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“Which ebook app should I buy for my iPad?”
I was recently asked to recommend an ebook reader app for a new iPad owner. At first this seems like a difficult choice: are the features of the iPad’s own iBooks that much better than those of the Kindle or Nook apps? Are there less well-known apps that have features not available in the others? I decided there was only one sensible choice: get them all!
Though ebooks have been available for four decades, and dedicated ereader devices for at least half that time, this new form of books and readers continues to evolve. A 2002 article in The Guardian traced the history of ebooks from the development from Michael Hart’s “Project Gutenberg” begun in 1971 through various developments in both books and reading devices, concluding with a quote from Time-Warner that “the market for ebooks has simply not developed the way we hoped.”
So much for prescience. Ten years later we have a cornocopia of ebooks, ereaders, reading apps, and publishers vying to create “the next big thing.”
Meanwhile, here are the apps I have on my iPad now. You can find them all in the iPad Apps store. No doubt there will be more to come:
With the iPad’s built-in ebook reader, iBooks, you can purchase and read books direct from Apple, or upload your own ebooks and pdf files. PDF files can be resized as you are reading, to zoom into or out of specific areas on the page. This reader provides 8 font sizes, 7 different font types, a sepia or white background, brightness adjustment, search function and a built-in dictionary. As with other apps, tapping on the edge of any page will turn the page forward or backward, while tapping in the middle of the screen brings up menus and options. Like the Kindle, you can highlight and add notes but iBook goes one better: you can also select and copy text to paste into other apps like Pages. You can even email all your notes to yourself or others.
Buying books is as easy as tapping the Store button, then selecting from free or pay books. The free collection is sizeable, including the usual classics as well as a selection of more recent works. iBooks is updated frequently, so more features will no doubt be added. The FAQ/support page is particularly useful.
I had a Kindle device before the iPad so I had already purchased many books in this format. I still do because of the selection and because I can sync all my Kindle books across the Kindle, the iPad, and my laptop to read them on any of those devices. It will keep track of where I am in the book so that when I move from one device to another I can pick it up wherever I left off. The Kindle app lets you choose from among 6 font sizes, 3 background colors (white, black, sepia) and one- or two-column format. As with the Kindle device, you will see your location in the book by percentage and by page number. However, this page numbering is dependent on the size font you are using, i.e. if you change to a larger or smaller font, the total page numbers, thus your current page number, will change. You can search, look up words in the built-in dictionary, add bookmarks, add notes, highlight and even see the most popular highlights created by others. Your notes and highlights remain in the book, i.e. you cannot copy and paste them elsewhere. Details on these and other features can be found on the Kindle app page.
Like the others, Nook has a choice of font sizes (5), font type (5), and colors (5 themes). The themes include “Earl Grey” that closely approximates the eInk reading experience you would get on a dedicated device. In addition, it allows you to set the line spacing (keep the font size the same but add more space between lines), the margin size (4 choices), and even has a Full Justification switch so you can read with a ragged or straight right margin. The built-in dictionary is similar to iBooks’ and Kindle’s while the bookmarks and highlights are, like the Kindle, limited to use in the Nook app itself. So, while the reading experience is good on the Nook app, the lack of a copy feature and its inability to import your own content–ebooks or pdfs, is definitely a limitation.
The Kobo device, most recently the Kobo eReader Touch, is one of the big four, Kindle, Nook and the SONY Reader being the other three. Kobo app has features similar to the other readers (4 fonts, brightness, sepia background), more free books, pay books, and the ability to connect to the Instapaper service which allows you to capture and save web pages for later reading. You can highlight and annotate, and send those annotations by email or to Facebook. In fact, here is where Kobo is staking its claim: It has a friends feature that lets you share information about your library and reading with your Facebook friends or Twitter followers (not share the actual books–just share the list of what you are reading, along with the ability to send notes from inside Kobo or share a passage). It can also keep stats on your total time reading, average hours per book, minutes per book page or magazine page, etc. Kobo, the device, along with Nook, are configured to allow for borrowing books from public libraries. The app does not yet have that feature but I expect it will at some point. (For now, if you want to borrow ebooks from your local libary, check out Overdrive, described below.) Like the Kindle and Nook your books are stored in Kobo’s cloud, so you have access to all your books from multiple devices. Kobo also adds one handy feature that the others don’t yet have: multi-touch gestures. Two finger swiping from side to side will jump you to the next chapter; two finger up and down will take you to the beginning or end of the current chapter.
