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August 12 2013

13:51

Wattpad’s Social Reading & Writing Social Network Goes Crowd Funded

wattpad_logo_rounded

Who doesn’t like a good story? Wattpad certainly does. Wattpad is an interesting social network – colloquially billed as the YouTube for ebooks – where readers and writers can find a comfortable home together. And now, it can also be called, the Kickstarter for ebooks.

Wattpad bills itself as the world’s largest community for discovering and sharing stories. Readers, take note – you can find stories in progress and lend a hand in development by posting comments. Writers, check out this  community-based approach to honing your product and finding an audience.  Readers  collect stories into reading lists, and are able to vote for favorites, share stories and comment on them, right alongside their friends and other writers. Writers can submit their work and tap the over 16 million monthly readers. From there, they can win fans, get instant feedback and even publish work serially from their desktop or mobile application.  The site advises that more than 500 writers have published pieces on the site – along with the 16 million monthly visitors, these are numbers that the traditional publishing world has to be noticing. Published and unsigned authors are creating on Wattpad side by side. I love the fact that Wattpad is attempting to break down the artificial barriers between reader and writer that the traditional publishing world has worked to hard to maintain.

The most read stories are featured on a daily what’s hot list. There is also a featured stories list – curated by a Wattpad editorial review board. The site also hosts a number of writing contests, with the largest known as the Watty Awards in the categories of “popular”, “on the rise” and “undiscovered”.  Anyone with an account on the site can enter their work. Margaret Atwood has teamed up with Wattpad to host another contest – the Attys – which is for poetry, in the categories of “enthusiast” or “competitor.”

You can join Wattpad for free and you can sign in with your Facebook credentials or create your own sign-in. The mobile app is available on iOS and Android.  Seems a decent option for voracious digital readers on the go. Interestingly, though, Wattpad’s community demographic is overwhelmingly women.

Wattpad has just announced a new feature which should be even more compelling for authors – a Kickstarter like crowd funding platform called “Fan Funding.” Because Wattpad started as a social network rather than a crowdfunding site, many authors already have a fan base willing to chip in. Fan Funding projects run for 30 days and members pledge towards the goal. The story that is funded will  always be  available for free on the Wattpad platform, while it also may be shopped elsewhere in more traditional markets. Projects can range from fiction, to poetry to even movie scripts.

I am always excited to see new avenues for creators to share their work and get right to the audience without the traditional hurdles. Wattpads social reading and writing platform can now garner users the opportunity to create and share, as well as invest in that creative process. Go Wattpad!


August 31 2012

20:00

How To Make Your Own eBooks And Publish Them On Amazon

I’m sure that more than a few of you readers have a half-written book or useful guide you’ve put together to help people learn something. You’ve probably wondered if it would be possible to make money off of your book, or at least gain some exposure, by selling it as an eBook on Amazon.

Well, the idea isn’t as far-fetched as you might imagine. As long as you have already created something worth reading, the process of getting it into Amazon as an eBook isn’t that onerous. We’ll take you through the basic steps today and you can be selling your eBook in a few days. It’s easy!

Download Sigil And Kindle Previewer

Sigil and Kindle Previewer are two free programs you’ll need to create eBooks, so grab them now. You’ll be working mainly in Sigil, but you’ll need the Kindle Previewer to convert to MOBI for Amazon later. Note, there are plenty of other ways to do this – even converting directly from your blog to ePub. This is the process we use at MakeUseOf to convert our Manuals for Amazon, because it’s free and allows us enough control to create exactly what we want.

Use Sigil To Create An ePub File

You’ll need to use Sigil to create an ePub file. This is by far the most technically difficult part of the process and could be explained thoroughly in a short novel if required. The good news is, it’s not that hard. It’s just that if you want to do very technical things with Sigil it is certainly possible. If you know HTML and can get the hang of Sigil’s methods, you’ll quite happily get your ePub file made in a short while. I’ll go through the basics for you.

On the left you’ll see the book browser. To add items to any section of it, right click on the folders and do so. Text contains your book chapters, Styles contains your CSS (but there’s no need to add your own), and Images contains your image files – including a 900px wide copy of your cover image.

For each chapter, you can paste your text in using the book view and adjust the text styles using the toolbar. To add a chapter, go to the Text folder, right click and choose “Add Blank Section”.

To get images into the document, first head to the Images folder, right click and choose “Add Existing Files”. To add images to the text, you can use Edit > Insert > Image once your pictures are in the Images folder, but it’s also possible to switch to code view and add them using HTML with the format below. Inserting the image is less likely to give you code errors.

<img src="../Images/MyImage.png" />

You’ll also want to add a cover, which will need its own section in the Text folder. Add your cover image using whichever method you prefer from above. Then right-click the cover section within the text folder and choose “Add Semantics” and “Cover”.

After all your headings are formatted correctly, to add a table of contents you need to click on the button marked “Generate TOC from headings”. If you also want to see a table of contents within the book, you can create that yourself in another Text section by manually linking to each heading ID individually, which will involve reading the code for each chapter to find them. You’ll also want to right click on your home-made TOC section, choose “Add Semantics” and “Table Of Contents”.

Using File > Validate ePub or the big green tick in the toolbar, check to see if your code is good. The errors that may pop up will need fixing before you move on. If you see errors, check the following things before re-verifying:

  • Are all of your pictures entered with the correct links, including capitalisation?
  • Did you use all the pictures you added to the Images folder?
  • Did you link to pictures which you forgot to add to the Images folder?
  • Did you accidentally paste some text into a title and therefore create many entries with the same header ID (check the code to see)? If so, either edit the header IDs out of the code along with any stray heading formatting or delete that whole section, write something in “Normal” formatting and re-paste from your original text onto that.

Keep re-verifying until you have no errors. As you can see, these instructions could go on forever, but what I’ve told you should be enough to get a simple book ready. Save the ePub file and save a copy for converting.

Convert ePub To MOBI using Kindle Previewer

Ensuring you are using a copy of your ePub file and not the original, open the Kindle Previewer application. Then drag the file into the main area and wait for it to convert. After a minute or so, in a sub folder of the location of the file you just converted, you’ll find the new MOBI file. Check over it and see exactly how your new eBook will look on the Kindle. If you want to change anything, go back to Sigil and do so.

Upload eBook to Amazon

Head to Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon and log in using your Amazon account. You may need to add contact information and choose a currency to receive cheques or direct transfers in for your royalties before you can upload an eBook.

In your bookshelf, click on “Add A New Title” and fill out all the details required. You get to choose if the work is to be public domain, DRM controlled, what percentage of commission you’d like and how much you want to sell it for. Upload your MOBI file, high-resolution cover file and save it for publishing. Your submission will be checked over within a few days (normally) and then you’ll be in business!

Do you have an eBook publishing secret to share? Have you found success with your eBook? Tell us…I am sure newbie authors would love all observations they get to read in the comments.


August 23 2012

02:30

3 Tried-And-True Tips For Buying Cheap Textbooks

very cheap textbooksThe start of my fall semester classes is approaching faster than I want, marking the inevitable end of a spectacular summer for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the process of getting ready for school like obtaining new supplies and textbooks. As a veteran textbook buyer, I get very cheap textbooks thanks to a few things I have learned from being in school for so long.

Don’t want to drain your wallet from buying textbooks? One thing you have to do is start early. Like if you’re about to start your semester, I’d say, do it right after reading this article! Purchasing them early prevents troubles later on, like not finding an affordable version, missing early assignments, having to find someone to borrow the book from, or worst case, having to succumb to ridiculous college bookstore prices.

What additional steps can you follow to get reasonably-priced textbooks? Read on to find out!

Use A Comparative Textbook Search Engine (Like Big Words)

You have Amazon, Google Play, Ebay, and a bunch of other book stores online that you can choose from. That means there might be different prices for that textbook you’re after. What better than a search engine that also compares the item for you? Big Words is one such engine that also chooses the single best store price for you, but it also lets you see the entire list of prices that it drew its conclusion from. Here is a screenshot of an actual search for a textbook that I’ll need in a few weeks.

very cheap textbooks

As you can see, BigWords is a pretty sophisticated search engine with plenty of features. You can choose whether to include a specific type of book, like rental items, international editions, when you need your book by (so it can filter out stores that don’t offer express delivery), the textbook quality you will tolerate, etc. You won’t find those in regular bookstores, even if they’re veteran marketplaces like Amazon’s since their search engines are not built exclusively for textbooks like Big Words’ is.

