Amazon’s unlimited ebook and audiobook subscription service finally goes live in the U.S., try it free

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Amazon’s worst kept secret, an all-you-can-read Kindle eBook service, is now live. Dubbed Kindle Unlimited, this $10 per month subscription service grants its members unlimited access to over 600,000 ebooks and thousands of audiobooks. Highlights of the library include:

The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, Water for Elephants, Oh Myyy! – There Goes The Internet, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People… plus thousands of classics such as Animal Farm, To the Lighthouse and 2001: A Space Odyssey…

Kindle Unlimited members will also get free access to Audible’s library of over 150,000 audiobooks for 3-months. After which, you’ll presumably need to pay the standard rate of $14.95 per month.

Anyone in the U.S. can try Kindle Unlimited for free for 30 days by signing up for a free trial. All of this content is available on Android, iOS, Windows phone, and of course all Kindle hardware.

Full press release follows:

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Canalys: Android tablets will continue tablet charge to overtake PC sales in 2014

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I’m sure we’re all “tired” to hear about the tablet/PC debate and which format will outsell one another next year. That being said, a new Canalys report caught my eye as it projects that in 2014 tablets will account for 50 percent of the PC market. I consider projections that indicate tablets will become half of the desktop, notebook, and tablet devices that make up the entire PC market to be notable because of the sheer size.

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Shipping today: Kindle HDX 7-inch tablet ups the ante for those deep into the Amazon ecosystem

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Everything about the new Kindle HDX is better than the previous HD version. The screen is brighter and has more pixels. It is lighter, thinner, has a better case, and has an improved OS. The buttons are now around the back vs. on either side (which takes a few reps to get used to). You can now jump down to the apps in much similar way to what you can in a normal Android tablet.

But that’s the problem. The OS just isn’t as good as the one you’ll find on the Nexus 7 with similar specs. And with the Nexus 7 you’ll get Google’s extremely productive Google Apps including Google Now, Google Maps, Gmail, Translate, and on and on. With the Kindle line you get a lot of nice apps, including many of the more popular ones like Facebook, Hulu, Netflix.  But you don’t get any of the long tail apps you get from the Google Play Store, and that’s kind of a bummer.

Also, I’m personally not feeling the Mayday feature. It was probably awesome when there were only 20 reviewers getting service, but I had to wait on hold for around 10 minutes before I could talk to someone – for me, that’s not worth it. Your mileage will vary, obviously.

Amazon has a ton of good content including a very passable App selection, full music and movie libraries, and of course tons of ebooks.  If you are okay with just Amazon, then you are looking at the best tablet you can find.  If you want more, then head over to Google Play. Pricing options below. 

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Skype for Android updated to version 4.4 with a new tablet interface

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Hot on the heels of an iOS update this morning, Skype has just updated its Android app to version 4.4. Most notably, the update brings an all new interface to tablet users that “puts conversations first” by prominently displaying your most recent calls and chats. Tablet users should also see significant quality and performance enhancements, as well.

Skype is also touting that the video call quality has greatly improved in version 4.4 of the app. In “good network conditions”, you should experience up to four times the resolution of previous versions with improved clarity and frame rates. The update is also available to Kindle Fire HD and HDX users, who will be able to enjoy hardware accelerated video.

Other enhancements include: Read more

Is Amazon building a ChromeCast-type of TV product called the ‘Firetube’

We got a tip (Thanks Guy!) that Amazon had trademarked the name ‘Firetube’ in Canada and the US. With all of the news surrounding the Amazon Phone lately – I immediately thought that is a dumb name for a phone.

Seconds later it hit me. Tube=TV. Amazon needs a TV product to counter Apple and Google.

It makes a lot of sense.  Amazon has all of this content on the Fire and no way to put it on a TV yet. They have to release some type of Chromecast competitor and quick. There are, of course, rumors of an Amazon TV. Lots of rumors. Bloomberg thinks Fall 2013 is the planned launch window. That’s right now.

Quick thoughts: Will it play from the iOS app? Will it be cheap and cost ~$35 like the ChromeCast?  Bundled with Kindle? Will it work with older devices? I’ve reached out to Amazon for a comment.

With the name now public and the holidays approaching, it would be surprising not to see an announcement soon.

Amazon considers making its upcoming smartphone free (New statement: it won’t be)

Update Amazon has now said that the phone won’t be launched this year, and it won’t be free. “We have no plans to offer a phone this year, and if we were to launch a phone in the future, it would not be free,” Amazon said in a statement to AllThingsD.

According to Jessica Lessin and Amir Efrati, Amazon is considering making its upcoming, long-rumored smartphone available to consumers free of charge. However, it is unclear what strings are attached to the deal:

There are many unanswered questions about the plan and what strings will be attached for customers. One of them is whether Amazon would require its  smartphone owners to pay for services such as Amazon Prime, the company’s loyalty program. But the people familiar with the matter said that Amazon wants the device to be free whether or not people sign up for a new wireless plan at the same time. (Wireless carriers typically discount the price of devices if customers sign up for a one- or two-year wireless contract.)

A launch date for the device is currently unclear. Like with the Kindle Fire tablets, past reports have suggested that the Amazon phone will run on a forked version of Google’s Android operating system.

Earlier this year, reports emerged with claims that Amazon is working on a bevy of products, including a phone with a 3D display, and various audio/media center devices. Amazon’s hardware development division for these products is (like Apple) situated in Cupertino.

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