John Lennon record mp3 album cover - Power to the People
Who says nothing’s free in this world? I just found out that Amazon’s giving away $3.00 worth of free mp3 downloads from their online music store. And they’re also making the offer even sweeter – by selling entire mp3 albums for just $1.99! It’s a great chance to stock up on music if you’re looking for background music for reading on your Kindle.

For example, they’re selling Pink Floyd’s famous album, Dark Side of the Moon for just $1.99. (According to Wikipedia, it stayed on the best-seller charts longer than any album in history, for more than 14 years – from 1973 to 1988!) Amazon’s also discounted a few new releases, like the band Weezer’s new album, Hurley. And Amazon’s also selling $1.99 albums by John Lennon, Lady Gaga, Spoon, John Mayer, and Robert Plant — and several other artists.

“At least some of these (including John Mayer and Pink Floyd) are on sale today only,” warns C|Net, “but they’ll be replaced tomorrow with at least five more $1.99 albums.” So how do you claim Amazon’s $3.00 gift certified for mp3 downloads? Just click on this link, and enter the code GET3MP3S.

Although I have a confession to make. The first mp3 I downloaded was the theme from Amazon’s Kindle commercial! (“Silver moons and paper chains, faded maps and shiny thingsā€¦”) I’ve always loved the bouncy song by “Little & Ashley” — and it turns out the mp3 offers a much longer version of the song. By the third verse, there’s a trombone part, and there’s also an unexpected bridge with even more enthusiastic lyrics. Although like the rest of the song, it’s hard to tell if the singer is singing them to her boyfriend, or to her beloved Kindle.

“Can hardly think what life was like
before I had you by my side.

Can’t say what I’d do without you
knowing what it’s like to have you…”

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Playing the Dulcimer
It all started when I’d asked, “Do You Listen to Music on Your Kindle?” A surprising number of people said no. Some were just storing their music on a different device instead. But some people didn’t like to listen to background music at all, preferring instead to read in quiet.

Is there a perfect song that you can play in the background? I was determined to find out what other people were listening to. I asked some more Kindle users, and got some surprising answers. The consensus seemed to be “something mellow,” but people had different ways to avoid disturbing their reading experience…

A woman named Emily discovered that “I’m better off listening to music I’m not familiar with. Any music I know ends up being a distraction for me.” She’s very fussy about what plays in the background, and prefers a specific selection for a quiet night of reading. “The best music I’ve found for my reading is the New Age type music that I don’t listen to any other time… It’s mostly low-key music so it doesn’t get in the way of my reading concentration.”

58-year-old Chris Moyer uses similar music, but for a very different reason. “When I want to read and it is noisy, for example at a hair salon, I put on my headphones and listen to the nature sounds while reading.” She describes herself as a “very happy Kindle owner,” and likes the tracks from a special CD that she’d received after a facial. But she uses some of the same words to describe the music that she listens to: “very new age with nature sounds.”

My favorite response came from a Kindle owner named Don Freeman. “I’ve got some very mellow hammer dulcimer music on my Kindle 2 that works great for background music.” But besides being an exotic form of music, the dulcimer music has another advantage. “It also helps block out those twits on the commuter train that have their iPods up so loud that they don’t even need to wear the earplugs.”

So how would I answer the question? When I first bought my Kindle, I began reading lots of 19th-century novels and American history, so I started out with three inspiring orchestral pieces by Aaron Copland. But then I’d wanted something more contemporary, and added some soft songs by Aimee Mann. Eventually I asked myself what you’d hear in a coffee house, and decided on the hip, retro vocals from the Frank Sinatra era. (There’s a 1965 CD of Sammy Davis Jr. that was recorded with a jazz combo at 2 a.m. in Las Vegas, and it’s got the perfect tinkly late-night piano.) And finally I added in the softest female jazz vocalist I know — Blossom Dearie. (If you remember “Schoolhouse Rock,” she’d sung the “Figure Eight” song, and the one about how she “Unpacked My Adjectives.”)

But sometimes, even I prefer reading in silence.

Vintage phonography gramophone record player

In Amazon’s discussion forum, I’d asked a simple question: Do you listen to music on your Kindle? But the answers surprised me — and shed new light on how people are using their Kindles.


“wow, you can listen to music on your kindle!!!???? okay, so I read that I had that capability somewhere in my manual, but just glossed over it since, I prefer to read in silence.”


It turns out that, while the Kindle can play music, people often think of other devices. One user made this clear when I’d asked what specific music they liked to listen to on the Kindle?


“Nothing. I got an ipod where I can choose which song to listen to.”


And another user quickly agreed.


“That was my reaction… I would probably use my iPhone for that anyway, but I don’t listen to music while I read.”


I’d been curious about what songs people stored on their Kindles, but now I was having trouble finding people who’d even bothered. For the people who wanted background music, there were already several established music players — many by Apple — which offered better features and better storage.


“…the limited storage space on the Kindle 2 prevented me from loading a lot of music. I read a lot so I was listening to the same tracks over and over. In the end I stopped loading music on the K2. I just listen to music on my iPhone where I have my entire music library.

“When I read on my iPad, it’s really great — I can listen to any music I want and I have created several playlists to listen to music based on the type of book I am reading. I think Amazon should put more storage on the Kindle and enhance the music capabilities since they also sell music.”

Another user reported a similar experience. (“I have an iPod Classic with over 13,000 songs on it as well as an iPod Touch with music and the Kindle app.”) But it was nice to hear occasionally they still used the Kindle’s built-in mp3 player.


“Especially when I’m reading on the patio and about to doze off, I’m sometimes too lazy to go get another device and it’s nice to already have some music choices on the reader.

I actually prefer quiet while reading though, so when I do play music, it’s usually to minimize someone else’s noise, such as from the jerk neighbor who thinks he can play the drums.”


So finally, I could get back to my original question. What were they listening to on their Kindle? “My favorite reading music is classic, usually something not terribly climactic. Rachmaninov usually works.” And at the end of the discussion, I was glad to hear that at least one of these Kindle owner shared my enthusiasm for the Kindle’s mp3 player.


“I am not big on big on adding non-ebook features to the Kindle but listening to music while reading seems so natural.”