If your university or college has a site to buy textbooks from, chances are, it offers a comparison feature. My school, in fact, has such a thing, which is great because it automates what I already do (shop around).

cheap textbooks

As you can see in the screenshot, if I buy the textbook from the official store, it might be around forty bucks, whereas on Amazon and Half (my favorite textbook store), it could be about $4. The condition of the textbook might differ but you can seriously appreciate the price difference. I emphasize this observation because if you do what I said at the beginning (shop early and not wait till the week that classes begin), you’ll probably have to pony up the full amount at the physical bookstore in order to use the textbook for a very early-assigned project.

Rent! Here’s Why

So I used to believe that if you’re going to pay for something, you might as well own it. In other words, I thought renting was a rip-off in the long term, except for housing since that’s usually extremely expensive. But if you’re talking about textbooks, renting is not a bad deal because when you finish the semester and try to sell the book, you usually get an absurd buyback offer from your local bookstore. Even if you try to sell it online on Half, you’ll have a hard time selling your book at full (or close to full) price. Trust me, I have been only able to sell my textbooks when I price them very low, which means I lose a lot and the book, in the end, cost me about as much as the renting price.

cheap textbooks

Another good reason to rent is that you don’t have to experience the headache that is trying to sell that textbook of yours. When you rent, the return policy makes it very straightforward to simply drop the book off either at the post office or at the physical bookstore. I have rented from my local college bookstore, which means that all I have to do to return my rentals is walk over.

Get Alternative Versions If You Must: Older Editions, E-Textbook, International

very cheap textbooks

If you truly want to save some money, older editions, international editions and electronic versions might be options to consider. I have had at least one older edition of a textbook, many international versions, as well as e-books. After buying so many, I now only recommend the e-book format IF you have a tablet because otherwise, you’ll need to lug around your heavy laptop everywhere, and honestly, when you have your laptop connected to the Internet, how productive can you get?

I also only recommend older editions as viable options IF your professor actually says you can get either the old or current edition and that the two are fairly similar. I would also love to get international versions of textbooks since their contents are usually identical to the US versions, if it weren’t for the fact that the buyback prices for these versions are considerably lower than the US versions. This makes sense since you got it at an extremely good deal to begin with.

What tried-and-true tips do you have that you want to share for college students and textbook-buying? Are there any places with very cheap textbooks? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: Woman Holding A Pile Of Books Image Via Shutterstock, Wesley Fryer, Paul Stainthorp


August 21 2012

21:00

Barnes & Noble Sets Sail For U.K. With Planned October Launch For Nook [Updates]

Good news for book lovers and bad news for Amazon, as Barnes & Noble has decided to take on the U.K. market with a mid-October launch of the Nook eBook reader. After nearly 16 months since the launch in the U.S. the Nook Simple Touch and Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight eReaders will finally be available to the European market. And supporting it all would be a full-fledged digital bookstore with a U.K. address – NOOK.co.uk.

Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but Barnes & Noble says that it will announce tie-ups with leading U.K. retailers. The partnerships will lead to easy availability of book titles and digital products through both physical and online channels. From this Autumn onwards, 2.5 million digital titles encompassing top-selling UK books, newspapers and magazines, and comics will be available on the NOOK Store.

In the press release, William J. Lynch, Chief Executive Officer at Barnes & Noble said –

“We’re confident our award winning technology, combined with our expansive content – including books, children’s books, magazines, apps, movies and more – will bring UK customers the option they’ve been waiting for.”

Barnes & Noble’s footprint across the Atlantic follows a financial injection of $300 million (nearly £191 million) from Microsoft in April. A Windows 8 eReader developed by Barnes & Noble and the Windows 8 compliance of the NOOK library is tied in with the cash infusion. But beyond that, the eBook market is ripening with potential sales hanging low from the trees. The competition among the eBook majors is only good news for consumers.

Source: Barnes & Noble


August 14 2012

03:30

Barnes & Noble Blinks And Reduces Prices Across Its Nook Range [Updates]

Early ripples from the launch and welcome acceptance of Google Nexus 7 are forcing the hands of tablet majors. Barnes & Noble is not immune, but it’s good news for consumers and eBook lovers as Barnes & Noble has slashed the prices of its Android-based, seven-inch Nook Tablets across the board.

You can catch the prices at the Barnes & Noble site, but here’s the gist – The 16 and 8GB models have been priced down to $199 (from $249) and $179 (from $199) respectively, while the Nook Color is priced 20 dollars cheaper than before at $149.

Jamie Iannone, President of Digital Products at Barnes & Noble said in the press release:

“Our Reader’s Tablets have consistently been the highest rated products by the leading technology experts and now they’re available for the lowest prices ever. With NOOK Color for $149 and NOOK Tablet starting at $179, customers can enjoy our best-in-class digital reading and entertainment experience with an expansive selection of digital content and apps at an unbeatable price.”

The price discounts come at the right time to catch the back-to-school season. These tablets can be purchased at all of Barnes & Noble’s nearly 700 stores nationwide, online at NOOK.com and through all the other leading retailers offering NOOK® products. The NOOK tablets are a viable alternative to Amazon’s Kindle. With 2.5 million digital titles to choose from, customers at Barnes & Noble won’t be short of content. But the price drop is the first sign that the Google Nexus 7 has arrived and has started to make its presence felt.

Source: Engadget


August 11 2012

23:30

Catch O’Reilly’s 50% Discount Offer On Its 5-Star Books Before August 16th [Updates]

The well-known technology publisher O’Reilly is back with another sweet deal that’s sure to gladden your mind as well as your pockets. O’Reilly is offering a straight 50% discount on their top-performing, five-star eBook titles. The entire list is made available for your perusal and choice on O’Reilly.

But you have to be quick as the offer is open for a week only, and it expires on August 16, 2012 at 11:59 PM PT. When buying your choice of an eBook, you can use the discount code WK5STAR to avail yourself of the 50% concession.

EBooks from O’Reilly.com are DRM-free. You get free lifetime access, multiple file formats, and free updates. Now O’Reilly includes Dropbox syncing too.

O’Reilly has always set benchmarks when it comes to reference books on technology. The notable feature about this lineup of almost 20 titles is that they are the most well-reviewed of the titles on O’Reilly’s virtual book rack. A few titles like Photoshop CS6: The Missing Manual and Mind Performance Hacks particularly stand out.

Click on the “Learn More” link and go into the details page. You can preview the eBook with the help of Google Books as well as the description given on the page. Also, do read the comments contributed by the reviewers on the book.

Please note that you cannot combine this offer with any other discount scheme you may be taking advantage of. Queue up before the deadline!

Source: O’Reilly


August 06 2012

20:01

Quick Guide: How To Enjoy eBooks Without A Tablet Or An eReader

read ebook without ereadereBooks are a phenomenon that can no longer be ignored. Whether you’re one of the early adopters, or still sticking religiously to paper books, you must have noticed how easy it’s become to get your hands on an eBook. When you can start reading a mere 5 minutes after deciding on a book, the lure of eBooks is bigger than ever.

Alas, not all of us own an eReader or a tablet. Getting such a device requires a one-time investment of $100-$200, which not everyone is willing to make. So are you to give up on eBooks until you get your hands on such a device? Not necessarily. There are many convenient ways to enjoy eBooks right on your computer, without paying for an extra device, and without having to venture to the book store every time you want a new book. It might not be as convenient, but it’s still a great option.

Here are some great apps that will help you enjoy eBooks on your desktop.

Nook for PC/Mac/Web

read ebook without ereader

The Nook is Barnes & Noble’s take on the eReader niche, with devices ranging from a simple $99 eReader to a $199 tablet. But one of these devices is not a must in order to enjoy the wide range of books offered at the Nook Store. Nook Reader is also available for PC, Mac, and in a Web version compatible with IE, Firefox, Safari and Chrome. All versions are free to use, and let you enjoy your eBooks on your desktop, almost as if you were reading on an eReader.

