Amazon says 2011 'best holiday ever' for Kindle

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SEATTLE -- Online retailer Amazon says 2011 was the best holiday ever for its Kindle-brand e-readers and tablet computers.

Amazon.com Inc. said Thursday that people bought more than 1 million Kindles each week in December.

The company has never released specific sales figures for the Kindle. Since the launch of the first Kindle in 2007, this franchise has grown to include several e-readers and the Kindle Fire tablet.

The Kindle Fire is expected to be one of the first true competitors to Apple's iPad. Amazon says the Fire has been the best-selling product on its site since its introduction 13 weeks ago.

Even so, the iPad is still expected outsell all other tablets, including the $199 Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Inc.'s new $249 Nook Tablet. The iPad starts at $499.

Promoted: Stykemain Buick GMC has announced the promotion of Kent Hoffman to sales manager for Stykemain Buick GMC. Hoffman has been with the company for the past 10 years working as a sale consultant and for the past seven years as the finance manager. Hoffman's promotion was based upon his exceptional honesty, work ethic, high integrity and business practice. He is recognized for his strong relationship within the Defiance community and with the Stykemain customers. Hoffman and his wife, Kiley, reside in Defiance with their two children, Karson and Karleigh. He graduated from Defiance High School in 1998.

Ordered to speed up: Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has instructed gas giant Gazprom to speed up the construction of a pipeline under the Black Sea. The South Stream project is meant to ship Russian natural gas to southern and eastern Europe. Last week, Moscow secured a key approval from Turkey to go ahead with the construction. Russian news agencies quoted Putin as asking Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller on Friday to start the pipeline at the end of next year, not in 2013. The move is likely to put pressure on Ukraine, currently Russia's chief gas export route.

Approves plan: State utility regulators have approved Duke Energy's plan to shut down two coal-burning units at a southern Indiana power plant. Duke must shut down the units by Feb. 1 under a federal lawsuit settlement requiring the company to reduce air pollution from its four-unit Gallagher generating plant in New Albany. Duke this year dropped plans for a multimillion-dollar project to convert the two power plant units to natural gas.

Indicted: China has indicted a man accused of running a multibillion-dollar smuggling ring in the 1990s that doled out huge bribes to high-level officials.China's state broadcaster reported Friday that prosecutors in an eastern city have indicted Lai Changxing on smuggling and bribery charges related to the ring he allegedly ran that smuggled everything from cigarettes to cars and oil between 1996 and 1999.

Verizon fee dropped: After a customer backlash, Verizon Wireless on Friday dropped a plan to start charging $2 for every payment subscribers make over the phone or online with their credit or debit cards. In a statement on its website Friday, the company said "customer feedback" prompted the decision to drop the "convenience fee" it wanted to introduce on Jan. 15. Verizon wanted to steer people to electronic check payments, which are cheaper, and automatic credit card payments, which are more reliable.

Increased bridge tolls: It will cost more to drive across the Mackinac Bridge in the new year. The new toll for an automobile or passenger vehicle will be $4 starting Sunday. That's up from $3.50. A vehicle with a trailer will be charged $2 per axle. Commercial trucks and motor homes will pay $5 per axle.

Home contracts rise: The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes in November rose to the highest level in a year and a half. The best reading on pending homes sales since a federal home-buying tax credit expired appeared to encourage traders on Wall Street. Still, the National Association of Realtors cautioned that a growing number of buyers are canceling their contracts at the last minute, making the gauge less reliable.

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