Sunday, November 28, 2010

eBook Devices? Which one to get?

My 11-year-old niece is an voracious reader (putting it mildly). She is never without a book (and not just one), and she reads her favorites over and over. She would like to get an eBook reader for Christmas, and didn't know which one to ask for: Kindle, Sony, Nook, Pandigital, Augen, Literati, iPad? There are many to choose from.

What features are important in a eReader? 
I recommended that she investigate an eReader that also includes a desktop app, such as Kindle or Nook, since she already has a netbook that she travels with (and uses mostly to play games -- mom regulates Internet access on the device). And for the more "generic" readers, Adobe's "Digital Editions Software" provides a way to read eBooks on PCs and Macs. This way she can begin reading eBooks on her computer and determine whether she enjoys reading from a computer screen vs. a paper copy. She is also looking forward to the portability and space-saving features of electronic text.

connected – adaptable – flexible – customized
This white paper from Adobe, addresses the issues of authoring and delivering eBooks across devices: The authors state, "it’s becoming clear that eBook readers want:

• An open environment where readers can download books from a variety of sources
• Interoperability among devices
• Ability to share books with friends"

This weekend we downloaded the Nook desktop app and located some free eBooks from Project Gutenberg -- ("the place where you can download over 33,000 free ebooks to read on your PC, iPad, Kindle, Sony Reader, iPhone, Android or other portable device."). We also discovered (through the Adobe white paper, that "The nook user can download books from the public library via the Overdrive Content Reserve system. These books expire after a certain period and are returned to the library." If you are looking for additional places to download eBooks, check out

As we were researching, we discovered this website, which states is an "informative resource for everything about the growing world of electronic book readers, often called ebook readers or ereaders." We found reviews of a variety of handheld devices, links to holiday sales and more.

Can you help an 11-year-old decide? Which is your favorite eReader device and why?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

CourseSmart Bookshelf and App for the iPad

I recently signed up to take an online class at my community college, and had the opportunity to buy an electronic book for the course. The e-textbook could either be read on my computer or an iPad/iPod Touch/iPhone using an application named CourseSmart Bookshelf. This e-book seems to be more of an interactive PDF, since you can zoom in for a closer look on any page. On the Mac, I can also highlight text, and use the "Edit > Speech > Start Speaking" menu to have the words read to me.

On the iPad version, there is no search feature, but users have the ability to highlight and mark notes. The iPad/iPhone version ONLY works with an Internet connection (it logs you in whenever you start the app), whereas the Mac version allows you to read "offline" ... however, the iPad and Mac applications do not seem to sync to one another (similar to a Kindle that will return users to whatever place they were last reading in the book, without regards to the device being used.)

The overall cost was less than the printed version of the textbook, however, note that users do not get to keep the electronic text -- it's actually a 360-day "lease." I paid $41.50 to lease the book (which lists for $103.44 for the printed version). In addition, I had to pay a $50 fee to access the online lecture content at McGraw Hill (not part of the ebook). If I bought a new book with the online content as a "bundle" at the college bookstore it was $167.65, (or $125.75 used). I also considered that a trade in value on used books, is only between $10 and $26.

A recent update to the CourseSmart "app" (towards the end of the semester) introduced a new feature: the ability to connect with fellow classmates "within" the context of the book. This option was not promoted by my instructor, and I had none of my classmates' contact information in order to connect to fellow readers, so I'm not sure how this feature works.