You’d need to create a BN.com account to enjoy Nook products, but when you do, you’d be able to sync books between different computers, create bookmarks, highlights and notes, create your own library and shelves, and enjoy your eBooks in full-screen mode on your computer.

Download: Nook for Windows, Nook for Mac, Nook for the Web

Kindle for PC/Mac/Cloud

read ebook without reader

The Kindle is probably the best known eReader out there, and is brought to you courtesy of Amazon. The Kindle line ranges from the simplest $79 Kindle to the $199 Kindle Fire tablet and the $379 Kindle DX. But Kindle books can be easily enjoyed without a Kindle device, provided you have an Amazon account. If you do, you can start reading instantly using Kindle Cloud Reader, compatible with Firefox, Chrome and Safari, or with the Kindle desktop app for Windows or Mac.

All of these Kindle apps are free and support full-screen reading  with the ability to create notes, highlights, bookmarks, etc. You can search for highlighted words in a dictionary or on Wikipedia, and even choose to read in two-column mode or in one column, depending on the width of your screen. Once you sign in with your Amazon account, you can sync your books across multiple devices.

Download: Kindle for Windows, Kindle for Mac, Kindle Cloud Reader

Kobo for Windows/Mac/Web

read ebook without reader

Kobo is another well-known line of eReaders, which offers its own set of desktop and web apps for reading eBooks. Out of all the desktop apps I tried, Kobo’s Windows app is the least responsive and intuitive, but it makes up for these faults with a slick reading interface when you finally start reading on it.

A Kobo account is necessary in order to get books, but once you start, Kobo’s apps will automatically sync all the books in your library between your different computers. The Kobo desktop reader, like all the others already mentioned, lets you highlight, bookmark, and annotate, and also offers quick definitions and translations for words on right-click.

Calibre for Windows/Mac/Linux

read ebook without reader

There’s not much that hasn’t been said about Calibre, and we like it so much here at MakeUseOf that we even wrote a complete guide about it which you can download for free. In a nutshell, Calibre is an eReader and eBook organizer which you can use to read books from almost any eBook provider out there, and in almost any available format, including ePubs.

Naturally, Calibre supports the usual highlights, bookmarks and notes, and gives you fine-grained control over appearance and fonts. You can also use Calibre to convert eBooks to different formats.

Download: Calibre for Windows/Mac/Linux

Book.ish for Web

read ebook without ereader

Book.ish is a web app which makes reading eBooks on your browser a breeze. It supports ePubs as well as other formats, and you can use it to browse local stores for eBooks, or simply upload your own ePUB files for easy reading. The reader itself works both online and offline, and supports Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and IE, with Opera support coming soon.

You can also use Book.ish to read on your iOS, Android or Blackberry devices. The reader itself, while not as sophisticated as others, provides all the basic trimmings you can look for in a desktop eReader, with control over appearance and font, and the ability to create bookmarks and search through the books. This is a great option if you’re into ePUBs.

What is your favorite way to enjoy eBooks on your computer? Or do you feel there’s not much point in reading books on a desktop? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image credit: Girl reading on laptop image via Shutterstock


July 27 2012

22:30

How To Deal With Post-Root Kindle Fire Syncing Issues

Recently we brought you a guide on how to root your Kindle Fire, a process that makes it possible to add apps and games from Google Play as well as afford greater user access to various files and folders on the device (something that enables certain useful apps to work correctly).

However you might have since run into some problems.

Amazon is very keen for the Kindle Fire to not be rooted – after all, this breaks the walled garden that they have set up for installing apps, etc. – and regularly push out updates that are intended to prevent or undo rooting. Meanwhile, problems accessing your Kindle books can also occur after rooting.

Fortunately, all of these issues can be resolved, relatively quickly.

Wait – I Can Root My Kindle Fire?

Yes! While the Kindle Fire might be the closest tablet to the Apple iPad in terms of manufacturer control over the OS and restrictions installing apps and games, it can be rooted, allowing you to replace the home screen with something more akin to the traditional Android look.

With the Kindle Fire rooted you can then gain access to the Android Market (now known as Google Play) where apps and games can be downloaded and enjoyed and you can use the device as a standard 7 inch tablet rather than an overblown e-reader with Internet and email capabilities.

Of course, in order to root the device you will need to jump through a few hoops, but all in all the process is reasonably simple, and explained in detail here on MakeUseOf.

What Happened to GO Launcher Ex?

One of the common issues that occurs after rooting your Kindle Fire is that the Android-style launcher (the “desktop” of the platform) GO Launcher Ex is apparently removed, mysteriously and without a trace, leaving your device apparently without any access to Google Play.

There are two reasons why this might have happened. The first is that an Amazon update may have been applied to your Kindle Fire, effectively undoing the root. Alternatively, an application has gained administrator privileges on your device, preventing Go Launcher Ex from running. Unless this process is reversed, it will not be possible to use the device as you did while it was rooted.

Fortunately it is pretty simple to undo the update.

Open Settings > Security > Device Administrators and remove any apps that are listed in this section. Restart your Kindle Fire and the problem should be resolved!

Help, I Lost All My Books!

Another problem that tends to affect a lot of Kindle Fire users after they have rooted their device is that books appear to vanish.

The usual way of using a Kindle Fire after rooting is to use GO Launcher Ex for all of those typical Android tablet tasks and then switch back to the native launcher to access the Kindle bookshelf and store. However what usually happens is that the bookshelf becomes completely empty, without a book in sight. Even when connecting to Kindle to purchase a new one, the downloaded title doesn’t appear.

Resolving this issue is quite straightforward, however.

What happens is that when you root your Kindle Fire and add GO Launcher Ex, the Play Store is pre-configured to install a copy of the Android Kindle app, just in case you decide to set GO Launcher Ex as the default launcher for your tablet. As such, this app takes precedence, taking reading permissions for all of your books.

To fix this, open GO Launcher Ex and browse to Settings > Applications and tap the Amazon Kindle app. Here, select Force Stop.

The next step is to open the Play Store, tap the menu button at the bottom and select My Apps. From here select the menu again, and then Settings and clear the check box against Auto-update apps. This will prevent your apps from being updated automatically, leaving the native Kindle reading software in control of your books!

Conclusion

If you’ve rooted your Kindle Fire, these problems might well be ones that you have experienced. Fortunately each can be resolved in a matter of minutes, enabling you to return your device to full, rooted working order.

While the “unrooting” problem is one that can be lived with if you don’t have time to fix it or didn’t really gain any advantage from rooting your device, apparently losing the Kindle bookshelf can be very disappointing. Fortunately the data is still on your tablet – it’s all case of putting it back where it should be!

Now, there is a chance that you might have had some other post rooting problems on your Kindle Fire. Let us know what they are in the comments.


May 10 2012

12:30

Kindle Touch Review and Giveaway

The Amazon Kindle Touch needs little in the way of introduction. This e-ink device is one of the best selling e-readers in the world, and is a refinement of Amazon’s successful line of Kindle devices. Amazon offers the same device in two prices: $99 “with special offers” (meaning, the device shows ads), and $139 “without special offers”.

In this post, we will be giving away one shiny, beautiful Kindle Touch Wi-Fi reader (“with special offers” version) to a lucky MakeUseOf winner. But before we get to that part, you might want to know what the Kindle Touch is like, especially if you already own a previous generation Kindle or a competing e-reader.

We purchased this unit for our review and the giveaway is in no way endorsed by Amazon.

The Competition

The Kindle Touch is far from the only touch-capable ebook reader these days. Above, you can see the Nook Simple Touch, from Barnes & Noble, in all of its animated GIF glory. This capable reader ships for $99, but sadly, it is not available internationally. Another touch ebook reader, this one with a more international bent, is the Kobo Touch. The Kobo Touch can be bought all over the Web, as well as from physical locations all over the world, including Australia, the UK, France, Hong-Kong, New Zealand, Germany, and of course, Canada and the US. Its price varies, but you can get it at Buy.com for $80 “with special offers” (similar to the reduced pricing model Amazon uses for the Kindle Touch I’ll be reviewing below).

