Category Archives: books

Why I <3 the nook color…

NOOKcolor screenA few years back, I bought a Kindle 2. I liked it but found the e-ink page turn effect distracting. I also missed having a color display rather than black & white.

In late 2010, the nook color was released. It sounded like an interesting device but seemed impractical for me since I’ve purchased so many Kindle ebooks over the years. Then, an Android developer found a way to root the nook color.

That was what I’d been waiting for… I went ahead and bought a nook color. And recently, I rooted it.

Why do I love the nook color? Let me count the ways:

  • Bright, vibrant color screen and several formatting options available (font sizing, etc.) within the nook reader.
  • Using the library web site along with Overdrive Media Console and Adobe Digital Editions software,  I can borrow ebooks from my local library.
  • Using the same method as borrowing from my local library, I can also borrow ebooks from other libraries that offer lending to out of area residents (e.g., Philadelphia Free Library, Fairfax County Library, National Library Board of Singapore). (Note that Fairfax County Library and Philadelphia Free Library charge an annual fee to out of area residents, but it’s a great option if your local library has a limited ebook collection)
  • Since I’ve rooted my nook color, I was able to install Kindle for Android. I have access to my full Kindle library, as well as any new Kindle books I decide to buy.
  • I can easily find (legally) free ebooks for download from Barnes & Noble and Amazon by referencing Inkmesh web site.
  • I can also download Barnes & Nobles’ Free Friday ebook offering.
  • I can read an ebook free (for an hour) daily in-store at my local Barnes & Noble store. I can also surf the web on my nook color browser using free access to Barnes & Noble’s wifi network.
  • I can lend selected ebooks to friends. (I haven’t tried this yet, will blog an update once I do.)

I’m enjoying the nook color and learning something new every day. Yesterday, I realized I can do an early return on ebooks from my library by connecting my nook color to my laptop, selecting the book within the Adobe Digital Editions software, and then selecting “Return book”.

I highly recommend the nook color. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let me know in comments.

Advertisements

Samsung Galaxy Tab: Some favorite apps & resources

After picking up my Sprint Samsung Galaxy Tab last weekend (see my initial impressions post), I’ve had a chancesamsung-galaxy-tab to play and get some interesting apps loaded. Since I’ll primarily be using the Tab at home, you won’t see driving or navigation apps listed below. Also most apps are not specifically designed for tablet unless noted.

The first thing I did to customize my Tab was to install a new font (since Samsung’s TouchWiz UI allows font customization): Humana Sans ITC FlipFont ($0.99)

Then, I got busy installing apps…

News:

  • The Wall Street Journal: This app is specifically designed for Android tablet use. I’ve long had an online subscription to WSJ to keep up with business and financial news. I like the UI and how the app refreshes each morning at 4:30, so I can read news updates when I get up. Note that a $3.99 weekly subscription will apply after the trial period. (free during trial period)
  • Bloomberg: My favorite app for following stock prices & corresponding news. (free)
  • NY Times: A favorite news source made even better by making an Android tablet version available. To download, visit http://nytimes.com/androidtab from your Galaxy Tab. (free)
  • Financial Times: An excellent (and highly recommended) source for business and financial news. (free)
  • Mediafly for tablets: An interesting and varied source for news audio & video. I haven’t used this app much yet but so far find it interesting. (free)

Media (audio / video / ebook readers):

  • Radio 104.1 WMRQ: One of my favorite alternative rock radio stations. (free)
  • TuneIn Radio: A full-featured, free radio app that provides access to hundreds of radio stations. (free)
  • KCRW Radio: Probably my favorite NPR station – love their music and feature programming. (free)
  • Pandora Radio: I love Pandora’s “Spa Radio” enough to ante up the $36 annually. (free)
  • TV Flash: A work in progress app that provides ability to stream (over WIFI) a variety of TV stations  (U.S. & non-U.S.). (free)
  • Kindle: The Tab form factor makes it an excellent ebook reader, and I find the Kindle app pleasant to use. Another benefit of the Kindle app? Ability to download free ebooks from Amazon – some are basic fiction, but sometimes there are some nonfiction gems – list available here: Limited-Time Offer ebooks.
  • Aldiko Book Reader: If you’d prefer not to use the Kindle app or Amazon store, the Aldiko reader is well done. (free, paid version available)

Games:

  • Angry Birds: This fun and incredibly addictive game works well on the Tab. (free)
  • DroidWords: Looking for a Scrabble clone that doesn’t require other players? DroidWords is what you’re seeking. Get the  paid version to avoid the annoying ads inserted into the free version. ($2.99)
  • Sheep Run Beta: Another fun and addictive game. Not sure though if it’s still available in the market since, sadly, my search this morning didn’t find it. (free)
  • Droid Odyssey BETA: A fun side-scroller, the developer warns it’s has problems on the Galaxy Tablet. However, I’ve been able to play it on the Tab. (free)
  • Shortyz Crosswords: Perfect for folks who like to do crosswords and prefer free (vs. subscription) content. (free)

