Tech Thursdays!

techAre you having trouble figuring out your email? Finding that new tablet confusing? Wanting to learn how to download eBooks or Audiobooks? We can help!

We’re now offering “Tech Thursdays at the Library!” Sign up for a one-on-one session, and we show you the basics, or help you get past that stumbling block. Give us a call to reserve your space with Caroline, starting today!

 

Check Out a Skill!

20150320_161253We’re getting ready for something interesting in April. Not everyone is technologically-savvy, so we’ve decided to offer a “Check Out a Skill” week at the library. From April 13 -24, we’re offering half-hour sessions with one of our skill experts.  Learn to use Pinterest or Twitter, open up an email account, or finally get on Facebook and learn how to use it!

We’re taking registrations now, so give us a call. No “skill” is too simple to learn, and it’s the perfect time to learn how to use that new device (or that old one). Where else could you get this for free?  No where! Only at your library.

eReaders. How We Love to Hate Them.

Don’t get me wrong, most of the staff at our library use electronic devices to access eBooks and audiobooks from the OverDrive site, and we’ll rave about it to anyone who will listen. But do we love dedicated eReaders? Not really. And as it turns out, only a small portion of people who use them actually like them.

ereaderWhen eReaders first came on the scene, it was predominantly an Amazon market. The Kindle was the only eReader for many people, and because they were expensive, and only allowed people to read books that they purchased, only a select few were instantly in love.

Then came an explosion of eReaders put out by a variety of companies. These allowed you to access books from other places besides Amazon, and *cue the trumpets*, you could now also download FREE eBooks from your library! WOW!  We were overwhelmed by people purchasing eReaders for themselves and their families (mostly for elderly parents who might not be able to get to the library as easily as others), and it was decidedly frustrating for us in the library. The eReaders were not simple to use, not if you wanted to download free books from the OverDrive website. Everyone had different devices, different computers and different problems. We could spend hours with a patron trying to get them set up, only to face the probability that they’d be back in a few weeks, still not sure how to do the entire process on their own. It was especially difficult that first year as many people bought eReaders for their parents at Christmas, and then left them with the instructions to “go to the library to have it set up”. For many of these people, computers were difficult enough to use, and to add a device was more than frustrating. I think we had a lot of disappointed patrons that winter.

Now, after several years, there are more devices on the market, and fewer problems. How is that possible? Apps, my friend……APPS.

People who want to enjoy eBooks and audiobooks are no longer forced to buy a device that only allows them to read books on it. Now, phones, tablets and many of the eReaders themselves have wi-fi and use apps so that users can read books, surf the net, text, check Facebook, take photos for Instagram and tweet….all while they listen to a book or download their next ten books for their vacation. They are multi-purpose devices, and that’s exactly the way eReading needed to go.  They are much easier to use, have a simple set-up for OverDrive, and people can usually download a book and be on their way in minutes, rather than have an extensive session at the library to get them going. We love them….and still loathe them, all at the same time.

Kindles, while still one of the most popular devices on the market, are not compatible with OverDrive in Canada. Well, not most of the Kindles, anyway. (The Kindle Fire is more of a tablet which does use apps, and therefore, allows you to access OverDrive.) This is sad news for people who have done research and found the product that seems to have the most positive reviews will not work for them if they want free eBooks and audiobooks. In the US, library patrons can access OverDrive ebooks through their libraries due to a program used to allow them to be compatible, but so far, it hasn’t crossed the border. Are there bigger issues that aren’t being addressed?  I’m not sure, but I guess we’ll deal with that when the time comes.

Now, though, Kindle has put out a new device that they are saying is BETTER THAN BOOKS.  Better than books????? What? The Kindle Voyage claims to be so good, you’ll forget you’re reading on an electronic device. The “paper” is so realistic, it is easy on your eyes, and in your hands, and will certainly make you a convert. But what’s so special? Have you ever read an enormous book with multiple characters that are difficult to keep track of? The Kindle Voyage has a simple pop up that will display the characters to remind you, let you tap a word to look it up in the dictionary, allow you to flip to footnotes and back easily, and also uses new technology that puts turning the pages right under where your fingers naturally rest when holding the device. No more swiping.

I’m sure it’s wonderful. I’m sure it will revolutionize reading for many people. How could it not? Who wouldn’t want to be able to carry around thousands of books in the palm of your hand? Who wouldn’t want to be able to download the newest best-seller from their favourite author the second it comes out on the market? eBooks and eReaders are truly wonderful for that. And Kindles aren’t the only devices that will do this.

