Ups and Downs of Reading Habits

I remembered to export my GoodReads book catalog earlier this week.  I’ve been forgetful for several months and the hot topic at work lately has been DR (disaster recovery).  So, practicing what I preach, I ‘backed up’ my book catalog to my computer.  I began reviewing the data downloaded and a thought (almost a question) popped into my head.  For the last five years, I’ve been averaging 100 books per year read.  I pushed myself this year to reach that goal early, before my birthday in early October.  My curious mind wanted to know how my reading format habits have changed over these last five years.

Reading-one-book-is-likeWhy just five years?  Continue reading “Ups and Downs of Reading Habits”

Nook Color Grounded; Can’t Come Out and Google Play

Barnes & Noble announced a couple of days ago that the latest editions of their ereader tablet, the Nook HD and HD+, would receive a software update that included the addition of the Google Play app store.  I was not amused.

I own a Nook Color.  In fact, by the end of this month, it will be two years old and the extended warranty I purchased from Barnes & Noble will expire.  The last software update issued by B&N came nearly a year ago (see my post on version 1.4.3 from last June/July).

Not only am I not feeling the Nook Color love from B&N, I’m also noticing the ereader showing its hardware age.  I often must power it completely down to ‘correct’ a situation that frequently arises when it can’t seem to locate my home’s wifi.  Come June, if B&N hasn’t issued some olive branch of an update that would open up Google Play to my NC, I may just wipe it and finally convert it to an Android tablet.

Now that I have a Samsung Note II, I have invested in several nice apps from the Google Play store, including my favorite audiobook app called the Smart Audiobook Player.  I love this app’s ability to flatten all the folders and allow for a smooth listening experience (no need to switch ‘CDs’ (folders), accommodates a continuous stream).  The app also automatically pauses when a phone call comes in (and resumes when you hang up) and will automatically backtrack three seconds when an audio alert sounds for emails or texts.

Later this year, I’ll probably invest in an Android tablet, possibly a Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0.  Not another B&N knockoff.  While I’ve enjoyed reading ebooks on my Nook Color and using it for the occasional web surfing, Tweeting or reading e-mail, my experience with my Note II has opened my eyes to the limitless Android possibilities.

Book Review: Cat’s Cradle by Vonnegut

Cat's CradleCat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the first books I remember being ‘required’ to read in school (Middle School to be exact) happened to be Slaughterhouse-Five. Looking back, even though I had been reading at a college level since I reached double-digit age, I probably wasn’t ready for the subject matter. Come to think of it, I should probably re-read Vonnegut’s most famous novel again, from the other end of three decades of my life gone by. The same could be said for Cat’s Cradle, if I had read it back then, but I’m reading it for the first time on the downhill side of my life.

Published a year before I took my first breath, I get all the cultural references. I am still pondering the ramifications of the ‘Truth’ of all religions, according to Vonnegut’s character (who remained nameless throughout the entire novel). Satire? Irony? Poetic justice? Nihilism? Or some chaotic cohesion of all of them?

I found a few gems among the exceptionally short chapters (some less than a page in length): The ambassador’s speech before tossing the wreath in honor of the Hundred Martyrs to Democracy: ‘Think of what a paradise this world would be if men were kind and wise.’; Newt: ‘No damn cat, and no damn cradle.’; and Mona: ‘I love everyone.’

I actually heard Kurt Vonnegut speak during my college years. He came to Wichita State University in the early 80s to give a lecture. I learned about his appearance late (on the same day in fact), so I arrived almost too late to get a seat. For some reason, the facility decided to open up seating on the stage, so I sat cross-legged within ten or twenty feet of him to his right. As memorable as my seating arrangements were, I cannot remember anything he said during that lecture, nor even what his topic was. My book collection remained at home in Leavenworth County, so I had nothing to ask him to sign. I sincerely regret that now.

I gave Cat’s Cradle three stars. I liked it, and it definitely made me think deeply and ponder many questions, but I can’t say I really liked it. An interesting read, and it has aged remarkably well.

