Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ohio eBook Project and Kindles

It is that time of year when people are anxiously awaiting their new readers and other electronic devices which can be used for digital reading materials. Many go directly to the digital store that support their new reader. But give your Stark County District Library's Ohio eBook Project, our digital collection, a try. There are digital materials such as books, audio files, and/or videos ready for downloading. Need a little help getting started? On the SCDL Computer Training Website, you will find materials, website, tutorials, as well as video tutorials on how to use the Ohio eBook Project.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Amazon Prime Lending vs. Library Lending

Not too long ago we announced with much fanfare that Stark County District Library card holders (and card holders at about 11,000 other libraries) are now able to check out library books to read on their Kindles and Kindle apps.  Here in Stark County, library lending of eBooks has already seen a lot of success, with almost 2,000 downloads in October of 2011. 

But then, earlier this month, Kindle announced that Amazon Prime members will now be able to loan about 5,000 titles directly from Amazon for "free."  First of course, one has to be an Amazon Prime member, which costs $79 dollars a year.

First to discuss exactly what is included in this new deal from Amazon.  When you find a book and go to buy it for your Kindle, if you you are an Amazon Prime member and the book is included in the library, you will be given the option to "Borrow for Free"
Click on ‘Borrow for Free’ to start reading. You may borrow one book at a time.

Here's the caveat- you can only check on one book at a time, and can only check out one book per calender month.  Meaning if you borrow a book on January 1st, finish it and return it, you will not be able to check out another book until February 1st.  No doubt this measure is meant to encourage people to buy books rather than "borrow" them.  Also you can only use this feature if you have a Kindle.  It will not work on Kindle apps for iPhones and iPads.

On the other side, there are library eBooks.  I can only speak for the Ohio eBook Project and the SEO Library Consortium, which is who the Stark County District Library deals with to get eBooks to our customers.  The eBooks and audiobooks on these sites are, unlike Amazon Prime, actually free.  You can also check out up to 10 at a time from each site (so that makes it possible for Stark County Library card holders to check out up to 20 books at a time).  And of course there is no added barrier of only being able to check out one a month.  You can find books to read on Kindles and Kindle apps, as well as books for other eReaders, such as the Nook and iPad. 

But of course the difference between libraries and Amazon is that Amazon exists to make money, whereas libraries exist to promote literacy and access to information.

And so it will be interesting to see how long this new program from Amazon works.  It has already drawn the ire of not only librarians, but authors and publishers who say this lending is a perversion of the contracts they have with Amazon, calling it "an exercise of brute economic power."

This blogger's advice to Amazon is to tread carefully.  There is no such thing as being too big to fail, just ask Netflix.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

General thoughts on the new Kindle Fire and Kindle

Kindle Fire – Day 1
If you are expecting an iPad replacement for the $199 that Kindle charges for the Fire, you will most likely be disappointed. The Fire is a nice device, but it is not an iPad for several reasons. First of all is size. It is significantly smaller than an iPad. The pop-up keyboard can't be used to touch type. The screen has limited real estate. But the size is adequate, unlike an iTouch or iPhone, to easily read and view media such as books and magazines with out the constant zooming in and out that is required on the Touch and Phone. Actually, the screen is just about the perfect size, big enough to view and small enough to be highly portable, for most media. The Fire is slightly heavier than I expected, but not too heavy. It feels well made and sturdy.

Setup of the new device was painless. I connected to my WiFi (I have the WiFi only device) and it immediately downloaded the latest updates and I was up an running in minutes. All of my existing Amazon content was immediately available, EXCEPT.... If you purchased any of the
previous Kindle active content such as games, calculators, notepads, etc., this content does not appear work on the Kindle fire. I'm going to dig a little deeper into that one, but at first look, I don't see that content, and can find no way to make it work.

The interface is intuitive. When you first turn the device one, there are about 3 quick screens of instructions. Those screens provide most of the basics needed to navigate. It all, pretty much, just works. The browser, Silk, is fast and the cloud processing seems to work well. The cloud storage works well and I was able to immediately access the music that I had already stored there. The device comes preloaded with several apps that are “paid apps”, such as QuickOffice. QuickOffice allows you to view Microsoft Office documents. There are also preloaded apps/links for eMail, pulse (a web content aggregation program), Pandora, Facebook, and iMDb. I have not setup the
eMail yet, I'll post later on that process. The instructions indicate that IMAP and POP systems are supported, so eMail setup should allow both the typical systems such as Google, Yahoo, etc., and Microsoft Exchange. The Fire also has the document conversion process that was available on the Keyboard, which allows you to send documents directly to the Fire via an email address. I love this function and use it all the time to carry documents with me to meetings.

