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from the L.A. Times

Category: Amazon

Still shopping? Amazon launches Best of Digital store

Amazon opens its Best of Digital store.

Haven't gotten that holiday shopping wrapped up just yet? Amazon.com, the world's largest online retailer, has plenty of stuff to sell and on Thursday launched a Best of Digital store full of items it recommends.

As the name would suggest, the items for sale in Amazon's Best of Digital store aren't physical goods. The store, which is a section of Amazon's website, has for sale mp3 music files, not CDs; downloadable movies, not DVDs or Blu-ray discs. Apps, games, magazines, e-books (for Amazon's Kindle e-reader, of course) and software for home PCs are on the list as well.

Launching such a store after the start of Hanukkah and so close to Christmas might seem like odd timing, but "historically, Christmas Day is the largest day of digital sales on Amazon.com, followed by Dec. 26," Amazon said in a statement.

"Last year, from Christmas Eve through Dec. 30, Amazon customers purchased over three times more digital content, including Kindle books, magazines, movies, TV shows music, and digital games as compared to the weekly average for the year," the company said.

Not at all a coincidence, all the digital items (except for the PC software) for sale in the Best of Digital store can be read, watched, listened to, played and used on Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablet.

"With the introduction of Kindle Fire this season, millions more customers will be shopping for new digital content," Craig Pape, Amazon's director of music, said in the statement. "This year we're making it easier and more convenient than ever to get all the content they want."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of Amazon's Best of Digital store. Credit: Amazon.com

Amazon Kindle Fire software and Kindle iOS apps updated

Amazon Kindle Fire software updated
Amazon updated its Kindle Fire software and iPhone and iPad apps this week, adding new features all around.

For the Kindle Fire, Amazon's first tablet and a hot-selling item, the update promises to improve the responsiveness of touch navigation and the speed of actions on the device, such as loading webpages in the Fire's Web browser.

However, the biggest new feature might be the ability for users to edit what shows up in their "carousel" of recent apps and content displayed on the Fire's home screen.

Before the update, a Fire user couldn't remove any items -- books they've read, games and music played, movies watched or websites visited -- in their carousel.

The ability to remove items from the carousel was a highly requested feature and in this case, Amazon was pretty quick to deliver -- the Fire was released Nov. 14.

The iOS Kindle app updates the user interface for periodicals and text books, with access to the same selection of more than 400 magazines and newspapers that are offered on the Fire, Amazon said in a statement.

For the first time, Amazon is also offering "print replica textbooks" to iOS Kindle app users, which allow for full-color pages and the ability to zoom in and out or take notes as needed, the company said.

And the update also now makes the Kindle iOS app a PDF reader as well, Amazon said, which will allow users to view their own documents -- a feature offered by iBooks for some time now.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Amazon Kindle Fire tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

RIM shares jump 10% as Microsoft, Amazon buyout talk swirls

Blackberry
Research in Motion Ltd. is going through more ups and downs than Santa's sleigh will Saturday.

The BlackBerry maker's stock rose 10% in trading on Wednesday after rumors began to circulate that the Canadian company had been in various talks to sell itself to Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Nokia Corp. 

Nothing has come of those talks, but the buzz about a possible sale lifted the battered stock above dismal lows it had hit last week when it reported that quarterly profit had sunk 70% since a year earlier. The company has faced stiffening competition from rival smartphone powers such as Google Inc. and Apple Inc., and its BlackBerry Playbook tablet joined the ranks of also-rans that failed to chip away at the dominance of Apple's iPad.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Microsoft and its ally Nokia considered making a joint bid to buy RIM, but that the status of those talks remained a secret. A second report from Reuters described similarly indefinite talks the company had with Amazon, which it said hired an investment bank to research the viability of a deal during the summer.

The stock rose $1.26, or 10.06%, to $13.78 during regular trading, but is still down nearly 77% this year.

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-- David Sarno

Photo: A customer holds BlackBerry smartphones at a shopping mall in Jakarta, Indonesia, this month. Credit: Mast Irham / EPA

Amazon's latest holiday offer: Free 1-day shipping starting Saturday

Amazon fulfillment center

Amazon is rolling out another holiday promotion, offering shoppers free one-day shipping on thousands of items starting Saturday.

The latest offer follows the Internet retailer's controversial holiday promotion last week, when it gave shoppers up to $15 for using its price check app in a bricks-and-mortar store and then buying that item from Amazon.

That offer led several retail groups and a senator to lash out at the e-commerce giant, accusing it of using physical stores as showrooms.

The shipping promotion -- which includes cameras, diamond earrings, video games and laptops -- ends Wednesday. Amazon will apply the shipping discount at checkout after customers add a qualifying product to their shopping carts and select One-Day Shipping.

Also this week, Amazon announced it was extending the order deadline for free "Super Saver Shipping," guaranteeing that orders placed by Dec. 19 will arrive in time for Christmas. After that, shoppers will have to select faster delivery options for orders to arrive by the holiday.