A Smaller, Lighter Kindle

kindletouch[24]

At 212 grams (7.5 ounces), the Kindle Touch is lighter than the Kindle 3 (now known as “the Kindle Keyboard”), which weighs 240 grams (8.5 ounces). However, it is also a tad thicker – 1.5 mm thicker than the Kindle 3, to be precise. But the most noticeable difference in daily use, and the deciding factor for me, is neither weight nor thickness. Rather, it is the fact that the Kindle Touch is significantly shorter than the Kindle 3:

kindletouch[4]

Here you can see the Kindle Touch lying on top of the Kindle 3, with both devices aligned at the bottom. The Kindle Touch is shorter than the Kindle 3 by 1.8 centimeters, a significant difference. The lighter weight and decreased height make the Kindle Touch somewhat easier to hold, but mostly easier to look at:

kindletouch[6]

Above you can see the Kindle Touch with a Marware case (not included in this giveaway), and the Kindle 3 with the original Amazon case. You can see how much visual clutter the Kindle 3’s keyboard adds. The physical keys are black (thank heavens and/or Amazon’s industrial designers for that), but the keyboard is very much present, and will not let you forget that you are reading the book on an electronic device. The Kindle Touch, in contrast, has just a single button (those black stripes at the bottom of the device), and that’s it. There aren’t even page turning buttons, or anything like that. The control scheme is intuitive, and I’ll tell you more about it later on. The only other physical controls are clustered at the bottom of the Kindle Touch:

kindletouch[8]

Here you can see Kindle 3 on top, and Kindle Touch at the bottom. While both Kindles feature headphone and microUSB jacks, the other controls are implemented differently. Gone is the Kindle 3’s neat sliding power button, replaced with a simple button that you just press to switch the device on. I was concerned by this design choice at first, fearing that I might constantly turn the device off while using it, just like what happened to me when I was using the Kindle Fire – but I am happy to say that this did not happen once while I was using the Kindle Touch: The power button is small and rigid enough so that I didn’t press it on accident.

Audio is not a function most Kindle users need on a daily basis, so I was not surprised to discover Amazon took away the volume button and replaced it with on-screen controls.

The Kindle Touch’s Killer Feature

kindletouch[10]

The Touch part of the Kindle Touch experience could almost have been a gimmick, if not for one killer feature. I mean, how hard is it to press a page turn button on a Kindle 3? But the one defining moment of my Kindle Touch experience was the first time when I met a word I did not know, and wanted to look it up. Suddenly, I could just touch that word, and get a definition:

kindletouch[12]

(I do know what village means, but you get my point here, I hope.) The dictionary pops up when you touch a word (or even an idiom), and the popup has been greatly expanded: It is no longer a two-line strip at the top or bottom of the screen. It now contains five full lines of text, which is plenty for most definitions. This feature alone is worth the device, for me. Take the e-ink look and combine it with this incredible ease in which you can look stuff up, and you get a real winner.

Then again, if you like highlighting quotes and interesting passages, you just need to hold your finger on the screen for a moment and then drag it across the text:

kindletouch[14]

Simply fantastic, and really, pretty much the best part of the entire Kindle Touch experience.

Controlling The Kindle Touch

Now that I’ve shown you the very best feature (at least in my opinion), let me walk you through the rest of the interface:

touch

This is more or less how the Kindle Touch interface works: The bulk of the screen is dedicated to the single most important function, which is flipping to the next page of your book. A narrow strip along the left edge of the screen is used for flipping back to the previous page, and a strip along the top brings up the full array of controls:

kindletouch[26]

This includes, on the top part of the screen, a menu button, a search box, quick access to the store, and a Back button. On the bottom of the screen you will find the familiar “Aa” button for changing font and margins, the Go To button for quickly navigating your book, and a Sync button for initiating sync with Amazon’s servers, so you can pick up where you left off on your other devices. Sync usually happens automatically, but it’s nice to be able to initiate it just in case. Above you don’t see a Sync button – instead, some books contain an X-Ray button, of which I will tell you later (great feature).

“Wait,” I hear you ask, “how can I flip to the previous page if I’m holding the Kindle Touch with my right hand and eating a ham sandwich with my left?” Well, I’m glad you asked! The Kindle Touch supports swiping gestures: You can swipe right to go to the next page, and swipe left to go to the previous one. That’s neat, but unfortunately, the Kindle Touch features two other gestures: Swipe up to go to the next chapter, and swipe down to go to the previous one. I don’t know why Amazon thought this is something people do so often that it deserves such key gestures – it would have been much better to use the up/down directions for changing font size, for example. I have triggered these by mistake when trying to remove a bit of cat fur from my screen – a pretty irritating experience. In general, because it’s a touch screen device, it becomes very important to turn it off when you’re trying to clean it – a minor annoyance that is new to this model (and the Kindle Fire, of course).

Oh, and by the way, the Kindle Touch uses multi-touch technology, so you can change font size using the regular “pinching” gesture for zooming in or out.

Typing On The Kindle Touch

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The Kindle Touch features a beautiful, clear, on-screen keyboard. It is much, much better than the Kindle 3 keyboard, because each button has more space. I was able to type quickly and easily, and the only thing that delayed me was when I wanted to use a comma or exclamation mark – for those, I had to switch to the numbers and symbols layout, wait for the sluggish e-ink screen to refresh, type my character, and switch back. But as long as you don’t use much punctuation, this keyboard is excellent.

Seeing Your Books With X-Ray Vision

So, remember that X-Ray button I showed you before? Here’s what happens when you tap it:

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Pretty amazing, really: You get a listing of major characters and terms in the book, each with a little strip showing where the character or term occurs along the book. Above you can see that Scarlett Amber Perkins shows up near the beginning of the book, then goes away for most of it, then comes back near the end. If you tap an item, you can see its occurrences in the text:

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And if it’s a known term (like Glasgow), you get the beginning of its Wikipedia article and can tap to access the rest of the article using the built-in browser. Amazing stuff, really.

Browsing with The Kindle Touch

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The browser on the Kindle Touch is still tucked under the “experimental” section, but it is more usable than ever before. E-ink is far from ideal for consuming Web content, but being able to tap links and images is a huge improvement. Scrolling is done by swiping up and down the screen, just like on a smartphone or tablet. Pinch to zoom works, too.

Nobody in their right mind will try to use this for any serious Web browsing, but it’s still very nice to know the browser is there, especially when you need to check something on the Web in a pinch.

Living With the Kindle Touch

Reading on the Kindle Touch late at night is a very quiet experience. With a regular book, your significant other can hear you turning pages, which can be irritating. Even with a Kindle 3, the page-turn buttons make audible clicks that can be annoying if both of you are trying to read at the same time (each on their own Kindle). It can make reading into a sort of competition, and is just not fun. Turning a page on the Kindle Touch, in comparison, is absolutely silent. The touch screen is very responsive, so you merely have to touch your finger to it, and the page turns. Not to mention that with the Kindle 3, looking up a definition involves lots of click-click-clicking around with the D-pad, and can actually wake up a light sleeper – and as you’ve seen above, this is something that just doesn’t happen with the Kindle Touch.

During daytime, the Kindle Touch screen does look a bit different than the Kindle 3 one: It seems to be a bit more reflective, even though Amazon claims it is the same type of screen (6” E Ink Pearl). But the slight reflection doesn’t really get in the way of reading, even when you read outside.

In terms of battery life, Amazon claims 2 months, which I have not yet had time to verify. I have been using the Kindle Touch a few hours every day, and it required its first charge after about three weeks – but that was its very first charge, as I was using it right out of the box for that whole period, without connecting it to power even once, to see how long the initial charge would last. For all practical intents and purposes, both the Kindle 3 and Kindle Touch have insane battery lives compared to every other modern gadget. Battery life is simply not an issue – you can charge the kindle before your three-weeks vacation and not have to plug it in once during that whole time.

Should You Buy It?

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In a word: Yes. I had some concerns before I got the Kindle Touch: Will the touch interface really work for me, will it be easier to use than the Kindle 3, and so on. I am happy to say that after a few weeks of daily use, all of my fears have been alleviated. The Kindle Touch is an excellent e-reader, and a worthy update for the Kindle family. Highly recommended, and a great value for money at $99.

We’re giving this review unit away to one very lucky MakeUseOf reader who enjoys reading! Join the giveaway below to be in the running.

How do I win the Kindle Touch?

It’s simple, just follow the instructions.

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Fill out my online form.

