May 252011

Just a quick note: following on the success of Amazon’s Kindle 3 Wi-Fi with “Special Offers” (ads) for $114 — which quickly became Amazon’s best-selling Kindle model — Amazon today rolled out the 3G version: the Kindle 3 Wi-Fi + 3G with “Special Offers” for $164. Similar to the less-expensive model, this is also a $25 price cut from the normal 3G model, which is $189. It appears to be in stock, with free shipping.

For more info on the “Special Offers,” check out my post on the Wi-Fi-only version here.

UPDATE: The Kindle 3G + Wi-Fi with “Special Offers” is now $50 off, and costs just $139.

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May 072011

Last month, I wrote about Amazon’s new $114 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi with “Special Offers,” which is available and shipping now from Amazon. My gut reaction was that I like my Kindle (and the serene reading experience it provides) enough that I would prefer to pay the extra $25 (for the regular price $139 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi) to avoid seeing advertisements on my Kindle.

Since then, I’ve heard a little more about the “special offers” that Amazon is providing. A few of the ads are just ads, but a couple of legitimately good deals are being reported so far:

  • A $20 Amazon gift card for $10
  • A $10 Amazon credit when you buy one of a list of e-books, some of which are under $5

Assuming you take advantage of both deals (and buy one of the less expensive e-books that qualifies for the second deal), you’d save an extra $15 (plus get a free e-book), knocking the effective price of the “Special Offers” Kindle to just $99. As I said in my earlier post, $99 seems like a more tempting price point.

Presumably, Amazon will continue to offer deals like that (they mention a potential $6 deal for 6 Audible audiobooks that normally cost $68, for example), which would drive the effective price down further. If you keep it long enough and take advantage of enough of the legitimately good deals, could the Kindle’s “special offers” end up paying for itself?

Personally, I feel so overloaded and bombarded with advertisements in my life, I am loathe to open up another avenue for advertisers to annoy me. (Side rant: how about watching an NBA game, on paid cable TV, and not only getting 1.5 hours of ads for a 60-minute game, but seeing the Company X game summary brought to you by Company Y at the Company Z Arena, and then listening to the announcers plug products and upcoming shows during free throws? Enough already! End side rant.) That being said, if you’re the type who can safely ignore ads (tip: most people are not, which is why advertisers pay so much money forcing you to see them), this is one way to get a brand-new Kindle 3 (that is, in every mechanical respect, identical to the regular Kindle 3 Wi-Fi) for just $114, and maybe significantly less than that when some of Amazon’s special offers are factored in.

On the other hand, it’s always possible that the two special offers listed above are all you’re gonna get, and the rest will just be obnoxious car dealership ads. Don’t blame me if that’s the case! =)

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Apr 112011

Advertisements on the Kindle

Today Amazon announced that you can get the normally-$139 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi for just $114 … but there’s a catch. The catch is advertising: screensavers and ads at the bottom of the home screen. You can find the deal (with free shipping) at Amazon here:

Kindle 3 Wi-Fi With “Special Offers” for $114

Now, getting a Kindle 3 for $139 is already a great deal for the best e-reader out there, in my opinion. So getting one for $114 is even better. But is it worth saving $25 to have to deal with advertisements? For as long as you own it? (Note, you can still get the Kindle 3 Wi-Fi for $139 and Kindle 3 Wi-Fi + 3G for $189.)

On the one hand, the included screensavers are nothing to write home about anyway — mostly a rotating selection of dead authors — and some of the ad screensavers might not be so bad.

But what would annoy me are the ad banners that show up on the bottom of the home screen (see the lower left photo). I use my Kindle enough that I’d probably pay the extra $25 to avoid seeing those and losing that screen real estate. But they might not bother you, and saving $25 is nothing to scoff at. And Amazon assures us the ads do not show up while reading books.

Also, Amazon says that it will tailor the ads to readers’ needs, and offer great deals and other things that you might actually want to see. From Amazon’s description:

New, Lower Price

When you buy Kindle with Special Offers, you are getting the same bestselling Kindle for $25 less—only $114. Special offers and sponsored screensavers display on the Kindle screensaver and on the bottom of the home screen—they don’t interrupt reading.

Special Offers

You’ll receive special offers directly on your Kindle. Examples include:

  • $10 for $20 Gift Card
  • $6 for 6 Audible Books (normally $68)
  • $1 for an album in the Amazon MP3 Store (choose from over 1 million albums)
  • $10 for $30 of products in the Amazon Denim Shop or Amazon Swim Shop

I mean, a $20 Amazon gift card for $10 is a great deal, one that would be of interest to most Kindle owners. And getting notifications of legitimately good deals might even be a good thing. But not all the ads will be great deals (even the example ones in the photos are just Visa ads).

My gut instinct is that $99 would have been a more fair price for this ad-supported version.

What do you think? Is it a great way to save $25? Are the ads an abomination? Please leave a comment below with your thoughts.

