Tagged: Amazon

From hit biographies and political hot topics to breakthrough novels and trilogies, Amazon Books Editors share their picks for the best new titles of the year to help customers get the most out of the summer reading season

Today Amazon.com announced its annual list of the Best Books of the Year So Far, a midyear retrospective that highlights the must-reads released between January and June 2014. The titles were hand-picked and ranked by Amazon’s expert team of Books Editors, who awarded the top spot to Adam Begley’s Updike, with The Book of Unknown Americans: A novel and Redeployment following close behind.

“It’s never easy to narrow down our favorites, but after much debate and discussion, we’ve arrived at a list that will fit every customer’s summer reading agenda—whether you’re headed to the beach, traveling the world or enjoying a staycation,” said Sara Nelson, Editorial Director of Print and Kindle Books at Amazon.com. “Updike may seem like an unusual choice for our number one pick, but it’s poised to be one of the best biographies of 2014. It’s a candid, enthralling book that readers won’t be able to put down.”

The Amazon Books Editors’ picks for the Top 10 Best Books of the Year So Far are:

1. Updike by Adam Begley: This biography of the American master goes far beyond simple chronology of this complex (and often paradoxical) character, layering on the lit crit where his real life bled into his novels. Detailed and compulsively readable, Updike is essential for admirers, and illuminating for anyone with an interest in literature.

2. The Book of Unknown Americans: A novel by Cristina Henríquez: Henríquez’s powerful novel captures readers with the quiet beauty of her characters and their profoundly rendered experiences as immigrants in America. Following nine families who arrived in the States from South and Central America, Henríquez has crafted a novel that is inspiring, tragic, brave, and unforgettable.

3. Redeployment by Phil Klay: The strength of Klay’s stories, all about the Iraq War or its aftermath, lies in his unflinching, un-PC point of view, even for the soldiers he so clearly identifies with and admires. These stories are at least partly autobiographical, and yet, for all their verisimilitude, they’re also shaped by an undefinable thing called art.

4. Euphoria by Lily King: Loosely based on the life of the anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is both romantic and intelligent. It is the best kind of historical novel—the kind that will send readers running to learn more about its real-life inspiration.

5. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald: Both a tense account of Greenwald’s cloak-and dagger encounters with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and a blistering commentary on surveillance in a free society, No Place to Hide is thrilling and enlightening, a bellwether moment in a crucial debate.

6. In Paradise: A Novel by Peter Matthiessen: Three-time National Book Award winner Matthiessen set his final story in a mid-’90s spiritual retreat at Auschwitz, exploring the sadness, horror, and absurdity—and even occasional joy—that accompany it. The result is a novel that is as profound as anything the late author had ever written.

7. The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd: In the early 1830s, the Grimké sisters were the most infamous women in America for speaking out in favor of liberty and equality and for African American slaves and women. Monk Kidd brings Hetty and Sara to life in a powerful novel that spans decades, vividly imagining the Grimké sisters’ courageous trials and personal transformations.

8. Red Rising by Pierce Brown: Pulsing with nonstop action, surprising twists, and unforgettable characters, Brown’s debut—and the first book of a projected trilogy—sets its tale of struggle and revolution in the desolation of Mars, tackling the large questions of fate and loyalty in brutal and heartfelt turns.

9. Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman: Was the scion of an American billionaire eaten by cannibals in New Guinea? Award-winning journalist Hoffman steps into Michael Rockefeller’s boots to investigate his 1961 disappearance, and succeeds in both solving the puzzle and spinning an engrossing tale of adventure.

10. Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: Continuing the story that mesmerized readers in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Riggs packs Hollow City with more eerie vintage photographs, and like a seasoned magician, seamlessly incorporates them into a remarkable—and totally original—feat of imagination.

To see the complete list of the Best Books of the Year So Far, available in both print and Kindle editions, visit www.amazon.com/bestbookssofar.

In addition to the overall Top 20, the Amazon Books Editors also selected 10-20 titles in 17 different categories: Art & Photo, Audiobooks, Biographies & Memoirs, Business & Leadership, Comics & Graphic Novels, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, Crafts, Hobbies & Home, History, Humor & Entertainment, Kindle Singles, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Nonfiction, Romance, Science Fiction & Fantasy, and Teens, as well as the Top 20 Children’s Books for each age range (Baby-Age 2, Ages 3-5, Ages 6-8, Ages 9-12), plus a new nonfiction children’s book category.

AmazonAmazon Studios today announced it will debut the half-hour dramatic comedy pilot Really from Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers), Main Street Films’ Craig Chang and Harrison Kordestani, and Executive Producer Jamie Tarses (Happy Endings) as part of its third pilot season debuting later this year on Amazon Instant Video. Customers will once again be invited to watch and provide feedback on the shows they want to see turned into full series, which will then become available on Prime Instant Video. Written, created and directed by Chandrasekhar, Really is a funny, extremely honest behind-the-curtain look at the psychological and emotional complexities of marriage, and the charged dynamics of a tight-knit group of friends.

