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May 16

It’s no longer such a novel thing to read a book on a mobile phone, and on the iPad, it’s practically a requirement to download “The Elements” or open Winnie the Pooh” to give your friends a glimpse of the future of book reading.

But for many people, choosing the best book-reading app is a challenge, especially for iPhone users, because of the wealth of choices in the App Store from Apple.

The problem is not really the small things — the differences in how the iBooks and Kindle apps, for example, turn a page, or enlarge the fonts. The better apps are all pretty good in these respects already, and they will all reach parity on such things quickly enough. And they’re all free, so it costs nothing to switch.

Nonetheless, the iBooks iPad app offers a generally better reading experience than its rivals, because of automatic brightness adjustments and overall ease of use. But its store has fewer books than the Amazon Kindle app or the Barnes & Noble eReader app.

Kindle and Barnes & Noble for the iPhone were good, although the Kindle app lacks the ability to lend books to friends, as you can with the Barnes & Noble app.

On a BlackBerry, Kobo was the most full featured, and on Android phones, Aldiko was the best in a sparse field, although it is greatly hampered, at least for now, by a lack of recent titles.

But since the reading experience on these apps is not significantly different, the hard choice comes down to differentiating how you select your books, and how you may one day like to use them — beyond reading on your Android, iPhone or BlackBerry.

In this respect, there are nuanced differences, but the upshot is this: I’m starting my own digital library through the Kobo iPad app, and I plan to hedge by not buying a lot of books in the near future. I will also keep a close eye on Barnes & Noble’s capabilities when it introduces its iPad app in the coming weeks.

Kobo is backed by Borders, among others. Kobo’s selection is not as good as those on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but you can potentially do more with those books when you buy them through Kobo.

The books you buy from most of these apps are, for now, readable only within the company’s apps. It is as if you have to travel back to the bookstore every time you want to open the book. That is not a major headache, as long as the apps that support your e-books survive forever, with the support of the major hardware manufacturers.

But if Amazon folds its apps, or if you decide you want to read your books on another e-reading app, the books will be far less useful.

Which brings us back to Kobo. The company’s chief executive, Michael Serbinis, said that on the Kobo app, you could buy a book, keep it forever and read it on any other device you choose, excluding Amazon’s. (A Barnes & Noble executive vice president, Jamie Iannone, said its books could be read on other apps too, like Kobo, as long as they used similar technology, but it had not tested that.)

This does not mean Kobo is assured of long-term success, but it does mean the books you buy from this app may have a marginally higher chance of being useful to you years from now than books bought from a store with a proprietary format.

I bought books from both the Kobo and Barnes & Noble apps on my iPhone and could not open them in other apps. So until booksellers make it easier to do what I want with the books I buy, I’ll spend conservatively.

Kobo is available for the iPhone, iPad and BlackBerry, and an Android version is in the works.

Barnes & Noble’s iPad app, like its other apps, will allow you to share books you have bought from the company with anyone who has a device using its software. (This includes all of its mobile apps.) Sharing is limited to two weeks, and a title can be lent only once. But that is a nifty trick that other apps cannot match.

If you happen to have an Android device, or are waiting for an excellent Android-based tablet to rival the iPad, the Aldiko reading app supports another e-book technology, called the Open Publication Distribution System.

That basically means you will, in the coming months, be able to buy books from a broad range of sellers, and, if those sellers use Adobe’s copyright protection software, you can transfer the books to other devices and apps that do the same. That will help address Aldiko’s major flaw at the moment — namely, a dearth of books you would want to buy.

If this sounds as though a lot of companies are suggesting you wait just a little longer for the experience to improve, it is precisely that.

And if all these promises are too much to keep track of, then just enjoy the free books available in the public domain and allow a few months, or years, for booksellers to prove that they want to let you use what you buy as you see fit. 

Written by

 on the New York Times

Read the full article here

Jun 14

Nine-year-old David Olson reads "The Heroes of Greek Myths" by Farley Court on his Kindle in his bedroom in Somerset Township, Wis., on Tuesday evening. He says he reads for about two hours each evening before bed. (Pioneer Press: Chris Polydoroff)

Like many boys, David Olson wanted a Nintendo DS portable video game system for his 9th birthday.

His parents got him an e-book reader instead.

"When I tell people we got him a Kindle, they look confused," says Tim Olson, the boy's dad. "They ask, 'Was he all right with that?' "

Oh, yeah. He was. He is.

"I used to read 50 minutes a day. Now I read maybe 120," says David, who just finished third grade in Osceola, Wis. "I don't know why I read more now. I guess I've just gotten in the habit of reading two hours a night, sitting in bed, curled up in a ball, reading with the Kindle light on."

Just in time for summer vacation, digital reading devices have begun trickling down to kids.

