Tag Archives: overdrive

eBooks – Where to find them

In our last ebook post, let’s look at the many places to find ebooks online. Across the web, you can find ebooks for free and for pay, major bestsellers and independent works. Some authors give away ebooks and entice you to buy print, others charge for their ebooks and never print a page. You can find millions of digitized books from research collections around the world, or the latest from your favorite author. It’s all out there.

Through Your App

Whatever ereader or ereader app you’re using, there is a way to search for content directly through it. It might be as simple as using the search bar at the top of the screen, or it might take a little more doing.

Read through the instructions or manual for your device or app and find the section on Searching. Here are Help pages from a few of the more popular services:

Free on the Web

These are some of the many resources for finding free, often out-of-copyright books online.

  • Project Gutenberg is one of the oldest and most comprehensive sites for free ebooks online. In many ways, it has set the standard for public domain ebook sharing.
  • Overdrive is the downloadable media resource used by many public libraries around the country. This example is from the Boston Public Library, and you can look at your library’s website to see if they offer ebooks for download. You do need a library card for that library to download ebooks from them.
  • The Ebooks and Texts section of Archive.org. Includes out-of-copyright books from many research libraries worldwide.
  • OpenLibrary – an open, editable online library hoping to provide a web page for every book ever written.
  • GoogleBooks offers access to millions of books, either to preview or read entirely for free
  • WikiBooks is an open-content textbook collection
  • Authors like Cory Doctorow and James Boyle let readers download their ebooks for free. Find your favorite author’s website and see if they offer free excerpts or whole books there.
  • The Baen Free Library – a collection of free ebooks from science fiction and fantasy publisher Baen Books. The publisher of your favorite books may also offer some for free – check them out.

  • Many of the for-purchase sites listed below also offer free ebooks or free excerpts/samples. See if they have something you can try before you buy.

For Purchase on the Web

There are hundreds of other sources for ebooks and the easiest way to find a title you’re looking for is to search for that title plus “ebook” in your favorite search engine and see what comes up.

Next week, we’ll take a quick look at the idea of copyright, public domain and Creative Commons licenses on the web, and what that means for what you find to read, watch and listen to online.

The Only Constant is Change

We’ll be taking a short break from ebooks this week to talk about one of the skills necessary for living life online: being comfortable with change.

“Nothing but change endures.” Whether we know this quote from Heraclitus or Isaac Asimov, it still rings true…and nowhere more so than online. Everything we’ve seen about online life so far – the flexibility, the social nature, the connection to technology, the possibility for innovation – are things that encourage change, and occasionally require it. Even more than with cars or electronics, the internet makes rapid and continuous change not only possible, but relatively easy to do.

For those of us used to a world made of bricks and mortar, this kind of change can be surprising and uncomfortable. When you visit a store every day, you don’t expect to walk up one morning to a completely different storefront with doors in new places, a new way of ordering, changed packaging, and brand-new (and maybe younger and faster) employees. You walk in the door and realize you don’t know where anything is, don’t know where to find what you want or how to even begin looking for it, and you feel that the staff don’t understand why you’re confused. In these brick and mortar stores, you can usually see the changes as they happen: the scaffolding and construction, the “big change coming” signs, employees saying goodbye to their regulars before they leave.

And yet, that’s precisely what it can feel like to have an online service you use all the time change its website overnight. You wake up one morning and everything you finally have gotten comfortable with has changed….again. It can be frustrating, can make you feel like you don’t know how this stuff works after all, can cause you to throw up your hands and walk away from the machine.

Don’t.

Don’t walk away, and don’t give up.

Take a deep breath, remember that you do know what you’re doing, and go back to basics. In our very first post on Learning for Life Online, we talked about playing with new online tools. These same skills are what will help you now.

  • Read the screen and see if the site has a link to a list or a video about “What’s new!, or maybe a new help section to walk you through the changes.
  • Once you’ve found that list of what’s new, push the button and watch the video or click on the link to the new features list. Then, try out one new thing at a time and see how it works.
  • Take your time and don’t be afraid. Yes, things have changed, but rarely does a website or service change absolutely everything all at once. You’ll recognize what’s familiar from the previous version and can focus on how it works differently now.
  • And a new one: don’t panic. It took you time to learn the old features, and it’ll take some time to learn the new ones, but probably not as much time as you think it will. All those changes will probably make the site easier to use and help you do what you want to do, so give them a chance.

