Thursday, April 9, 2015

Amazon Prime Music Stations Available on Android


It’s hard to avoid being impressed with Amazon these days with so many announcements recently that deliver so many improvements; the latest news brings Prime Stations to Android users.

A lot has changed in the world of music: there was a time when having the latest release from your favourite artist meant traveling to a brick-and-mortar retail store and purchasing an entire album. Later, it became easy to download it (legally in many cases, illegally in others). Even later still, online music stores allowed you grab tracks one at a time (for a low, and often very reasonable cost). Now, it’s all about ‘radio’ (but it’s not your mother’s radio, so to speak).

Many options exist, some are good and others are better. Some are free but cluttered with advertisements. Some come with a subscription fee that will add features and remove the stuff you don’t want. Either way, the concept is the same: streaming music with customizable playlists that turn you into the DJ.

To me, the benefit of Prime Stations being available for Android is all about consolidation. You can subscribe yourself to death: small fees here and there that add up to bigger dollars in the end. Amazon understands, which is why there are so many perks to their Prime service.

Functioning as a piece of Amazon Prime Music, Prime Stations allows you to select from a wide variety of existing radio stations that are created and organized by genre –from there, music will play (or pause, or repeat, or skip… based on your input) and adapt to your preferences (just like or dislike songs as they play… the more feedback you give, the more personalized the station will become).

Prime Stations has been around a while for other platforms, but by finding its way to your smartphone it may just become a serious competitor of other high-profile services offering (pretty much) the same thing (think Pandora and Spotify, who should likely be a little concerned now).

Already using Prime? Get started with Prime Stations on your Android device by downloading Amazon Music with Prime Music.

Amazon Prime Music Stations Available on Android is a post from: Good e-Reader

Google Closing in on iOS Compatibility for Android Wearables


Let’s be honest, we were all expecting news like this at a time like this: the Apple Watch pre-sale is looming and Google announces that they are closing in on making Android wearables compatible with iOS devices. Some people won’t be swayed –they want an Apple Watch and nothing else will do. Others have an open mind (or a budget that doesn’t afford the high price tag for Apple’s new signature wearable). For those in that second group, news that there should be other wearable options that compliment their iPhone will be heard in a very positive light.

According to Google, the current state of development requires iPhone users to run a companion app on their smartphone in order to gain basic functionality (like notifications and Google Now’s ambient information cards, voice search, and other voice actions). Many expect that deeper integration with Google-branded apps is likely (such as replying to Gmail messages).

In some ways, this news isn’t actually that new. Pebble has a watch that offers iOS compatibility (and gives additional functions above what Google seems to have working, including the ability to control music from your wrist).

My curiosity is piqued, but I currently have more questions than answers.

If Google is successful, will [can] Apple allow it [thinking primarily about the requisite Google companion app, which will need entry into the App Store]?

Can Google maintain iOS compatibility as the operating system is updated and changed?

How much functionality counts as enough for iOS users to be persuaded and interested in an Android-powered wearable?

Is the inevitable hassle worth the lower price-tag?

Google Closing in on iOS Compatibility for Android Wearables is a post from: Good e-Reader

Facebook for Android Test Drives WhatsApp Integration


First, Facebook purchased WhatsApp (in 2014 for a mere $19 billion USD). Second, Facebook introduces voice calling into the app. Third, Facebook adds full-on integration of WhatsApp mobile messaging service into their signature social media app.

Loosely translated, this means beta users of the newly integrated Facebook app can use a dedicated ‘send’ button to share messages and news items with anybody in their WhatsApp contact list.

It should be safe to assume that this is just the beginning of what Facebook has planned for WhatsApp (otherwise, that was a lot of money spent on nothing) –especially when it primarily competes with their Messenger app that is already in play.

If you have been living under a rock and haven’t yet installed the Facebook for Android app on your phone, you should grab it now and join the rest of us.

Facebook for Android Test Drives WhatsApp Integration is a post from: Good e-Reader

Canada Gets Google Play for Education, Classroom-Ready Android Tablets


Those of us in Canada have been sitting on the sidelines as Google Play for Education was developed and deployed in the United States in November of 2013, and later in the UK earlier this year; fortunately we don’t have any longer to wait.

