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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!


May 10 2013

21:30

Can Reading Be A Social Experience?

Reading has a reputation for being an isolated activity. We often think of people in their pajamas or bathrobes, sunk into a massive armchair in front of a roaring fire, with a mug of hot cocoa in one hand and a page-turner in the other. Books have the unique ability to suck us into a whole new world where our imaginations are the only limit. So how can reading be social?

Discussion, that’s how. I know that when I finish reading a well-written book, I need to go out and tell somebody about it. I need to find someone else who’s read that same book so we can talk about it, maybe for hours if the book was that good. Reading may be an individual activity – nobody sits around in a circle and reads aloud, right? – but the social aspect afterwards is what truly completes the joy.

So, yes, reading is an intensely social experience. One way to partake in that experience is to join a local book club, but if you’re looking for more of a technological, modern medium for reading socially, then here are some great communities that you should consider joining.

Goodreads

It’s impossible to talk about “social reading” without mentioning Goodreads. Launched in 2007, Goodreads started off as a cataloging website that acted as a database for books, book reviews, and annotations. Within one year, Goodreads boasted over 650,000 members and 10 million books. Within five years, the member base increased to over 10 million and the database is constantly growing.

When you sign up on Goodreads, you can manage something called a “bookshelf”, which is just a collection of book titles that you’ve read, are currently reading, or plan to read one day. Once you’ve read a book, you can give it a rating and an optional review. The social networking aspect involves the ability to make friends with other readers so you can see each other’s bookshelves and discuss certain titles together.

Based on what you’ve read and liked, Goodreads helps you discover new books that fit into your interests. Personally, I’ve been using Goodreads for about two years and I’ve found dozens of great books that I never would’ve read if I hadn’t joined. Highly recommended, and not just by me: check out Erez’s article on why Goodreads is a must for readers!

LibraryThing

LibraryThing is like a less hip, more cerebral version of Goodreads. Even though it debuted nearly two years before Goodreads, their minimalistic interface and their refusal to catch up with the times has kept their community from blowing up. Depending on your viewpoint, that can be good or bad. Still, LibraryThing has over 1.6 million users and 78 million books.

With LibraryThing, you can create and manage your own personal library of books: books you’ve read, books you’re reading, books you wish to read. You can tag, rate, and review books. Since everyone builds their own personal libraries, you can browse them and interact with other people through comments and forums. LibraryThing gets their book data from Amazon and over 700 libraries globally.

Most book-related social networks will let you read and write reviews and leave comments, which LibraryThing does, too. However, the big draw of LibraryThing, in my opinion, is their Talk forum section where you can have high quality book discussions. And let me tell you: their forums are extremely active.

One cool feature is their Early Reviewers program, where you can receive free books in exchange for well-written reviews. In addition, they have a version of their site that’s optimized for mobile devices so you can participate on the go.

BookLikes

BookLikes is a newer social network that focuses on allowing users to share their thoughts on books in their own space. In a way, you can think of it as MySpace for books: everyone can create a shelf of books that they’ve read/are reading/will read (nothing new here) but everyone also has a blog for expression. The networking aspect is that you can search and browse the blogs of other users.

Honestly, it’s a great concept when you want more substance than simple book reviews and forum threads. The blog format allows for deeper thoughts while giving users the freedom to follow whoever they’d like to follow. Being able to see the shelves of your friends is useful, too, especially when you want to start reading the favorites of someone who thinks like you.

The only downside is that they’ve currently limited registration. Instead of instantly creating an account, you have to request an account and wait for them to approve you. Perhaps they’re still developing some features behind the scene and will open the gates soon. If you don’t mind waiting a bit, go ahead and request an account now.

Online Book Club


Let’s say you want to be a social reader but you don’t like dealing with social networks. Sounds a bit contradictory but it’s entirely possible. If blogs and social networks aren’t your cup of tea, then what about good old-fashioned forums? Forums are great for digitally enacting the oldest form of social reading: book clubs.

And Online Book Club is aptly named. Their forums are quite active with daily threads that cover topics such as: book discussion, author discussion, reviews and recommendations, e-book discussions, books of the month, and there’s even a subsection for aspiring writers. You’ll find a lot of reading enthusiasts at the Online Book Club and it’s an entirely free community.

Conclusion

Reading is both an isolated and social activity. Sure, you can enjoy your book and lose yourself into the mind of a compelling protagonist, but who are you going to talk to when you’re done? Sharing in the experience of that book is just as important as reading it, so use the communities above to find like-minded readers with whom you can discuss stories.

Know of any other social reading websites that I missed? Please share them in the comments. I’d love to check them out and see what I’m missing out on.

Image Credit: Reading Girl Via Shutterstock

The post Can Reading Be A Social Experience? appeared first on MakeUseOf.

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


August 03 2012

20:00

PlayTales App Teaches Your Kids To Love Books With Interactive Kids Stories

interactive kids storiesIf you’re a parent, you’ve probably wondered about what sorts of tools and interactive apps are available that can help you teach your child to love reading. Well, if so, here’s an app you can’t miss. A new application called PlayTales aims to instill a love of books in pre-schoolers and early readers by offering interactive versions of books for them to enjoy.

The combination of interactivity and storytelling works well to intrigue and entertain the kids, while teaching them that reading stories can be lots of fun. It’s been developed with the help of numerous parents, teachers and willing child play-testers. Plus, it’s free, so take a closer look!

