Tag Archives: iPad

What a shock!

I’ve been intensively using both an eReader and iPad as my reading devices. They both have advantages and disadvantages. So I had thought I would write post comparing these and suggesting where one was better than, or more suitable than, the other.

I might still get around to this – but meanwhile here is a definite disadvantage of the iPad, and other Tablets, which I am aware of but probably would not have mentioned. The fact that I sometime inadvertently get to see my ugly mug reflected in the iPad screen.

That is definitely one advantage of the eReader with the non-reflective screen.

Thanks to APPNEWSER (see The Most Disturbing Thing About Using Tablets).

g1obc

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Dementia – There’s an app for that!

Memory loss – it’s inevitable as you grow older. And as each individual experiences these day-to-day memory lapses one can’t help starting to wonder if it’s just normal ageing of the brain. Or is it more serious – the beginnings of dementia or Alzheimers.

Well apparently there is now an iPad app one can use to keep a running check. This video suggests it is very accurate – better and quicker than existing pen and paper tests. (Sorry, can’t embed the video – just follow the link. It’s only a few minutes long).

SciNewsBlog: Think you might have Dementia? There’s an app for that!.

Wonder if it’s the sort of test one can do at home – or if it requires supervision from a health professional?

Must hunt it down – I have been think of getting an iPad. This is another argument for the expense.

Not that I am worried at this stage!

So you’re considering switching to eBooks?

Here’s a graphic I picked up from Online Universities (thanks to E-book Nation). The data is specific to the USA but I think it’s worth anyone considering possible purchase of an eBook Reader, or a tablet for reading purposes, reading through it.

For example, you might conclude from this that such a purchase will probably mean you read a lot more. That you are more likely to buy new books than just borrow them. That you will be able to get books more quickly and there will be more to select from.

However, you will be less likely to share your books with others. And you will prefer to use a printed book when reading with a child.

(Click twice on image to enlarge).


Brought to you by: OnlineUniversities.com

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What’s in store for eBook readers

Dedicated eReader or an iPad?

I think many New Zealanders have joined the digital reading revolution. They are purchasing eBooks on-line and reading them on a tablet, such as the iPad, or a dedicated reading device, an eReader.

Personally I think eReaders are a better device for reading – because they don’t provide distractions. Anyway, here I just want to comment on what we can possible look forward to, or expect, in upcoming eReaders.

The major eReaders available in New Zealand all do their job well. The current standard is built-in Wi-Fi and a touch screen. Choice really seems to come down to aesthetics and not actual performance (for example, the major criticism of the Sony appears to be a shiny plastic bezel which could annoy readers). Book formats could also be another factor – choosing between Amazon’s mobi and the alternative ePub open format.

Retail prices for some of the current models in New Zealand have dropped recently. It’s that time of the year  – look forward to announcement of new models in the next few months. Currently I have no idea what to expect. Haven’t picked up any rumours yet. But here are some possibilities worth considering:

Glowlight!

Barnes and Noble latest eReader is the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight. This has  LED lights embedded into the side of the frame. Power drain is low so battery life isn’t markedly reduced. But its a great idea – especially for those with who have sleeping partners but enjoy reading in bed.

Personally I enjoy the fact that eReaders are not backlit as tablets are. Apparently that makes reading harsher. And the dedicated eReader experience is more like reading the printed page. But in bed, or on other low light situations this innovation would be great.

Barnes and Noble does not sell their Nook eReaders in New Zealand but the fact that these new eInk screens are being produced makes uptake by Sony, Kobo or Kindle likely in the near future.

Colour screens

Colour eInk screens are a possibility in future eReaders. The technology is available. These screens won’t have the brilliant colour of backlit tablet screens but should be an advantage for some books – especially comics and technical books with images. However, manufacturers of the smaller screen eReaders may prefer to produce an alternative tablet or backlit screen model, such as the Kindle Fire, Kobo Vox and Nook  colour. For them this may represent the best approach to the market.

Larger screens

The Jetbook Color has a 9.7 inch screen

This is something we have yet to see in New Zealand. I feel there is a market for these – the 6 inch screens are ideal for novels and relatively straightforward non-fiction. But text books, and many other technical books would be far better on the larger screen. Such a screen would also by ideal for pdf formats – and we often have to read other documents besides novels – especially if we are students or researchers. And a larger screen displaying a full pdf or document page will probably work better a 6 inch screen with material we need to refer back to. Something to do with storing the place on the page of an image or piece of information on a page in our memory.