View all my reviews

This is the first ebook I read using the OverDrive Media Nook application.  I checked it out smoothly and easily from the Kansas City Public Library.  After fiddling with the Reading Options, I found a happy medium for speed of page turns (but not transitions between chapters) and font shape and size.  The dictionary feature only works if you have your wifi on and connected to the Internet because it uses  This differs from the default ereading application provided by Barnes & Noble, which uses a pre-installed copy of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (11th Edition).  I definitely missed the highlighting and annotating features that come standard with most ereading software.   Strangely, I’ve checked out ebooks from the KC Public Library before, but used the Adobe Digital Editions software and a USB cable to transfer the ebook from my computer to my Nook Color.  In that instance, I used the default ereader to read the ebook, so I had all my normal functionality.  I can only hope the OverDrive Media Console application will improve with time and feedback.

Product/Service Review: OverDrive Media Console Nook App (Released 9/27/2012)

I can probably retire the post I wrote several months ago.  The one that included a flowchart of how to transfer a library ebook from your computer to your Nook.  I received so many calls from fellow Nook owners about how to do this process, that I felt compelled to break it down into bite-size easily digested pieces, with pictures to aid memory retention, and post it here at my blog.  Thankfully, Barnes & Noble released, this morning, the long overdue OverDrive app, making that flowchart, at least the library lending portion of it, obsolete.   Being a fool who rushes in where app angels fear to tread, I downloaded it to my Nook over lunch.

From the OverDrive main menu, I tapped the App Settings icon, where  I activated my Nook device via my existing Adobe Digital Editions account.  I reviewed but did not change any of the other settings.  I returned to the Bookshelf home page, and tapped the Get Books icon from the main menu.  At the bottom of the screen on this page, there is a large ‘Add a Library’ button, which I pressed.  I typed in the name of the Kansas City Public Library and pressed the Search button.  I added my favourite local (literally in the same building) library from the search results. I made sure to star it and save it for future use.

When I clicked on the link to the KC Public Library, I was taken to the Nook’s web browser and the mobile website for the library’s OverDrive system.  I entered my library card and pin number, telling the Nook to remember that information for future visits.  I clicked on the My Wish List link under the Your Account tab and checked out an ebook I had waiting there (Cat’s Cradle in this instance).  I selected the ePub version and pressed the Download button.  Success!  No USB cable necessary.  All done in seconds, wirelessly.

The OverDrive reader software is different from the Nook Color’s primary reading application, and it seems a bit slower.  I will need to review the pop-up quick reference guide more closely to see if I’m missing any gestures or configuration settings to tweak performance.

B&N also released a similar app from 3M, which I also downloaded and installed to my Nook. However, my other local library does not use that service, so I may archive that app.

Sixteen or seventeen months after I received my Nook Color, one hurdle to simpler ebook lending achieved.  Now, if publishers and libraries could just reach a compromise in their disagreement.  Have you read the recently published open letter from the ALA and the response by the Big Six (through the AAP)?  The digital divide is widening daily.

Nook Color Software Update 1.4.3 (Released Jun/Jul 2012)

I woke up to a green ‘n’ yesterday morning in my Notification alerts on my Nook Color. Even though I use my Nook Color daily, I had no idea another software update was coming down the pipe. The last update arrived in the late Winter/early Spring. First thing I did (on my laptop, not my Nook) was to read the ‘What’s New’ section on the B&N Nook Color Software Updates page:

The NOOK Color Ver1.4.3 update contains new features and enhancements, including:

  • Zoom view in comics and graphic novels
  • 2-Page mode in landscape for viewing PagePerfect™ and PDF documents
  • Other minor system enhancements

Meh.  I don’t read comics and graphic novels, so what do I care about my ability to zoom while reading those formats?

I quickly tested the second feature enhancement, since I had just received my astronomy club newsletter via e-mail a couple of days earlier.  The Reader software loaded the PDF and I flipped the Nook Color to landscape orientation.  The first time I did this, the Reader application appeared to reset itself, taking me back to the Home screen.

So, just to be on the ‘safe’ side, I did a shutdown on the Nook Color and let it sit powered off for a few minutes.  I turned it back on and then returned to reading my astronomy newsletter PDF.  This time, I could see the two page view in landscape orientation, but the Reader application did seem to have problems with the odd page at the end.  In other words, unless there’s an even number of pages to display side-by-side, the Reader application doesn’t display anything for the last page, just a blank black screen.  Once I flipped the Nook Color back to portrait orientation, the final page became visible.

