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.
The Kindle Fire does a lot of things really well. From the streaming video library to its many apps, there’s always something to do. Despite all the effort at polish though, the majority of the sound playback abilities seem pretty much tacked on. Admittedly this is not meant to be a portable MP3 player, as might be assumed based on the weight and slightly less than pocket compatible size. There are a few things that could have been done to bring the level of functionality up a bit. While it isn’t recommended that anybody pick up a Kindle Fire just for the auditory stimulation under most circumstances, it is definitely nice to know what the tablet is capable of to get the most out of your new toy.
The obvious sound function is listening to music. The integration for this is easily as clean as that offered for Instant Video titles, allowing users to browse by album, artist, or song as well as produce, edit, or start playlists. Downloading albums to local storage is simple enough, but streaming from the Amazon Cloud Player is excellent and the extra 5GB of storage for user uploads that were not purchased through Amazon will allow for a lot of music even if you don’t have any urge to pay for extra space. The store isn’t obtrusive, but it does let you look up albums based on the usual factors or look up other albums by artists already in your collection with the touch of a button.
In most cases this will work exactly the same as Music playback, assuming you’re not using Audible. If you are using Audible, things don’t get much different. The Audible app comes pre-installed with every Kindle Fire. Just pop over to the App page and you’ve got access to everything you own so far. The internal store seems to be just a mobile skin over their website, but it does the job. My only complaint is that if your audiobook is from Audible you can’t stream it. The need to download can be a pain, given the size of some books and the Fire’s limited storage space.
Read to Me
Unlike every previous Kindle release with any form of audio output, this feature is missing. Amazon hasn’t made any real comment on this so far, and it seems doubtful that they will. Whether it’s an effort to push Audible to the front of things or a desire to break away from this feature, there is no indication whatsoever that this will change. Annoying, but possibly predictable.
The most important concern in all these cases is probably how it will sound. Sadly, this is where things come up short the most. The Kindle Fire has stereo speakers built in, but they are about as mediocre as might be expected. The headphone jack works just fine, and will probably be great for watching movies, but doesn’t seem as useful as it might be given the tablet’s lack of portability compared to an average MP3 player. There also isn’t any way to output high quality audio to a stereo system, which would have been nice, or to hook up a bluetooth headset. Overall, just good enough without impressing in any way.
The usefulness here will come from audiobooks and listening to music while reading. Chances are good by now that you have a better, more portable MP3 player, so it would be silly to try to turn this into one unless you really need the streaming option. The audio quality on the speakers is fine for listening to books while you do something out, and just about anything will do for listening to music while reading a book. These are, at best, perks for Kindle Fire owners, but it’s the little things that add up.
Amazon has just announced a large increase in the number of titles available through their Instant Video service, giving customers access to over 100,000 Movies and TV Shows. Amazon Prime members can access over 9,000 of those selections at no extra cost beyond their existing membership fees. While this is of course a good move in general, it works even better with the knowledge of a video-focused Kindle Tablet right around the corner.
There is some fairly good evidence to support the theory that Amazon is getting ready to try to do with video what they already accomplished in eBooks with the Kindle. Even if you leave aside the rumors of the Kindle ‘Hollywood’ Tablet, supposedly being produced for late 2011/early 2012 with lots of processing power and a larger screen than most tablets, the support structure is getting pretty large. Already you can access Amazon Instant Video via many HDTVs, set-top boxes, BluRay players, TiVos, and more, even if you don’t like to watch video on your PC. Like with the Kindle, once you purchase something you can access it through any device registered to your account. For the most part this is even true of the Amazon Prime selections.
Up until now, the video library has been rather thin. It was clear that Amazon was simply testing the waters and no real threat to any of the more established names in the field. Now, however, things are getting more impressive. You have a fairly good movie selection, admittedly heavily weighted to older titles (though not so much as was the case previously), and access to many TV shows within a day of airing.
Does this mean that Amazon is poised to shove Netflix out of the way and step into a well-deserved spot on top? Not really. By all accounts Netflix hasn’t even really noticed them enough to consider it real competition yet. Who knows what might change in the future, though, with Netflix customers quite vocally unhappy about the handling of recent price hikes due to a jump in operational costs. It seems like just about everybody is trying to jump on the video streaming bandwagon right now, which means lots of competition but also lots of potential for a well-planned and well-supported endeavor.