Non-dedicated tablets may be preferred by many people. However the larger iInk screen dedicated devices would have the advantages of longer battery life (using the iPad as a portable device must have its drawbacks because of the battery), less distraction and more comfortable reading. High prices for large screen eReaders could be a drawback, at least until they are more common.

Ectaco Jetbook Color under trial in a Russian classroom

A hopeful sign is that the 9.7 inch Ectaco Jetbook Color e-Reader,the only touchscreen Color E Ink eBook Reader in the world, has come on the market overseas. It is being evaluated for educational purposes in some US schools and a large number of Russian schools. This eReader is clearly targeted at the education market as it comes preloaded with many text books and educational aids. The US Defense Department is also using itReviews indicate that this could be a useful dedicated device.

Removal of DRM

Journalists are speculating that the days of Digital Rights Management (DRM) are numbered. A few publishers have already abandoned it and competition, or is it antagonism, between Amazon and many publishers could lead to its widespread removal. It’s a complex issue but publishers seem to think DRM enables Amazon to achieve monopoly control and to enforce use of their eReaders and eBook format.

Some people, including many authors, really hate DRM. Readers resent the inability to really own the book they have bought as DRM often enforces use of a single device, prevents lending or passing books on to friends and family, and often makes side loading (loading books from other sources, even in the proper format), complicated.

However, computer savy readers usually have no problem removing DRM. And there is a high motivation to do so. Not for piracy or any other illegal use. But to enable use of different formats and books from different sources. As well as legitimate sharing.

Just imagine buying a print book (pBook), going to read it at home and finding that some of the pages are uncut. Easily remedied. But imagine downloading an eBook and finding that your eReader will not open it. No, not a format problem. Maybe some images in the book are is the swg rather than jpg format.  Or there are a large number of embedded fonts which cause the eReader to crash. (Actually the poor conversion of many books to a digital format is another bitch I have about publishers). I have had both problems and let me tell you that eBook sellers like Kobo don’t exactly have a functioning help department.

In such cases the books can easily be corrected by the computer savy reader once the DRM is removed. Why should they be prevented from do so?

On the other hand I know from my friends that many owners of eReaders don’t give a stuff about DRM. They may not know it even exists. They are happy to use the device as a simple attachment to a single provider, purchase all their books from that provider (usually Amazon), and never go hunting for other sources. DRM is probably a non-issue for them.

Conclusion

I suspect a glow screen may be the next common feature – in fact this has already been rumoured for the Kindle. So I would not be surprised to see it in upcoming local eReader models.

Colour and larger eInk screens would be nice. However, I suspect this may not happen soon if tablets, like the iPad, continue their market dominance. On the other hand, institutional and educational pressures could bring the price of larger screen, colour, eReaders down. That is something I would like as the ability to easily read text books, technical articles, pdfs and reference material in a larger format would be really useful.

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Christmas gift ideas: How We Know What’s Really True

Are you having problems of finding meaningful Christmas presents for family and friends?

Books make ideal and meaningful Christmas presents for family and friends. And as I am spending some time dealing with family business I thought reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few days could be useful am repeating some of my past book reviews.

Another one for younger readers – aimed at 12 – 120 years old.


Book Review: The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True by Richard Dawkins. Illustrated by Dave McKean

Price: US$16.49; NZ$37.50;
iPad app US$13.99, NZ17.99.
Audio vers. US$ 19.79.

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Free Press (October 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439192812
ISBN-13: 978-1439192818

I have posted on this book before (see A reminder of reality’s magic). It’s now available in New Zealand so a review is in order. Fortunately I have had an audio version of the book for a week, have listened to it all and am happy to recommend it. I can especially confirm my earlier recommendation as a sciency book for young people – perhaps a Christmas present.

Richard Dawkins himself says he aimed the book at young people from 12 years old to 100 years old. Younger children may also enjoy it, especially with parental help.

Each of the book’s twelve chapters are built around a question – the sort of questions young and other inquisitive people ask. “Who was the first person?”, “What is a rainbow?”, “What is the sun?”, “What is reality? What is magic?”, “When and how did everything begin?”, “Why do bad things happen?” “What is a miracle?” and so on.

Most chapters start with the traditional or mythological answers. Some of those will not be new, coming from our own tradition or religion. New Zealanders will recognise a number of Maori or Christian myths. Others will be new, refreshing, intriguing, or even plain silly from our point of view. But, of course, there is no reason to suppose any mythological tradition is any more correct, or of any more value, than another. This helps develop a rational perspective.

