Amazon releases new kindle Oasis model

Given the recent number of sales on Amazon’s Kindle line and the upcoming 10th anniversary of the release of the original Kindle, many, including myself, expected the announcement of a new Kindle was in the works.

Today, Amazon announced an all-new kindle Oasis. The new device has a larger, 7″, 300 ppi display. The device is also  waterproof, a feature that many other high end e-readers already have and one that many customers have been asking for. The device is IPX8 rated, which protects against immersion in up to 2 meters of water for up to 60 minutes. According to Amazon, there are also battery improvements to the new device.

Probably one of the most frequently requested features for the Kindle is for the return of the text-to-speech features for the e-Ink devices. The TTS function was a feature in the earlier Kindle models and is currently available on e-ink Kindles only via the use of a special adapter. Built in, it is presently only an included feature on the Fire tablets. While Amazon has not restored text-to-speech in this new device, they have integrated Audible audiobooks with the Oasis.(See here to learn about Audible.) This device still doesn’t have a headphone jack or speakers and instead uses a Bluetooth connection to provide audio. You must provide your own Bluetooth headphones or speaker.

The Amazon description says,”With Audible built in, you never have to put your story down and can switch easily between reading and listening without changing devices.” It is unclear if that implies whether this model will be capable of enhanced Immersion Reading, which allows for both audio and reading highlighted text at the same time.

Because this device is designed to work with Audible files which are quite large, the device comes with more storage and more storage options. It is available in an 8GB configuration which is twice the amount of storage included with the original Oasis. The device also comes in a 32GB configuration, which will be helpful for storing the larger file sizes associated with  audio books, comic books, etc.

One of the most interesting changes to the new Oasis is the fact that it does away with the integrated battery cover of the previous model.  (You can read my views on that cover here.) The previous model’s covers were only available in leather, a fact that was upsetting to many who preferred a vegan option for a cover. This model’s covers come in a variety of colors in both fabric and leather options.

The new Oasis costs $249.99 for the 8GB WiFi-only model. The 32GB WiFi-only model is $279.99. The Oasis is also available in a 32 GB cellular configuration for $349.99. Fabric covers sell for $44.99 and leather covers cost $59.99

All models are available for pre-order now and will start shipping October 31, 2017.

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Internet Archive introduces Sonny Bono Memorial book collection

The Internet Archive has announced the Sonny Bono Memorial Collection of books. The collection was created utilizing a relatively obscure provision of copy right law, Section 108h, which allows libraries to make available works published between 1923 and 1941 if they meet certain criteria. As long as the books are not currently being sold , libraries can scan the books and make them available.

The collection’s name, the Sonny Bono Memorial Collection, refers to the Copyright Term Extension Act sponsored by Rep. Sonny Bono.

According to the Internet archive, the hope is that other libraries will follow their lead in creating what they refer to as “Last Twenty Collections”, so-called because the law allows libraries to make available books which are in the last 20 years of their copyright.  The Internet Archive intends to add another 10,000 books to this collection in the near future.

The project helps to address the serious issue of the shrinking number of works freely available in the public domain. You can read more about the history of this project here at the Internet Archive blog.

Old Kindle forums closed, redesigned help forum unveiled

As I wrote about last week, Amazon announced that it would be closing its Kindle discussion forums. The original closure date was listed on a banner as October 6, 2017.

(Click picture to enlarge)

Amazon later posted that the forum would actually close on October 13, 2017:

When announcing the discussion forum closure, Amazon had promised a new, improved experience in the Kindle Help forum on October 9, 2017. As I noted in my last post, the main difference between the two is that the Kindle customer discussion forum included off-topic discussions and was a separate forum from the official Kindle help forum.

Amazon actually closed the forums on the original date, Friday, October 6th. Amazon did the same thing to the forums on IMDB.com, announcing one date and then closing the forums in advance of the deadline. (And, no, users were NOT happy.)  Amazon seems to have closed ALL of customer discussion forums as of Friday.  All of my bookmarked pages are returning error messages.

The newly redesigned Kindle Help forum is now up and running. It has a very different interface that the old one and includes sections for the Kindle, Fire, Fire TV, Echo and Alexa, and Digital Content. The forum also has its own unique (and easier to remember) URL: amazonforum.com. For now at least, the old forum URL still works and redirects to the new domain name.

Have you checked out the new forum design? What do you think?

