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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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September 2016
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Good Resources for Free and Discounted Kindle Books

If you’re vigilant about tracking the daily Kindle news, you will find a bunch of good books for free or discounted prices.  They don’t stay discounted for very long, so you have to act fast.

Bookmark Amazon.com’s reader forums.  Overall, these are good resources for anything Kindle related.  Kindle users are the best judges of what works best and what doesn’t.  But, for discounted and free books, check out the forum titled: Discounted / Price Dropped Kindle eBooks.  Put that title in the search box since there’s no way to directly link to the forum itself.  There’s also a Free Kindle book forum that is worth checking as well.  Even if you don’t find a book you like, keep checking.  This forum is updated often.

Don’t forget to check the Top 100 Free Kindle bestsellers list.  A lot of these books are cheesy romance novels or self help books.  Occasionally though, you’ll find a bestseller, or other good book to try out.  About half of the books on my Kindle came from this list.  I was able to discover new favorite authors by finding their books here.  The list also includes Kindle games and active content.

Don’t forget the new Kindle Daily Deals going on.  They include major discounts on bestselling books.  There are some bestsellers that I can’t afford the full price for.  Some are as much as $15!  So, I’ve been keeping track of the Daily Deals to see if they show up there.  One of the most notable ones to show up on the Daily Deals was The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michael Connelly.

Through the forums, I found a great website that provides alerts when prices are dropped on a book.  It is called eReaderIQ.com.   The website lets you track Kindle price drops, search for your favorite books, view the free Kindle book list, and see what books have been recently converted to Kindle.  The recently converted book option is quite handy.  There are a bunch of other discounted Kindle book websites.  You’ll find them recommended by readers on the forums, and pretty much anywhere there are discussions regarding the e-reader and e-books.

Aside from all of the resources here, you can check out the Amazon Kindle Twitter and Facebook page for more news and discount sale information.  The Facebook page has been an excellent resource for both authors and readers alike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kindle Games: $0.99 Sale and Thoughts

Today it appears that Amazon has decided that we need even more reasons to waste time in a given way.  I would be upset, but I’ve been too busy playing games to find the time.  Between now and March 27th, there’s a sale going on wherein twelve of the most popular Kindle games to date are available for a mere $0.99.  This is a pretty good list and I’m finding the games quite well thought out and fun to play across the board so far.  Included in this sale are: Scrabble, Solitaire, Mahjong, Chess, Hangman 4 Kids, Triple Town, Texas Hold ‘em Poker, Sudoku Unbound, and four New York Times Crossword Puzzle Packs (2 Challenging, 2 Easy).

For those willing to give it a chance, and you can’t really go wrong at the price, chances are good that you’ll find the implementations far cleaner than anticipated.  Mahjong, Sudoku, and Triple Town in partcular, in my opinion, stand out as making the best possible use of the display and demonstrate a fair awareness of the capabilities of the Kindle.  There’s no denying that this is a simplistic collection of games that, for the most part, everybody will be familiar with, but that’s not a bad thing.  If you’re like me and carry your Kindle around with you almost all the time anyway, it never hurts to have a few more things to pick up when you’ve got nothing better to do but not enough time to really get into a book.  Can’t always get on the internet, right?

Now, Kindle games are obviously a different animal than you expect to find on most other portable devices.  The emphasis is, of necessity, on games that play with word concepts, number puzzles, and other graphically low-impact implementations.  While this is a shortcoming, as obviously this was not a device for which gaming was considered a necessary concern, it has had a couple interesting effects that I think add interesting options.

The obvious benefit for me is the revival of the text-based adventure game.  This is manifested in both a re-emergence of the old Choose Your Own Adventure type of concept and in interactive adventures like the browser based Zork implementation that made a big splash a while back.  Surprisingly, these have been the least common things to find as well implemented offerings in the Kindle store.  There are definitely quite a few of the former posted that, while fun, are a bit short-lived and seem to not quite meet expectations at the price point.  The latter are, as yet, seemingly non-existent unless you want to go to the effort of either compiling your own Interactive Fiction games and inserting them into your Kindle via a jailbreak or run one of the very rare instances available through a browser.

This seems to me like an opportunity to resurrect some old classic game design principles from the days when graphics were rarely able to provide much more than a vague approximation of what they were meant to represent.  Maybe I’m just pointlessly nostalgic, but I hope we see more of that before eInk style screens catch up to modern AV standards.

