Friday, June 1, 2012

So you've got a technology petting zoo, now what?

If you're one of the BTOP libraries that just received a TPZ, I'm sure you're aware of the training sessions Jennifer Birnel has planned.

  • Chouteau County Library, Fort Benton - Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm 
  • Sheridan County Library, Plentywood - Monday, June 18, 2012 – from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm 
  • MSUB- College of Technology, Billings – Tuesday, June 19, 2012– from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm 
  • Lewis and Clark Public Library, Helena - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - from 1:00 to 5:00 pm 
  • Missoula Public Library – Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm 
  • Flathead County Library, Kalispell – Thursday June 28, 2012 - from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm

For those of you who might not be able to attend a workshop and/or you're just eager to get started playing with and becoming familiar with these devices, I thought I'd offer some recommendations for apps and content.

Kindle with keyboard

Most people who are interested in e-ink e-readers want to use them to read.  So, you're going to want to focus on content.  If your library is a member of Montana Library 2 Go, I'd certainly practice choosing and downloading content to the device.  You might also want to try Project Gutenberg for open source content. You might even want to purchase a few titles from Amazon if that will provide you or staff members with a greater incentive to actually use it to read some books.  That's how you learn what you like and don't like and whether or not you can recommend it is by actually using it.

People will want to hold it and see how comfortable it is to hold, how readable the typeface is, how to change the font size....  Some people want to highlight text and make notes so that's something else to practice. You'll also want to try to get comfortable with navigation.  How easy is it to get back to the table of contents or to the home screen and another title?

A couple more formats and types of content to consider - PDFs and magazines and newspapers.  Many students are interested in e-readers as PDF readers so it's a good idea to try out some PDF documents on each of the TPZ devices to see how easy they are to read, highlight, take notes on, etc.  I believe the easiest way to get a PDF document onto an Amazon Kindle is to email it to yourself using the email address Amazon has assigned to the device.  Amazon offers free trial subscriptions to a wide range of newspapers and magazines.  I'd recommend taking advantage of a couple of them to get some sample newspaper and magazine content to try out on your various Kindle devices.  You'll see a big difference between the Kindle Keyboard and Kindle Fire in how magazines and newspapers are handled.

There are also a few games available for the Kindle e-ink e-readers.  The gaming experience on an e-ink device is not really comparable to any of the others in the TPZ collection but if you've got people who are interested particularly in word games, it might be worth checking out.

Kindle Fire

The same basic advice hold for the Fire as the basic Kindle - be sure to put some different kinds of content on it so you can see the difference between how it looks and reads on the two devices.  And you probably should try to read an entire book on the Fire to compare the experience vs. the Kindle Keyboard.  Try it with Montana Library 2 Go content.  I suggest treating it just like any Kindle.  It will cause you a lot less stress.  Some additional types of book content to consider buying - children's books and graphic novels.  Neither of these works on the Kindle Keyboard.  But for those who are interested in these types of materials, it's interesting to compare them across the rest of the TPZ devices.

PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit is a really cute example of an interactive children's book that is available on multiple platforms including the Amazon app store.

With the Kindle Fire, you are entering the world of tablets and apps, albeit a fairly restricted Amazon world.  Keep in mind that what Amazon really wants to do with their Kindle devices is sell Amazon content so the device works particularly well with Amazon content.  You can easily stream Amazon video content, MP3s, etc.  But you can also download free apps for Netflix and HuluPlus and other services.  But don't expect it to work with Google content or apps. You may also want to open it up and try working with non-Amazon app store content.  Many of your patrons will no doubt have already gone this route but I wouldn't advise trying to train the public on this.

Some other ideas for apps: ESPN ScoreCenter for sports scores and information.  There are a number of free weather apps including one of my favorites from the Weather Channel.  A good productivity app is QuickOffice.  Adobe Reader is a good app to use to read PDF documents.  There are also common music apps like Pandora.  Some if not all of these come preloaded onto the Kindle Fire.  As these are also available on other platforms, they can be interesting to try out on larger tablets like the iPad as well as the Nook for appearance, usability and speed.  There are also a lot of games available for the Kindle Fire.  This is a much better gaming platform than the Kindle Keyboard so you might want to try out a few.  The Amazon Kindle store offers a free app a day.  It's worth keeping an eye on what's being offered, you can't beat free.