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-- Andrea Chang

twitter.com/byandreachang

Photo: An Amazon fulfillment center in Phoenix during last year's holiday season. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press

Amazon selling more than 1 million Kindles a week

For the third week in a row, Amazon has sold more than 1 million Kindles a week

For the third week in a row, Amazon has sold more than 1 million Kindles a week. During that time, sales of its Kindle Fire tablet have increased week over week, the e-commerce giant said Thursday.

Amazon said its first tablet, the $199 Kindle Fire, is the bestselling, most-gifted and most-wished-for product on the website. 

Dave Limp, vice president of Amazon's Kindle division, said the Seattle-based company was building "millions more" tablets to meet the high demand and noted that demand was accelerating.

Kindle's family consists of the Amazon Fire, the $79 Kindle, the $99 Kindle Touch and the $149 Kindle Touch 3G.

"Our family of Kindle e-ink readers are close behind Kindle Fire on the Amazon.com bestseller list," Limp said. "Customers continue to report preferring their Kindle e-reader for long-form reading, and in fact we've seen many customers buy two Kindles –- both a Kindle Fire and a Kindle or Kindle Touch –- this holiday season."

This week, Amazon said it would provide a software update to Kindle Fire owners that will fix some of the tablet's issues, such as a finicky touch screen. The company said it would release the over-the-air update in less than two weeks.

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-- Andrea Chang
twitter.com/byandreachang

Photo: Amazon's Kindle Fire. Credit: Mark Lennihan / Associated Press

Kindle Fire customers irked, but sales still expected to be huge

Kindlefire

Amazon.com's Kindle Fire continues to feel the heat.

A day after Amazon said it would provide an over-the-air software update to its tablet one month after its release, customers say they're still miffed and note that the update won't fix the device's hardware issues, which include its small screen, lack of external volume controls and a poorly placed on/off button.

And interestingly, some buyers are viewing the need for a software update as an admission from Amazon that its first tablet is far from perfect. 

Dan Karagozian of Glendale said he bought five Kindle Fires on Friday as Christmas presents after debating between Amazon's device and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet. 

Now he's having second thoughts. The 53-year-old said he was enticed by the device's cloud feature, price and content offerings, but was upset that no one from Amazon mentioned to him that a software update was needed when he called customer service before placing his order. He called the update a "red flag."

"Yes? No? Who knows," he said about whether he made the right buy. "I think I made a good choice, but again, when the update stuff starts coming out, it makes you wonder."

Another Kindle Fire buyer wrote an email to me saying she was having a bit of buyer's remorse.

"I bought mine as soon as Amazon offered it, and received it on November 16, which means I have two days remaining to decide whether or not to keep it," the Huntington Beach resident said.

Ralph Kaye, a reader from Torrance, said he and his wife were worried about buying a Kindle Fire because of rumors that Amazon may release a 2.0 version as soon as next spring to make up for the flaws in its first-generation model.

"I would not feel very good about buying a machine which will be an older model in a couple of months," said Kaye, 69. 

But despite concerns from shoppers and some analysts, other tech industry watchers are more bullish. In a note to investors Tuesday, Goldman Sachs analyst Heather Bellini said she expected the Kindle Fire to make Amazon an even more prominent company and predicted Kindle Fire sales would reach 6 million units in its first quarter of release. 

"In our view, the company's evolutionary cycle will continue at a frenzied pace, and it is only over the next few years that we will truly be able to see the value that can be derived," she said. "Add to this the introduction of the Kindle Fire (U.S. only) in November of this year, where we expect 50% conversion rates, and that will only further engrain Amazon into its customers' minds."

Despite the Kindle Fire's flaws, Bellini noted that shoppers have rapidly adopted Amazon's first tablet -- a feat that "does not surprise us."

"While the Kindle Fire certainly doesn’t have the breadth of functionality of the iPad (no camera or microphone, shorter battery life and less memory), it does a few things very well, which just happen to be the few actions that users utilize the tablet form factor most often for, in our view," she said.

How do you like your Kindle Fire? Are the negative reviews making you reconsider a Nook Tablet or causing you to shell out for Apple's iPad? Check out some Times reviews of various tablets below.

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-- Andrea Chang

twitter.com/byandreachang

Photo: A Kindle Fire at a Best Buy store in Los Angeles in November. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Amazon extends free shipping deadline during holidays

Amazon brian snyder reuters

Good news for last-minute shoppers: Amazon.com has extended the order deadline for free "Super Saver Shipping," guaranteeing that orders placed by Dec. 19 will arrive in time for Christmas. After that, shoppers will have to select faster delivery options for orders to arrive by the holiday.

For delivery by Christmas, Amazon said the following ordering deadlines apply:

Dec. 19: Free Super Saver Shipping

Dec. 19: Standard shipping

Dec. 21: Two-Day shipping (order as late as 8 p.m. PST; varies by item; free with Amazon Prime)

Dec. 22: One-Day shipping (order as late as 4:30 p.m. PST; varies by item; $3.99 per item with Amazon Prime)

Dec. 23: Last-minute Christmas delivery (for Amazon Prime members only; while available; select cities; varies by item; $9.99 per item)

Dec. 24: Local express delivery (while available; select cities; varies by item; $3.99 per item with Amazon Prime)

Super Saver Shipping is available for orders of $25 or more. Amazon Prime is a membership program that gives members free two-day shipping if they pay an annual membership fee of $79. 

