Friday Echo: Amazon Echo now available as a refurb

echo_pixEcho News:

Amazon Echo now available as a refurb – If you have been sitting on the fence about buying an Echo, you may have noticed that they tend to sell out quite frequently. Amazon now sells the Echo as a refurbished unit. These are certified refurbished units, which means that Amazon has refurbished, tested, and certified them to look and work like new.  They come with the same 1-year warranty as a new Echo. My only concern about the unit is the price. Personally, I don’t think the price is reduced enough from the new item price to reflect the refurbished status. But it is an option if they are sold out and you have to have one right now…. You can find the link to the refub model on the Amazon Echo page, right under the description.

Apple is opening Siri to developers and smart speakers:  Just ahead of what are rumored to be some Siri-themed announcements at the upcoming World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), there’s news that  Apple will open Siri to developers and launch Amazon Echo-like smart speaker, report says (Mashable). There has been very little integration between Siri and other third-party apps, unfortunately. It is good news that Apple is going to be opening this up more, especially for iPhone and iPad users. One can’t help but wonder if, given the way that Alexa is always adding more skills and functions, Apple may find that they are too late entering into the game to compete with Amazon and Google on the smart speaker front. IMHO, out of all of the digital assistants, Alexa and Google have the most life-like and natural sounding voices, so it will be interesting to see what happens as the competition opens up.

Echo and Home are endpoints, not the endgame (Recode) It was big news last week that Google was going to have a device that would compete with the Echo. Google is releasing a bit more info about the assistant behind the device (and, yes, please note the small “a” in the word!). According to this article, Google intends for the assistant to be an integrated part of a group of services, not just the Home. Google intends to integrate the assistant with its Allo messaging app for starters, even before the Home shows up on your, … um, doorstep.

According to this article, Alexa, too,  is going to be branching out. She’s already expanded her family into the Dot and the Amazon Tap. She is a part of the Fire TV system and, if the rumors are true, there will be a Fire tablet with Alexa features on the horizon soon. With Apple also entering the smart speaker game, that going to mean a lot of choices for the consumer.

The article brings up the topic of meeting the needs of individual users and how much users hate the concept of switching profiles. It will be interesting to see how all of our digital assistants solve that issue.  I have to bounce back and forth between profiles often. The Amazon Prime account (and therefore Prime Music) is in my husband’s name. All of my ebooks and my audiobooks from Audible are in my account, so naturally, I do a lot of switching back and forth. Integrating the two is one of the key features of how well these devices blend into our lives in the future.

Amazon Tap on the Go: Last weekend, I went out of town and decided to take my Amazon Tap with me. Beside the use of the wake word to activate, one of the big differences between the Echo and the Tap is that the Tap is designed to be portable. I brought one of my Fire HD 6 tablets with so I had the Alexa app for set up – on the Fire I can switch between mine and my husband’s accounts because of family sharing.  I knew that I would have to use the app to set up the Tap when I got there, but I had no idea what I was in for.

After this weekend, I have to say that using the device on hotel WiFi was a less than optimal experience. Like many public connections, the WiFi kept disconnecting and requiring me to login again. Every time the WiFi disconnected, so did the Fire tablet. That meant my Alexa app was offline and Alexa gets a little bit less reliable. By Saturday night, the Tap wouldn’t even set an alarm for Sunday morning without me running set up through the app again. I know the Fire tablets are a little touchy about the WiFi settings because mine disconnects every time I restart my router. So I think the problem was the tablet, not the Tap, but it was still frustrating. I plan to be doing some further testing with it on public WiFi over the next few weeks.

If you have traveled with your Tap, please leave me a comment and let me know what your experience was.

Echo How-to Books: I have started reading some of the how-to books available on the Echo and the Tap. Most of these are available to read for free as part of the Kindle Unlimited program. Over this past week, I read Amazon Echo: The 2016 User Guide And Manual: Get The Best Out Of Amazon Echo by Martin Butler.  This book is really, really basic. It is less than a hundred pages and the first third of it is dedicated to describing the Echo and what it is. For anything too involved, the author relies on sending you to the Echo help page for further assistance. There is very little here that you cannot get by simply reading the device product and help pages yourself.  I would give this one a pass. 😦

Things to try:  In honor of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee that took place yesterday (May 26th) on ESPN, Alexa has a few new tricks. Ask Alexa: “Give me a Spelling Bee word.”

Also, say “Good Morning” to Alexa and see what happens. Every day, she helps you celebrate something new. For National Fan Fiction day, she confessed to me that she had “recently been busted for reading sci-fi fan fiction.”  There’s a different answer every day.

