The iPad launch caught me scrutinizing it from the perspective of an e- reader. I have an iPhone, I have a laptop, I have a desktop, I have not yet purchased an e-reader. Is the iPad just a big iPhone? Or is it a netbook without a keyboard? Like the iPhone, there is no flash support, no multitasking, no SD card slot, no e-ink and additionally no HDMI, no USB,  no camera, no 16:9 video support and oddly no way to hold the darn thing up on a table! But okay, it’s generation 1 let’s give it a break (I’ll even give the ridiculous name a break, women did any of you NOT go there?).

At some point we have all wanted our iPhones to have a little larger format, no? So for now I’ll just consider it a big ol’ expensive iPhone without calling or camera capability. Somebody wants that, right Apple?

My problem is with LCD and LED backlighting for reading on all of these multi-ability devices. The nice thing about e-ink is that it is easy on the eyes for reading at extended intervals. Why the e-book market does not take that information and use it in their marketing is a mystery to me.  How many of us enjoy reading a backlit display for hours? Not me. Granted, it would be nice to have the addition of color for my reading pleasure and it would be especially desirable in the textbook market but the iPad solution is still backlit and is rather expensive for a student considering they still need to purchase a laptop for classwork. I’m just not getting it and I am devoted to my Apple products (even with the AT&T service on my iPhone…Verizon where are you already!).

In actuality the iPad has no market with me (who is their demographic on this one anyway?). Frankly, I am waiting for Qualcomm’s Mirasol technology . It has no backlighting, it has video support and color. It’s a reflective technology which means it uses the light in the area which also means it has less need for battery power. I believe there is hope for me in the e-book world yet, just not now.

In the meantime I squint at my iPhone for electronic books and I remain faithful to the still-not-antiquated paper book.

Picture Credit

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Wolfram AlphaThere has been a bit of hype recently about a new search engine called Wolfram Alpha. I know you are wondering why anyone cares about a new search engine by now we all have our standby favorites that we are used to and don’t want to take the time to learn another when the one you use suits you fine. Well, skeptical (or shall I say cynical) audience, this one is different.

As you undoubtedly know Google and it’s competing counterparts will give you a list of links as your results from a search. The Telegraph puts it nicely when they say : “Unlike Google, which searches the entire web for the keywords contained within a search query and then returns thousands of relevant web pages, Wolfram Alpha aims to understand the question and return the correct answer by mining its vast database of information and statistics”. Wolfram Alpha will return to you a single page result with all of the quantifiable data available. For example if I put in the name of the college I work for I will get: Basic Information (including the website address), the location on a map of North America, enrollment information, number and type of annual degrees awarded, as well as the fields that the degrees are awarded in. All quick quantifiable data and no more. Search your name and you will probably get nothing; search Steve Jobs name and you will get his birthday and place of birth (if you are well known enough you are somewhat quantifiable).

The upshot is that Wolfram alpha is not for those who are looking for general information but can be spot on when the searcher is looking for statistics or basic data on a noun (except maybe Disneyland, I put that in and got nothing). It is an interesting site to search you either get spot on great info, an epic fail or nothing at all. Granted it has Alpha in the name for a reason and it will be fun to see where they take it.

Picture Credit (and another good article)

teachLately I have been spending many hours at work creating tutorials. for our students that will be embedded into our new library website when it launches in the summer. I am beginning with the software called Camtasia by Techsmith. It is a relatively straight forward program that can get very complicated if you’d like it to be. For example, one of my goals is to attach tests to the tutorials that can be embedded in the online classes so that the students can go through the modules and take the tests for class credit. I am looking forward to adding these layers of complexity as well as additional multimedia.

As I create the tutorials I find myself migrating back to all of the repositories we have for academic library tutorials such as: ANTS , PRIMO and LOEX but also to those who make tutorials that just work like Common Craft’s Plain English series  or other personal favorites like this one on You_Tube that I find myself using when I teach class. Some of my other out of the box favorites are The Library Minute from ASU  recent finds and fav’s are Dupauw’s spoof on the Apple commercial,  I love the quick and easy message they convey.

Then there are those in our repositories that I could never recommend. I am so tired of seeing the word doc tutorial, who reads those? or the 10 minute video tutorial, does anyone really stick around that long these days?. What makes me truly annoyed is the lack of closed captioning. I just think it is wrong to leave the hearing impaired out of the screencast tutorial loop.

As we all scramble to help our distance learners and to reach those that can’t make it to the library I believe we should be doing better than just good enough. I know that I am looking forward to the advancement of my own tutorials and I hope to see more innovation coming from my colleagues soon.

