A Rambling Blog Post

It’s been a while since I’ve just sat down and started banging away on the keyboard: it’s been a little busy here at the Gallagher household between work, chasing kids from one activity to the next, and life in general – that sounds about “normal” for most people’s lives these days!  There are a couple of things I wanted to pass on to you…

 

Website Redesign

If you haven’t stopped by the blog lately, we launched a new design of the website last week.  You can see it for yourself if you click here or go to www.fkbooksandtips.com

So, what changed?

The previous look and feel had become a little stale and needed a refresh.  The idea with the new redesign was to keep it simple, fresh, and appear “lighter” on the screen vs. the darker colors of the previous site; I also wanted a new logo.  Hopefully, that goal was accomplished!

If you look at the home page, the Featured Book of the Day is more prominent and we also shortened the amount of text on the home page.  On the previous design, it was a typical WordPress layout (that’s the name of the blog’s software) with row after row of text which included every word of the last 5 posts; now, you have the title of the post and an option to click and read more vs. having to slog through everything.  If you do click the “Read full post” option, the look and feel is brighter and easier to read (at least it is to my tired eyes).

We’re also putting more emphasis on the site for people to sign up for the free once-a-day email delivery option, download the free blog reader app, an improved section for people to leave comments if they so desire, and the social media sharing buttons aren’t as large and obnoxious as they were on the previous design.  I also had the Google banner ads removed as they were taking away from the user experience, made the pages load slow, and I really didn’t like seeing them nor not being in control of what was displayed.

There were also several things done on the back end to make the pages load faster and put less stress on the server, and I’m certain things will continue to be tweaked as we review what seems to work and what could be improved.  I also have a few more enhancements on the drawing board that will be implemented over the next few weeks.  I’m interested to know what you think, so please shoot me an email with your thoughts and comments.

 

Upcoming Giveaways

In order to promote the changes to the website and to get more user participation, I’ll be starting a series of giveaways soon – make sure you are watching the blog’s posts and feel free to tell your friends about them in addition to your signing up for them, also!

 

Black Friday Deals

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving here in the USA, but someone forgot to tell Amazon: I was looking around their website this morning and stumbled across a “Pre” Black Friday deal on some tools, which then led me to the main Black Friday page: there’s a lot of neat stuff in a variety of categories on sale (electronics, tools, books, you name it) and I had to practice great restraint.  You can check out the deals if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/amazonbfriday into your web browser.

 

Baseball

At the start of and conclusion of the World Series, many of you wrote to me to rub it in and ask what happened to the Rangers after my thoughts and comments over the years?  Well, hmm…at least they will be high in the draft pick process, and look out if people can recover from injuries and if they get some pitching, better hitters and fielders, good weather, and the Grace of God…..it may be a long decade!

That’s all I had for now – I hope each of you have a great weekend!

Michael

 

 

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Book Reviews – Why I Write Them

As A Blog Publisher, Why Do You Write Book Reviews?

That’s actually a nicer way of summarizing some of the emails I’ve received over the last few years!

Yes, I do write reviews for the books I read, and starting in 2011 I started to make a point to write a review for most things I read.

Why do I write reviews? Well, I do read what others write for reviews, and those reviews do influence my decision to (a) first try out the free Kindle sample, which a lot of the time leads me to (b) purchasing a book.  I appreciate the time and effort complete strangers took to write a review to tell me the good and the bad, and common courtesy tells me I should do the same.  If I liked it, I’ll tell you – if I didn’t like it, well, let’s just say I’ve been told my professional career has been limited a time or two for being too honest (i.e., blunt).

If you’re like me, you look at the customer reviews in order to see if you want to investigate a book further – while my general cutoff is a book needs to be at least a 4 out of 5 stars, I also read the text of the review: things that may make a reviewer dislike a book might be favorable to me and, things a reviewer absolutely loved (and mentioned in the review) could be a complete turnoff to this grey-haired guy.

I also look to see if a review on the Amazon website is from an “Amazon Verified Purchase,” which tells me the person writing the review actually purchased the item from Amazon; if the reviewer purchased the item from the Amazon website, and didn’t “uncheck” the box to label it as an Amazon Verified Purchase, you will see that notification just below the title of the review and right above the main text of the review.

