Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Spotify Delivers Streaming Music to Amazon Fire TV

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Spotify fans in the US, with a premium subscription, now have an additional incentive to enjoy the popular music streaming service: full support for Amazon Fire TV. For those who may not be familiar already, Spotify offers on-demand access to more than 20 million songs instantly (with no Internet connection required and no interruption for advertisements).

In their launch statement, Spotify announced:

Using Spotify Connect on your Amazon Fire TV allows you to control your music using the Spotify app on your mobile or tablet. You can seamlessly switch your favorite music from your mobile to the TV and continue to make calls, use other smartphone apps and go out of wifi range, all without interrupting the music.

Amazon Fire TV was released in April, intending to rival devices like Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku. Initial reviews for the Fire TV have been positive, particularly given the increasing popularity of Amazon’s Prime streaming service.

If you haven’t tried Spotify for Android, download it now and start your 30-day free trial; when you become addicted, the service will cost you an affordable $9.99 per month.

Spotify Delivers Streaming Music to Amazon Fire TV is a post from: Good e-Reader

New Kindle Voyage with 300 ppi Screen Shows up Online

A new Kindle ereader is about to be released, two in fact. A leak has turned up online from Amazon Germany that shows the listing for new Kindle models. There is what appears to be a new “basic” Kindle. This one has a touchscreen and will sell for 59 euros in Europe. More interesting is […]

Looking for a Great New eBook? Giller Prize 2014 Longlist Revealed

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The summer season is winding down and many people are wondering about the next great read. You might want to check out the offerings from twelve Canadian writers, who are all contending for the the richest fiction prize in Canada – the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

These authors are vying for the grand prize of $100,000, up from $50,000, and the remaining finalists will receive $10,000, up from $5,000. It is certainly not all about the money though, if you are looking for a new eBook, one of these might fit the bill.

Waiting for the Man by Arjun Basu (ECW Press)

The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis (HarperCollins Canada)

American Innovations by Rivka Galchen (HarperCollins Canada)

Tell by Frances Itani (HarperCollins Canada)

Watch How We Walk by Jennifer LoveGrove (ECW Press)

Us Conductors by Sean Michaels (Random House Canada)

Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab by Shani Mootoo (Doubleday Canada)

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill (HarperCollins Canada) ·

Paradise and Elsewhere by Kathy Page (John Metcalf Books/Biblioasis)

My October by Claire Holden Rothman (Penguin Canada)

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews (Knopf Canada)

The Ever After of Ashwin Rao by Padma Viswanathan (Random House Canada)

Looking for a Great New eBook? Giller Prize 2014 Longlist Revealed is a post from: Good e-Reader

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

HarperCollins Aids Indie BookStores with Fast Holiday Shipping

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Indie bookstores normally are swamped during the holiday season, as people ravenously buy everything in sight. Giving the gift of a good book can actually be a life changing event and HarperCollins has announced a new Holiday Express Shipping beginning November 3, 2014 and running through January 16, 2015. All qualifying orders from participating stores received by 1:00pm (EST) will ship out the next business day or two.

"We are pleased to provide this service to the Indie channel in the busiest time of year in order to help them have HarperCollins titles in stock and meet the demands of their customers," said Brian Grogan, senior vice president of sales for HarperCollins Publishers.

"We are equally thrilled to be able to offer this additional level of service to independent Christian retail," said Tom Knight, senior vice president of sales for HarperCollins Christian Publishing. "It is our hope that this program will encourage independent retailers during the critical holiday selling season."

HarperCollins Aids Indie BookStores with Fast Holiday Shipping is a post from: Good e-Reader

Disney, Twitch.tv and Others Added to Chromecast

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Chromecast is enjoying increasing support from app developers, which is good news for those of us with Android devices and the desire to make them interact with our televisions. Thanks to recent updates, this capability has been added to: Twitch.tv, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, iHeartRadio, and DramaFever.

What will you enjoy with these apps? With the three channels provided by Disney (free, if you have a cable provider subscription that includes this content), you will see kid-friendly shows broken down into roughly sorted age groups. Music lovers will be excited to try out iHeartRadio, well known as a free and well-populated audio service. Twitch.tv lets the gamers in your life enjoy videos of their favourite titles being played live, while DramaFever is all about International content (in Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, Spanish, among others).