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This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, May 25th. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

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April 24 2012

01:31

6 Kindle Book Classics You Can Download For Free

kindle free classicsVery recently, we gave away a Kindle Fire, but did you know that you can start reading on Kindle right away without spending any more money? Fortunately, Amazon has provided quite a few classic books totally free of charge for the general public. The best part of all is that none the Kindle free classics are abridged!

Below, we have six classics that you may or may have not been able to read on the Kindle, so don’t hesitate. Also, for those of you who don’t have a Kindle, you really shouldn’t feel left out. With the Kindle app and the Cloud Reader, you can join right in and read all of these on whatever device you happen to have.

The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

kindle free classics

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s sleuth classic is available on the Kindle for only $0.00. The e-book includes all twelve of the original stories about the master detective, and the easy to read format will make it a breeze to fly through. Yes, I will include an obligatory “Elementary, my dear Watson” in this paragraph. Happy?

* At the time of this article, Amazon has made a note that the description of this book is under review on their site. Based on my own personal copy, it seems fairly accurate.

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

kindle book classics

Before there was Fight Club, there was The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Right now, you can dive into the symbolic struggle of good versus evil for free. However, it does not include the destruction of the establishment or anything remotely similar to “space-monkeys”. So go ahead and pick up the classic story on the Kindle Store.

King Solomon’s Mines

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Sadly, my first introduction to Alan Quartermain was through The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. As much as I loved that movie, I am rather embarrassed to say this was my only encounter with the character. When I saw that King Solomon’s Mines was available for free on the Kindle, I knew it was going on my reading list ASAP.

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

kindle book classics

Alice’s tale has always been very interesting to me (and that is not due to copious amounts of opium). There’s just something about the whole surreal feeling of it all. Fortunately, her adventures in Wonderland have been made available for free on the Kindle. Granted, I haven’t found Through the Looking Glass on the store, but the fact that this is even readily available is nice.

Great Expectations

free kindle book classics

Honestly, I have always had a special place in my heart for the Dickens classic. Upon finding it on Kindle, I was a little too excited to re-read the story of Pip (despite how sad it is in some parts). What’s always intrigued me is how this story was brought to the public via serials. This has made me wonder if the Amazon Kindle would be a good medium for a modern day serial in which a new chapter is brought to your reader every week.

Also, I haven’t checked the ending of this Great Expectations, so I do not know if it includes the original ending, the revised ending, or both.

Dorothy & The Wizard In Oz

kindle free classics

Oz is a pretty trippy place when you think about it, and I rank the world somewhere up there with Wonderland. Follow Dorothy in another Oz-related quest (this isn’t the original) when she is sucked back into the magical world against her will.

No word on whether or not the other Oz books are available for free, but this should serve as a nice introduction to the series.

Conclusion

Before you get too troubled about not seeing your favorite classic book on here, I want you to know that I am aware that there are quite a few Kindle free classics . It’s just a matter of finding them all! Also, once again, remember that you do not need a Kindle to read these books. Just use the app or the Cloud Reader.

For more e-book recommendations, don’t forget to follow Christian’s monthly MUO Book Club.

What free Kindle classics have you found? Which books do you recommend?


March 30 2012

11:00

New Software Update For Kindle Fire Brings Sharing, Book Extras & Better Movie Rentals [Updates]

The Kindle Fire, the $199 Amazon tablet that was launched merely 4 months ago, is getting another software update full of goodies and changes. The new software version, 6.3, is available as an automatic over-the-air update, or for manual download on Amazon’s Help pages.

Two of the most notable new features are sharing and Book Extras. The new update brings the ability to highlight a passage in a book you are reading, and share it with friends though the toolbar. You can add notes to your highlighted passage, and share it with other Kindle users who are reading the same book, or even on Facebook or Twitter. Book Extras is a Shelfari-powered feature, which already exists on the Kindle Touch, and brings additional information about the book’s characters, places, author and more.

kindle-fire-update

Other new features include an archive of personal documents (not books), a specialized Reading View on Amazon Silk for clutter-free reading, and Print Replica Textbooks – textbooks that maintain the same page numbering as their printed versions, while providing all the perks of an electronic textbook.

If you’re more into video content, you’d be happy to hear that movie-rental periods on the Kindle Fire will begin counting down only when you start watching the movie, and not on the day you downloaded the file. The update also includes other features such as quicker Wi-Fi reconnect after sleep, and general performance enhancements.

Try out the new version of Kindle Fire, and tell us what you think!

Source: Amazon


March 16 2012

20:00

Top 5 Free eBook Tools & Tidbits For Your Reading Pleasure

free ebook toolsEvery day more people join the world of eBook lovers, having suddenly decided to take the plunge and buy a new Kindle or some other eBook reader. Along with your new purchase (or your decision to buy) comes the realization that you now need to know a lot more about how you’re going to find great free eBooks to read. At MakeUseOf, we’ve written plenty of articles on how to find free eBooks, but it was about time we made a primer for those of you who haven’t been researching very long.

There are a number of different ways to get great free content on to your eBook reader, to organise your eBooks and to read eBooks without a dedicated eBook gadget. Here’s everything you need to know.

1. Find A Great eBook Reader

If you’re looking for a dedicated eBook reader device, check out MakeUseOf’s poll on eBook readers to see what our readers prefer.

If you’re using a smartphone, there are a number of great apps for eBooks like Aldiko for Android, iBooks and Stanza for iPhone.

free ebook tools

If you prefer to read eBooks using your computer, check out the best software for reading eBooks via computer including Lucidor, Calibre, Magic Scroll, Google books and a Firefox ePub reader extension.

2. Download Free eBooks From The Best Directories

There are a number of search engines and public domain directories for eBooks, like Scribd and Project Gutenberg. There are also other directories of eBooks like Planet eBook, Manybooks, Classic Reader and PublicBookshelf.

3. Borrow eBooks From Libraries

There are a huge amount of libraries which will lend out eBooks. You’ll be able to borrow the eBooks digitally without ever having to visit the library. Needless to say, this makes it easy to borrow eBooks from these libraries from wherever you are in the world. Some of them require a yearly membership to be paid, but sometimes it’s even possible to pay that and sign up from an international location, wherever that may be.

Try searching for an eBook library using the Sony Overdrive service.

Don’t forget to check your local town, city and state libraries to see if you can borrow eBooks there. Most people would be surprised at how well-stocked their local libraries are – and you’d be doing them a favor by supporting them! If you’re an expat, see if you can renew your old library memberships online.

Occasionally services such as the Kindle lending club will surface where you can join to borrow books from other users. These have a tendency to get shut down though, so they’re only a temporary tool.

4. Organize Your eBook Collection

Not everyone stores all of their eBooks on a dedicated device. If you’re trying to manage a collection of eBooks on a computer, there’s a large amount of tools available to use to organize them. Try Papers for organizing PDFs on Mac OS X or Calibre for the ultimate eBook organiser.

free ebook tools

5. Create Your Own eBooks Easily

You can create eBooks from blogs and PDFs using a variety of tools, including online convertors and freeware like BookGlutton, eBook Hood and Calibre (see more on how to download blogs to eBook with Calibre here) or Firefox extensions such as Grab My Books, which converts HTML to ePub format. You can also turn your blog into an eBook for other people to read by using tools like Anthologize, ZinePal and ePub Bud.

What’s your favourite tool for getting eBooks? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: ShutterStock


February 16 2012

21:31

How To Get Rid Of Kindle Fire Syncing Problems Once & For All

kindle fire syncWhether you plan on reading books that you have bought from the Kindle Store or downloaded from elsewhere, the Kindle Fire is the ultimate eBook reader, enabling the user to read books, magazines, comics and documents of virtually any format for under $200. However for this functionality to be achieved the Kindle Fire must first be synced. Typically this is done wirelessly, although syncing by USB cable is also possible.

Understanding both sync methods is vital; at some point you might run into problems with the process. A fault such as this will result in you being unable to read books – perhaps they might only be partially downloaded to your device – but fortunately you should be able to work around any issues.

Two Ways To Sync On The Kindle Fire

There are two methods of syncing with the Kindle Fire. The first is via the wireless connection; this will of course connect you to the Internet and using the Kindle reader app on your tablet you will be able to take advantage of the WhisperSync feature which downloads books and other electronic purchases from Amazon to your Kindle Fire. Problems with your wireless connection can impact on how successful this sync process is.

