Wednesday, April 10, 2013

eBook Review: Orange Karen, A Tribute to a Warrior


Verdict: 5 Stars

How do you rate a book that is filled to overflowing with amazing stories by talented writers, while knowing that it was created to bring inspiration and support to someone facing dark times? Recent troubles have seen authors and publishing industry professionals band together for good like superheroes. The collaboration of experts who donated publishing services to raise money for the families of victims of the Newtown shooting was remarkable, as was the Indies Unite For Joshua IndieGoGo campaign comprised of indie authors who came together to raise funds for a fellow writer’s son’s medical expenses associated with leukemia. And now a new face joins the ranks of authors experiencing hardship, and once again, the writing and publishing community has answered the call.

Orange Karen: Tribute to a Warrior, is a short story anthology with a little something for everyone. Vampires. Sweaty romance heroes. Old ladies named Miss Della. Even a murdered race car driver. By bringing together thirty-nine authors whose works were accepted from the piles of submissions, the organizers behind Orange Karen have crafted a work of profound love and support, while still a work of incredible literature.

According to a press release announcing the book’s launch tomorrow, “ORANGE KAREN: TRIBUTE TO A WARRIOR is a collection of 39 stories that explore the strength and resilience of the human spirit. From the monster in the basement to the teddy bear on a young woman’s pillow, each story uses the colour orange as a thematic element, revealing the power of love, friendship, and the will to live. Karen DeLabar is a friend, author, and mother. In June of 2012, she was tricked with Toxic Shock Syndrome. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the anthology will be donated to Karen and her family, to assist with her medical expenses, and ongoing recovery.”

While Orange Karen officially goes on sale April 11th, so much work has been done leading up to the book release that the authors themselves appear to be more excited than DeLabar. Some of the contributing authors are professionally published veteran authors, but for some, this anthology marks their publishing debut. All told, the vast differences in the stories and writing styles themselves will mean that it can appeal to a broad audience.

Orange Karen will be available from Amazon in ebook and print editions, and a very special tribute event open to all attendees will take place on Friday, April 12th, at 9pm ET via Spreecast.

eBook Review: Orange Karen, A Tribute to a Warrior is a post from: E-Reader News

BajaLibros Launches Spanish eBookstore in the US


BajaLibros has been operating in Latin America by way of Argentina for a number of years. The company is opening up a new online store in the US to take advantage of the large Spanish speaking audience. The new portal allows Spanish-language readers to download more than 50,000 books, novels, and textbooks. These including classics and bestsellers to enjoy on a variety of devices, such as iPads, smartphones, tablets with Android OS, netbooks, notebooks, and desktop computers.

Due to its contracts with large publishing houses throughout Latin America, offers ebooks in various genres, which include popular works from Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, and Peru, among others countries. For example, has the largest collection of Spanish-language books about Pope Francis—all of which have been written by him—including popular titles that have become's best sellers since the Holy Father was elected.

Bajalibros has hard work ahead in the US market. Amazon and Barnes and Noble both offer around 50,000 ebooks each in their ecosystems. Although, both of these companies are far from the platform agnostic angle that Bajalibros has.

BajaLibros Launches Spanish eBookstore in the US is a post from: E-Reader News

Microsoft Office on Android and iOS in 2014 – Says New Leak


An internal Microsoft roadmap has stated that the Android and iOS versions of Microsoft Office will debut in 2014, and the Windows 8 RT version of Office will come out in October.  The new mobile friendly version of Office is codenamed Gemini, and will debut on Windows Phones, tablets, and many other mobile devices.

Rumors of a mobile friendly version of Office have been persisting for years. As more customers gravitate towards tablets instead of the traditional PC, Microsoft’s challenge grows larger. Being able to invest in other ecosystems is one of the most critical business decisions for the Redmond based company. It looks like this time that we may see Office debuting on a myriad of platforms in late 2014.

Honestly, next fall 2014 is a long ways away. I think most customers will gravitate towards other word processing alternatives. Microsoft is obviously late to the tablet party with its software and many customers refuse to even care at this point.

Microsoft Office on Android and iOS in 2014 – Says New Leak is a post from: E-Reader News

Bowker Bookwire App Lets You Get Book Data on the Go

mzl.htyejmtc.320x480-75Bowker has just released an iOS app for the iPad and iPhone that will assist librarians and customers who want to compare prices as they shop for ebooks. Users can scan the barcode of any physical book to receive a quick search result for that title and format, view a list of the lowest retail prices, and make a purchase through multiple e-retailers. It will also allow you to get access to metadata and add it to your library’s main cart for future use.