This news is exciting, particularly for those of us with young children. Described as a "’one-stop shop’ for engaging, educator-approved and instantly shareable content for classrooms, offering access to thousands of curated, teacher-approved apps as well as hundreds of free classic books,” Google Play for Education has access to an already comprehensive (and ever-growing) library of content.

In support of these goals, Google has prepared five classroom-ready Android tablets to choose from that can be used by Canadian schools to access the program. Each tablet can provide access to five student log-ins while allowing control and ownership over the content found in their individual accounts (not to mention that they are loaded with additional Google software like Docs, Chrome, Gmail, and Earth).

No matter whether schools choose Google or Apple in support of their educational initiatives, it is clear that the concept behind putting a screen into student hands is effective (and becoming essential).

Canada Gets Google Play for Education, Classroom-Ready Android Tablets is a post from: Good e-Reader

Hands on Review of the Kobo Glo HD

Kobo Glo HD

The Kobo Glo HD is a brand new e-reader that is due to launch in Canada at the end of April and should see a broad commercial release in the first few weeks of May.   It was designed to be both economical and heavily compete against the Kindle Voyage.


Kobo Glo HD - Hardware

The brand new Kobo Glo HD features a six inch e-ink Carta screen with a resolution of 1448×1072 and 300 PPI. It has the same front-lit display as the Kobo Aura H2O, so you will be able to read in low-light conditions or complete darkness.

I think the main reason Kobo  rushed the Glo HD to the market was because of the overwhelming success of the premium Kindle Voyage. This Amazon branded device was released late last year and at the time had the best resolution and highest PPI in the world. It also carried a hefty price, retailing for $199 US vs the $129 of the Glo HD.

Underneath the hood is a 1 GHZ processor and 4 GB of internal storage. When you take the e-reader out of the box for the first time you only have 3.1 GB of memory, primarily because the OS  takes up a fair amount of space.   In the past, the lack of memory could be offset by inserting an SD card, but for some reason Kobo decided to forgo it in this model.

I was honestly very surprised when Kobo made the decision to not include an SD card in this model, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. The e-reader industry has gravitated towards a cloud model in the last few years. The only Kindle model to ever have an SD card was the first model they ever released back in 2007.  Barnes and Noble recently disabled the ability to backup your books a few months ago and  now customers can only read books on an e-reader, tablet or app.


The one thing that Kobo has always done with every e-reader model is change the positioning of the power button and the backing.  The power button on the Glo HD is now centered on the very top and they have scraped the manual button that initiated the “comfort light”, which is basically Kobo-speak for the built in lighting.  Prior models of the Kobo e-reader product line have always had a smooth backing or angular. The Glo HD actually is perforated, which means there is hundreds of small little indentations that make it easy to hold. One of the drawbacks is that it is more subject to smudges and dust particles getting trapped in them.

Finally, the other major design decision on the Kobo Glo HD was the fact that they have included a sunken display.  This is very much akin to the same type of user experience as you would find on the Kobo H2O and quite different from the Aura. I think the big reason I like the Aura and Voyage so much, is that the screen is flush with the bezel.



Kobo has always run Linux as their primary operating system, so there is not too many dramatic changes on the software level from generation to generation.

If you are new to Kobo e-readers the company has always featured a dynamic home screen that changes depending on books you have purchased, open or common tasks. If you make a new collection or open up the internet browser it is front and center on the home screen until something else replaced it. This is tremendously useful because common tasks are easily accessible and not constantly buried in sub-menus.

Kobo has a few things about their line of readers that differentiates itself from the competition on a software level. One of them is achievements, which is similar to how the X-Box handles them. You can earn badges depending on your reading habits, such as competing a novel or reading after 12 am.

Another useful feature is their deep statistical analysis on your reading habits. You can glean how long it takes to  turn a page and the duration it takes for you to compete a book. Personally, I see this as a great way to monitor your kids reading habits for a carrot/donkey scenario.

The only new feature I could find after a few days with the Glo HD is under the settings and reading options. You can only change the refresh rate for the e-paper screen from 1-6 pages, instead of prior models that have a higher range. I think the main reason this change was made was to eliminate ghosting, which tends to happen if a full refresh has not recently occurred.