I had hoped that the ‘Other minor system enhancements’ might have improved the wireless functionality of the Nook Color, but alas that does not appear to be the case.  For the most part, I have very few issues with the wifi on my Nook Color, so long as I have access to visible wireless networks, like my own personal ones at home and those provided by libraries or lunch time hotspots near my work.

But whenever I need to access a hidden secured network, I run into extreme difficulties.  My most recent frustrations include a change to the wireless networks provided by my employer.  At the end of May, we completely redid our wireless networks to include a visible internal secured network (for laptops mostly so you can walk into a conference room and not have to plugin a cable), a visible secured guest network (for clients and venders) and a hidden secured network (for iPhones, iPads and other tablets).  For most of June, my Nook Color had no problem connecting to this hidden network.  About a week ago, something changed and now the Nook Color refuses to find or connect to the hidden network.  I’ve created and recreated the connection information a half dozen times with the same results … no connection.  I contacted the network engineer about the hidden network, but he assures me no changes were made to that hidden network recently.

So now, when I get to work, I just turn the wifi off on my Nook Color, so it won’t sit there scanning all day long and wasting the battery.  When I take my lunch break in the break room, I can still read my ebooks, but I can’t check my e-mail or the weather or any other normal activity that requires Internet access on my Nook Color.  I can retreat to the lobby and connect to the free wifi provided by the Kansas City Public Library, but that’s such a hassle.

I have another ten months on my extended warranty on the Nook Color.  By then, I’ll be itching to wipe the internal storage and root it to a true Android tablet, unless I make the jump to a smartphone, like the Samsung Galaxy S III or the Galaxy Tablet.

Nook Color Software Update 1.4.2 (Released Feb/Mar 2012)

I woke up to a surprise this morning on my Nook Color.  I had a little green ‘n’ showing up in my alerts pop-up window.  Heh?  Why had I not heard anything about this update?  Perhaps, because even B&N didn’t have much to say about the latest software update, billed as version 1.4.2:

Under the ‘What’s New’ heading: “The NOOK Color Ver1.4.2 update provides minor system enhancements.”

With a little digging and Googling, I found that the e-mail application received and update and B&N has made it harder to root most of the Nook tablets (something I attempted back last summer, but decided it wasn’t worth the grief and headaches).  I like my Nook Color just the way it is.  Perhaps I’ll be more adventurous when my two-year extended warranty expires.

I haven’t used my Nook much today, except to read during lunch, so I can’t confirm any other glitches or fixes.  The e-mail application does seem to respond quicker and not get hung up on the sync cycle now.  If I find anything else this evening, I will return and post an update.

For my thoughts on the previous update, released last December, visit my blog post and review for version 1.4.1.

Not Feeling Any Nook Love

Nearly Identical to Last Year's Benefits

The day after Valentine’s Day, I received an e-mail from Barnes and Noble alerting me to the impending expiration of my B&N Membership and their exciting ‘new’ member benefits.  I clicked through the ‘ad’ and went directly to the Terms and Conditions where I quickly found the exclusion that has been sticking in my craw ever since I purchased my Nook Color back in May 2011:

“The Everyday Member Discount is not available on purchases of the following: … digital content (including but not limited to eBooks, digital magazines and periodicals); NOOK™ and NOOK™ related accessories; …”(emphasis added)

I immediately fired off an e-mail, not once but twice, since the ‘ad’ they sent me had a ‘no-reply’ throw-away e-mail address associated with it.  My question to B&N Customer Service, which has not changed in several months, was:

Why should I renew my Membership with B&N? Is Nook content still expressly excluded?

Unless my Membership discounts now include savings on the purchase of Nook content (ebooks), I will NOT be renewing my membership.

To which I finally received a reply after I went to bed last night (so I woke up to this canned response, which I have received at least twice before from Customer Service):

Dear Customer,

Thank you for your inquiry regarding applying your Barnes & Noble Membership discount to NOOK Book purchases.