Panda Poet for the Kindle

You know what’s fun?  Games.  I like them, and chances are good that you do too.  Hopefully we both like them for the Kindle, since that would have some direct bearing on the topic under discussion.  Specifically, the Kindle game Panda Poet from Spry Fox.  I admittedly had not heard about it until today, but since it has only been around since Nov 8th, I’m not too worried about conveying potentially outdated Kindle news.  Besides, Spry Fox has a record for quality so far.  If you’ve been watching us, you may actually remember a recent look at Triple Town for the Kindle.  Even after a month of playing around with that one, I’m still recommending it to friends.

Anyway, on to specifics.  As is usually the case when it comes to Kindle games(and as might be implied by the latter part of the title), Panda Poet is a word game.  Your goal is to achieve the highest possible score.  How do you pull this off?  Pandas.  Yes, I know that doesn’t make much sense yet.

On the game board, you are presented with a number of letters.  You have to make words out of them, preferably long ones, to score points.  As you make these words, the letters used are absorbed by pandas that find their way onto the board.  Each turn, assuming the word you create is in a position to form an adjoining rectangle to the existing rectangular panda or pandas, your panda will grow.  If it is not positioned quite well enough, another panda will grow!  Yes, I know I’m saying panda a lot.

To complicate matters, each letter on the game board is only active for a limited number of turns.  The longer you take to use a letter, the less it is worth.  However, if you do not use a letter by the time it expires, a skull will appear in its place that prevents panda growth.  Given that the game is called Panda Poet, you can readily imply that impeded panda growth is to be seen as a bad thing.

Scoring is somewhat complicated and often comically inflated, especially as you achieve particularly long words.  Basically, you can take the total score of your word based on the value of letters used(we’ll say 17), then multiply it by the number of letters used(maybe 8?) four times.  Each word, given no other addition to the scoring, is therefore worth no small number of points(say, 17*8*8*8*8=69,632 points!).  High scores are tracked for you based on the best scoring word you managed to come up with in that game, and chances are you’ll be seeing a lot of cycling of your scoreboard.  It’s always rather amusing to see what new word you can jam into the ranks.

There is a lot of polish on this game, in my opinion, and it’s really easy to lose track of time while playing.  On top of that, it’s one of those fun concepts that can appeal to pretty much any age group.  There’s no real penalty for low scores or competition with computers of other players(definitely a solitaire type of experience), so even kids are likely to get into it.  The Panda gimmick won’t hurt that, of course.  Heck, the pandas are part of what makes the game so hilarious to sit there playing.  No, it doesn’t go any further with the panda theme than drawing oddly stretched rectangular pandas all over the place, but I’m sure that’s enough for anybody.

Besides my own opinion, which could be tainted by a combined love of both word games and hilariously contorted pandas, there are already some reviews popping up on the sales page.  So far(at the time I’m writing this), not a one below Five Stars, actually.  Yeah, I know, two reviews isn’t a lot, but give the Spry Fox team credit for hitting two for two so far.

M. Briscoe “Meise” said:

Great game! You create words from the letters available and then the letters you used become pandas of all shapes and sizes. It is a challenge to come up with longer words and to use all the letters before they expire, but my 8 yr old niece loves this game too since there is no word length restriction. It is fun to play a word game that we both can enjoy, plus she giggles whenever a new panda comes up and squeals “it’s soooo cute!” (and I have to admit – so do I :) )

And Ellen Bridges said:

Panda Poet is an interesting and fun word game, although the Pandas are really meaningless. They could be replaced by rectangles, which is what they really are, but somehow seeing Pandas that are very slim or extremely wide is kind of comical.

[...]This is a very good word game, although the whole “Panda” thing is weird. It’s definitely worth the 2.99 price.

That basically sums it up.  There aren’t many other animals you can really capture well enough to build a game around them on a monochrome screen unless you wanted to go with zebras or penguins, and we may well see them at some point.  I like the pandas.  Kindle gaming is still going well(Now with more Panda!), Kindle game development just keeps getting better, and you can’t complain at all about the price of these fun little Kindle apps at just $2.99.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I am.

Solitaire – Kindle Edition

Solitaire, the game we all love to play when we’re bored is now available on Kindle and Kindle DX for about 4 bucks.  The quality of the game is definitely worth the money.

The game includes twelve versions. Klondike is the most well known. It also includes Pyramid, Yukon, Golf, Freecell, Wasp, Peaks, Canfield, Spiderette, Eliminator, Easthaven, and Baker’s Dozen.  So, there is a great variety to choose from.  I personally favor Freecell.  That game never gets old no matter how many times you play it.

A Couple of Neat Features to Take Note of:

Tutorial Mode – If you aren’t familiar with any of the different versions of Solitaire, you can put them in Tutorial Mode.  This mode teaches you the basics of each game.  If you prefer not to use the tutorial, the “Tips” feature can help you with specific moves or rules while you play an actual game..