Picture Credit

First thing this morning (I am on the West Coast) I check for the exciting new Kindle 2 announcement. Surely they have given a new twist and price that will move it into a new market! Meh. Nope. Little upgrades and no price change. Sigh. What you now get is:

–    A changed and still unremarkable industrial design
–    The same 80’s color (reminiscent of my/the first hand held Nintendo video game)
–    More storage capacity
–    More battery life
–    The incomprehensibly unchanged price of $359
–    A tenth of an ounce lighter (no, really)
–    4x’s more grayscale color.
–    It is skinnier by .36 inches.
–    A text-to-speech reader (which, if any good, is in my opinion the most significant change)
–    The standard features from Kindle 1 have not been dropped you can still buy your books online, bookmark passages and so on.

There is talk of a new feature yet to come called “whispersync” that will allow the Kindle user to sync with another Kindle (assuming you actually own two or know someone else with one. Do you know anybody who owns even one yet?). Interestingly the whispersync should also allow you to sync with mobile devices, ahhh now we’re talkin’. Sync with my iPhone and we might be closer to doing business.

Standing back and looking at the new big picture. Do we get more value for our money? Yes. Is it enough to make me find the money? No. My business is online services for a library if you can’t sell me I don’t know how you sell anyone but the traveling business consumer and the lucky few techy bibliophiles that have too much money. I admit the Kindle has the best business model out there but you’re killing me Amazon, you really are.

For a more detailed and admittedly more positive spin I would suggest taking a look at the review from Fast Company who actually got their paws on the Kindle 2.

In another world I would love it if  Amazon would take a page from the yet unseen Readius.

The rumors are swarming (if not leaked) that the new Kindle will be somewhat improved and cheaper   . So we wait for the February 9th announcement with baited breath. In the meantime there is a new reader called an eSlick by Foxit Software throwing it’s little hat in the ring. It claims that it will be cheaper than either the Kindle or the Sony reader (both of which have priced me out of the ebook market) however cheap to Foxit, at this point, means $230..ehh hem, for what?

From what I can tell the eSlick is utilitarian in both form and function. It is not particularly good looking, it has no wifi, it simply views (actually that would be “converts”, yeah an extra step) pdf , TXT and plays MP3 files. Atleast Sony and Amazon give you easy access to a (expensive) bookstore to download your books from. I want to be optimistic I really do but it seems to me that these business models are wrong. Why are these dag blasted things so expensive at every turn? Certainly the cost of production is rather low, we are familiar with the parts. I say suck me in with a lower cost for the reader itself…say $100…and I’ll pay a price for ebooks. Not that I understand the rationale behind the price of the ebook either. As it is, in this economy, I find myself buying paperbacks instead of hardbacks and using my public library with increased frequency and I am certain that I am not alone. Just look at the hardback collection at Costco, it has been dwarfed by the paperbacks, they cater to what people will buy. An ebook is far less involved than a paper book in terms of production and I am to buy it for near the hardback price! Phooey.

I want to evangelize the joys of the ebook, I really do, but for now I sit on my wallet and wince in the Sony-Kindle-eSlick (yeah I’ll add the iRex iLiad for the purists but please, $700? It was dead in the water before it began) direction. Sigh.

As disappointed as I am with AT&T’s service I have to say that I am heavily involved with my iPhone. No matter how intelligent and good looking the Palm Pre ends up being I just don’t think my little Mac heart can be swooned to another.

That said I was excited to hear last week that the brilliant folks at DCPL Lab Projects had come out with an iPhone app for their library catalog. It is admittedly a basic program and they want input for improvement but the point is they have done what I believe no one else has done before. I know my library is already watching with much interest. Bravo!

Presenters Darlene Fichter and Frank Cervone

Vischeck
– “Allows the user to see the world as color blind people see it. Checks by images and urls”. It works more quickly if you download the app. It allows us to see the different kinds of color blindness (sadly, I didn’t know there was more than one kind).

Thumbalizr
–    Takes an image and creates a thumbnail for you. Can process webpages and see what they would look like as thumbnails.

ImageFlow
–    Looks like cover flow on apple. Can embed on web page. Can do the same thing with images on your web page. It’s good for time sequence of images. It can zoom in and move out too

Widgenie
–    Charts and graphs and more visual types of images. “Take your data and transform it into visual information that can be shared with anyone, anywhere” Can connect to google docs, you generate, it gives you code and you can throw it in without uploading.

FreeSoundProject

–    free sounds site.  “The Freesound Project is a collaborative database of CreativeCommons licensed sounds. Freesound focuses only on sound, not songs.”

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