Posts Tagged Books
When you are a writer, a common piece of advice is to read as many books as you can to improve your writing. Though I don’t have the luxury of the free time to read these days, there was a time in my life when I used to churn through them by the shelf full. Now at the time, if you has asked me what I had read 3 days ago most likely I wouldn’t have been able to tell you, just because of the sheer volume of what my brain was absorbing. Well, it was either that or my chronic case of A.D.D.
I could have seriously used something like OCUBE‘s new app, FriendItem. The core concept behind the software is to keep track of all of the books you are currently, are planning to, or have read, in order to help keep your head straight. Once again, we have another reason why technology is such a godsend to those of us with the attention span of a sack of hammers. The developers are boasting some seriously helpful functionality, including:
- Recognizing the barcode of a book with camera installed in iPhone
- Google Books Mashup (Utilized as a basic data of books)
- Book status (books that you already read, books that you are reading, books that you want to read) and book management function
- Management of reading date and monthly reading statistics
- Review and evaluation function
- Underlining management function including photograph
- Function of purchasing books in online bookstore, such as Amazon.com
Something like this would be an absolute dream from an academic that reads through an uncountable number of different publications at any given time. There are even ways to attach screen shots of important passages that you could refer back to at a moment’s notice. That sure beats my old “sticky note in the margin” solution.
But what would the benefit of having all of your back library of literature logged, without the ability to share that with the world? FreindItem even allows you to transfer any or all of the items in your library via Facebook, Twitter, Email, or even BUMP. Talk about having all of your bases covered. You should really take this app out for a test drive and see if it appeals to your inner bookworm. When the cost of entry is absolutely nothing, you can then afford to add a couple of new paperbacks to your library.
MegaReader is competing in a crowded and highly competitive corner of the App Store, and while it isn't a bad app, it doesn't have the weapons to win the war. It simply isn't offering enough to entice most users away from the likes of iBooks or Kindle.
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The iPad is, along with the Kindle and the Nook, one of the first devices to bring the pleasures of eReaders to the masses. Unfortunately, it has brought the struggles of digital media along with it, casting users into a sea of confusion with new acronyms like ePub and mobi, among others. The most basic users will undoubtedly simply stick to Apple’s included solution and purchase all of their books directly from the iBooks store. This remains an incredibly simple and turnkey solution that even advanced users should consider. Other book sellers, like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, each include similar storefronts, allowing purchases from the desktop on their websites and simple delivery to the iPad. Each of these interactions requires little more than several clicks and files never need to be transmitted from the desktop to the iPad itself. But what’s the more advanced user to do if the iBooks/iTunes combination isn’t enough?Those that dare to wade into the more advanced waters of eBook reading will need a quick primer on their device’s capabilities. The iPad’s native reader, iBooks, currently only supports the open ePub format, although support for PDFs is promised in a forthcoming version showcased at WWDC alongside iOS4. It’s important to note that eBooks downloaded from any of the aforementioned stores (Amazon, B&N, and iBooks) may come in the ePub format, but each is locked down with its own proprietary digital rights management system, making files from one online bookstore unreadable in another company’s reader.
Yet there are a multitude of sources for unencrypted eBooks, including stores who sell books without DRM. Formats may become an issue in this case, with lit, mobi, and more serving as the defaults for several other popular mobile readers. In this case, a user’s best option for books management is Calibre, a terrific open source program that works with a wide variety of eBook formats and readers. I’d say Calibre is the iTunes for your digital book library, but I like to think of it more as iBooks’ desktop companion.
iBooks’ Best Friend
Calibre, available free of charge, deftly converts eBooks from most formats to ePub, PDF, and more. It’s as simple as dragging and dropping into the app and selecting an output format. Calibre can also download metadata and covers so iBooks properly organizes your book when it’s displayed on your iPad. The app also centralizes your books on your hard drive so there’s always somewhere to go to find the original eBook, just as iTunes attempts to centralize your music library in a folder on your hard drive.
Calibre offers simple solutions for moving these books to your iPad, with a recently unveiled “push-to-iTunes” feature that will seamlessly add books to a connected iPad. Otherwise, users have to go into their Calibre library folder and drag the books to iTunes’ iBooks panel (when an iPad is syncing). If you’re not an iBooks user, Calibre works perfectly with Stanza, one of my favorite apps.
