MarketWatch article by Jennnifer Booton

I don’t really see it. They certainly don’t want the name or the operating strategy. Generally, when Amazon takes over a business (IMDb, GoodReads, Zappos) it keeps the name and the business runners…and the basic system.

Would owning the physical stores do them any good? Well, first, that would depend on the leases, but let’s skip that.

Many Radio Shacks now are tiny, and they don’t seem to me to have a good layout. I don’t think people would go to an old location out of habit, and then shop at an Amazon store.

They are in expensive malls in many cases.

I suppose they could become lockers, where you can pick up your Amazon orders in your town, but it doesn’t seem like the most efficient place to do it.

Would a strictly Amazon hardware place work? Kindles, Kindle Fires, Fire TVs, Fire Phones? Nope, I don’t see it…maybe as a pop up store at the holidays, but not year round.

It’s not to Amazon’s advantage to encourage you to go to physical stores. They live online…it would be like a shark trying to stalk a New York alley. ;)

Who had a bad summer?

I think you’d be hard pressed to find another three month period that was so negative for Amazon, in terms of public relations. Yes, people didn’t like it when Amazon removed a George Orwell book from their Kindles, and they are still having some repercussions from that, but generally, they got past it.

Recently (in the September 5th issue), Entertainment Weekly did a Summer Winners & Losers piece. In the books category, they classified Amazon as a loser, saying in part that they had made enemies of “…book publishers, the German Government, George Orwell’s estate, and Stephen Colbert — to name a few.”


Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile)

is being pegged (prematurely, in my opinion) as a loser. I have one myself, and there are some real attractions to it. I’ve recently used Firefly a few times to identify TV shows: worked great! Within about ten seconds, it could tell me the name of the episode, who the actors are, and so on. I suspect Amazon will give it three years…if developers start really building for Firefly and dy-per (dynamic perspective), I think it could be a solid 15% player in the SmartPhone market…and a much bigger moneymaker than that for Amazon.

However, Amazon’s success (in terms of sales and market share, not profit) has depended to a large extent, in my opinion, on good will with customers. It doesn’t help that many of the customers’ favorite authors are part of Authors United, which is about to send a new letter to the Amazon boardmembers. You can read the letter here:

It’s worth reading. They make some important points, including that many of them are not Hachette authors, and are therefore not directly impacted by what I call the Hachazon war.

I think this short excerpt from the letter sums up the argument:

“Since its founding, Amazon has been a highly regarded and progressive brand. But if this is how Amazon continues to treat the literary community, how long will the company’s fine reputation last?”

Going to the Board (and publishing their contact information) is an interesting tactic. The Board could pressure the company to change a position.

That’s not to say that I agree with everything in the letter. Amusingly, they suggest that Amazon can’t be forced into doing anything. I say that’s amusing, because Amazon has in the past always lost when they’ve gone up against the big publishers…text-to-speech and the Agency Model are two good examples. In the latter case, it took the Department of Justice to make a change.

That history might be part of what may have convinced Amazon to do an “end around”…to try to keep customers without being so reliant on the tradpubs (traditional publishers). We now see that many of Amazon’s bestsellers are not published by the tradpubs. Would it take a long time to get people to make that switch? Sure, but Amazon is famous for taking the long view.

That can’t possibly do it if the customers aren’t on their side, though…

Checking in on my free Flipboard magazines

I continue to be amazed at the growth of my free Flipboard magazines.

The main idea is that you can use the

Flipboard (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

app, which I read every morning anyway on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile*)

to “flip” articles into a magazine of yours, which you make available to other people for free.

To me, it’s a different medium, in the way that Twitter is.

I doubt I’ve had anything else which has reached more people…although I don’t make any money directly from it, and it certainly doesn’t satisfy my creative nature like this blog does.

