Friday, August 28, 2015

New Braille Smartwatch can Read e-books and Texts


People with vision disorders or who are completely blind are quite limited when it comes to using smartphones or reading e-books on an e-reader. There are a few solutions currently on the market, but they retail for thousands of dollars. A Korean company is seeking to address this issue with a new Braille smartwatch that can read text messages and read e-books for $300.

The new device is called DOT has a raised sequences of bumps, which are readable, or touchable as words, are created by four rows of six dots that rise up or are lowered to make up to four letters at a time. This is perfect for reading e-books while on the go, but once paired with a smartphone small vibrations will let you know when there is an incoming text message.


The US-based National Federation of the Blind estimates that just 10% of visually impaired people actually learn braille, while the UK’s Royal National Institute of Blind People reports literacy figures of less than 1%.  The World Health Organization estimates that there are 285 million people with severe visual impairment around the world, of whom 39 million are completely blind.

Those are some very depressing figures, but one of the most unique aspects about the DOT is that it employs a Braille learning system.  If you want to buy one of these puppies it will be available in Canada and the US this December for $300.

Sony Stops Selling the Digital Paper (DPT-S1) Direct Today


The entire Sony e-commerce network is shutting down today and by September 30th 2015 it will be deleted. This will result in Sony being unable to directly sell products, such as the Sony Digital Paper. This is not the end of the world for people who want to buy this device though, Sony has setup a new marketing site that heavily leans on 3rd party re-sellers to fill the void.

I talked to a number of high ranking executives in charge of the Sony Digital Paper today and they informed me that a new marketing site  has been developed. It replaces the old product landing page and has new pictures, videos and links to all of their official partners where you can purchase a DPT-S1. I would recommend using B&H Photo, who will sell to the general public in the US. Their inventory shows that it is on pre-order right now, but I have been assured that they will get their shipment within the next week. Sony’s other retailing partners are highly specialized in the medical or legal fields and will only sell the product within those industries.

Sony has also confirmed with Good e-Reader that they will continue to provide customer support for their online partners. So if you purchase a Digital Paper from B&H Photos and have a problem, you will contact the Sony guys via email or call them at 877-723-7669.

Emma’s 10 deserted island books

Ed. Note: This is the 2nd in our series of books we’d take on a deserted island if we could only pick 10. Thanks again to Time Magazine for the idea!


The Likeness by Tana French

Tana French is one the best mystery/thriller writers that I've ever had the pleasure of reading. If I had to pick just one of her novels, it would be this. Murder, mystery, doppelgängers and the Irish countryside? Count me in.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Perhaps I'm just desperate to rekindle the way it felt to read J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books for the first time, but to me, the Cormoran Strike series is like Harry Potter for adults. A bit grim at times, this novel is well-written, gripping and makes you question how you didn't identify the killer from the start.

Atonement by Ian McEwan

I'm a sucker for a tragic love story, especially one that contains some unexpected twists. The prose is beautifully done. I can't say enough good things about this book, which might be why I wrote several papers on it during my undergraduate and graduate years.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

I've been reading Sarah Dessen since I was 13 and she's one of the only authors I've stuck with even into adulthood. I am always excited for the release of her next book and her newest work, Saint Anything, doesn't disappoint. This story of family and forgiveness and friendships might be my favorite one of Dessen's yet.

London Walks by David Tucker

London is the best city in the world (in my opinion). Samuel Johnson once said, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” This book holds a special place in my heart (the author, David Tucker, was my professor and tour guide when I studied abroad in London) for the way it describes the city in nice little vignettes. It is meant to be read in London itself and comes with suggestions of where each chapter should be enjoyed.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky

I picked up a copy of this book at Shakespeare and Co. in Paris and then read it on the 3-hour train ride back to Grenoble (where I was studying abroad at the time) so my memory of reading this book for the first time is quite charmed. Perks is relatable at any age and perfectly captures what it means to grow up and navigate all the messy parts of life.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

This classic resonated with me a lot when I first read it in high school. I admire Edna's wish to do as she pleases, during a time when it was frowned upon if a woman was anything less than a great wife and mother.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

"Something wicked this way comes…" Who doesn't love plotting, murder and great monologues in Scotland? As an English major and a literature student, I've read a good amount of Shakespeare, but none is as interesting to me as this one. Lady Macbeth is a villain I love to hate.

Monarchy by David Starkey

Concise, informative and dramatic, this history of the Monarchy in England is a page-turner. It covers the early aught of the monarchy all the way up to the Windsor family that we so knowingly love and adore today.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

This series doesn't really need any explanation. It's amazing. I grew up with these books. Prisoner of Azkaban is crucial because of the introduction of Sirius Black, and, for the first time, Harry sees firsthand that everyone deserves forgiveness, not matter how difficult it seems. Plus, I always wanted a time turner so I could be in two places at once!


Emma Kanagaki is a Collection Development Analyst with OverDrive

My library and me: making life better one book at a time

This video was a big hit at DigiPalooza, so I wanted to share it with you, and tell you a little bit about the inspiration behind the video.

