Best-Ever Holiday Shopping Weekend for Amazon Devices

30 November 2016

From Amazon:

Amazon today announced its best-ever holiday shopping weekend for devices—including a record-breaking Cyber Monday with Amazon device sales up more than 2x over last year and millions of devices sold.

Echo Dot, Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, Fire tablet, and Amazon Echo were not only the best-selling Amazon devices, but they were the best-selling products from any manufacturer in any category across all of Amazon.

  • Millions of the all-new Echo Dot sold since launch—sales of Amazon Echo family of devices up over 7x over last year’s Cyber Monday.
  • Millions of Alexa devices were purchased this holiday shopping weekend.
  • Fire Tablets sales were up 2x compared to last Cyber Monday.
  • Fire Kids Edition has its best holiday shopping weekend ever—continues to be the #1 kids tablet in the U.S., across all retailers.
  • Amazon Fire TV sales were up more than 2.5x year-over-year on Cyber Monday. Fire TV continues to be the #1 streaming media player in the U.S., across all retailers.
  • The Kindle e-reader business continues to grow—customers bought hundreds of thousands of Kindle e-readers this holiday weekend.

. . . .

  • The top 3 most popular Kindle cookbooks downloaded during Thanksgiving week include: “Essential Spices and Herbs,” “The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook,” and “Me, Myself and Pie.”

Link to the rest at Business Wire

As you do your holiday shopping, clicking on TPV Amazon affiliate links, either in the posts or at the top of the right column to start shopping on Amazon will generate a small affiliate fee for PG.

Heavy Screen Time Rewires Young Brains, For Better And Worse

23 November 2016

From National Public Radio:

There’s new evidence that excessive screen time early in life can change the circuits in a growing brain.

Scientists disagree, though, about whether those changes are helpful, or just cause problems. Both views emerged during the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego this week.

The debate centered on a study of young mice exposed to six hours daily of a sound and light show reminiscent of a video game. The mice showed “dramatic changes everywhere in the brain,” said Jan-Marino Ramirez, director of the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

“Many of those changes suggest that you have a brain that is wired up at a much more baseline excited level,” Ramirez reported. “You need much more sensory stimulation to get [the brain’s] attention.”

So is that a problem?

On the plus side, it meant that these mice were able to stay calm in an environment that would have stressed out a typical mouse, Ramirez explained. But it also meant they acted like they had an attention deficit disorder, showed signs of learning problems, and were prone to risky behavior.

. . . .

The debate came just weeks after the American Academy of Pediatrics relaxed its longstanding rule against any screen time for kids under two. And it reflected an evolution in our understanding of how sensory stimulation affects developing brains.

Researchers learned many decades ago that young brains need a lot of stimulation to develop normally. So, for a long time parents were encouraged to give kids as many sensory experiences as possible.

“The idea was, basically, the more you are exposed to sensory stimulation, the better you are cognitively,” Ramirez said.

Then studies began to suggest that children who spent too much time watching TV or playing video games were more likely to develop ADHD.

Link to the rest at NPR

Barnes & Noble is back with a $50 Nook tablet

16 November 2016

From TechCrunch:

Barnes & Noble spent a number of years going toe to toe with Amazon in the e-reader market and actually produced some pretty nice devices in the process. The last few years, however, have been pretty meager for the bookseller as far as hardware goes, with most of its announcements revolving around reading tablets co-branded with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab stamp.

The latest product from the company, not coincidentally announced a couple of weeks ahead of Black Friday, looks to be competing with Amazon on price, as well – a tough proposition when you’re going up against the reigning champion of consumer hardware subsidies. But well, at the very least, B&N has done a good job keeping the price down on the thing, priced the same as the Fire 7.

The banally named Nook Tablet 7” is just $50.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Will you Buy the New Nook Tablet 7?

9 November 2016

From Good Ereader:

Barnes and Noble has been peddling Samsung tablets since 2013 and many people wish the bookseller would design their own hardware again. It looks like they have heard your pleas and a new Nook 7 inch tablet passed FCC certification a few weeks ago.  Sources have disclosed to Good e-Reader that the new Nook device will be hitting store shelves within the next few weeks. The big question is, will you buy it, or has Nook become a toxic brand?

