From Unbox to Amazon Video on Demand


Image representing Amazon Unbox as depicted in...

Image via CrunchBase

I’ve touted Amazon’s Unbox program for video rentals and purchases online. This program just got a new name and a new look. It’s now called Video on Demand.

You can purchase or rent movies and TV episodes. A recently added feature allows you to view the first two minutes of a movie for free before deciding whether to buy or rent. Prices, as you would expect, are very competitive.

I write about film at this blog and elsewhere. When I’m looking for a video, I start with Video on Demand. Their inventory is good and growing. If I can’t find what I’m looking for, I go to Netflix. The local Blockbuster store is my last recourse.

The greatest advantage of Video on Demand is that your selection can be downloaded to your computer or TiVo device. Within minutes you can be watching your choice of video, without leaving home.

To learn more, click here.

If you give it a whirl, let me know what you think.

Kindle Your Reading Habits


The Kindle is a thin, book-sized reading device that holds innumerable e-books and other digital reading material that can be downloaded in an instant using wireless technology almost anywhere in the U.S. Wow! Amazon boasts a Kindle library of over 160,000 items. And the inventory continues to grow.

The Kindle came out fall 2007. My gadget-guy instincts kicked in immediately. But I held off buying. I thought the price might go down (it did), that the wait period for it to come in the mail would shorten (it did), and that my “need” for a Kindle would increase (it did).

I ordered my Kindle from Amazon in March so I would have it in time for my trip to Europe in May. It’s the only thing I took for reading material during my trip. And it’s one of the reasons why I was able to travel extremely light using carry-on baggage only.

So now I can get my reading fix no matter where I happen to be. And if I just want to read today’s issue of The New York Times, or I don’t have a book that suits my mood, I can download what I want no matter where I am. The technology is wireless.

A few years ago, I read The Gutenberg Elegies, by Sven Birkerts. Like Birkerts, I believe it would be a tragedy if books—I mean real books—became a thing of the past because they all went digital. I’m a hardcore advocate for having a houseful of books. To me, books—books on shelves, books in piles—are the ultimate in home decorating options. Books speak to me even when I’m not reading. There’s nothing quite like being in the presence of books.

Still, I welcome the arrival of the digital version of reading material. While an e-book can’t replace the role of a real book, there are things it can do for readers that the traditional book can’t. And Kindle is the way to go in this arena.

Here are seven of the main reasons why I now own and use a Kindle:

  1. I can go anywhere and read what I want while I wait.
  2. I can go anywhere in the U.S. and download books for instant reading.
  3. I can subscribe to newspapers and magazines without having them pile up around the house.
  4. I can pack light when I travel and still bring a huge library with me.
  5. I save space on my shelves for physical copies of books I really must have.
  6. I save money when I order books for my Kindle.
  7. It’s the easiest way to read in bed.

The Kindle is the perfect complement to my other hobbies. I can fit a whole library in the saddle on my motorcycle, or carry it in a small book bag on my back. The Kindle goes with me when I’m kayak touring. Traveling is a greater pleasure now that I can haul all the books I want on my Kindle. I can practice foreign languages as long as I have the right tools on my Kindle.

Yes, I can mark my Kindle books, bookmark them, and take unlimited notes that are linked to specific passages in them.

Then there’s the cool factor. A woman and her daughter saw me reading on my Kindle at a Starbucks; seeing mine convinced them to get one for themselves. On a recent trip to Europe, nearby passengers asked about it. On the train between Stuttgart and Zurich an engineering student who had never heard of the Kindle decided within a few minutes that he had to have one.

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For Discussion:

  • Had you heard of the Kindle before now?
  • Are you interested in becoming a Kindle user?
  • Are you a Kindle user?
  • If so, what would you say are the best reasons to have a Kindle?
  • What are some of the things you’ve downloaded to your Kindle?
  • What is your evaluation of the Kindle?

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