Amazon confirms Kindle, Fire discussion forums to close October 13, 2017

Amazon has officially announced on the that the Kindle discussion forum (https://www.amazon.com/forum/kindle) will be closing on Friday, October 13, 2017.

The pinned notice on the board reads:

Amazon would like to thank the members of this community for contributing to the discussion forums. As we grow and evolve, we encourage you to explore Goodreads Groups for books and Spark for other ways to engage with your interests. If you have a help question about your device, starting the morning of October 9th , Pacific Standard Time, we will be introducing an improved help forum experience, with expanded discussion categories.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/group
Spark: https://www.amazon.com/b?node=16907772011

The post is closed to comments.

The discussion forum has been around for ten years, since the announcement of the very first Kindle. It contained Kindle-oriented topics, including popular threads on discounted Kindle books. Customers also discussed various issues and  customers offered other customers unofficial assistance. (Note that the forum that is closing is the Kindle Discussion forum, not the official Kindle Help Community forum.)

Almost the same notice is posted on the Fire forums at https://www.amazon.com/forum/fire/.

There had been a lot of speculation on various discussion threads about Amazon closing the forum since some members had intermittently seen a banner announcing the forums closing on October 6, 2017. It seems that much of the confusion was probably caused by the fact that everyone was not seeing the banner and even those who saw it didn’t see it consistently.

According to threads on the forum, prior to the notice, people were calling Kindle support and getting a variety of answers about the closing.

For many years, you could access the Kindle forums, via a menu link on the main Kindle page. Over the last year, Amazon had deprecated that function and the forum was difficult to find unless you had it bookmarked or were subscribed to email notifications on one of the various topic threads.

Amazon had also recently removed the search function from the forums.

Before I bought my first Kindle, this forum was a tremendous help. I was able to read about the Kindle and get the opinions of people who actually owned and were using the device. Given the fact that the device was $400 at the time, that forum was instrumental for me in researching and ultimately deciding to buy my first Kindle. I don’t think I would have bought my first Kindle without it. It was also a godsend in learning how use the new device.

As a blogger, I also found it a great source of information about issues that affected both the e-ink Kindle and the Fire tablets. Many of my posts on Amazon devices had their genesis in post on the Kindle discussion forum.

The forums also had a dark side.  Many of the regular posters on the forum could be quite snarky about repeatedly answering the same questions over and over again. Authors self-promoting books was also a problem and downvoting topics was a constant source of contention.

Given the fact that Amazon has also done away with the forums on sites like IMDB.com, I am not surprised the they are closing the forum. It is sad, however.

Amazon is directing customers to Goodreads and Spark (an Amazon community exclusive to Prime members). There are members suggesting everyone write Jefff Bezos at jeff@amazon.com to ask for a reprieve on the forums. Some customers are also discussing starting communities on other sites such as Reddit as a replacement.  You can also find already thriving communities on Kboards and Mobileread.

The new Kindle Help Community update will be available on October 9, 2017.

Did you use the Kindle Discussion forum? Are you going to miss it?

E-ink Kindles on sale for Prime Members

Amazon is having a special sale just for Prime members on their e-ink Kindles. Savings vary from $30 to $50, depending on the model of Kindle. Models available include the pricey Kindle Oasis, which is often not included in the Kindle sales.

Available models are:

You can also find travel bundles for the Paperwhite and the Kindle Voyage that add a cute travel bag to the device/cover bundle.

November 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the release of the first Kindle e-reader. There’s been a lot of speculation over whether Amazon will release a new Kindle model this year. The limited availability of the top of the line Kindle Oasis and the fact that the Oasis is included in the Prime members’ sale makes me cautiously optimistic that we may indeed see a new e-ink this November.

Not a Prime member? You can sign up here and still take advantage of the sale! Sale prices are good until October 9, 2017.

Throwback Thursday: Nokia “Candybar” Phone Box

I have a tendency to save the boxes for the electronics that I buy, at least until the item is out of warranty. It can be useful for warranty service and can add to the resale value of an item. Sometimes, however, things get lost in the shuffle and the boxes never get disposed of. I am in the midst of cleaning out my basement and found this:

It is the box to a Nokia 3585i “candybar” style phone from 2002. This is a CDMA phone for the US Cellular network. Note the literature that explains regional calling plans! Times sure have changed!

As for the actual phone itself, it may or may not be somewhere here in the basement…. 🙂

#throwbackthursday

Amazon announces new Echo devices (and they are pretty neat!)