Before the ereader device idea was, dare I say it, rekindled, Stanza existed as a PC or Mac application to read and create ebooks in multiple formats. It is designed to make it easy to share books across the iPad, iPhone, or iPod devices. The iPad app takes advantage of Stanza’s established history by making it easy to tap into several book sources, both free and pay. For example, it will connect directly to Project Gutenberg books (33,000 books and counting–all free), as well as Feedbooks (more free books, newspapers and original content), Munseys (pulp fiction), Harlequin, Fictionwise, Books On Board, BookGlutton, Smashwords, and even sheet music from Mutopia.
Stanza is strongest in the area of reading a variety of legacy ebook or digital formats like Mobipocket, PalmDoc (DOC), along with HTML, PDF, Microsoft Word and Rich Text Format (RTF). It also has connectivity to Twitter and Facebook. Perhaps the most interesting feature is its ability, in conjunction with the ebook editing and management software Calibre, to access ebooks you store in DropBox.
Yes, you can access thousands of free books at the Google Books site through a web browser, but the dedicated app gives you a more “ereaderly” experience. 2 colors, 7 fonts, multiple font sizes and 3 line height choices put it on par with thge other apps. The Google bookstore includes pay and free books, though you have to dig a bit for the free ones. You can choose Flowing Text for books whose font size you can adjust, or Scanned Pages to zoom in and out of pdf file’s pages. Biggest drawback: the books are stored at Google and downloaded on the fly, so if you are not online you will not have access to them.
Another old timer. Also has a large collection of free books, the usual easy navigation, table of contents, bookmarks, etc.
This reader reads books and pdfs but is especially designed to read comics or books with right to left paging direction. If you download the neu.notes application it can also act as a pdf markup app. It does a beautiful job of rendering asian languages.
Borrowing Books from Your Local Library
Library’s have been loaning ebooks to computer users for some time now. OverDrive, a company that has been managing these types of services since 2002, now has an iPad app, Overdrive Media Console. With the app you can connect to your local library or library consortium (for example, in Vermont you add your local library to the app but once you log in it actually connects to the Green Mountain Library Consortium).
You will need the app, an Adobe.com (free) account, and your library card number. Once in, you can borrow up to 3 books at a time for 14 days (or whatever time period your library has set). At the end of that time the book will automatically go back into circulation. Like a physical library there are limited copies available–once a book is checked out it is unavailable to others–so you may have to put your name on a waiting list for popular books, but it is still a delightful approach for those books that you want to read but not necessarily own.
Although Bluefire is an app for accessing several bookstores, I’ve included it here because you can use it to read Adobe eBook library loan books. The bookstores include Books-A-Million, BooksOnBoard, Feedbooks as well as BookRepublic for ebooks in italian, and Todoebook for books in spanish. The library loan feature works through iTunes and your computer’s web browser, as described here. For some books you can use the iPads web browser to go directly to the library’s web site, borrow and download a book, then get the option to open the book directly in Bluefire (or several of your other ebook readers).
By the way, if you are a Vermonter you can go directly to the ebook library from your computer by going to http://www.listenupvermont.org. The site has information and links to the software you will need to download the ebooks direct to your PC or Mac, no iPad needed. Other states probably have similar sites–check with your local library.
The Textbook Readers
Textbook companies are eager to capitalize on the ebook craze. eBook textbooks can offer additional features over paper-based books. Features like increased numbers of high-quality illustrations, animations, audio, video, built-in study applications, social networking features, etc. They even offer a solution to the “problem” of used books as every sale of an ebook can be a new sale, generating revenue for the company. Publishers are still shaking out how they will offer ebooks. Right now they are deciding whether to offer books in a standardized format or offer an ereader specifically tailored to their books (and their books alone). Another experiment is to offer lifelong access to a textbook. Nature Publishing Group, publishers of many scientific journals, is experimenting with this model with its “Principles of Biology,” promising that the book will be updated from year to year to reflect the latest research. These developments are particularly interesting in light of the new legislation regarding accessibility of educational materials in conformance with Universal Design principles. Another feature that etextbooks can offer is a way to purchase single chapters instead of whole books, or a way to combine specific sections of a book into a customized coursepack.
