GeekMom Deal of the Day: Kindle Under Fifty

I’ve been keeping an eye on Amazon for special deals, particularly on cool but not-too-expensive gifts for the four minions and spotted this one today.

Amazon Kindle 6″ Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers.

Not bad. For that price, I could get a couple for the younger minions and keep the iPad we’ve been fighting over to myself.

Between the Bookends – August 2015

Between the Bookends © Sophie Brown
Between the Bookends © Sophie Brown

This month the GeekMoms dove deeply into the Chris Carter-verse with books featuring both The X-Files and Millennium, fallen in love again with Star Wars through a new series of Little Golden Books, enjoyed home crafts, and finally found something to draw them away from a beloved series. Read on to find out more about what we’ve been reading this month.

Continue reading Between the Bookends – August 2015

Late to the Game: ‘Elder Sign’

Elder Sign © Fantasy Flight Games (Fair Use)
Elder Sign © Fantasy Flight Games

Elder Sign is a cooperative dice-rolling game based on the Cthulhu Mythos in which you and your fellow players work together as a team of researchers investigating a museum, attempting to prevent the rise of an Ancient One. Players must collect a number of Elder Signs before the Ancient One fills its Doom Track, kills the players, or drives them all mad. Sound good? Then find out more in our in-depth look at both the physical game and its digital alter-ego, Elder Sign: Omens.

Elder Sign set up for a new game © Sophie Brown
Elder Sign set up for a new game © Sophie Brown

How Do You Play?
The museum that forms the playable region of Elder Sign is composed of a number of large cards, each representing a room, while in the digital version you are faced with a map of the museum with a number of locations highlighted on it.

Players choose a room to enter (embarking upon an Adventure) and attempt to roll dice and match the symbols on the card—sometimes in a specific order. If the player successfully completes their Adventure by matching all the symbols, they can gain spells and weapons to help them win more Adventures; they can also gain the all-important Elder Signs needed to defeat the Ancient One. Failing the Adventure can result in a loss of the player’s health and sanity, the arrival of a monster who will increase the difficulty of future Adventures, or Doom being added to the Ancient One’s Doom Track. After each player’s turn, a clock is advanced and at midnight, the Ancient One reveals a card that can benefit them, so players are encouraged to win as fast as possible. Some rooms also have their own, usually negative, Midnight Effects.

Elder Sign: Omens © Fantasy Flight Games (Fair Use)
Elder Sign: Omens © Fantasy Flight Games

How Do You Win and Lose?
To win at Elder Sign, players must collect a set number of Elder Sign tokens. The number is determined by the Ancient One they are fighting.

The tougher the Ancient One, the more Elder Signs will need to be collected to defeat it. Completing some Adventures will win you multiple Elder Signs, but the better the rewards, the harder the Adventure will be to complete. The team of players lose if they all are killed or driven insane by the Ancient One, or if the Ancient One fills its Doom Track.

Are There Any Expansions Available?
Yes. For the physical game two expansions, Unseen Forces and Gates of Arkham, are available. If you are playing digitally, there are currently three expansions: The Call of Cthulhu, The Trail of Ithaqua, and The Dark Pharaoh. All three unlock additional player characters and Ancient Ones to battle.

A successfully completed adventure, with three dice to spare © Sophie Brown
A successfully completed adventure, with three dice to spare © Sophie Brown

What Formats Is the Digital Game Available On?
Elder Sign: Omens is available on iOS (for both iPad and iPhone), Android, Kindle, and Steam.

How Do the Costs Compare?
The base game currently retails for around $30 with the expansions costing $15 to $20 each, making this one of the cheaper games currently on the market. The digital base game retails for $6.99 (iPad), $3.99 (iPhone), $14.99 (Steam), or around $4.50 on Android. Expansions are $2.99 each.

What Age Is It Suitable For?
The game is recommended for age 12+, and having played it many times, that feels like the correct choice from the developer. While the game play is simple enough that a younger child could understand what’s going on, the artwork is obviously very intense (this is a game set in the realm of the Ancient Ones, after all) and some of the mechanics would likely go over their heads.

The digital version also contains occasional cut scenes that could scare young children. If your child is already acquainted with classic horror, they may enjoy the game, but for the majority, the recommended age will be accurate.

Has It Been Featured on TableTop?
Yes! Elder Sign was featured on series one of TableTop and was played by Felicia Day, Mike Morhaime, and Bill Prady.

Attempting to complete the Mystery Tome Adventure © Fantasy Flight Games (Fair Use)
Attempting to complete the Mystery Tome Adventure © Fantasy Flight Games

Is It Actually Any Good?
Whether or not you will enjoy Elder Sign, either digitally or physically, is more than likely going to boil down to how much you enjoy randomness as a factor in your gaming. Completing Adventures is entirely based on dice-rolling (occasional cards and characters can change die rolls, but these are frustratingly few and far between), which means that even the best-equipped Investigator can fail spectacularly over and over again if the dice just aren’t in the mood to behave.