Get PlayTales Free On Most Platforms

Download your copy of PlayTales for free for the Android phone, Windows phone, iPhone or iPad. They also intend to offer a browser-based flash version in the future.

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You’ll receive two free books to get you started, and there are a few titles available for free, then books will mostly cost you up to $2 from then on. You can preview demos of the “New And Noteworthy” books before deciding to buy them. If you add yourself to the PlayTales mailing list via the website, you will be entitled to another free book.

Check out their intro video to see how it works.

About The Books

At the moment, the PlayTales collection has over 40 books for kids aged between 1-8, with new stories being added weekly. The collection has all sorts of titles, ranging from traditional tales to new releases. All users of PlayTales can rate the books as they read them, helping to build the list of the most popular books available.

interactive kids stories free

Books are offered in up to seven languages, including English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Chinese, and Japanese.

The design and illustrations in the books are both beautiful and interesting to kids. Some books offer cartoon-like characters drawn with simple lines and big eyes, while others are drawn with a more detailed style. Each book has an original musical soundtrack added to complete the experience.

interactive kids stories free

The bookshelf is enticing and allows for the option of autoplay, thus helping little kids who aren’t so great with using the controls just yet. It’s the perfect way to keep a child entertained for a short while.

When reading the books, kids can choose to read the book themselves or have it read to them. This is great for kids who aren’t quite ready to read the books alone – and even better for those who are.

interactive kids stories

Some of the books include games as part of the interactivity, such as jigsaw puzzles and colouring-in. There’s a lot of things to keep your kids interested in the story.

More Reading

Check out these articles for more fun ideas for your children:

What do you like about the PlayTales books? What else would you like to see them do?


August 01 2012

22:00

Facebook Begins Rolling Out A New ‘Save For Later’ Feature [Updates]

Watch out Instapaper; Facebook is getting into the read later game. Facebook is launching a new feature that allows users to save interesting articles that they come across in their news feed for later reading. Okay, so maybe this is not a direct competitor to Instapaper, since it is only for your Facebook feed, but there’s a chance Facebook will choose to take this feature to the next level and roll it out on other websites.

This feature was first spotted with a notification on mobile. Users should see a notification saying they can “press and hold anywhere on a story to save it for later”. Not everyone will have this available, as Facebook is rolling it out to users gradually. There is no actual update from the App Store, just the notification letting you know that the feature is available for you. Keep checking the iOS app and you should see it soon enough.

As if people were not excited enough about this new feature, The Verge did some digging and found out that it is coming to Facebook on computers as well. The desktop version of the new feature will add a “Save” button below each post. This will be right next to the “Share” button you see now.

As with the mobile version, this feature is rolling out gradually, so you may not see if on your News Feed yet.

Source: iMore


July 30 2012

23:31

How To Make Text Easier To Read In Windows

make text easier to read windowsMost of us spend hours reading on the computer every day, but our computers probably aren’t optimized for reading. The text on our monitors may not be sharp enough or may be too small, especially if we have high-resolution monitors. Websites usually aren’t optimized for reading long-form articles either – they’re cluttered with too many navigation elements, flashing advertisements, and often use text that’s too small.

These tips will help you read text more comfortably everywhere on your Windows computer, from the text in all your programs to articles in your web browser.

Tweak ClearType Settings

Windows 7 includes a built-in utility for configuring ClearType, which makes text easier to read on LCD monitors. ClearType is enabled by default, but the default settings may not be ideal for your monitor. To access the utility, click the Start button, type ClearType into the search box in the Start menu, and click the Adjust ClearType text application that appears.

Use the ClearType wizard to adjust the appearance of text on your monitor. These settings will affect the appearance of text in most Windows applications, including your web browser.

make text easier to read windows

Make Text & Other Items Larger

If you have a high-resolution monitor and text and other interface elements just seems too small, you don’t have to reduce your screen resolution. In fact, assuming you’re using a modern LCD (flat-panel) monitor instead of an old CRT one, reducing your screen resolution will make text blurrier and harder to read.

Instead of changing your screen resolution, you can make text – and everything else in Windows – larger and easier to read. To change this setting, click the Start button, type Make text into the search box in the Start menu, and click the Make text and other items larger or smaller option that appears. Select a size in the Display window – after changing this size, you’ll have to log out and log back into Windows.

You can also use the Set custom text size (DPI) option in the sidebar here to set a custom text size instead of using one of the predefined ones.

make text easier to read

Use Readability For Web Pages

Most webpages aren’t optimized for distraction-free reading. Whether it’s because of small text size, flashing advertisements, or the website’s interface elements getting in the way, trying to read a long-form article on the web can be an exercise in frustration.