Continue reading

Answer simple question – win an iPad

The catch – you are limited to 140 characters on Twitter.

Oh, yes, also the entry must “explain the origins of the Universe.”

Credit: Wikipedia

Simple – should be plenty of entries for that!

I guess the trick is in the syntax, as well as the science.

Have a look at Otago University‘s Centre for Science Communication Twitter Competition for the details.

Deadline is Tuesday 15 November. You will have a chance to vote on your favourite entry from Wednesday 16 November until noon Saturday 19 November.

And, Professor Lawrence Krauss, author of the forthcoming book A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing, will then select the winning tweet from the five tweets receiving the highest number of votes.

I still have a week or so to solve that problem and send my entry.

Thanks to: Best Science Tweet Competition.

How We Know What’s Really True

Book Review: The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True by Richard Dawkins. Illustrated by Dave McKean

Price: US$16.49; NZ$37.50;
iPad app US$13.99, NZ17.99.
Audio vers. US$ 19.79.

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Free Press (October 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439192812
ISBN-13: 978-1439192818

I have posted on this book before (see A reminder of reality’s magic). It’s now available in New Zealand so a review is in order. Fortunately I have had an audio version of the book for a week, have listened to it all and am happy to recommend it. I can especially confirm my earlier recommendation as a sciency book for young people – perhaps a Christmas present.

Richard Dawkins himself says he aimed the book at young people from 12 years old to 100 years old. Younger children may also enjoy it, especially with parental help.

Each of the book’s twelve  chapters are built around a question – the sort of questions young and other inquisitive people ask. “Who was the first person?”, “What is a rainbow?”, “What is the sun?”, “What is reality? What is magic?”, “When and how did everything begin?”, “Why do bad things happen?” “What is a miracle?” and so on.

Most chapters start with the traditional or mythological answers. Some of those will not be new, coming from our own tradition or religion. New Zealanders will recognise a number of Maori or Christian myths. Others will be new, refreshing, intriguing, or even plain silly from our point of view. But, of course, there is no reason to suppose any mythological tradition is any more correct, or of any more value, than another. This helps develop a rational perspective.

Continue reading

Problems with pdf eBooks – metadata issues

I have become increasingly dependent on my eBook reader. Consequently I now have quite a few eBooks – and many of them are in the pdf format.

While most eReaders will display pdf formats there can be issues. Because these don’t have flowable text they are probably more suited for devices like the iPad

I don’t have an iPad, but I do have many pdf eBooks. It seems to be the most common format for free and out-of-copyright books. As well as technical books and scientific papers.

So, I have had to confront most of the problems eReaders have with pdf and the problems format conversion programmes have. And, despite the fact that a huge problem is that pdf documents come in different flavours, there is usually a work around – providing you are sufficiently motivated to spend the time required.

Here, I just want to deal with the metadata issue. Fortunately the workarounds here are simple.

Metadata

The metadata includes information on the book or document title, author, publication date, publisher, etc. It is meant to be incorporated into the ebook file – but very often, especially for pdf documents, there is no incorporated metadata, or the data is not suitable. Add the fact that many pdf files do not have descriptive names (eg. my eBook “The Philosophy of Science” by George Couvalis has the file name 0761951016.pdf ) and no wonder I found that I had accumulated a large number of pdfs, scattered throughout my hard drive,  I could not identify without opening them.

If your files have metadata included a cataloguing programme or an eReader will display the correct information, whatever their file name. If not you are usually stuck with the non-informative filename.

Fortunately, changing or adding metadata to a file is quite simple. Here are two places you can make the changes – in the cataloguing programme and in the file itself.

Cataloguing with Calibre

Most serious eBook users eventually get hold of the free programme Calibre. It’s great for format conversions, keeping all you eBooks in one easy place, searching for books to buy, and many more things.

A while back I found its very useful cataloguing feature (see Calibre tips and tricks: article on cataloguing). I use this to produce a catalogue of all my books, in an ePub format which I then transfer to my eReader. It has hyperlinked authors, titles, and other useful information on each book. This includes short reviews, publishers information, cover images and format information for my collection.

It’s great for searching through my collection at leisure when I am planning future reading, or checking what I have. I update it often.