This can be incredibly aggravating, and I would know. Despite countless attempts and intentionally hoarding as many helpful cards as possible, I am still yet to beat the final card of The Call of Cthulhu expansion, by nothing more than sheer bad luck.

The randomness effect does, however, level the playing field, meaning that any group of players can work well together from experienced Investigators to total newbies.

The cooperative element really shines during physical play, as players debate which rooms/Adventures they should attempt and which to avoid. We played as a group late on New Year’s Eve and, despite losing spectacularly, had a great time playing—and isn’t that the whole point?

Digital Vs. Physical
Green = Pro, Red = Con, Black = Neutral


  • Game set up is as good as instantaneous.
  • The game keeps track of which cards can be used at any time, instantly deals out the correct rewards (or penalties) at the conclusion of an Adventure, and advances the clock as required.
  • The player has to play as multiple characters, remembering each individual’s special abilities and current inventory once their turn rolls around.
  • Designed for single player, so you don’t need to get a group together.
  • The single-player format means the game loses out on the cooperative nature of the physical version, arguably one of its best parts.
  • Both the base game and the expansions are cheap. The complete game with all expansions can be bought for as little as $13.
  • The base game is somewhat limited and quickly becomes repetitive, so the temptation to buy expansions is high.
  • Rooms with a Midnight Effect (a usually negative outcome every time the clock strikes midnight) are easily spotted on the map, as are those with Terror Effects.
  • Only one room can be seen at a time, so the player must either remember the requirements for each one or spend time looking at each one every time they choose a new room/Adventure.


  • Lots and lots of parts means the game takes a very long time to set up.
  • The game can be played by up to eight people, making it a great party game and a good choice at a games night with lots of guests, where other games might leave people out.
  • Midnight and Terror effects are written in small print on the cards, making them easy to overlook.
  • Although more expensive than the digital game, the physical edition is one of the cheaper games on the market (keep an eye out for frequent price reductions too).
  • Despite being cheaper than many games, the build quality is fantastic and the pieces are all well made and lovely to handle.
  • There are only two expansions. However, for those of us trying to limit our rapidly growing game collections, this may be a good thing!
  • The cards representing the rooms are laid out on the table and the requirements for each one can be seen all at once, making choosing your next room/Adventure easier.
  • Best played with a group, so not ideal if you don’t have a gaming group or local gamer friends nearby.

GeekMom received the base game of Elder Signs: Omens for review purposes.

Clinging to Antiquated Tech

Image: Sarah Pinault


I’m a big fan of new technology. I like everything to have a touch screen, and I like it to take up as little physical space as possible. I am accustomed to the world of Wi-Fi, and I expect to be connected pretty much everywhere I go. I don’t go very far. Yet, there are still areas of my technological life in which I cling to, what some people would call, antiquated tech. Much in the same way that my dad clings to Zach Morse’s cell phone, or GeekMom Corrina clings to her rotary phone, I find myself clinging to first generation models or heaven forbid, their paper alternatives. Don’t even get me started on my typewriter.


My digital camera: While I long ago gave up on film, I’m still a point and shoot person at heart. Most of my friends and fellow moms have traded up over the years, and strayed into the realms of amateur photography. The closest I have come is with my Canon PowerShot which a photographer friend tells me “at least looks like a real camera”. If I want professional pictures I have somebody else take them. To document my life, I’m good with my point and shoot. I also have not converted to the phone camera, though my husband’s iPhone 6XL takes a pretty fantastic picture and is much more convenient for delivery of digital images. My son is already rapidly growing out of his V-Tech and soon will come the day when his amateur movie making skills require something far in advance than his mother’s tech.

My television: Until a few weeks back we had an eleven year old television set. It required a digital box, chopped off the corners of the every wide image, and got very fuzzy reception. But it worked. My dad was a television repairman back in the day that we actually fixed things instead of disposing of them, my husband is of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset. So we had fuzzy reception, we could watch DVDs just fine, and with a Roku box we were well set up. Just not highly defined. The reason we got a new television? Someone gave it to us, no upgrade wanted, but who turns away a free TV really?


My calendar:
 I still use a paper calendar, and am a source of great amusement to my geek friends when I pull it out to literally pencil in a game date. We use Google calendar as well, this is where we store all of our joint events and family adventures. My husband uses the Google calendar on his Iphone, I however, will always pull out my trusty old moleskin. Within which is stored, events, birthdays, anniversaries and the cute things that my kids say to me.

My taxes: To be fair, I only cling to this one grudgingly, because I cling to my husband doing our taxes instead of paying someone to do them for us. He fills out the paper forms and mails them in every year. No Turbo Tax, no electronic submission. Plain old paper, plain old stamp. I am sure at some point we will be shocked to find that paper is no longer an option.