Meanwhile the second method, via USB cable, requires you to sign into your Amazon account on your computer and download the book in question, before copying it to your tablet.

If you are experiencing problems syncing data upon first use, you will need to register the device to your Amazon account. See our Kindle Fire setup guide for further details.

Resolving Wireless Sync Issues

Naturally the first thing you should do if you encounter any problems syncing a book (or other media such as music, video, or a magazine or newspaper from the newsstand) is to restart your Kindle Fire. Do this by pressing the power button (found on the edge of the device beside the USB port) and wait until the Shut Down option is displayed. Tap this; when the device is switched off, press the power button again to restart. If your Kindle Fire is housed in a protective case you may need to remove it to access the power button.

If this fails to resolve the issue then the cause might be your wireless connection. Check this by trying to browse to a webpage or checking for new emails. Problems here would indicate a general connectivity issue; if they work, however, the problem might be with the WhisperSync tool, so you should use the USB sync workaround as described below.

kindle fire sync

The Kindle Fire should be able to connect to WEP, WPA PSK, WPA2 PSK, WPA EAP and WPA2 EAP secured routers without a problem. Tapping the Settings symbol in the top right of the display will open a sub-menu with the Wi-Fi option; here you will be able to see all available wireless networks, and connecting to them is a case of tapping the selected network and entering the key when requested.

Using The USB Sync Workaround

If a wireless issue is the problem, you can download content from your Amazon account to your computer and sync this via a USB cable to your Kindle Fire.

To do this you will need a computer running Windows 2000 or Mac OS X 10.2 or later versions. Next, visit the Kindle Store in your web browser and sign-in with the corresponding Amazon account. Via the Manage Your Devices menu item (found on the left) a list of library items will be displayed.

kindle fire sync failed

To have the item synced to your tablet via USB, connect the device and then select Actions > Download & transfer via USB.

kindle fire sync

You can then select the appropriate device to transfer to and click Download to proceed. Note that if you’re purchasing new items from the Kindle Store you should select the Transfer via Computer option in the “Deliver to” field before buying.

Conclusion

Amazon has been wise to provide the USB alternative to wireless syncing on the Kindle Fire, allowing users to get as much access to their data as possible. Should you encounter any problems syncing via USB, consider checking the cable and ports on both devices.

Also bear in mind that if you keep your Kindle Fire in a case this might restrict your Wi-Fi connection, so spend a few moments attempting the wireless sync method before resorting to the USB workaround.

Let us know in the comments if you have been having any syncing issues and if so, how you managed to fix them.


February 10 2012

15:30

February 03 2012

23:31

9 Cool Free Novels You Can Download On Amazon For Your Kindle

The Amazon Kindle is an amazing device, and it is quickly turning the publishing industry on its head. Just a few short years ago, getting quality books for free wasn’t an option. You could always go to the library, but then the book wasn’t really yours to keep. With the Kindle, all that has changed. There’s an endless supply of free books offered on Amazon. Some are timeless classics which have become public domain works, while others are new works by budding authors looking for exposure and recognition.

I scoured the Kindle Store in search of worthy books to recommend, and came up with a list of nine titles that all seem worthy. It’s an eclectic mix, so be sure to scroll all the way through even if the first one or two don’t catch your eye. These books are all offered for free at the time of this writing. Pricing on the Kindle store can change at any time.

Wild Mustang Man

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To start things off, let’s look at Wild Mustang Man. This isn’t a long book (about 181 pages), but it’s one for the girls. Wild Mustang Man is a Western romance story about a single dad, Josh Gentry, who also happens to be a farmer. One day, a lovely lady by the name of Bridget McCloud comes into his farm, takes a look at him, and decides he’s going to be perfect for her ad campaign… and for other things, too.

The books comes from Carol Grace, who authored over 35 novels and has a definite following. Again, this one may not be for everyone, but some of the ladies in the audience might find it to be an enjoyable read.

The Jackpot

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The Jackpot is a legal thriller by David Kazzie, who also created the (NSFW) video So You Want to Write a Novel. The video isn’t directly related to the book (thankfully), and is a blatant parody of people who just randomly decide to write a book one day, without realizing what it entails. The book itself received 17 reviews with an average of 4.5 stars, which is fairly impressive for a work in the long tail.

The book’s hero (a lady, by the way) goes through all sorts of trouble trying to return a winning lottery ticket which her boss stole from a client. The whole thing is more complicated, of course, but that’s the main premise.

The Nemesis Worm

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Gory cover aside, The Nemesis Worm is our first sci-fi entry. It’s a 60-page novella, not a full-length book, featuring the heroes from author Guy Haley’s book Reality 36. It revolves around a high stakes investigation undertaken by those same heroes (Richards and Klein) to clear Richards’s name from murder.

The Ghosts Of Varner Creek

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With 36 reviews and a 4.5-star average, The Ghosts of Varner Creek is aimed at readers 18 and above. It is a Nook sci-fi/fantasy Bestseller, and tells of Solomon Mayfield, whose mother and sister disappear one day in 1909. He goes through life not knowing what happened to them, haunted by lies, speculations, and secrets. He finds out the truth only after he dies. Once again, be warned – this one contains adult content.

Seven Exes Are Eight Too Many

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Seven Exes Are Eight Too Many is another foray into romance. Madeleine-Cora Spencer is single, and after being shunned by a friend’s new wife because “you can’t trust desperate single women”, she is finally driven to participate in a “Find Your Prince” reality TV show – only to find herself dumped on an island with seven ex-boyfriends. With 40 reviews and a 4.5-star average, this looks like one entertaining read.

Bright Of The Sky (Book 1 Of The Entire & The Rose)

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Bright Of The Sky is one of the few books on this list that have also seen light in dead-tree format. It’s the first part of a four-book sci-fi cycle, and the other three parts do cost money. This reflects a growing trend in the Kindle store, where authors offer the first book of several for free, in the hopes that readers will be hooked and buy the rest of the series. With 109 reviews and a 4-star average, Bright Of The Sky is an epic tale of the far future.

To wrap things up, I would like to share three interesting classics. These are not Kindle exclusives, but are worth a read all the same.

Pride & Prejudice

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Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen’s timeless classic, needs little introduction. It is one of only two books on this list who have their own Wikipedia page. In a nutshell (and in Wikipedia’s words), “The story follows the main character Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of early 19th-century England.” 

This is exactly the type of timeless classic we all have access to in this digital day and age.

Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know

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This one’s for the kids – Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know. It is an anthology containing such classics as Sleeping Beauty, The Ugly Duckling, Beauty and the Beast, and more. It’s entirely devoid of illustrations, though – just the text. Still, if you are looking for some classic bedtime reading for your little ones, this is a free book that could go a long way towards educating them in the classics.

A Tale Of Two Cities

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A Tale Of Two Cities is one of Charles Dickens’s greatest classics, set in the late 18th century against the backdrop of the French revolution. It may not be light reading, but it’s supposed to be exceptional. If you do read it, tell me how it was.

Final Thoughts

Free books for the Kindle are a mixed blessing. Sure, there are some lovely finds, but there is also an incredible amount of drivel, trash, and empty words. I wish Amazon would make it easier to filter books by price and minimum reviews. They let you sort by price and filter by “four stars or more”, but not by how many reviewers there are… and many, many books have a single five-star review.

Did I miss important free Kindle books? Let me know in the comments.


21:30

Need An eBook Reader For Android? Try Aldiko Book Reader!

For the iPhone users out there, great ebook reading experiences can be had with apps like iBooks and Stanza. But what about for us Android users?

As someone who has recently been getting sucked into reading more and more novels, I’ve been on the prowl for the best ebook readers on Android. So far, nothing has matched the sheer power and elegance of Stanza, but Aldiko has gotten close.

First released in 2009, Aldiko has been working towards offering the best-in-class ebook reading and management experience for Android users. Let’s take a look at what this app can do.

eBook Formats

Aldiko officially supports ebooks in the .epub and .pdf formats. However, if you have ebooks in a different format, you can use a program called Calibre to convert those files into .epub format. From there, Aldiko will be able to read it just fine.