Like all retailers, Amazon has stepped up its game during the most important time of the year for the industry. Last week, the world's biggest e-commerce site announced that it was holding a one-day promotion that would give shoppers 5% off, up to $5 per item, just for using its Price Check app in a bricks-and-mortar store and buying that product on Amazon afterward. Amazon shoppers could save up to $15 by checking the prices and buying three different items. 

That offer sparked outrage from retail groups, who accused Amazon of using physical stores as showrooms and further hurting the competition because Amazon is not required to collect sales taxes in most states.

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-- Andrea Chang

twitter.com/byandreachang

Photo: Amazon packages are delivered in Boston. The website extended its free shipping holiday deadline to Dec. 19. Credit: Brian Snyder / Reuters

Amazon confirms Kindle Fire update

Kindlefire emile wamsteker bloomberg

Amazon.com has confirmed that it will roll out a software update to its bestselling but criticism-plagued Kindle Fire tablet.

A spokeswoman for the Seattle e-commerce giant said the update would be available in less than two weeks and would improve performance and touch navigation. It will also give customers the option to edit what items display on their carousels -- a landing page that shows what users have been up to on their tablets. Currently, all recent activity -- including books read, games played, television shows watched and websites visited -- are shown on a user's carousel.

"Kindle Fire is the most successful product we've ever launched –- we've already sold millions of units and we're building more to meet the strong demand," Amazon spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall said Monday. "As with all of our products, we continue to make them better for customers with regular software updates."

The Amazon Kindle Fire was released last month amid speculation that it would become an "iPad killer." But early reviews for the 7-inch tablet have been mixed, with users complaining about the small screen size, lack of external volume controls, finicky touch screen and lack of privacy. Some tech analysts have said Amazon's tablet effort was not good enough and expect the company to release a better version within months. 

Nonetheless, research firms have estimated that the Kindle Fire will become the No. 2 bestselling tablet globally behind Apple's iPad in the fourth quarter, thanks to its $199 price and Amazon's trusted brand name. 

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-- Andrea Chang

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Photo: Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet. Credit: Emile Wamsteker / Bloomberg 

‘Steve Jobs’ tops Amazon’s list of 10 best-selling books of 2011

Stevejobsbooks

Amazon.com on Monday announced its best-selling books of the year, and -- no surprise -- Walter Isaacson's biography of Apple visionary Steve Jobs landed in the No. 1 spot.

The online retail giant's list combined its sales of print and Kindle editions and took into account only paid copies. Books first published before 2011 were excluded.

Amazon noted that two books -- "The Mill River Recluse" by Darcie Chan (#4) and "The Abbey" by Chris Culver (#9) -- were published by Kindle Direct Publishing and made the top 10 based solely on Kindle sales.

"Steve Jobs" topped the list even though it was published just two months ago. Sales of the book "have been phenomenal in both formats," said Chris Schluep, senior editor of books at Amazon, said  that even though "Steve Jobs" was published just two months ago, sales "have been phenomenal in both formats." 

Here's the complete list: 

1. "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson

2. "Bossypants" by Tina Fey

3. "A Stolen Life" by Jaycee Dugard

4. "The Mill River Recluse" by Darcie Chan

5. "In the Garden of the Beasts" by Erik Larson

6. "A Dance with Dragons" by George R.R. Martin

7. "The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain

8. "The Litigators" by John Grisham

9. "The Abbey" by Chris Culver

10. "Inheritance (The Inheritance Cycle)" by Christopher Paolini

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-- Andrea Chang

twitter.com/byandreachang

Photo: Copies of Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" at a Costco in Mountain View, Calif. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

Amazon Kindle Fire to gain performance boosts in software update

6a00d8341c630a53ef0162fc91d035970d-600wi

Amazon's Kindle Fire is reportedly due for its first software update, partly in response to complaints about the performance of the hot-selling new tablet.

The retail giant, which has in the Fire a sales hit, is looking to improve the Web-browsing speed of its first tablet, among other things, according to a report from the New York Times.

"In less than two weeks, we’re rolling out an over-the-air update to Kindle Fire," Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said in the report.

As well as the speed of its Silk Browser, the software update should improve the responsiveness of the Fire's multitouch navigation and users will also be able to edit the Carousel of recent items they've used on the device, the New York Times said.

The Fire's last software update came about a month ago and since the Fire first shipped about a month ago, a significant number of consumers have complained to Amazon about the performance of their devices, and some have returned the new gadget because they were so unhappy with it, the report said.

Amazon doesn't disclose its sales or return numbers for the Fire, or any other Kindle devices, but reviews (myself included) did have a number of performance complaints with the 7-inch tablet. However, research groups have estimated that already, the Kindle Fire is the second-best selling tablet in the U.S.

The report also echoes the rumors that Amazon is working on a new Kindle Fire, possibly with a larger screen size, that could launch in the spring.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: An Amazon.com employee holds the Kindle Fire tablet at the device's unveiling in New York in September. Credit: Emile Wamsteker / Bloomberg

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