Once a book is added to Calibre the metadata can be added or edited very easily. This happens through automatically consulting on-line databases and the metadata available includes reviews, publishers information, cover images, etc.

This is all very useful – but the metadata changes occur in the Calibre database, not in the file (unless the conversion process is used). Transferring the eBook from your computer to your eBook reader does not transfer the Calibre data itself.

This requires editing the file.

Editing pdf files

The editing required to alter or add metadata is minor, but usually beyond those without programmes like Acrobat. But here’s a simple tip. Download and use BeCyPDFMetaEdit.

This is a simple programme enabling minor editing of pdf files. It ” allows editing of several settings like the metadata about author, title, subject and keywords of the document. Furthermore, one can customize the viewer preferences, the bookmarks, the page labels, the page transitions for slide shows and the encryption/permissions of a document.”

I have found it ideal for this simple job.  Only a few seconds are required to check and update the metadata before transferring the file from Calibre to my eReader.

I no longer have to go through the painful process of opening and checking books on my eReader just because the only information available is the file name.

Editing ePub files

I have found this is not usually necessary. But when needed I use the ePub editor Sigil. This is very useful for anyone wanting to get into eBook creation in more detail. It has its own learning curve but the metadata editing is simple. Just go to Tools>Meta Editor and make the required changes. Don’t forget to save the file.

See Also:
Calibre – eBook Management
Calibre tips and tricks blog
BeCyPDFMetaEdit.
Sigil

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eBook “singles” – and the problems

Electronic books, and devices for reading them, are really taking off. In a way, this is reproducing the effect the digital revolution had on music.

One parallel may be with the purchase of music as “singles” rather than albums. The eBook format seems to be ideal for novels and trade books. But it looks like it may be even better for shorter books – the equivalent of music “singles.” Short books can be provided rapidly and cheaply. And they may be more suited to common reading habits than the longer more detailed books.

Amazon thinks so anyway. They recently launched their Kindle Singles selection. Relative short books  each presenting a compelling idea “expressed at its natural length.” And costing no more than a few dollars.

Enter TED Books

Now TED has taken hold of this idea. Many of you are aware of TED - the outfit which describes itself as “a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.” It promotes conferences, events and prizes. These bring together people from Technology, Education and Design. And the ideas are disseminated by videos of the short and stimulating talks given.

You have probably downloaded and watched some of the videos. If not – I recommend you try them out.

TED have just announced the launch of TED books. The publication of short books as eBooks. Effectively taking their videos into a book format. And they are being release through Amazon in the Kindle format.

So TED Books at Kindle Singles is really a book version of TED videos. Their press release announced the first three TED books published as Kindle Singles (The Happiness ManifestoHomo Evolutis and Beware Dangerism!)

This is great and I look forward to many more TED Books.  Well, I would if I could only read them on my Sony eBook reader!

My complaints

So here is my bitch. When the hell are book publishers going to get themselves sorted out? When are they going to overcome the problems presented by different formats and digital rights management?

Why can’t I read kindle books on my eBook reader? (It already accepts ePub and pdf).

Why should I have to purchase another reader (a Kindle) which may not be as good as my Sony Reader Touch, or less suitable for my purposes, just because of the format difference?

Of course I could use a Kindle app on an iPad. But why should I be forced to buy an expensive iPad just to do this? (And don’t tell me about iPods. I have one of these and, No, they are not suitable for comfortably reading eBooks. Nor is reading from a PC monitor comfortable).

Why can’t publishers produce their books in multiple formats? Some already do, but why don’t Amazon make available multiple formats (Kindle, ePub and pdf)?

I hope we are in a transitional phase and these problems will soon be resolved. But if they aren’t it will only encourage production of software which eBook buyers can use to convert formats. This will inevitably mean software for removing digital right management from eBooks to enable conversion.

And that will make eBook piracy a dream – something the publishers surely don’t want.

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A handy app for your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad

If you often find you read articles on the Richard Dawkins’ Foundation web site, watch videos or listen to audio on the site you might find the iPhone app useful. And it’s only NZ$1.19.

It provides access to all that useful material direct from your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. With it you will be able to read articles, watch videos or listen to interviews while filling in time at the dentist’s waiting room.

For those who don';t normally look at that site – why not try it. it’s not a Richard Dawkins fan site. More a collection of material of interest to people interest in science, reason and atheism.

The screen shots below give an idea of the material the app makes available.

RDEF 2

See: Richard Dawkins for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad on the iTunes App Store.

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