Why do I look for an Amazon Verified Purchase?  I’ve been burned too many times by friends and family of the author, or shill, reviews – ones that immediately rate things a five star, only have about one sentence of commentary, and are generally marked by it being the one and only review a person has ever written on the Amazon website; these are typically reviews done in order to inflate a book’s overall rating.  Another good indicator is a book will have a flurry of reviews around the same day, are short and all five stars, and the reviewers are from the same general location in the USA.

If you’ve read as many reviews on the Amazon website like I have over the years while looking for books to promote on the blog, you learn to spot the friends and family reviews pretty quick.

The “star” rating on Amazon can be broken down like this:

5 stars – I love it
4 stars – I like it
3 stars – it’s ok
2 stars – I don’t like it
1 star – I hate it

As far as the reviews I write, I try to write an honest assessment if I liked something or not without providing a spoiler: why write a spoiler and ruin the ending for everyone?.  I also think your and my taste regarding the likes and dislikes of a particular book are more honest than a paid book reviewer a major publishing house contracts with to have in a book’s advertising materials. My motto is to keep it short and sweet on your likes and dislikes without providing a Cliff’s Notes version of the book.

There are also very few things I “love” in terms of reading as well as very few things I “hate” as both, to me, are very extreme ends of the spectrum.  Not to sound too hokey, but love and hate are permanent things and very few things qualify for either emotion.

Some people think I shouldn’t be writing reviews because I have this blog, and due to the blog’s popularity it could influence people’s behavior, especially if I “give” it a bad rating – every once in a while I will have a rather interesting dialogue with a few folks regarding the same; remind me to tell you over a beer sometime about how bestselling author Joseph Finder had a public forum / social media temper tantrum on a short story I thought was pretty bad. My response to those type of comments is my – and anyone else’s – review of a book reflects my opinion only and I don’t “give” out anything: your opinion on a book or item may vary, and we probably won’t agree on everything. For example, something I really liked you may absolutely detest and puke all over it.

The same could be true for something you thought was outstanding and I may question why it was published in the first place. When I read reviews I don’t put that much weight into the “star” rating, but I look at the comments, mainly to see if they are substantive to back up the rating as well as to see what the reviewer’s pluses and minuses are with the book.  If you look at those written comments, sometimes they match up to the “star” rating and sometime they do not.

I also discount reviewers who rate everything a 5 star, and I imagine most others do, too.

If you would like to read the reviews I have written, you can click here or type in http://smarturl.it/mgreviews into your web browser.  As I type this post, I have 19 books I need to review but you will see just about everything I’ve read over the last four years – you’ll see I do read a lot of the free book offers, and you’ll also see I have been on a science fiction and thriller kick for a while.

You can vote on the individual reviews on the Amazon website if you think they were helpful or not with a simple “Yes” or “No” vote – you can click on those voting options immediately below the text of each review.  The more “Yes” votes you get in proportion to the overall votes – as well as some super-secret factors Amazon won’t divulge – you will move up in the review ranking scale (yes, Amazon ranks the reviewers).  Right now, the #1 Amazon reviewer is Ali Julia: she has held that position for quite some time now and has written 2,620 reviews (about 1,000 of them over the past year), has received 20,272 “Yes” votes for the reviews’ helpfulness, and has 27 people following her reviews.

So, yes, I will continue writing reviews and I hope you will do the same!  After all, if you can’t share your opinion on a blog what else can you do?

Anyway, that’s all I can type about for now. Have a great rest of your week!

Michael

 

 

 

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Amazon Announces New Kindles!

In case you missed it, Amazon had a lot of press releases today announcing the new version of e-Ink Kindles and Kindle Fires.  Most of them look pretty good (more on that a little bit later) and, rather than try to explain all of the new whistles and bells to you I’m going to give you a link so you can check them out for yourself – besides, there’s a heck of a lot of new information for each one of them out there, and I would probably miss some of the more relevant details!

Yes, I’ve ordered a couple of them to play with and I will be posting a review of my experiences once they arrive.

If you’ve been thinking about ordering a Kindle or Kindle Fire for Christmas for yourself or someone, I would recommend ordering them now as the past couple of years they went out of stock prior to Christmas!

