Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Two Cool Sites: Kindle Nation Daily and BookLending.Com

I found two very cool sites recently and I wanted to share.

Kindle Nation Daily features free books, tips, news and commentaries all related to Kindle. The site is jam-packed with info.

Kindle Nation Daily hosted Blood Soup yesterday, and I’m just tickled with the way it appeared. I just love the look and feel of that Web site.

But don’t visit just to check out the Blood Soup page, there’s A TON of things to look at and download.

In conjunction with the KND “spread,” Blood Soup was hosted over at BookLending.com. This site connects readers who want to read books with book owners who want to lend them. It allows folks to share kindle books.

Neat concept!

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Enhanced Edition Ebooks: I’m on the Fence

I stole this clip from Enhanced Editions.com where they rave about enhanced editions ebooks, particularly those that they’ve created.

They list a host of “enhancements” available in their editions which are supposed to make the e-version more desirable than traditional paper…and for which you’re supposed to be willing to pay an additional amount, say $15 instead of $10.

Direct from the web site, here are their enhancements…along with my take in red.

“Enhancement” My Thoughts
Easily switch between type sizes and serif and sans-serif fonts. My eReader of choice already allows this…so, I’m not sure how this qualifies as an enhancement.
Store bookmarks and notes on the text. My eReader of choice already allows this, too…so, again, I’m not sure how this qualifies as an enhancement.
Navigate via pages, chapters and the table of contents. Are they really calling this an enhancement? Because I don’t see how this qualifies either. I admit I’ve purchased a few PDF ebooks which don’t have chapter navigation…but PDF always allows a page view…I can navigate (admittedly a bit awkwardly) but navigate I can, nonetheless.
Keep up to date with your favourite books and authors via the in-app news feed. Okay: They got me here.  The books I’ve bought so far don’t offer this. But I’m wondering: do I need their dedicated reader to use this option?
Read reviews and articles about the book. I read my reviews and articles BEFORE I purchase the book.  Why would I be interested in them after I made the sale?  And, I can already get that stuff free on the ‘net. Now…critical essays about the book, that’s another story…
Quickly and clearly search the full text of the book. Sorry, I can do this now.
Turn on tilt scrolling to move the page with a flick of your wrist. This might be useful if you’re trying to read one-handedly…but I can read one-handedly on my device with no problem, using just a finger tap to turn the page.  A wrist-flick seems so…inefficient, and painful, after a while.
Watch exclusive videos shot with the authors. (Selected Title Only) This would be cool….as long as it’s new footage, and not a re-hash of something I can get on YouTube.
Change the type orientation and reading options, and remember your personal settings. I can do this now with my current eReader, so how is it an enhancement?
Listen to exclusive soundtracks and extracts, or switch to the complete audiobook edition. I like the audiobook option.  In fact, I love it….with a two-plus hour commute daily, I’ve been listening to more audio books.

Perhaps I’m being overly critical, particularly with the navigation thing, but even if you count that, I see only four real “enhancements” out of the ten they’re touting:

  • Enhanced Navigation (Still, imo, a gimme.)
  • Keep Up to Date with Authors via Newsfeed
  • Author Interviews
  • Audio built in

If I want author news, I can always check the Web myself. And, depending on how Enhanced Editions sets up their newsfeed, I might actually get more news if I do the search myself.

The included author interviews will be stale after a few months. Again, I can probably find these on the web.

Now the built in audio…that’s a plus. That’s the one I really, really like. And it might make me spend the extra $5. Maybe.

You’ve heard from me. What’s your two cents?

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Are you Blind? Let’s Talk e-books…

Depending on your point of view, my title might have been a little inflammatory. I only meant to grab your attention. On the other hand, if you really are blind, I do want to hear from you. I want to know how you feel about e-books.

This is a tad long, so please bear with me…

In my day job, one of the hats I wear is “Section 508 Coordinator.” Very briefly, Section 508 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act which requires making the Web accessible to people with handicaps. (Right now, it only applies to federal agencies…but I can see it being expanded in the future.) The law’s been around for quite a while, but lacked enforcement.

When President Clinton was in office; however, he gave the law teeth. The legislation he signed allowed anyone to sue a government agency for not making accessible products.

For the last several days, I’ve been attending a Section 508 Conference where there’s been lots of discussion about new technologies, and ways and means to make existing technology accessible. Today was the vendor dog and pony show.

What’s exciting is that many of these technologies can be useful for non-disabled folk, too. For instance, there is software (and I’m not going to name names, because I don’t want to make an advertisement) which will read aloud all the words on the computer screen. It’s meant for use by the blind (or folks with “low vision”). But couldn’t the elderly benefit from it, too? Or anyone, for that matter, who finds reading the written word difficult.

Another company makes similar software, but it highlights the word on the screen as it’s being read. Couldn’t it be used to teach children to read? Or persons for whom English is a second language? In fact, I could see myself using it, say, if I wanted to tidy up my desk and “read” at the same time.

Interestingly, I learned today from a vendor that Web sites, software, hardware, etc. which conform to 508 standards usually garner a market share of use 20 – 40% higher than those who don’t–mostly because they’re reaching a segment of the market that is largely ignored by others.

Wow: 20 – 40%.

With that thought on my mind, I got to wondering about e-book sales to the blind. With assistive technology (AT), e-books are very accessible. (And believe me, the voices of the AT readers are a jillion times better than the craptastic voices included in some bundled or freebie software, making the narrations pleasant to listen to.)

I had the opportunity to chat with several blind and low-vision folks today at the conference. What I wanted to know was: have they found a much larger selection of e-books lately? And, have they been purchasing more?

Overwhelmingly, the few folk I chatted with usually purchased audio books. I expected that. But, many of those I spoke with said that they *are* purchasing more e-books than they used to. And why not? Rarely is an audio book available at the same time the print version comes out, but an electronic version is often available simultaneously. Not only that, there’s a much larger –as well as current–selection available.

I’m a big fan of e-books for a lot of reasons. Until today, I never considered their marketability to the blind. (You might say, my eyes have been opened…)

So: are you blind or have low vision? I’d love to know how you feel about e-books. The debate is heating up over all kinds of issues, but this isn’t one I’ve seen explored yet. Please drop me a comment below.