My phone: Much like Corrina I cling to my landline. My entire extended family still live in England, and so a cell phone is not the best method of communication. I gave up my cell phone years ago when I realized it was merely serving as an answering machine and nothing else. Occasionally I miss having one, like when I am five months pregnant and get a flat tire, but for the most part it is utterly blissful to be turned off from technology in this way.

My DVDs: I did not convert to Blu-Ray, I have to admit it. Partly because it ticks me off when we come out with new technology every ten years and everyone rushes to replace things they already have. Partly because I just don’t see the point, especially with a decade old television set! Much like VHS, I am sure a time will come when I have to embrace something new, but by then it probably won’t be Blu-Ray but the next iteration of media storage. Don’t even get me started on digital media, if I can’t touch it, I don’t own it. I got rid of my VHS player a few months ago, having clung to if for my only copy of Jurassic Park, but much like Elsa I finally let it go… and bought the DVD.

Vinyl records: These I will never part with, and accumulate more of every year. This one I cling to, not to exclude all others, but because I love them so. I listen to Spotify, I have an Ipod, I have hundreds of CDs, I also have a vast collection of Holiday music and musical theatre that just sound better on Vinyl. This is pure nostalgia, I love the sound, I love the crackles, it makes me feel home. My record player is a piece of work, you can play records, cassette tapes, cds, and hook it up to a digital player, all of which I do regularly. It also has the capacity to record from Vinyl or Cassette onto CD, for when I don’t have a portable record player handy. This is a realm of geekdom I inherited from my father, who owns enough vinyl records to open several stores across multiple states. Listening to a record is like coming home, and I love sharing that spinning sound with my children.

And finally…


My Kindle: Yes, this does make it onto the list of antiquated tech, how times do change. I have a low range Kindle, it isn’t touch screen, isn’t backlit, it is wireless but has books and nothing else, and I like it that way. When I sit down with my husband’s iPhone or iPad for a few minutes, I get easily distracted. Facebook, Pinterest, Angry Birds, whatever the App DuJour is. But my Kindle holds my books and nothing else. I like not being able to accidentally swipe to the next page, or next app. I like that it does one thing, and that one thing well.

I think we all cling to certain things long after they’ve been upgraded, and in some cases the only thing that makes us stop using them is when they fail and customer support no longer exists. That’s why I stopped using Microsoft XP after all. Head over to our Facebook page and let us know what antiquated tech you cling to.

Life Geekery Tablet Covers

Life Geekery, used with permission

I stumbled across Life Geekery’s shop a few months ago when I was searching Etsy for Harry Potter goodies (as one does). I  wasn’t even looking for a Kindle/iPad/iPhone cover at the time, but when I found this shop Ihad to have one. The heart wants what the heart wants, so Harry and my iPad Mini have been together for three months now.

Life Geekery is run by the husband and wife team of Matt and Nikki Mason, and their handmade designs are witty, made with Eco Felt, and priced around $30. I contacted Nikki to find out what inspired them and how they got started.

We’re a super nerdy husband and wife team that love to craft! The whole geeky cozy business started simply because I wanted a fun little case to store my own Kindle and couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. After coming up with a few different ideas we decided to make them and put them up on Etsy just to see if other people would like them as much as we did…and they did! Now we get to spread the joy to nerds everywhere and we couldn’t be more happy about that!

So, basically, the couple behind this business is just as much fun as their product. With more than 700 sales in less than two years, the shop is definitely popular. In addition to the awesome Firefly, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Dr. Who cases pictured above, designs also include Chewbacca, Frodo Baggins, and several others (Sherlock cover, stop flirting with me!). I’ve seen a Ron Weasley cover on their site, and I could swear I saw a TARDIS flash by on their website banner.

Sherlock cover by Life Geekery, used with permission
Sherlock cover by Life Geekery, used with permission

I asked Nikki who comes up with the designs, and she told me, “My husband and I collaborate on the designs, but he’s more of the designer and I’m more of the sewer.” Nikki and Matt are based in Hawaii, and each case is handmade to order—you can specify the tablet or phone it’s meant to fit. This means your case will not arrive right away. I waited a good few weeks to get mine, but I’ve had it since early March and thought it was well worth the wait.

I had to get used to having the opening at the bottom since these are sleeves and not cases (my typical cover preference). I’ve never used a sleeve for a Kindle or iPad before, so for the first few days I nearly dropped my Mini a few times because I kept carrying Harry right side up. And felt is slippery. I think I would slightly prefer to have the opening at the top of the sleeve, but I’m torn because I like the instant access when plugging it in to charge. Cases are fiddly on that point. And, honestly, once I got used to carrying Harry upside down it was no longer a problem. My Mini is protected, and it looks very cool. It’s also very easy to find in my giant, bottomless bag of stuff, and it makes me happy every time I see it. This has been one of my favorite purchases of 2013.

For the love of all that is awesome, check out Life Geekery’s shop!

