The Amazon Echo is sold out in US

On Monday, I posted that Amazon had most of their Echo and Kindle devices on sale. Today, Amazon .com is showing the both the black and white versions on the Echo are now showing as currently unavailable:

Note that the page says that “We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.” While this is boilerplate language for many out of stock items on Amazon, this may lend some credence to the idea that Amazon is clearing out the original Echo for a generation 2 device.

Interesting! I am ready for a generation 2 Echo! What about you?

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Engadget looked at AIs for a week and it was great

There is no doubt about it: AI and digital assistants are a big trend right now (and possibly, the wave of the future). In any given week, look on any tech-related site and you are almost guaranteed to find at least one article on Amazon’s Alexa, the Google Home or the next upcoming new digital assistant for your phone.

This week, Engadet decided to take an in-depth look at five of the best-known assistants: Cortana, Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Bixby. Each reporter was asked to live with the assistant for one week and write about their experiences. Here are the results:

The accounts of the experiences are humorous and engaging. They are also extremely familiar to anyone who has gone through the frustrating getting-to-know-you period with a new AI system. I have used four out of the five (Bixby will have to wait until Samsung decides to roll it out to S7 Edge owners like me). Depending on whether you are team PC or team Mac or iPhone or Android, your experience with each will probably vary, a fact noted in several of the articles.

If you are a music fan, what music streaming service you subscribe to will also make a huge difference. The Google Home provided a totally different experience during my YouTube Red trial than when I went back to my free Google Music account. The same was true for the Amazon Echo with and without Prime Music or an Amazon Music subscription.

All in all, this series was one of my favorite reads this week. What do you think?

Great prices on Echo family, Kindles and Fire Tablet devices

This week, Amazon is having some supper sales on devices in the Echo, Kindle and Fire families. The following items are currently on sale through August 26, 2017:

Alexa/Echo Devices:

Amazon Echo – $100 (Normally $179.99) Available in Black and White. Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $20 each!

Echo Dot – $45 (Normally $49.99) Available in Black and White. Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $9 each!

Amazon Tap – $100 (Normally $129.99)  This is the Alexa-Enabled Portable Bluetooth Speaker that can also be used hands free.  Available in Black only.  Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $20 each!

(Note: the Echo devices are actually on sale through September 4, 2017.)

Kindles:

Kindle – $60 (Regularly $79.99) Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $12 each.

Kindle Paperwhite – $100 (Regularly $119.99)  Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $20 each.

Kindle Voyage – $180  (Regularly $199.99)  Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $36 each.

Kindle Essentials Bundle – $95 (Regularly $129.97) Includes Kindle, cover and power adapter.

Kindle for Kids Bundle – $80 (Regularly $124.98) Includes Kindle, cover and 2-year guarantee.

Kindle Paperwhite Essentials Bundle – $135 (Regularly $179.97) Includes Kindle Paperwhite, leather cover and power adapter.

Kindle Paperwhite Travel Bundle – $180 (Regularly $269.97) Includes Kindle Paperwhite, leather cover, power adapter and travel case.

Kindle Voyage Essentials Bundle – $235 (Regularly $279.97) Includes Kindle Voyage, leather cover, and power adapter.

Kindle Voyage Travel Bundle – $285 (Regularly $374.96) Includes Kindle Voyage, leather cover, power adapter and travel case.

Note: Prices are for devices with special offers. Most bundles offer a choice of cover color. There is also an option to add a three month membership to Kindle Unlimited for only $1.99. (Restrictions apply.)

Fire Tablets:

All-New Fire 7 Tablet with Alexa, 7″ Display, 8GB – $40 (Regularly $49.99) Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $8 each.

All-New Fire HD 8 Tablet with Alexa, 8″ HD Display, 16 GB – $60 (Regularly $79.99) Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $12 each.

All-New Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet, 7″ Display, 16 GB – $80 (Regularly $99.99) Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $16 each.

All-New Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet, 8″ HD Display, 32 GB – $99 (Regularly $129.99) Amazon is also offering this for 5 monthly payments of $20 each.

All-New Fire 7 Essentials Bundle – $63 (Regularly $87.97) Includes tablet, cover and screen protector.

All-New Fire HD 8 Essentials Bundle with Fire HD 8 Tablet (16 GB, Black) – $88 Includes tablet, cover and screen protector.