I am not surprised that Barnes and Noble has decided to make their own hardware again. The Samsung gambit has not really paid off for them. This is primarily due to the fact that whenever B&N wants to carry a new Samsung branded tablet in their bookstores they have to order one million units. If they do not sell all of them, they still have to pay the full amount and write off the loss.   The new Nook Tablet 7 will likely be more cost effective because the bookseller has more control over the MOQ, so they aren’t going to manufacture more than they really need.

. . . .

Can a new Nook tablet encourage former users to come back to the Nook brand?  Barnes and Noble does have a strong retail chain that allows you to try using the hardware before you shell out some money. There are trained staff that know the Nook devices and can assist you in common troubleshooting techniques and if the hardware is straight up broken, they can normally just swap it out for a new unit.

Link to the rest at GoodEreader

Consumers question worth of top-end tablet computers as sales fall dramatically

1 November 2016

From The Guardian:

Sales of tablet computers fell by more than 6m over the past year as the market contracted 14.7%, according to a report.

At a time when consumers are questioning whether they really need both a computer and a tablet or either along with a smartphone, the only part of the market to grow was the sub-$200 offerings.

Tablet sales were down from 50.5m to 43.0m year-on-year worldwide in the third quarter, according to IDC, after four straight quarters of double-digit declines. Even premium tablets such as the iPad suffered big declines, with Apple’s sales down 6.2% to 9.3m iPads in Q3 year-on-year. Apple’s marketshare grew though as competitors shrank further, with second-place Samsung down 19.3% and fourth-placed Lenovo down 10.8%.

Amazon, however, continued its rampant growth with its Fire tablets, of which all but one cost £100 or less, up 319.9% in Q3 year-on-year. Amazon is now the third-biggest tablet manufacturer after Apple and Samsung after its 5,421.7% increase in Q1 and 1,208.9% increase in Q2, going from tens of thousands of sales to 7m total tablet sales in three quarters.

. . . .

“The race to the bottom is something we have already experienced with slates and it may prove detrimental to the market in the long run as detachables could easily be seen as disposable devices rather than potential PC replacements.”

Some manufacturers including Amazon have benefited from the ability to cut the right corners and make low-cost machines that aren’t terrible and fill a growing niche for basic media consumption. But cheap and terrible tablets, like the frustrating budget smartphone experiences before 2013, have put people off tablets.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Who Will Save Us From Our Screens?

15 October 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

Earlier this summer, Publishers Weekly reported on the surprising decline of e-book sales and on whether this signaled the first pangs of digital fatigue. Certainly, we all seem to be getting digitally exhausted these days. There are emails to check, Facebook posts to like, Instagram photos to upload, Tinder and Grinder profiles to swipe, emojis to learn, and endless text messages. We spend our days navigating tangled links of spam and clickbait to finally return to our beds at night—where we unwind by spending hours scrolling through social media posts.

Digital fatigue isn’t a new phenomenon; it’s simply our immune system responding to a decade of hyperconnectivity. And yet it doesn’t look like we’re at a place of total exhaustion. If anything, we seem to be growing increasingly addicted to our devices. I find myself checking my phone five times a day—or 20, or 30. Before bed I check one last time, and upon waking, I log in to see what messages I’ve missed.

. . . .

 Though it’s tempting to think the next generation is turning away from the seduction of cyberspace, the drop-off in e-readers may have less to do with a wish to return to books than a general lack of desire to read at all. Perhaps I’m jaundiced from a decade of teaching, but I hear the daily complaints of millennials when I assign an essay longer than five pages. The 20-plus-page stories of Baldwin, Chekhov, and Kafka are skimmed, and my creative-writing classes have to be weaned from producing stories based on television plots. When I ask students about their reading habits, they mention having a couple of tabs open at a time—the assigned PDF class reading in one, the latest episode of Game of Thrones playing on low volume in another.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Amazon’s Tablet Success Is Continuing

13 September 2016

From Seeking Alpha:

Amazon didn’t wait long to strike back at Apple after its September keynote event. True, iPad did not really get much attention during the main event – actually, it wasn’t covered at all – but Apple’s announcement that it was finally doubling the iPhone’s storage soon carried over to the rest of the product lineup. Most of its iPad models got a significant storage bump, and a few of the iPad Pro models actually got their prices cut as well. With Apple and pretty much every other Android vendor except Amazon seeing falling tablet sales, the company doubtless hopes the moves will continue the recent progress in stabilizing iPad sales, which have been cut almost in half.