There are a variety of browser-based tools that can make articles on the web easier to read. One we’ve covered in the past is Readability. Download Readability for your browser and click the Readability button on your browser’s toolbar. Readability will format the article you’re currently reading for readability, stripping out unnecessary web page elements and making the text larger. You can also easily adjust the text size of articles on the Readability page. This is also particularly helpful if you’re trying to read an article on a website with a weird color scheme – Readability will give the text a sane color and font.

make text easier to read

Zoom In On Webpages

If you’re reading a website with text that’s too small, you can quickly and easily enlarge the text size in your browser. Just press the Ctrl and + keys to zoom in – you can also use Ctrl and – to zoom out or Ctrl and 0 to revert to the default zoom level. Another way to zoom is with your mouse wheel – hold the Ctrl key and scroll up with your mouse wheel to zoom in. This setting may also be accessible in your browser’s View menu. Many browsers, including Chrome, will automatically remember your zoom level for a website, so the next time you visit the website your browse will automatically zoom in for you.

make text easier to read

Customize Windows Text Sizes

Assuming you’re using a Windows 7 Basic or Ease of Access theme – not the standard Windows 7 Aero theme – you can also adjust font sizes for certain interface elements individually. For example, you can make the size of title bar text or tooltip text larger. These options are controlled from the Window Color and Appearance window, which also allows you to change the colors and fonts of the text.

To open this window, click the Start button, type Change window colors into the search box in the Start menu, and select the Change window colors and metrics application.

make text easier to read windows

For more great Windows information, download The Ultimate Windows 7 Guide, our free guide to Windows 7.

How do you make text easier to read on your computer? Leave a comment and share any tips or tricks you might have!

Image Credit: Stressed Businesswoman via Shutterstock


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

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

kindletouch[30]

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:

kindletouch[32]

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?

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May 06 2012

02:30

Use Your Email Like It’s Instapaper With toread & CC:to me

Services like Instapaper and, my favorite, Read It Later have changed the way I personally manage my time online. Not all of us want to keep a clutter of tabs open in our browser until we can get around to them. Not all of us want to bookmark every single site that we deem interesting enough to read later. Big thanks goes out to those “do it later” web services that save us so much time and effort.

Instapaper and Read It Later aren’t for everyone though. A lot of us are more simple. Our email is the headquarters where we get everything done. With that, I’d like to use this article to introduce you to the powers of toread and CC:to me, the best in-email alternatives to IP and RIL.

toread

The toread website is incredibly straightforward and simple. The three lines on the homepage alone are enough to introduce you to usage of the service:

“toread” is an email-based free bookmark service.

You can bookmark your “toread” web pages by just clicking the bookmarklet on your browser.

To register, simply enter your email address and click “start now”.

Following those instructions, you’ll receive a confirmation email.

Go check your email (and be advised that it may land in your junk folder) and confirm your registration by clicking the hyperlink. Afterwards, you’ll be sent to an account confirmation page that will give you all necessary information required to start using the web service.

If you’re new with bookmarklets, you’ll want to simply click and drag the link up into your bookmarks bar in your browser. I’ve created an entire “Bookmarklets” folder in Firefox.

When you want to push a webpage through the toread service, you simply need to click on that bookmarklet. If you’re an iPhone/iPod user, the instructions are on that page for you as well.

Here’s exactly what emails from toread will look like. Just to test the service, I used toread on the toread account confirmation page.

It really gets the job done.

CC:to me

If you took the time to look over toread, CC:to me is an very similar process. Just like before, you’ll need to enter a valid email address. After, you won’t even need to confirm your email. You’ll be taken right to your account page.

The coolest and most noticeable difference between CC:to me and toread is that you can text notes to your email by simply sending a text message to the CC:to me phone number. If you enter your number on this page, it’ll automatically associate that SMS number with your account. Then, any texts you send in will automatically be sent as a note to your email address. It’s a very cool feature that sets the two services apart.

A bookmarklet is also available, one that you’ll use in the same way as toread’s.

By default, you can attach notes to your CC:to me pages. Those emails won’t contain the page’s content. Here’s an example:

I prefer toread, but if you’re a big note-taker then I can see why CC:to me would be your choice.

But tell us which one would you pick? Also, tell us if you prefer services like Read It Later over these simpler bookmarklets.


May 01 2012

02:31

Download & Read Classic Comic Books Using Comic Books Archive & ComicRack

comic books onlineAs a kid, I burned through a lot of hobbies and phases. There was the NES, pogs, trading cards, and I was huge on comic books. I still have them all, stored away in plastic cases and as (probably) worthless as ever. Nonetheless, these are pieces of nostalgia that I don’t want to let go. Knowing that a lot of my favorite comic books exist online forever would make letting go a lot easier, though.

Read along in this article and I’ll show you how you can find, save, and read some of the oldest and most classic comic books on your Windows PC.

To start off, I need to introduce you to AIBQ, otherwise known as the Comic Books Archive.

comic books online

AIBQ has been around forever and is probably the best resource when it comes to preserving popular, classic comic books online. You’re going to want to head straight to the Catalog page and you’ll quickly see just how vast the collection is, currently with over 900 comics available for download.