Like to Read? You’ll Love Calibre
Calibre does what any good app does – removes the strictures of formats and medium and instead leaves the text itself as the most important part of the reading experience. A simple drag and drop enables users to convert books from any format to any other format with ease. The developers are great and the app sees frequent and innovative updates. Like most open source projects, it makes me want to donate – the software’s almost too good to be true. It does much more than converting eBooks, though, and it’s worth a look for anyone interested in reading, whether on your iPad or off. Get it here.
Most people who have seen my new iPad react with the same question, “should I get this or the Kindle?” Apple, obviously, intended its iPad to be perceived as much more than an eBook reader. Yet the much publicized launch of the iBookstore, along with the iPad’s slim form factor, have led many consumers to perceive the iPad as an expensive eBook reader.
The Kindle is the Premier eBook ReaderThe Kindle was launched solely as an eBook reader and is marketed as such. Jeff Bezos, on introducing the device, said of the Kindle that “it’s so ambitious to take something as highly evolved as the book and improve on it. And maybe even change the way people read.” Amazon has definitely done much of the legwork in improving the acceptability of the eBook as a new medium for written material. Amazon’s true innovation was bringing E-Ink technology to the consumer market, along with doing the technical legwork to simplify the reading experience. At its core, the Kindle is a delivery device – a user purchases a book as they would online and finds it available for reading seconds later.
The reading experience does everything it can to mimic the experience of paper, all of which is aided by E-Ink. The screen is technology’s response to those who complained that they would never be able to read a book on a traditional LCD screen or a laptop. The Kindle itself is merely the size of a large paperback and is lighter than most printed books. The Kindle is Bezos’ effort to translate the book for the digital age, and he has largely succeeded in providing a popular and widely accepted new platform.
The iPad as an eBook ReaderThe iPad has benefited from terrific interest from both book publishers and book retailers. As a consequence we’ve seen innovative new packages like the Vook and traditional books from retailers like B&N, Amazon, and more. While the Kindle has a terrific – and probably the largest – bookstore, the iPad offers more choices for where you get your ebooks.
There’s Apple’s iBooks, Amazon’s Kindle reading app, B&N’s new iPad reader, and more. The three largest players each offer different solutions to the eBook problem. iBooks tries to mimic the feel of a physical book, utilizing a color UI with beautifully rendered page turns. The Kindle’s UI is black and white and encourages the same type of user interaction as the physical Kindle – a simple tap on the side of the screen changes pages in a fluid transition not as visually distracting as that of iBooks. B&N’s app allows users to choose from dozens of different visual settings but maintains the same fluid page transitions as Amazon’s Kindle app. Only the iBooks app has a store in-app; the others force the reader to go to Safari to purchase books. This is a definite snag in the clear workflow Bezos presented with the original Kindle, but one that I’m sure both B&N and Amazon will surmount in future applications.
The iPad’s reflective LCD screen probably isn’t the best for simply reading a book. It’s a pain in the sun, where it’s nearly impossible to see the text on a page. E-Ink mainly solves this problem with its screen. People who have issues reading for long periods of time on their laptops may wish to reconsider an iPad purchase if it’s intended solely as an eBook reader. While the reading experience is cleaner and more enjoyable, it’s the same experience as the backlit screens most notebooks include. In addition, the iPad’s battery life is rated at 10 hours, enough for most commuters but nowhere near the weeks the Kindle can last for.
The iPad as a Platform: Bigger Than BooksThe key differentiator between the two comes when we move beyond the simple eBook reading features. The Kindle includes a browser, but not one that functions nearly as well as the iPad’s. It’s black and white and renders incredibly slowly due to the E-Ink screen technology. The iPad’s Safari browser is widely regarded as one of the best on a mobile platform.
I’ve always seen the iPad as more than a traditional book reader as well. The Kindle simply translates the book reading experience into the digital age but strives not to completely alter the way we experience books. New features like Amazon’s Popular Highlights add subtle suggestions about the importance of a passage but do not redefine the reading workflow. Cool ideas like the aforementioned Vook change the reading experience by adding videos, multimedia, more information about certain topics (with links) and more. Could the iPad help the form of the written word change? Only time, and developers, will tell.
