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On e-Reader Tech News we track down the latest e-Reader news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great e-reader tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest devices and accessories.

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January 2018
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Amazon Prime Monthly Option Silently Added in US

While it won’t show up for everybody just yet, some people are beginning to see a new option for Amazon Prime subscriptions.  Instead of the long-running annual fee option, it will now be possible to subscribe to the service for just $7.99 per month.  This might be a premium when you compare the annual total to the more expensive initial investment, but it will be a huge factor in increasing adoption this holiday season.

There has been no official release from Amazon confirming the details about this new subscription plan.  Even seeing the advertisement for it seems to be difficult for some people, though logging out of your Amazon.com account and trying a variety of browsers tends to eventually result in a productive combination.  It is possible that we’re looking at a limited test phase as the company gets ready for a rush of Kindle Fire HD users over the holidays that the company needs to hook on the service as quickly as possible.

Starting…well, whenever this goes more public…the monthly option will put pressure on competing video services like Netflix and Hulu.  While Amazon Prime still lacks the depth of selection that the competing services have available it is still building up a huge library of subscriber-friendly media.  Tie this into the other benefits like the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and the unlimited free two-day shipping to anywhere in the US and it’s a huge bargain that video-only services can’t equal.

So far we haven’t heard from anybody outside the US who has been able to view the ad that gives us the current pricing.  This could mean that it’s going to be a later rollout or it could mean that the offer will start out as exclusive to the US.  The monthly option does seem to be built as an imitation of Netflix’s pricing scheme and as such might not be considered appropriate in markets where the Prime video selection isn’t as robust yet.

Expect to hear about huge increases in subscription sales in the first quarter of next year.  The Kindle Fire HD is the top Android tablet in its size/price bracket and comes with a free month of Amazon Prime membership.  The formerly daunting $79 subscription fee that comes up after that free trial ends was definitely worth it for anybody who shops the site regularly, but the $7.99 monthly fee will be even harder to argue against.  It might be almost $17 more per year than the annual option, but if you buy at least two things per month from Amazon the math becomes quite easy to follow based on shipping savings alone.

Kindle Fire Welcome Screen Ads to Sell For $600,000+

Bringing advertisements to the Kindle line changed the way that eReaders were priced.  The competition has only recently been able to begin matching Amazon’s listings.  Interestingly, Amazon has also surprised customers by offering advertisements that occasionally bring genuine value to them beyond the initial price drop in hardware purchase.  Integration with Amazon’s local advertising only serves to make this more effective, of course.  The success that the Kindle w/ Special Offers as a program has enjoyed made it almost inevitable that the Kindle Fire would be included eventually and it seems that the time has come.

The Kindle Fire is Amazon’s best-selling product, as their first-quarter earnings release made clear.  It shouldn’t take anybody by surprise, then, to find out that they intend to make sure advertising space on the device comes at a premium.  According to Ad Age, that premium might be an even more expensive one than we could have predicted.  Amazon is said to be looking for $600,000 to run an ad on the Kindle Fire’s Welcome Screen.  For a variety of reasons, some of which are apparent, there has not been a great deal of enthusiasm for the idea among advertisers so far.

In addition to this being an impressively high charge for something like this, there was a great deal that was left unsaid.  For one, nobody seems to be quite sure whether or not these ads would be served to the millions of Kindle Fire owners who have already bought their tablets.  Having purchased a new product at full price with no indication that it would be used by Amazon to serve up advertisements, doing so would definitely upset some people and potentially undercut the benefits of buying the ad space.  This isn’t exactly a situation where Amazon is incurring obvious costs on existing units, as the Kindle Fire lacks 3G access.

Also, the company seems to have failed to clearly define what they consider to be the “Welcome Screen”.  Is this the Lock Screen, or something else?  This could very well be a sign that Amazon is getting ready for the next Kindle Fire and the Welcome Screen is something that will be included specifically for the purpose of creating a space for ads.  Unlike the Kindle eReaders, persistent advertisements would not be possible when the tablet is powered down which creates the need for a more creative solution to make the ads worth buying.