Nook Tablet

Once again, be sure you try it out with Montana Library 2 Go and various types of e-content, free public domain, children's books, graphic novels.  Barnes & Noble has made some children's books and other content available as samples.  Go ahead and take advantage of the freebies.  B&N also offers free sample subscriptions to newspapers and magazines so try out a few and see how you like them on the Nook.

Nook has its own app store and content.  They too would prefer you buy your content from them.  Much of the same advice for apps holds for the Nook as for the Kindle Fire.  The same app should look pretty much the same on both devices as they're both Android based but you might see slight performance differences particularly among games.  


It's certainly worth looking at and comparing the iPad as an e-reader device.  I'd suggest downloading all of the e-reader apps from the app store - iBooks, Kindle, Nook, Google Play Books, Overdrive Media Console, Adobe Reader.  You should be able to read any of the e-book content you've purchased from Amazon or Barnes & Noble on the iPad app from that company.  

You'll probably find that some of the magazine and newspaper content you subscribed to on Kindle and Nook won't show up on the iPad.  I suspect these are publisher restrictions.  There are often sample issues available of magazines in the iBookstore.  It's probably even worth paying for a few single issues of magazines like National Geographic just to see how beautifully they render on the iPad.  National Geographic often includes audio and video content as well as interactive elements.  It's stunning!  I've also subscribed to The Economist on just about every e-reader platform and much prefer the reading experience of the iPad app.  Many of these will show up in the Newsstand, but not all.  The Billings Gazette has an iPad app that does not.  One warning about newspapers and magazines available as apps via Newsstand is that often they say they're free.  The apps are but the content isn't.  You generally have to pay for single issues or subscriptions.  I do subscribe to the NY Times via the iPad app.  It's probably more like a subscription to the website than to specific issues from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  But it is a very nicely designed app, easily navigable and includes enhanced content not available in other e-reader formats.

DC and Marvel both make comic book apps.  There is some free content available that should allow you to compare with Kindle and Nook.  More e-book apps to consider are some interactive ones for kids.  My favorite is The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore.  Choose the iPad app for $4.99 instead of the movie.  You get the movie as part of the app but you also get a wonderful interactive e-book.  Poetry from the Poetry Foundation is a fun app that allows you to search for poetry by subject matter.

Reading Rainbow  - A brand new app based on the tv series.  The app itself is free but it's built on a subscription model of $9.99/month or $29.99/6 months.  With a subscription a child can have access to a wide variety of books.  You can choose to read by yourself or have the book read to you.  Most books also include an interactive component.  There are also videos and game and sticker elements.  I'm not sure how a library could use it but I think parents would love it.

Don't forget the library-specific apps.  You'll certainly want to get some experience with and be able to show off some of the apps for your library services: e.g., BookMyne for MSC libraries, OverDrive for mtlib2go libraries, as well as  EBSCOHost, and for all Montana libraries. There are others that your library may subscribe to: Mango Languages Library Edition and Freegal Music to name just two.  Most of these are actually iPhone apps so they don't look that great on the iPad buy you should be familiar with them.  They should also work on Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet but may not be available via the Amazon or Nook app stores. I'll leave it to you to figure out how to get them and load them onto other devices.

You'll find a wide variety of apps available in the iTunes app store, so many that it makes it really difficult to make recommendations.  Most of them have a cost, sometimes fairly substantial.  The weather and sports apps you're using on Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are also available for iPad.  But some additional genres to consider are cookbooks, photography collections, and photo and video editing.  The new iPad has a pretty good camera so you can take photos and videos and edit them right on the device.  There are also a number of music apps.  GarageBand is fun because it allows you to make music and record it to the iPad.  There are also dj apps available.  

It's probably not really fair to attempt to compare the iPad to more limited e-reader tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet.  iPad is after all more than twice as expensive for the latest version and it's more of a computer than a content consumption device.  There are also a number of productivity apps available that allow you to create and edit documents and share them with Macs and PCs.  I bought Pages but rarely use it.  I don't particularly like to write on the iPad.  But I find I use Keynote a lot.  The iPad has become my presentation device.  It will convert presentations from Microsoft PowerPoint to Keynote quickly and easily.  I use Dropbox to transfer files but you could use any cloud service - Google, Amazon, iCloud.

Hopefully, this will get you started.  Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for some of your favorites.