These prices, especially for the Amazon Echo, are really tempting. I would like an Echo for the basement – I am thinking that Alexa will get me more motivated to do laundry, LOL!

What about you? Do these prices or the options of a low monthly payment plan tempt you?

So I finally bought a Kobo e-reader…

I finally bit the bullet and bought a Kobo Aura One. (Yes, I know I am not exactly new to the party, LOL!)  I had been thinking about this purchase for quite a while. I really, really love my Kindle Paperwhite but the Aura One had several features that sounded really attractive, including a larger screen, and more choice in font sizes, weights and styles. As I have been reading a lot of library books, the feature that sounded the most interesting was the integration with Overdrive for library books. I also wanted a device that would work with books purchased from the Google Play bookstore that I can’t read on my Kindle.

First, a few unboxing pictures:

The Kobo Aura One has a really nice box within a sleeve:

Sleeve

Box Front

Box Rear

The Kobo is nicely packaged inside the box:

 

The cable and inserts are underneath a tab in the box:

I like third-party covers that I can affordably swap out when I am in the mood. Rather than the Kobo branded cover, I bought the HUASIRU Ultra Slim Case from (ironically) Amazon.

The cover fits well and has a sleep-wake feature.Here’s a picture of the cover alongside the e-reader.I found the setup of the WiFi and the Overdrive to be a little tedious, but that is probably because Amazon makes set up really easier on their devices.

While I am still putting the device through its paces, here are a few early thoughts:

First, the WiFI on this device is just wonky. Maybe its my setup, but even after several updates, the WiFi is still a problem. It can’t seem to find the connection and doesn’t remember the network passwords unless reboot my router. That makes downloading content inconvenient to say the least. This is probably my biggest frustration with this e-reader.

I had also hoped for more out of the Overdrive integration. Unfortunately, the Overdrive feature only allows you to have one library account connected. Since I have accounts with three different libraries, this doesn’t offer the seamless experience that I had hoped for. The first update to the device changed the search the library catalog feature and has made it harder to use. If I have also sent a book to my Paperwhite or Kindle app, then I can no longer return the book from the Kobo.

In my opinion, I also found that the promise of better font weights did not live up to the hype I’d heard in the way I had hoped. While you can do some customization of fonts and sizes, the overall darkness of of Kobo Aura One fonts left a lot to be desired for me.

Both the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kobo Aura One have 300 ppi screens. The Paperwhite screen seems clearer to me, possibly because of the font weights.

Here is a picture comparing the screens on the KIndle Paperwhite (left) to the Kobo Aura one (right). The book is Thin Air from the Shetland mysteries series by Ann Cleeves. Both device are set to maximum brightness. The Kindle font is Helvetica and the Kobo font is set to Avenir Next. There is a decided difference in the lighting between the two devices.The font on the Kobo appears lighter than that of the Paperwhite, even though the Kobo font is set at almost the maximum weight.I am enjoying the larger screen size a lot. The larger size works really well on a stand so that I can use it without having to hold it. Since I am vision impaired and use a fairly large font, I also like having more text on the screen before a page turn.

I am still getting used to the interface on the device and have yet to try out some of the other features like the orange light and the waterproofing.

While I have been a bit disappointed in some of the extra features of the device, the actual reading experience has not been bad. I will get more of a feel for the device after I have read a couple of books on it.

So, what do you think?

Kindle First Books for August 2017

Every month, Amazon allows Prime members to download one upcoming book from one of Amazon’s imprints for free. Everyone else can purchase one book for $1.99. The books are chosen by Amazon’s editors. (These deals are for US customers only.)

This month’s books are:

All the Little Children by Jo Furniss – Suspense

P.S. from Paris (US edition) by Marc Levy – Romantic Fiction

When They Come for You (Harper McDaniel) by James W. Hall – Thriller

Song of Edmon (The Fracture Worlds Book 1) by Adam Burch – Science Fiction

The Heart Echoes by Helena von Zweigbergk, Tiina Nunnally – Contemporary Fiction

The Judgment of Richard Richter by Igor Štiks, Ellen Elias-Bursac – Literary Fiction

Previously, Amazon would allow you to download a second upcoming title for only $1.99. While that offer is no longer available, if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, all of these books will be available to read for free when they are released on September 1, 2017 as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Prime members can also sign up to receive a monthly e-mail announcing new Kindle First picks.