Don’t worry…I still love you best. ;)

The Measured Circle

“A geeky mix of pop culture, tech, and the weird world”

The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

  • 2,278 readers
  • 5,630 page flips (by other people of my article choices)
  • 6,124 articles

ILMK (I Love My Kindle)

“The long-running blog about the world of e-books and publishing, which is one of the most popular blogs of any kind in the Kindle store, brings you related news stories”

ILMK magazine at Flipboard

  • 654 readers
  • 35,590 (!) page flips
  • 3,607 articles

The Weird Old Days

“Has the world always been weird? These news stories from the 19th and early 20th centuries bring you tales of lake monsters, the Hollow Earth, ghosts, and more! Edited by Bufo Calvin, of The Measured Circle blog. Note: these articles reflect the culture of their times. As such, they may use terms and concepts which some modern readers will find offensive”

  • 112 readers
  • 381 page flips
  • 269 articles

Doc Savage Fanflip

“Doc Savage, the forerunner of Superman and Batman, has been one of my fictional heroes for a very long time. Thanks in part to Doc, I try to better myself to help others, and to do so with “…no regard for anything but justice.” A “fanflip” is my new term for a Flipboard magazine by a fan, dedicated to one topic. I will bring you not only Doc Savage news, but Doc stories and resources from around the web. Think of it as a scrapbook with news.”

  • 100 readers
  • 272 page flips
  • 89 articles

As you can see, The Measured Circle has the most readers…but ILMK has by far the most article flips by other people.

For more information on them, see Update on my free Flipboard magazines.

What do you think? What would Amazon’s best strategy be to get public opinion back…or do you think they haven’t lost it? Do you think Amazon is working to make the tradpubs irrelevant to their success strategy? Should Amazon buy Radio Shack? Would that be like Futurama coming back after it was canceled? ;) Should Amazon even have brick and mortar stores? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

 Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Books on my Kindles #2 (part 4)

Books on my Kindles #2 (part 4)

This is a continuation of a recent series of posts:

in which I list and talk about the books I currently have downloaded to my Kindles. For more information on this, see that first post linked above.

Listed in the previous posts:

More books…

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (at AmazonSmile*)
by Randall Monroe
4.8 stars out of 5, 145 customer reviews
65% done
borrowed through Kindle Unlimited

I’m enjoying this one a lot! The author (of the blog) takes bizarre hypothetical questions and explains with solid science as to whether or not they would work or what would happen. For example, if every human on Earth stayed away from all other humans for a couple of weeks, would the common cold die out? Monroe explains why it wouldn’t work…do you know why? Yes, there is math here, but you can gloss over it if you want. Importantly, there is also dry humor and wry cartoons (drawn by Monroe). Amazon has been promoting this book, and it’s been in People Magazine…it’s #57 paid in the Kindle store. That’s exactly the kind of book a lot of people want to see in Kindle Unlimited (which it is). Might also make a good gift. If you want to buy it, I’d suggest you list it at There may be price wars on this one, and eReaderIQ will send you a free e-mail when it goes down an amount you specify.

The Mind Boggles: A Unique Book of Quotations (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
by Bufo Calvin (yes, that’s me)
3.2 stars, 4 customer reviews
purchased for $0.99

This is the only one of my books that I generally keep on all my devices…I do use the quotations from time to time when I write, so I like to have it handy.

How To Get Instant Trust, Belief, Influence and Rapport! 13 Ways To Create Open Minds By Talking To The Subconscious Mind (at AmazonSmile*)
by Tom “Big Al” Schreiter
4.7 stars, 176 reviews
not started
purchased for $2.99

This is one of those I buy so I can read something that connects to work (I like to always be doing that).

The Complete Wizard of Oz Series (at AmazonSmile*)
by L. Frank Baum
4.3 stars, 316 reviews
purchased for $0.99

I have more than one Oz collection (I’m a huge fan), and this is one I like. I’m actually re-reading it on my Paperwhite…planning to go straight through, then start over (I read it before I go to sleep). I’ve never been much of a re-reader, but I wanted to experiment with it. :) I’d really like to know it inside out, which used to be easier for me than it is now. I’ve been writing a few Oz things, and that would help. However, I really don’t read it on this device (my Kindle Fire HDX) right now, so I’ll probably take it off.