Amazon, however, is not sitting still. It launched its newest tablet less than one day later.

. . . .

 “Newest” is a bit of a misnomer; the product is actually just a revamp and slight upgrade of the Fire HD8 that Amazon launched last year. The tablet’s upgrades were not completely lacking, as it did receive more memory and doubled storage – less important in Amazon’s case since Fire tablets can now take micoSD cards to increase storage as much as 200GB – and, most impressively, a four-hour increase in battery life to 12 hours. And it did all of this while delivering a truly jaw-dropping price cut: $89.99, a full $60 below what the weaker version of the same tablet cost just last year.

. . . .

 Creating premium products at non-premium prices, as Amazon loves to say, is always going to be a balancing act. The devices will never carry quite as much power and flair as the more expensive iPads. But Amazon made the right decisions a year ago when it stopped aiming for flair and decided to focus on affordability, and its renewed success in tablet sales validates that. The new Fire HD8 is a signal from Amazon that their strategy is working, that they see no reason to change it, and that the company possesses the engineering sophistication now to achieve substantial savings without compromising performance, and pass those savings on to the customers.

Link to the rest at Seeking Alpha

Amazon Slashes Price, Adds Alexa to New Fire Tablet

8 September 2016

From The Associated Press:

Amazon wants to be under the Christmas tree this year. It’s cut the price of its new Fire tablet almost in half and added its popular voice assistant, Alexa, in hopes of making it a hot holiday item, despite a slump in overall tablet sales.

The new Fire HD8 tablet will cost $90, down from $150. Mixed-use battery life is up to 12 hours from 8, and the base storage is doubled to 16 gigabytes.

The biggest change is that the tablet will have Alexa functionality. That means that when users tap and hold the tablet’s home button, they can ask the assistant for anything from weather reports to news queries, and also get the device do things like adjusting the lights or temperature on compatible smart-home devices.

. . . .

 The Fire HD price cut in particular makes it attractive to buyers, IDC research manager Jonathan Gaw said.

“The rest of the tablet category has pretty much taken a dip, whereas Amazon has been able to increase their share,” he said. “They are not necessarily out to make a great margin on the device itself so it works out pretty well for them.”

Alexa voice-recognition software will be available on all the new tablets, as well as via a free over-the-air software update for Fire HD 8 tablets from last year. The software was originally part of Amazon’s Echo $180 smart speaker, which is activated by voice commands.

. . . .

 Kevin Keith, Amazon’s general manager of Fire tablets said he expects tablet users to use Alexa mainly while using tablets for entertainment like movies and e-books.

Link to the rest at The Associated Press

Amazon just started taking pre-orders for delivery on September 21.

PG really enjoys Alexa via Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot. He has a closet full of formerly hot new devices that he quickly tired of, but Alexa is genuinely useful. Alexa can turn lights on and off and adjust Casa PG’s thermostat upon command.

On those rare occasions when PG exercises his extremely limited culinary skills, he can tell Alexa to set various timers and alarms while he is preparing something or cleaning up a mess he’s made. If everything goes completely wrong, PG can tell Alexa to have a pizza delivered.

Kobo goes big with its 7.8-inch Aura One e-reader

18 August 2016

From TechCrunch:

When Kobo briefed me on the release of its new e-reader, a company rep explained that the company “[wasn’t] sure if there was a premium price point” when they released the Aura HD back in 2013. At 6.8 inches, it was larger than the long-time industry standard six inches, and it had a high-res screen and price tag to match.

The Canadian company has never been afraid to take risks with the often-boring world of e-readers, and for that reason alone it is a welcoming presence. Without Kobo pushing the boundaries of screen size, build quality and features like waterproofing, it’s hard to imagine much innovation occurring in the Amazon-dominated space.