Other:

  • Palmary Weather Pro: In my opinion, the best weather app for Android. Widgets available, too. ($2.99)
  • Springpad: A great place to save stuff you want to remember – I like it better than Evernote. (free)
  • Touiteur Premium: My favorite mobile twitter client. I prefer the Premium version although a free version is available. (free. paid version: ~$2.73)
  • Beautiful Widgets: These are beautiful on the Tab, too. (paid: ~$2.04)
  • Dolphin HD Browser: Of all the browsers available on Android, this is the one I always return to based on ease of use and speed. (free)
  • Bookmarks to SD: After installing Dolphin HD, I use this add-on app to import my desktop bookmarks to my mobile device. (free)
  • WolframAlpha: A great reference tool. (free)
  • Dropbox: A great file archive tool. I frequently save nonmarket apps to Dropbox to put them onto my device for install. If you haven’t tried dropbox yet, here’s a referral link: https://www.dropbox.com/referrals/NTIxOTYzMDA5?src=global (free app)
  • Google Chrome to Phone: If you use Chrome as your desktop browser, this app is a no brainer… allows you to push urls from your desktop browser  to your Android device. (free)

Galaxy Tab enthusiast web sites & forums:

So, there you have it… my favorite Android apps & online resources for Tab to date. If you’ve found some good apps / references, please leave a comment to let me know!

Samsung Galaxy Tab: Initial impressions & comparison shopping

samsung-galaxy-tabIf asked a week ago, I’d have said the Samsung Galaxy Tab was the product I was least likely to buy. Although it looked interesting, I couldn’t understand why someone would buy a 7” tablet. Really, why?

Still, I’d been reading positive articles about the Galaxy Tab by James Kendrick and was intrigued. To learn more, I went to try the Galaxy Tab hands on. It’s a solid, well-built device with a beautiful, responsive touchscreen. I watched a YouTube video and surfed the web. Easy to handle. Text displayed clearly & crisply. I liked it, but wasn’t too sure about buying it @ $399 with 3G contract.

So, I visited some nearby stores to check out products that could be considered similar:

Huawei Ideos S7 7” tablet: Interesting feature set on paper (including Android 2.1), but I found the resistive touchscreen to be frustrating and not worth $299. Screen wasn’t responsive enough, and I didn’t like pressing so hard to activate a function.

Velocity Cruz 7” tablet: Another 7” tablet, but this time running Android 2.0. Build quality seemed cheap. Not compelling enough to spend ~$300.

Archos 7 Home Tablet: Cheaper than other 7” tablets at $199, and apparently running Android 2.1. However, read reports of poor WIFI connectivity. Why is it named the “Home Tablet”? Based on some reviews, apparently due to poor battery life.

I got to thinking, if my main use case would be as eReader, why not consider Kindle, nook, etc.? So I wandered over to see those. Both the Nook and Kindle are well-built quality devices (I owned the Kindle 2, and had used it day in and day out). The free 3G connectivity is enticing. However, while my main use was to read ebooks, I didn’t want a device limited to just one usage scenario. I also find E Ink’s reverse display during page turns distracting. (Note: There are rumors the $249 nookcolor will be hacked to enable broader use as an Android device. Stay tuned.)

Despite finding the Kindle and nook too limited, I realized I loved the device dimensions as a comfortable fit for an eReader. The roots of a Galaxy Tab were planted…

Before buying a Tab, I revisited the iPad as ebook reader. I love the iPad for bringing tablets to the masses, but find it uncomfortable to curl up with like a book. As an eReader, it is simply too big despite its other qualities.

Aside from the quality of the device itself, what finally compelled me to buy the tab-homeTab? RadioShack’s Sprint Galaxy Tab $350 sale (11/21 – 11/24/2010). I went with the 2GB $29.99 data package since I’ll generally use the Tab at home.

Now that I’ve had the Tab a few days, I’m finding I enjoy it even more than expected. I’m reading Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, on the Kindle for Android app. I’m keeping up with news via the WSJ, NY Times, and Financial Times Android tablet apps. I’m reading PriusChat and AndroidCentral forum posts on the Tapatalk Pro app. I’m reading Twitter posts via the Toiuteur Premium app. I added the Clockr Evolution text clock widget. I’ve played chess on the SparkChess HD Lite android tablet app (requires Adobe Air) and honed my Angry Birds gameplay skills. I’ve taken screenshots by pressing the Back and power buttons simultaneously.

