Best answer: Amazon's Special Offers is a feature that lowers the cost of devices like the Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets with targeted lock screen ads.

What are Special Offers?

Amazon introduced the concept of devices with Special Offers a while back as a way to reduce the entry cost into the Kindle, and then later, the Fire Tablet ecosystems. Amazon has always offered pretty low-cost hardware, but it pitched the Special Offers as a way to further offset those expenditures. The Special Offers consist of lock screen/screensaver ads that are personalized to you based on your shopping preferences and browsing habits on Amazon.

Generally speaking, ordering a Kindle or Fire Tablet device with Special Offers will save you around $15-$20 off the same product without those lock screen ads. That's not insignificant, even on an already inexpensive media consumption device.

Amazon makes its money not from the sale of its devices, but rather the hook into its ecosystem of products and services. The company (rightly) figures that if it gets as many devices as possible into the hands of its customers at a low price, they are far more likely to continue consuming Amazon's content and ordering products from the e-commerce giant.

Lock screen ads are terrible, right? Not so fast...

Right off the bat, many automatically scoff at the idea of paying for a content consumption device with ads front and center. I'm not sure why that's so objectionable, as we regularly willingly pay for ad-supported media (directly or indirectly). Just look at that magazine on your coffee table, or the newspaper on your breakfast table, or heck, your TV or favorite website! Ads regularly support and subsidize content delivery.

These lock screen ads aren't that bad either! Most of the time you're not going to get ads for toilet paper or lentil soup. You're far more likely to see ads for a book that Amazon's algorithms think you'll be interested in, or a new Prime Video series. Not too ojectionable in my book (pun intended), particularly because the media artwork is prominently displayed so that they don't really look like ads. While you do sometimes see ads for more traditional, physical products (mostly on the Fire Tablets), even those are personalized based on your shopping habits and browsing preferences from your Amazon account.

The best part of all? Even if you get a device with Special Offers and you hate it, then you can just pay to have them removed (in the device settings or through your Amazon account). You don't pay any extra over the initial difference; instead you pay the balance between the Special Offers and non-special offers price. Seriously, if you're not sure if the ads will bother you, why not try this method? You may end up saving a few bucks.

What should you get?

Obviously this is up to personal preference and budget, but I think that even if you can afford to get the devices without Special Offer, you shouldn't. I've owned many Kindles and Fire tablets, and only once have I purchased one without Special Offers. Honestly, I didn't notice one way or another! That tells me that the lock screen ads never bothered me at all, and they were a way to save $15-$20 or so with each device.

I also found that the ads were either accurate at guessing what I might be interested in, or at least non-offensive and non-invasive. They often consist of cover or album artwork, and honestly are not a bad thing to look at when my device is locked.

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