“At Amazon Studios, we’re always looking for shows with distinctive voices and captivating characters that our customers won’t see anywhere else on TV,” said Roy Price, Director of Amazon Studios. “From the moment we read the script we knew that Really is one of those shows, and we think Amazon customers will really (pun intended) enjoy viewing the pilot later this year.”

“One of the most accomplished comedy writer/directors around, Jay’s script stays true to the humor that his fans know and love him for and Amazon as the distribution platform will no doubt allow a whole new audience to be introduced to him,” said Main Street Films’ Chairman Craig Chang.

“Really is meant to be a sophisticated, funny, strikingly honest cable comedy for adults,” said Jay Chandrasekhar. “We’re going to talk honestly about subjects including sex, alcohol, addiction, drugs, race and politics. Good fun.”

Really is about four hard-charging suburban Chicago couples trying to grasp on to their dwindling youth. At the center are the happily but messily married couple “Jed,” played by Chandrasekhar, and “Lori,” played by Sarah Chalke. When Jed is faced with the choice of keeping his pal’s secret or destroying his friend group, he winds up digging himself into a very deep hole. Really explores marriage, friendship and the stifling peculiarities of suburban Chicago life. The pilot also stars Selma Blair, Travis Schuldt, Hayes MacArthur, Collette Wolfe, Luka Jones, Lindsay Sloane and Rob Delaney.

Amazon Studios

Showing that the Walt Disney Company likes to spread the love, ABC Studios and Amazon Studios will partner together to produce “Point of Honor” a post-Civil War series with Lost creator Carlton Cuse.

The project will be a coproduction between ABC Signature and Amazon Studios. “Point of Honor” was initially developed for ABC in 2011.

Other pilots Amazon Studios has in the works include dramedy “The Cosmopolitans” from Whit Stillman and hour-long drama “Hand of God,” starring Ron Perlman (“Sons of Anarchy”) and helmed by Marc Forster (“Monster’s Ball,” “World War Z”). Those are slated to come out later in 2014 as part of a third wave of pilots Amazon will present for public feedback.

Whispersync for Voice lets you start reading while you’re at home, switch to listening on your commute—now with just one tap

Audio upgrades to Kindle books are available from Audible for as little as $0.99, with upgrades to bestsellers available for as little as $3.99

Amazon today announced that Kindle for Android and Kindle for iOS are getting even better, with a free software update that builds a seamless listening experience right into the app. With Whispersync for Voice, recently called “Amazon’s killer new app for books” by the Wall Street Journal, the Kindle app now lets you switch instantly between reading a Kindle book and listening to the companion audiobook from Audible—all with just one tap, without leaving the book.

“We’re working hard to help customers find more moments each day to enjoy a great book,” said Russ Grandinetti, Senior Vice President, Amazon Kindle. “Integrating professional narration into our Kindle apps means you never have to put down a favorite book—start reading at home, get in the car and simply tap a button to continue listening without losing your place.”

“We continue to hear from a growing number of Whispersync for Voice converts who tell us the innovation has profoundly changed the way they read—in fact, switching back and forth between reading and listening has become their preferred way of experiencing stories,” said Audible founder and CEO Donald Katz. “And the feature has gotten easier and easier to use, as this exciting integration into Kindle apps attests.”

Professional narration is available for more than 45,000 Kindle books and growing—including popular best-sellers from an array of genres. You can easily add professional narration to your favorite Kindle books with one click using Matchmaker (www.amazon.com/matchmaker), a service that scans your Kindle library to find which of your Kindle books have a companion Audible version available. Audio upgrades are available for as little as $0.99, with upgrades to bestsellers like the Outlander series and The Hunger Games series available for as little as $3.99.

To learn more about the Kindle apps, go to www.amazon.com/kindleapps. Download the new version of the Kindle app from Apple Appstore, Amazon Appstore for Android, or Google Play today. Learn more about Whispersync for Voice at www.amazon.com/wsv.

AmazonAmazon.com is now streaming the first wave of HBO programming, including original series “The Sopranos,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “True Blood,” on Prime Instant Video under the exclusive deal the companies reached last month.

The pact covers library programming that originally aired on HBO three or more years ago. That includes all seasons of “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Deadwood,” “Rome,” “Six Feet Under,” “Eastbound & Down,” “Enlightened” and “Flight of the Conchords.”

In addition, Amazon Prime members will have access to select seasons of current series such as “True Blood,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “Treme,” again which are at least three years old.