If subsidized by advertising, the next Kindle Fire model could be impressively inexpensive.  Existing Kindle w/ Special Offers options are 30% cheaper than their counterparts.  If the same sort of trend applies to the Kindle Fire, it could mean a $150 7″ Kindle Fire or better yet a $200 9.7″ option.  Now they just need to clarify the details to attract some interest.  It is probably a smart buy for many advertisers, but how can they be sure of that when so many things are left unsaid?

Amazon Kindle Loses Access to 5,000 Titles in IPG Dispute

In response to some arm twisting by Amazon, the Independent Publishers Group has decided to take a stand and pull all of their titles from the Kindle Store.  While the Kindle is a great device and the Kindle platform is possibly the best on the market for the consumer right now, this is a move that both makes sense and needed to happen.  The only question now is whether or not either side will be willing to explore the options presented by the situation rather than simply holding their ground and waiting to see who blinks first.

Basically, the problem is over pricing.  The Big 6 Publishers have enough clout to force Amazon to accept the Agency Model price scheme with all of their titles.  I’ve gone into why this is not a good thing plenty of times before and will do so again in the future, so it isn’t really worth indulging in today.  Smaller publishers, including the IPG, sell their content to Amazon wholesale.  This means smaller profits on each individual sale and it allows Amazon to exercise more control over the prices offered to readers.  This is also not necessarily a good thing, as in this case when Amazon is using their position as the main supplier of eBooks in the world to force their suppliers to offer more favorable terms than they can afford.

So we have Amazon wanting to lower prices on Kindle Editions and the IPG wanting to maintain their profits at a level roughly similar to what is made off of print books (based on statements taken from the IPG’s main site).  What we really need is not for one side to win over the other so much as a more adaptive model to emerge.  It makes sense for new releases of Kindle books to be priced similarly to their printed counterparts.  There should always be a premium on new media like that, although the savings inherent in using the eBook format should still be reflected in the price for readers.  When it comes to older titles, though, something else needs to be done.  Unlike physical reprinting, there is no ongoing cost of production.  Aside from the author royalties, they are pretty much pure profit for publishers and distributors.  Perhaps a tiered system would make more sense?

Regardless of any proposals for revamping the system, this is probably going to end messily somehow.  While the loss of a mere 5,000 eBooks won’t make a huge dent in the Kindle’s selection, the press surrounding the drama taking place won’t help Amazon any.  They are as likely to be persuaded to offer somewhat better terms just for the PR boost as to ignore the problem entirely.  On the other hand, the IPG is going to be hurting fairly quickly from the lack of Amazon as a channel.  They can’t last forever.  Where this goes will be based on the support they receive and the pressure that can be brought to bear on Amazon.  If you get the chance, lend your support in some way.  They’re going to need it, and Amazon is going to need an overhaul of some sort sooner or later to keep quality content coming in for their Kindle customers.

Audible Promo Makes Kindle Touch & Kindle Fire Even More Affordable

Amazon’s audiobook subsidiary, Audible, has a long standing promotion for new subscribers that could make your next Kindle upgrade significantly more affordable than expected.  It is not a new thing, in fact I am pretty sure that I’ve mentioned it here before from time to time, but since Amazon hasn’t been spending a lot of time advertising it recently I thought it would be worth another mention.  The way it works is simple enough to summarize here.

We’re making the assumption here that you enjoy the occasional audiobook.  Many people do, for a wide variety of reasons.  If you haven’t had a chance to check out the quality and usefulness of Audible’s selection, but you would like to consider making use of this promotional credit, do not succumb to the instinct to try out the service with a 30-Day Free Trial.  Yes, this is available, but you are only able to make use of one promo every 2 years according to the present terms & conditions and doing so would make you ineligible.  your best bet is to ask around for somebody who is already a member and try out something they have picked up.  It shouldn’t be hard to find someone, in my experience.