OGIO Manhattan Bag Review

Ogio Brooklyn Bag \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
Ogio Brooklyn Bag \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

Bags are one of my geeky pleasures. Lately, I’ve been checking out the Ogio: Brooklyn. It’s a simple messenger bag and, thanks to my geeky button collection, I was able to give a little bit of a face lift. Underneath the Superman, Flash and Batman buttons is actually three regular buttons that once you undo, lets you access a hidden pocket under the flap.

The bag has two large main compartments pockets, two inside zippered pockets and a hidden one under the flap on the front. One of the inside zippered pockets is padded to hold either an iPad or other similar sized device (8.5”h x 11.75”w). The strap is a little wider than what I’m use to, but it’s still comfortable as an over the shoulder as well as messenger style. There’s plenty of room on it for buttons, patches or other personalizing you may wish to do.

The inside is pretty roomy and comfortably holds my Kindle Fire (new seven-inch HD), iPad 3 and two marvel graphic novels. Even with the weight that my two devices and two books put on it, I felt the strap could handle it. I’ve had bags in the past where the straps would start to wear down under the same conditions.


The bottom of the bag is a little padded to keep any electronics you place inside safe. This is very important to me because I never go anywhere without my iPad and my Kindle Fire.

The Brooklyn is available in five different colors including what I like to call “April O’Neal yellow”.

You can purchase the Ogio: Brooklyn on Amazon or directly from Ogio’s website and is available in five different colors.

In exchange for my time and efforts in  reporting my opinion within this blog, I received a free review sample. Even though I receive this benefit, I always give an opinion that is 100% mine.


Terrific Children's and YA Books on Sale for Kindle This Month

Great children's and YA books on sale for Kindle in December

Every month, Amazon unveils a new list of discounted Kindle books. The December list contains some real gems, especially for lovers of children’s literature.

A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket. Needs no introduction! Kindle price: $1.99.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones — one of the great fantasy authors of all time (my favorite of her books is the strange and lovely Dogsbody, the story of a celestial being who is stripped of his powers and exiled into the body of a dog on earth). Howl’s Moving Castle is one of her finest books. Kindle price: $1.99.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, the first in her highly acclaimed series of Attolia novels. Kindle price: $1.99.

Seekers #1: The Quest Begins by Erin Hunter. Hunter’s Warriors books, about rival clans of anthropomorphic cats, have been the hands-down favorites of my middle two daughters for the past four years, trumping even Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Betsy-Tacy. Seekers is a a spinoff series, like Warriors but with bears. Kindle price: $1.99.

Mindblind by Jennifer Roy. A compelling YA novel about a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome striving to use his mathematical gifts in a way that makes a contribution to the world—his personal definition of genius. Kindle price: $1.99.

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel. This one is temporarily flagged as “under review,” but it looks like its December Kindle price is going to be $1.99, and it’s worth checking back later in the month to see if the buy button has been restored. UPDATED 12/5: It’s back, and it is indeed $1.99. A fascinating story about a man’s quest to build a clock that would keep time at sea in order to solve a thorny navigation problem that had led to the deaths of countless sailors over the centuries.

Here’s the complete list of 100 Kindle Books for $3.99 or less for the month of December. I’ll be loading up my Kindle Fire with several of the books above. My kids still prefer hard copies, but I confess I’ve reached the point where I’m yearning for ebook versions of my old favorites — I’ve become pretty attached to the joys of a built-in light and enlargeable fonts. How about you?

A One-Stop List for Geek-Friendly Cyber Monday Deals

There are a lot of deals to sift through today–who has the time? So we’ve done a little sorting for you to make your Cyber Monday shopping go a little more smoothly. Find another great deal? Leave it for everyone in the comments!


The Kindle Fire is only $129 today, the lowest it’s been. Use code FIREDEAL at checkout. If you’re looking for more, they have quite a few tablet deals as well.

Nabi, the Android tablet for kids, is the kids.woot special today, which means it also probably won’t be there long. Regularly $199, you can score it today for $129.

SparkFun is offering free shipping today. Pick up a new kit and get tinkering on your holiday lights display!

Everything at Mimoco is 30% off with code CYBERBLOOH30, including their new line of Star Trek flash drives.


Comixology is have a 99 cent sale on Avengers, 50% of select comics from IDW, and up to 80% off collections.

Amazon’s lightning deals in books include The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury and The Complete Vader: Star Wars. Check to see when the books you want will be available so you know when to buy. Kindle books are on sale as well, many for around $2.

All books from tech publisher Apress are $15 today.

O’Reilly is offering 50% off all of their ebooks and videos or 60% off orders more than $100 with code CYBERDAY. O’Reilly digital content is DRM-free with free updates in multiple formats.

Adafruit is offering 50% off the early release version of Getting Started With Raspberry Pi.

If there’s a maker, hacker, or tinkerer on your gift list, the recently released Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by former Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson is $13.98 on Amazon.


Wal-Mart has some good deals on Lego sets, among other things. Encourage imagination instead of instructions-following with 1300-piece basic brick boxes for $30, which comes out well below the average price per brick!