The $114 “Kindle 3 Wi-Fi With Special Offers” (meaning “ads”) is available for pre-order from Amazon now, and is scheduled to ship on May 3.

Apr 252010

Facebook greed: do not like.

In Facebook’s latest quest to make even more money from its users’ personal information, their newest ploy: the perversion of the “Like” button, which previously was an innocent way to give a virtual “thumbs up” to a friend’s comment or photo, without “subscribing” to anything or making a permanent connection. Now, however, that same “Like” button — that Facebook has trained its users to click on so much it expects 1 billion new “Likes” within the first 24 hours — “creates a connection” when used for interests, Fan pages, or other company websites. According to FB, “we believe this change offers you a more light-weight and standard way to connect with people, things and topics in which you are interested.” In other words, they hope to confuse things and trick more people into clicking “Like” because people are used to it, and it sounds better than “Become a Fan” or “Subscribe” or “Let us Track Your Interests.”

The new “Like” button not only extends its reach to Fan pages (which you used to “become a fan” of), but will now pop up all over the web on various company websites. An example FB gives is; so, you visit and see the ubiquitous FB “Like” button and click it. Assuming you are logged in to your FB account, you have now provided a piece of personal data that FB can sell to Levi’s, Macy’s, or some other jeans competitor. Also, the fact that you “Like” Levi’s now shows up in the “News Feed,” which means that you just spammed all 200 of your friends with an advertisement for Levi’s. Great! Because advertising wasn’t invasive enough, now FB is trying to trick your friends into doing the advertising for them.

In a similar vein, your “Interests” on the “Info” tab of your Facebook profile page are being converted automatically into things that you “Like.” So, if, under activities or interests you put “Unbuttoning my Levi’s and eating at KFC,” you will now be assumed to “Like” Levi’s and KFC. And your name will show up as a “Liker” or “Fan” or “Friend” or “Follower” (or whatever they’ll call it) on the new Levi’s Facebook “Communities” page. So, anyone (friend or not) can visit the Levi’s communities page and see you’re a “Liker.” Yes, even if you have your “Interests” set to “private.” OK, that’s not so bad, but what if you included “sex” under interests, or “marijuana,” or “speeding.” Now, all that information is instantly accessible in a neat database … and how much would your car insurance company like that information?

Want to stop that from happening? FB says your only option is to “delete” all your interests. However, in a clever twist, that just prevents your interests from showing up on your profile (where you want them so your friends can see), yet FB keeps that info and continues selling it to advertisers. It’s the worst of both worlds. Nothing you can do; if you’ve entered something, it’s too late, FB owns it. I’ve said it before: I don’t care what your privacy settings are, don’t put anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t want to appear on the front page of the New York Times. That is more true today then ever.

Think your status updates and comments are safe? Nope, those can show up on “Communities” pages too. So if you say, “I hate the FBI,” that post will show up on the “FBI” Communities page. Nice.

Facebook has explained recently that they are trying to “monetize” their user base … that translates to “get you to spend more money” and “advertise to you more” and “sell more of your information and purchasing history.” They’re trying to take a personal site where people share info with friends, and needle into that info and those exchanges and make money from them. I understand they are a business and are seeking to profit, but this method is so at odds with what their users want, I don’t think they can pull it off. At least I hope not.

I’m sure there are less invasive ways for them to harvest all that user info and make money from it without violating the trust and privacy of their users. For example, they could aggregate “trends,” things people are talking about or searching for, and sell that compiled info to companies. “Mentions of Twilight are up 12% this week,” “instances of the phrase ‘going to buy an iPad’ are down 27%,” “72% of users who discuss it claim they refuse to pay over $9.99 for e-books.” Isn’t that info valuable? And, providing that sort of aggregate (not personally-identifiable) info wouldn’t alienate FB users.

Facebook needs to seriously re-think their disregard for users’ privacy. I’m sure, when you have hundreds of millions of users, the temptation is great to see them all as nice plump dollar signs. These sorts of moves have backfired on Facebook before, spawning protests over privacy concerns, but they keep trying. Facebook is a company, and wants to make (more) money. Hey, look, I get it. I wish I could give my novels away for free and not worry if they sell or not. But I’m trying to make a living here, and the grocery store doesn’t give me food for free, and my landlord keeps bitching about rent. But I’m not taking anyone’s personal data and selling it — let alone tricking them into giving it to me. But hey, what do I know? I’m not 25 years old and the owner of a company worth over $35 billion. But my free advice is: stop pushing, Facebook, before your users turn on you and leave Facebook for good.

Maybe they’ll even sit down and read a good book instead. 😉

UPDATE: Nice article from Wired, first line: “Facebook has gone rogue, drunk on founder Mark Zuckerberg’s dreams of world domination.” Another nice tidbit, FB now adds apps without your permission when you visit certain websites (I just checked, and had 4 installed on my profile).