Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Microsoft Surfaces

I saw this on It's All Good and wanted to share it with you. As George from OCLC said, it's a "touch screen on steroids." I was pretty amazed by what I saw. I'm not sure how well this is developed at this point, but it will be convergence of a lot of different technologies when/if it comes together. Essentially it's a computer within a coffee table that you can touch to find information, download pictures, or order items. You can also place physical objects on it. For example a user could place a digital camera on the screen. Instead of working through software to download the pictures, they appeared instantly with no work on the part of the user.

Check it out

I can think of some library uses already. Customers could place a book on the screen and get reader's advisory. They could pay library fines, find out more about the library or even the community. I'm sure there are other uses for it as well.

Friday, May 11, 2007

adding feeds to your blog or google page creator web page

Another way of using feeds is to have them show up on your blog or web page. If you look at the right hand navigation bar for this blog, you'll see that I have feeds from 3 blogs showing up on my blog. This is one of the features available in the new blogger. You go into the Template and choose Add a Page Element. From the popup box, click on Add to Blog under Feed. You then copy and paste the URL for the feed you want to subscribe to in box marked Feed URL. The feed for this blog is:

Then click continue. If your Feed URL was correct, you should see a new box with the title of the blog, the most recent postings and a box where you can select how many items you want to appear on your blog. I chose 3 because I have several feeds on this blog. Be sure to click Save Changes and you've added a feed to your blog. If you've got a Reader's Advisory blog, you'd probably want to add an MSC feed for your new books. You might also want to add a feed to NY Times book reviews. Here's a list of all the NY Times RSS feeds.

Google Page Creator also makes it easy to add RSS feeds to your site. Open the page where you want to add a feed. Choose where you want to add it on the page - usually a side bar is best - and click on Add Gadget at the bottom right hand corner. BTW, there are lots of other interesting gadgets that can be added as well.

using rss feeds

Now that the Montana Shared Catalog is going to be offering RSS feeds to notify patrons of new resources, it's probably time to take a look at RSS feeds and how to use them.

If you just want to be able to read the latest from one of your favorite news sources or blogs, you can subscribe to a feed using a feed aggregator.
  • Bloglines - one of the most popular web-based aggregator. You can set up a free account and access your news from anywhere via the web.
  • Google Reader - Google's answer to Bloglines. Both of these are social software so others can see what feeds you're reading.
Personally, I decided some time ago that I wasn't about to go anywhere else for news updates. I want my news to come to me. So I use Google's homepage (now know as iGoogle). I can subscribe to anything I want and it will come up in my homepage. I just click on the little orange icon in the address box, a new page comes up with a box where I can select the reader I want to use

Here you can select Live Bookmarks (a Firefox feature), Bloglines, My Yahoo (similar to iGoogle) or Google Reader.

If you select Google Reader, the next screen will give you a choice between Add to Google homepage or Add to Google Reader.

It really is that simple.

iGoogle also gives you the option of setting up multiple tabs for different pages for your feeds. So you can have news feeds on one page, sports on another, tech stuff and so on.

Here is what my libraries page looks like.

This makes it really easy to keep track of recent postings from a lot of different blogs. If none of the titles interest me, I can just ignore them. Only the three most recent appear on the page. They are eventually replaced by newer posts.

If I find one that's interesting, I click on it and read the whole post. I've used RSS feeds to replace some of the email lists I used to subscribe to but rarely read. This way I can read it if it interests me. If not, it's not cluttering up my inbox.

librarian trading cards

I've come up with another fun time waster - librarian trading cards. Of course, your patrons will want to collect a complete set of your library staff.

You simply upload your favorite photo to Trading Card Maker where you can add your information and decide upon a look. This is my crazed reference librarian persona. "Let me help you with all your reference needs!"

Once you've created your trading card, you can download it to your computer, and print it. You can also upload it to your Flickr account and add it to the Librarian Trading Card group.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

free audiobooks

Some people have mentioned some websites where you can download audiobooks for free:
If anyone has tried out any of these sites and would like to comment on the quality of the offerings, please leave a comment so all of us can learn.