The new app is free, but does have some pay features. I think customers will dig the fact that they can visit their local bookstore and then scan titles they want to get the ebook prices on. Obviously, in almost all cases, the ebook price is significantly lower than the tangible version. You can get purchasing information from Abebooks, Amazon,, and a number of other sites.

Bowker Bookwire App Lets You Get Book Data on the Go is a post from: E-Reader News

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Review: HTC One is the Android phone to beat

HTC knows how to make good-looking hardware. I loved the white ceramic body of the HTC One X and Nokia could learn a thing or two about making Windows phones by taking a closer look at the HTC Windows Phone 8X. The company’s latest offering, the HTC One, is a paragon of industrial design: Its chiseled chamfers, rounded edges, and chrome accents are sure to turn more than a few heads when you whip out the phone in public. But the One is more than just a pretty face: HTC packed a lot of power under the phone’s hood, and the handset’s camera benefits from numerous software and hardware tweaks that should excite fans of mobile photography.

A feast for the eyes

HTC OneJason Cross
The HTC One is a well-crafted handset.
The first thing you’ll notice when holding the One is how well it sits in your hand. At 5.4 by 2.7 by 0.4 inches, the phone is larger than Apple’s iPhone 5 but smaller than HTC’s previous handset, the Droid DNA. Though the phone comes with a 4.7-inch display (shades of the Samsung Galaxy S III), the One’s aluminum unibody design and gentle curves compare favorably to the S III’s primarily plastic body. That slick exterior does come at a price, however: The One’s power and volume buttons sit flush with the phone’s chassis—which makes them difficult to press—and the 2300mAh battery is nonremovable. The phone also lacks a microSD card slot, meaning that you’re stuck using the supplied 32GB (or 64GB, if you buy the larger model) of on-board memory to store your photos, apps, music, and movies.
HTC OneJason Cross
The One has two front-facing stereo speakers.
The absence of expandable storage is lamentable, especially since in other respects HTC designed the One to function as a multimedia powerhouse. The One’s 1920-by-1080-pixel display packs 468 pixels per inch, which makes viewing HD content a feast for the eyes. Bordering that gorgeous display are two large, front-facing stereo speakers, which pump out surprisingly loud, clear audio. One big advantage of positioning the speakers on the front of the device rather than on the back is that audio doesn’t get muffled when you set the phone down on a flat surface. I did notice an occasional pop at higher volumes, but the speakers’ sound quality was more than acceptable overall.
The TV app on the HTC One.
If you tend to mislay your TV remote, you’ll appreciate the One’s built-in IR blaster, which lets you use the phone as a universal remote control. The phone has a TV app with a setup wizard that simplifies the task of programming the One to work with your TV, cable box, and home theater. The app also pulls listing information from Peel, showing which TV shows and movies are currently playing. You can arrange for the phone to remind you when your favorite shows are on and to provide a brief synopsis of specific episodes. I tested the remote functionality of the phone with an LG TV and a Motorola cable box in our office and was surprised at how well the combination worked. Though I was 13 feet away from the cable box, I noticed little or no delay when I changed channels or browsed through the guide. The app is so well made that I almost wish I subscribed to cable...almost.

Built to be social

HTC’s BlinkFeed app.
Another cool bit of software that the One offers is BlinkFeed. HTC is marketing BlinkFeed—which resembles the Live Tiles on Windows Phone to some extent—as a “magical” way to stay up-to-date on your social networks and news feeds, but in reality it’s just a glorified RSS reader that lives on your home screen. You can tie BlinkFeed to your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts so that your friends’ updates show up there; however, clicking an update just kicks you into the corresponding app. You can also instruct BlinkFeed to display news headlines, but the news outlets you can subscribe to are limited to a handful of blogs—though you can subscribe to a catch-all news category like ‘lifestyle’.
Despite using the phone for several days, I never felt inclined to spend much time with BlinkFeed. Though I loaded all of my social accounts into it, I ended up using the stand-alone Twitter and Facebook apps to update my status and to see what my friends were up to. Being able to browse headlines quickly was convenient, but other dedicated apps such as Zite perform better in that regard. Most annoyingly, you can’t turn BlinkFeed off: It always appears as your leftmost home screen, and you can’t get rid of it without installing a different launcher.