They’ve currently got 44 series indexed in their database:

  1. All Humor Comics
  2. America’s Greatest Comics
  3. Andy Devine Western
  4. Barker
  5. Beware Terror Tales
  6. Bill Battles the One Man Army
  7. Bill Boyd Western
  8. Blackhawk
  9. Bob Colt
  10. Bob Swift
  11. Buccaneers
  12. Buster Bear
  13. Bulletman
  14. Campus Loves
  15. Captain Marvel Adventures
  16. Doll Man
  17. Exotic Romances
  18. Exploits of Daniel Boone
  19. Gabby
  20. GI Sweethearts
  21. Hickory
  22. Hopalong Cassidy
  23. Intrigue
  24. Jonesy
  25. Ken Shannon
  26. Lady Luck
  27. Love Secrets
  28. Marmaduke Mouse
  29. Marvel Family
  30. Mary Marvel
  31. Mighty Midget
  32. Minute Man
  33. Nickel Comics
  34. National Comics
  35. Plastic Man
  36. Police Comics
  37. Rocky Lane Western
  38. Smash Comics
  39. Spy Smasher
  40. Strange Suspense Stories
  41. Sweethearts
  42. This Magazine is Haunted
  43. T-Man
  44. Yanks in Battle

After clicking the cover of whatever series you’re interested in, you’ll see a list of issues. If the issue is marked as unavailable, you will not be able to download it from this website.

free comic books online

Clicking on an issue that is available will bring up a prompt to download a CBR file. Save that file to wherever you’d like. Now, we need a quality comic reader. That’s where ComicRack comes in. We’ve done a nice article about ComicRack in the past, but I’ll give you a little refresher course.

After you’ve installed and run ComicRack, click on the tab that says “Folders” at the bottom left of the application. From here, navigate to wherever your CBR is stored. Mine’s on my desktop.

free comic books online

Like my screenshot shows, once you’ve selected the appropriate folder, all books in that folder will be displayed in a thumbnail view. From there, just double click on the book you’re interested in reading.

comic books online

From there, just use the navigation bar to scroll through the comic as you read. The navigation bar is near the top of the screen. Optionally, you can use your mouse wheel to scroll up and down through pages. No more rough edges or page creasing!

I hope this helps mend the poor hearts of those of you who trashed all those comic books you had as a kid. Leave me a comment and let me know what your all-time favorite comic is!  Oh and don’t forget to check out our free comics manual, Bam! Your Guide To Cool Online Comic Books by Lachlan Roy, which also features other comic sources and comic software.


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

kindle book classics

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?


April 23 2012

18:00

10 Top Men’s Magazine Sites That Are Available Online for Free

mens magazine sitesThe magazine market is shrinking. Figures even suggest that the men’s magazine market is shrinking along with it. Heck, some claim (especially, women) that the breed of men are themselves in danger. All of this may be true – especially the first two – but media evolves every day. Your corner newsstand may not look the same anymore as long-standing magazines shut shop or shift over to the online world.

But the fact of the matter is, people including men still do read. Let it be on the web or on tablets. Here are the top ten men’s magazine websites you can catch online for free. Or at least, a substantial portion of their content. There is a lot to choose from as popular names have gone for a digital makeover. The paper magazine may offer more as you hold it between your hands, but their digital counterparts too offer a lot in the may of multimedia and downloads.

Maxim

mens magazine sites

Let’s start with a bit of drool. The digital edition of Maxim has enough drool worthy ‘news’ bytes to keep you happily occupied. Apart from the very obvious, Maxim also casts a side glance at the other things we men love – sports, gadgets, upkeep (lifestyle), vices (travel, food, gambling etc.), tough sh#&t (manly feats), and funny. Each section has its own sub-channel. So, along with photos of hot girls you also have a combat account of a U.S. Navy SEAL in Afghanistan. All packaged together make Maxim one of the world’s topmost men’s magazines. Maxim leads in the U.S. and also has country specific editions. The digital version of Maxim has articles that are not usually featured in the print mag, but are around the same topics.

FHM

free magazine sites

For Him Magazine (now, simply FHM) is a monthly lifestyle magazine for men which started its life in the U.K. As is the nature of things, some of the sections are definitely NSFW. It’s a bit more explicit that Maxim. Similar to Maxim, FHM also has country specific editions both for print and online (in 23 languages and in over 30 countries). The web version has a gaming section with online games like poker and casino.

Esquire

free magazine sites

Esquire started its publishing run in 1932 as a men’s magazine in the U.S. Style, manners, money, culture, and cuisine is covered along with politics. Esquire has 17 international editions with varied local flavors. As a man, you can call yourself well-rounded if you can jump from The Politics Blog to the Style blog, and then hop across to read up on Food and Drinks. In each section you can catch the directory which is a selection of popular articles published in recent times. Don’t forget to catch Esquire’s very own Sexiest Woman Alive annual list which is mix n’ match list from around the world.

GQ

free magazine sites

This one too features a section on babes. How could a men’s magazine not? But then it features style, cars, technology, lifestyle, culture, sports and fitness too. To round it all off theirs a section on breaking news and politics with an offbeat look at men who make it happen. The magazine and its online avatar have a heavy focus on style (Read – The Style Guy). If you can afford to buy the snazzy high-end suits and gizmos, then this online men’s magazine is a definite read. But GQ also has enough cultural commentary to keep you interested about the other things in life.

Men’s Health

magazine sites

Fitness, nutrition, weight loss, and in general healthy lifestyle tips are for the man who wants to be in control of his life. So, there are sections on grooming and relationships too. You can subscribe to the four newsletters (like the Daily Dose newsletter) to get the health tidbits in your inbox. Men’s Health also has a well-populated forum where you can join in. if you are really fastidious about what you eat, check out the Eat This, Not That section for the best and worst of food.

Men’s Journal

magazine sites

If you love the outdoors and have a sense of adventure, then grab the issues. Alternatively, you can head to this men’s magazine site and read up some of the content for free. There are features on travel and adventure gear, an outdoor gear store, photo galleries, and a section on the mind/body. This men’s magazine is for the active man.

