eReader, Tablet, Phone, Computer? Help!

It’s that time again…time to answer all those burning questions about eReaders. It seems like every year, we go through a cycle of time where people turn up with new devices and need help downloading books. Maybe it’s the summer, when people are traveling and need the ability to take multiple books with them without the extra weight. Or maybe it’s the holidays, when well-meaning family or friends purchase those devices as gifts, and then go happily back to their lives, leaving their recipient with millions of questions on how to use the thing. Whatever the reason, we have a few suggestions.

While we can’t recommend specific devices, we can steer you toward the easiest options for YOU.

I want to be able to read an eBook on a device outside in the bright sunshine.

Then an eReader with some sort of real paper technology is what you’re looking for. Tablets aren’t really capable, and some eReaders just don’t use the technology. But if you’re only interested in being able to read on the beach, do your research and find a device that mimics paper while lighting it enough that you can read while outside. They’re out there, but not on all devices.

I want to listen to audibooks while I’m at the gym.

You have several options. The easiest one is to download an app onto your cell phone or tablet and plug in the earphones. We have some great free apps for downloading audiobooks—Libby (formerly OverDrive), and Hoopla are both available in your app stores, require minimal setup, and you can be listening in minutes!

You can also download audiobooks to your computer, and transfer them to some eReaders that have MP3 capabilities. This option is rather involved (a specific, kind of antiquated program to help you transfer the items, a computer, and your eReader). It’s a little tricky. If you’re not into tricky, try another option. See above.

I want to read eBooks and listen to audiobooks on something other than my computer. And, oh, I’m over 40 and suddenly can’t read any fonts smaller than 14 point.

Don’t go the cell phone route. Even when you can pinch open a page to make it larger, you’ll only have a few words on your screen, and that can be annoying. You might be able to swing an eReader, which will help you make the font larger, but it’s also a bit tricky to download books (see above). What you need is a tablet!

You can do all of these things on a tablet, and you don’t need to purchase an expensive one to do it. As long as your tablet can download apps, you’re good to go. While the app won’t necessarily let you make the font larger, you’ll have plenty of screen to open the books on without sacrificing space. Try to aim for the largest screen you can, if you’re going to do eBooks specifically. But if you’re going for audibooks, you can size down for prize and go for the best deal. It’ll work great!

I want to be able to cast my audiobooks using Alexa or Google Home, or listen to them in the car on bluetooth.

For both of these, you’ll need special devices. To listen to audibooks using your Amazon Echo (Alexa) or Google Home, you need a subscription to Libby and Hoopla books don’t work quite yet, although Hoopla might have something coming in the future.

To listen to audibooks in your car, you have to have Bluetooth installed in your car, and set the bluetooth to “on” on your phone. Then, you should be able to play your audiobooks through your car speakers just fine.

We love audiobooks and eBooks through both of our wonderful programs, but you do need to think about what you want your device to do before purchasing something to make sure you get the most out of it!

And ALL of your downloads from Libby and Hoopla count toward our circulation, so just because you might not be coming to the library as often for physical books doesn’t mean you aren’t moving our circulation along. Keep reading and keep listening! We love our patrons!

Old Time Radio and Podcasts


Audio books are a popular way of listening to books while you are traveling, working out or just working around the house.  But once upon a time, people used to gather around their radios in the evenings to listen to an old time radio show.  A few years back when we first  got satellite radio in our house, we discovered the old time radio channel which played shows that had aired on the radio long before television or audio books.  We often listened to a show or several shows when we were just having a lazy afternoon.  And they were lots of fun, having sound effects, music and several actors, instead of just one person reading a book (as the audio books do).

So we began to seek out the old time radio shows online and we found a host of great sites which allowed us to download stories or plays and listen to them on our computer. I fondly remember a number of weekends spent listening to the entire radio broadcast of Les Miserables. I’d never read the book before  so this was a great alternative.  There are many great online sites which play old radio programs, such as :

Many people now listen to podcasts on their iPods, so naturally, there has been a demand for stories or books to be put on a podcast.  I came across an interesting site which does just that.

Maybe these old time radio shows won’t compete with audio books (the sound quality isn’t always great and they are a bit old-fashioned), but they can be an interesting alternative to a new medium.

Learn a language

This week, we had a young woman ask about our audio books and whether we had anything in French.  We really haven’t been asked for French audio books before, even though there might be people in the community who would use them.  The reason behind her request was that she was reading French books and speaking French in her home, but that she hadn’t really spoken it much and was rusty on the sound of French.  Since she reads it well,  learning French is not what she was after, but rather just the sound of French to help improve her speech.  Of course, we do carry language cassettes and CD’s, but these are mainly for the beginner.  Aside from finding a french-speaking mentor in the community, is there anything else she could do?  Yes!

I didn’t know about it the other night, but there is a unique website that allows users to speak, write and even talk with other users live in the language they choose. It is called and it is free to sign up. Right now, they only support a few languages : English, French, German, Spanish, Hindi, Icelandic, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Mandarin Chinese, but they provide extensive lessons in each to help a user develop reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in the language of their choice.  There are little tests, live chats and even tutors to help out with any questions you might have.  They promote the fact they they are much more than just a self-study site, that there is lots of help and guidance here and you can still learn at your own pace.

