E-Readers put a library in your pocket

At first I was skeptical about e-readers. I love books and I love the tactile, page turning part of them. I am now an e-reader convert but it took some time and a few false starts.

My first e-reader was my iPad, using the Kindle application. The iPad is a great e-reader: the screen is bright, the “page size” is good and the interface is completely intuitive, using the touchscreen to its full advantage. The Kindle app is seamless. You can buy a book on Amazon, have it downloaded and be reading it in a minute or less. I have wireless and 3G on my iPad which makes it easy to get a book anywhere. The only downsides are that the iPad is pretty heavy compared to devices that are just e-readers, weighing in at 1 1/2 pounds. A better choice would be to use the iPad Touch or the iPhone with the Kindle app because then you get the quality of the screen in a smaller, lighter package plus the wireless access.

My brother introduce me to the Kindle. He likes it because he can download the newspaper and pack a couple of books on it when he’s traveling. Compared to the iPad, the screen is more like “paper” and less like a computer screen. Personally, I prefer the iPad’s brightness but the electronic ink used by the Kindle is very readable. The unit is smaller and lighter than the iPad too. The Kindle makes buying books very easy. In fact, it was my first choice for my mother (not very technical) and she’s enjoyed it tremendously.

The problem with the Kindle is that it is not compatible with the digital books available from the library. I consume a lot of books and am on a first name basis with the staff of two local libraries. I didn’t want to buy every book that I read, even if they don’t take up much space when they are digital. The Kindle holds about 3,500 books and the wireless version weighs about 8 1/2 ounces.

So, when I decided to buy an e-reader, I bought the Barnes & Noble Nook.

The Nook is a lot like the Kindle (I bought mine before the color version came out). It has a slightly larger screen than the Kindle and instead of a keyboard has a pseudo touch screen interface. I say pseudo because you still need to use the scroll buttons on the side of the unit. It’s not a touch screen the way an iPad is one.

I haven’t used the Kindle enough to compare the readability of the screen to the Nook but I found the Nook to be a bit gray and the type not as sharp as compared to my iPad. Like the Kindle, you “flip the pages” using a button on the side of the screen. On the Nook there are two on each side allowing you to go both backwards and forwards. It’s not ideal, but you get used to it. The Nook has less memory than the Kindle (about 1,500 books) but probably enough for most people — and for those who need more you can use an SD card to add memory. It’s slightly heavier than the Kindle, weighing in at 11 1/2 ounces.

I read a half dozen books on my Nook but didn’t love it.

Then I saw the new Pocket Reader (PRS-350) from Sony. I thought it would be the ticket and for me, it’s the best solution. Like the iPad it has a true touch screen interface. That means that the unit can be very small (pocket book sized) because it’s all screen. It’s very light weight (4 1/2 ounces) and easy to slip into a purse or briefcase. Like the Nook it holds about 1,500 books.

You turn the pages by running your finger across the screen (just like the iPad). I find the quality of the electronic ink to be better than the Nook and although the screen is smaller so you have to turn the pages more frequently, the interface makes it easy.

Like the Nook, the Sony e-readers are compatible with library books. I’ve downloaded and read about a dozen books so far and the process is easy.

The Sony E-reader had a metal case which has a more polished appearance than either the Nook or the Kindle. Mine is pink but it also comes in silver and blue.

Is there a downside? Potentially there are two. First, the Sony PRS-350 has no wireless capability. The only way to put a book on it is to sync it with your computer. I don’t have a problem with this but it means you can’t download a book on the fly; you need to plan ahead. The second issue is that the Sony library is not as extensive as Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

My conclusion? If you want to read library books the Sony PRs-350 is great. Because it’s so light, I take it with me everywhere; I just load my books ahead of time.

If you don’t care about having free books, the Kindle and the Nook are both very good choices. But personally, I’d go with an Apple product — iPad, iPod touch or iPhone depending on your need. Yes, the screens on the iPod and iPhone are smaller but the interface is so nice that it’s worth the trade off (in fact, I know a few people who have gone this route, and find their Kindles are getting left at home).