Also, if you run across any more sites offering free downloadable audiobooks, let me know, and I'll add them to the list.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

learning about digital audiobooks

I wanted to post here, Lauren's recommendation about an excellent resource for those who want to learn more about digital (and downloadable) audiobooks:

Hello Everyone

There is a very good discussion of digital audio books in libraries available from the OPAL archive of special events at . It’s the third event listed – a Library U Live workshop titled *Day of the Digital Audio Book,* aired in February last year. You can view the recorded webcasts - three sessions which run about an hour each, or just review the presentation slides. The full workshop covers just about everything having to do with downloadable audiobooks – including hardware, software, vendors, service considerations and lots of other Q & A. This is good information both for librarians who need to know the basics, as well as for committee members working on a pilot project. If you have a serious interest in e-audiobooks, check it out.


Friday, May 4, 2007

mp3 players for downloadable audiobooks

If you're looking for players that can be used with OverDrive and/or NetLibrary, I think OverDrive requires a bit more caution because the players have to be able to work with the OverDrive console. I'd thought that I read a while back that if a player was Plays for Sure compatible, it would work with OverDrive. Now they claim that's not always true. Sigh...

But they do have a list on their website of compatible

and incompatible devices

It looks to me like NetLibrary should work with any MP3 players that play WMA (Windows Media copy-protected files).

But they do have a very helpful list of tested players - pdf file.

I did a little browsing on the internet and came up with a list of possibilities that met my criteria:
  1. Had at least 1GB of flash memory
  2. Used replaceable batteries instead of internal rechargeables - I really don't think libraries want to deal with recharging batteries. Do you check out the cords and adapters along with the devices? No thanks.
  3. Worked with WMA copy protection.
This was the list of possibilities I came up with. I looked up prices on Amazon to get an idea of what they would cost. You can probably find them cheaper elsewhere.
  • Creative Zen Nano Plus 1 GB - $49.99

  • Creative Muvo V100 1GB - $39.99

  • Creative Muvo V100 2GB - $66.34

  • iriver T30 1GB - $109.45

  • iriver T10 1GB - $83.98

    There is a note on the OverDrive Device Resource Center page that the iriver players require a firmware update. I don't know whether or not this would resolve Robert's complaint in the comments. I suspect that the T series is being phased out because they are not currently offered for sale on the iriver website aside from refurbished models.

  • SanDisk Sansa c140 1GB - $69.98 - listed as compatible with OverDrive

  • SanDisk Sansa M240 1GB - $49.63

  • SanDisk Sansa M260 4GB - $154.92

  • SanDisk Sansa M250 2GB - $69.63

    Only the M230 is listed as compatible by OverDrive. That model has a 512 MB flash drive. The others in the M series would have to be tested.

  • Samsung YP-U2J 1GB - $45.83
For personal use, I'd be very interested in trying out Creative Zen Stone 1 GB - $39.99. But it's a rechargeable so I wouldn't recommend it for patron check out.

At any rate, I'd try to look at the device and try it out before I committed to buying several for my library to check out. If you hate it and can't use it, you can't expect your patrons to embrace it. One caveat, most of these are small with very small screens and controls.

For my own use, I prefer the slightly more upscale devices better. I find them easier to use. But most of these come up with internal rechargeable batteries. I haven't found any with bookmarking capabilities.

competing audio formats

There are a number of different file types wandering around here under the general guise of MP3 files.

  • MP3 is the generic term used for audio files transmitted over the internet. MP3 files will play on computers and any MP3 player - iPods and others.

  • AAC is a copy protection format used by Apple. Reportedly it offers more compression and better sound quality than MP3. iTunes music is sold in AAC format and will play on computers with iTunes software and iPods. AAC files will not play on non-iPod MP3 players unless you crack the coding.

  • WMA is the Windows equivalent to AAC. It will play on computers with Windows Media Player and other audio software and non-iPod MP3 players like Creative, SanDisk, etc. You can buy music from Napster, MusicMatch, Walmart, etc. that will play on these players.
There are also some competing formats out there from companies trying to promote their own digital rights management options. For the time being, I'd steer clear of Microsoft Zune and Sony MP3 players if you are looking at downloading audiobooks and/or if you want to buy music from stores other than Zune and Sony. Sony, for example, says that their MP3 players will play WMA(non-DRM) and AAC(non-DRM). That won't work for anything downloaded from music stores on the internet.