Importing ebooks into Aldiko is extremely easy. All you have to do is connect your Android to your computer and drag the files onto your device. Then, from within Aldiko, you can search your device and tell it which files to import. Simple.

If some of your ebooks are locked by Adobe DRM, you can even sign into your Adobe ID to have those ebooks unlocked.

In-App Bookstore

At the time of writing this article, installing Aldiko on your device will result in a free ebook for you: White Fang by Jack London. For those of you who have never read this book, it is a small and unexpected treat.

However, one of Aldiko’s great features is an in-app bookstore powered by Feedbooks. Without ever having to leave the app, you can purchase books that have been recommended by other readers, books that have been featured in the New York Times Bestseller List, or books that are entirely free of charge.

On top of that, you can use the app to browse through ebook listings on Smashwords. Smashwords is a great place to find ebooks, both free and paid, across all genres and formats.

Library Management

Managing your pile of ebooks is extremely easy with Aldiko. You’ll be able to find the book you want to read almost instantly by sorting by title or by author–whichever you prefer.

Reading

If you want to bookmark a page–in case you have to stop reading for a bit, or if you want to return to a specific spot later–you just tap a button and label the bookmark.

If you want to look for a specific scene but don’t remember where it is, use the full-text search.

As you’re reading, you can bring up a context overlay with a single tap on the page. You’ll instantly see how far into the book you are, and you’ll be presented with a bunch of options for customizing your reading experience.

Settings and Customization

Aldiko allows you to change a lot of settings in order to maximize your comfort. Change the font face, the font size, the margin sizes, and the colors of the text and page. You’ll never be distracted by poor aesthetics again.

And it doesn’t stop there. There are a few other options that really add those finishing touches while you read.

Verdict?

Aldiko still lacks a few features that I would like to see, such as tracking your progress through the current chapter (as opposed to the whole book), more options for sorting your library, the ability to edit book details, etc.

However, compared to other ebook readers on the Android Market, Aldiko is definitely the best one I’ve tried so far. I would highly recommend it for anyone who plans on reading many ebooks on their Android device.

Image Credit: Shutterstock


February 01 2012

18:01

Convert Your Twitter Tweets Into A Published Book With Twournal

turn tweets into a bookI have been a Twitter user since 2006, but only in the last few years did I start using the microblogging site on a daily basis. It took me a while to figure out just what the purpose of Twitter was and how I wanted to use it. Eventually I discovered that although I don’t have the time to maintain a full blown blog, I do have enough time to make 140 character posts throughout the day.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon Twournal which can put your latest 3,200 tweets into a PDF or paperback book. When you see your Twitter content archived in one document, you gain a better appreciation of what it means to be a published author. Twournal allows you to create, buy and sell books printed from your tweets. Registering on the site and creating your first book is nearly as easy as signing in and allowing Twournal to access your Twitter timeline, going back to as far as your very first tweet.

turn tweets into a book

InvderMedia, the developers of Twournal are gracious enough to provide your Tweet collection for free in PDF format. Dozens of twitter users take advantage of this feature every day because the process is so simple, and it is a great way to archive your Twitter content.

Creating Your First Book

To create a Twournal, simply sign in with the Twitter account you want to use, and select if would you like to include photos posted to your timeline (via Twitpic, Yfrog, Flickr, Instagram, etc.)

tweets into book

Your Twournal includes a standard multicolor cover, but you will probably want to customize it with your own photo. Before clicking the Finish button, you have several other options to consider for creating your book, including what years to include and not include, and whether or not you want to remove replies, URL links, hashtags, and retweets.

tweets into book

After you submit your book, you will be e-mailed within 24 hours a link to a free PDF version of your book. Even if you plan to purchase a paperback copy of your Twournal, you should definitely order and view the PDF first.

Writing Your First Book

When I first considered ordering a Twournal book, I wasn’t quite sure if it would contain the kind of content that I wanted. What I discovered early on was that few of my tweets included photos, which I felt was essential for my book.

tweets into book

Photos help break up the pages and pages of tweets, and of course provide visual context. So in 2011 I started using my iPhone to snap and upload them directly to my Twitter timeline.

There is nothing really special you have to do in order to write “good” Twitter content. Though you’re communicating on Twitter with your contacts, you mainly post what is important to you and not someone else. However, if you would like to make your Twournal the sort of memorable diary or journal of your thoughts and experiences, you might very well put some thought into the types of tweets you are posting.

turn tweets into book

For the last several days I have been reading back through my tweets from 2010 to 2011, and though there a great mixture of links to articles I was reading on the net, I noticed that I tweeted quite heavily about important issues that mattered to me – e.g. the death of singer and songwriters Teena Maria and later Gil Scott Heron, the execution of Troy Davis, my thoughts and participation in the Occupy Movement, and posts about goals and accomplishments I made in my day-to-day life.

turn tweets into book

It looks as if I never went more than three days without posting something to my Twitter timeline, and that was probably the key to making a useful and memorable Twournal.

By the end of last year, my Twournal came to 325 pages – starting from March of 2010.

turn tweets into book

I also noticed that what makes my Twournal worth reading is how often I made comments about issues and topics I’m concerned about, instead of just retweeting tweets and headlines.

Including Photos

With a smart phone camera and a Twitter app, it is quite easy to post photos directly to your timeline. You might take and post photos of events you attend, special meals you cook, and projects you’re working on.

Twournal 15

But you need not limit yourself to camera images. My Twournal consists of over a dozen images composed of desktop screenshots and photos I grabbed from websites.

Memorable Artifact

In the digital age, we often take for granted that the digital content we produce will always be available to us online or on some personal storage device. While that might surely be the case, producing paper documents and artifacts from our digital content is still important.

turn tweets into a book

Whether you purchase a Twournal book or print your PDF, you will appreciate your collection of tweets a lot more when viewing them in hand, in paper format. I’m actually reading through my Twournal as I do any other book, except this time, it’s my own.

For other articles about Twitter, check out our directory of articles that includes tips and recommendations for using the microblogging site.

Let us know what you think about Twournal. Do you plan to create your own?


January 30 2012

19:00

How To Write Your First Book In iBooks Author

ibooks authorIf you have ever wanted to write a book and get it published, Apple’s latest— and possibly game changing software–iBooks Author might very well be the easiest and fastest way to get it done.

Apple recently introduced iBooks Author in a live presentation at the Guggenheim in New York. The software is aimed at textbook writers and publishers, but it can just as well be used for producing cookbooks, picture books, interactive fiction novels, how-to books, and the like.

iBooks Author looks to be the first consumer-based e-Pub software designed for multimedia books.

 

Feature Overview

E-books designed with iBooks Author are basically geared to be read on the iPad platform using the recently updated iBooks 2 reader app. iBooks Author books can however be exported to PDF format, and to plain text format—excluding the embedded images and other media.

ibooks author

If you’re familiar with Apple’s desktop publishing application, Pages, you’ll feel at home with iBooks Author. Both programs share a similar interface, including text editor formatting tools and page layouts, and the familiar drop and add multimedia features.

ibooks author page

iBooks Author, however, also includes several unique features including what are called Widgets, which allow you to include interactive images, 3D objects, Keynote presentations, custom HTML, and a review study guide tool for textbooks.

ibooks author page

iBooks Author opens with six basic templates to get you started. You can write a book from scratch, but you also can import existing Pages and Word documents.

ibooks author page

For the purposes of this review, I imported my Awesome Guide To Mac Automation, formatted in Word. iBooks Author pretty much kept all my text, font and header styles, screenshots, and titles in place. However, it did put extra spaces between the paragraphs.

how ibooks works

Extra Features

iBooks Author is a pretty familiar text editor, so let’s focus on some of its unique features.

how ibooks works

Because multimedia books produced in iBooks Author are primarily designed to be read and consumed on the iPad using the iBooks 2, by default you lay out books in landscape orientation, rather than the traditional portrait view.