Wired

magazine sites

A little bit of geekiness is almost essential for the 21st century male. Wired is the place for you if you want to be on the cutting edge of technology. Wired is neatly organized into sections, each specific to a certain mainstream geek culture. For instance, you can head to the GeekDad blog is about parenting while surrounded by technology. It was ranked a couple of years back as one of the top 25 blogs by Time. Product reviews and the How-To Wiki are also must reads.

Popular Mechanics

Popular Mechanics could be the man’s bible for knowing how everything around us works. If you are of the inquisitive kind, head here. You get everything from how to hang a picture frame to how to build a bomb shelter explained in detail. And it’s not boring at all. Popular Mechanics has a rich history (first published in 1902), and one can easily say that it is definitely one of the best magazines (or website) in the world.

You can read past issues going back to 1905 on Google Books.

Golf Digest

It is the number 1 golf magazine and the online website is pretty good too where you can read up on instructional tips and techniques, look at equipment hotlists, check out pictorial spreads of courses, and get the latest from the tours. There’s a very nice video section too for a multimedia look at things like a pro’s swing to the best courses to play on.

Smart Money

mens magazine sites

Forbes.com is the one which comes to mind when one thinks about a magazine on business. Smart Money is another leading publication that is not exclusively for men. It is described as a magazine for the man on the lookout for personal finance information. From an inside look at the markets, you have regular features on nurturing your wealth. Financial glossaries and how-to guides ensure that you won’t be more confused about the economy than you already are.

The official online websites differ in some details from their print counterparts of course. You have more premium content in the magazines. But then, you have multimedia tools and resources in the online versions. Plus, the major slice of the content is free in the online version of these men’s magazines. Tell us which one you prefer.

Don’t be put off if you don’t see Playboy and others of its ilk. I have gone for a less risqué line-up and a mish-mash of subjects. It’s difficult to please everyone, so if you are frothing at the corners on not having your favorite mag on the list, do chaff away in the comments. We may have missed some, but don’t miss these previous testosterone inducing posts:

Image Credit: Pixomar


April 20 2012

21:30

Take TvTropes With You Anywhere With The DroidTropes App [Android]

As someone who is an avid consumer of all things related to fiction–novels, movies, and television shows–I love to deconstruct the process of storytelling and analyze how stories are told. If you have a soft spot in your heart for fiction, then you probably know what I mean.

Across all forms of fictional media, there are certain similarities and archetypes that pop up time and time again. The damsel in distress. The flawed anti-hero. The wise old mentor. The pervasive evil mob of doom. And in my study of fiction, I’ve come across a wonderful site that documents all of the instances of these storytelling tropes.

The website? TvTropes.

What is TvTropes?

According to Know Your Meme:

TvTropes is a wiki devoted to the documentation of “tropes”, which are tools of the trade for storytelling in movies, television shows, literature, and other forms of media. These conventions and devices are used in all forms of fiction, and should not be confused with clichés.

For examples of tropes, click on the links that are in the introduction to this article. You’ll find the trope pages for the Distressed Damsel, the Anti-Hero, the Obi-Wan, and the Nebulous Evil Organization.

Every piece of fiction uses tropes. It’s only when a trope becomes overused and predictable that it becomes a cliché. TvTropes tracks and defines the thousands of tropes used in fiction through their Wiki-type website community.

But the thing that elevates TvTropes above just a simple compendium is that it has earned for itself a reputation for being a massive timesink. Browse at your own peril.

Using DroidTropes on Android

Unfortunately, it seems that DroidTropes has disappeared from the Android Market (now called Google Play). However, you can still install it onto your Android device through third-party app stores for free.

As you can see from the screenshot, the interface for DroidTropes is extremely simple. You’ve got six choices:

  • Favourites: As you browse the various tropes, you can add some of them to your Favourites list so you can view them again later.
  • Recent: A list of tropes that you’ve recently viewed, in case you accidentally close out of one or need to return to one that you haven’t saved.
  • To Read: Keep reading to find out what this feature does and why it’s so great.
  • Random: View a random trope. As there are thousands and thousands of tropes on the site, there’s a 99% chance that you’ll land on a trope that you’ve never seen before.
  • Search: Use this to search for a particular trope. Simple.
  • Exit: When you’ve been browsing TvTropes for 6 hours and realize that you need to make dinner for your family, this is the button you want to click.

Why DroidTropes?

Technically, you don’t even need DroidTropes to browse TvTropes on your phone. You can do it straight from a normal browser, like Dolphin. However, it’s the convenience factor that keeps this app on my phone.

Because DroidTropes is designed specifically for the TvTropes website, it formats everything so that it fits right into the device. Plus, when you click the links, you can choose to add pages to your “To Read” list.

Best Feature: “To Read” List

My latest hobby–at least when it comes to DroidTropes–is to browse through a single trope, and as I’m browsing, every time I encounter an interesting-sounding trope I’ll add it to my “To Read” list. When I’m done with the trope, I’ll go to the next trope on my “To Read” list and repeat.

It should be clear that my “To Read” list is ever growing and nearly inexhaustible.

Adding to your “To Read” list is sort of like opening a new tab in a browser for later browsing. And of course, the DroidTropes “To Read” list will save across multiple sessions. Very good for building up a giant list of tropes that you can read through in one go.

