Sunday, February 16, 2014

Thing 12: Books, Books, and More Books

From my perspective, digital books are in their infancy and I expect huge changes in the coming months and years. For the most part, I find the current number of book-reading apps to be incredibly frustrating! Right now I have all of these book apps on my iPad. I use them all, and have different access and different collections in every app:

I have purchased books, and downloaded free books, from Amazon through my Kindle app, from Barnes & Noble through my Nook app, and from the iBooks store. I check books out of the public library using Overdrive and 3M Cloud. I have downloaded free books through Storybooks, Wattpad, Mackin VIA and Follett Shelf. I've downloaded books from other sites as well, but I lose track of how to use the app, how to get in, what books I have, or the fact that I used the app in the first place. This drives me insane!

I have been most disappointed by the apps that attempt to recreate (or write their own) children's books. I find most of these to be poorly written and poorly illustrated. In many cases I think it would be better not to have these books at all. I have to give kudos to Scholastic (although I think they're pricing their books a bit high)  for making good quality children's books available. The interface is pleasant to look at and easy to use, and includes page-turn animations. You can look words up in the dictionary, highlight text, play activities on the page (like vocabulary word scrambles) and can bookmark your favorite pages. 

I have every reason to believe that things will improve for digital reading, but here's my dream. I want a system where I can input any title I own (or can access free) digitally into my card catalog. I want students and staff to be able to select the book and have it open in a digital reading that worked well on their device. If the digital reader was one the user didn't have, then there would be a message stating "This book must be read on Scholastic Storia. Would you like to install it now?" What I want is EASY. WORKS EVERY TIME. AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE. Is that too much to ask? 

I also spent some time with YALSA's Teen Book Finder and a few other bookfinder apps. Here are my brief reviews.

YALSA's Teen Book Finder: YALSA, thank you for attempting this app. However, you need to work on it because it is lacking. When it did find a title for me and I selected the title to find out more about the book I would get a very brief one-sentence summary of the book...MOST of the time. Sometimes it would give me a message saying that the book couldn't be located, even though the title had appeared. When I selected an author's name I was presented with a very brief listing of about 10% of all of the books that author had written. I understand the database to be organized by year and award, so I can understand why titles are missing if they weren't published in that timeframe. However, my readers want to know what else the author has written, and this just wouldn't do it. 

Peekaboo Apps Best Books: Best Books for Babies, Best Books for PreK, and Best Books for Tweens are an attempt at allowing parents and children to keep track of their own books and look for others by title, category, rating and so on. It includes additional lists you can purchase for $3.99 each. It is very similar to Destiny's Quest program, but the social networking that Destiny Quest brings to the table makes it far and away a better app. 

Book Crawler: Book Crawler connects with your Goodreads account and works to help you locate new books to read. You can create collections of books and share them with your friends, keep lists of those books you've already read, and those books you want to read. The time-consuming part of this app would be going through your collections and inputting all the books. It is pretty easy to search for them and add them, and once you do you have access to complete information, including tons of reviews. But for a person with a large number of books in their personal collection, it would be a huge job. Book Crawler has a free lite version and a paid version ($1.99).

Again I must repeat that I am feeling hopelessly letdown by all of the options available because none of them is the whole answer. I believe that if a person jumped into Goodreads and combined it with Book Crawler, adding all of the titles they've read, this would probably be an excellent solution. This may be your answer on how you organize, rate, discuss and share your favorite reads, and if so, it would make  good solution. If you're not ready to dive in and spend the time, then it may not be the way to go. 

As a final word I need to share a new service I just discovered (thanks to Shannon McClintock Miller!) It's called OYSTER, and it bills itself as the "Netflix for books". Oyster is a service you sign up for, and pay $9.95 a month, but you can download unlimited books onto your device and read and enjoy them! They are offering a one-month free trial. You can check it out today at: Of course this is yet another app to keep track of, but I like the idea of being able to select bestsellers that I wouldn't necessarily purchase, and not have to wait in line at the library to check them out.  Take a look at Oyster today!

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