Toys R Us often runs “buy one, get one 50% off” specials, but several action figures and toys, including Green Lantern and Pirates of the Caribbean, are just plain 50% off or more today.

V-Tech is running discounts on bundles of its new InnoTab 2, MobiGo 2, and V.reader devices with free shipping.

Video games

Get the PC download version of Batman Arkham City for only $7.50 or Batman Arkham Asylum for $5.

If you’re ready to start your kids on Skylanders, Wal-Mart has glow-in-the-dark starter packs for $39 for Wii, PS3, and Xbox. If you missed all the Xbox specials on Black Friday, they also have a bundle for $159 with Skylanders Starter Kit and Exclusive Gill Grunt Character and free shipping.

Wal-Mart has several good Wii games for $15, including Super Mario Galaxy, Super Paper Mario, and Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

The Steam sale is still on, but harder to gift, so consider it a present to yourself. Today’s deals includ Sonic Generations and Batman: Arkham City. Yesterday’s still available deals include Borderlands 2 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.


Seasons 1, 2, and 4 of Heroes on Amazon are only $8.99 each. (Season 3 is inexplicably twice as much.) The search turns up a lot, though, so to make it easy, just use these links: season one, season two, season four.

Amazon also has some great DVD lightning deals throughout the day, but like with the books, you’ll have to check to see what’s available and make sure you’re ready to click when they’re ready to sell. The best deals go within seconds. Today’s deals include Battlestar Galactica, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Brave.

Other general geekery

ThinkGeek is offering free shipping with no minimum order in the US or $10 off $60 anywhere outside the US (including Middle Earth, according to their newsletter).

X-Treme Geek is having a 70% off sale with 99-cent shipping.

SnorgTees has free shipping over $60 today only.

Toys R Us packs of batteries are buy one, get one free. You’ll no doubt need them for all of the other stuff you’ve bought!

Bio of Nobel Prize Winner Barbara McClintock Free on Kindle This Weekend

Geneticist Barbara McClintock, whose birthday we GeekMom types celebrate on June 16, won a Nobel Prize in 1983 for her discovery (decades earlier) that small pieces of DNA can move from one place to another in a genome—a phenomenon known as “jumping genes.”

Her biography, Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist, written by children’s book author Edith Hope Fine, is available as a free Kindle download this weekend, April 14th and 15th. This is the first book in a new ebook series called Spotlight Biographies, aimed at readers age nine and up. I’ll be snapping it up to read with my gaggle of girls (and my boys, when they’re ready). McClintock, who worked on her own for years, using her own crops of maize for research, is a fascinating figure and I’m eager to learn more about her.

Ebook Piracy and the Libraries of the Future

Image: Sarah Pinault. Toby’s first visit to the library.

My husband has been lucky since acquiring his iPhone. He was looking for a book to read to test out the reader function, saw a commercial for A Game of Thrones, decided to read the book and it was being given away as a free ebook that month in preparation for the show. After that, several people recommended that he read The Pillars of the Earth, lo and behold, a quick Google search and it too was a free ebook that month from a national retailer. Then it got trickier.

After deciding to read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever following the directions for picking a Sci/Fi Fantasy book, he could not find a copy anywhere. He was now hooked on finding them for free. He found a hard copy at a library of which he is a member, he also found it illegally as an ebook. Surmising that since a library book was reading it for free, and he wanted to read it on the iPhone, downloading it made it just like reading the copy at his local library. He lasted about an hour with that logic, before deleting the file and becoming grumpy, in a holier than thou kind of way. My husband is a very honest man, it’s been two weeks and he still hasn’t bought or read the book. With Amazon’s addition of the Kindle Lending Library last week, the dilemmas facing my husband seem to be the wave of the future. A few overdue fines at the library pale in comparison with the fact that e-readers may be taking literature the way of Napster and iTunes, as far as morality and public ownership go. As the music industry continues to debate its own standards of ownership, I wonder where e-readers are taking us, and if recent court rulings will have any affect on how we view books that are still covered by their copyright. If I lose my hard copy of a book, am I entitled to an e-copy for free?

Behind the scenes at GeekMom the Kindle Lending Library raised some minor discussion. I am hesitant to accept anything for free from a company that possesses my credit card information, but I am quite happy with a world that accommodates both my love of paper, and my husband’s love of the convenience of his e-reader. Otherwise we have a split between those of us happy to forgo paper for .doc, and those who relish wandering around the local library. Would this new policy have any effect on libraries or e-readership figures since it is limited to one book a month? With the grassroots library movement, that GeekMom Melissa talked about this week, I have great hope in the future of the library.

So my question is, am I reading too much into my husband’s one-time moral dilemma, or should author’s fear for the sanctity of their work?

Amazon Unveils The Kindle Fire, Complete With Geek Content, And Three New Kindles

Image credit:

This morning Amazon officially announced its much-awaited Android-based tablet, the Kindle Fire. The big news is that at $199, it’s half the price of the cheapest iPad and nearly as cheap as the $149 TouchPads that went flying off shelves when HP discontinued support last month.