Kong: King of Skull Island (at AmazonSmile*)
by Brad Strickland, Joe DeVito, John Michlig, Ray Harryhausen (Introduction)
4.3 stars, 32 reviews
1% read

I haven’t really started this one yet. It was a gift, and I am looking forward to reading it.

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer (at AmazonSmile*)
by John Grisham
4.0 stars, 817 customer reviews
not started
purchased for $5.99

My Significant Other like Grisham (and other legal novels), and bought this kids’ book by the popular author. I intend to read it at some point.

Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (at AmazonSmile*)
Philip José Farmer
4.5 stars, 24 reviews
will re-read
purchased for $5.99

This was a gift. I’ve read this before, and it was great! I wanted to have it on my Fire, as a resource. They are writing new Doc Savage novels, and if I ever did write one some day, that would really be a fantasy for me. Doc is one of my literary heroes.

A Christmas Carol (the version I have is no longer available, so no link)
by Charles Dickens
got free

I’m not sure why I have this on my Fire right now…I’ll remove it.

Delightfully Twisted Tales: Close Encounters of the Worst Kind (Volume One) (at AmazonSmile*)
by Nicky Drayden
4.0 stars, 11 customer reviews
19% done
got for free

I like short stories, so I thought I’d give this one a shot. I’d probably have to restart it…don’t recall much about it.

The Dumb Bunnies (at AmazonSmile*)
by Dav Pilkey
4.3 stars, 65 customer reviews
15% done
purchased for $5.42

Pilkey (Captain Underpants, Dog Breath) can do hilarious children’s books (we liked Dog Breath a lot in our house). I think I bought this in part because I was testing something in the formatting.

Batman ’66 #1 (Batman ’66) (at AmazonSmile*))
by Jeff Parker (Author), Jonathan Case (Illustrator)
3.9 stars, 28 customer reviews
got for free

In a bit of an Ouroborus, this is a comic book based on a TV show based on a comic book. :) I’ve finished it…I’ll remove it. It stars Frank Gorshin’s version of the Riddler…his manic performance in the first episodes really helped make the show a success. Gorshin was Emmy nominated for the part. The writing isn’t as clever as the series, and they take the advantage of the medium to do more set pieces, but it was worth reading.

Polaris of the Snows (at AmazonSmile*)
by Charles B. Stilson
4.5 stars, 2 customer reviews
not started
got for free

I’ve heard that this book, from 1917, might be a precedent for Doc Savage (which started in 1933). Looking forward to seeing how it might line up.

Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man That Invented the 20th Century (at AmazonSmile*)
by Sean Patrick
4.1 stars, 2369 reviews
not started
got for free

Tesla’s a remarkable person, and there is a lot of mythology involved. I’m interested in seeing what this book has to say.

Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) (Silo Saga) (at AmazonSmile*)
by Hugh Howey
29% done
purchased for $1.99

I’d heard of Wool when Amazon introduced Kindle Worlds. This was a great price for it, and I knew the reviews were good…so I thought I’d try it, and see if I might want to write in that world. I have enjoyed what I’ve read so far, and I’m using it as sort of backup book…one to go to when I’m between things. Howey is now perhaps the most prominent of the pro-Amazon authors in the Hachazon-Amazon dispute (which I call the Hachazon War).


That takes care of my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile*)

As to our

Kindle Paperwhite (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I’m currently using the “guest Kindle”. I dropped my Mindle and did break it, so this has become my household non-Fire Kindle. The only thing I’m reading on it is the Oz collection above. There are a lot of other books on it, to make it simple for guests who use it. You can see those here:

On our guest Kindle

Well, I hope you’ve found this listing interesting! It might give you some inspiration for books for yourself or as gifts…and it does give you a bit of insight into me, which I think some of you want.