By the way, to add a trope to your “To Read” list, just long-press on a trope link and you’ll see a pop-up menu. Easy.

Conclusion

I love this app. It gets me through long, boring periods where I have nothing else to do. I don’t like browsing the Internet on my phone, but DroidTropes makes it easy to read through the TvTropes site. So if you want TvTropes on-the-go, then you should definitely get this app.


15:30

Read It Later: Updated, Remodeled and Now Free [Updates]

As of this week, the mobile app Read It Later is now called Pocket, has a new user interface and a new price — free. Pocket, developed in 2007, is a cross platform app that integrates with hundreds of reader apps and browsers allowing users to save articles, photos and videos for later reading and viewing.

Pocket boast over 4.5 million users and integrates with over 300 mobile apps including Flipboard, Twitter, and Zite app. It’s available for download on platforms including iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire, Android. Pocket is a service for bookmarking articles and other online content you want to consume later on your supporting device.

The new UI is lean and visually-oriented, but it also offers options for browsing and consuming content. Articles can be arranged in a linear or non-linear presentation, and can be read in read-only format, stripped of surrounding content.

You can also enlarge text, favorite and archive content, and share it on traditional social networking sites, as well as Delicious, Evernote, and Pinboard. It also integrates with apps like OmniFocus, Things, Twitter for iPhone, and Twittelator Pro.

Content can be viewed by type–articles, videos or just images. However, the reader lacks the useful hand gesture navigation features found in Zite, Flipboard, and Pulse. Thus it’s a little cumbersome to tap on the top-left arrow that takes you back to the main index page where you choose the next article you want to read.

Despite this missing feature, Pocket is an essential tool for heavy online readers.

Source: TheNewtWeb


April 02 2012

20:01

3 Handy Tools Which Are Not Instapaper To Save Interesting Web Pages For Later

save web pagesThe web is full of things we wish we could read. Unfortunately, there isn’t always time to spend in front of the screen, reading away to our heart’s content. This is a well-known phenomena, and big names such as Instapaper and Read It Later do a good job in solving this problem.

But these two aren’t the only solutions out there. There are numerous other extensions, add-ons and web apps that help you do just this – save interesting things to read later. Some offer extra features, some are very lightweight, and some simply use a different interface which you might find more usable. Here is a list of the best tools for saving things for later, that are not Instapaper and Read It Later.

youRhere [Chrome]

youRhere not only lets you save things to read later, it also lets you mark the exact line where you left off, and loads the page accordingly when you come back to it.

Using youRhere is very simple. Install the extension, and the next time you’re in the middle of an article and simply have to go do something else, double click on the line you’ve got to in your reading.

save web pages

The line will be highlighted and automatically saved. That’s it, you can now close the page and come back to it later. When you wish to continue reading, click on the youRhere icon and find the article. When you click on an article, it will load and automatically scroll to the highlighted line, and you can continue reading where you left off.

save web pages for later

You can easily delete an article from the list by clicking on the X, or share it through Facebook or Twitter.

Save-To-Read [Firefox]

Save To Read is a very simple add-on, which operates much like regular bookmarks, but is more simplified. After installing the add-on, a new plus button will appear in your toolbar. Every time you want to save a page for reading later, click the plus button.

save web pages for later

Once you click it, the plus icon will turn into a minus, and the page will be saved. At any time, you can click the minus icon to remove the article from the list. You can now access your saved items through the Save To Read sidebar. Click the open/close button to open the sidebar.

save web pages for later

Here you will find a list of all your saved pages. You can click a page to load it or click the minus icon to remove it. You can also search through the saved pages and sorts them in different ways. This same list can be accessed through the regular bookmarks, in a folder called Save-To-Read.

save webpages for offline viewing

If you don’t like using the sidebar, you can add the Save To Read Panel by right clicking on the toolbar and choosing Customize. Fine the Save To Read Panel and drag it to your toolbar.

save webpages for offline viewing

Now you will be able to access your list of saved articles simply by clicking this button, without having to use the space-invading sidebar. You can, of course, remove the open/close sidebar button at this point to avoid a clutter of buttons.

save webpages for offline viewing

Pistashio

Pistashio is a bookmarking web app, which can be social if you want it to, but can also be used privately just to save interesting things for later.

To start, sign in to Pistashio using your Twitter or Facebook account.

pistashio-3

Once your account is created, you can start “stashing” things. With Pistashio, you can divide your saved pages into several categories: Eat+Drink, Read, Listen, Watch and See+Do. You can save pages from Pistashio’s web interface, but it’s easier to use Pistashio’s browser tools.

pistashio-4

Simply choose the right tool for your browser, and start stashing. For every page you save you can choose a category, add a quick note and set an e-mail or Twitter reminder. You can also make the page private, or go the opposite way and share it on Twitter right there and then.

pistashio-1

You can now use Pistashio’s web interface to browse your saved links, read them, archive them (this doesn’t delete them, so you can still find them later in your Pistashio archive) share them and more. Pistashio can be used as a social service and provide you with recommendations for links other people liked, or be used simply as a convenient bookmarking service you can access from anywhere.

save web pages

Do you want more? Check out these 4 Awesome Tools To Save Pages For Reading Later. What do you use to save pages for later? Do you know of any good tools we missed? Share in the comments!