The Kindle Fire will have a 7″ display ready for instant access to Amazon’s growing Android app store, as well as its library of streaming movies and shows, which as of this week includes a deal for Fox content. It also comes with a 30-day trial of Amazon Prime. Having had Prime for several years, I can say that it is increasingly well-worth its $79/year price. Because Prime also gives you free (and commercial-free) access to 11,000 movies and TV shows, it’s even more worthwhile if you get a Fire.

Some anticipated that $79 subscription would come with the Fire. Instead you get free Amazon Cloud storage.

“Kindle Fire brings together all of the things we’ve been working on at Amazon for over 15 years into a single, fully-integrated service for customers,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “With Kindle Fire, you have instant access to all the content, free storage in the Amazon Cloud, [and] the convenience of Amazon Whispersync.”

According to the Kindle Fire’s press release, its digital content selection will include “100 exclusive graphic novels, including Watchmen, which has never before been available in digital format, as well as Batman: Arkham City, Superman: Earth OneGreen Lantern: Secret Origin and 96 others from DC Entertainment.”

On the down side, there’s no 3G connectivity in the Fire, unlike the Kindle, which has been my savior when traveling. Phone not working in the middle of a conference in Paris? Battery-eating phone suddenly dead in Boston? Either way, I can whip out my Kindle with its practically never-ending battery life, and I’ve got my email, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the web ready to go in black-and-white eInk with no monthly fee, just eternal 3G.

Speaking of battery life, the Kindle Fire is expected to last seven hours on WiFi. It’s got 8 GB of storage (compared to the 16 GB or 32 GB of the aforementioned cheap TouchPads) and a 1 GHz dual-core TI OMAP processor.

As if that wasn’t enough for one day, Amazon also announced a new set of Kindles in a product line that already accounts for 10% of Amazon’s revenue–more than $6 billion. And two of the three are a drop in price from the previous least-expensive Kindle, which was $114:

  • The next generation of the Kindle–$79
  • New touchscreen Kindle Touch–$99
  • Shipping November 21, Kindle Touch 3G with the free 3G like existing Kindles–$149

The $79 Kindle will be 30% lighter (fewer than 6 ounces) and 18% smaller–Amazon is calling it the “Kindle that fits in your pocket,” although with a 6″ display, I think they have larger pockets than I do.

They’ll also have X-Ray, a new feature that lets customers explore the “bones of the book.” With a single tap, readers can see all the passages across a book that mention ideas, fictional characters, historical figures, places or topics that interest them, as well as more detailed descriptions from Wikipedia and Shelfari, Amazon’s community-powered encyclopedia.

The new Kindles, unlike the old ones, come with what Amazon calls “special offers and sponsored screensavers”–ads that appear when you’re not reading. There will also be offers from AmazonLocal, their daily deal service.

As a side note, this puts us a little off track on the theory that Kindles would be free by November. But Amazon has the content link that may finally make a truly successful business model for an inexpensive tablet.

You can pre-order the Kindle Fire today. It will ship November 15.

Library eBooks Coming Soon to a Kindle Near You

Last summer I wrestled mightily with the biggest question of the year: Kindle or Nook? Ultimately, I went with a Kindle because I do a lot of book reviewing, and I knew I’d be able to read review copies of new books on Kindle via Netgalley. This was a tremendous relief to my children, who were beginning to have trouble finding each other amid the precarious towers of bound galleys all over the house. But the Nook has one feature I coveted in the worst way: you can check out library books on it.

Well, I need covet no longer. Er, not much longer, at least. Overdrive, the service that partners with libraries all over the United States to make ebooks available to library patrons, has just made a welcome announcement: Kindle compatibility is here!

“This update, which is included at no additional cost to OverDrive partner libraries, allows most existing eBooks in your library’s collection to be read on all Kindle devices or by using free Kindle apps for iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ and other mobile devices. OverDrive is quickly updating all U.S. public and school library partner websites to support Kindle compatibility and will complete this update as soon as possible.”

I may have squealed a little tiny bit when I heard this news. I dashed straight to my library website to see if the update has been rolled out to our system yet. Alas, San Diego County isn’t sporting that magical “Get for Kindle” button yet, but now I know I won’t have to wait much longer. I’ve already jumped into the digital queue for the new Flavia de Luce mystery. Here’s hoping that sweet, sweet Kindle accessibility arrives at my branch before I hit the head of that line…

How about you? Are you reading library books on any of your devices?

The Postmortal by Drew Magary – A Pre-Apocalypse Tale


The Postmortal by Drew Magary is a cautionary tale of what could be in store for the world if some clever scientist is able to create a cure for aging and it becomes readily available to everyone.

The story is a collection of posts and tidbits posted by John Farrell in a blog type format, who starts off the story as a divorce lawyer and opts to get the cure when he is 29 years old. The book follow John through 60 years of life in a world where most people just don’t age anymore, and where there are some heavy consequences to this brave, new world.

