The Top 3 Considerations When Buying an E-Reader for School

back-to-schoolSchools and classrooms were some of the earliest adopters of e-book technology, because they realized that electronic textbooks could benefit students in multiple ways. They tend to be dramatically cheaper than printed books, and the cost of textbooks can make the difference between an education that is too expensive and one that is comfortably affordable. E-books can be designed to work interactively, too, so that students can engage with them in various ways that make learning more effective and multidimensional. They are also lighter and take up less room – both in a student’s backpack and on the desk in the classroom, or in lecture halls that don’t have desks. All of these means that more students are carrying e-books and e-reader devices on campus, regardless of whether they are in grade school, high school, or at a community college or university. But what are some of the key considerations to think about when shopping for an e-reader that will be primarily used by a student? Here are three points that you may want to factor in to make that selection process easier.

#1 Price and Long-Term Value

The amount you pay for an excellent new e-reader such as the Kindle – which is offered in a wide variety of models – will be a good investment. But you don’t necessarily need a top-of-the-line model like the pricey Kindle Oasis if you are primarily reading for school or college. You can, of course, buy used e-readers very inexpensively, but the downside is that you don’t know how long they’ll last – especially do-or-die components like the battery. That all depends upon how many hours they have already be used, and how they were cared-for or maintained. In the interest of longevity, it is best to buy a new product – although a reliable hand-me-down from a sibling or parent may be the exception to this rule. If it still has a lot of life in it that can be a really practical way to get your money’s worth.

On the low end of the new-gadget spectrum there is the budget-priced Kindle Fire’s cheapest model, and it comes with other bells and whistles beyond e-reading capability. You can use a Fire to send email, play games, browse the Web, or watch your favorite movie. But before you succumb to those features, keep in mind that they may just serve to distract you from what you really need your e-reader for as a student – reading your homework assignments. For most students the Amazon Fire gadgets are not the ideal solution, not just because they offer digital distraction potential but also because they don’t provide the most ideal viewing surface for a person who is reading many hours per day. That leads us to the next consideration – ease of use.

#2 Ease of Use/Functionality

If your eyes get tired and strained from reading, that will effectively end your study session – and make learning a lot less fun. You have to protect your eye health, and that should be a primary consideration when choosing an e-reader, especially one for school where the amount of reading can be enormous. For that reason, always give an e-reader a test drive before you buy it. Look for one that has a great screen visibility in different kinds of lighting, and one that is illuminated in a way that doesn’t create a glare. The Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Kobo Aura are examples of e-readers that are rated highly for their visual quality and lighting. The ink should look realistic and the words on the page should be very easy to read – and easy on your eyes. If not, keep shopping until you find the best possible reader experience for your money.

Students may be accustomed to writing margin notes and highlighting passages in their textbooks, but the cool thing about e-books is that with most of them, and on most e-reader devices, you can do that plus a lot more, without permanently marking-up your book. When shopping for an e-reader check out the features and ask questions if you aren’t sure what it is capable of doing. Most let you copy and past material, bookmark pages, highlight text, change the font, and do instant text searches. Plus, unlike printed books, the typical e-reading device will also provide you with online remote access to libraries all over the world.

#3 E-Readers vs. Tablets

As long as you are downsizing from traditional textbooks, you are going to shed a lot of weight that you will no longer have to tote around on your back from class to class or across campus. Because e-readers are small, with displays that are typically around 6-inches across, they are also the lightweight option. Most of them will feel about the same in your hand as a paperback book – and not those gigantic soft-cover textbooks either. We’re talking a weight that is more like a pocket-sized paperback.

When you consider the smallness and extra capability of a tablet computer, though, they are also an attractive solution that you should think about before you buy. Evaluate your budget, and also how you need to use the device. If you are mostly using it for reading and don’t need computer features like the ability to run software or print documents, stick with an e-reader. But if you plan to carry around a laptop computer, perhaps a tablet can provide you computer capability and functionality in a gadget that is not much bigger than an e-reader. A tablet will probably cost more than an e-reader. In fact, it may cost a lot more. On the other hand, you might be able to pick up a good, reliable tablet for a fraction of the price of a full-fledged laptop. You may also be able to use a full-sized keyboard via a USB connection, if you don’t like the idea of doing a lot of typing on a little tablet.

