My iOS App Picks for 2014 – eBook Readers

It’s that time of year again — the year is ending, coming to a close. And we often take time to look back at things we’ve done. In my case, I thought I’d look back at the iOS apps that have most engaged me over the last year.

I’ll basically select a ‘winner’ and a ‘runner up’, and give a few reasons why the app captured my attention and interest.

So, without further preamble, here’s my first category and selections: Continue reading “My iOS App Picks for 2014 – eBook Readers”

A better mobile eBook reader?

It’s been a while since I took a look at what’s cool in the mobile eBook reader space, as I’ve been quite satisfied with my current reading apps (GoodReader for PDFs, Stanza for ePubs) and their use with Calibre (a must-have eBook library management program).

So today I’ve installed ReadMill — a ‘social’ eBook reader that works with both open ePubs as well as open and DRM protected PDFs (a valid Adobe ID is required). The blurb from the developers states:

Readmill is a unique ebook reader that lets you read share and discover great books. Available as an iPad and iPhone app, Readmill works with ebooks in ePub and PDF format. It’s all about sharing what you read, and all of the highlights and comments you make between the pages. It’s also a great place to discover new books through friends, and find out what’s most popular in your social graph. Welcome to a world of reading.

So I’m just getting started with it. Feel free to check out my ReadMill profile https://readmill.com/bradblog and follow me.

I’m thinking the ReadMill experience will be similar to GoodReads, but will update my experiences here as I use it more.

 

Three essential PDF readers for iPad

A while ago I wrote about ways to read PDF files on your iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad. Well that post is showing it’s age, so rather than completely redo it, I thought I’d discuss my current three top PDF readers, and why.

GoodReader
GoodReader is my first choice, go-to PDF reader on my iPad.

First off, getting files into GoodReader. It’s simple, and supports iTunes file transfer, Network transfer via WiFi, or downloading from shared services such as;

  • DropBox
  • Google Apps
  • Mobile Me
  • SugarSync
  • FTP servers

Next, it’s under active development, with frequent new features, updates and bugfixes.

As expected GoodReader supports PDF and TXT files, but it can also display all of the most popular file types including:

  • MS Office – .doc, .ppt, .xls and more
  • iWork’08/’09
  • HTML and Safari webarchives
  • High resolution images
  • Audio & Video playback in some formats

Yes, GoodReader is my PDF reader of choice. But, there are cases where an alternative is important. Enter…

CloudReaders
This is a more simplistic app that I use primarily for reading graphic novels and comic-book files. Some are in PDF format and others in CBZ or CBR format.

CloudReaders allows WiFi upload by running a small server that you connect to using your desktop computer. Here’s some of the cooler features of CloudReaders:

  • Multi-task support
  • Rotation lock
  • iPhone/iPod/iPad touch support
  • Automatically add books when files were transferred via iTune application
  • Auto page alignment (on iPhone/iPod touch)
  • Smoothing (from Settings app)
  • Default page-orientatin (from Settings app)

As a free eReader and PDF reader, it’s a bargain. There’s also an in-app purchase that allows you to share (via P2P) with other local CloudReaders users. Very neat.

Stanza
This is my go-to eBook reader on the iPad, and has been one I’ve used on the iPod Touch previously.

I’d written about it here, and it’s still a solid app you should check out, especially since it’s free!

Checking out library books on your eReader?

sonylib.jpgGot a Sony eReader and use the Sony Reader store? Well check out the little blue & white box in the right-hand sidebar on the page.

Yep, you read correctly — you can check out books from the library and read them on your eReader.

In early December, Sony (and technology providers Overdrive) will have hundreds of Canadian libraries hooked up and ready to lend books; many libraries are already set up and running. As I understand it, only libraries in Atlantic Canada will be missing…for now.

This Library search page will help you find a participating library in your region. For example, entering Alberta in the search field turned up a large number of participating libraries in my province.

libfindersearch.jpg

The system requires you have an Adobe account to manage the DRM and ‘return’ of the eBook you ‘borrowed’. Actually the DRM just expires and you can’t read it after the lending period runs out. Which is another way of saying you don’t have to remember to return borrowed eBooks back to the library.