Every one of these additions has to make Apple a little nervous –especially when the Chromecast device comes in at under half the purchase cost of the Apple TV.

Disney, Twitch.tv and Others Added to Chromecast is a post from: Good e-Reader

Avenged Sevenfold Plans Rock and RPG in Hail to the King: Deathbat

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If you are fans of the music by Avenged Sevenfold, and you really like the horror genre, news that the band is about to release a new action-RPG game for your iOS and Android devices will be very exciting. In Hail to the King: Deathbat you are invited to fight your way through Nightmare and Bat Country, parts of an animated web series already developed and released.

Describing their project, Avenged Sevenfold stated:

“Hail to the King: Deathbat is a brutal romp through the darkest depths of the underworld with an epic tale of redemption, devastating melee combat, towering boss fights, 7 hellish landscapes and classic Avenged Sevenfold cuts along with a new and original score composed by the band.”

The game will feature 8 new theme songs from the band that you can listen to while collecting swords, magic, and powers. Little else is known about the game just yet, other than news that those gamers who love to collect achievements will be richly rewarded.

Hail to the King: Deathbat is due to be released for Android and iOS devices on October 16, 2014, so there isn’t much more time to wait!

Avenged Sevenfold Plans Rock and RPG in Hail to the King: Deathbat is a post from: Good e-Reader

Fight Off The Sinister Six in Spider-Man Unlimited for Android

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There are plenty of action hero games available in the mobile world, but few that capture the true essence of their comic book beginnings. In Spider-Man Unlimited, Gameloft has found a way to marry an action-packed arcade adventure game with the hand-drawn charm of a classic Marvel comic.

The aim of the game is to defeat the Sinister Six. They have opened a dimensional portal in New York (in an effort to bring forth endless versions of themselves). Grouped by issues, the first two are ready to go –with each one featuring 5 boss battles and 25 missions. For those among you who are competitive, daily and weekly events offer rewards while in Event Mode. In Unlimited Mode you can fight your way to the top of the leaderboards.

Gameplay is easy to learn but difficult to master; when you are getting used to a new endless runner, you have to think fast and let the controls become second nature. The best part of the game might just be the storyline and the character voices (giving way to their personalities). A tutorial will get you started on your way, but before long you are on your own.

The graphics are colourful and fun, the text is very easy to read on the screen, and the animations are just detailed enough to make the game enjoyable without seeming over the top (or making you wait for them to load or play through). I am especially fond of the little things, like being able to see that Spidey is breathing by the movements in his chest (making him seem that little bit more realistic).

Feel like making the world a safer place? Download Spider-Man Unlimited for Android and try your hand at playing the hero. The app is free, but be warned –there are opportunities to purchase virtual items.

Fight Off The Sinister Six in Spider-Man Unlimited for Android is a post from: Good e-Reader

Amazon Now Offering Kindle eBook Credits with “No Rush Shipping” Option

Amazon has recently started offering Amazon Prime customers that choose the “No Rush Shipping” option during checkout a $1 credit that can be applied toward the purchase of a print book or Kindle ebook. Previously the $1 credit offer for choosing slower shipping could be used for Amazon Instant Videos. But now both Kindle ebooks […]

Bookshout Rolls Out New eBook Program for Radio and TV

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Television and Radio programs often have to rely on sponsors and public donations to keep everything running smoothly. Bookshout is pioneering a new eBook program that can be used to give literary rewards to donors and philanthropists.

How exactly does this new program work? Jason Ilian the CEO of Bookshout spelled it out out. ” Existing radio and television stations that do fundraising campaigns are normally in touch with Forest Incentive.  Forest has integrated the Bookshout API,  so free eBooks can be given out with the campaign.  The station will work with Forest to choose which book(s) they want  and a special link is set out to the receipt via phone or email. The link will take them to a branded one-time redemption page where all they have to do is enter a username and password. Then the donor will be reading the ebook on BookShout.  They can use the iOS, Android, or web app at any time for their ebooks.”