With the tablet option you can run document-creation software, surf the Internet to do your research, and also run other kinds of software while enjoying email, video, and movie-watching features that the standard e-reader won’t have. Will it run fast enough and have enough memory to make it powerful and capable enough to replace your laptop? That’s a question you’ll need to answer in order to make the right decision. Do remember, though, that both laptops and tablets are inferior to dedicated e-readers when it comes to the look and illumination of the letters on the page. With that in mind, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, you may still want two different devices – a dedicated e-reader plus a computer, whether it’s a tablet, a notebook, a laptop, or a desktop model.

Tips for Transitioning Away from Barnes & Noble Nook

If you use the Barnes & Noble Nook as your go-to e-reader device, you are probably aware that it is a great gadget and has lots of fine features. In fact, the Nook used to be perhaps the biggest competitor to the Kindle. But you may also be aware that over the past few years the Nook has lost market share, and earlier this year the United Kingdom’s corporate division of Barnes & Noble officially announced that the Nook would be discontinued there. You may need to find a new e-reader or a new source for e-books, or both.

What Happened at Barnes & Noble?

Barnes & Noble – which once dominated the bookstore industry – has seen its profits plummet and the CEO of the company was recently replaced Back in March, Barnes & Noble also announced it would close the Nook App Store as well as Nook Video. Those company segments or product lines have been losing money for a long time, unable to keep up with more innovative competitors such as Google, Apple, and Amazon. Just as Blockbuster Video used to dominate the video marketplace in America and then essentially went bankrupt because of competition from the innovative Netflix company, Barnes & Noble is now in grave trouble. For the time being, Barnes & Noble in the USA is still selling e-books as well as digital magazines and newspapers, but the company is on shaky ground and its customers are losing confidence.

What to Do Next?

Perhaps the most effective and reliable way to ensure that you can continue to access your Barnes & Noble and Nook e-books is to save them to a separate file location, such as a computer hard drive. There are app tools that can help you do that.  One of them is Calibre (calibre-ebook.com)which has earned many positive reviews. The free app acts as a digital library, and that’s where it excels – letting you manage your electronic book collection and convert books into various formats. After running the app you just create a folder, plug your e-reader into the computer, select your e-book reader, and click then complete the importing process.

Dealing with DRM

There may be titles that have special protection software built into them, called “DRM.” That is put there by companies that publish e-books in order to prevent people from engaging in piracy by coping material they haven’t paid for and distributing it to others. There are workarounds that can disable DRM, and you can find them on the Internet. But since doing so usually violates the terms you sign when you register with an e-book store, be aware that it may not be something you want to do.

Back-Up Options

Whether you are saving the content from your Nook account or are wanting to make sure you have a reliable back-up copy of any new content you download from other providers, it’s important to think outside the box. In this case, the box is your go-to computer, and outside the box refers to storage drives that can be kept separate from it. That way if your computer crashes and is forever lost, you’ll have saved copies somewhere else where they are still safe and sound.

Cloud Storage

Most major e-reader companies like Amazon for Kindle offer cloud storage services, which means that they let you keep copies of the content you buy from them on their own big computer server. That way if your computer stops working – or if you want to access your e-books while away from that computer and on a different device – you can log onto your account and find them in that cloud storage area. Cloud storage is one of the most popular ways to securely save a back-up version of digital material. You can also use cloud services provided by sites such as Dropbox, and many of these allow you to store your content free of charge, up to a certain amount of data. For larger storage they charge a nominal monthly fee.