I love the apps that are configured for tablet display but haven’t had seen any display issues for apps not specifically intended for Android tablets.

For my usage scenarios (ebook reading and couch surfing), the Tab is perfect. Comfortable to hold with a crisp, easy to read screen. If your use scenarios are similar to mine, definitely recommend the Tab as an option.

I was wrong about the Kindle…. musings of a new Kindle 2 owner

B000FI73MA In June 2008, I posted an article entitled Kindle: Still too expensive at $359. I shunned the original Kindle as too expensive and frankly, too ugly. As much as I love books and reading, I couldn’t imagine spending $359 for a device that looked so dated.

There, I’ve said it. Even with my affection for shiny, new gadgets, what’s on the inside counts but what’s on the outside counts, too.

Flash forward eight months to February 2009, when the Kindle 2 was announced….kindle2

Suddenly, what I’d previously thought was overpriced became quite compelling. Was it the addition of text to speech? Was it the prettier design? Was it the influence of my Kindle-owning friends? Those answers and more below, in my initial impressions as a Kindle 2 owner.

What I like about the Kindle 2:
Solid, quality construction: My initial impression upon removing the Kindle from its shipping carton was, “Wow, this is really solid.” Of course, it requires the same care in handling as any electronic device. However, it’s thin but doesn’t feel fragile.

Text to speech: It doesn’t quite sound natural but yet isn’t so digitized as to be unlistenable. This feature will be handy for those times when my eyes are tired from gazing at a computer screen.

Intuitive navigation: I confess, I took a quick look at the user guide but didn’t pay attention to navigation instructions. I just picked up the Kindle 2, and started using it.159175-kindle2-350_188

The screen: Crisp and easy to read. It has a matte (not glossy) finish to reduce glare when reading outside. 

On board dictionary: What reader doesn’t at times encounter a word they’d like defined? With the on board New Oxford America Dictionary, one doesn’t even have to put down the book to look up a definition. Nice!

 

Amazon’s eBook selection: I’m a long-time Audible.com (audio book service) subscriber. As wonderful as Audible.com is, sometimes I want a book that’s just not available in audio format. Enter Amazon’s Kindle book store which offers great variety, and pricing (many at $9.99) is still far less than buying the physical book.

3G wireless connectivity without monthly subscription: Considering the cheapest cellular data plans cost an average of $20 to 30 per month, the Kindle’s always on wireless helps justify the device’s pricing. Of course, this always on wireless has its benefits for Amazon – it makes it incredibly easy to buy books.

What I’d like to see improved:
Variety of Kindle newspaper subscriptions is too limited and most are too expensive considering their digital format: I set up a Kindle subscription to The Irish Times since I love the perspective non-U.S. press offers and I thought the subscription pricing was reasonable at $5.99 per month. I love the Wall Street Journal but my current annual online subscription costs less than twelve times the Kindle WSJ $9.99 monthly subscription – I’ll keep my web-based version, thanks.

And, frankly, that’s all I can think of that I’d change. I am delighted with the Kindle 2, and very impressed with its quality and the attention to detail that has gone into its design and implementation.

I <3 O’Reilly’s Safari Books Online

I do a lot of work-related reading to stay up to speed with current methodologies and technology. In the past, this has required a not insignificant personal investment (in terms of both time and money). While the time investment won’t be limited any time soon (short of changing careers), I have found a way to limit the dollar investment: O’Reilly’s Safari Books Online.

This site provides the ability to read (online) a huge variety of technically-oriented books, some not even published yet (“Rough cuts”) from publishers like Peachpit Press, IBM Press, Microsoft Press, John Wiley & Sons, Adobe/Macromedia, Addison-Wesley, Que, Sams, and, of course, O’Reilly. And it’s not just books: Safari provides links to related online content based on search terms or the page content currently being viewed, as well as instructional video.

I subscribe to the annual all-you-can-eat plan at $473 per year (also available at $43/month) because I read so much; I bypassed the cheaper 10-book slot plan costing $22.99/month or $253/annually. Compared to the total cost of books I read for work, $473 is not a lot of money and I can keep as many books in my online “bookshelf” as I desire – currently I have 150 books added. And if I find a chapter that would be especially helpful for future reference, I can always access it again online or use one of my five monthly tokens to purchase a downloadable PDF of that chapter.

And it’s not just dry technical reading… fans of the Missing Manual series will be happy to know Missing Manuals are available for online reading within Safari Books.

Want to learn more? Check out the Safari Books flash demo or their FAQ. Check out their free 10-day trial.

Disclaimer: I have no connection to O’Reilly or Safari Books, other than being a happy customer.

Wacky prices for Kindle on ebay

I think it’s overpriced at the list price ($399). Folks must really want one.

Tags: , ,