Need more help with Alexa on your Echo or your Tap? Here’s the help page.

Daily Links and Deals: 5 settings every new Android owner should change

daily_links_1Today stories include 5 setting every Android user should change, a phone/smartwatch to help you monitor your child, how to control the information Windows 10 is looking for and more. In Deals, great Gifts for mother’s Day: Polaroid Snap camers, Panasonic devices for the kitchen, e-readers from Amazon and Kobo, and Fire tablet deals that include a $40 Fire.

Daily Links for Tuesday, May 3, 2016:

Xiaomi’s smartwatch for children only costs $50 (Android Authority) It makes calls, sends an SOS and sets geofences for the kids? This could be a way to up the parenting game to a new level.

5 settings every new Android owner should change (CNET) These tips help improve the battery life and functioning of your phone!

Amazon Prime Now arrives online with one-hour delivery service (Ars Technica) It’ll cost you $7.99, but two-hour delivery is free.

Classic George Plimpton Titles Reissued, Go Digital For First Time (Publisher’s Weekly) These new enhanced editions carry a heft price tag for old books.

Why Windows 10 wants your feedback and diagnostics, and how to control them (PC World) The Big Brother aspect of Windows 10 is pretty scary.

Universal and Capitol fly high with copyright win (The 1709 Blog) Label win against in-flight entertainment provider for infringement of music.

Deals of the Day:

Amazon’s selection of Kindle Daily Deals includes The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Theodore Roosevelt Series Book 1) by Edmund Morris for $1.99.

In Today’s Deals, get up to 27% off Polaroid Snap camera bundles and Panasonic Deals for Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day is less than a week away! Amazon has some great deals on both e-ink Kindles and Fire tablets:

First, in e-ink Kindles, you can get $20 off the Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle for Kids bundle. 

There are several promotions on Fire tablets. The 7″ Fire (normally $49.99) is only still only $39.99. Amazon is also offering savings on the Fire HD 6 (8GB and 16 GB versions) and the Fire HD 10 is $50 off for a limited time. There are also still deals on pre-owned Fire tablets.

And, yes, I am also still seeing the option for 5 payments of $58 for the Kindle Oasis pre-order. Current delivery date is June 1, 2016.

The Barnes and Noble Nook Daily Find is  Gathering of Waters by Bernice L. McFadden for $1.99. The Romance Daily Find is The Choice by Nicholas Sparks for $2.99.

Kobo’s Daily Deal is Before We Met – A Novel by Lucie Whitehouse for $1.99.

And, you can still get $20 off the Kobo Glo HD.  Free shipping is included but I am not sure about a Mother’s Day delivery at this point, although they are still advertising it as a Mother’s Day sale. 🙂

The Kobo has a monthly special 3 for 2 deal features books by  Grace Burrowes. The special runs the entire month of May. 🙂

iTunes’ Weekly Bestsellers Under $4 includes The Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo for $1.99.

Google has a selection of Topsellers Under $10 which includes some Lovecraft collections for 99 cents. Is it Cthulhu day?

(A note on Daily Deals: All prices current at the time of posting and subject to change. Most items marked Daily Deals are good for only the day posted.

Many large promotions have discount pricing that is set by the publisher. This usually means that titles can be found at a discount price across most platforms (with iTunes sometimes being the exception). If you have a favorite retailer you like to patronize, check the title on that website. There is a good chance that they will be matching the sale price.)


Daily Links are interesting links I discover as I go about my online day. The frequency and number of links posted depend upon the daily news. I also post other, different links of interest on Twitter, Facebook, and on the Google Plus eBook Evangelist Page.

Daily Links and Deals: Fair use prevails as Supreme Court rejects Google Books copyright case

daily_links_1Today, The Supreme Court declined to hear the Google Books case, Tidal is getting sued, we are getting 360 video and Amazon is starting to unbundle its Prime subscription. In deals, we have Belkin surge protectors, Cuisinart grills and Fire Tablet  and Kindle deals.

Daily Links for Monday, April 18, 2016:

Android VS iOS: How They Compare (Tab Times) Nice comparison of the two systems.

Jay Z, Tidal & Kanye West sued for misstatements about ‘The Life of Pablo’ exclusivity (Techcrunch) In an age where every service is offering something different and exclusive, we may be seeing more of this kind of story in the tech world.

Amazon has built a subscription launchpad with Amazon Prime (Techcrunch)  Amazon Prime can now be bought by the month and so can Amazon Prime Video.  This article talks about what Amazon may really be trying to accomplish with the move.

Fair use prevails as Supreme Court rejects Google Books copyright case (Ars Technica) Agree or disagree – at least it is over!