 

Kindle Fire HD

Amazon is coming out with two new versions of the “regular” Kindle Fire – a 7” version (which is the same as the old) and a new 6” version.  The impressive thing is they have reduced the price for the base models to just $99 for the 6” version and $139 for the new 7” version.  Each of these has all sorts of new whistles and bells such as faster processors, front and rear facing cameras.  Also, rather than just the standard black model you can make it a little more personal with magenta, white, citron, and cobalt: for those color challenged like me, it looks like black, pink, white, yellow, and blue!

You can check out the 7” version if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/7fire2014 into your web browser.

You can check out the 6” version of you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/6fire2014 into your web browser.

 

Kindle Fire HDX – 8.9” Version

With this one, Amazon has made many comparisons to the iPad Air – with more “this” and “that” such as 30% more pixels (makes the display more crisp), 20% lighter than an iPad Air, faster processor, and Dolby Atmos for a unique sound experience.  These are pretty pricey, starting at $379 for a basic Wi-Fi version to a couple of hundred dollars more if you want both Wi-Fi and 4G cellular connectivity.

You can check out the new Kindle Fire HDX 8.9” version if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/89firehdx2014 into your web browser.

 

Kindle Voyage

The Kindle Voyage is a new e-Ink reader which (to me) looks like a much thinner version of the Paperwhite with an almost 50% improvement in the number of pixels per inch (that means the letters on the screen are more crisp), and he ability to turn the page without touching the screen with “Reimagined page turns.”  The starting price on these is $199 for the Wi-Fi version, and $269 for one with both Wi-Fi and free 3G cellular.

Interestingly, and it seems rather chicken of Amazon, a power adaptor has to be purchased separately for $15 if you purchase it at the same time as you purchase the Voyager (or $20 if you purchase it later), so if you already have a micro-USB charger handy I wouldn’t order one of the chargers.

You can check out the new Kindle Voyage if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/kindlevoyage into your web browser.

 

Kindle

The plain-Jane, stripped down e-Ink reader has been retooled for 2014 – I’m not real sure what changed from last year’s model except for the claim of faster page turns with a new processor; it is also a touch screen and is Wi-Fi only.  Similar to the Voyager above, Amazon is not shipping these with a power adaptor.

You can check out the new Kindle if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/thekindle into your web browser.

 

Fire HD Kids Edition

This one is fairly interesting – it is built a little tougher and looks kind of like a toy and is geared directly for kids – yet it also has front and rear facing cameras.  Parents, if you’ve been considering a tablet for one of your children I would check this one out: Amazon is offering a no questions asked two year replacement warranty with the claim “…if they break it, we’ll replace it for free.”  I think that’s huge as both of our kids broke their Fires and it was a good thing we had the extended warranty.

It also has a lot of parental controls you can set as well as a kid-proof case.  A 6” version costs $149 and a 7” version costs $189.

You can check out the Fire HD Kids Edition tablet if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/kidsfire into your web browser.

 

That’s all I had for tonight, and you should stay fairly busy if you check out the links above – have fun!

Regards,

Michael

 

 

 

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Just a Quick Note…

I have just a quick couple of notes in this post, then I’ll let you go on about the rest of your day….

Free Kindle Books

In a post today, I listed the book that started this whole blog thing for free today – Free Kindle Books and How to Find Them.  It will be free through Saturday vs. its regular price of $2.99, and if you haven’t downloaded it before I (of course) highly recommend you download it while it is free.  You can check out that post and grab the link to the book if you click here.

The book contains the “famous” list of free Kindle book links by genre to the Amazon store, so you can immediately drill down in the Mystery or Romance sections as an example and see only the free Kindle book offerings.  I don’t publish that list anymore in the blog, so that should hopefully be another incentive to grab it now.  I did mention it was free, didn’t I?

Kindle Fire Giveaway

Lots of folks are entering the Kindle Fire giveaway: have you?  You still have time as the time period to sign up ends Monday, but why not take 8 seconds right now to enter?  You can if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/914kf into your web browser.

 

Have a great rest of your week!