With the Aura One, the company is doubling down yet again, with a 7.8-inch display that utterly dwarfs the Aura HD and a $230 price point to match. Even with a handful of other welcome add-on features, that’s a pretty lofty price tag for a devoted e-reader when Amazon’s Kindle Voyage starts at $30 less (the Special Offers edition, at least).

But Kobo’s previous attempts to go all in have paid off before, and while the company will likely be the first to admit that the Aura One isn’t for everyone, it gives the sort of person willing to shell out more than $200 for such a device exactly what they’re looking for: the ultimate e-reader.

. . . .

That’s the thing about e-reader displays: All roads lead to six inches. Both Kobo and Amazon have experimented with different screen sizes, and both keep coming to the conclusion that the pull to return to a standardized size is just too great. After all, it’s large enough to replicate a full page and compact enough to slip into a pants pocket when you’re done.

So, naturally, Kobo has gone ahead and made its largest screen yet. The added real estate means fewer page turns. It’s also a bonus for readers who need large type and people who use their readers for PDFs, which can be a ginormous pain on a smaller screen with all of the pinching and scrolling.

And 7.8 inches, it turns out, is big, but not unwieldy. Stashing the reader in your pocket is suddenly out of the equation. Reading with one hand for bus and subway travelers may or may not still be in the cards, depending on how big your hands are.

. . . .

The E Ink display sports an 1872 x 1404 resolution, which works out to 300 ppi — the same as what you’ll find on the Kindle Voyage and the last-gen Glo HD — i.e. about as sharp as reading real text on a real page. You know all of the e-ink trade-offs by now. In the pro column, it’s crisp, clear and visible in sunlight, with a ridiculously low power consumption. But it’s monochrome and has a much longer refresh rate, which hasn’t seen all that much improvement in recent generations.

Of course, the device’s inability to offer a half-decent web browser experience is either a pro or a con, depending on who you ask. After all, keeping this a purely readerly experience means completely ditching all of the social notifications and other distractions — as if you don’t already have all of the info pushed to enough devices already.

The real differentiator on the screen front is the addition of the ComfortLight Pro to the device’s front lighting technology. Like the rest of the hardware world, Kobo’s getting on the sleep train, adjusting the screen’s blue light level so it doesn’t screw up circadian rhythms before bed. The device can either do it automatically using a light sensor adjusting over the course of the day, or the user can set a predetermined bedtime for the system to switch over to a far more reddish hue.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Is an iPad still worth it for ebook lovers?

11 August 2016

From TeleRead:

When I bought my first iPad, it was $400 and changed my life.

It could go all day on a single charge. I could carry all my teaching materials—books, music, movies, everything—on one clipboard-sized device. I read on it, watched movies, played games. It truly was the ‘laptop replacement’ I always wanted—a do-it-all device that was light, beautiful and went all day on a single charge.

Now, here we are, a half-decade and change later, and…well, for the first time, I find myself wondering whether I would replace my iPad if something happened to it.

A new iPad Air 2, not even the latest model, goes for $499 CAD on Apple Canada—more, even, than the first one I bought all those years ago.

Even a new iPad Mini is almost $350. That’s a lot of money for something that, more than ever, is a want and not a need. So, what’s changed? Why is an iPad not worth it anymore? For me, there have been a few sea changes.

1) In the Cloud, you can access content everywhere. This has been the first big change. I used to carry my iPad around with me because I stored my content locally. Ten CDs worth of music, all on my one device! And now, every classroom I teach in is equipped with a laptop and SMARTboard. Teachers are not using CDs anymore. They are not using local music files ripped from a CD. All of that stuff is on YouTube now, and you can project it into the giant ‘tablet’ that’s mounted on the wall.

. . . .

3) The form factor is wrong for a book reader. When I was still doing actual work on the iPad, I liked having the full-sized screen. But now that I’m not, I’m finding the full-size tablet to be a little much for my leisure tasks. I want to read ebooks, check Facebook and look at YouTube videos while I’m lying on the couch, and that’s pretty much it. I appreciate that they have made the iPad fairly light and sleek. But I am finding, especially now that I am in the later stage of my pregnancy, that it isn’t comfortable to lie on the couch with it. It’s too cumbersome to hold it one-handed, and when I try and rest it on my lap, it slides onto my tummy and pokes. A seven-inch Android I can hold in one hand is much easier.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

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