Publishing giants such as HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan, Open Road Integrated Media, Simon & Schuster, Wiley, Workman Publishing, and numerous others have committed to participating in the program. "HarperCollins is honored to provide our great content to all public broadcasters via the BookShout!/Forest partnership," said Chantal
Restivo-Alessi, the Chief Digital Officer at HarperCollins. "We believe this will be a powerful new sales channel for our ebooks and authors."

Bookshout Rolls Out New eBook Program for Radio and TV is a post from: Good e-Reader

Official Cover for Onyx Boox T68 Lynx Now Available

A reader recently pointed out that an official sleepcover is now available for the Onyx Boox T68 on Amazon for $20. The cover is designed for the Boox T68, specifically the Lynx model (although it would work with the regular T68 too). As the picture below shows, the cover has tabs along each corner to […]

EU Announces Changes to VAT on eBooks

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The European Court of Justice has just concluded that EU member states are free to charge differing rates of VAT on eBooks and paper books. This will allow all countries in Europe to basically change their VAT on all books and not break 'fiscal neutrality', an EU concept whereby markets for the same goods are distorted by varying tax rates.

There have been major disagreements between member states and the European Commission on this subject over the past three years. Luxembourg dropped eBooks from the standard 15% VAT rate to 3% in 2012. France then followed suite with a drop from the then standard French VAT 19.5% to 5.5%.

Most countries in Europe have different VAT prices on digital content and were remiss to change their policies because they did not want to get smote by the European Court of Justice. With their new ruling, member states are now totally free to change the taxes on eBooks, without worry.

The 3% VAT based in Luxembourg was very advantageous to Amazon, Apple, Google and Kobo as an entry point to Europe. By basing their operations there, they could sell books in most European countries at a reduced VAT rate. This really helped them penetrate the lucrative UK market, where the established VAT rate is 20% on digital content.

Publishers, bookstores and small presses have been lobbying the UK government for change. They found that being based in the United Kingdom was inherently disadvantageous, because they had to charge 20% VAT, while Amazon could get away with 3%. This has prompted the EU to change their legislation in early 2015. Ebook companies will have to charge VAT at the rate where the customer is who buys the e-book, rather than at the rate where the servers of the e-book business are based.

EU Announces Changes to VAT on eBooks is a post from: Good e-Reader

How to Downgrade Kindle Paperwhite Software to Fix Footnote Issue

Software updates are usually a good thing. They usually add new features and fix bugs and issues. But the biggest problems with software updates is they can sometimes cause problems and make features not work properly. That seems to be the case with the Kindle Paperwhite 2. A lot of users are reporting problems with […]

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The new OverDrive app is here!

appiconWe’re pleased to announce that a new version of the OverDrive app for Android, iOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod touch), and Windows 8 is here!

This update features the long-awaited elimination of the Adobe Authorization step from the app installation process – one of your most frequently requested enhancements. We expect this change will significantly reduce library support questions and provide excellent benefits to users like syncing reading progress across multiple devices and saving libraries and common searches.

First-time users will now be prompted to create an OverDrive account. There is no change for existing users who already have an Adobe ID or OverDrive account associated with their OverDrive app, even after they update to the newest version.

Users under the age of 13 can anonymously authorize the OverDrive app without creating an OverDrive account.

OverDrive v3.2 also includes the following updates:

  • The app name has been shortened from “OverDrive Media Console” to “OverDrive.” To support the new name, the app website has moved to http://app.overdrive.com.
  • Users will be able to return Open EPUB titles before the end of their lending period. All formats that the app supports can now be returned before expiration.

OverDrive Help articles and videos have been updated to reflect the updates in OverDrive 3.2.

We hope you enjoy the new experience. if you have any questions, please contact OverDrive Support via the Support tab in OverDrive Marketplace.

Fresh Coffee at Mailchimp

Ben: Here’s a guest post from Steven Sloan, a developer at MailChimp.

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Grounds for innovation

Here at MailChimp, we’re always trying to listen hard and change fast. Turns out, this requires a good bit of coffee. Each department has its own take on how to keep the stuff flowing, mostly with the standard Bunn-O-Matic commercial machines. A few folks regularly avail themselves of our espresso setup. The developers fill two airpots—one with regular, the other double strength.