Because our NOOK Book prices are deeply discounted from the Publisher’s List Price, the Barnes & Noble Member’s discount is not available on the purchase of digital content (including but not limited to digital books, magazines, and periodicals); certain digital devices; downloadable Audiobooks in MP3 or any other format.

We hope you find this information helpful and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

(emphasis added).

I decided yet another reply would fall on deaf ears, so I became determined to write this open letter to Barnes & Noble expressing my disbelief in their delusion of ‘deeply discounted’ ebook prices.  Let me be clear, on one point though, that I absolutely love my Nook Color.  Yet, my Nook and I are feeling spurned and slighted, both from the supplier (B&N) and the publishers (the real reason B&N can’t offer discounts on digital content like they can on printed, physical content).

With yesterday’s announcement by Tor and confirmation by Brandon Sanderson that the final novel of the Wheel of Time series has a publication date (albeit nearly a year from now in January 2013), I would like nothing better than to load up my Nook Color with all thirteen ebooks.  But what incentive do I have to do this?  I have all of them in hard cover, many of them first editions, and the last couple of them autographed.  I have spent a premium to follow this series and do not wish to further impoverish myself unnecessarily.

Here is a list of some of the books on my ebook wishlist and corresponding ebook v. printed book pricing:

  • Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – ebook $21.99; paperback $13.46; hardcover $38.00 (it should be noted that I already own multiple copies in multiple formats of this classic epic fantasy tome).
  • Hambly’s The Silent Tower – ebook $8.19 (discounted from $9.99 retail); no printed new copies available (backlist out-of-print so ebook is the only option).
  • Jordan’s The Great Hunt (WoT #2) – ebook $7.99; paperback $7.99; hardcover $20.23 (I already snagged the first reissued ebook, The Eye of the World, when it was only sale for $.99 or $1.99 last year).
  • Jordan/Sanderson’s The Gathering Storm (WoT #12) – ebook $9.99; paperback $9.99; hardcover $6.28
  • Jordan/Sanderson’s The Towers of Midnight (WoT #13) – ebook $9.99; paperback $9.99; hardcover $18.28
  • Willis’ Blackout – ebook $11.99; paperback $16.00; hardcover $25.01
  • Willis’ All Clear – ebook $11.99; paperback $12.98; hardcover $18.27 (30% discount thanks to my current Membership)

I have many more examples but will stop there for now.  Most of the hardcover prices listed above show up for me on B&N’s website with steep discounts already applied (which explains the very odd prices that come up for them).

The coupons I receive in the mail as a result of my Membership are also specifically excluded from purchasing digital content and/or any Nook accessories.  I don’t need to clutter up my house with more ‘stuff’!  I want to clutter up my Nook with more content.

I just can’t see the benefit to me this year of shelling out an additional $25 to renew my Membership, since I don’t plan on buying any more physical items that would require shipping (hence I won’t be able to take advantage of the free two-day shipping benefit).

None of this will really influence my purchasing choices for ebooks.  I will continue to support my favorite authors.  Case in point:  Last fall, I not only purchased the hardcover new release of Initiate’s Trial when it was released overseas in the United Kingdom, but also immediately purchased the ebook edition to begin reading it as soon as I could (since it took several days/weeks for the hardcover to arrive from England).  This way, I had my cake and ate it too, since the first edition hardcover has never been opened and will be pristine the next time I see Janny in person for her to sign.

All this leaves me wondering why Nook owners can’t have their own membership or rewards program.  Let us buy one ebook a month at a discount (anything from 5 to 25 percent would be agreeable).  Or offer a virtual punch card and let us have a discount on every 10th ebook purchase.  I would gladly pay $25 per year (or more) for such a program without batting an eyelid.

Some might argue (including B&N) that the ‘Free Friday’ Nook Book is already meeting this need, but I would disagree.  In fact, today’s free Nook Book has been free before (offered last May or June on a previous Friday) and actually has been free for several days.  Re-gifting tackiness?

Quick Reference Guide for Nook Color eBook Management

I am composing this quick reference guide (or workflow or flowchart) for persons who shall remain anonymous.  I plan to refer them to this page (encouraging them to bookmark it in their browser) the next time I receive yet another request for how to get an ebook transferred to their Nook.