In either view, the content remains the same, but the landscape view provides more interactive features. You can, for example, design your book so that readers can view a gallery of photos, or tap and watch an embedded video, or use various multi-touch gestures with say interactive maps and 3D objects. Portrait view on the other hand, pushes photos and interactive media to the side and puts the focus on text, with a more Read-only format.

iBooks Author also includes a textbook Glossary feature which allows you to not only select special terms and definitions but to also include related glossary terms for cross-referencing.

how ibooks works

As with traditional textbooks, iBooks Author enables you to create multiple-choice review questions that can be placed at the end of each chapter of your textbook.

iPad Preview

Though iBooks Author is a WYSIWG desktop editor, you have to physically connect your iPad to your Mac in order to preview your book. Unfortunately Apple has not yet created an iBooks reader for the Mac. To view your book, you launch iBooks 2 on your connected iPad and then you click the iPad icon Preview button in the toolbar of iBooks Author. iBooks Author will send a Proof copy of your book which you can update as you a make changes to your book in iBooks Author.

This preview gives you the opportunity to see how the layout and multimedia features of your book will appear and work.

The iBook 2 reader includes features specifically for iBook Author-designed books and textbooks. In this updated version, for instance, you can use the highlighter simply by pressing down and over selected text with your finger, without having to make two or three taps that are still required with regular e-books.

iBooks 2 also comes with a dedicated flash card feature (that you of course create in iBooks Author), and a notepad that lists all of your highlights and typed notes.

However, Apple still does not allow you to export and share highlighted text in iBooks, but you can e-mail your written notes.

The updated features in iBooks 2 are good improvements, but its annotation tools for studying are still inadequate. Apple would do well to learn from iOS PDF reader apps, like iAnnotate for the types of tools  and features iBooks are still missing. For instance, the bookmarking tool in iBooks doesn’t allow you to change the name of the bookmark page. So when you review your bookmarks, all you get are the page numbers, which when reading and studying large textbooks is very inadequate for studying.

ibooks author

Both iBooks Author, which requires OS X Lion, and the iOS 5 version iBooks 2 are available are for free in their respective app stores.

Let us know what you think of these programs. What tools and features would you like to see added to them. Do you think iBooks Author will be a game changer for education?


January 19 2012

22:31

The 5 Best O’Reilly eBooks That Are Free To Download

There are quite a few people who have realised that smartphones, tablets and e-book readers are a great way to store and read technical manuals. It’s not just that these books are not taking up room on the desk. It’s also the fact that they’re on hand when you need to refer to them and easy to get stuck into when you find yourself with an hour spare and realise you could spend a little time learning something useful.

In the tech world, some of the most useful books available are from the O’Reilly collection. So, what could be better for your ebook collection than getting some of these great O’Reilly ebooks for free? Not a lot, really.

Today we’ve decided to showcase a few of the best O’Reilly ebooks you can pick up for free. Many of these are out of print and offered online specifically to keep the works accessible to you all, so you don’t need to feel bad about getting it for free. And if you do feel bad, just go buy a new O’Reilly book to keep the money going towards more of these projects. Note that some of these are available in ePub or PDF formats, while others are only available as HTML.

Linux Network Administrator’s Guide

Olaf Kirch & Terry Dawson, ISBN 1565924002

This book explains all the basic software and protocols you need to understand in order to begin network administration under Linux. It also talks a little about hardware needs. It doesn’t focus on Samba as there’s another free ebook dedicated to Samba.

Readers of this book may also appreciate Linux Device Drivers and Learning Debian GNU/Linux, which are also available to read for free.

Producing Open Source Software

Karl Fogel, ISBN 0596007590

This is a book to guide readers through the process of creating open source software. Primarily, it’s for the developers and managers of the open source project, but it’s also useful information for people who plan to participate in open source projects. Essentially, it discusses the human side of the process and how to make your project succeed.

Creating Applications With Mozilla

David Boswell, ISBN 0596000529

You may have heard of a number of excellent Mozilla-based projects, such as Songbird, the Flickr Uploader and Postbox. If you want to create a Mozilla application or work on one of the established applications, then this book is a great place to start.

CouchDB: The Definitive Guide

J. Chris Anderson, Noah Slater, Jan Lehnardt, ISBN 0596155891

CouchDB is perfect for creators of web applications that need a reliable, scalable, fast database manager. Written by three of the creators of CouchDB, this book is intended to be all you need to know about the document-oriented database.

We The Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People

Dan Gillmor, ISBN 0596102275

We The Media is something a little lighter for anyone who’s interested in citizen journalism, either as a movement or as a new participant. If you want a glimpse into how online journalism will change journalism as a whole forever, this book will deliver.

Don’t forget that O’Reilly have a current list of their open books here. Which O’Reilly books are your favourites?  If they are online, let us know the links to them so we can check them out.


January 17 2012

23:31

How To Find A Nearby Library Which Lends Kindle Books & Other eBooks

library ebooks on kindleAs our society becomes more paperless, more people are looking for ways to replace their paper habits. Buying eBooks online is not a bad choice, but not everyone is into buying their books. Many of us enjoy our local public library, which lets us lend books for a limited time, and then return them. This is the cheaper, environmentally-friendlier and generally calmer choice, which doesn’t involve a lot of shopping.

But as mentioned above, more and more people are switching over to the eBook side, whether it’s using a designated eReader, a tablet, a smartphone, or even a regular computer. If you love eBooks, it does not mean you have to forego your library habits! On the contrary, checking out eBooks is much easier than checking out actual books. This guide will show you how to merge eBooks with your love for the library, where available.

Finding A Local Library That Lends Kindle Books

The easiest way to lend out library eBooks on Kindle is by using Amazon’s Kindle public library books. While only available in local libraries in the US, Kindle books are a great choice since you don’t have to own an actual Kindle to read them. The free Kindle app is available for iOS and Android devices, and you can even read those books on your computer using Kindle Cloud Reader. But how can you find a library that lends Kindle books?

To start, head over here. This is a database of libraries and bookstores around the world which hold downloadable media.

library ebooks on kindle

Choose the “Library Search” tab to search for libraries. You can also use this site to search for titles or bookstores. In the search box, type in the name of your library, your city or a zip code. Note that you don’t need to include the state, the search does not support that.

kindle library books

You will now get a list of all the libraries which match your query. All these libraries (the US ones, anyway) also have Kindle books to lend.

kindle library books

Click on the library that’s closest to you, or one you already have a library card for, to access the downloadable media section of this library. If the name itself is not sufficient for you to recognize the specific library, the next page also contains the library’s complete address.

kindle library books

On this page you can also see what kinds of media are available in this library (audiobooks, eBooks, music, video). Click on the bottom link, as shown, to enter this section in the library.

Checking Out A Kindle Book

To actually check out a Kindle book from a library, you would need to have a library card and a PIN number with that library. Browse the eBooks the library offers, and when you’ve found the one you’d like to take out, find the Kindle version of it and add it to your cart. This part can look slightly different for each library.

kindle library

You can now check out, using your library card ID and PIN number. Once you’ve checked it out, choose Get for Kindle. This will redirect you to Amazon’s Public Library Loan page for that title. After logging into Amazon, click on the “Deliver to” menu and choose your device (a Kindle, a tablet, a phone, etc.). Choose “Get library book” to send the book to your device.

Note that this option will only work if the device is connected to Wi-Fi. If you don’t have an available connection, you can simply download the file and upload it manually onto your device. The book will expire at the end of the loan period, which depends on your library. You will get an e-mail notification 3 days earlier, but no need to worry about heading to the library to return it!

And What If I’m Not From The US?

Although Amazon may have forgotten, we don’t all live in the US. Should this small fact exclude us from lending out eBooks? Not necessarily. While eBook lending outside the US is not supported by Amazon, it’s still possible to download eBooks from many libraries around the world, and read them on different devices.

To find local libraries that lend eBooks, head over here again and look for your library, same as above. You can also use the interactive map to browse for your library.

kindle library

If your country is on the list, you can browse for libraries. After you’ve found a local library, access the downloadable media section, as seen above, and choose your book. You will now have the option to check it out in the ePub or PDF formats. You can read these eBook formats on multiple devices using apps such as iBooks for iOS, Aldiko for Android, or a PDF reader of your choosing for PDFs.

library ebooks on kindle

This may not be as convenient as lending out a Kindle book, but it is still a great way to enjoy library books without even having to leave your chair, and without having to worry about returning the book on time.

Where do you get your books? Do you prefer buying them or lending from a library? Do you have any experience with taking out Kindle books or other eBooks? Share in the comments!

Image credit: Shutterstock


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