Science and Technology
Dear eBook Retailers & Publishers,
The eBook world has fallen into an even sorrier state with Amazon's announcement that its new Kindle Fires will feature unwanted advertisements right out of the box (though Amazon caved pretty quickly on offering users a way to buy out the ads). I read that, then I re-read my last blog post reviewing different aspects of eBook retailers: four pages worth of trying to make sense of the eBook landscape and that was after some serious condensing. I brooded for a moment, then said to myself, "eBooks are a big, stinky mess!"
I keep hoping and praying that the eBook situation will get better, but aside from Tor's announcement that their eBooks will no longer be copy-protected, things are getting worse. There are too many different eBook stores using too many different file and copy-protection standards, methods for transferring eBooks, and too many types of hardware, many tied to a single retailer. So to the eBook powers-that-be: I'm done being coy and hoping that you'll come to these conclusions on your own. Here's what you need to do!
The holiday shopping season is looming which means it’s time for a new round of eReaders to be introduced from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and maybe, just maybe, Apple, and there will be several months of us giving them our money. But before you buy, read on to find out exactly what you’re getting into, in terms of both hardware and retailer.
If you pay attention to technology news at all, you might have heard the term “post-pc era” tossed about. This term was, if not coined, then certainly nurtured most heartily by Steve Jobs when talking about the iPad. It’s a funny thing about the iPad: when it was first announced everybody just sort of shrugged and said “So what? It’s just a big iPhone!” But people bought them anyway and it turned out that there was indeed a huge market for these devices. Now we use them for all sorts of things, and I will admit that my tablet gets me through most of my casual computer usage at home. Web browsing, book reading, video watching, etc. are now all accomplished on a piece of plastic and glass that fits comfortably in my hand and has a battery that lasts all day. Tablet computers have seen a much faster adoption rate than PCs did, and this popularity has many in the media and at Apple singing the PC's death. How wrong they all are.
Our smartphones are our lives. Go ahead and deny it, but deep down you know you get jittery when you aren’t caressing your tiny portable computer that basically hands you the digital world on a tempered glass tray. As I pointed out in my Must-Have Android and Must-Have iPhone apps articles there are a lot of apps out there that’ll do just about anything. But there’s lots more that we can do to customize our smartphones and our tablets, especially for Android. Sorry Apple users, your fantastic apps may bring all the boys to the yard, but Android has you beat fair and square on the customizability front. Sure, you could jailbreak your iPhone or iPad (Google it if you dare, just know you’ll be put out in the cold if you take a busted jail-broken device to the Apple Genius Bar), but I’m not going to risk going there, so Android users, this one’s for you!
I've written a few articles advising our users to back up their data. Every so often, usually when we need them the most or when the warranty has expired, our computers stop working. This wouldn't be so horribly bad if we'd backed up our files first. So, let me reiterate for anyone who has read me before that backing-up your data means that the same files are stored in two completely different places. If you've copied all your important files to an external hard drive, but then erased them from your laptop, they are not backed-up; maybe your external hard drive goes kaput, and, even though your computer is still working, all those files are lost from the external device, aren't they? To back up your files they absolutely need to be in two different places. Redundancy is the name of the game, and I'm going to teach you how to play (wow that sounded corny).
Google Chrome is arguably the most popular Web browser currently on the market. It took a few versions before I made the switch from Mozilla Firefox to Chrome, most notably due to Firefox's rich browser extension offerings. Chrome is finally catching up to, and in many ways, surpassing Firefox with its extensions library. A browser extension is special program written specifically for a Web browser that, as the name implies, extends its functionality.
Something I get asked a lot as the librarian tech guy is whether a person in the market for a new smartphone or tablet should buy Apple or Android. This is a far more nuanced question than most people realize, and the answer will depend on a number of factors. Read on for a detailed comparison of the two.
I've bemoaned the existence and use of digital rights management, or DRM as it's more commonly known, in previous Librarypoint articles, but I'm not certain that I've gone point-by-point over what it means for you, the library user, and us, the consumers. DRM is a means by which music, videos, eBooks, documents, software, and just about anything else digital are restricted from being copied, transferred, or used on unapproved hardware. The American Library Association's Digital Content Working Group has recently put out a wonderful tip sheet regarding DRM that I can’t recommend more enthusiastically. It goes over what DRM is, some of its consequences and legal ramifications, and what you can do to help work against it. Reading through it is one of the best ways to arm yourself as a digital consumer against some of the more consumer-unfriendly tactics of today’s content providers.
As promised in my list of must-have Android apps, here is a list of must-have iPhone apps! The Apple App Store has a larger selection of quality apps than the Google Play store does, though that gap is quickly shrinking. Unfortunately it has fewer free apps, so you’ll see more price tags attached to this article. You may also notice several repeats from the Android list, as many of these apps are cross-platform and a joy to use on any device. Your iPhone is a computing powerhouse, and there is so much more that you can do with it than you realize. Take a look at my list below to get some ideas!
Ask your average person what the best ebook tablets on the market are and they will tell you Amazon’s Kindle Fire, the Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet, and the Apple iPad. I'll tell you to look elsewhere. Barnes and Noble and Amazon may have created the $200-$250 ebook tablet niche, but others are rushing in to capitalize on it and they're much, much better options. Here's why.