Netflix Finally Adds Search For Non-subscribers

April 28, 2010

Not sure when they did this but Netflix has finally listened to my advice (and surely countless other potential users) and offered a search to anyone, not just subscribers.

The next logical step is to offer rentals on demand without a subscription, just a flat rate depending on the video.

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Disney Offers Subscription for eBooks

September 29, 2009

From the New York Times: Disney is offering a library of 500 Disney book titles on the web but using a subscription model instead of a purchase-on-demand model. That is a relatively small number of titles but it is an interesting first step. This is the first I have heard of a vendor leaning toward the established eJournal distribution model (besides rumors of what Google might do with Google Book Search). I have felt that this really is the direction publishers are going to go.

So will DisneyDigitalBooks.com allow its content to be viewed on devices? So far it doesn’t appear so. Frim NYT:

“The company feels that devices don’t offer a Disney-level experience for kids and families, and I agree with them,” Ms. Epps [a media analyst] said.

At this point I would agree but that is largely due to how interactive Disney has made their site. However, it is only a matter of time before they get wise and either develop their own color reader or (probably) an iPhone app which will handle their multiple services.


Why I Like Bookburro

June 17, 2009

I have been using Bookburro for about a year now and am finally able to write a review. Bookburro is an extension for flock or Firefox that searches multiple bookseller sites to compare prices on the same item. If Amazon has a high price, you can see what Half.com offers as well as eBay, Barnes & Noble, etc. Very convenient.

As a librarian, this extension is even cooler because it will search large library catalogs (e.g., Boston Public) and WorldCat while it is searching booksellers. So, have you heard about a great book but you don’t know if your library owns it? Instead of going to an online bookseller to search for the title to get the bibliographic information you then paste into your local library catalog, Bookburro searches WorldCat for you. You click on the WorldCat link and WorldCat displays the libraries closest to you which have the book. If you local one doesn’t have it, you can submit an Interlibrary Loan request if your library uses ILLiad.

Super time saver.

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Education 2.0: iPhone Integration

April 18, 2008

ACU iPhone Project

This is an interesting video about ACU‘s project and the possibilities of using emerging technologies like the iPhone in education. I particularly liked the idea that the phone could be used as a map and a polling tool for in-class quizes or surveys. Not sure about the professor giving out his address for a lecture in his home–just a little too transparent for me, but I tend to be pretty conservative when it comes to my family’s privacy and security.


Is Kindle Just Another eReader?

March 24, 2008

KindleThis review of the Amazon Kindle was really notable to me because Lifehacker reader Pete Riley actually itemized Kindle’s pros and cons so nicely:

The Kindle has a number of benefits over its rivals and over reading real paper material. First, it weights only 10 oz: It’s lighter than most paperbacks. But since you can hold hundreds of books on the device, it’s effectively weightless.

Second, access to the Amazon store and the internet in general is fast and free. This point cannot be over-emphasized: Free access to the internet! The experience is not like using a laptop with a Wi-Fi connection, but it is significantly better than using a cell phone. Amazon has also made buying e-books amazingly quick and simple; it is literally one click.

Third, many of the books are offered at reduced prices, and most, if not all of the NY Times best sellers go for $9.99. Amazon claims that they currently have over 100,000 books in Kindle format, together with a selection of newspapers, magazines, and blogs.

Fourth, You can email yourself a variety of files (PDF, rtf, doc, txt, etc.) of research papers, public domain books, user manuals, or web page clipping for 10 cents.

Fifth, you can play digital music on the device and listen with standard 3.5mm headphones. This is not something I have tested, nor do I have any inclination to do so. My iPod Nano serves this purpose.

And sixth, the screen is surprisingly clear and bright, much better than many paperbacks I have read.

Pete’s cons:

No device is perfect and the Kindle is no exception. For starters, it costs $399. That’s relatively cheap by e-book reader standards (The iRex Iliad 2nd edition costs $699) but expensive when compared to a paperback book … or ten … or thirty. If we assume Amazon’s discounts on the Kindle e-books are $10 on average, the device would require 40 purchases to break even. However, if you read books from the public domain, such as Project Gutenberg, this break-even number could be much lower.

Another problem is that images within PDF-formatted documents don’t always appear. To be fair to Amazon, the fact that they even support PDF conversion should be acknowledged; however, to achieve the truly paperless library is going to require better handling of graphics. And forget about converting PDF books that were scanned in as images. Until they can perform optical character recognition (OCR) “on the fly,” these books will not be converted effectively for the Kindle.

So free access the internet seems the big one for me. That is incredible. Of course it is a little lame to have to pay to email yourself, though. I cringe wondering where that small fee will lead when users demand more services. Cell phone-like subscription prices eventually? *Sigh*

I have been on the waiting list at my institution to get at this thing and try it out myself for about two months now. As a reader for books I’m sure it is great, but I don’t see e-readers that are only e-readers going anywhere. Just as Pete mentions, the cool thing about Kindle is not that it is a nice book reader so much as it can read a lot of different formats and it accesses the internet. This is why cell phone usage went through the roof (that and the price for a basic phone dropped). The cell phone was no longer “just a phone” but a calendar, a clock, a contact list, a web browser, a texting device, a camera, etc.

What does all this mean for libraries? The Kindle is kind of old news in the library blogosphere but there are definite connections to higher education in general. Textbooks? Someday soon if not now already. Word processing? Doubtless in the works (esp. if there is already a clumsy PDF reader application). Once multi-touch combines with something like this we will have a very portable computer, complete with internet access. It will just happen to also be a cheap and easy way to read and buy books from Amazon.


Horizon Report 2008

February 15, 2008

The 2008 Horizon Report by NMC and EDUCAUSE is now out. Haven’t had a chance to look at it yet but here’s the Table of Contents:

Time-to-Adoption: One Year or Less
Grassroots Video
Collaboration Webs

Time-to-Adoption: Two to Three Years
Mobile Broadband
Data Mashups

Time-to-Adoption: Four to Five Years
Collective Intelligence
Social Operating Systems

I’ll be reading this soon to find out some of the applications for education.