Man saving books image via Shutterstock


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


March 13 2012

21:31

Top 5 Survival Blogs To Read If You Hope To Survive The End Of The World

survival blogSo what happens when our world experiences some sort of apocalyptic disaster that renders modern civilization incapable of sustained existence? Or, I guess the more pressing question is, how are you going to survive?

If we’ve learned anything from movies, you’ll spend a few years scavenging run-down supermarkets and grocery stores around the country, looting canned goods and Twinkies. But then what? If you aren’t a farmer and if you don’t know any farmers, you’re out of luck. But assuming the ground stays fertile and rain keeps pouring, there is a way to live. It’s called Survival, with a capital ‘S’.

And maybe some of you readers are just interested in survival tactics even though the world hasn’t fallen apart yet. That’s cool, too. In either case, check out these awesome survival blogs that will help you learn all there is to know about surviving in the wild.

Survival Blog

survival blog

Founded in 2005 by Jim Rawles, Survival Blog has grown to be the Internet’s most popular blog on survival preparedness. The topics covered are broad in range and deeply thorough, and relevant to you whether you’re just hiking through the woods or preparing for the end of the world.

Survival Blog has published over 1,000 posts and articles over the years, so finding information can be like searching for a needle at the bottom of the ocean. According to the author, the best way to search is to “take full advantage of the article categories and blog database search window.”

Survival Spot

modern survival blogSurvival Spot is a website and community dedicated to the philosophy of wilderness survival. Not only do they focus on the particular “how” of survival, but they expound on “why” you should learn to be prepared.

Even if you think you’ll never be lost in the woods, you can never know when this knowledge will come in handy.

This blog is updated a few times every month with helpful information. For example, there are how-to videos, do-it-yourself articles, and free survival resources for the frugal.

The Survivalist Blog

modern survival blog

From M.D. Creekmore comes the Survivalist Blog, founded in 2007 and still reliably pumping out articles on survivalism. The author prides himself on his belief that survival is not just about owning the right equipment but having the right mindset.

He’s written thousands of articles on survival and all of his advice is personally tested and retested. Nothing is what he calls “armchair commando survival advice.” He lives and breathes what he teaches.

The Survival Mom

modern survival blog

When someone talks about “wilderness survival,” I’m willing to bet that your first thoughts go to rugged, muddy men with rifles slung over their shoulders, decked out in camouflage and worn leather boots. Well, here comes Lisa Bedford to demolish all of those preconceptions.

The author of the Survival Mom blog is an American wife and mother of two children who believes that everyone should be prepared for disaster. She has a great deal of informative articles, ranging from the basics of being prepared to instant survival tips that may come in handy at the most inopportune times.

Bug Out Survival

survival websites

God forbid it, but there may be times when you have less than a minute to grab what you can from your home and high-tail it out of there. That destructive tornado isn’t going to wait for you to be all packed and ready, that’s for sure.

Bug Out Survival aims to be the most pertinent resource for these sort of “bug out” situations: a situation where you may be forced to leave the comforts and familiarity of home behind and head out to the boonies with just what you can carry.

This blog will teach you the necessary skills you’ll need to survive, including techniques for bushcraft, hunting, and gathering, as well as the proper mindset when surviving.

BONUS: Ray Mears & Les Stroud

If you’re truly interested in wilderness survival and want to see it in action on the screen (instead of in articles), then you should check out Ray Mears and Les Stroud. Both of these men have created a TV series dedicated to teaching the craft of survival.

survival blog

Ray Mears has produced series like Extreme Survival, Bushcraft, and Wilderness Survival, while Les Stroud is known for his work as Survivorman. I highly discourage watching Man vs. Wild for anything but entertainment. Many of the stunts on that show have been exposed as fake and dangerous.

Do you have any survival resources you’d like to share with us? Post them in the comments so we can all learn a thing or two!

Image Credits: Hunter Image Via Shutterstock


March 09 2012

19:01

7 Best Websites To Find Weird News

Lady Gaga still fills up newsprint. Vampire movies don’t. Angelina Jolie’s Oscar stage stance was a highlight, an Iranian film receiving the Oscar wasn’t. Just goes to show that the kinky and the offbeat catch the eyeballs. Fifteen minutes of fame makes for weird news. But is it that weird in an increasingly crazy world where the difference between the weird and what’s breaking news for the day is fast disappearing.

Weird news fills up the gaps and makes the world much more interesting. More often than not they raise a laugh or two. They do show that our world is a strange place, though not a humorless one. We caught some of the best weird and funny newsbytes in 5 Websites To Go To For Offbeat And Funny News Stories.

Let’s take a look at few more websites which bring the weird to our chaos weary eyes.

Fortean Times Magazine

The magazine’s tagline says – “The World of Strange Phenomena”. The website is the online face of the British monthly. The original magazine was inspired by the works of Charles Fort. From daily roundups of the weird (collected from various sources) and the odd to regular feature articles, the site brings you everything from the paranormal to urban legends. The scope is very diverse and as a reader you are sure to have a gut-full of weird news. Probably more than you can take in a day.

I am reading: Man calls emergency services to report he’s invisible.

Odee

As the name suggests, Odee is a blog on oddities. The entertainment blog is ranked pretty high from the looks of it with visits and page view in millions. The blog covers everything from arts to tech, and so you have a cross-section of weird news to digest. Quite a few of the posts are in list form. The blog posts aren’t news in the strictest sense, but they do tell you that the world is crazier than it looks. Though, you have a section for incoming weird news items too.