At the moment I only have three textbook-specific readers installed, and only sample books to view. I have not bought any full textbooks. These include: Inkling (Apple’s iPad designed format), which features pop-up definitions, images, highlights, notes, history of what you’ve read; Kno, whose catalog contains textbooks, Kaplan self-help books and O’Reilly technical books and has some built-in social networking links that allow you to share messages with friends on Facebook or Twitter while reading, as an attempt to encourage group studying; and Bookshelf by VitalSource, though I actually have not yet experimented with this one.
Books as Apps
What do T.S. Eliot, Peter Rabbit, and Al Gore have in common? Dedicated reading devices, and now their branded reader apps, are built on the model of offering ebook editions of existing print-based books. Yet digital technologies offer an opportunity to expand our conception and definition of the book. The idea of “born digital” works is not new: Apple’s hypercard (1987), Eastgate Systems’ StorySpace (also 1987), even the web itself, offer ways to create books that include animation, hypertext, audio, video and interconnectedness. The three examples mentioned, designed not to be read in an ereader app but built as standalone apps themselves, explore some of those possibilities.
Children’s books, like the Loudcrow Interactives edition of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, reimagine a pop-up version of the book and include “read it aloud” audio features. Building on his work on global climate change, Al Gore’s Our Choice (Push Pop Press) combines photography, in depth and interactive graphics, even documentary footage all wrapped in the narrative framework. Even more recently, Touch Press, already lauded for its Periodic Table app, The Elements, has published an iPad version of T. S. Eliot’s poem The Wasteland. The edition contains digital facsimiles of the manuscripts as Eliot developed them over time, perspectives and notes, audio recordings of several readings aligned with the text (one by Eliot himself), even a video performance.
So, your next favorite iPad ereader app may not be a reader at all but an ebook itself. Do you have a favorite reader or book/app? Have you discovered an interesting feature not described in one of the apps listed above? Let us know.
- Hope Greenberg, University of Vermont
If you have a new iPad 2 you may wonder what all the fuss was about. Now built into the device is the ability to project whatever is on the iPad screen, no special apps needed. Together with the built-in camera, this newer iPad is fast approaching the point where it might replace your laptop. Not quite yet, but it’s certainly easier to carry around.
Tip for today: need a screenshot of what’s on your iPad? Hold the “Home” key down while you press the power button. After a white flash you will find your screen shot in the Photos app. Connect to your computer to send it to iPhoto.
How do you use your iPad with a projector? For example, how do you project a slide show, make annotations, and display what you type on a screen? Are there other apps that allow for other interesting classroom activities?
You have an iPad, a vga cable, and a projector. Plug it all in and what happens? Not much. You will not be able to see your iPad screen on a projector. That is, you can’t just plug it into a projector and have it display, or mirror, whatever you are seeing or doing on the iPad. Instead of building into the iPad the ability to mirror its display, the projection function is available only at the application level. What does that mean for you? You will need to look for apps that include “vga” support, and those apps will display only certain screens in the app. Fortunately, the number of apps that support vga is growing.
Let’s start with some simple ones. If you want to display a web page on a projector, Safari won’t do it. The options are to use a different browser or another app that includes web browsing capabilities. Both Atomic Web ($.99) and Perfect Web ($2.99) are web browsers like Safari. Perfect Web has several additional features that make it well worth the $2.99. Tabs, hand gestures, and the ability to act like different kinds of browsers so you can display a web page to its best advantage are a few. Try it and you may never go back to Safari again.
Several apps include the ability to browse the web among their other functions. For example, GoodReader and iAnnotate are primarily designed for you to download, read and annotate PDF files but include the ability to display web pages as well. More on those below.
