Tag Archives: ebook

CourseSmart On-Line eTextBooks



CourseSmart logoCourseSmart is a higher education content delivery system that delivers e-textbooks to over 2.5 million students and faculty members. Sean Devine, CEO of CourseSmart talks to Jeffrey and Andy about the system.

CourseSmart brings together content producers and content consumers, typically publishers, lecturers and students in over 7,000 universities and colleges. The organisation is owned by a group of publishers but it distributes content from a wider range of content producers. Over 30,000 original textbooks and other products are on-line at their website and the publications can be integrated into the college’s electronic learning environment.

As with most things digital it’s not possible to buy or sell e-textbooks secondhand and the book is really just rented. The CourseSmart books are typically 60% cheaper than a new paper book and naturally they’re always in stock. For today’s mobile student the books are delivered through multiple devices – web browser, web app, iPad, iPhone and Android apps.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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Starbucks’ Free Pick of the Week



Starbucks Coffee CupI’m possibly a bit slow on the uptake here, but Starbucks in the UK are offering a free “Pick of the WeekiTunes download. Some weeks it will be a music track, other weeks it will be an e-book, some will be well-known, some will be up-and-coming.

I came across this freebie last week while frequenting my local coffee house but after checking on-line, it looks like the promotion has already been running for a few weeks.

You’ll find little credit card-sized vouchers with a download code on the back close to the tills. I picked up The Damned United by David Peace. Enter the code into iTunes / iBooks and it’s added to your collection. Easy.


Reading Together, Reading for Pleasure



Booktime LogoMore time is spent reading with children but parents are finding modern life tiring and stressful, according to research commissioned by Booktime. The average time spent by parents reading with their child (4  & 5 year olds) is now one hour 26 mins per week, an increase of 10% over 2009. 60% of parents read with children for pleasure on a daily basis.

Tiredness was cited as the main reason for shared reading not being fun, but it was the tiredness of the parents (18%) rather than the child (6%) that was the problem. Getting home from work in time was also a problem, with 30% of dads getting stuck at work.

Regardless, 71% of parents and carers said that reading with their child was always or usually the highlight of the day. 80% of the parents said that reading was associated with fun with 86% of children laughing out loud.

The book is still the main reading device (86%) but other devices such as smartphones, tablets and e-readers are becoming more prevalent. By the time a child is six, nearly a quarter of parents use technology in addition to paper-based books.

In a time of economic doom-and-gloom, this relatively minor story made my day. It costs so little to read to children especially when books are available from libraries or the Booktime programme, yet the benefits to both parents and children are immense. As a father of a 4 year old daughter, I love reading with her, especially at bedtime. It’s just us, with no distractions and we read the story together. If she grows up with a love of reading and learning, I will have done my job as a parent.

Booktime is a national (UK) free books programme for pre-school children that aims to promote the pleasure of reading by encouraging families to have fun reading together. This year, nearly 1.4 million books will be given away in partnership with Pearson.


It’s The Content, Stupid



Admittedly I’m coming in late to the party. I had all sorts of excuses – I already have a MacBook Pro, as well as the latest generation of iPod Touch. Why would I need an iPod with a giant screen to run mostly the same apps I can already run on my iPod?

After buying an iPad 2, I understand what all the fuss is about. It has also become immediately clear to me why there is a booming iPad market but currently not much of a tablet market. The reason is staring everyone in the face, yet few seem to see it, particularly large tech companies that are struggling to compete in the wrong arena.

The iPad is admittedly an incredibly nice piece of hardware – however, that’s not why it is so successful. The reason for the iPad’s overwhelming appeal and success is very simple – it revolves in large part around being able to run well-written targeted iOS iPad-specific apps that take advantage of the iPad’s screen size and svelte form factor. At about the size of a traditional magazine, it takes the best elements of the multimedia computer and puts them into a highly-readable, touch-interactive color screen that will easily fit into places and situations where even laptop computers don’t work so well.

In short, it’s all about the content and being able to easily consume it anywhere. The content isn’t just about browsing, listening to music or watching videos. The content in large part is the iPad-specific apps themselves, some of which are incredible, such as the 100% free Flipbook RSS reader app.

Amazon has a chance at success with the 7” Kindle Fire, not so much because of the $200 price point, but because Amazon has a lot of ready-made content hanging out in its cloud. Many people pooh-poohed the original Amazon Kindle, only to witness it quickly morph into a success. The Kindle was not and has never been a success because of the Kindle hardware – the plethora of Amazon ebook content is what caused the original Kindle rise to stardom. The availability of the content finally got the ebook ball rolling in a huge way, and the mass market finally realized the incredible convenience and advantage of having a cloud-connected ereader.

Would-be iPad competitors will never effectively compete with hardware alone, no matter how sexy or inexpensive they are able to make it. To borrow part of a phrase from an early 1990’s presidential campaign, we would all do well to paste this sign on our wall:

“It’s the content, stupid.”