Michael

 

 

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It’s a Rambling Blog Post…

It’s time for another rambling blog post, where I don’t have a set agenda but just start banging away on the keyboard in an effort to answer a few questions, impart some knowledge,  yet try not to waste too much of your time.  If you want to write to me, my email address is Michael at fkbooksandtips dot com (I type it out that way in a small attempt to thwart the spammers out there).

 

Kindle Fire Giveaway

The latest Kindle Fire giveaway ends tomorrow night – as I compose this sentence, there are approximately 25,000 entries so far or about 7,000 or so less than the last giveaway.  You’re not going to let the nice folks from the last giveaway beat you this time, are you?  It’s easy (and absolutely free) to enter, and takes just seconds: you can enter if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/814kf into your web browser.  Once you’re there, just scroll down a little bit to input your information in the entry box.

Your friends, family, and co-workers are eligible to enter, also – the more the merrier!  I’m certain they would appreciate your sharing the link!

 

Social Media Sites

Speaking of sharing, in addition to Facebook I get requests all of the time if the blog is registered on such-and-such social media site.  If I reply “no” I usually get a reply back asking me “why not” with a brief synopsis of the plusses (but never minuses) of making a time investment to establish yet another presence on another social media website.

There are so many social media sites, with new ones seeming to appear each week, I can’t keep them all straight.  I’m absolutely convinced many of those around today won’t be here in a year or two, and I’m not about to prognosticate on the next big thing or who will make it or not.  I’m probably showing my age, but I sometimes think I am social media’d to a slow, miserable death.

Remember My Space, the Excite search engine, America Online?  Each of these was worth a gajillion dollars back in the day and were the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

In other words, I’m not going to chase the latest and greatest.

The blog does have three social media sites, which basically provide links to the daily posts and gives you an opportunity to comment on those sites (you can also use the comment features at the bottom of each post on the blog’s website).  Those three are:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fkbooks

Twitter: http://twitter.com/FKBT

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/fkbooks

 

Of the three social media sites, the one that has impressed me in terms of growth is Pinterest.  About a year ago, there weren’t that many members following the blog’s presence there and now there are about 25,000 with all sorts of repinning done by each of you.

Twitter has remained relatively flat in terms of the number of subscribers and Facebook has had a small, incremental growth over the past year.  Most of that slow growth is due to both of those companies finally deciding they want to make money – you have to pay through the nose to guarantee that people who have “Liked” your page on Facebook, for example, to see one of your posts on the wall (to have this post shown on all of the blogs’ follower’s walls would cost about $600 – no kidding).

Social media certainly has its uses, and everyone uses it different.  Regardless, if one of those is your favorite please feel free to click one of the links above!

 

Free App for the Blog

About a year and a half ago or so, I released a free app so you can read the blog’s posts on a Kindle Fire or any Android-enabled phone or tablet computer.  I did this because Amazon has made a concentrated shift to not publicizing the blogs anymore on the Amazon site (they removed the link to sign up on Paperwhites, but you can still receive it that way if you subscribe on the main Amazon site).

That app has surpassed any expectation I ever had – I thought it would be great if 25 to 50 thousand people downloaded it over the life of the app or blog: a few months ago, it had over 1 million downloads from either the Amazon App Store or the Google Play Store and its affiliates.  Wow!

In honor of that millionth download, I published an update to it that has quicker refresh and download times from the blog’s website.  You can download and use it for free if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/fkbtfreeapp into your web browser.

Now, if I can just find a way to get $1 annually from each downloader….

 

Amazon / Hachette War

Based on the email volume, a lot of you have asked me my opinion about the battle between Amazon and Hachette, one of the large book publishing houses.  If you don’t know what I am talking about, I am sure you can Google “Amazon Hachette” and see all sorts of opinions and perspectives.

Similar to a divorce, there are always two sides to every story but I have to tell you I am a free market capitalist – I think price controls, market manipulation, subsidies, etc. are never good for the long run as the free market will force supply and demand to dictate what a reasonable price should be.

Although I have commented about it on other forums that were more appropriate for the topic, that’s all I’ll say about it on this forum….for now, at least!