Also, don’t believe the myth that the “younger kids who’ve been doing this forever” are any more comfortable with change than you are. They aren’t, and every time a service they use and have customized to be just the way they want it to be changes, they complain and get frustrated just as much as the rest of us. And then, like the rest of us, they get used to the changes and keep on going.

So, why have we taken time to talk about being comfortable with change this week? Because several major websites/services have announced updates and new features in the past two weeks that will have an effect on millions of people.

Facebook changes a little, then a lot

In late September of 2011, Facebook users woke up to yet another series of changes: their Most Recent feed choice was replaced by a Top Stories feed that missed half of what they wanted to see, their lists of friends and acquaintances were different, the login and stuff on the left side of the screen had moved around again, and there were different choices and settings that needed to be updated. That morning, most Facebook posts seemed to be about how much they hated the new look and feel, but that anger died down by mid-day and now, two weeks later, it’s all but gone. (For some history, the same thing happened in 2009.)

What many Facebook users didn’t realize is that these changes were the first step towards a much, much larger change, coming later in October. You can watch the full announcement and demonstration of the new Facebook Timeline, but in short, it’s a visual way to display all of your posts, photos & videos, apps, and anything else you want to share on Facebook. You can customize the look and there are new features that let you “curate the story of your life.” Mashable.com has several articles summing up the little changes and the big ones to come.

Amazon Kindle ebooks finally available through your local library

Ever since public libraries began to offer downloadable ebooks through their online branches, users have been asking, “…but can I get some books for my Kindle?” For a very long time, the answer was No, but last week, that changed. Now, Amazon Kindle users can check out library ebooks if their local library uses the Overdrive ebook and digital audiobook service. Once you find a book in your library’s ebook collection (check out the Boston Public Library’s for example), you check it out using that system and then seamless move over to your Kindle account to download it. This is a huge change because now the millions of Kindle ebook users can now check out library books. Awesome.

Boston Public Library’s online catalog gets personalized

Earlier in 2011, the Boston Public Library got a new online catalog, and overall the response has been really positive. Just today, the company who manages that online catalog updated the page you see when you first log in, to make it easier to see the important information (what’s checked out & when it’s due) and recommendations and ratings made by the people you follow. Check out this short video about all the changes to the online catalog for more information.

Summing Up

One of the greatest strengths of life online is that it’s easy to update and improve on the services and tools that we use there. However, this means that those services and tools will change, and we must change with them….or find new tools. Change isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard or scary or frustrating. We can learn to roll with changes and maybe find that the new, improved thing is actually better. But you’ll never know if you don’t give it a chance.

Help & Resources

eBooks – Reading on Other Devices

Last week, we introduced eBooks and eReaders. Today, we’ll look at what’s needed to read ebooks on other devices. After a quick look at some free independent ebook apps, I’ll go into detail about the Kindle apps, using them as an example for how many of these services work.

Independent ebook apps

There are hundreds of ebook apps available through the app stores and markets of whatever device you own. A few of the more popular ones are:

  • Stanza for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch
  • Aldiko for Android phones and tablets
  • eReader for many devices
  • Overdrive for ebooks checked out from your local library (many devices)

Most of these apps are easy to use – all you need to do is follow the steps on the screen. They also work similarly to Kindle apps, which I’ll describe next.

Something a little different is Ibis Reader: a web-based, app-less service that you can access from any computer or mobile device. You simply create an account (by typing in an email address and choosing a password) and you can upload any ePub or PDF format ebooks, or choose from hundreds of freely-available ebooks from FeedBooks.

Kindle ebooks

Originally, you could only read Amazon Kindle ebooks on the Kindle itself. Over the years, Amazon has added Free Kindle Reading apps so you can read Kindle ebooks on your computer or laptop, on your smartphone or other mobile device, and on your tablet (like an iPad). Now, you don’t even need to own a Kindle to use the Kindle Reading apps.

Before you can use any of the Kindle apps, you must have an Amazon account. Visit Amazon’s website and find any link that says “New customer? Start here.” Click the link and follow the instructions on the screen. You will have to provide your email address and a credit card number for buying ebooks. Remember, you can use a dedicated credit card for your online purchases if you want to.