I don’t want to give anything away, but this book was captivating, totally frightening and hard to put it down. Stories like these always fascinate me because the events in this book could really happen the way that science and technology is progressing.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading cautionary tales of science gone wrong, along with anyone who is interested in pre-apocalyptic stories. It really was very excellent.

The Postmortal will be available in paperback and for the Kindle and Nook on August 30, 2011.

Note: I received a copy of this book for review purposes.

Burden of Blood by Wenona Hulsey – A Modern Fantasy Tale


Burden of Blood by Wenona Hulsey is a fast paced modern fantasy. Police officer Nicole Keenan is just trying to lead a normal life in a small southern town despite the fact that she can hear other people’s thoughts. But events sweep her into a dangerous adventure that puts her loved one’s in harms way along with revealing her true identity.

I’m a big fan of modern fantasy, which is what I would consider this book to be. Magical things happening right in our world along with magical creatures such as faeries. So I was pretty excited to be able to read this book.

It did take me a little to get into it, but once the action picked up it was a very easy and entertaining read. The end surprised me a little, but it wasn’t really a bad one. The character of Nicole is really well written, as she is pulled in different directions and makes discoveries about her past and her powers.

All in all, I really enjoyed Burden of Blood and would highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of fantasy. This book is available in eBook format for the Kindle and the Nook.

Note: I received a copy of this book for review purposes.

The End of Borders


It has been buzzing all over the web that Borders is going to be closing the rest of their stores and liquidating all of their assets. I’ve read that the reasoning for the closing Borders not being able to enter into the eReader market and the downswing in the economy. The market for books is changing because of eBooks and Borders Kobo eReader hasn’t gotten nearly as much press as the Kindle or Nook. Honestly, I didn’t even know that Borders had an eReader until I was looking at their website to write this post.

For me, this news makes me a little sad. When I was younger, I’d spend hours in Borders browsing all the shelves upon shelves of books. I’ve always adored reading, so I’ve been a fan of the big book stores because their selection of fantasy and sci-fi books were always much better than smaller bookstores I frequented. This made me very happy, and I would always have a hard time deciding what book to bring home with me.

I do enjoy eBooks, but the move from traditional books to eBooks feels like the end of an era. When I was growing up, my dad had many bookshelves in our basement with lovely, geeky books. When I was in high school, I literally read my way all the way through his library. While I do have a lot of paper books, I’ve found that I’m buying more and more books for my Kindle. I like the idea of always having a portable, little library with me. But I do still love my built in bookshelves (a big reason I wanted to buy our house) filled to the brim with well loved books.

The closing down of Borders feels almost like the closing down of traditional books. I know there will be more stories to read, but the book industry is really changing right now. I wonder if any of the other big book retailers will have the same fate as Borders.

How do you all feel about the demise of Borders?

Tips for Using Your New Kindle

I noticed from Facebook and Twitter posts over the last week that a lot of my friends got Kindles for Christmas. And so naturally, they were all looking to the veteran owners for what to do with them. Here’s what I’ve been telling them–and now you.

Lend your books

You can lend Kindle books you’ve bought on Amazon to other Kindle users. This is a new feature this week, and one that puts a plus mark in the Kindle column where the Nook was already ahead. But like the Nook lending, there are a few big down sides. One is that it’s only a 14-day loan, no renewals. While the book is out on loan, the owner can’t read it. And you can lend a given book only once–no sharing with all your friends.

Find free books

Tons of books are available on Amazon for free. They’re mostly classics in the public domain, but you’ve been meaning to catch up on those anyway, right? Others are offered free for a brief period–for example, I grabbed Elvis Takes a Backseat, now $9.99, for free shortly after I got my Kindle. For the last few months, as well as at the time of this post, the Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith books have been free.

You can also get free books from other places on the web, like and Project Gutenberg. Amazon does a great job of explaining how to get those to your device.

Visit the library

I was surprised to learn that my county library has a digital collection. Check this list on the MobileRead Wiki to see if there’s one in your area. If not, there are a few at the top of that article that are open to anyone.

Play games

Oh, you thought you bought a book device? Well, this is sort of like buying crossword puzzle books. But more fun. You already have Minesweeper–press Alt+Shift+M to play. While in Minesweeper, you can press G to play GoMoku, a five-in-a-row type of game.

On the Amazon store, you can download several other games, like Shuffled Row, Every Word, and Sudoku. The list of available games is growing, so try a few out and let me know which ones you like.The Kindle Apps Blog has reviewed quite a few.

Develop your own apps

And where are all those games coming from? Amazon released the Kindle Development Kit about a year ago. If you’re a developer, they’re still taking beta participants. According to the KDK page, user revenue will be split with 70% to the developer.

Get yourself to read more

You got the Kindle, so now your New Year’s resolution is to read more. Daily Lit will send you books in pieces by email or RSS. Why? You read email all the time–short chunks of prose. But a book feels like a bigger investment. It seems harder to work in to your day. Daily Lit puts the two together and helps you get in the reading you want to do in between work requests and spam.