YouTube introduces live 360 video, the gateway drug to virtual reality (The Verge) Here we go. The beginning of experiencing the world without leaving your house.

Google Play Music officially has podcasts for the Web and Android (The Next Web) Be aware that you probably won’t see all of your favorite podcast. It’s not on iOS yet. Google’s terms say they do not sharing revenue with podcasters, so a lot of people passed on enrolling.

Deals of the Day:

Amazon’s selection of Kindle Daily Deals includes The Clockwork Scarab and The Spiritglass Charade, the first two books in the Stoker & Holmes YA series by Colleen Gleason for $1.99 each. There is plenty of vampire hunting and mystery solving for the protagonists who happen to be the sister of Bram Stoker and the neice of Sherlock Holmes.

In Today’s Deals, get up to 60% off select Belkin surge protectors, up to 60% off select Cuisinart Grilling products and a  SINGER 3232 Simple Sewing Machine with Automatic Needle Threader.

Amazon is still offering savings on the Fire HD 6, deals on pre-owned Fire tablets and savings of $15 on a Fire Essentials Bundle. I am also still seeing the option for 5 payments of $58 for the Kindle Oasis pre-order.

The Barnes and Noble Nook Daily Find is The Weird World of Words: A Guided Tour by Mitchell Symons for $2.99. The Romance Daily Find is The Rogue’s Proposal (House of Trent Series #2) by Jennifer Haymore for $2.99.

Kobo’s Daily Deal is The Killing Game by Toni Anderson for $99 cents.

LAST DAY! Select Romantic Times winners & nominees are on sale for under $3 at the Kobo store until April 18, 2016.

iTunes’ Weekly Bestsellers Under $4 includes The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder for $2.99.

Google has a limited time promotion that includes some interesting cookbooks, including BabyCakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York’s Most Talked-About Bakery by  Erin McKenna for $1.99. (Also at Amazon, Barnes and Noble)

(A note on Daily Deals: All prices current at the time of posting and subject to change. Most items marked Daily Deals are good for only the day posted.

Many large promotions have discount pricing that is set by the publisher. This usually means that titles can be found at a discount price across most platforms (with iTunes sometimes being the exception). If you have a favorite retailer you like to patronize, check the title on that website. There is a good chance that they will be matching the sale price.)


Daily Links are interesting links I discover as I go about my online day. The frequency and number of links posted depend upon the daily news. I also post other, different links of interest on Twitter, Facebook, and on the Google Plus eBook Evangelist Page.

Daily Links and Deals: 10 Spring Cleaning Tips for Getting rid of Old Unread Books

daily_links_1In today’s stories, there’s an new Netflix competitor in town. Plus, stories on wi-fi, Amazon Prime, and more. In deals today, there are savings on Dremel tools and accessories (great for crafting) and  pre-owned Fire Tablets.

Daily Links for Thursday, March 31, 2016:

Fullscreen Unveils $5 Subscription Video Service, Taking on Netflix and YouTube Red (Variety) Hm. Very targeted, which is interesting. Wonder if there is enough interest in that market share to pull this off?

New wireless tech from MIT could bring password-free Wi-Fi (Computer World) This could be a good thing…. Especially if you put it together with the ability to shut out router invaders based on distance.

10 Spring Cleaning Tips for Getting rid of Old Unread Books (Bustle) Some of these look like fun projects!

You can now buy Amazon Prime for a month at a time — if you’re a Sprint customer (ReCode)And if you want to pay a third more for the service. Easier just to buy Amazon Prime.

The complete list of ‘OK, Google’ commands (CNET) This is a pretty comprehensive list. I had no idea that it could do this much and intend to take a second look at the idea of using this.

Deals of the Day:

Amazon’s selection of Kindle Daily Deals includes The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results by Bob Knight and Bob Hammel for $1.99.

In Today’s Deals, Amazon is offering savings of up to 63% on your choice of select Dremel rotary tools and accessories. You will also find some flash drives and memory cards at reduced pricing. Plus, you can still find deals on pre-owned Fire tablets.

The Barnes and Noble Nook Daily Find is How to Instantly Connect with Anyone: 96 All-New Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes for $1.99.The Romance Daily Find is The Bad Boy CEO by Sugar Jamison for $1.99.

STILL AVAILABLE: B & N is running a special where you can get a NOOK Bundle Offer: 10″ NOOK Device, Free Screen Film and Free Cover of Your Choice- a $330+ Value for Just $199.99. And finally, you can take 75% off all Nook Accessories.  And if you have jumped on the coloring books bandwagon, B & N  now has Harry Potter Magical Places & Characters Coloring Books available.