Does anyone out there remember "My Buddy?"  It was this doll with one of the most persistently obnoxious TV commercials of all time.  It was always there, jamming its jingle into my brain between my favorite Saturday morning cartoons.  For those of you that don't remember, here it is:

Why am I talking about My Buddy?  The idea behind their entire marketing campaign was that you could and should take My Buddy with you everywhere, living your daily life with a doll by your side.

That's how I feel about my library now.  In the morning, I use a waterproof Bluetooth speaker to listen to my audiobook in the shower.  As I eat my cereal, I read an eBook on my phone.  Then, I get in my car, connect my phone to the stereo, and listen to my audiobook during the commute to work—sometimes looking forward to traffic jams (depending on the book).  I even want my next car to have Android Auto on board for better audiobook control.

After work, I get home and walk the dog: audiobook.  I go to the gym: audiobook.  Eventually I go to bed, where I read an eBook on my tablet before I fall asleep.  You get the idea.

Yes, I read a lot.  However, I suspect that I'm not the only one.  My deep love of reading has often had to take a back seat to things like lighting, weather, chores, availability of content, and a plethora of other obstacles.


Thanks to my nerdy obsession with technology, however, I'm now connected to my books whenever I want them, and I couldn't be happier.  I'm a firm believer in the idea that education and reading can change the world for the better.  It doesn't matter what you're reading, be it a comic book, Sci-Fi novel, or a Nikolai Tesla biography because just about every book, story, or poem you pick up can teach you something.

My favorite example of this is Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson.  The opening scene involves a man calling himself the "Deliverator" (his real name is Hiro Protagonist) on a "mission" to deliver pizza for Costa Nostra Pizza.  He's in an armored, and wildly advanced, stealth pizza-mobile, and his quest to deliver the hot pies in the back reads more like a chase scene from a futuristic 007-style novel.

I know, it doesn't actually sound like an educational piece, but Snow Crash taught me a lot about the mythology surrounding the origin of language.  It got me to research Babel a little, and really got me thinking about the role it (and the origin of language in general) has played in religion and mythology across the ages.  On top of that, Snow Crash was published in 1992, but it predicted a world wide web, in which people could log in using avatars to interact in a virtual space.  We're not quite up to Snow Crash levels of VR yet, but the current trend is eerily similar to what Stephenson predicted.

Did I pick up Snow Crash to learn about Babel, high-speed pizza delivery, or advancing computer technology?  Nope.  But I learned something anyway.  That's the power of reading—it's why I work at OverDrive, and it's why I am writing this blog post right now.  I want to help build a world in which everyone can get the books they want whenever they want them regardless of perceived obstacles.  Together, with the help of companies like Google and Apple, we can bring reading to the masses—educating millions, even if they can't tell they're learning.  Technology can, will, and does work for us in this space like it never has before.

In short, share the video at the beginning of the post.  Let's show off the fact that books from the library can go with you wherever you want to be!  Let's come up with our own jingle!  Let's make the world a better place together.

Quinton Lawman is a Product Owner (and one of our many awesome resident nerds) at OverDrive

Capacitive touch HAT from Adafruit

While we’re on the subject of HATs, here’s one of my favourites, from our friends at Adafruit.

We had email a couple of weeks ago from JosĂ© Federico Ramos Ortega, who has prepared a video and tutorial about the HAT (which he calls a Sombrero Capacitivo) in Spanish. Extra points for the use of cactus fruit to change instrument.

You can get your hands on one of these at Adafruit, who, despite the name, do not sell the fruit required to build a fruit piano of your own, but who do sell everything else. Lettuce turnip the beet!



The post Capacitive touch HAT from Adafruit appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Should Amazon Release Another Kids Tablet?


Late last year Amazon released their first Fire Tablet that was aimed at kids. This device included a 1 year unlimited warranty and a protective case that was designed to withstand the trials and tribulations of capricious youth. The Fire HD Kids edition also had an augmented version of Amazons Android OS, that is a bit more kid friendly and is very tightly integrated with Freetime Unlimited. Customers have been very apathetic about this tablet, should Amazon maker another?

Amazon prides themselves on their review system and many people are quite enamored with products like the Kindle Voyage or Paperwhite 3. The Amazon Kids tablet on the other hand, well that is an entirely different story. One star ratings dominate the front page where people are complaining about the lack of memory, terrible battery life and woeful customer service when trying to get a warranty replacement.

Most of the reviewers do have a point about the lack of memory. The cheapest version of this tablet has 8 GB of memory, but when you take it out of the box for the first time there is only 4.5 GB available. This simply isn’t enough for kids who want to download a few movies and a couple of Disney games, not to mention interactive books. The lack of memory is the number one complaint from angry parents.

Amazon did not clearly make a kids tablet from scratch, they simply took the same Fire HD 7 and HD6, gave you a free case and changed the OS a bit and called it a kids tablet. Many of the devices from companies like Leapfrog or V.Tech were built with kids in mind. Amazon just saw a marketing opportunity and decided to run with it.

Every year Amazon releases more and more gadgets and people are getting burned out. I remember a time when there would be a couple of new e-readers and a few tablets every September or October.  Now we have so many devices, its almost ridiculous. Amazon Dash, Echo, smartphones, streaming media boxes and a bevy of  e-readers and tablets. It seems to me that Amazon is saturating the market with haphazard devices, and the Fire Kids Tablet deserves to die.