Other HBO content available includes miniseries “Band of Brothers,” “The Pacific,” “John Adams,” “Parade’s End” and “Angels in America”; original movies “Mary and Martha,” “Temple Grandin” and “You Don’t Know Jack”; original comedy specials from Louis CK, Ellen DeGeneres, Lewis Black and Bill Maher; and documentaries including “When the Levees Broke” and “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib.”

HBO and Amazon.com has entered into a multiyear pact that makes Prime Instant Video the exclusive online-based subscription VOD service to offer past seasons of HBO originals like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire.”

Under the agreement, Amazon has exclusive SVOD rights for select HBO programming. That includes full seasons of “The Sopranos,” “Six Feet Under,” “The Wire,” “Big Love,” “Deadwood,” “Eastbound & Down,” “Family Tree,” “Enlightened,” “Treme,” early seasons of “Boardwalk Empire” and “True Blood,” as well as miniseries like “Band of Brothers” and “John Adams.” Although details have yet to be released. Previous seasons of other HBO shows, such as Girls, The Newsroom and Veep will become available over the course of the multi-year agreement, approximately three years after airing on HBO. The first wave of content will arrive on Prime Instant Video May 21.

This marks the first time HBO programming has been licensed to an online-only subscription streaming service. All the programming covered under the licensing deal with Amazon will remain on all HBO platforms, including HBO Go.

Previous seasons of other HBO shows that are currently airing on the cabler, including “Girls,” “The Newsroom” and “Veep” will become available over the course of the multiyear agreement, approximately three years after airing on HBO.

“As owners of our original programming, we have always sought to capitalize on that investment,” Glenn Whitehead, HBO’s EVP of business and legal affairs, said in a statement. “Given our longstanding relationship with Amazon, we couldn’t think of a better partner to entrust with this valuable collection.”

Beginning May 21, Amazon Prime members will have unlimited streaming access to:

  • All seasons of revered classics such as The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Rome and Six Feet Under, and of recent favorites such as Eastbound & Down, Enlightened and Flight of the Conchords
  • Epic miniseries, including Angels in America, Band of Brothers, John Adams, The Pacific and Parade’s End
  • Select seasons of current series such as Boardwalk Empire, Treme and True Blood
  • Hit original movies like Game Change, Too Big To Fail and You Don’t Know Jack
  • Pedigreed documentaries including the Autopsy and Iceman series, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib and When the Levees Broke
  • Hilarious original comedy specials from Lewis Black, Ellen DeGeneres, Louis CK and Bill Maher

AmazonAmazon has ordered six pilots to series, including a drama from The X-Files creator Chris Carter, a half-hour comedy starring Malcolm McDowell and Bernadette Peters, and two children’s programs. Additionally, Amazon has renewed Alpha House for a second season.

“We had a tremendous response to Amazon Studios’ latest pilots—in fact, double the number of customers watched these pilots compared to our first season and they posted thousands of heartfelt reviews with pleas for us to continue these shows,” Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios, said in a statement. “Now the fun really begins — Amazon will be working with some of the most talented casts and creators in the business to bring six new shows exclusively to tens of millions of Prime members worldwide. These series, along with our summer kids programming, will give customers a lot of viewing choices.”

Based on the memoir by Blair Tindall, Mozart in the Jungle is a half-hour comedy written by Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom) and Jason Schwartzman, along with Alex Timbers. The project, which explores the behind-the-scenes sex and drugs lifestyle of a symphony, stars Gael Garcia Bernal, Saffron Burrows, Malcolm McDowell and Bernadette Peters.

Transparent, from writer/director Jill Soloway (Six Feet Under), is about a Los Angeles family with serious boundary issues whose members are forced to divulge their secrets after a dramatic admission. It stars Jeffrey Tambor, Judith Light and Gaby Hoffman.

Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street is a live-action adventure show created by David Anaxagoras, a first-time writer discovered through Amazon Studios’ open-door submission process. The series is a coming-of-age tale about Gortimer, his two best friends Ranger and Mel, and their exploits on Normal Street — an ordinary suburban neighborhood that has a hint of something magical just beneath the surface.

Wishenpoof!, written by Blue’s Clues creator Angela Santomero, is an animated series about a girl named Bianca who has “wish magic.” Bianca uses her wish magic to help others and learns to solve life’s problems in her own creative way because with magic, or without, we all have the power to make good choices.

Production on Season 2 of Alpha House, which along with Betas was the first Amazon original series, will begin this summer. The show follows four senators (John Goodman, Clark Johnson, Mark Consuelos and Matt Malloy) who rent a house together in Washington, D.C. Cynthia Nixon, Amy Sedaris and Wanda Sykes also star.