The touch screen interface is taking a bit of getting used to. But I had the same issue when I first used an iTouch. You just have to get used to the touch and tap rates. The interface is responsive and not sluggish. I don't expect to have any problems with it within a day or two. Having used a Kindle Keyboard for a year and putting up with the clunky “bookshelf” interface, I love the carousel and the ability to flick through and find what I'm looking for. There are search and sort functions, but I've not found any way to “categorize” content like you can on the Kindle Keyboard.

The device does not come with a USB cable. The charger is a typical “wall-wart” type of charger and is a bit big and clunky. The device uses the same micro-USB cable as the previous Kindle, so if you have one, fine, if not, you'll have to buy one if you want to connect the Fire to your computer to manage content. From all appearance, the Fire is an 8GigaByte device, the same storage space as the smallest iTouch. Since much of the content is in the cloud, this should be adequate for most people. If you are looking to store a lot of audio content locally on the device, this may be a bit

So those are my initial findings. I'll post again tomorrow after I dig a little deeper. Just follow the same link to this document that you used and look for the “Day 2” update. I'll also post some comments on the new Kindle Touch later in the day.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Your Local FOL Needs You!

While this is a Technology Training blog, I wanted to take a little time to mention your library's Friends of the Library (FOL) group.  An FOL is an organziation made up of everyday citizens.  As a member there are many opportunities to attend programs such as author visits; meet others from the community with the same interests; help with book sales or other fundraising events; discover new adventures or rediscover an interests long forgotten. 
The FOL goes beyond month meetings and programs.  Many provide assistance to a local library in the form of volunteers, fundings through donations, promotion of the library as a valuable part of a community, and support a wide range of public programs. 
If you are interested in joining a local FOL or perhaps purchasing membership for someone else as a gift, contact your local library to find the group closest to you. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Where to find those free e-books

Many times I'm asked "Where to find free e-books outside of the library catalog?"  What follows directly is "Are these safe sites?"  While I have my favorites that I have provided in the past, Public Libraries published in its July/August 2011 issue a list of free sites that are great additions to the list:
Baen Books: There are about 120 titles available in the science fiction and fantasy genre for PC or Kindle.
Book Lending: Registration is required.  Supports Kindles and you may lend or borrow a book between other users.
Digital Book Index: This site supports iPad, Kindle, and Nook readers.  You may search by title, author, title and author, or title keyword among its 165,000 digital collection.
E-Discover the Classics: Looking for a great classic but don't want to search hours to find them?  Kindles, iPads, Nooks and many other readers are supported. 
Inkmesh: Free and easy to use, Inkmesh has sort by device, free or for cost e-books.  It hosts about 3,500 e-books in fiction and nonfiction.
Open Library: Need children's books?  Open Library includes title from popular Golden Books.   Formats include but not limited to PDF and EPUB.  Membership required.
Don't forget to check out your local library for their digital collection.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Do you know about CTRL + F?

In a recent interview with Dan Russell, a search anthropologist for Google, the Atlantic's Alexis Madigral learned something startling- about 90% of people do not use the CTRL + F function when searching.  CTRL + F is an incredibly useful tool when browsing the Web, reading or writing documents and browsing PDFs.  It is a keyboard shortcut which opens your computer's "find" function.  Here is what it can be used for:

Take, for example, the website  This is a website that is useful for buying and selling, trading, finding apartments and looking for jobs.  There is a craigslist specific to most major cities in the United States.  If you go to the link posted above, you will be taken to the main page, which lists every city-specific website.  To find Canton, OH specifically, you can do one of two things.  One- scroll through the whole site and browse or two- use the function CTRL + F.  When you press and hold the CTRL key and the F key AT THE SAME TIME, a box will appear on your screen (could be top, bottom or floating depending on your web browser) which looks something like this:

In our craigslist example, you would type "canton" into the find box and click "next".  You will see that all instances of the word "canton" will be highlighted on your screen.  Keep clicking next to jump from canton to canton until you find the right one.