That addressed, it’s a simple enough arrangement.  By making the commitment of a 12 month membership plan at $14.95 per month, you get one book each month and $100 any qualifying product.  This includes any number of electronics from MP3 players and headphones to GPS devices.  There are even some tablets and laptops in the selection.  Most importantly, as far as I’m concerned, is that every Kindle product currently available is included in the promo.  This means that your Kindle Fire could be picked up for just $99, assuming you wouldn’t rather just have a free Kindle Touch.

To take advantage, head over to this Amazon promo page.  Under the heading “How to get your $100 promotional code” there is a link to sign up.  Your new audible membership will be tied directly into your Amazon.com account as soon as the transaction is complete.  This offer should be good until at least January 31, 2012.  It may be extended beyond that point, and has been in the past with no notice or fanfare, but you never know for sure.

There’s little risk in this if you are an audiobook fan.  Signing up for 12 books at $15 each isn’t exactly a ripoff on Amazon’s part, and they do not insist that you remain an active member to listen to them.  These days you can download your Audible selection to practically anything, up to 3 devices at a time, and take it to go.  The readings are above average, for the most part, and the service has been around long enough that reviews are plentiful and often highly informative.

Should you find yourself regretting the decision shortly after signing up, have no worries.  The program can be cancelled at any point in the first 30 days.  In that case you would be given the option to either pay the difference on your Kindle Fire (or whatever device you purchased with the $100 discount) or send it back unopened.

Kindle Trade-In Available Now For Those Hoping To Upgrade

As Kindle updates have happened over the years, one of the biggest customer complaints has been that Amazon has completely ignored the existing customers who might want to upgrade to the newest device possible.  This was especially an issue moving from the first generation of the Kindle to the second generation, since it was such an immense improvement and change in aesthetic.  Up until recently, however, the only recourse for early adopters and other existing customers was to either be happy with what you already have or pay full price for the next generation.  At this time, though, if you are a Kindle owner who would like to trade in their existing eReader for credit toward a new one, there is finally an option!

It seems that pretty much anything you have on hand is eligible.  Even first generation Kindles will get you up to $12 depending on condition.  That might not be much compared to the initial purchase price, but using a 4 year old eReader to get 15% off a new Kindle 4 isn’t a bad deal at all, considering all the improvements that have taken place.  Surprisingly, even non-Kindles are eligible.  At this time, a non-touchscreen Kobo or Sony Reader Pocket will get you around $20.  You’ll find any number of competing products to be worth some money if you are interested in switching to the Kindle, or just want some Amazon credit in general (Nook excluded at the moment).

As one cautionary note, be aware that when trading in your eReader you are unlikely to get the full “up to $__” value for your device as this is for a completely unworn product with its original packaging intact.  I doubt many people have hung on to their old boxes on the off chance they might come in handy someday.  The difference between the “Like New” price listed and a “Good” product is generally between $1 and $15, proportional to the value of the device.

I can see this being a valuable move for Amazon in a couple different ways.  Obviously it spurs adoption of new devices.  The Kindle Fire is doing great, of course, but more is always better.  Also, the Kindle Touch is probably where Amazon wants focus at this time as far as eReaders go, so it makes sense to provide an easy way to upgrade.  No matter what device is chosen, there is a good chance that it will be something that Amazon can present ads on, increasing the revenue stream along those lines going forward.  There is also a high probability that, since the Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch are the newer, shiner eReaders at the moment, this will mean fewer devices with unlimited 3G access floating around.  While they have not gotten rid of that feature for new Kindle Keyboard purchases, the restriction on the new device makes it clear that there is an interest in cutting down those ongoing expenses.

Regardless of the motivation for offering the deals, though, this should help some people who want to get their hands on a new Kindle to do so.  It might not be a lot of the price being offset in some cases, but everything makes a difference in the end.

Here is the link to the Trade-in department of Amazon where you can choose any stuff for trade-in transactions. In the “Find the Items You’d Like to Trade In” select “Electronics” category from the drop-down menu and type Kindle in “Search by title or keyword(s)” box. After clicking the “Go” button you will see the options for trade-in transactions.

 

 

How Much Do You Have To Read For The Amazon Kindle To Be Worth Buying?