And then there’s the marketing team and our precious Chemex.

We make a pour-over pot once every hour or so, all day long, 5 days a week, 50-something weeks a year. Last December, when we were gathering data for our annual report, we got curious about how many Fresh Pots that might amount to. We tried to count it up, but begrudgingly had to accept the fact we didn’t have a good measure beyond pounds consumed. We even tried to keep track with a bean counter, but that didn’t last long.

For a while, the exact nature of our coffee consumption seemed like it would remain just another mystery of the universe. But then one day, talking to Mark while waiting on yet another Fresh Pot, I said, “Hey, I bet we could track the temperature with a Raspberry Pi and post to the group chat when there’s a fresh one.”

I wasn’t too serious, but Mark’s response was one often heard around MailChimp when ridiculous projects are proposed: “Sounds great, just let me know what you need to get it done.”

A few days later, I had a materials list drawn up from Adafruit’s thermometer tutorial, and we were off to the races.

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A fresh Pi

With a Raspberry Pi in hand, the first thing I did was add a script to the boot process that sent an email using Mandrill with its IP so I could find it on our network without trouble.

Then, I had to tackle the problem of detecting pot states with only a single datapoint: current temperature. I hoped that comparing the running averages of different time spans would be enough to determine the pot’s status. (The average Chemex temperature over the course of a few minutes, for instance, would tell us something different than the average temperate over the course of an hour.)

Since this was a greenfield project, I wanted to work with an unfamiliar language. I felt like the more functional nature of Clojure would be a great fit for passing along a single piece of state. This turned out to be a great decision, and I’ll explain why in a minute.

Graph it home

I hacked together a quick program that would spit out the current temperature, minute’s running average, hour’s running average, and the running average’s rate of change to a log file so I could analyze them.

...  {"current":32.062, "minute":24.8747, "hour":23.5391, "running-rate":0.039508}  {"current":32.437, "minute":25.0008, "hour":23.5635, "running-rate":0.0423943}  {"current":32.875, "minute":25.1322, "hour":23.5897, "running-rate":0.045361}  {"current":33.625, "minute":25.2738, "hour":23.6177, "running-rate":0.048569}  {"current":33.625, "minute":25.413, "hour":23.6476, "running-rate":0.05159}  {"current":33.625, "minute":25.55, "hour":23.6793, "running-rate":0.054437}  ...  

Log files in hand, I temporarily turned back to Ruby using the wonderful Gruff charting library to visualize things and make patterns easier to spot.

A few batches of hot water gave me a decent idea what things should look like, so I moved our coffee equipment to my desk to get some live data. This let me check in with the actual running state of the program and compare it with the status of the pot (and led to some coworker laughs and a wonderful smell at my workspace all day).

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A brewing or fresh pot is easy to recognize, but figuring out when the pot is empty turned out to be a little tricky. It takes a while for the Chemex to completely cool off, which means it could be empty and still warm, which I’m sure would lead to more than a few disappointing trips to the kitchen. Luckily, the rate a pot cools tells us if it is empty or not—for instance, a half-full pot stays warm longer than an empty one simply because of the coffee still in it. Always nice to have physics on your side.

Watchers for the win

Armed with the collection of datapoints (running averages, rate of change, etc.) for each of the pot’s states, I moved on to figuring out how to notify our department’s group chat room when a pot was brewing, ready, empty, or stale. This is where some of the built-in features of Clojure came in handy.

I already had a program that logged the current state of itself every second. By switching the actual state to an agent, I could apply watchers to it. These watchers get called whenever the agent changes, which is perfect for analyzing changes in state.

Another agent added was the pot itself. The watcher for the temperature would look for the above mentioned boundaries, and update the pot’s state, leaving another watcher to track the pot and notify our chat room. When it came time to pick an alias to deliver the notifications, Dave Grohl was the natural choice.