 

Baseball

Baseball has nothing to do with a Kindle, but many of you know it is my favorite game.  It has been a depressing year for me, to say the least as the Rangers have been snakebit with injuries.  Living in Houston as a Rangers fan makes it worse as they aren’t much better….here’s to hoping the Rangers continue their ways and become the big winner with the #1 draft pick next year!

 

That’s all I have for today – make sure you enter the Fire giveaway by using the link above!

Have a great rest of your week-

Michael Gallagher

 

 

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A Rambling Blog Post

It has been a little while since I’ve had a rambling blog post…one of those type of things where I really have no set agenda before I start banging away on the keyboard.  If you would like to write to me, my email address is michael at fkbooksandtips dot com (I type it out that way in a small attempt to thwart the professional spammers).

 

Kindle Paperwhite Giveaway

The Kindle Paperwhite giveaway that ended on Monday was quite a success – over 20,000 entries!  The lucky winner was Laura M. in Oklahoma, and her new Paperwhite should be arriving at her door before lunch time tomorrow!

If you didn’t win, don’t let it get you down – I have a good feeling there will be another giveaway or two in the near future…..so keep your eyes peeled to the blog and look for the notification!

 

The Kindle Daily Deal and Free App of the Day

I used to post the Kindle Daily Deal and Free App of the Day on a frequent basis, and many of you have emailed me asking me where it went – it didn’t go anywhere!  Amazon still publishes the Kindle Daily Deal and Free App of the Day each and every day, it’s just become a little too cumbersome to post about it every day: many of the Kindle Daily Deals aren’t really deals anymore (to me, at least) because they are around $2.99 each vs. the 99 cents they all seemed to be at the inception of the program, and a lot of the free app of the day offerings seem to be a pretty basic shoot ‘em up game I wouldn’t play if it was free or not.

You can always check them out on your own, and I’d recommend you bookmark these locations:

 

Baseball

Long-time readers of the blog know I love baseball, and I have been a lifelong fan of the Texas Rangers.  I used to think living in Houston over the past 4-5 years was tough with the Astros sucking wind, but the Astros this year are even ahead of the Rangers.  I should re-characterize it as it’s tough being a baseball fan in the entire state of Texas!

Did anyone else besides me think it was strange not having the All-Star game this year near July 4th?  The week of July 4th was always good for watching the home run derby, cheering on the AL in the All-Star game, and seeing how many hot dogs the competitive eaters could eat during the 4th of July contest without reverse-eating into their hands.

 

That’s all I can think of this morning, so I will keep it short and sweet.  I hope each of you have a great rest of the week and weekend!

 

Michael

 

 

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The Big Deal is Back!

This will be a quick post – Amazon’s “Big Deal” is back, where they are offering up to 85% off on more than 500 Kindle books between now and March 30th.  I’m not talking about authors you’ve never heard of, but bestselling authors like Stephen Coonts, Lauren Bacall, Jocelyn Jackson, and Adam Hamilton.

I just bought several.

It would take forever for me to list them out, so here’s a link organized by genre you can use and bookmark to check them out: http://smarturl.it/bigdeal

Have a great rest of your weekend!

Michael

 

 

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Informal Poll – What Are You Reading on Your Kindle?

For a little over three years, I started or participated in a monthly poll on the USA Amazon Kindle discussion boards asking people a simple question: what are you reading on your Kindle? I stopped doing it on the Amazon discussion boards and started hosting it on the website as, after all, we need each of your input here on the blog! Truth be told, I’ve dropped the ball and forgot to post this for a while, so no time like the present to re-start it….

I’ve received some great tips with past monthly polls, finding out what others are reading on their Kindle, and found some “new” authors I generally wouldn’t have found using my hunt-and-peck method. While I have certainly enjoyed the “mainstream” author suggestions over the past year, I’ve also enjoyed a lot of independent authors from each month’s poll I never would have heard of previously.

If you are reading this on your Kindle – or anywhere other than the blog’s website – and would like to check out the poll and find some new things or, better yet, tell others what you are reading, just click here or type in http://smarturl.it/21314poll into your web browser, scroll down to the bottom of the post, and start typing away in the comments section!

Here’s how this works – on the blog’s website (using the link above) or on the blog’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/fkbooks , list a book you are currently reading or just recently read on your Kindle, whether you would recommend it, did you get it free, and anything else you would care to share.