Portable External Hard Drives

One of the best ways to store your electronic content is with a portable hard drive. If you aren’t familiar with external hard drives, they are typically a little larger than a smart phone, and they have ports for charging them and for connecting them via a USB cable to a computer. They are similar to the hard drives inside computers, except that you can unplug them and take them with you wherever you go.  The Toshiba Canvio, which costs about $50, is one example, and it comes in memory capacities ranging from 500 gigabytes to three terabytes. You cannot run software like Windows or Word on them, of course, but you can use them as a really handy way to back up your files – including your e-books. A good way to use a portable drive is to designate it as your back-up library. That way, since you only use it for storing copies of e-books, it is easy to know where your portable library is when you need it.

Stick Libraries

Free-eBooks.net was the first in the world to offer innovative “stick libraries,” which are a fantastically convenient way to carry your entire e-book library with you wherever you go. These are flash drives or stick drives, which means they are small and highly portable storage drives. Also referred to by many people as “thumb drives,” they are the size of a thumb. You can carry them in your pocket, and still have room for all of your keys and coins. They connect to your computer or other device using a USB port. All you have to do is plug them in to access approximately 1,000 titles.

8 Things to Consider When Shopping for Kindle Fire E-readers

kindle-fireAmazon Kindle was the original e-reader, and the Kindle lineup is still the most popular series of e-reader gadgets. But for those who like the idea of consolidating their technology into a more adaptable, multipurpose device, the Kindle Fire may be the best choice of all. As the saying goes, you can have your cake and eat it, too. With the Fire models you can have your e-reader and also have a highly portable and affordable device that gives you many of the functions typically found on a laptop or tablet computer. The Fire gadgets are, in fact, tablets – but they are also designed to be outstanding e-readers. So you may get the best of both worlds if that kind of hybrid sounds like a good fit for your lifestyle. Here are some things to consider if you decide to shop around for a Fire.

  1. Models and Pricing

These devices currently come in several models. There is the base model called Fire (about $49), and then the next generation called HD Fire 6 (about $69 – which represents a high-definition model with a 6-inch screen. There is also a Fire HD 8 with an 8-inch screen (about $149), and the most recent offering, the Fire HD 10 (about $179) – which has the largest high-def screen and is the newest but most expensive Fire. Let’s not overlook the Fire Kid’s Edition (about $99), either – which is a 7-inch model with a built-in case that can tolerate lots of drops, bumps, and tumbles that children usually put their gadgets through. All of the Fire models have front and rear-facing cameras and video recorders, too.

  1. Processing Speed

Speed rules when it comes to multitasking on a Wi-Fi device, streaming graphics-intensive movies, playing power-devouring games, and turning pages quickly while reading a novel that is a real page-turner. The amount of available computer memory on the hard drive or as surface memory has a lot to do with how fast – and how seamlessly – those tasks happen. But one of the biggest factors is processor speed. So if you want a more rewarding experience navigating your Fire, go for the highest gigahertz available. That choice is pretty easy, since only the bargain-priced basic Fire comes with 1.3 gigahertz, and all the others that are currently available new from Amazon – the HD 6, HD 8, and HD 10 – boast a slightly speedier processor that can be set to run at 1.5 gigahertz.

  1. Storage Memory

That leaves the question, what about storage capacity or memory? That, too, is easy to answer. If you want the maximum possible, avoid the HD 6. Why? It is the only model that cannot be upgraded to the maximum of 128 gigs. All the others, as long you pay for an upgraded memory card, can be boosted to 128 gigabytes. Don’t want to do an upgrade? In that case, right out of the box the HD 10 offers versions with your choice of 16, 32, or 64 gigs of memory – whereas the basic Fire, HD 6, and HD 8 can be ordered with either 8 or 16 gigs, right out of the box.  But if you’re going to go for the big 128 gig upgrade, you don’t have to limit your choices to the top-of-the-line Fire HD 10, since 128 gigs can be possible with even the economy-priced basic Fire.