For displaying slide shows? Keynote is Apple’s slide show creator, and it does what it does elegantly and simply. However, while you can create and display your slides with Keynote (or import your PowerPoint or PDF files to edit and display) you cannot annotate your slides while projecting a slideshow. There are other apps that can. After trying out several I find myself returning most often to 2Screens ($4.99). This app allows you to call up ppt, pdf, rtf, even docx files and draw or write annotations on them. You can open several documents, then tab back and forth between these documents and a blank whiteboard to write additional notes. Notice I say write and draw, not type. The annotations that you can create with 2Screens are those which you do with a stylus or finger. There is a note feature built in so you can type and store notes in your slideshow. However, these notes are only visible to you–they are not displayed.
Any drawbacks? The annotations made in 2Screens are not saved with the presentation, but you can save a screenshot of each slide with its annotations. Another thing that might take some practise to get used to is the way 2Screens displays your ppt slides. You can choose to have it automatically create thumbnails of all slides. These are displayed to you but not projected, making it fairly easy to skip from slide to slide. Or, you can move from slide to slide by vertically scrolling. The practise part is necessary because you are ‘finger scrolling’ and so need to line the slides up to the screen as you go. It’s not hard, just something to be aware of. So, by all means, create in Keynote, but display and annotate in 2Screens.
If you want to do typed annotations on a slide show the choices are more limited. Infonet Presenter ($9.99) is similar to 2Screens in that you can open ppt pdf files and annotate them. It also lets you open a variety of image and video files, even xls files. You can annotate with finger/stylus drawing but it adds the ability to type in a text box that you draw on the screen. You can collect a variety of files and images, place them in a folder that you then use for a presentation. This is particularly nice if the slideshow is composed of many images; no more having to mess about with PowerPoint, dragging dropping and resizing, when you simply want to display lots of images. Just drag them all into a Librry in Infonet Presenter and away you go. This is a somewhat different approach to presenting material and the app as a whole has some quirks. So, worth a look but may not be precisely what you need.
So how can you project text as you type it? Surprisingly, presentation apps are not the best choice. Instead, take a look at some of the note-taking apps that are available. Some now come with vga support. My favorite at the moment is Noterize ($3.99), but PaperDeskLT ($1.99) is also worth a look.
Like the other annotation apps, Noterize let’s you open a variety of file types (ppt, pdf, txt, images or even snapshots of web pages) and then draw or write on them. If you insert a new blank page you can type on that page, or you can annotate a page with a text box into which you can type. There are several fonts and font sizes available as well as a handful of colors. You can even turn on audio recording and attach that recording to your notes. These notes can be exported to Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter, Box.net, Dropbox, Email, or opened in any iPad apps that support “Open In” for these file types. To save a copy of the note with the audio intact, you save it as a pdf+audio file that will be transferred and accessible through iTunes.
PaperDeskLT is a similar product, simpler and less fully-featured than Noterize but contains the basics: text, drawing, audio that can be stored on the iPad or stored and synced with an account at paperdesk. It takes a slightly different approach to vga display: you need to create the notes as a “vga whiteboard” to display them, that is, when creating a new note you can choose the standard notebook or a vga whiteboard. You cannot simply display any notebook that you have created.
Other notable vga apps? Penultimate ($1.99), the handwriting and annotating app is a delight. No typing, but everything else works simply and smoothly. As mentioned above, iAnnotate ($9.99) and GoodReader ($2.99) both have vga display capabilities. Both are wonderful at storing and organizing your files. GoodReader annotations are particularly good because you can send the annotated files to yourself or others by email, with the annotations stored directly on them. Another plus is the way you get files into GoodReader. I find the apps that have to talk to iTunes are just annoying. GoodReader can access files by webdav, through a web browser, by email, etc. And, once the files are in GoodReader you can project them or a simple “Open in” command lets you open the files right in 2Screens for projecting and annotating. Fast. Easy.
And then there is AirSketch ($7.99). All of the apps mentioned above work with your projector by plugging your iPad into the projector itself. AirSketch takes a different approach. You connect a laptop to the projector, fire up a browser on the laptop (must be HTML5 compatible, like Firefox, Safari, Chrome), direct the browser to the address AirSketch tells you, then walk away from the laptop. You carry the iPad around the room and write on the iPad screen from wherever you are. What you write will be appear on the laptop screen and be projected from there. You can open pdf files, open ppt files that have been saved as pdf, or open images and annotate all those as well. Since the display is your laptop, you can even start a screencasting program on that laptop and capture what you are drawing or writing on your iPad as it is being displayed on the projector. The educational possibilities are obvious: project a piece of code, a formula, some grammatical errors or piece of writing, pass the iPad around and have students annotate what’s on the screen up front. Have students draw graphs on the iPad and project those. This one definitely deserves a look.