There are any number of reasons to pick yourself up a Kindle, from convenience of transportation to instant 24-hour delivery of all new book purchases, but let’s take it down to the basics for a moment.  Assuming that you have absolutely no concern besides the direct tradeoffs with paper, how much do you have to read before your Kindle has justified itself?

Pricing

We’ll make the somewhat depressing assumption that you read nothing but current bestsellers.  I sincerely hope this isn’t the case, of course, but it makes the price estimation easier for me and negates the obvious point of free books that you should already be aware save you money.  Looking through the top 15 bestselling new hardcover book releases in the Amazon.com store(not the Kindle Store since that might indicate a customer predisposition toward discounted books), there are 13 books that the Kindle saves money on, one where the price is even based on pre-order discounting, and one book that is not available in Kindle format.

The actual average savings on those books that are available is around $2.47(ranging from $0.98 to $5), but for the sake of argument we can round it down to $2.  Always better to err on the side of caution.  This means approximately 58 Kindle books purchased during the life of your Kindle device before it has saved you money, if you pick up the $114 Kindle WiFi w/ Special Offers.  Now, I’m aware that reading five books per week is abnormal so my average doesn’t really play into this.  For the sake of argument, it seems safe to assume a conservative pattern of finishing a book every two weeks.  That would mean that you have to own a Kindle for a little over two years before it saves you any money, assuming this level of consumption and no taking advantage of special offers or hunting for savings.  Not unreasonable, if perhaps more than some would like.  These things do work pretty much forever if you take care of them.  It also might be worth knowing that Kindle owners are said to buy books at more than three times the rate of paper book customers, which speeds things up a bit.

Impact

Another major concern that has come up before is the environmental impact of eReading.  While there is definitely a lot more that goes into the manufacture of an eReader like the Kindle than ever would in a paper book, there is more than that to take into account. Between production, transportation, storage, shipping, and all the other associated fuel costs, each book creates a noticeable amount of pollution.  The question is where these numbers cross over.

Last year, in reference to Kindle 2 production, a report came out on the impact of producing Kindles compared to that of books which said that a Kindle creates a bit over 20 times as much pollution as a book in its creation.  You could always assume that Amazon has gotten more efficient in their production with the next generation of the device, improved processes being good at that sort of thing, but let’s ignore that speculation and focus on what numbers we actually have.  Round that first estimation up to 30 books worth if you want to account for the impact of charging your Kindle and I would be willing to bet that there are still very, very few people ever to own an eReader who didn’t manage to offset these totals.

Putting aside used books and libraries, since if you buy used books then you already know the advantages and the interaction between libraries and Kindles is in flux at the moment and hard to judge in the long term, picking up a Kindle, or any eReader, is just generally a good long term investment for you and the planet.

Kindle 3G w/ Special Offers Now Only $139

Looks like the Kindle 3G has just become that much more affordable. Apparently, thanks to an agreement with AT&T involving Kindle advertisements, Amazon has been able to drop the price of their 3G model noticeably. Now, for $139, just $25 more than the Kindle WiFi w/ Special Offers, you can’t really argue with the cost of convenience.

The move is well timed, given the current level of competition in the eReader world.  While the Kindle is still pretty much on top, especially internationally, the new Nook Simple Touch and Kobo eReaders are heating things up.  Since there are a few months to wait before the next iteration of the Kindle hits shelves, so to speak, it is important to emphasize the things that they have and nobody else does.  Things like the only really useful 3G connection on an eReader.  There isn’t one at all on the new Nook or Kobo releases, and the Nook 1st Edition is very limited in many ways including the 3G, by comparison.

This also does a lot to demonstrate the potential in the Kindle’s advertising support system.  A surprising number of people got upset at the Kindle w/ Special Offers being discounted rather than entirely free on release.  While I believe that to have been a bit optimistic for something being subsidized by an untried source of revenue, as advertisers catch on the prices will continue to drop.  In addition to the new deal with AT&T, the details of which have not been publicly released to the best of my knowledge, the Kindle is currently being sponsored by such companies as General Motors, Proctor & Gamble, and Chase.  If they were not seeing positive results, it would seem unlikely that even another big advertising partner would be enough to bring a price drop along with it.