I am reading: 10 Weirdest Hybrid Gadgets

The Mary Sue

This one is strictly for the females. Oh no! You can enjoy it to. After all who wouldn’t like to read about the single dad who is dedicated to learning about comics for his 4-year old girl. The About Us page makes an interesting read. As the page says the blog is about – highlighting women in the geek world, and providing a prominent place for the voices of geek women. And yes, the name Mary Sue has a literary tale to go with it.

The blog is part of a bigger media group and you can catch weirder news at sister sites like Geekosystem.

Weird Asia News

Every culture has its share of the weird. This site is Asia centric, and being from this part of the world, I can identify with some of the bizarre stuff that goes on…or maybe not. Weird Asia News is a small site, but even if you are from any corner of the world, you will appreciate that no one has a monopoly on insanity. It’s a human trait.

Mental Floss

Somehow I really like the name they have come up with for the site. And the site isn’t bad either. In fact, it’s downright interesting as you take in everything from trivia to quizzes, in between reading about amazing facts. The site is a mish-mash of entertaining science facts to world observations. To while away five minutes in between a humdrum job, try out the Amazing Fact Generator and The Ultimate Brain Challenge.

I am reading: If the Titanic Hadn’t Sunk, This Female Pilot Would Be a Lot More Famous

This Is True

Technically, this is not a weird news website but a newsletter. The weird news newsletter has a free subscription and a paid one. The paid subscribers get the full complement of 7-9 stories in an ad-free email. The free newsletter subscribers get 4 stories and the email has two inline ads. Of course, you can always come over and read some weird news which is just a bit dated. The news items are picked up from mainstream news sources and credited at the end of each.

I am reading: Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Snopes

Snopes describes itself as the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation. It is also cited as The Urban Legends Reference Pages. The site has a message board which hosts, debunks, and discusses popular myths and weird claims. That also includes weird and strange news stories. All content on Snopes is neatly slotted into categories, and you can also use the search bar to go to your area of interest. A glossary on the site helps to explain terms that might be unfamiliar to readers not used to urban folklore and myths.

I am reading: Man Arrested with TV in Pants

Honorable Mentions

These are my personal picks. I bet you have your own. Tell us about them. We could do with a bit of weirdness to drive away the weariness our lives.


February 28 2012

02:31

Love Books? Go Deep Inside The Story & Much Beyond Books With Small Demons

small demons bookWith a name that sounds like a cross between a mobile game and rock group started by kids, the last thing you would associate Small Demons with is books. I certainly didn’t when I accidently fell into the site during my search for a different kind of book site.

Is Small Demons a different kind of book site? It gives us a different take on books we enjoy, and so it is definitely fresh. We all read books. Some of us devour them.

But more often than not we don’t go very deep into the people, places and things inside them. Small Demons goes behind the story, and picks up different threads and helps us discover where they lead.

Going between the pages

That was the guideline for Small Demons when it started up. But the one line Twitter bio better describes what we as book lovers stand to gain by using Small Demons – The people, places and things from books, and everywhere they can take you.

Small Demons is a California based startup that aims to help book lovers discover interesting things from all the other details that are given in a book. As a reader I definitely would like to discover more about the people, things, places that make up the story. Of course, I can easily Google for them individually, but Small Demons interconnects them seamlessly and makes the discovery process a breeze.

Creating a storyverse from a book

small demons book

Register and log-in. You can also sign-up with Twitter, Facebook, or simply your email ID. Small Demons is still building up its catalog of books. You can search for your favorite titles or click on one of the featured ones.

small demons website

Each book gets an entire page where you can check out at a glance:

  • People mentioned in the book.
  • Places mentioned in the book.
  • Music, movies, TV and radio shows, and other books.
  • Arts, documents, and other literature cited in the book.
  •  Events, clothing, and accessories.
  • Weapons, gadgets, and vehicles used in the book.

small demons website

Thus, the entire landscape of the book is broken down into its details. Each mention is back-referenced to the particular passage in the book as the screenshot shows you.

small demons website

Just this page serves as a jumping off point to discover more – like movies, history, music, and of course more books as they get referenced here. It’s not only books but you discover more about people, places and location, and things by drilling down into the sections on the site. Each mention is tracked back to its mention in fiction or non-fiction.

For instance, the following screenshot from the Places section of the site shows you the kind of information you can scour for:

small demons review

I want to discover where Las Vegas takes me and in which books it gets mentioned. Here’s what I got:

small demons book

Small Demons stands out as a mashup of books, movies, Wikipedia information, shopping sites, and more. As the site says, for every newly added book there are approximately 250 people, places and things referenced. So, there are lots of things you can potentially discover. Wannabe writers might find the site interesting too, as it gives them a tool to deconstruct a story and look at the single-pieces that makes the story possible.

Small Demons What’s Coming Next page also shows the way forward for the site with more content and better discovery options. Small Demons has the scope to develop into a distraction if you are a book lover. Do you agree? What do you like about this fresh site? Let us know.


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 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

kindle[3]

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

kindle[7]

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

kindle[9]

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

kindle[11]

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

kindle[13]

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)

kindle[15]

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

kindle[17]

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

kindle[19]

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

kindle[21]

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.


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