Auto Move – This “cheat sheet” helps you out if you’re stuck and can’t figure out what to do next.  Oh, what would we do about our electronics and their built in “helpers”?

My biggest question about the this game on the Kindle is reflected in one reviewer’s comment: “The ONLY thing I wish they could improve on is that it’s somewhat difficult (due to the black and white e-ink display) to discern which cards are “red” or “white”.”  Assuming they mean “black” instead of “white,” this reviewer has a good point.  It appears that the shape on the card (diamond, club, etc) are the key factors in the game rather than the color.  I wonder if future games will rely more on color, and if that would be enough to prompt Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) to create a color e-reader?

Based on the reviews, EA has done an excellent job creating Solitaire for the Kindle platform.  It works well for the small Kindle’s display, as well as for the larger screen on the Kindle DX.  The cards are easy to move with the 5-way toggle or with keyboard shortcuts.

Kindle, Now With Zork!

There was quite a stir recently when the Kindle started offering games up for user consumption.  Even more so because they were actually well done, in general!  I’ve played around with Scrabble and love it, and really nobody has room to complain about the two freebie games that Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) released, seemingly as test cases.  Now, however, things have moved on to a whole new level and it’s amazing.

Now, maybe you’re young, or only a little tech savvy, or just not too into computer games.  I don’t know anything about that.  I grew up playing text based games on various ridiculously outdated(even at the time I was using them) computers.  I remember the frustration of getting eaten by a grue, and wondering why the hell I was shoving a fish into my ear and how they expected a person to guess such a thing(having read an amateur walkthrough of the Hitchhiker’s Guide game years before I acquired my own copy).  So when somebody I know sends me an email telling me to check out PortableQuest.com’s new sister site, KindleQuest.com using the Kindle browser, I get excited.  This reaches a high point when what do I see but:

West of House
You are standing in an open field  west of a white house, with
a boarded front door. You could circle the  house to the north or south.
There is a small mailbox here.

>

I know that for some people this will mean very little, but it’s a chance to relive some amazing old memories.  I give full credit to the designer for doing something amazing for us nostalgia nuts.  If you’ve never tried a Zork game before and have some spare time, some patience, and a sense of humor, I heartily encourage you to grab your Kindle and check it out.  Probably works on a nook too if you try hard enough, for that matter.  You’ll get to map out new areas, discover goals as you go, type strange commands in on the off chance they make sense in a given situation, scratch your head for hours wondering why the little description can’t just tell you what you need to do already, eventually look up a strategy guide, and then brag to all your friends!  Or something like that. This, though I’m admittedly biased, seems like Kindle gaming has finally taken off.

Scrabble for Kindle Released

Recently we have seen the release of the first third party game to actually be sold for the Kindle.  Scrabble, an Electronic Arts release, is available to US customers on their Kindle 2 or Kindle 3 for $4.99 through the Kindle store.  This is not the first game to become available for the popular eReader, of course, but it is the first major production from a big name publisher.

Those who have been following these sorts of things, or who simply like word games and Kindles, will likely remember the release of two free games(Every Word and Shuffled Row) a couple months ago that were quite well executed and demonstrated the potential for development that was present in spite of the lack of a rapidly refreshing screen.  This version of Scrabble operates similarly.  It can be played alone in a solitaire mode for fun and practice, against the Kindle when you want a bit more of a direct challenge, and in a head-to-head competitive mode that involves passing the Kindle around. Sadly, there is no capacity for multiplayer interaction between devices.  While it is understandable that the hardware limitations of the device might make such things difficult, it is certainly a disappointing and difficult to accept shortcoming that will be a major factor in many players’ purchase decisions. Overall, however, it looks at least somewhat promising if you don’t mind that.

These days there are quite a few different activities to be found in the Kindle store, from Crosswords to Sudoku, but this is pretty much the first polished experience to be found since Amazon’s initial offerings.  Reviews so far are favorable in the extreme.  People are finding it to be a fun game, fairly intuitive, and easy to get addicted to.  As always, however, there are going to be problems and it is best to bring them out into the open.

The most common complaints so far are:

Some customers have taken issue with the way shading is used in this application.  Words occasionally become hard to discern due to overly bold board markings(double word/letter scores, etc.) confusing the play area.  There are also passing comments made that there is no major distinction made on the board between a space occupied by no tiles and and a filled one.  Empty spaces and blank tiles are effectively identical, apparently.

While many reviews state that controls were obvious and easy to understand, there are some gamers who wish that the Kindle‘s 5-way controller was more intuitive to use.  Most of those who made these complaints also went out of their way to mention that it was soon something they grew accustomed to as well.  Possibly simply a matter of users trying something besides reading on their Kindle for the first time, but it would be impossible to dismiss this out of hand without more information.