UltraPixels make a difference

HTC OneJason Cross
The HTC One has a 4-megapixel camera.
The other features that HTC played up when it announced the phone were the One’s camera and camera software. Rather than perpetuate the myth that the more numerous the megapixels, the better a camera’s image quality, HTC opted in favor of a 4-megapixel camera with larger pixels than those traditionally used in smartphones. These UltraPixels are designed to take in more light, making them better for capturing photos in low-light environments.
After taking the One’s camera out for a spin, I think HTC may be on to something with UltraPixels. The One handled everyday shots well enough, but it excelled at taking photos in areas with less-than-optimal lighting. Photos were less noisy than comparable shots taken with an iPhone 5 or a Nokia Lumia 920 under the same conditions, and the One’s flash didn’t completely wash out the subject. The iPhone 5’s outside shots looked better than the One’s, but the two were more evenly matched on indoor photos.
A sample photo taken with the HTC One.
The One’s biggest advantage over the iPhone, however, is in the number of features that HTC packs into the phone’s native camera app. The default Android camera has various extras built into it already, but HTC seems to have omitted only a kitchen sink app in assembling the One’s camera software: Among the available shooting modes are HDR and panorama; and you can apply filters to your photos without having to resort to third-party apps such as Instagram.
Another noteworthy shooting mode is Zoe. When you activate Zoe, the phone takes up to 20 photos and records about 3. seconds of 1080p video. The feature is designed for action shots, of course, where you’d expect a lot of movement; and you can select and pull additional stills from the 1080p video. Though Zoe mode is a neat extra, I didn’t find much use for it in my day-to-day life. Perhaps very creative people will find some cool uses for the feature.

The processor steps up the power

The One’s many features require a lot of processing power, which the One has in good supply. The One is the first handset to ship with Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor, which is supposed to deliver superior graphics and battery life. The phone gracefully handled every app I threw at it, including games like Shadow Gun and Temple Run, though it did get noticeably warm when performing processor-intensive tasks (like gaming) or downloading 20+ apps at once.
The phone’s battery should survive an entire day of normal use (about 9 hours), so you don’t have to worry about the One dying on you in the middle of the day. If you like to play lots of movies or games on your phone, however, you’re well advised to bring along your charger: The One’s high-resolution screen can be a real drain on the battery if left on too long.
We received the Sprint version of the One for testing. (It will also be available on AT&T and T-Mobile.) Call quality over Sprint’s network was solid, with little or no static on either end of the call. Unfortunately, Sprint’s data speeds were somewhat underwhelming. In San Francisco, where we have access to Sprint’s LTE network, I often found myself using the One on Wi-Fi when streaming HD video or downloading large apps. Its performance might improve as Sprint fleshes out its LTE network, but for now don’t expect miracles if you’re a Sprint customer looking to upgrade to the One.

Bottom line

Even with its handful of quirks, the HTC One is among the best Android phones you can buy. Heck, it’s among the best smartphones you can buy, period. A superb design, a beautiful screen, and such extras as the IR blaster and the Zoe camera mode help it stand out from the pack. If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, this is the one to get.

New Coby Tablets with Google Play Now Available for $109 and Up

Coby, one of the more prolific budget tablet makers, has released a new line of inexpensive tablets with decent specs and low prices for 2013. There’s a 7-inch model (MID7065), a 10-inch model (MID1065), and an 8-inch model (MID8065) available right now from various online retailers. About this time last year I reviewed the Coby [...]

OverDrive Announces Opening of World Headquarters

Today, OverDrive announced the opening of its new world headquarters, Blue Sky Campus, in Garfield Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.  A special event celebrating the opening is planned for tomorrow (Wednesday, April 10) and many area librarians, school representatives, partner suppliers and vendors will attend.  In addition, community leaders, such as Garfield Heights Mayor Vic Collova, will also attend.  A special presentation is planned for two of the world-class library systems in the area, Cleveland Public Library and Cuyahoga County Public Library, who will be represented by Executive Director Felton  Thomas and Executive Director Sari Feldman, respectively.  See the press release.

Stay Tuned for National Library Week Celebrations

National Library Week is quickly approaching. Mark your calendars April 14-20 for a weeklong celebration of our favorite thing–libraries! This event, sponsored by the American Library Association, has been running since 1958 and provides a time to shine a spotlight on the many kinds of libraries in the U.S., promote library services and resources and honor library workers. ALA has a website full of great resources to support the theme for this year, "Communities matter @ your library."

Follow along with the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #nlw13. We'll be tweeting from @OverDriveLibs and interested to hear how you are enjoying National Library Week. Keep an eye out on the blog next week as we celebrate with our valued library partners. There may even be a chance to win some fabulous prizes!

 Melissa Marin is a Marketing Specialist at OverDrive.