When Amazon recently started dropping prices on their line of Echo devices, rumors started to fly that new devices were in the works. The speculation ended today when Amazon held a surprise hardware event and announced a number of new devices in the Echo and Alexa families, as well as a new Fire TV and some interesting Alexa integrations and enhancements.

All-new Echo

All-new Echo (2nd Generation) – $99.99

The new device is smaller than the original Echo (almost half the size). It features an improved sound system with a 2.5” downward-firing woofer and 0.6” tweeter powered by Dolby. The second generation far-field recognition also improves upon the microphones.

The new Echos offer more decorating options and will now come in 6 color and finish choices: A Silver finish, three fabric finishes (Charcoal, Heather Gray and Sandstone) and two wood finishes (Oak and Walnut).

Amazon is also featuring a limited time offer to save $50 on a three-pack of the All-new Echo. You can three devices for $250 (details are here).

You can pre-order an All-new Echo (2nd Generation) here. This item will be released on October 31, 2017.

Echo Plus 

Echo Plus –  $149.99

The Echo Plus is the size of the original Echo and has enhanced capabilities for smart-home integration and the ability to act as a smart home hub. For a limited time, you can get a Philips Hue Bulb included with the purchase of an Echo Plus..

The Echo Plus also has the same new sound enhancements as the All-New Echo. The device is available in 3 colors: black, silver and white.

You can pre-order an Echo Plus here. This item will be released on October 31, 2017.

Echo Spot

Echo Spot – $129.99

The Echo Spot is like a cute baby version of the Echo Show. Its size makes it ideal for an alarm clock and you can personalize it by choosing from a collection of available clock faces. Like the Echo Dot, the Spot has built-in speakers, but also can connect to an external speaker via bluetooth or a 3.5mm audio cable.

You can pre-order an Echo Spot here. This item will be released on December 19, 2017.

Echo Connect  

Echo Connect – (requires Echo device) – $34.99

This is the device that I am probably the most excited about. It offers the ability to make your landline phone hands-free for making and receiving calls, including 911 and international calls. An Echo device is required for the Connect to work.

You can pre-order an Echo Connect here. This item will be released on December 13, 2017.

All-New Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD and Alexa Voice Remote | Streaming Media Player

All-New Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD and Alexa Voice Remote | Streaming Media Player – ($69.99)

The All-New Fire TV offers 4K Ultra HD streaming at up to 60 fps, HDR, and Dolby Atmos audio. Unlike the still available Fire TV stick, this new 4K device is a Chromecast-style dongle.

You can pre-order the All-new Fire TV here. The Fire TV also comes in two bundles, the Fire TV with Echo Dot ($79.99) and the Fire TV and HD Antenna ($74.99). These items will be released on October 25, 2017.

Echo Buttons

Echo Buttons – (No release date set). Echo Buttons are new items in a series called Alexa Gadgets. Echo Buttons are a new way for customers to play games with friends and family using Alexa-enabled devices. These will come in a two-pack and are expected to arrive in time for the holidays. There is no firm release date for these yet, but you can sign up to be notified about them here.

Other Alexa news:

Alexa integration with BMW

Okay, hold on! Alexa is going to be integrated into select models of BMW and Minis over the next year. This is not just an app, but actual integration of the Alexa AI into the cars.You’ll be able to listen to music, news and utilize third-party apps to do things like order Starbucks. 🙂 More details in the press release here.

Alexa Routines

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say one command and have Alexa do a series of things?  Well, starting next month, that’s exactly what she will be able to do.

According to Amazon’s press release,

Routines allow you to automate a series of customizable actions using a single voice command of your choice. For example, say, “Alexa, good night,” and Alexa will turn off the lights, lock the door, and turn off the TV. You can also create Routines based on the time of day – for example, you can create a Routine that has Alexa turn on the kitchen lights, start the coffee maker, and read the weather forecast at 6 a.m. every weekday and at 9 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday.

Routines are compatible with popular Works with Amazon Alexa lights, plugs, switches, and door locks from leading brands like TP Link, Philips Hue, Wemo, and August, and will be available for all Alexa devices including the all-new Echo, the previous generation Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and Echo Plus starting next month.

Alexa Billy Bass

Remember that story from last year where somebody hacked a Billy Bass talking fish and put Alexa into it? Well, either Amazon liked the idea or somebody over there has a good sense of humor because, sure enough, there is going to be an official Amazon version of Billy Bass. Rumor has it that it will be available for the holiday season gift giving. Hey, it’s better than a lump of coal, right?

What do you think of the new devices?