And THAT, in a nutshell, is the CTRL + F feature.  As mentioned, you can use CTRL + F on the Web, in Word documents and in PDFs.  It is dead useful if you need to find specific information admist a large chunk of information.

Now of course, nothing in technology is perfect.  Some limitations to CTRL + F:

1) Your spelling needs to be spot on.  There is no "did you mean..." like on Google.  If you spelled it wrong, you will not find it.
2) It only finds exact phrases.  If, using our example, I had searched "canton ohio" instead of just "canton", I would have had no results because nowhere on that page are the words canton and ohio right next to each other.

Despite these limitations, overall CTRL + F makes finding information much, much easier.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Deleting Online Accounts

Ever want to permanently delete an online account such as Facebook or Twitter?  October's issue of Smart Computing & Consumer Electronics has a great article, "Signing Off: Cancel Your Online Accounts," with detailed instructions on how to delete online accounts.  Don't subscribe to this magazine?  SCDL does.   Visit any SCDL location for your opportunity to read this insightful article.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hi Everyone,
I've been testing out the Kindle on the Ohio eBook Project. The Ohio eBook Project is Stark County District Library's catalog for e-resources such as audio books, music, videos, and more. Prior to September 21st, we could not download those e-resources to a Kindle eReader.
I must admit the ease of use is encouraging. Required: a Kindle eReader with WiFi, a computer with Internet connection, and a SCDL (including Massillon and Louisville Public Libraries) library card. Simple use the SCDL catalog or go directly to the Ohio eBook Project website search for your e-resource, follow the prompts, and let the WiFi do the rest. The next time you enter a WiFi zone, your e-resource will download to your Kindle eReader. Or you may also use a USB connection to download immediately.
Very Exciting!
If you would like a Kindle/Ohio eBook Project training/demonstration, look for our training classes in the Stark Scene Newsletter or on our website calendar.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Alternatives to PowerPoint has announced its 2011 Reader's Choice Awards for best free alternative to PowerPoint. This years winners is Presentations. Runners Up include Google Presentation, Libreoffice Impress, and Open Office Impress. If you would like more information on these free sources visit: Best Free Alternative to PowerPoint

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Microsoft Office Live: Web Design

Need a website that won't cost you an arm and a leg? Have you tried Microsoft Office Live Small Business?
Microsoft Office Live Small Business provides free website building and managing tools as well as a free hosting service for the website. You are required to create an account. Once the account is created and email verified, you may begin building your website. The easy to use template is based on the Microsoft Office Word software. Insert images, pictures, and tables with ease or choose from a varity of page templates such as Contact Us, Calendars, or General Information. There are also many features that allow you to customize the site to fit your business needs. Such as your business logos in the header or custom color themes.
The site is still in beta testing mode. So everyone must expect changes as more people begin to take advantage of this free website building and hosting site.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tablets (computers)

I have been getting a lot of questions pertaining to tablets which seems to this years technology find. Some want to believe that the next logical leap from a desktop or laptop would be the tablet. But as with all technology investments, I tell them that they should do their homework first.

If you don't know the jargon, then you should take the time to get the basic terminology. This will help you to make a knowledgeable decision.

List the things you want from your tablet: download books, movies, music, read email, etc...

Don't buy any device straight out of box. Visit stores that have tablets on display.

Preview the quality of the screen in both indoor and outdoor lighting. Take a moment and learn the details of the machine: Display or screen size and weight; 3g, 4g, or WiFi options; note the operating system and its options.

And don't forget the price tag. When evaluating the cost of any technology device, I estimate the cost of the device, additional contracts, and the accessories. Then I device by the number of years I expect the device to be used for upgrades or replacement. $800/3years=$267.

After completing all of the above steps, I then ask myself "is it worth it?"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ohio Ebook Project

Now that many of you are using the Ohio Ebook Project for your ebook needs, I wanted to give you a couple of tips on using the site.
1. If you click on the Advanced Search you may limit your search to specific formats. For example: Use the drop down arrow next to Format and select Acrobat PDF or EPUB to limit the search to only those types.
2. You do not need to type in an author, publisher, title, keyword, etc... to generate a search. Simply select a format option.
3. If you scroll to the bottom of the Advanced Search page, you will find a box to check for searching only items that are available.
4. You may return books before they are due. This will allow you to borrow more items.