This guide assumes you own the Nook Color.

Nook Color eBook Management Flowchart

Where did you purchase the ebook?

How to Get eBooks to Your Nook Color

1. Barnes & Noble Nook Books:  It is not necessary to click the Download button after you purchase a Nook Book.  This is tempting, especially if you are sitting at your computer, browsing through the Barnes & Noble website and not actually shopping via your Nook Color (using a wifi connection).

(a)                Press the n button on your Nook Color and select the Library item.

(b)               Press the Sync button in the lower left-hand corner of the screen (which looks like two arrows chasing each other in a circular pattern).

(c)                Any new books you have purchased will appear after the sync completes.

2. Non-Barnes & Noble eBooks: Anything you purchase from a non-B&N retailer, even if the price is ‘free’, will most likely be ‘protected’ by DRM (digital rights management), which actively prevents you from copying the downloaded ebook file from your computer to your Nook Color.  If you are lucky enough to find an ebook without DRM protection, please skip down to the last step below.  Otherwise, the only approved method for transferring ebooks you legitimately purchased involves using yet another piece of software called Adobe Digital Editions. This transfer process may vary depending on the vender and assumes you have downloaded, installed and activated both your copy of Adobe Digital Editions and your device (Nook Color) in that software.

(a)                Download the ebook from where you bought it and make note of the file name (in case you have trouble remembering where your computer downloads file to – usually the Downloads folder).  Windows may automatically associated the downloading file with Adobe Digital Editions, which is a good thing.  Let it launch ADE after it downloads the file if need be.

(b)               Connect the Nook Color USB cable to your computer, then connect it to your Nook Color.

(c)                ADE should now display your Nook Color device as available in the left-hand navigation pane.

(i)                 To add the ebook you just purchased/downloaded, select Add Library Item (or press Ctrl+O to open) from the Library menu in ADE.

(ii)               Navigate to the folder where you downloaded the file (in a Windows 7 environment, you may already have a favorites item called ‘Downloads’ available).

(iii)             Select the ebook and click the Open button.  ADE should now display the cover of the ebook as a thumbnail in the left-hand area.  Or, if your view is currently set to the List option, then new ebook will be listed by Title, Author, etc.

(iv)             Click the thumbnail of the new ebook cover and drag it to your Nook Color device (listed in the left-hand navigation pane of ADE).

(d)               Close ADE and safely disconnect your Nook Color from your computer.

(e)                Back on your Nook Color, there are two ways to find the ebook you just transferred from your computer:

(i)                 Using the Library application:

(1)               Open your Library and switch to the My Stuff area (last tab/button along the top).

(2)               Drill down to the Digital Editions folder and click on the ebook file name you just transferred from your computer to the Nook Color.

(ii)               Using Search

(1)               Type the file name or title of the new ebook.

(2)               Select the ebook from the search results.

3. Library eBook Lending:  Most libraries also use Adobe Digital Editions to managed the ebooks you borrow.  Your library may already provide you with instructions and a tutorial.  I know mine did:

(a)                Kansas City Public Library instructions for Checking Out eBooks to a Nook, Kobo or other non-Amazon eReader.

(b)               Kansas City Public Library video tutorial on Downloading eBooks for the Nook and other non-Amazon eReaders.

(c)                You can use the same process described above to find the file on your Nook Color (either through the Library application or by Searching for the file name or title of the ebook).

4. Public Domain eBooks (DRM-Free):  Those ebooks downloaded from Project Gutenberg or the public domain section of Feedbooks, should be DRM free and thus will not require the use of Adobe Digital Editions to copy the ebook file to your Nook Color.

(a)                Download the ebook and note the file name and folder location.

(b)               Connect your Nook Color to your computer.

(c)                When prompted (an Autoplay dialog box should pop up), click the ‘Open folder to view files’ option.

(d)               Drill down to the My Files folder on your Nook Color and open the Books subfolder.

(e)                In a separate Windows Explorer window, find the ebook file and Copy it (Ctrl+C).

(f)                Return to the Nook Color window that should be open to the Books subfolder of the My Files folder and Paste (Ctrl+V).

(g)               Close all Windows Explorer windows and safely disconnect your Nook Color from your computer.