Like all apps, Kindle apps are small programs that let you read your Kindle ebooks on whatever device you’d like. You can download the app either from Kindle’s app page or from the app store on your mobile device or tablet. Once downloaded, open the app and it will walk you through the steps to sign in using your Amazon account. After that, just find an ebook you want, purchase it, then open up the Kindle app on your device and choose that title to download and read. Easy!

The latest innovation from Amazon is the Amazon Cloud Reader. This web app lets you read your Kindle ebooks in either the Chrome or Safari web browsers. (The Cloud Reader doesn’t work with Internet Explorer or Firefox.) If you remember how the cloud works, this app means that you don’t have to download the ebook you want to read – you can just store it on Amazon’s Cloud drive and read it anywhere, from any computer. This is useful if you are borrowing someone’s machine or using a tablet or other device that doesn’t have an app yet.

Nook ebooks

Not to be left behind, Barnes & Noble’s Nook ebooks can also be read on different devices, though they don’t have the web app for any internet browser. Just like with the Kindle ebooks, you do need a Barnes & Noble account before you can set up the apps and download books. Also just like Kindle, you don’t need to own a Nook to use Nook ebooks – just find your preferred device on the list and download the app today!

Kobo ebooks

If you have a Kobo account, you can also read your Kobo books on your iPhone, Android phone, Blackberry and Palm Pre using a Kobo app.

iBooks on Apple products

Apple’s iBooks works on any Apple mobile device (iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch) and can read both ePUB and PDF formats. It does not work on Apple computers and laptops. You purchase books to read through the iBookstore with the same account you use for iTunes and the App Store.

How Is It Useful?

In our previous lesson, we mentioned a man who never finished a book because he’d lose them 50 pages from the end. Now, he can purchase one ebook from Amazon and read it on his Kindle, on his laptop, on his work computer and on his phone. That same book is always with him, wherever he goes, and he never loses his place or the book itself. He can take notes in a reference book on his Kindle, then bring those highlighted sections up during a work meeting on his laptop’s screen. When he’s standing in line at the Motor Vehicle office, he can read the next few pages of the novel he’s working through…or maybe more. No matter where he is, his library of ebooks is there with him, ready to be read at a moment’s notice.

What isn’t useful about this?

Help & Resources

Apps – The Basics

“Is there an app for that?”

What Is It?

Apps is short for applications, a fancier name for software programs. On your computer, applications include things like your web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome), your office programs (Word, Powerpoint, Excel), your media software (iTunes, iPhoto, Windows Media Player), your email and calendar clients (iCal, Mail, Thunderbird, Outlook) and any other program you’ve got running.

Apps are much smaller versions of applications for smartphones like Android phones, iPhones and BlackBerrys; the iPad and iPod Touch; Android tablets; Palm devices and even e-readers like the Nook.

You search for and download apps from markets like Apple’s iPhone App Store, the Android Market and the BlackBerry App World. Some apps are free and some cost a few dollars. More and more often, companies and organizations are directly offering apps for their products and services on their sites (check out the MBTA’s App Center!), but the easiest way to find apps is to use the app resource on the device you own.

How Is It Useful?

Apps are available to help you do anything you might want to do with your smartphone. Use an app to find a good restaurant for dinner, know when and where a movie is playing, figure out who sang that song playing on the speakers, find a recipe, or even use your Starbucks card to pay for coffee right from your phone.

You can download audiobooks and videos that you check out electronically from your library directly to your device. The Boston Public Library uses Overdrive, which has apps for iPhone and Android.

Try It Out

All smartphones and tablets come with a few apps to get you going. Click on these, open them up, and see what they’re like. There’s no need to sign up for every service with an app on your phone, but most of them provide some kind of use even without an account.

For more apps to play with, visit the app market on your phone: the App Store iPhones/iPads/MacBooks and the Android Market for Android devices. Either use the search bar to find a particular app you’ve heard about, or click on “Top Free” to find popular free apps to try. Don’t limit yourself to games – give a few others a whirl.

Help & Resources

LifeHacker’s App of the Day suggests quality useful apps every day.
Android Market
Apple iPhone App Store
Amazon Apps for Android
Google Chrome Web Apps