Kno, Sally Ride Science Take Academic eBooks in a New Direction

Sally Ride

The US educational front is just beginning to enjoy the benefits of widespread digital textbook adoption, especially at the public school level. But now, Kno and Sally Ride Science have teamed up to create engaging, informative ebooks with full-color graphics, embedded video, and more, all aimed at encouraging an interest in science in younger students. Created by a premier educational software company and an organization built to further students in the sciences, both Kno and Sally Ride Science bring their expertise to this series of books, which include video of scientists and engineers in action, as well as simulations for the readers.

"Sally Ride Science is at the forefront of the movement to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and all of the related career opportunities in those fields. One way to do that is to provide students with engaging learning tools that ignite their curiosity in the sciences," said Sheryle Bolton, CEO of Sally Ride Science, in a press release. "Working with Kno gives Sally Ride Science the ability to fulfill our mission in new and exciting ways, while opening up a larger world of possibilities to students across the country."

The series, entitled Cool Careers in Science, follows up with enhanced digital editions of several other titles meant to encourage a greater interest in the sciences by offering insight to students into what those career fields entail. This is especially important for key demographics of students, especially females and minorities, who are still underrepresented in science careers and underserved in STEM courses.

"We are excited to partner with Sally Ride Science to show young students what is possible and to break down barriers to what they can achieve," said Osman Rashid, CEO of Kno. "Just as Sally Ride was a pioneer, this partnership offers a pioneering approach that uses digital technology to inspire students to embark upon careers in science."

A full catalog of Sally Ride Science titles and a sample chapter of  Cool Careers in Green Chemistry are available from Kno.

Kno, Sally Ride Science Take Academic eBooks in a New Direction is a post from: E-Reader News

Raspberry Pi GSM gateway

If you travel a lot, you’ll be used to absurd roaming charges when you use your mobile phone. But sometimes your phone’s an absolute necessity – those of us at the Foundation can’t really go overseas for work or for holiday without paying those charges, because we need to be in touch with the office and with a lot of other people around the world who need to talk about things Pi. (And we like to be able to phone our mothers.)

Holger Leusch, Benjamin Reichel and Karina Hochstein have found themselves with a similar problem. Worse still, Holger travels to Cambodia a lot, and his German phone provider doesn’t even have a roaming agreement with any of the Cambodian telcos, so he’s not able to use his phone there at all. He found VoIP unusable in Cambodia, with patchy calls, lousy bandwidth, delays and dropouts. Like us, he needed to be in constant touch with his office.

Enter (you knew this was coming, didn’t you?) the Pi.

Many of those in Holger’s position would look into buying a SIP-based GSM gateway. GSM gateways are expensive things: Holger’s research found that a single GSM port (and you’ll need two, one at each end) was priced between €200 and €400. “For this to pay off, I would have to make a whole lot of phonecalls.” So he, Benjamin and Karina built their own, using a Pi running RasPBX; a Huawei dongle for 3G; a Chan dongle which works as an Asterisk channel driver; and a USB modeswitch. The whole kit came to €75.

Holger says:

Now when a caller in Europe calls my german GSM number, first my domestic Snom phone rings, then after 5 seconds, my Cambodian mobile phone gets called. As a sideffect, my Cambodian friends from now on can call and SMS my German phone back at local rates of a few cents…

The connection quality over the 10.000 km spanning 64 kbps Asterisk SIP trunk between both gateways actually is so amazing that none of the callers even noticed that I was out of the country at the time!

Please be aware that in some countries, telecoms law around GSM gateways is a bit fuzzy. In the UK, Ofcom says:

Ofcom has recently clarified that it is entirely legal under UK law for end-users (whether businesses or ordinary consumers) to buy, install and use GSM gateways for their own use. However it is currently illegal under UK law for anyone to use GSM gateway equipment to provide a communications service by way of business to another person or organisation, irrespective of where the gateway equipment is located, or how many or few end-users are connected to each gateway. This prohibition on 'commercial' use applies equally to the mobile network operators (MNOs) as to other organisations, since the MNOs' licences do not currently extend to the installation and use of GSM gateways.

Basically, you can build a gateway yourself in the UK – but woe betide you if you try to sell or lease one. The mobile network operators sometimes take this even further (for reasons which you might, when you consider all the lovely money that results from those roaming charges, think to be a bit…venal): for example, if Vodaphone suspects you’re using one of its sim cards in a GSM gateway it says it will disable the card. So be sure to research what the local rules are carefully before you implement something similar yourself.

You can read more about Holger, Benjamin and Karina’s setup at Carrier Connect Shout Out.