(h)               You can use the same process described above to find the file on your Nook Color (either through the Library application or by Searching for the file name or title of the ebook).

To manage all your DRM-free ebooks, I would suggest using Calibre, an open source software package.  I give you fair warning, however, that Calibre is not as easy to use as it could be, but I have hopes that the user interface will improve with each update.  I only recommend Calibre to people who are not technology challenged.

Ten Days Until Christmas

A Christmas Carol: Enhanced Edition by Charles Dickens, read by Monica Dickens - .65!I follow a blog devoted to finding inexpensive and often free ebooks for Nook Color owners called The Cheap.  This morning they blogged about a unique edition of a classic and beloved Christmas story:

A Christmas Carol: Enhanced Edition by Charles Dickens, read by Monica Dickens – $1.65!.

I had already planned to re-read this classic tale, but traded in my old ebook version for this new ‘enhanced’ one.  I even sent it as a gift to a family member (who also owns a Nook Color) as an early Christmas gift.  I wanted to test out the new ‘Buy as a Gift’ feature at Barnes & Noble as I plan to do some last minute Christmas shopping over the next few days.

Once I read (and listen) to this version of A Christmas Carol, I will post a review of the experience here.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Rain Showers Instead of Meteor Showers

Photo1005.jpgI got a strange call this afternoon from my daughter’s boyfriend.  I let it go to my voice-mail because I happened to be in the middle of a meeting at that time.  When I got a chance to listen to his voice-mail, I nearly laughed out loud.  I always fear the worst when I get calls out-of-the-blue from my kids (or their significant others), but this time he just wanted to let me know he had heard a blurb on NPR about the peak viewing opportunity tonight for the annual Geminid meteor shower.  I called him back to thank him for the heads up, but I already had at least four other feeds (from various astronomy magazines, clubs and websites) keeping me up-to-date on all things astronomincal.  My biggest hurdle to viewing anything in the night sky this week is the non-stop rain and overcast huddled over Kansas.  Check out tonight’s hourly forecast for my viewing area:

The star Castor in the constellation Gemini nearly coinicides with the radiant point of the annual Geminid meteor shower

So just like what happened last month with the Leonids, I guess I’ll be missing the Geminids this year.  I sure hope 2012 allows me better viewing opportunities for meteor shows, comets and the planets.  I remember May being especially disappointing with overcast skies nearly every weekend.  I finally gave up in August and stored the telescope in the basement because the weather just wouldn’t cooperate with my observing goals and schedule.  I almost retrieved it for last weekend’s lunar eclipse, but since the eclipse coincided with moonset and sunrise, I decided looking through the hazy atmosphere with my camera’s telephoto lens would be sufficient.

Parking Temporarily Returns

Photo1006.jpgLast week I reported my home town Public Works Department had installed a ‘no parking’ sign in my court (and twelve other cul-de-sacs spread across the city).  This afternoon when I turned into my driveway, I noticed the sign had been removed from the pole.  Terry will need to let the band members know they can park in the usual locations for tomorrow night’s weekly rehearsal.  I’m just happy I won’t be juggling cars tomorrow or worrying about where to put them, especially since the wet yard would rut if I had to park some of them off the street.  I doubt my previous blog post could have caused so much fervor that it necessitated the complete removal of the sign by the City.  I know they planned to add an addendum to the ‘no parking’ sign to indicate only during snow, but I assumed a second sign would be attached below the first one.  Apparently, something else is planned and I will keep an eye on the sign post for the next few days to see what develops.

Tips and Teaks

I continue to experiment and enjoy the enhancements of the Nook Color software update 1.4.1 released yesterday.  I encountered some diminished functionality from a couple of websites I frequented.  After trying the usual things (clearing cache, cookies and history and powering the device off), I chatted with a customer service representative at Barnes & Noble.  I didn’t agree with his proposed solution and while he went seeking advice from a higher power (second tier tech support), I stumbled upon a solution.  I updated yesterday’s blog post to include my findings.

Continued Prayers Please

My husband saw the specialist today and a biopsy is scheduled for three days before Christmas.  Your continued prayers for healing, strength, understanding and patience are greatly appreciated.