But will the frustrations from not being able to access books from your library, or having to re-charge your device simply to finish that book, or losing your entire collection when you drop your device on a hard floor (or in the bathtub), override the old hardcover? Probably not. We love eBooks and audiobooks and all that they provide to us. We just don’t always love the downsides that come with the devices.

How about you? Let us know…do you prefer eBooks over the real deal? Do you mix it up?

 

Technology at the Library

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Electronic resources are popular at the library, both eBooks and Audiobooks. And while we like to make our patrons feel secure in being able to download either one to any kind of device (computer, phone, tablet etc.), it’s not always as straight forward as it should be. But trust me, originally, it was way, way more difficult.

When eBooks and Audiobooks first arrived through the Over Drive website, you needed to download a small program, register for an Adobe ID, have all of your computer equipment up to date, and then make sure you accepted all of the conditions when downloading your books. Of course, it also requires a library card number and PIN, both of which you can get from the library.  Sounds simple, right?

Next, once you had everything installed on your computer, it was simple enough to do a search and select a book. If you weren’t on high speed internet, it wasn’t impossible, but took a little more time to download, especially those audiobooks. But you could do that here at the library…providing you didn’t mind wiping everything off of your iPod when you began the download (yes, public access computers made things a bit tricky). Then, if everything went well, your book was downloaded into your program, where you could then plug in your iPod or eReader and transfer it over.  That could take a bit of doing, as well. Some of the devices required certain functions to happen in a particular order (ie…plug in the USB cord first to your device, then to your computer etc.).  And teaching people to drag and drop a book into Adobe Digital Editions (as well as helping them to navigate the software if it opened in a different configuration was always fun), the whole thing sort of lost its shine.

With the invention of tablets and apps in general, things have changed quite a bit. Now, with most newer devices, you can download a small program and the eBook or audiobook simply downloads straight into the app. No separate programs for each type of electronic resource, and not much in the way of registration (except for the Adobe ID, which they’ve now eliminated for new users!).  Yes, there are still people who are using their computers to listen to or read books, but many of us like the portability of smaller devices.

What remains a bit frustrating—-and something that’s difficult to explain to new users, especially when we tell them “it’s easy!”—–is that not everything goes smoothly. We could install the same apps on the same type of devices for five people in a row….and run into different problems with each one. Keep in mind, we all install different updates, run different programs that might interfere in some way, and purchase our devices at different times. What might be standard on the first issue of a tablet might be upgraded slightly in a few months, even though it is technically the same device. So, keep all of that in mind when downloading your electronic resources. It’s not always perfectly simple, but hopefully, we can get you there without many issues.

Similarly, any updates to the app or to your device might also render some new steps or a new look when using OverDrive. Have patience….if you experiment a bit, sometimes you’ll learn more about how to do things than coming in for help. But, we’re always here to give you some assistance, so please drop by anytime.  If it looks like it might be a difficult issue, you can always call and make an appointment with us so we can spend a bit more time.

If you haven’t been using electronic resources, why not start now?  Drop by the OverDrive website to get started!

Do You OverDrive?

Audiobooks and eBooks are a big part of our library collection, even though many of the titles are strictly digital and never actually come into the library building itself. But we have many readers (and listeners), who regularly use the OverDrive website or app to access these books and enjoy “reading” in a whole new way.  We love hearing the stories, from people who download audiobooks to listen to on their drive to and from work (library staff included), to people who choose eBooks when they’re going on vacation and don’t want to carry a stack of heavy books in their suitcases. They’re a wonderful way to get in some extra reading when you might not feel you have the time to spend on books.

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If you’ve been downloading eBooks or audiobooks to your computer for a while, you might not realize there is now a handy APP that you can use on your portable devices, such as tablets or phones.  The OverDrive Media Console App is available for both Apple products (iPhones, iPads etc., available from the Apple store), as well as for Android based products (from the Google Play store). The app is free and only takes a moment to download. Then, all you’ll need is your library card number, and a PIN that we’ve given to you and you’re all set! Gone are the days when you needed an Adobe ID, so new users, rejoice in the fact that you can now skip a much dreaded step!