Kindle Lighted Cover



Kindle Lighted Cover I have a Kindle and I grown to love it, however it’s one weakness for me is the lack of a backlight. This means at night even with lights on you need a book light to avoid shadows on the pages. Unfortunately, most book lights that are available are badly made, they are flimsy and don’t stayed hooked to the Kindle and you can’t replace the battery. Even if they work well it is one more thing you have too carry with you on a trip. I had tried a couple which were ok, but I wasn’t totally satisfied. Then I heard someone talking about the Kindle Lighted Cover. I was immediately intrigue since I also needed a book cover for the Kindle.

The Kindle Light cover is made of pebble leather and comes in 7 colors. When you first attach the cover, you have to make sure the hooks in the center are inserted correctly, that took me a little while. It has a great elastic cord that wraps around the cover. When you open the cover you can fold the cover back and use the cord to hold it. You can then hold the Kindle by one hand. In the upper right hand corner of the cover there is a piece of plastic, when you pull it out it becomes the light. The light comes on only when the Kindle is on. It is an LED light and it runs off of the Kindle’s power, so no batteries are required. The light is bright, and covers all the Kindle without a glare. It feels well constructed and pulls out fairly easily from it’s slot.

The biggest problem with the Kindle Lighted Cover is the price, most clip on book lights run from $5.00-$25.00. The Kindle Light Cover is $59.00, which seems like a lot in comparison. However you do get a cover which alone can run from $25.00 to $40.00. Plus since the light runs off the Kindle power so you don’t have to buy replacement batteries, therefore over the long run it should be cheaper. I read some of the reviews on Amazon some people have had problems with the Kindle Lighted Cover shortening the Kindle out, however most of the reviews were positive. If you have recently brought a Kindle and are looking for both a cover and a book light I would recommend the Kindle Lighted Cover.


eBooks Available in Northern Ireland Libraries



My daughter and I are regular visitors to our local public library. She loves getting new books for bedtime reading and I love reading them to her. Sometimes the simple pleasures are best.

For my own reading, increasingly I’ve been reading ebooks on my Nook, either purchasing from Waterstones or finding free novels elsewhere on the web. Previously I had checked the library’s website for ebook loans but they weren’t available.

However this weekend, a flyer on the library’s noticeboard announced that ebook loans were now available to all members of Northern Irish public libraries. Yay! Apparently the service went live in mid-July according to the press release and it uses the Overdrive platform, which mostly uses Adobe .epub with DRM to loan the ebooks for a few weeks.

I hope the service is a success here, but the ebook reader market in the UK is totally dominated by the Kindle which doesn’t work with .epub. In fact, I don’t know anyone who has an ereader that isn’t a Kindle. There are clients for most of the mobile OSes, such as Android and iOS, so there might be some take up there.

Ok, so a bit of a niche post but I’m just pleased to get books for free!


Barnes & Noble Nook – A UK Perspective



When it comes to ebook readers, I think it’s fairly safe to say that there are three main contenders in the market – Amazon with the Kindle, Barnes & Noble with the Nook and Sony with the Pocket Reader range. Three contenders in the US market that is. If you live in the UK, your choice is more restricted with only the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Pocket Reader being widely available.

Regrettably, Barnes & Noble don’t exist over here but there are plenty of bookstores such as Waterstones and WHSmith. There are others readers available too, such as the Samsung E60/E65, the Kobo, the iriver Story but I’ve never met anyone who actually has one, whereas I know several people with Kindles and Sony Readers. The latter was previously reviewed on GNC in the autumn.

Like many of my compatriots, I’ve looked longingly at the Nook while on holiday. It seemed to have the best of both worlds – although it has access to a closely integrated store in the same way as the Kindle, it reads the more open epub format like the Sony Pocket Reader can. It doesn’t have the full touchscreen of the Pocket Reader but it does replace the Kindle’s keyboard with a small colour touchscreen, which I like.

But a little research showed that Barnes & Noble won’t sell ebooks outside of the USA, so I was reluctant to purchase a Nook in case I ended up with an expensive paperweight.

Further research on the forums suggested that sideloading ebooks onto the Nook worked fine, i.e. copying ebooks via USB, so in the end, I took the risk and imported a Nook back into the UK. I only purchased the wifi version rather than the 3G version as even if the 3G worked (and I doubted it would), there wasn’t going to be much I could do with it if I couldn’t buy directly from Barnes & Noble.

Here’s what I’ve discovered after a few days of playing around.

The good news is the you can easily purchase books from the likes of Waterstone’s and read them on the Nook. The first step is to download and install Adobe’s Digital Editions on to your PC or laptop. When the program is run, you “authorise” the computer to store and manage your DRM’d ebooks (not that you have any at this stage).

Once that’s done, the second step is to go to the ebook store of your choice and purchase what you’d like to read. When you download the purchased books, Adobe’s Digital Editions will automatically launch to receive them and once completed, you can see and read them within the software.