Those of you struggling with the decision to purchase an iPad or a Kindle might want to do some soul searching. What do you want from your portable device? Just books and nothing more? Buy a Kindle – that’s what it’s meant for. But if you’re looking for a small computer, with thousands of different and innovative new applications that could redefine reading, the iPad is for you.
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Lexcycle, acquired last year by Amazon, released a version of their popular iPhone/iPod touch eReader Stanza for the iPad last week. Stanza was my eReader of choice on my iPhone and I’m thrilled it’s finally been ported to the iPad. It’s a terrific reader that’s compatible with a wide variety of different formats. Before Stanza for iPad was released, I used Calibre to convert my eBooks to iBooks’ required ePub format. Stanza allows users to read in a whole bunch of formats, and the 3.0 release adds PDF, DjVu, and Comic Book Archive support to Stanza’s already extensive library of readable files.
Stanza includes the most customizable reading interface I’ve seen on a mobile application. It allows you to customize nearly everything, from the page turning animations (a slide like the Kindle’s or a page turning animation like iBooks’) to the background and color of the text. Stanza really does make the experience all about the text – the user is able to customize everything about the way the book is viewed. Barnes and Nobles’ app was lauded earlier this week for including the same customization but their application locks you into using their bookstore. Stanza lets you load your own books onto the iPad or iPhone. It also, however, allows you access to a variety of other eBook stores directly from the phone.Perhaps the application’s best feature is Stanza’s Detail views for text. Highlighting text using the traditional copy and paste mechanism in iBooks yields a tooltip that lets you bookmark (highlight) and look things up in the dictionary. It’s a more complicated scenario in Stanza but one that offers one additional option – the ability to share text on Facebook, Twitter, and through email. The detail view pulls up the paragraph in question in an iPhone-sized window and makes it easier to select text.
Stanza works perfectly with Calibre, my app of choice for eBook conversion. It now allows for a really simple workflow to get eBooks from the desktop to an iPad. It’s possible to move books by utilizing a computer as a wireless server, or by pushing them from Calibre into iTunes. It’s also possible to drag books into iTunes and into Stanza.
Stanza is the ideal reading experience, with customizable colors, animations, and more and compatibility with dozens of different formats. The Lexcycle team has succeeded in bringing the great iPhone app to the iPad and I, as an avid reader, am glad they did so.
Following our report that international iPad App Stores began switching on yesterday, international iBookstores are also now available. Apple initially claimed that iBooks would be a US-only service, likely due to ongoing discussions with international book publishers, but has since announced international launches in countries that begin selling the iPad on May 28th. At present, only free books are available to download on international iBookstores however this is likely to change over the next few days. So far, live iBookstores have been reported in Germany, Italy and the UK with the remaining supported countries likely to follow.
At the time of writing there are 10,023 free books available on the UK iBookstore with new additions apparently stopped for the time being after almost minute-by-minute changes earlier.
We’ll keep you updated as things progress.
The iPad may or may not turn out to be the ultimate magazine consumption device, but rather than give us an entire magazine to pore over, Entertainment Weekly created an app that recontextualizes their Must List magazine feature - and does so spectacularly!
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Judgment Day has at long last come for the traditional paper comic book. Ok, so maybe that's hyperbole (something Stan "The Man" Lee would no doubt appreciate) but Marvel Comics for the iPad represents a significant step forward for digital comics. Change is coming, my comic book fanboy friend, and this time it ain't caused by radioactive spiders or cosmic rays.
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101 Classic Novels offers an impressive library of books at no cost to the reader. The appealing graphical format and ease of use make this an easy decision for anyone looking to acquire a substantial library of books quickly and cheap.
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While not the most robust ebook reader around, Amazon has just laid down the gauntlet in the iPhone / iPod Touch ebook war. Get instant access to over 240,000 books, even ones you've previously purchased for your Kindle!
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Next Read helps you to keep track of books that others have suggested for you—suggestions that might otherwise be lost. Literature lovers will find Next Read to be a useful way to organize suggestions; others should probably pass.
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