Not every book at your library will be available for loan, but as libraries start to convert their catalogues to digital, you’ll find more and more of the popular reads on your library’s virtual shelves. Welcome to the 21st century :smileyhappy:

Interesting business model for eBook

Earlier this week I found an eBook over on ZenHabits. The book looks interesting and I’m looking forward to giving it a read, but the think that caught my eye was the business model; you can get the book for free. The whole book, as a downloadable eBook. Free.

Now, there is a Premium version of the eBook available that includes a lot more interesting looking content.

This business model reminds me of  ‘Director’s Cut’ DVDs. You get the basic movie, the Director’s cut, the out-takes, the concept art, maybe a making-of video, and director commentary, over and above the basic movie.

Content you’re paying a premium for.

So, this 27 chapter eBook is free, and the premium stuff looks like it might be worth paying for, if you think it’ll add value to the basic content in the eBook.

Well, I’m going to bite, and give it a read. It’s free. It may (or may not) entice me into checking out the premium version, but at the very least, I’ll get some ideas. And hopefully learn something.

And try and figure out how this business model really makes sense.

1. All 27 chapters of the free ebook
Along with a crapload of extra material …

2. How-to videos
Going into more depth on focus-related topics:

  • How to Single-task
  • Beating the Fears of Disconnecting
  • How to Find Stillness & Disconnect
  • Focus & Health, Part 1: eating healthy and getting active
  • Focus & Health, Part 2: sleep and stress

3. Audio interviews with experts

4. Bonus chapters from Leo

  • creativity and practicing deep focus
  • finding stillness and reflection
  • how to start changes on a broader level

5. Bonus chapters from other writers

6. Bonus PDF guides

  • How to create new habits
  • Quick-start decluttering guide
  • Focused email guide

Kobo eReader updated — much better!

Though it’s a great device, I’ve always been a little disappointed with my Kobo eReader. Sure, I got the cool black one, and it will let me read my ebooks, but the reading experience was never that polished. It’s almost as if the software running the eReader was unfinished.

Some of the things that annoyed me were:

  • strong flicker when changing pages
  • confusion over power light status (blue/red/purple — means what?)
  • confusion over charging process / status
  • battery life wasn’t as good as I thought
  • text size was not changeable  for some ePubs

But the key word above is are ‘annoyed’ – past tense.

Not Annoyed
Kobo’s released their latest firmware update, and it addresses many of my concerns. And after doing the update, this thing feels new. Snappy! To quote from their website:

What’s In the Upgrade

Everything that we talked about here, here, and here.

The highlights:

  • The ability to resize fonts for any ePub file, no matter where it comes from.
  • Improved battery management
  • The ability to hide/show the preloaded free classics
  • Charging lights that make sense (red/violet when charging, blue when finished)

The Upgrade Process
Initially the upgrade was available to people who signed up to an ‘early access‘ program — ostensibly to help manage the rollout of the upgrade and catch any bugs that may still be in the code.

Then, after a period of time, the update was enabled for everyone.

Here’s how the upgrade works:

  1. Launch your Kobo desktop software on your computer.
  2. Connect your Kobo eReader to your computer.
  3. When prompted, download and install the updated Kobo desktop software.
  4. Restart the Kobo desktop software, and reconnect your Kobo eReader.
  5. Follow the prompts as the Kobo desktop software recognizes that your eReader hasn’t been updated yet.

It’s really that simple. You may have to repeat steps 1 and 2 a couple of times as it seems that the Kobo desktop software doesn’t always ‘phone home’ to see if there’s an update.

Oh, and you will need a paper clip (to hit the recessed reset button) and a bit of manual dexterity as you have to push 2 buttons and the middle of the Navigation Pad all at the same time to set the unit into update mode.

The firmware it didn’t ship with
Kudos to Kobo development staff for listening to customer concerns and getting this update out. While I’m glad to see this firmware release fix these issues, it’s unfortunate that the Kobo eReader didn’t ship with this version initially.

But hey, it’s out now and it works well. Time to read another book!

Not iBooks. eBooks!

eBooks are going to be bigger than ever in the coming months, especially since Apple’s recently announced its iBooks ebook store. It’s pure speculation on my part, but I’m thinking that in the coming months with the launch of the iPad, iBooks will also be available for the iPhone and iPod touch… …more



This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techblog. Check out the full post here.