I’ll start off this month’s poll by saying I‘m reading The Stone Man , by Luke Smitherd: this was one of the Kindle Daily Deals for this week, and I picked it up because it sounded interesting. This has actually been a tough read and hard to get into and understand – I’m at the 47% mark, and I am seriously debating stopping and deleting it from my Kindle: that’s a pretty drastic action on my part, as I rarely just stop reading halfway through many things in the sometimes fragile hope it will get better.

 

 

Finally, here’s my standard continuation of each request for prior participants in the poll: if you like or dislike a title you have read, in addition to telling us about it in this informal poll, how about writing a book review on the Amazon website? The review will certainly last and be visible a lot longer than this poll will. If you’re like me, you look at the customer reviews in order to see if you want to investigate a book further. Since we are all a little community here, and while I realize each review is each person’s opinion and we may not like the same thing, I know your friends and online discussion neighbors would appreciate your honest assessment of the likes and dislikes without providing a spoiler – I know I would! Your reviews don’t need to be a long dissertation of the book, I like to keep them short, sweet, and hopefully to the point (some people think I am too blunt on things I dislike, but I am at least giving you my honest opinion!); you can see all of the reviews I have written if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/mgreviews – if you think any of them were helpful, I would appreciate a “Yes” vote just underneath the reviews on the Amazon website.

We’d really like to hear what you’re reading right now – I, for example, may find something interesting from your list I want to read (It’s been known to happen!). If you are reading this on your Kindle – or anywhere other than the blog’s website – and would like to check out the poll and find some new things or, better yet, tell others what you are reading, just click here or type in http://smarturl.it/21314poll into your web browser, scroll down to the bottom of the post, and start typing away in the comments section!

Anyway, that’s all for now. Have a great rest of your week!

Michael

Want to have this blog sent wirelessly to your e-Ink Kindle vs. reading it on your computer? Try out the free two-week subscription! Click here for the Amazon page for Free Kindle Books Plus a Few Other Tips or type in http://www.tinyurl.com/fkblog into your computer’s web browser.

Download the Free Kindle Books and Tips blog app for your Kindle Fire or Android-based smartphone or tablet – for free, of course – by clicking here or type in http://smarturl.it/fkbtfreeapp into your computer’s web browser from the Amazon App Store or click here or type in http://bit.ly/fkbtgoogle into your computer’s web browser for the Google App Store.

 

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Thank You!

In a post Wednesday, I told you one of my books was listed at just one penny in the Amazon Kindle store.  Thank you to all of you who purchased it, as it rose to #25 on the Kindle bestseller list!

I don’t know how or why Amazon has discounted it from its normal $2.99 price, but it is still listed at a penny today – if you didn’t get it earlier, please grab it while you can (and you’ll also get the big list of free Kindle books by genre in the Amazon Kindle store) before Amazon realizes the mistake and it goes back to full price: just click here or type in www.smarturl.it/fkb into your web browser to check it out!

Have a great weekend-

Michael

 

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Donate Your Used Kindle

Seeing as how there were several million people who upgraded to a new version of the Kindle platform over the last few weeks, I thought I would repeat a post I had shared with each of you about a year ago…

Many times, I am asked by people what to do with an older Kindle that is sitting around collecting dust because the owner either upgraded to a newer model or just doesn’t use it any more. My normal response is to check around with a local charity, such as a shelter or literacy group in the person’s area as I am sure one of them would appreciate a Kindle or other eBook reader.

If you have a used Kindle, a non-profit group called Worldreader will accept donations of used Kindles and refurbish them: these used Kindles provide an opportunity to people in the developing world access to digital books. Using e-readers and mobile phones, the Worldreader organization provides children and their families access to tens of thousands of local and international eBooks so they can improve their lives.

You can check out their website at http://www.worldreader.org – take a look at their website and click on the links: I’m impressed!

If you would like to donate your used Kindle to Worldreader, just send them an email to kindles@worldreader.org for more information. Also, if you know someone who has a used Kindle they are no longer using, why not pass along this information to them?

 

Have a great rest of your day!

Michael

 

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