Or at least, more parents are now saying "maybe."

(Which we all know usually means "yes.")

For Mary Knox, the tipping point was when her employer, the St. Paul Public Library, began loaning e-books two months ago. She figured it was time to finally start using the Nook Color from Barnes & Noble that Grandma had given her 8-year-old son for Christmas.

"My child has never been alive without the Internet. He is a native," says Knox, a library associate in Youth Services at the Central Library. "He will read these things in a different way than I ever have: If he is reading on his Nook Color and comes across a word he doesn't know, he can click on it, and it connects him to a dictionary. He's in the second grade now. I can't imagine what the world will be like by the

time he goes off to college, but as his parent, I consider reading online as part of his digital literacy. It's a tool, and I want him to have as many tools as possible." When Amazon debuted the Kindle just in time for the holidays in November 2007, it sold out in 5-1/2 hours.


Back then, there weren't many e-books available for kids. That's slowly changing, especially with the recent advent of the Nook Color and its ability to display children's picture books. But some of the most popular series for kids are not currently available as e-books, including "Harry Potter" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid."

"Parents should look up the big books for kids this summer, the best-sellers on Amazon, as well as any required reading for school, to see which ones are available and on which device," says Eileen Wacker, a children's book author, as well as a mom, who has gone digital.

Wacker, who has four children ages 7 to 13, recommends different devices for different levels of reading.

"I would go for a Kindle for an older child who is reading chapter books with no illustrations," she says. "There are so many more books available, it's easy on the eyes in the sun (it is not backlit like a computer screen), and it's an allowable device in many schools because it's so much like a regular book. The Nook Color is a great option for younger kids.

"But if you have the budget, I'm going to make a big play here and recommend going for the iPad for the family," she says. "It's the most exciting reading device out there. Kids love it, and you can download the Kindle app for iPad. Also, have you heard of something called iTunes? Once Apple decides to start competing with Barnes & Noble and Amazon in terms of selling books, this could be the way to go, especially since Apple makes it so easy to sync everything."

One Minnesota reading specialist says it might not be necessary for families to buy dedicated reading devices (which can range from $99 to $250 or more) to get kids started.

"You may already own what you need. There is not a monolithic approach to reading digitally," says Scott Voss, a reading specialist at Apple Valley High School who has used digital readers in class and is working on a doctorate in reading research with an emphasis on digital research from the University of Minnesota.

"There are e-readers like the Amazon Kindle, the Sony e-reader and the Barnes & Noble Nook, which is a good chunk of the market," says Voss, who is also president-elect of the Minnesota Reading Association. "But my daughter, who is in the second grade, has an iPod touch she uses to download free 'Archie' comics. There are also ones you can buy for $1.99 to $6.99 a book.

"I ran into a gentleman who reads extensively off his iPod. He downloaded the Stieg Larsson trilogy, 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,' so that's 1,800 pages of text," Voss says. "There are also cellphone novels (a literary genre first developed in Japan), that people download to their phones to read during commutes- - books with content specifically written and designed to be read off a cellphone instead of paper.

"My point this that there is no single format or platform that is universal for reading this way."


Janet Waller loves watching children discover new technology.

"I always tell the book-fair coordinators to let parents know that the kids can look at the Nooks,'" says Waller, the community relations manager for Barnes & Noble at Har Mar Mall in Roseville. "I hate to hear parents say, 'Don't touch it!' We want kids to be able to use it and look at it. And they just swarm around it. It's fun for them because it's new, and these kids have grown up with computers."

Julia Carter, 9, began saving up for a Nook Color of her own after a cousin introduced her to the technology.

"It just seems cool," says the Bloomington girl. "I've never had anything like it before."

In the meantime, her mother has arranged to borrow a Kindle for the family to use this summer.

"I am not sure how she will like it compared to a traditional book," says Katie Carter.

Julia, who gobbles up books, doesn't care so much about the technology; she just hopes it will be a way to read more this summer.

"I've basically read all but one of my books at home, and I can't bike to the library every day," she says.

David Olson of Wisconsin also goes through books quickly - one reason his parents purchased a Kindle.

"We live in the country, both of us work, and we don't live close to the library," says Kate Olson. "David really likes to read, and we thought this would be a convenient way to have access to a lot of different books quickly."

Still, it is an investment.

"One thing I'm not crazy about is that we have to buy the books," says Tim Olson. "They cost less than a hard copy would, but some of the newer books he likes, like the Percy Jackson series, are $10 apiece."

Olson has found a way to keep costs down, though.

"The older books are less money --- or sometimes even free," he says. "So now I'll tell him I'll buy his book if he reads one of my choices. To be honest, I think 'Old Yeller' would have been a tough sell before. Now I have some leverage."


By Molly Guthrey 

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