So, there’s a quick round up of some of the current vga enabled apps. If you are a UVMer and would like to see any of these in action just let me know. I’d be happy to show them to you (firstname.lastname@example.org). And for a little screencast of AirSketch in action, here you go: AirSketch
If you have been using Zotero, the bibliographic management plug-in for the Firefox browser, you may have wished for a standalone version that you can use offline as well as online. Just announceed today are two changes that will be most welcome:
1) Zotero will soon be available as a plug-in for Google Chrome, Apple Safari, and Microsoft Internet Explorer.
2) It will soon be available as a standalone program for Mac, Windows, and Linux.
They are also releasing their application programming interface (API) to developers so that they can “integrate a full range of Zotero features into their own web, mobile, and desktop applications.”
Full announcement at: http://www.zotero.org/blog/zoteros-next-big-step/
Will the iPad save or destroy education? Is it the device that will revolutionize scholarship or is it merely a gadget that differs from many others not by its potential but simply by its marketing? The cloud is already abuzz with posts on either side of these questions; some extravagant praises, others equally extravagant jeremiads.
One way to approach iPad use in education is to explore what can actually be done with it. At the first iPad for Scholars roundtable at the CTL we discussed several apps that are useful for scholars. These can be categorized as apps that are designed for:
- collecting, storing and reading ebooks
- Stanza – ebook reader (reads ePub and eReader books, not Kindle books). Links to a library, free and non-free books, free sheet music, can download books purchased from Fictionwise. Can share books from your Mac or Windows version of Stanza.
- Kindle – ebook reader. Syncs with your Kindle.
- Nook – Barnes&Noble’s ebook reader.
- FreeBooks, ePubBooks – more books!
- storing, reading, and annotating PDF files
- Goodreader – for reading all kinds of files, especially PDFs (it will re-flow text to fit page). Coming soon in version 3: PDF annotation.
- iAnnotate – “integrates its annotations directly into the PDF such that they will be available to any standard PDF readers like Adobe Reader or Preview. You can transfer PDFs via email, iTunes sync or even clicking any PDF web link in the integrated web browser.”
- creating documents, notes or other content, either through hand writing, typing, or dictating
- accessing and editing documents that exist in other places (ex: Google Docs, docs on other local devices)
- DocsToGo – open, read, and edit .doc, .ppt. .xls files; access these files on your iPad, from Google Docs or other online services, or from a folder on your Mac.
- SharePlusLite – connect to your Sharepoint sites
- WordPress – access and edit your blog from your iPad (that’s how I wrote this!). WordPress is the new UVM blog tool for public blogging. Check it out at http://blog.uvm.edu
- browsing the web or accessing content
- Instapaper – save web pages for later offline reading
- Atomic Web – an alternative to Safari
- NYTimes – Editor’s Choice is the free iPad app (news, business, technology, opinions, arts, features, videos). Other sections available as iPhone/Touch app (will appear small on your iPad screen.
- NPR – news, live streams, etc.
- Pandora – access radio stations via your iPad
- Time Management apps – mentioned in our session were Things, Easy Task, OmniFocus, and Taska. Several of those, and others, are reviewed here.
- iPad management apps:
Another category that we are all waiting for, bibliographic management apps, is on the horizon. As of this writing there is no specific app for Endnote, but Zotero is inching closer as is the Mac-only reference manager, Sente.
For those wishing to create ebooks, a number of solutions exist, some of which we will look at in the coming months.