With the upcoming Kindle Tablets, Amazon is in a highly advantageous position. Not only can they advertise hardware optimized for video streaming and integrated directly into existing Amazon.com services of all sorts, but a simultaneous release of an Instant Video for Android App would earn them sales space on the vast majority of competing Tablet PCs.
Such an app would have to be something of an inevitability both because of the choice of OS for the Kindle Tablets and the fact that Amazon’s main goal seems to be harnessing media distribution rather than sales. No need to completely close off the competing hardware if you are making your money elsewhere anyway. The Kindle platform has given them a solid grip on the eReading market by being device-independent. I think we can count on Amazon to have learned from their own success.
Do you like reading? Do you like audiobooks? Would it be useful to combine these two book consumption methods into one convenient package? If you’re answering ‘yes’ a lot here, it’s probably a good time to look at Audible and the Kindle. While it isn’t precisely a new offer, at the moment you can pick up a new Kindle w/ Special Offers for just $14 when you sign up for a year of Audible.com’s audiobooks at $14.95 per month.
Audible is probably the best place I have found so far to grab audiobooks, at least in terms of selection and reliability. While on occasion I have found specific books with better readings elsewhere, I have yet to be unhappy with anything I’ve found through the site and in general they provide the best. Their monthly plans include one or two audiobooks per month, with a small number of rollover opportunities if you want to skip a month or save up for newer books being released at the same time. Technically they also do have annual bulk options for 12 or 24 books at a time, but that tends to be a bit much to digest all at once.
In addition to getting access to a selection of over 85,000 audiobooks, signing up through the banner in the Kindle Store will provide a coupon code good for $100 off of a selection of devices. The Kindle w/ Special Offers is probably the best deal of the bunch, but there are others including other Kindles up to the Kindle DX, a range of Apple iProducts, and the occasional GPS device. I’m going out of my way to specifically push the Kindle connection because the integration of the Kindle Store with Audible.com has made it amazingly simple to get everything working perfectly. You can also, of course, transfer your Audible purchases to your iPhone, computer, or even burned CD. The latter option is especially useful for long drives, I’ve found.
What made this at all worth noting right now, besides simply a desire to highlight the advantages that this deal, and Audible in general, provides to Kindle owners new and old, is the recent stir over the pseudo-children’s book, Go The F–k To Sleep by Adam Mansbach. In addition to being a source of cathartic entertainment to many parents, babysitters, teachers, etc., and of course a source of outrage for the uptight, Go The F–k To Sleep stands as an example of the sort of success that internet fame and word of mouth can bring an otherwise small production. A few copies of the book found themselves on popular filesharing networks and the buzz that this generated had it a number one spot on the Amazon lists before it was even released.
For now, Audible account-holders can get a copy of this book read quite effectively by Samuel L. Jackson for free as long as the limited time offer holds out. I wouldn’t say that this alone is incentive enough to spend a year paying $14.95/month, but put it together with 12 professional audiobooks and a nearly free Kindle and you’ve got quite the deal.
Most everybody has probably at least heard of Audible at this point. Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has done a good job of promoting their services both as a general thing and in connection with the Kindle. Now, to make things even easier for fans of Kindle audio books, users should find themselves able to download their new acquisitions directly over the WiFi connection just like a normal book purchase. It’s still not available via the 3G, but that should come as little surprise given the size of audio books compared to your average Kindle data transfer. It doesn’t seem likely Amazon would want to foot the bill for doing that via WhisperNet any time soon, really.
This is a nice change. While it was hardly a major problem to download and transfer your Audible purchases to the Kindle via the computer, anything that streamlines the process has to be considered an advantage. Not only does this save users the potential hassle of arranging temporary storage space and such, it means improved mobility for those of us who like the audio book option on occasion. Not much is more annoying than finding yourself without a book to listen to when you’re not in a position to read but still want to enjoy a book.
For anybody who might be unfamiliar with the Audible service, here’s the gist of how it works. You can sign up for either a monthly or yearly membership. Each month or year, you will be charged a set rate and given “credits” as a result. The basic membership option, for example, will give you one credit every month as your payment is received. These credits can then be redeemed for the book of your choice. Not much more to it. I haven’t run into any interesting books that required more than one credit, but the site does assure users that this is something to be aware of.