While some people don’t enjoy reading on their phones because of the small display, audiobooks are really simple to access on a phone, and you can plug in your earbuds, or just listen using your phone’s speaker. They don’t take long to download, and if you use free Wi-fi access points, you won’t have to worry about paying for data charges. Give it a try!  Just pop into your library to get a card and a PIN, and start downloading books today!

http://downloadcentre.library.on.ca

 

Give me a new book…NOW!

We hear it all the time at the library.

“I wish this author would write faster. I can’t wait until the next book is released!”

While it’s true that it takes time for a book to be published, there is a new demand for books to come out sooner. It’s a combination of the society we live in, with it’s on-demand everything, and competition from the self-publishing world. Is this a good thing?  Let’s explore the options.

Authors probably write faster than you imagine. While it takes anywhere from 8 months to a year or more for some books to be released, the author has long since written the story. Much of the time in between takes place in editing and production. There are book covers to be designed, editing to be done, publicity decisions to be made, and so much more. In the past the wait has been exciting–a lead up to a new book in a series, or a stand-alone by a popular author. Both could send people scrambling to the stores the moment the book hit the shelves. But much has changed.

Even if you still buy the traditional hardcover book, the instant world we live in allows for someone to download an eBook version in a matter of seconds (or minutes), the moment the clock hits midnight. It’s exciting to have so much available to us at our fingertips. We’ve come to expect it. So, waiting a year or more for a book to be released is an eternity!

And now there are more authors following the non-traditional self-publishing route, allowing them to take charge of their careers and listen to their audience. If people are begging for a new book, even if an author has just released one only a few months before, authors are able to fill in the spaces with downloadable novellas, short stories or even full-length novels to keep their readers interested and buying. It’s making the traditional publishing houses a little nervous.

While people are starting to make their choices known, the publishing world is responding. Several houses are starting to experiment with shorter release dates.  Yes, this probably puts a lot of pressure on their authors, and most likely does a real number on their catalog organization, but it’s making some authors–and LOTS of readers—very happy.

The New York Times just released an article about series publishing, citing FIFTY SHADES OF GREY by E.L. James as starting the trend for fast-turnover publishing. While these were self-published, James didn’t waste any time between books, allowing her followers to scoop up the books without much downtime. It followed the binging trend that we see most often in Netflix viewers who are used to the concept. And now publishing houses like Dutton are giving it a whirl.  They just released the first of a trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer called  ANNIHILATION, and will release the second book in the series in May, and the third in September.  It’s a trial run, sure to please fans who want to know what happens. But some are worried it will saturate the market too quickly, and won’t build the same kind of fan base.

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One also wonders what it is doing to the authors. Are they having to work double time to not only write, but promote an entire series? Will the finished product be as good as it might be if it is rushed? Will it actually make some authors more popular because readers know they won’t have to wait long for books, or will they tire of an author who is constantly chugging out collections?

Only time will tell, of course, but it’s an interesting idea that needs to be explored.  If you like to read a series from beginning to end without waiting, this idea could be for you.  Maybe this is a trend all publishing houses will soon follow and we won’t have much choice. We’d like to know what you think, however.  Would you prefer an entire series to be released in short order, or do you worry about quality over speed? Leave us a comment to tell us how you feel.

Speed Reading, Smartphone Style!

US-based Tech company start-up, Spritz, is claiming to have developed an app that will allow future smartphone users to read an entire novel in 80 minutes. They’ve been working hard on the app, also called Spritz, which will allow upcoming Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphones and the Gear2 watch to benefit from this technology. It’s speed reading, app style!

Spritz

While speed reading is nothing new, the people at Spritz have “reinvented the way people read by eliminating the obstacles associated with traditional reading on mobile devices”.  While we are all used to a swiping action to move from page to page or screen to screen, Spritz freezes the action into one spot so the eye can focus and read the important parts of the words.  They have a fantastic demonstration on THIS page, and you can change the speed of the information to anything you like. I tried it at 250 words per minute, and it seemed fairly easy to follow the sentences.  The really great thing about this app?  It allows more time for harder words, although you won’t even realize it. The inventors of the app warn that at 400 words per minute, your comprehension will not be very strong, as it takes the brain a little time to process more difficult words.

Of course, there is some skepticism about how well this app will work for people, and the general warning that it’s better not to speed read at all for the best absorption of information. But if you’re trying to work more reading into your life, having a way to get through a book anywhere from 80 minutes to 2.5 hours would make that possible. Of course, this means you’ll have to have the technology to use it, also, so take that into consideration if you’re hoping to try this new app out.

You can read more information about the Spritz app right here. Happy reading!