Reading Experience

kobo glo hd-reader

Kobo's entire line of e-Readers provides a tremendous flexibility in crafting a unique reading experience. There are eleven fonts bundled on the Glo HD and millions of combinations to augment the font size, line spacing, and margins. Advanced users can load in their own fonts that can be downloaded or purchased online. Kobo also has TypeGenuis, which offers further advanced options to adjust the weight and saturation. All of this comes with a before and after rendering on how the changes will look, comparing it against the existing settings.

The e-ink Carta screen and 300 PPI really takes reading to a new level. The Glo HD absolutely destroyed the Kobo Aura in terms of screen clarity and font resolution. The only modern e-reader it was comparable to was the Kobo H2O, which basically has the same specs and the Kindle Voyage.

Let's talk about the PDF experience. Sony once held the title of King of PDF, it had great re-flow and tons of customization options. Kobo has refined their own PDF experience into one of pure joy and has now usurped the title away from Sony.  Unlike the Kobo H2O you can actually pinch and zoom with this model and it offers a more robust experience than the Aura. You can start to pinch with two fingers and then release one finger and continue to scroll in the document. While you do this, the images do not render fully, but the text does.

In the top right corner of the PDF document you get a mini map of the page you are on. It lists the zoom level and the specific page you are on. I also noticed something quite interesting on this model. There is a secret option to view annotations and highlights within the PDF, but right now there is no functionality. I think the company is developing a solution that will allow users to highlight text and make notes based on text within a PDF file.

Finally, I think Kobo has firmly abandoned their “Beyond the Book” feature, which they launched two years ago. It was originally developed as a direct competitor to Amazons X-Ray feature. I think it never gained any traction and the vast majority of bestsellers never had proper entries that the decision was made to scrap it.

Wrap up

Kobo Glo HD Wrapup

The Kobo Glo HD will start shipping in Canada on April 28th and within the first few weeks of May it will be available at Chapters and Best Buy locations. It is going to be priced at $129, which is almost half the price of the Kindle Voyage if you take into account currency fluctuations. I fully believe that by the end of the year it will hit the $99 price point.

I like the fact Kobo tends to release new e-readers at the beginning of the year, when everyone else tends to do it in September or October. This gives them a competitive edge to be able to offer it in their core Canadian market before start bringing it into the UK, Europe, Australia and Japan.


High resolution and PPI
Solid Price
Great PDF experience
Extensive e-book ecosystem


Does not feel like a premium device
No options to enable publishers defaults for e-books
WI-FI constantly disables itself, making the store take longer to load

Rating: 8.5/10

Hands on Review of the Kobo Glo HD is a post from: Good e-Reader

Does Agency Pricing Hurt Reading Consumers?

A reader uses her Nook ereader
The publishing world is still rebounding from the effects of the DoJ suit against Apple and five of the then-Big Six publishers, and the effects of the judgement against the parties involved is still resolving itself. One of the current resolutions involves the expiration of key prohibitions against the publishers in how they deal with retailers. Following the Hachette dispute with Amazon over wholesale versus agency pricing–a dispute that saw Amazon remove Hachette titles from its website for a time–other publishers fell in line to try to negotiate new terms with the largest book retailer on Earth.

The current dog in the fight is HarperCollins, who according to some sources has demanded that all retailers move to an agency pricing model as early as next week while it still works to resolve its terms with Amazon. Amazon has stated that it offered HarperCollins the same contractual terms that it offered to the other Big Five houses, but the publisher has currently said it is holding out for agency pricing, a model which will mandate that retailers cannot discount books.

Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords and a long-time supporter of the agency model, spoke to Good e-Reader about why this model is good for authors and publishers–the two stakeholders who must secure a profit in order to continue providing books–and good for smaller retailers who otherwise couldn’t compete with a corporate behemoth in terms of pricing. More importantly, Coke addressed one often overlooked concern: does the agency pricing model hurt consumers?

“If publishers make the mistake of pricing their books too high, the marketplace will punish them for it,” Coker explained when answering to how preventing a retailer from discounting a book won’t come back on the consumer who has limited funds to spend on a book. “Readers have a lot more power than they think.”