There isn’t much elaboration that can be made on this.  More people claimed that the interface was perfect than complained about it, but that doesn’t mean it’s fine for everybody.  May well be related to the control issue I mentioned above.

One disappointed Canadian user stated that as of this moment the game is not available internationally.  Definitely something to be aware of for many users.

Owners of multiple eReaders sharing one account, and therefore libraries, throughout their household may be disappointed at first here as well.  One reviewer points out for us that it seems to not be possible to share the application among multiple devices as one might expect.  Further reading and comments, however, lead me to believe that this reviewer simply didn’t know what he was doing, as follow-up comments indicate licensing for up to six Kindles.  It might just be a bit more of a pain to manage than usual.

As of the writing of this article, the favorable reviews of this application outweigh the unfavorable by more than two to one(17=4-star+, 8=3-star-), even leaving in those reviews by people misusing the space on the product page to ask questions, complain about unavailability, and generally contribute little to the understanding of the product.

It simply looks like a good deal right now, if you’re like me and enjoy word games.  It’s a gross generalization, but I’d say that likely encompasses the majority of Kindle owners.  Definitely a smart move on the parts of Amazon and EA.  Personally, I’m really looking forward to getting this thing on my DX when I get home.  Any version is likely great, but this just cries out for a larger, crisper screen to me.  If anything happens to alter my favorable outlook on all this, I’ll let you guys know.  Can’t wait to see what apps hit the store in the next few months now that there’s a precedent to work with.

First Kindle Apps Hit the Marketplace

Shuffled Row Kindle AppAmazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has just released first two Kindle apps: Shuffled Row and Every Word, thus opening the era of Kindle applications. Both applications are currently completely free. Since they are written by Amazon Digital Services and seem to be mostly geared towards promoting the Kindle platform, they are likely to stay free for an indefinite period. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point they will be bundled with every new Kindle device sold.

A while ago I guestimated that Kindle 3 launch would be a great opportunity for Amazon to release Kindle App store and take the KDK out of closed beta. This guestimate turned out to be correct.

Both applications are quite predictably word games. Games seem to be the most numerous and popular application type on mobile platforms. Word games in particular are very likely to appeal to reading crowd which is the core of Kindle user base.

The goal of Shuffled Row is to construct words from available letter tiles. Up to 9 letter tiles are available at any given time. New tiles appear pretty fast. Once the rack is full, oldest tile starts disappearing. This process is also pretty fast. Once you construct a word, tiles comprising this word are also gone from the rack. Using rare letters yields more points (Z is 10, V is 4, etc). So does constructing longer words (4 letter word gets 2x multiplier, 5 letter – 3x, etc up to x7 for 9 letter word). If you submit something that game doesn’t consider a valid word, the letters are gone from the rack and no points are awarded. If you finish the game with empty rack you get 10 point bonus. Overall I would say that the game is very exciting to play and it is surprisingly dynamic from an app running on hardware with eInk screen (I’m playing it on 1st generation Kindle DX right now). Amazon did a great job of designing game mechanics in such a way that only small portion of the screen is updated at any given time and even that with just 2 colors (which is the fastest way to update eInk screen). Because “Shuffled Row” is such e dynamic game, I wouldn’t call it a relaxing time-killer but rather a very engaging brain-twister. On the first attempt I’ve scored 321 which is not bad considering that English is my second language. Since 60 letters are shuffled differently every time, no two games are the same.

Every Word Kindle AppIn Every Word you need to uncover words on the board by constructing them from scrambled sets of letters. Unlike “shuffled row”, constructing the word doesn’t eliminate letters from the board. You can immediately reuse them to construct the next word. Game consists of 10 levels. You advance to the next level by uncovering the one of the longest words on the board. Quite often there is only one longest word on the board and each time that I’ve played it consisted of all of the available letters. Game has “relaxed” and “timed” mode. Relaxed mode doesn’t have a time limit. In timed mode you are given 3 minutes to complete each level. This not much at all. If you are stuck in “relaxed mode” you always have the option to forfeit the game and see the answers (which I do quite often). So depending on the mode the game can be either a brain-twister or relaxing time-killer.

Both games rely on vocabulary and therefore are quite large (around 1 megabyte of compressed data). Both games set a high standard for other Kindle games to come in terms of graphics, dynamics and usability on eInk display.

Both “shuffled row” and “every word” are a welcome addition to my Kindle library as they add useful time-wasting functionality to the device without taking away from it’s main function – reading. While Kindle will never be able to compete in gaming with devices such as Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad or Nintendo (PINK:NTDOY) DS, adding these games is similar adding a nice crossword puzzle to already interesting newspaper.