My Favorite Free Communications Tools

I am frequently amazed by how many excellent communications tools are now available for free. Just a few years ago they were either not available at all or were expensive. Now, with a little time and ingenuity you can express yourself (or promote your clients) in ways we only dreamed about.

Here are a few of my favorites.

  • WordPress: This blogging platform has now evolved into a full fledged Content Management System that rivals Drupal and Joomla but which (IMHO) is much more intuitive to use for the non-programmer. Not only is the platform itself free, but there are thousands of free templates, to give you a customized look and feel, and innumerable free plug-ins that provide a wide variety of functionality. I use both WordPress.com and WordPress.org, depending on the application. Certainly for the complete novice, the hosted platform at WordPress.com is a blessing. My 11 year old daughter set up a blog by herself in less than an hour on WordPress!
  • Freeconference.com: This free webconferencing service is easy to use and works pretty well. Only once have I had a problem with the sound quality.
  • YouTube: With a little imagination you can create your own broadcasting channel on any topic you want. While it’s helpful to provide your own content, even that’s not necessary: You can bring other people’s videos into your Channel using playlists.
  • Blog Booker: Turn your blog into a PDF book in less than five minutes. It works like a charm!
  • Self-publish your e-Book in a number of electronic formats including Amazon Digital Text Platform (DTP), Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble PubIt. While these services don’t charge you for creating your book, all do take royalties on sales.

Of course there are also platforms such as Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn for people who want to stay connected.

The hardest part is keeping track of all of the new offerings. I’ve really been enjoying the proliferation of these new digitally available platforms and products because they have allowed me to manage my own content on line and present it in visually appealing packages. I was shocked recently to find that I was able to recreate a site that in WordPress that I paid major $$ for someone to build for me in Drupal. The real kicker? Mine looks better.

Beam me up! The changing tools of our trade.

This week I flew to Las Vegas for a conference. When packing, I realized that I was bringing more electronics than clothes. Macbook, Ipad, Nook, Ipod, Flip Video camera, and digital recorder! Back in the “old days” I used to write with fountain pen and carry a Moleskine notebook!

However, the public relations professional today has the opportunity to communicate in so many ways that my “tool kit” has dramatically expanded. Podcasts are a great way to capture information that people can listen to while they travel. Flip video cameras make it oh, so easy to grab an interview and have it up on your website in minutes. And Ipads are great as presentation tools or to watch video. Certainly, my shoulders appreciate how much lighter they are to carry around than my laptop. In many cases I can now leave the laptop at home but when you need to crunch numbers and share documents the lack of a USB port on the Ipad is still too limiting.

In terms of lightening my load I also really like the Nook. Yes, I can read books on my Ipad, but not library books. The Nook is still the only mainstream e-reader that allows you to take advantage of books from your public library. It’s pretty cool to bring five or six of them along with you on a device that weighs less than a paperback.

If only I had room in my carry on luggage for a few more personal items!

Turn your blog into a book . . . in less than five minutes

If you’ve been blogging faithfully you’ve probably amassed quite a lot of content. That’s content you want to safeguard, save or maybe repackage it.

But, it’s trapped in WordPress or Blogger so what can you do that’s quick, easy and free? With http://www.blogbooker.com you can turn it into a pdf file that can then be bound into a book or edited and used in other ways!

This program is way cool and, even better, it’s free. First you export your blog files (in WordPress, that’s a tool function), then you upload them onto BlogBooker. Your PDF book is ready almost instantly.

I used it to create a PDF book of the first year of posts from http://www.equineink.com. The book ran slightly more than 450 pages and it includes the text, the images and the comments.

Some people may be able to run with the copy just like that but I’m now editing and reorganizing the files to make them work better in a linear format.

While this is fun for your personal project, think of how it can be applied to professional or client blogs . . . it has never been easier to make your blog into a book.

Turn your Blog into a PDF Book/Archive.