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Tap Into Your Library's Book Collection With OverDrive

Posted by Chris Hall on February 25th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

The greatest thing of all about the Barnes and Noble Nook (at least in comparison to the Kindle) is that it allows its users to access digital files from their local library. As nice as it is to be able to tap into a mega bookstore with millions of books floating around, having access to a treasure trove of free books is infinitely better. Maybe I'm in the minority here, but without the satisfaction of being able to hold a newly owned, cut fresh from a tree, novel in my hand, I really have no incentive to buy books at all. Digital books to me are disposable, so why not just get them for free?

Well, there are a bunch of issues preventing Average Joe iPhone user from picking up his desired book from the library in a digital format. For starters, libraries are just getting into digital borrowing, which means that even the largest public libraries have limited copies to lend. Even worse is that the vast majority of digital books aren't in ePub format, and ePub is the only format the iOS can handle. Also of distress is the fact that libraries put a limit on how many digital books they have available at any given time, which means that even though digital books are just a series of 0's and 1's, they come in limited quantity. If Joe Neighbor and everyone in his extended family wants to read the latest Dan Brown book, you'd be better off driving yourself to the library to get a physical copy.

But fear not faithful appers, libraries are diligently trying to catch up with the times. AllThingsD reports that the Washington D.C. public library system is adding troves of ePub formatted books weekly, and it is certain that other library systems will file suit. Most importantly though is that there is now an app dedicated on helping you navigate through the treacherous library waters. The app is not perfect, and will not magically put you in front of the Dan Brown digital line, but it will show you all the available books (and audio books) in your area and how many people are in front of you.

With a dash of patience and an ounce of understanding, you will soon enough be immersed in the magically free waters of the digital public library. Get your cards ready!

[Source: AllThingsD]

Calibre: iBooks' Ideal Desktop Companion - Convert and Organize Your eBooks

Posted by Zach Sims on June 15th, 2010

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?

[caption id="attachment_39307" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Calibre\'s Conversion Dialog"]

[/caption]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.