Any comments? Do you like it when I do these? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

 Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Harry Potter and the Tolerance of Others

Harry Potter and the Tolerance of Others

“Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories.”
–Arthur C. Clarke

I’ve said many times here that I think people who are readers tend to be more understanding of viewpoints other than their own.

I’ve also said that I like to see the data. ;)

There has now been a study (more than one, actually) published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology

that specifically tested the concept.

I need to say first that I have not read the actual study: it’s $35 at the above link. I have read several articles about it, though, and I think I can fairly give you an idea of it and my opinion of what it means.

I think two of the more interesting pieces about it were in

Scientific American


The Mary Sue

Based on those, the studies, conducted by Loris Vezzali, Sofia Stathi, Dino Giovannini, Dora Capozza and Elena Trifiletti, established real world prejudice baselines in a group of students, then had some of them read passages of the Harry Potter series (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) that had to do with intolerance, and others read more neutral passages. After retesting the students on the same tolerance question, those which had read the intolerance sections had their prejudice reduced.

One important suggestion is that the fact that the prejudices in Harry Potter were not real ones may have made them more effective.

In the real world, we don’t have a prejudice against “mud bloods”, those of mixed magical and “muggle” heritage.

It allows us to see it in a more abstract way.

Let’s suppose that you already have an intolerance for “x group” in the real world (a race, a sexual preference, a religion, a gender, a national origin, and so on). Reading a book that presents a negative attitude about that group might not be that impactful on you…because of emotional resonance. Even if the book presented the feeling as wrong, you might be empathetic with the characters who had that feeling. I’m not saying this is in the study specifically, by the way…we’ve moved into my interpretation of what I’ve read.

Without spoiling it, let’s take Captain Kirk’s reaction to the Gorn on the original Star Trek. The Gorn was a large, bipedal reptile-like alien. It’s easier for us to see Captain Kirk’s prejudice as being wrong, since we don’t come to the table with a pre-formed opinion of Gorns (although we may have feelings about reptiles).

If, on the other hand, we saw a non-fantasy show which portrayed a character of a particular ethnicity as stubborn, we might have a harder time seeing that as a stereotype. I know of more than one group that refers to itself as stubborn, and may do it proudly. It would be more difficult for us to recognize that idea as a pre-conception applied to an individual, if we had previously been exposed to that concept.

I’ve had an intuitive sense that reading makes people less prejudiced for a long time.

Part of my feeling on that was that reading requires you to develop a “theory of mind”…and of emotion. In order to understand fiction, you need to be able to put yourself into the position of the characters. I would guess that people with certain conditions which make it hard for them to recognize emotions in others may have a difficult time following what is happening in a scene.

If we recognize that Character A is mad at Character B, we anticipate that Character A will say things which express that anger. If Character A says, “I’m sure you are going to get exactly what you want,” we know that isn’t simply well-wishing. If Character B reacts negatively to that statement, we understand why. Someone with no empathy might not understand what was motivating the next bit of action.

Generally, I think that someone who reads broadly, that is, reads different genres and books written from different points of view, will be more tolerant in real life of other’s opinions.

However, I had never thought about the parallel culture element. By that I mean that we can more clearly see what is happening in a fantasy culture which not our own than what is happening in a simulation of our actual conditions.

If you and your Significant Other go to a ballroom dance class, you may find that the instructor will have you first learn the steps with a different partner. Why? When you are dancing with your own partner, there are a whole of other things going than you figuring out where to put your feet. By moving you to someone you don’t know, you are better able to concentrate on learning the dance. Then, they may put you back with your SO.

Reading a science fiction/fantasy book is, in a sense, dancing with an unknown partner.

Kala, Tarzan’s adoptive “ape” mother in the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ book, is more than tolerant of this human. Other members of the Mangani (while we refer to them generally as “apes”, they act more like a species of humans), show their dislike for Tarzan (even the “jungle lord”s adoptive father).