“If an author or publisher is trying to screw them over with a price that is just outrageous, readers can say no. And publishers will hear that. Authors will hear that. Readers can put pressure on authors…if a reader feels like an author’s book is priced too high by the publisher, you can bet that all they have to do is tweet at that author about the book being priced too high, and the publisher’s going to be hearing that customers are angry. The marketplace has a lot of power. If readers can accept that it’s important that authors and publishers profit from the sale of a book since it’s their profit that allows them to continue this great service of providing books, then everyone can be happy. If readers think everything should be free, that’s obviously an attitude that is not sustainable.”

Does Agency Pricing Hurt Reading Consumers? is a post from: Good e-Reader

Kindle for iOS App Updated to Version 4.8

Amazon recently issued a software update for their iOS Kindle reading app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The update adds some new features, including flashcards for print replica textbooks, and enhancements to the “Before You Go” screen and Book Browser. The “Before You Go” screen is the annoying popup when you get to the […]

OverDrive Adds Dyslexic Font Option to Reading Apps

OverDrive updated their reading apps last week to add some new features, most notably they added the option to use a dyslexic font for reading ebooks. Standard fonts often present a problem for people with dyslexia because they make it hard to differentiate words, as the letters tend to get mixed up and jumble together. […]

DIY home alert system

Last year Andre Pawlowski started work on a home security project. A friend of his had been burgled, and he thought an open-source client/server DIY home alarm system would be a good idea.

The only solutions I found were limited to just one device. For example one solution for the Raspberry Pi only works locally with components that are directly connected to the Raspberry Pi itself. I wanted a client/server based structure which can be easily extended by just adding a new client to it. I did not found anything like it, so I had to write it myself.

Andre ended up with a system called alertR that he calls a “unified alerting system” which works with the client/server model he wanted. But why stop there? AlertR has gone a long way since its beginnings as a home alarm system; he’s integrated it with other systems in the house to the point where it’s become a complete home automation and notification system. So it can act as a watchdog to check your online services are running, tell you the doorbell is ringing when you’re playing music that’s so loud you can’t hear it, turn your devices on and off to order, alert you when a water leak sensor is triggered, monitor your smoke alarm, tell you if your server is pingable, watch to see whether the door and windows are open – there’s no limit to what you can add to the system. Andre says:

I looked into some commercial home alarm systems. All of them (at least the ones I looked into) had the same problem: they are limited to a count of x sensors to handle. alertR is logically not limited to a maximum count of sensors it can handle. Of course, it will be eventually reach a limit of resources at some point or the maximum value the database can store as an ID ;-). At the moment my instance handles 6 clients with 16 sensors and is not even close at being at its full capacity.

Keypad client, so someone with the right pin can turn the system on or off on leaving the house.

Keypad client, so someone with the right pin can turn the system on or off on leaving the house.

Here’s Andre’s video intro to the system. Please turn on captions; Andre has used them to explain what’s going on.

Best of all, the system also incorporates an events-driven rules engine. The engine means you can chain rules together so you can have a sequence of rules which have to be fulfilled in a specific order and in a specific time frame. One rule can consist of different rule elements that are bound together by a boolean operator.

Doesn’t make sense? Let’s imagine that every morning, you like to listen to a particular radio station throughout the house while you’re getting ready for work; but your start time varies, and on some days you might not be at home at all. This means that triggering your media centre to start playing at the same time every morning won’t work (although it can do that too, if you want it to). Instead, the system can watch for things that you do every time you get ready – opening a specific drawer in your bedroom within a certain number of seconds of turning the kettle on in the kitchen, say – and turn on the media centre, tuned to the right channel, when those rules are satisfied. Speakers in every room? The system can use a PIR sensor to tell which one you’re in, and move the music around the house to follow you.

The system comes with a nice notification client, so you can see what’s going on in your house using your mobile device.


It’s also configured so you can have alerts pop up on other devices you might be using. There’s integration with Kodi (which was still XBMC when this was being developed) for notifications; here’s a video to demonstrate. (Please turn the captions on again.)

The project is open source, so you can replicate it in your own house. Check out the GitHub repository, the Wiki, and Andre’s own blog posts about alertR.

You’ll be unsurprised to learn that we absolutely love this project. This is definitely one I’ll be using at home; let us know if you’ve got similar plans in the comments!