Here’s a simple example of the pot watcher looking for a brewing pot:

(def pot-status    (agent {:status "empty"}))    (defn pot-watcher [watcher status old_status new_status]    (if (= (:status new_status) "brewing")      (notify/is_brewing)))    (add-watch pot-status :pot-watcher pot-watcher)  

The great thing is the watcher only gets called when the status changes, not on each tick of the temperature. Using agents felt great to me in this case as they provided a clean way to watch state (without callbacks or a ton of boilerplate) and maintain separation of concern between different parts of the program.

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Freshness into the future

I’m still working out a few kinks, tuning in the bounds, and keeping a log of pots. It’s been a fun experience and I learned a ton. Something tells me this won’t be the last time we work with Raspberry Pi on a project. What’s next, Fresh Pots in space? Luckily, we’ve got plenty of coffee to propel us.

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Ben: Thanks to Steven and MailChimp for permission to use the post – we’re very pleased to see the Pi used as the tool of choice of coffee-hungry developers around the world! Coffee is important to us here at Pi Towers…

Trojan Room Coffee Pot

Blast from the past – remember this coffee pot? Click to read more

MailChimp is what I use to power Pi Weekly – my weekly Raspberry Pi news & projects email newsletter – check it out at piweekly.net!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Kobo and Bol form a Unique eBook Partnership

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Kobo has announced that they have formed a new partnership with Bol.com, the largest provider of eBooks in the Netherlands and Belgium. Starting today, customers will be able to order the entire Kobo Arc line of tablets and modern e-readers like the Kobo Aura and Aura HD directly on the Bol website. This agreement though, goes far beyond e-readers and may be a blueprint of how Kobo forms relationships with eBook retails going forward.

Bol.com introduced digital reading in the Netherlands and Belgium five years ago, and since then has experienced amazing growth. In addition to the 1.2 million eReaders sold in the Netherlands, customers can also read their eBooks digitally via tablets and smartphones. The selection of eBooks has grown enormously over the past few years. One in seven non-fiction books sold in the Netherlands is digital.

Every so often, a Kobo press release hits the Good e-Reader offices, and it normally involves them establishing new relationships with booksellers to get their e-readers in as many retail channels as possible. One specific element on the official press release piqued my interest “Over the next few months, bol.com and Kobo will launch innovations to make digital reading even more user-friendly.” What exactly does this mean?

I talked to Pieter Swinkels, Vice President, Publisher Relations & Merchandising at BOL. He stated “Starting today we are combining our libraries to offer the widest selection possible in the Netherlands and Belgium. This takes some time; the transition has begun and should be complete very soon. As well, customers will be able to buy books across the two platforms (bol.com store, Kobo store, Kobo device store, apps stores) and be able to access them through one cloud-based library (the Kobo library), they will have the full regular Kobo experience, including Reading Life, Notes and Bookmark Synchronization. We will continue to have the Dutch version of the global Kobo apps for all platforms, but also in coming weeks expect to launch a special bol.com-Kobo app.”

He went on to specifically address Sony users “Customers using a Sony device from bol.com will continue to have the experience they have now, so they'll buy on the bol.com site and download their purchase with Adobe DE or Watermark. They will also be able to access those books on Kobo devices and apps, with their bol.com or Kobo account. In other words, we're completely connecting the two platforms and creating one, seamless experience of searching, buying and reading. This is a tremendous departure from the previous bol.com experience, which was, as you write, basically a side loading experience.”

So what we are seeing now with the Bol partnership is Kobo willingly including another retailers digital library into their own. This might appeal towards other online booksellers such as Txtr.

Kobo and Bol form a Unique eBook Partnership is a post from: Good e-Reader

HarperCollins Introduces Digital Watermarks in eBooks

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HarperCollins has introduced new digital watermark technology that will be very appealing towards customers in Europe. Digimarc Guardian watermarks are fully compatible with DRM solutions. The tractability they provide remains fully effective even in cases where the DRM layer has been removed by users, using 3rd party tools.

Digital watermarking technology caught on a few years ago when the entire Harry Potter eBook collection adopted it, instead of going the traditional DRM route. This allows users to seamlessly load their purchased content on as many devices as they wish, without the need for bulky third party programs or apps.

