Since February I've been happily using Tabbloid to receive PDFs of blog posts I want to read on paper (that's what you're getting if you view my shared posts in Google Reader - those are things I've tagged to be delivered to me by Tabbloid). I just ran across FiveFilters.org, which offers an open-source solution you can host yourself to convert RSS feeds to PDF. Nice bonus is a chart comparing FiveFilters.org to four other services, with PDFs you can view to compare the same content across all five.
update: just realized that the author of FiveFilters.org had left me a comment about this site on my original post back in April :-0
Sometimes it's a problem pushing the envelope - seems that the BYU Library initiative to use Kindles instead of getting books via ILL has been suspended after "some buzz on library-related blogs for breaking ground in the uncertain area of lending books on the Kindle."
"We are playing it safe," Layton said. "Two people here said we have verbal permission. But if we don't have it in writing, that's a different thing. We don't want to do anything that Amazon doesn't completely agree with."Everyone in the comments seems to be in favour of the initiative. Hope this forces Amazon to acquiesce!
Yesterday I blogged about the new Shortcovers service.
Last night I read a short story and have the following observations. I like how I can browse the website from my desktop, bookmark titles, and then have them appear on my iPhone for reading. (I can also, of course, browse and bookmark from the iPhone).
I don't like having to scroll down to read, then click next page, then repeat. I'd much prefer something that would present a screen at a time, and advance each time I tap the screen, or something that would scroll the text at a pre-set speed or something.
And finally, I really hate the overlay of bars at the top and bottom of the screen - those just have to be hidden while I'm reading. Still got some potential here though, so far so good.
I've only just started to play with it myself, but early today, Shortcovers.com opened for business. Run by Canada's Chapters/Indigo book chain (though oddly not mentioned on their homepage), Shortcovers is the first solution for buying e-books on the go outside of the Kindle platform. They have apps for the iPhone and BlackBerry, with Android in the works, and you can also read on their website.
The idea is to be able to buy either entire books to download to your mobile device, or in some cases a chapter at a time. The first chapter is always free.
You can upload content as well, though I haven't explored how that all works, or whether you can set the content to be free or charge whatever you want.
I'm puzzled as to why books seem more expensive through Shortcovers than through traditional channels. Outliers, for example, costs $17.04 on the Chapters/Indigo website, but $19.09 on Shortcovers (though only $15.50 on Amazon.ca, sigh). I guess I'm paying for the convenience of getting it right now (though I don't know how long the book would take to download, or if I'd want to pay for it to arrive over the air as opposed to wifi). I dunno, I think I would've launched with some sort of deep discount, or subscription plan maybe.
They have options for subscribing to all content by a certain author, and lots of social networking sharing options, so it seems as though they're trying hard to build community around the product. They've got a blog, and they tweet; doing all the Web 2.0 stuff right, but I don't like that overpricing...
My virtual buddy MCM has just posted his thoughts from the small author's point of view.
So I'll keep playing with it and let you know if it really grabs me. I sure like the idea though! If you're in the States, and if they're charging Cdn dollars, as it appears, it's gonna be a great deal for you folks in the US, so try it out from there, eh!
Not sure yet what, if any, implications there are for libraries yet, but if the booksellers can adapt to the mobile platform, surely we can too! Maybe offer a digitization program where the content is optimized for mobile devices on the fly?
Anyhoo, check it out.
Last week I mentioned a couple of interviews that had tweaked my interest in a solution for automatically creating a printed "newspaper" of individual blog postings that I wanted to devote more time to. Clint Lalonde left a comment suggesting FeedJournal, so I went to take a peek, and it's almost perfect for what I want to do. FeedJournal allows you to subscribe to any RSS feed(s) and then spits out a nicely formatted PDF for you to read. You can specify the number of columns and whether it's justified or not - looks pretty good. But I didn't want to subscribe to entire feeds - just individual posts. Well, the tool's author suggests subscribing to a specific tag within Google Reader; any other filtering mechanism should work as well. Last step for me though is that the RSS reader I use on my iPhone doesn't allow me to re-tag articles, so I decided to just grab the feed for my shared items, which I then fed to FeedJournal and voila!
Except I don't want to have to visit FeedJournal each time I want to generate my "newspaper", and FeedJournal doesn't have any scheduling options. Well, they do with a different version of the product that costs $59/month.
So I found this comparison of FeedJournal of Tabbloid, an HP project (isn't that brilliant for a printer company?) Does the same thing as FeedJournal, though with fewer options for customization. But it allows me to schedule delivery of the PDF created by the feed I gave them. I just received the first delivery, so it seems to work well! oops, except it has all the items in the feed, not just the most recent. No problem, I just printed the first few pages, and perhaps the next delivery will only include new stuff.
I'm a happy reader!
I just finished listening to episode 64 of CBC's Spark, and it began with a couple of really interesting interviews with people who are turning new media into old (ie. newspapers or magazines).
Ben Terret and his friend Russell collected their favourite blog posts from 2008 and arranged to have them printed on actual newsprint in a project called Things Our Friends Have Written On The Internet 2008. But what struck me was his idea of how this could be personalized. Imagine tagging blog posts during the week or month and saving them to delicious. On Sunday morning, delivered to your house would be a newspaper containing the text of all those blog posts. I would pay good money for something like that! There are a bunch of bloggers who write lengthy posts that I don't give enough time to fully digest. The screen is bite-sized media - I always have to move on to something else. But if I had something printed, laid out by a graphic designer, I think I would spend a lot more time on these thoughtful posts. Actually, there must be some utility that will do something similar to this and allow me to print on my home printer - anyone? Oh wait, read on...
The second interview was with Dan Pacheco, who has a similar idea in a website / service called Printcasting. This time the print format is a newspaper, magazine or newsletter, but locally targeted. It will be supported by local advertising, and "they'll only pay for the ads that run in Printcasts that we know are delivered." Here's the full FAQ on the service, which is scheduled to launch in Bakersfield, CA in March. Looks like they'll take some time before it's available worldwide - guess they're really sticking with that local angle. Oooh, but at the very end of the FAQ they mention that "Printcasting will be developed as an open source product, meaning anyone will be able to download and use the software for free." Cool.
Aaron Schmidt blogs that the DC Public Library iPhone app is now available for download. So I downloaded it and gave it a quick run through. No bells and whistles, but it gets the job done. Seems to only allow keyword searching at the moment - can't search by author, etc. You can place holds though, which is great. I would love to have something like this for the Calgary Public Library, and hope to take a stab at developing something similar over the summer for the UofC.
Nice work Aaron! (and way to sneak the bike onto the labs page).
Here's a series of screenshots showing what's available. I wonder if the interface sets a limit on searches though, as when I went back in to grab a shot of the holds page I kept getting a "no results" message even on searches I had previously run.
Near as I can tell from the iTunes store, this is the first library application available. Oh, and now I see Aaron's confirmed that on his personal blog as well.
O'Reilly Press is now offering a small number of titles as print, DRM-free PDF, or both. They've got 30 titles where you can choose your medium, and a dozen of those are also available on the Kindle. Interesting comments, including a brief discussion of why electronic books aren't 90% cheaper than print even though there's no printing and binding and shipping costs involved, and some discussion of the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of Digital Rights Management.