For those who are in the market for a new eReader, the Kindle 3G w/ Special Offers retains all of its original functionality.  The screen, battery life, interface, and general readability are all as great as ever.  Even the ads, as much as they are conceptual abhorent to many when talking about their inclusion in a reading experience, are unobtrusive and never even hinted at while you are looking at a book.  The only major differences over the Kindle 3G are that this one is $50 cheaper and gives you something besides the slideshow of author portraits to see as screensavers.

For now this discount only applies to the 3G option, leaving the Kindle WiFi w/ Special Offers witting at $114.  Still a great price, but I would not be at all surprised to see a major sale in the near future.  While it is conceivable that the extra discount has at its core a service agreement that makes the 3G coverage on new Kindles cheaper for Amazon to maintain, which would in turn not apply to the WiFi models, a $25 difference doesn’t exactly set the two Kindles apart much and a $99 Kindle would make for some truly excellent sales numbers if analysts are to be believed.  Something to keep an eye on in weeks to come.

High-End Kindle Tablet Made For Video Streaming?

As the weeks go by and the holiday sales season gets ever closer, we get more and more details about the upcoming Kindle Tablets.  Yes, their very existence has only been hinted at in anything resembling official Amazon.com communication, but we know it’s coming.  It’s only a matter of figuring out in what forms and with what focus.  Now we have a bit more of a line on what the higher-end option of what appears to be the initial release group will be.

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to find out that the Kindle Tablet reportedly codenamed “Hollywood” would have a visual media focus to it.  Now, though, we have a bit more to go on than random conjecture based on that name.  A recent report note from investment firm Detwiler Fenton indicates that the anticipated tablet will have a 10″ color screen as well as a bundled trial of an Amazon video streaming service such as, or possibly exactly the same as, that offered at the moment as a perk to Amazon Prime members.  It will also feature significantly more processing power than the other Kindle Tablet offering or offerings expected to launch around the same time, which when added to the anticipated pricing of around $399 would seem to make it a very real threat to the industry leading iPad.

Now, we know that Amazon has been doing so amazingly well with the existing Kindle line because of their focus on selling content for the whole platform rather than simply a line of physical eReading devices.  Rumors go so far as to say that the Kindle itself is being sold near cost.  It makes sense, by extension, that they will want to continue this approach in other forms of media if possible. Video makes perfect sense, as does music.  They have a presence in the retail market for both, in addition to the app marketplace that we have to assume will work exceptionally well with the new Kindle Tablets.  I anticipate an expansion of all of these either in terms of content or functionality before the launch, of course.

If the Kindle ‘Hollywood” Tablet is going to be pointed at the iPad, like many of us are assuming, it will only really have a chance if Amazon can compete successfully against the iTunes store.  That means streaming audio and video, cloud storage, and an amazing selection.  Nothing less will do.  Right now the Amazon Instant Video Store is a decent start, but it only does so much.  We are definitely likely to see an expansion of the offerings by the holidays as well as an extended Amazon Prime membership benefit list that takes advantage of it.  What else happens will depend in large part on what the other new Kindle offerings are focussed on.  A pocket-sized Kindle, perhaps, with a heavy music or audiobook emphasis?  There are a bunch of different openings for new media-consumption devices that remain to be exploited.  You have to admit, though, video is a great start.

A $99 Kindle For The Holidays?

There has been an observable trend of declining Kindle prices ever since the first incarnation of Amazon’s popular eReader in 2007.  It has actually been surprisingly steady and at one point led to rumors that there will be a free Kindle arriving in 2011 or 2012.  I’m not going to say that there won’t be a free Kindle at some point.  There very well might, especially if Amazon finds enough advertisers willing to buy into their Kindle w/ Special Offers scheme.  For now, however, I think that the more realistic hope would be a version of the same priced at, or simply a price cut to, less than $100.