Amazon Fire TV Set top

Amazon unveiled on Wednesday with a set-top device called Amazon Fire TV and has a starting cost of $100. In a letter from Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos:

Fire TV is a tiny box that plugs into your HDTV. It’s the easiest way to enjoy Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, low-cost video rentals, and more. With instant access to over 200,000 TV episodes and movies, plus all your favorite subscriptions and streaming services, you can watch what you want, when you want. If you’re a Prime member, you get unlimited access to thousands of popular movies and TV shows, including exclusives like Downton AbbeyThe AmericansAlpha House, and Under the Dome.

Fire TV has voice search that actually works. The old way of searching with a TV remote—scrolling and clicking one letter at a time on an alphabet grid—is painful. With Fire TV you simply speak the title, actor, or genre into the remote and you’re done.

Fire TV may be tiny on the outside, but it has huge hardware specs on the inside. It has a powerful quad-core processor, dedicated GPU, 2 GB of memory, and dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi. With a fast, fluid interface, high definition 1080p video, and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound, Fire TV looks—and sounds—amazing. We also added an exclusive new feature called ASAP that predicts what movies and TV episodes you’ll want to watch and gets them ready to stream instantly. No one likes waiting for videos to buffer.

As a bonus, we also added games. With Fire TV you can play blockbuster titles like MinecraftThe Walking DeadMonsters University, the Amazon exclusive Sev Zero, plus great free games. There are over a hundred titles to explore, with thousands more coming soon. These games are a great value—the average price of paid games is only $1.85.

Amazon.com is gearing up to debut an Internet-streaming device, which will include access to Netflix and Hulu Plus and act as a videogame console with an optional game controller accessory, according to multiple reports.

Obviously, the box — which Amazon is expected to debut later this spring — will provide access to Amazon’s own Instant Video transactional storefront for movie and TV purchases as well as Prime Instant Video, the unlimited-streaming service available as part of the Prime free-shipping program.

Amazon’s set-top project came to light last year, and was potentially going to be ready for 2013 holiday-shopping season before the ship date was pushed back to target a March launch, per Re/code, citing unidentified partners. The device is being developed by Amazon’s hardware-development unit, Lab126, which built the company’s first e-reader and Kindle tablets.

The Android-based streaming Wi-Fi device also will include Netflix and Hulu Plus, GigaOm reported. Which makes sense: While Prime Instant Video ostensibly competes with both of those services, providing them increases the addressable market for the device — and better compete with other connected-TV products, such as Roku, Apple TV and Google Chromecast.

Four Amazon Pilots Go To Series

AmazonAmazon has been previewing on Amazon Prime pilots and asking customers to comment on the series that should go to full series. Amazon announce the pick up of four pilots.

Based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling Harry Bosch series and written by Eric Overmyer and Michael Connelly, drama pilot Bosch follows a relentless LAPD homicide detective as he pursues the killer of a 13-year-old boy while standing trial in federal court on accusations that he murdered a suspected serial killer in cold blood. Bosch is played by Titus Welliver(Argo, The Good Wife) and stars Annie Wersching, Amy Price-Francis and Jamie Hector. Henrik Bastin of Fabrik Entertainment (The Killing) produced and Jim McKay directed the pilot.

The After
Written and directed by Emmy-nominee Chris Carter (The X-Files) executive produced by Marc Rosen of Georgeville Television and produced by Gabe Rotter, The After follows eight strangers who are thrown together by mysterious forces and must help each other survive in a violent world that defies explanation. Aldis Hodge, Andrew Howard, Arielle Kebbel,Jamie Kennedy, Sharon Lawrence, Jaina Lee Ortiz, Adrian Pasdar, and Louise Monot star in the pilot.

Mozart in the Jungle
Dramatic comedy, Mozart in the Jungle was written by Oscar-nominated writer and director Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Limited), actor and musician Jason Schwartzman (Saving Mr. Banks, Moonrise Kingdom, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), and Tony-nominated writer and director Alex Timbers (Peter and the Starcatcher). The project is based on the memoir Mozart in the Jungle by Blair Tindall. Mozart in the Jungle is all about sex, drugs—and classical music—and shows that what happens behind the curtains at the symphony can be just as captivating as what happens on stage. Paul Weitz (About a Boy, Admission) directed the pilot and executive produced. Gael Garcia Bernal, Saffron Burrows, Lola Kirke, Malcom McDowell, Bernadette Peters and Peter Vack star.

Written and directed by Emmy-nominee and 2013 Sundance Best Director winner Jill Soloway (Afternoon Delight, Six Feet Under and United States of Tara), Transparent is a darkly comedic story about an LA family with serious boundary issues. In this exploration of sex, memory, gender and legacy, the past and future unravel when a dramatic admission causes everyone’s secrets to spill out. Jeffrey Tambor, Judith Light, Gaby Hoffmann, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass star in the pilot.