This is a really fascinating concept and seems to be very user-powered. There are places you can post your lessons and have them “marked” or rated by other users as to their accuracy and relevance.  They even have flash cards to help you improve your vocabulary, with your “learning language” on the front of the card, and your “native language” on the back.

Even though we could order a French audio book in for our patron through interlibrary loan, I think I will suggest this site to her now (and keep it in mind for others in the future, as it looks like an interesting concept).  Do you think you could learn a language through self-study?

My book club is…LOST?

One of my absolute favourite shows is Lost, on ABC. Okay, I’ll admit that sometimes (maybe more than that), I don’t know what is going on. The characters are complex, the storyline moves around quite a bit, and the references are often “lost” on me. An appropriate name for a show, I think. I find that often, if a director or writer of a movie or television show can keep you continually confused, the work is often praised. (It makes me think that critics are just as confused as I am and don’t want to let on so they make the work out to be of a higher intellectual level.) But Lost is actually quite good and can be enjoyed on many levels.

This particular series changes from season to season, focusing on different people, different points in time and different places. But one thing that continually runs through the show are the references to literature, and literature of all kinds, from pop culture straight through to classics. The creators of Lost have at all times wanted viewers to participate in the show by offering very creative websites, fake job postings, magazines and contests. And now, they are offering us something more. A book club!

The creators of the series, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, have included 40 books so far, ones that have either been mentioned in the show, referenced in some subtle way, or have simply appeared on the bookshelves in a scene. have this to say about the books:

“Over the first four seasons of LOST we’ve managed to incorporate more than 40 books into the show. For the first time, we’ve cataloged a list of books available in audio form that relate in some way to LOST. Some are being read by our characters, such as Sawyer, or are just sitting on shelves in episodes of the show; others connect with various themes of the series.
We hope you’ll join our informal Lost Book Club. To paraphrase one of our heroes, Stephen King, to be a writer one must first be a reader. We find ourselves constantly striving for even a small measure of the accomplishment of what all these authors have achieved in their books. Pick up any of them and experience the richness of storytelling, character, and theme, and then allow your imagination to connect all that back into our show.
We can’t promise you any of these books will lead you to answers about LOST, but we can promise you’ll be enriched for having read them.”

They are only offering these books to the viewers in audio format, but of course, you can come to the library and pick up pretty much any one of them to read on your own. I think this is going to be one of my challenges this summer, to start going through them. I don’t think it will help me to figure out the series, but I feel like participating in something, so I’ll let everyone know how it is going.

Here are a few of the books on the list:

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Carrie by Stephen King

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

If you want more information about the Lost book club, you can follow this link:

Get “LOST” in a good book this summer!

Listen to a good book

Audio books. E-Books. Talking books. What are they all about? We offer many services at our library for people who want to listen to their books, instead of read them. Audio books are a great way for people who might not be able to see well anymore to catch up on their favourite authors. They are a great way to pass the time on the long drove to work or while working out, so even people who aren’t sight-impaired are enjoying this new medium.

I have to confess that I have listened to many popular books in audio form, and while I have enjoyed them, I do have a few complaints. Generally, I don’t like the author reading their own books. Case in point….Anderson Cooper reading his book “Dispatches from the Edge”, was very much Anderson Cooper….only very, VERY enunciated. I could only get through the first few chapters of his overly exaggerated “t’s” and “s’s” before I had to say, okay, this would be a better book to read. Often actors who are hired to read have a much better sense of timing and sound less like they are reading and more like they are acting, even when they are reading all of the parts in the same voice. The other complaint might be that sometimes there is music, sometimes there isn’t. I find the audio books with a bit of music annoying. They start to sound like old-time radio shows, but without the funny sound effects. I say, leave out the music, have an actor read, and you’ll have a hit.

Many websites are now offering e-books that can be purchased and downloaded to your IPod or other device. All of the major book sellers online have audio versions of their books for sale in easy formats so that you can pop a book onto your mp3 player and listen chapter by chapter. There is even a great new handheld book reading device called the Kindle that was developed by Amazon and is taking the reading world by storm. The Kindle boasts the look and feel of reading real paper on an electronic device. They say this is the new way to read, that we’ll all be loading our Kindles with books in the future. That may be so, but it doesn’t mean libraries will be dead because of that. We’ll just be providing the resources in the future, I have a feeling.

Even now, many libraries are offering e-books that you can download and “borrow” for a set period of time. They can only be copied to one device and expire after a certain time period so that the next person in line can listen. This isn’t a service we offer at the Carleton Place Public Library yet, but who knows what is coming down the road.

There is even a site now that offers aspiring readers to record their own versions of public domain books….books that have a copyright before 1923 that are not still under copyright. And anything can be done with these recordings…they remain public domain. LibriVox offers software that you download in order to be able to record your own voice reading the books they need. It seems like an interesting idea and they have volunteers record chapters of books that they will make available for the public to download online. So, if you’ve ever wanted to be that actor, reciting wonderful poetry or chapters from famous novels in history, you should check out this site and see if it interests you.

Dustin M. Wax has written a very interesting article about e-books and how to enjoy them if you are a first time user.

There is also a controversial new trend for parents to put on an audio book for a child at night, in place of reading a traditional story at bedtime. The children must miss out on the interaction and pictures, as this is what often stimulates imagination and allows for print awareness to help children learn to read. You can read an article about this here.

So, are audio books the wave of the future? Are they just a passing fad? And will they replace books altogether? What do you think?