Finally, when you connect your Nook via USB, Adobe Digital Editions will ask you if you want to “authorise” the Nook reader. After accepting this, the Nook appears as another container within Digital Editions and you can then copy your newly purchased ebooks to the Nook. Disconnect the Nook from the PC or laptop and the ebooks will appear in “my library” on the Nook. Select one of your choice and you’re reading. Excellent!

That’s the main concern dealt with so what else is good? I didn’t exhaustively try to break B&N’s regional restrictions but some content, e.g. The Daily blog, is available to be read.

Disappointingly, the built-in web browser doesn’t allow downloads. There are many ebook stores such as SmashWords which offer un-DRM’d ebooks which could be downloaded direct to the Nook because there’s no need for Digital Editions to manage the DRM. Unfortunately, when you try to download anything directly to the Nook, the web browser refuses to do it. A little irritating.

The audio player works ok, though it relies on the small colour screen to select tracks. This is fine if you have a small music collection or you shuffle the playlist, but it’s not great if you have a big collection and want to listen to ZZ Top.

If weight is an issue, Nook is definitely a bit heavier than both the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader. Folio covers seem to work better on the Kindle with its latching mechanism whereas the Nook seems to rely on “pockets and elastic”.

Overall, I like the Nook. The loss of the connection to the Barnes and Noble shop puts in on a par with the non-Kindle ereaders in the UK and it’s really a choice between the touch screen of the Sonys and the colour navigation screen of the Nook. But the main point of this article is that if you are in the US and you like the look of the Nook, you can be confident that you’ll be able to purchase and read ebooks from bookstores here in the UK.


EnTourage eDGe, a dual screen tablet and ereader



Jeffrey and Esbjorn hear what Doug Atkinson of enTourage has to say about the Pocket eDGe, a clamshell-style device with dual screens. It has a 7″ TFT tablet screen on one side and a 6″ e-Ink reader screen on the other. And to be clear, it’s not two devices in one, it’s one device with two screens.

The eDGe will be running Android 2.2, though the tablet screen is only a resistive touch screen and hence uses a stylus. 3G RAM, microSD slot, USB port, 2 MP camera, headphone jack and microphone round out the features. The reader supports ePub and PDF. The tablet can play a wide variety of audio and video formats, including mp3 and mp4 respectively.

No doubt it’s an interesting concept with lots of flexibility. If you are interested, it’s on sale now for around $349.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine Podcast and Esbjorn Larsen of MrNetCast.com.

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CourseSmart Online Text Books



Andy McCaskey talks to Heather Shelstad, Director of Marketing for CourseSmart. Anyone in education will know that textbooks are expensive and CourseSmart offers a cheaper and more convenient alternative.  CourseSmart is the world’s largest provider of on-line textbooks with around 90% of the current curriculum available at about 60% of the cost. CourseSmart has relationships with many of the major publishers, so new textbooks are available on-line simultaneously with the paper editions.

Heather shows off the iPad’s virtual bookshelf client that takes advantage of the iPad’s touch screen to provide real-world functionality such as sticky notes and annotations. The on-line world can provide a richer experience than a traditional book, with links to other resources across the Internet but a new feature coming soon will be the ability to download and store chapters or whole books for reference off-line.

Any web browser can be used to read etexts at CourseSmart but there are specific clients for iPads, iPhones and Android devices.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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Pandigital Android Tablet and Colour eReader



Pandigital today added a 9″ colour Android tablet with wireless 3G connectivity to its existing line of Multimedia Novels. Aimed at the ereader market, this is Pandigital’s first integrated wireless device offering access to Barnes & Noble’s ebookstore across AT&T’s network without contract.

The tablet has a 9″ full colour touch-screen LCD display which when coupled with Android allows a huge range of applications to be downloaded and enjoyed by the customer, including surfing the web, viewing photos, watching movies and many other activities (although it cannot access the Android Market).  It also makes the Multimedia Novel perfect for reading ebooks, colour magazines and children’s stories.

By providing access via AT&T’s 3G network to Barnes & Noble’s NookBook store, the Multimedia Novel has access to over 2 million ebooks, newspapers and magazines most priced at $9.99 or less.  There are also over a million free classics available.

“The Pandigital Multimedia Novel line became incredibly popular in 2010 thanks to its breadth of features, top-notch ereading experience, and affordability,” said John Clough, president, Pandigital. “Our new 9-inch Android multimedia tablet and color ereader promises to move this experience ahead dramatically with its large touchscreen for enhanced viewing, versatile Android platform, and connected ebookstore with broad wireless coverage provided by AT&T.”

Under the hood, the tablet is powered by an ARM 11 processor and comes with 2GB of internal memory plus an integrated SDHC card reader.  Wired connectivity is via a mini-USB port. Wireless connectivity via 3G and wifi. Screen resolution is 480 x 800.

The Pandigital Multimedia Novel (R90A200) will be available from several national retailers in January with a suggested retail price of $279.