For many people, this number has become emblematic.  It is the point at which eReaders become “worth it”, for whatever reason.  Even with the release of the recent ad-supported Kindle at just $115, people have still been expressing disappointment and outrage over that last fifteen dollars.  Now, we have to assume that Amazon is aware of this.  I don’t know how large a group of people it represents, but it is definitely a vocal one.  I can see two major reasons why they might have chosen, up until now, to avoid giving in to these pressures.

The most obvious is simply production costs.  Many reports have estimated that Amazon is almost certainly selling the Kindle at or below the cost of manufacture.  If this is the case, then even with Kindle book sales on the rise I could definitely understand a certain hesitation on the part of Amazon to accept a loss of fifteen dollars per unit on millions of units per year.  Not only would I call this scenario likely, I would say that the release of a Kindle supported by advertising is evidence of Amazon’s need to find creative ways to bring costs down.  As the trend catches on and advertisers buy into the idea, it should be possible for prices to drop even more.

The other explanation, which is not exclusive of the first by any means, is that Amazon wanted to catch people’s attention with a price drop early in the year but still have something in reserve for the holiday season.  Let’s face it, the time to be launching an ad campaign highlighting your newly affordable piece of portable electronics is right before the holiday season.  By holding off for a bit, it gives them room to time the all important move into impulse buy pricing.

There have been chances to grab eReaders for less than $100 before, including refurbished Kindles and Nooks that I’ve seen for as low as $80, but this would be the first regularly available, new, full featured, current generation eReader to hit that level as far as I know.  We can be sure that the Nook will follow suit as soon as B&N figures out how to afford it, but this would be an even bigger advantage for the Kindle than it has at present. It would also do a great deal to set the product apart even further from any Tablet PC offerings that Amazon may or may not be releasing this year, which seems vital if they are following through with the plan to continue offering a dedicated eReader indefinitely.

How to Productively Criticize High Kindle Book Prices

I’ve noticed no small number of negative reviews going around for Kindle books that publishers insist on pricing above their corresponding hardcover editions. I wholeheartedly approve!  What makes it worth commenting on at the moment, however, are the ones that come from verified customers.  Seriously, how does that make sense?

Let’s think about this for a moment.  When you buy an eBook, you are making a statement.  You are telling publishers that “yes, this eBook is worth at least as much to me as you are asking me to pay for it.”  If it were not, then you would have kept the money.  I can almost understand where somebody who buys an alternate edition of a given book, say a paperback, can justify popping into the reviews to talk about the fact that they would have rather had an affordably priced eBook, but once again it fails to mean anything to a publisher who is already going out of their way to encourage their customers to avoid eBooks and stick to the traditional paper medium.  The publishers simply will not care about your complaints while they can view them as confirmation of the view that readers are willing to cave to the pressures of the model they have forced on the industry.

But obviously you want to read a good book, right?  Otherwise there really wouldn’t be much of a point in having a Kindle to begin with.  If you don’t purchase something to read, you don’t get to do the reading.  Fortunately, the sheer volume of options available, especially now, should work in your favor.  This is a great chance to indulge in a collection of new authors.  I would say there’s an excellent chance that you’ll be able to find something to your taste among the increasingly prominent crowd of self-publishers, if nothing else. Personally, I also find a great deal of excellent expense-free reading material from sites like Manybooks and the Baen Free Library, although I can understand that some people might be hesitant due to their “limited” selections (Not much in the way of current Bestsellers).

Whether you like the idea of altering your reading habits or not is going to be a personal choice.  I tend to view a reason to go through the wider variety of publications as a positive rather than an inconvenience.  The alternative is to accept that when it comes down to it, the publishers have a point and you simply do value grabbing the newest books at the highest prices to the point where they can get away with continuing on the path they have been.  Complaining isn’t going to do much, as far as I can see, if it’s followed by caving in on the issue.

The Kindle offers a practically unlimited selection of eBooks to choose from.  More than any person could hope to read in a lifetime.  And that’s great, of course.  What brought many people around to the eReader alternative was the promise of less expensive reading material that reflects the lower cost of production.  The desire for, or even necessity of, that change is something that I feel should be made clear to the publishing houses, even if it means putting off grabbing a popular new book or heading to the library to read it there.