Digimarc's cloud-based platform offers easy-to-integrate API support for most e-book formats, including EPUB, PDF and MOBI. For each transaction, the platform generates a unique, traceable digital watermark and embeds it throughout the e-book. The imperceptible digital identifiers are extremely difficult for pirates to locate and remove. Adding Digimarc Guardian
Watermarks takes just seconds and is invisible to the end customer.

Digimarc's anti-piracy service then crawls the web 24×7 searching for watermarked content. When a watermark is detected, Digimarc provides the unique identifier to the publisher to match against its own transaction records. Digimarc Guardian Watermarks do not contain any user information; the Digimarc Watermarks contain only anonymous digital IDs.

HarperCollins confirmed with Good e-Reader that watermarks will have a very gradual roll out, and not all new titles will have this technology. They also neglected to mention if specific markets will have this feature introduced first, such as Europe, where watermarking is the current rage.

HarperCollins Introduces Digital Watermarks in eBooks is a post from: Good e-Reader

Design and Sell Custom Merchandise with Makr iOS App

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If you are feeling equal parts creative and entrepreneurial, Makr by Happy Media could be the app you need to succeed (using only your phone). Using your own visual identity or logo, create custom swag (like t-shirts, tote bags, or temporary tattoos). Once your items are mocked-up and looking just right, you can then sell your merchandise in the built-in online store (letting Makr handle all aspects of production, shipping, and payments).

The whole process is a little like Etsy, minus the handcrafting. Makr wins by capitalizing on your ideas while absorbing all of the risk so you don’t have to (by working with vendors). So what’s in it for you? If somebody buys an item that you designed, $2 goes directly into your pocket!

It may seem like a small profit margin, but consider that you really aren’t doing any of the heavy lifting.

Filled with design and marketing tools, Makr promises professional products that are easy for anybody to create. Need a little help? Try one of their templates, giving you a head-start on: business cards, party invitations, wedding materials, stickers, postcards, stationary, greeting and holiday cards –or maybe you want funny or themed clothing for an event you are hosting.

Makr – a design + print shop is only available for iOS devices currently –download it for free from the App Store now!

Design and Sell Custom Merchandise with Makr iOS App is a post from: Good e-Reader

1,000 HarperCollins titles now 40 percent off through September 30

Now is a great opportunity to stock up on popular, in-demand eBooks from authors such as Kiera Cass, Jodi Picoult, Stephanie Evanovich, Ray Bradbury, and Barbara Kingsolver, as 1,000 titles from HarperCollins Publishers are 40 percent off in OverDrive Marketplace, today through September 30. This sale is available for all public libraries that currently have geographic rights to the sale title list.

From classic literature to today's bestsellers, fantasy, romance, biography and thriller, this sale encompasses everything your readers are looking for from HarperCollins. Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The Warriors series by Erin Hunter, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman are just a few titles that your readers will love. Click here to see the 200 most popular HarperCollins titles, or click here for the full sale list.

Act now to get the best prices of the season for these 1,000 HarperCollins titles. Contact your Collection Development Specialist for more information or for help creating a cart.

 

Don’t miss this week’s must-attend webinars!

As you're diligently working to create new and creative lesson plans for your students this school year, we want you to know that OverDrive is here to help! You can sign up today for the following webinar, offered exclusively for our school partners September 16-17:

  • Back to School: Easier than Ever with OverDrive – Learn how OverDrive is making this back to school season easier than ever and get tips for integrating eBooks into the classroom.

Your school already has a great OverDrive collection, so join us for this opportunity to get more ideas about how you can engage students with digital media this year. You'll also find out about new and coming features for your school’s OverDrive service, including:

  • Newly available and discounted YA and Juvenile titles (our biggest sale of the year!)
  • Digital novel sets
  • Educator resources, like Teacher’s Notebook

Space is limited, so reserve your spot today.

Also, we currently have registration for additional “Open Sessions” on the Learning Center:

  • Explore the OverDrive app: Learn how to get started using the OverDrive mobile app for Android and iOS with a live demonstration and Q&A.
  • Marketplace Basics: Learn the basics of Marketplace purchasing.

Have a topic you'd like training on? Feedback on a training you've had? Contact us at training@overdrive.com. We look forward to seeing you in our upcoming sessions.

 

Katie Blachman is a Training Specialist at OverDrive.