Manage your ebooks

It’s a great device in many respects, but the organization and book management aren’t the best. And so, as with any technology, where the creator falls short, third parties step in. Calibre is an open source tool for library management, ebook conversion, syncing, and more. Or, if you want just management in a familiar (if you’re a Windows user) interface, the Windows-only Kindle Collection Manager is in beta.

Publish your own books

Writers have several tools for getting their work in front of Kindle readers. Try Amazon’s Digital Text Platform or, for a more social-media-like publishing experience, Scribd.

Make a case for it

There are quite a few tutorials available for making Kindle cases. Urban Threads has one, and they have a couple of perfect designs on sale this week: “The Raven” in the shape of a raven, or if you’re into vampire novels, you could disguise your Kindle as a vampire hunting kit. Chica and Jo have another case tutorial, which also tells you how to adapt the pattern to fit other devices.

Improve your traveling experience

This seems like a small one, but it was a big win for me shortly after I got my Kindle. Because I got the 3G edition, I had free Internet always available throughout a recent trip. Email in the airport without paying for a connection and Twitter while waiting for the subway–no problem, even in Europe. It’s not the most amazing web connection you’ll ever have, but when you’re trying to meet up with people in a strange city where your phone isn’t working (despite the phone company’s assurance it would), being able to send a quick message from your Kindle is invaluable.

Cozying Up To Kindle

how kindle re-ignited a love of reading,
Image re-mix by L. Weldon

I adapt slowly to technological change. That’s an understatement. The first time I drove past a guy who was engaged in a lively conversation despite no one else nearby, I was struck with empathy and said something (in my Compassionate Mom voice) to my kids about the burden of mental illness. “He WAS talking to someone,” my son corrected me (using his Patient Teenager voice). Then he explained the concept of Bluetooth headsets to me.

So you can logically assume I’ve been minimally aware of all the e-readers on the market. Well, at least not aware of their benefits. But a few months ago my college student son bought himself a Kindle with his own earnings. He told me it would enable him to get textbooks more easily. Decent rationale.

But from very start Kindle hooked him on much more than textbooks. Clichéd as it might sound, Kindle re-kindled his love of reading. Back when he was elementary school-aged my son read for hours at a time. I’d find him curled up on the couch or out on a porch chair, engrossed in a book. As he got into his teens he read fewer and fewer books. He spent more time with friends, more time on the net, and when he did read his material of choice tended to be magazines. Sadly, I assumed his voracious reading days were over.

I was wrong. The first two weeks he owned the Kindle he read over a dozen books, scrambling eagerly through every word. That pace hasn’t diminished. When he’s curious about a subject he reads a whole Kindle book on it. Maybe two. He finds more depth in this approach than scrolling through the net looking for information, although he hasn’t given up the net by any means. I don’t hear much about all the magazine and newspapers he’s subscribed to on his Kindle until he says something like, “Oh yeah, I read an article about that last week in the Washington Post.” He still reads required material for his college classes but when he’s home on the weekends I tend to find him curled up on the couch or in a porch chair, getting in some recreational reading on his Kindle.

An older member of the family will be getting the larger version, the Kindle DX, as his Christmas gift this year. Chances are he’ll be telling me about all the e-reader advantages not found in that old format I still enjoy, bound books. Maybe he’ll leave it lying around and I’ll give Kindle a try.

Caution! Get All the Facts Before You Get Your eReader!

Photo: Amazon

As the holiday season approaches, and you make the list of all the new tech gadgets you’d like to find under the tree, let me offer one suggestion. Do the research on that iPad, play around with the Sony Reader and that amazing new Kindle, but then do one more thing: Go to the website for your local library and do a different kind of research.

I work at a fairly large library, that is connected to 29 other libraries in our area. That means we share books, videos and music. We also share audio books and ebooks. The selection is amazing. On our library website alone, patrons have access to thousands of ebooks and audio books, free of charge. It’s easier and quicker than driving to a brick and mortar building to check out the hard copy.

But there’s one catch. You can only use this amazing variety of resources if you’re using certain devices.

The audio books seem to be the most versatile in our collection. From iPods to PC laptops,  compatibility is rarely an issue. The main snag appears in the category of ebooks.

In our large library system you can check out (down load) hundreds of current titles, but only if you own an ereader besides an iPad or a Kindle. If you have a Nook, Kobo, Pandigital Novel, or just about any kind of Sony Reader, you’ll have no problem accessing our huge ebook collection.  Anything Apple, and you’re out of luck.

It pains our Information Technology  person. She’d love to have everything available to everybody. But that’s not possible for now. So in the meantime she warns our patrons to choose wisely when purchasing new devices. She refuses to endorse a certain product but wants our patrons to know there’s one more thing to consider when making out your wish list.

If you plan to use the resources your local library has to offer, make sure your dream device is compatible.