Kobo’s Daily Deal is Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death (The Grantchester Mysteries) by James Runcie for $1.99.

STILL AVAILABLE:  Kobo  has the Great Reads For $1.99 or Less promotion.

iTunes’ Weekly Bestsellers Under $4 includes The More You Ignore Me by Jo Brand for $1.99.

(A note on Daily Deals: All prices current at the time of posting and subject to change. Most items marked Daily Deals are good for only the day posted.

Many large promotions have discount pricing that is set by the publisher. This usually means that titles can be found at a discount price across most platforms (with iTunes sometimes being the exception). If you have a favorite retailer you like to patronize, check the title on that website. There is a good chance that they will be matching the sale price.)


Daily Links are interesting links I discover as I go about my online day. The frequency and number of links posted depend upon the daily news. I also post other, different links of interest on Twitter, Facebook, and on the Google Plus eBook Evangelist Page.

Amazon Raises Free Shipping Threshold

amazon_pkg_smOnce again, Amazon.com has raised the amount of merchandise  you have to order to be eligible for free shipping. Formerly $35, you now have to purchase $49 worth of items to get the free shipping. For book orders  you only need $25 to get you order shipped for free. Once you hit the $25 mark for books, you can add other merchandise without worrying about the $49 threshold. When Amazon started offering free shipping, formerly called Super Saver Shipping, the purchase threshold was only $25.

There have been a lot of articles talking about future options for Amazon’s delivery woes, whether that is using delivery drones or hiring Uber-like drivers to deliver product. Pundits have clearly emphasized that logistics and delivery are problems Amazon needs to solve in order to move forward. It is difficult to say whether this latest change is meant to offset the damage shipping costs cause to the company’s bottom line or is designed to make Amazon Prime more attracted to customers who still haven’t tried it.

There’s no doubt this makes Amazon Prime a more attractive proposition. Prime members get free two day shipping and a host of other benefits such as vidoes, music, ebook loans for Kindle owners and free cloud photo storage.

I posted the link to this a few days ago, but it is probably even more relevant now. Here’s an article from CNET giving you 5 shipping tricks you can use to reach the threshold even if you don’t have Prime.

You can find more information about the new free shipping requirements here.

Note: Amazon UK raised its threshold last May to £10 for books and £20 for other items. Those requirements remain unchanged.

 

 

Prime Perks for Kindle and Fire Owners

paperwhiteThis year,  my son finally asked for a e-ink Kindle. So, for Christmas, I bought him a Kindle Paperwhite and one of the $50 fire tablets.  Since he is already a Prime Member (another gift from mom and dad), I wanted to fill him in on a couple of Prime benefits that only applied to device owners. Since this is the time of year when many people get Kindles for the first time, I thought I would share these with everyone.

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) allows Prime members to borrow one (1) book per month for free.

  • Works on Kindle e-reader, Fire tablet, or Fire phone.
  • Only available for device owners with memberships to Amazon Prime.
  • Borrowed KOLL titles may also be shared with another adult in your household through Amazon Household and Family Library with select Prime memberships.
  • Eligible books display the Prime logo. There are over 500,000 books in the lending library.
  • Complete instructions with video are here.

A couple of important points here:  First, there is no master “list” of book available to lend (the books actually change all the time). Secondly, you are not able to pick books from the web or the Kindle app. You also can only browse the Kindle store from your device to see which books are available to borrow. This tends to be a source of frustration for a lot of people, but it is the way the program works.

Kindle First is a program that offers customers early access to new Kindle books across popular genres from Amazon Publishing.

  • Every month Prime members can choose one (1) of the books selected by Amazon’s editors for FREE.
  • There are generally four to six books to choose from. These are books that will be released the following month.
  •  Kindle First books can be read on any Kindle device or free Kindle reading app and become part of customers’ permanent libraries.
  • Prime invitees are not eligible for free downloads.
  • Prime members can sign up to receive a monthly e-mail newsletter announcing new Kindle First picks.
  • Kindle First on Amazon.com is available to US customers only.
  • Complete instructions are here.

Unlike the Kindle Owners Lending Library, these titles can not be shared with other household members. Non-Prime members can usually purchase one of these titles for $1.99.

Over the years, these programs have been one of my favorite features for Kindle owners. I have read entire series that I would not ordinarily have bought. I have also read books that inspired me to go out an buy the entire series after reading the first book. It can be a great discovery tool.

The Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and the Kindle First programs are not meant to be a substitute for subscription services like Kindle Unlimited or Scribd. Rather, they should be thought of as an added Prime membership perk alongside the free shipping, video and music offered with the program.