I doubt anyone reading that story, even in 1912, failed to see that message, and to side with Tarzan and Kala.

If a book published in the same time frame had shown a human outsider of a different social group in the same position, I think many pe0ple would have recognized the disruption that the outsider brought to the group…and might have been less likely to agree with Kala.

If what the study indicates is true, we may actually see that those who read Harry Potter when they were children (the study did find different impacts at different ages…or at least, different reasons for the impact) may be more tolerant.

It’s possible that, with the large number of readers, the world may actually have been made better by a fantasy series.

Just as I always suspected…

What do you think? Can people’s morality be changed by fiction? If it can make you a better person (which I believe), can it make you a worse person (which I find harder to accept)? Would some people reading Harry Potter be swayed by the Death Eaters, and emulate them? For years, some English teachers and community leaders discouraged reading fantasy and science fiction (especially in comic book form)…were they right to do that? When people are ridiculed for having “childish fantasies” as adults, is that doing society a disservice? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

 Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


TKC 319 Jim Duncan


Executive Director of the Colorado Library Consortium

Interview starts at 16:26

We could go back as a group of libraries, hundreds of libraries across Colorado, to a Big Five publisher and say, “We’re ready to buy your content directly, and here’s the way it looks: You make your content exposed and available in our marketplace. The collection development librarians, the people who make those decisions of purchasing, go into the marketplace and–click, click, click—they can check all the various titles they want to purchase and the number of copies.

Show Notes and Links:


“Amazon’s Next Kindle Paperwhite To Feature 300 ppi Screen, Better Typography, Arrive Early Next Year” by Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch – November 24, 2013

“Amazon Cuts Struggling Phone’s Price to 99 Cents” by David Streitfeld at The New York Times – September 8, 2014.

“Younger Americans and Public Libraries” Summary of Findings from Pew Research Internet Project – September 10, 2014

“Millennials Read and Use Libraries as Much as Their Parents, Study Finds” at Digital Book World – September 10, 2014

Tech Tips

More about collections

shortcut to the new Manage Your Content and Devices page:

Interview with Jim Duncan

Colorado Library Consortium

“Two States Creating State-Wide Library E-book Collections” by Chirstyna Hunter at Public Libraries Online – September 4, 2014

eVoke 2.0 eBook Project in Colorado


3M Library Systems

Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries

Jamie LaRue, executive director of the Douglas County Libraries on The Kindle Chronicles – July 12, 2013

Marmot Library Network




“Amazon, Publishers, and Readers” by Clay Shirky at Medium – September 12, 2014

David Vandagriff’s post on the Shirky article – September 12, 2014

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky

Music for my podcast is from an original Thelonius Monk composition named “Well, You Needn’t.” This version is “Ra-Monk” by Eval Manigat on the “Variations in Time: A Jazz Persepctive” CD by Public Transit Recording” CD.


In Memory of Capt. Jeffrey L. Atkinson

I am dedicating TKC 319 to the memory of Jeff Atkinson, who passed away on September 11th this week in Casper, Wyoming. He was a son of my friend and E-Books for Troops helper Tom Atkinson, and he will be missed as a Captain in the Casper Fire Department, devoted husband and father of two boys, and a man of innate generosity and good humor. Jeff died after a long struggle with cancer. He was 48.

When his fellow fire fighters learned that news of Jeff’s passing was arriving by social media, they fetched his wife Kristen and then his sons Eddie and Cristopf at their school in a fire truck and took them to the Hospice facility, where the family then rode in the fire truck as it followed the hearse to the mortuary for cremation. Until the funeral, Jeff’s ashes will be honored at the fire station where he served. “If they go out to a fire, they are going to take him with them,” Darlene told me by phone tonight.

Darlene and I will attend Jeff’s funeral next week in Casper. In lieu of flowers, Jeff requested donations to the Atkinson Scholarship Fund at U.S. Bank, 435 West 1st Street, Casper WY 82601.

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