Streamline purchasing: Updates to carts for expiring Metered Access titles

Managing your Metered Access content and keeping up with user demand can be a challenge. We're committed to simplifying this process, and saving you time and effort on repurchasing expiring Metered Access titles. Earlier this year, we introduced features to assist selectors with shopping and reporting for Metered Access content. To build on that, we've now enhanced the weekly auto-generated carts and emails for expiring Metered Access titles.

Based on partner feedback, these carts and emails will only include titles when the last copy expires in the next 30 days. (Formerly, these carts and emails included titles when any copy was expiring within 30 days, even if additional copies had been purchased). When your library repurchases an expiring title, the title will no longer be included in subsequent auto-generated carts or emails. This mirrors the way the carts and emails are generated for titles metered by checkout, and it means you no longer have to keep track of the titles you already repurchased.

To help you with repurchasing decisions, the carts and emails now show two new columns (these columns show in all carts):

  • 1st copy added to site (regardless of lending model) – the date your library first purchased the title.
  • Last copy expires – the furthest expiration date, considering all the copies owned.

Additionally, weeded titles are now excluded from these carts and emails. This is noted in the email, which directs library staff to the "Weed/unweed collection" tool in Marketplace to take a look at currently weeded titles. (Note: The "Weed/unweed collection" tool is available to Marketplace users with "Library site admin" and "Weeding" permissions.)

For additional information, please see the Marketplace User Guide and contact your Collection Development Specialist with any questions.


Heather Valentine-Gold is an Account Specialist with OverDrive

Movies you can only stream at your library: Warner Brothers edition!

Recent studies show that two in five American households subscribe to a video streaming service like Netflix. This highlights the steady growth in popularity and high demand of streaming content, where consumers are looking for instant entertainment.

With OverDrive's streaming video collection, the library can offer the community another streaming option. By adding streaming video to your existing collection of eBooks and audiobooks, you could potentially reach new movie-loving users. You can provide access to streaming entertainment to people that can't afford to subscribe to a paid service and, for that growing number of library card holders that are also Netflix subscribers, you can offer a unique supplementary collection of films they can't find on Netflix.

We recently shared some family-friendly and children's classics that are available through OverDrive but you won't find streaming on Netflix. Below you'll find a similar selection of hand-picked selection of ten award-winning dramas, dark comedies, campy favorites, and old Hollywood classics, all available for purchase in OverDrive Marketplace. Just click the arrow next to the Shop tab and select "Cost Per Circ" to browse the Warner Bros. collection and find these titles and many more.

1. Everything is Illuminated
Elijah Wood stars in the movie based on Jonathan Safran Foer's critically-acclaimed novel of the same name.

2. I Am Sam
A moving drama about a developmentally disabled father fighting for the right to care for his daughter. Starring Sean Penn, Dakota Fanning and Michelle Pfeiffer.

3. Life as a House
Rebuilding a house helps a terminally-ill father connect with his troubled son. Starring Kevin Kline, Hayden Christensen and Kristin Scott Thomas.

4. Death to Smoochy
This dark Robin Williams comedy about rival children's TV stars is definitely not for kids, despite the appearance of Edward Norton in a pink rhino suit on the cover.

5. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Based on the off-beat Broadway hit, the film has become a cult classic about an East Berlin transgender rock star named Hedwig … you'll have to watch the movie to learn about the angry inch.

6. This Boy's Life
In one of Leonardo DiCaprio's first big movie roles, he plays a boy struggling with his relationship with an abusive stepfather, played by Robert De Niro.

7. Stand and Deliver
This drama based on a true story is set at an East Los Angeles high school and chronicles a math teacher that helps change the lives of his students. Starring Edward James Olmos, Andy Garcia and Lou Diamond Phillips.

8. Father of the Bride
The 1950 classic starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor about a father dealing with the joys and pains of planning his daughter's wedding led to the popular 1991 remake with Steve Martin.

9. Little Women
Based on the timeless book by Louisa May Alcott, the 1949 adaptation ofLittle Women stars Elizabeth Taylor, June Allyson, Janet Leigh and Margaret O'Brien.

10. The Shop Around the Corner
If you're like me and have a deep love for You've Got Mail, you have to seeThe Shop Around the Corner, the 1940 movie starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan that inspired the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan rom com.

Melissa Marin is a Marketing Specialist at OverDrive. She recommends having a box of tissues nearby while watching 'I Am Sam'.