If you want to grab Audible books via the Kindle itself, you can link your new Audible account directly to your Amazon account and have all of your existing One-Click Purchasing options simply work. This is done by signing in through the Audible.com site. It’s simple. After you’re linked in, you can head to the Audible section of the Kindle store using your Kindle and look around. Members can either use their credits at checkout or, if you’re out of them or would rather not use them for whatever option, pay using your usual method.
It’s a bit more expensive per title if you want to purchase these audio books with cash rather than using the credit system, but there are options for multiple credits per month or, as mentioned earlier, a yearly plan that gives you 12 credits all at once and is renewable at any time. Just in case you get hooked and can listen to more than one or two per month.
At the moment, there are over 50,000 titles available through this service and the basic plan is going for only $7.49 for the first three months. I recommend giving it a try if you have any interest whatsoever. The pricing is reasonable and you’ll definitely notice a major difference over the Text-to-Speech option. There’s even a 30-Day free trial that provides 2 free audio books!
Here is another emerging resource with free books – bookrix.com. This is not the largest e-book library in the world; it has a little bit less than 13,000 books available for your pleasure. The site has a good and clean design and it is not overwhelmed by ads.
The downside of this library is that it is less Kindle-friendly as we are used to. BookRix offers books in EPub format and that means conversion for the Kindle crowd. Hello, Calibre.
There is an optional registration for the book lovers, which is actually a good thing – BookRix has a pretty solid roster of active users. I like when e-book libraries have user involvement, because that usually means there are book reviews. And book reviews help me in deciding which new and unusual book to pick.
So if you were thinking to read good old Edgar Poe’s The Raven for free, then welcome to BookrRix ($0.99 on Amazon). Also, BookRix has Joseph Conrad’s Mirror of the Sea available for free ($0.95 on Amazon).
BookRix is an emerging-author-friendly site. So, if you are hiding your first book creation under the pillow, not sure if the world is ready to buy it, but kind of, hesitantly, but surely, want the world to read it for free, then Bookrix has a good audience for you. Try it out! Maybe your baby will get harrypotter-popular!
And, of course, if you are not a snobby classics-only avid reader, then perhaps you will discover a young author you will fall in love (of literary admiration, that is).
There are a lot of good reasons to pick up a Kindle. It’s neat to read, occasionally very useful for its ability to be a portable internet device, and it saves on effort and potential injury when you compare it to the hundreds or thousands of paperbacks you might otherwise have to carry down a flight of stairs on moving day. One of the less talked-about uses, however, is as a vessel for audiobooks.
Having worked with the Kindle while helping out students with learning disorders, I can tell you that this is a really useful feature. It’s also proven helpful with an elderly relative of mine who sometimes has trouble even with the device’s largest font sizes, but who still really loves her books. The Text-to-speech feature isn’t bad, though it can trip over some words in odd ways sometimes. I personally prefer to go with actual narrated book readings. It adds something that, if you’re forced or inclined to be listening to a book rather than reading it yourself in the first place, helps significantly with personal immersion.
Since I’m sure there are those of you out there who agree with me, as there are certainly those who find my position ridiculous, I figured it was worth pointing out the current incentive for people still on the fence about the usefulness of eReaders. For the moment, Amazon is offering a discount of $100 off their device if you sign up for a year of Audible.com membership. I don’t really know how limited a time this offer is, but I’d guess not terribly. It’s been around a while. I personally consider it a worthwhile investment if you’re interested in audiobooks. Audible provides good prices on good readings of good books. What more can you ask, really? Chances are that if you’ve read this far into the post, you’re interested in audiobooks anyway. Might as well get a discount on your Kindle and a new source for your reading all at once, right?
Macworld reports that Amazon would allow copyright holders to disable text-to-speech feature which was introduced in 2nd generation Kindle. This seems to be part of the concession with the Authors Guild. Earlier this month Authors Guild accused Amazon that this feature infringes copyright and undermines the market for audio books. In it’s statement Amazon stated that the text-to-speech feature is legal, because no copy is made, no derivative work is created and no performance is given.
Well.. this seems to settle it. In my personal opinion text-to-speech was no threat to audio books because although much better than most voice synthesis systems I’ve experienced so far it still falls way short of professionally read audiobooks. It is also as much copyright infringement as me reading bed time stories to my daughter… But that’s just my personal opinion. It’s amazing what a law suit threat can do in a modern corporate world.
I just hope that few copyright holders would actually choose to exercise this ability to opt-out because this feature actually comes quite handy on long commutes when I don’t have any audiobook to listen to.