Our first roundtable on the iPad, “iPads for Scholars,” was held at the Center for Teaching and Learning, Wednesday, 9/8/2010. As one might expect, the web has been awash with articles, opinions, and comments about the iPad. Here are a few, from a variety of sources, that address some of the issues and in so doing represent common themes and memes. Some are enthusiastic, some are naysayers, some seem to be clear attempts at ‘first kids on the block’ headline grabbers:
Notre Dame Launches First Paperless ‘iPad Class’ - By Timon Singh, Inhabitat, Sept. 7, 2010
How Schools are Putting the IPad to Work - By Joel Mathis (of Macworld), PCWorld, Aug. 26, 2010
iPad: The New Big Gadget on Campus – By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun, Aug. 22, 2010
50 Useful Resources for Students With an iPad – Accredited Online Colleges Blog, July 27, 2010 (links)
Apple’s iPad Goes to College – By Chris Foresman, cnn.com, July 26, 2010
iPad for Education Revisited – By Lee Wilson, The Education Business Blog, June 2, 2010
First iPad University Course: An Interview with Eric Greenburg of Notre Dame – By The eLearning Coach, May 16, 2010
iPad more resources on whether it is any good in the classroom – By David Hopkins, elearning blog don’t waste your time, May 7, 2010 (with links and quotes from others)
University Presses Get Creative in an iPad World – By Hannah Elliott, Forbes.com, May 6, 2010
Will the iPad Revolutionize Higher Education? – By Adam Peck, Think Magazine, April 21, 2010
University to Provide iPads for All New Students – By Lauren Indvik, The Mashable Apple, March 30, 2010
The iPad and the Historian – By Sean Kheraj, Canadian History and Environment, January, 28, 2010
iPads in Education – an ongoing NING with links and comments from many
Next up: What’s on your iPad?
Today I attended the UVM McNair Scholars Symposium and was struck by the poise, knowledge, and presentation skills these young people possessed. I was able to stay for three of the presentations. The topics were impressive: Refugee Resettlement in VT, Affirmative Action from the African American perspective, and Improving support for African American students at two predominately white institutions. I couldn’t help but think about the amazing experiences these scholars had over the course of the summer in the McNair program. Each scholar gained the experience of doing authentic research, presentation skills for their conference at Penn State, as well as UVM, and learned to answer complex questions about their research in front of an audience.
Each year the Center for Teaching and Learning works with the McNair Scholars Program to kick off the summer with a two day “Laptop Training”. We have the pleasure of meeting the Scholars and working with them on a variety of research software as well as presentation skills. I hope they get as much out of that training, as I did watching them present at the Symposium. I was very proud of them and all that they accomplished this summer. I know they all have bright futures ahead of them as UVM graduates and McNair Scholars.
We are holding a Colleague Tea on Wednesday October 8th (3pm-4pm) to discuss the use of Virtual Worlds in Higher Education as part of a course or assignment. Come to 303 Bailey/Howe for some Coffee/Tea, goodies and some very good conversation. UVM English Professor, Richard Parent and Holly Parker from the UVM Center for Teaching and Learning will co-facilitate the discussion. Please bring your experiences, ideas, and questions. Register online at http://uvm.edu/ctl/register/. You may also be interested in the article from THE VIEW on the use of Second Life in the School of Business on campus.
Please take a look at all of our events at the Center for Teaching and Learning this semester on our events calendar.
Hope to see you this semester.
I attended the Campus Technology conference this year. The topic was WEB 2.0 technologies in Higher Education. I was excited to attend and learn more. Surprisingly I learned the most participating in the “back channel” of the conference on Twitter. I had never tried this before at a conference and I was pleasantly surprised by the comradarie and knowledge that developed between strangers. Before the conference, I signed up to network with people at the conference. One person on the list developed a twitter feed and google site for the group.
I found this so helpful. People would post notes and links from the various sessions they were attending to the feed. This way you really could be in more then one place at a time.
One session I found to be well delivered and informative was about Second Life use in Higher Education Sarah Robbins from Ball State University was the presenter. She posted a link to her PowerPoint file from the presentation on her blog.
She started the presentation by talking about the 7 principles by A. Chickering and S. Erhmann, as well as the belief that she has the I happen to agree with which is “Learning first and technology second!
Creepy Treehouse is a term that Sarah referred to in her presentation. Second Life is an application that students already like and use for fun, so why not try seeing how they can learn from it as well? Sarah has experienced a ton of success using this tool to teach a variety of concepts, including discrimination. I look forward to exploring Second Life more and talking with faculty on the UVM campus who have used it. We will be holding a Colleague Tea on the use of Second Life in a Higher Education course, this semester.
Center for Teaching and Learning