  1. Screen Resolution

Another interesting tidbit of information for those who cannot decide between the HD 10 and the less expensive HD 8 is that both have the same number of pixels. That generally means that the clarity of the image on the screen will be equal. But keep in mind that the HD 10 screen is two inches bigger. The HD 8 has 189 pixels per inch, whereas the bigger HD 10 only has 149 pixels per inch. The number of pixels does not increase with the increase in screen size. That means that the image gets stretched across that larger screen without the benefit of those extra pixels to ensure optimum clarity of image and ultimate resolution.

  1. Is Bigger Always Better?

That all adds up to the potential for the larger screen to have a subtly less vivid, crisp quality. You may not even notice the difference. Plus, with a larger screen the viewing experience is almost always more comfortable. But if you are thinking of paying the extra money in order to get the best possible graphic images, you might be just as content sticking with the 8-inch screen. What you lose in size you will make up for in high-resolution and cost savings. Here’s another interesting fact: the HD 6 has the smallest screen of all the Fire models, but it boasts the most pixels per inch at 252. Some could argue that because of that unique ratio of pixels to screen size the HD 6 has the best visual clarity of all – despite a smaller screen and considerably smaller price tag.

  1. Comparisons of 3 Popular Models

Almost always, the most recent generation of an e-reader device will be the best, in terms of overall function, feel, and performance. You won’t go wrong investing in the top-of-the-line HD 10 if your main consideration is not price but quality. Almost everyone who has used the different Fire products gives the latest HD 10 high marks and very positive reviews. The screen is big, the speakers are loud and clear, and the battery life is decent – at up to eight hours, depending on how you use the device. Then again, some users are not going to need lots of lightening-fast processing because they are not going to use their Fire for intensive tasks like TV and movie watching. Those who just want a simple e-reader than also lets them do email or hop on the Internet from time to time – and who can tolerate a small screen – might be perfectly happy with the basic Fire. The fact that it costs only about $50 gives buyers a lot to be happy about. For those who want something faster and a little larger, they can invest an extra $20 and move up to the HD 6, which is extremely popular, very capable, yet still priced very affordably. With all Fire devices you also get special intro deals on Amazon Prime, for access to tons of books and other electronic content.

  1. Keyboard Options

Another feature that many users like is a physical keyboard, because for some users it is easier to type on a small “real” keyboard, versus a touch-sensitive one that is only electronically displayed on the screen. If you like the feel of actual keys, or the larger area of a small keyboard, then you can choose one of the many after-market products that are made for use with Fire devices. Almost all of them work via Bluetooth. That gives you the option of using either the built-in touch screen keyboard or the small physical keyboard – without sacrificing much extra space or weight. There are also several that are cleverly designed into a protective cover that fits around the Fire gadget. You probably want a protective cover anyway to safeguard your device, so you can buy one that includes this kind of keyboard and get protection plus added flexibility.

  1. Compatibility Considerations

Just make sure you check for compatibility. Many protective covers are specifically designed for only one version or generation of Fire, and they will not properly fit or work as intended with other models of Fire. So if you buy a cover for a Fire 10, it might not work with your Fire 8 – or if you have a Fire 6 then a cover designed exclusively for Fire 8 may not fit it. So be sure to check the manufacturer’s specs and inquire before you buy, to make sure you get what you want and need. If you use a Kindle Fire and want to share it with your children, the device does have parental controls that you can activate. There are even Web browsers you can download from reputable sources like Apple and Google, that are designed to be kid-friendly for another layer of parental oversight.

Tips for Developing Emotional Intelligence with Ebooks

eggsYour pleasure reading may be helping you develop marketable skills, without you even realizing that this transformation is happening. That’s because there may be a correlation between reading of fiction, emotional development, and overall insight into human emotions. These skills that make one a better leader, boss, employee, and customer service agent – and more adept at navigating our globally-interconnected social world.

The Value of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence or is a major buzzword in the business community these days, as well as in social media and academia. Companies are emphasizing the emotional IQ of candidates they hire or consider for promotion, for example, because unlike other measures of intelligence, emotional IQ is all about how well you relate to others. Those who have a high emotional intelligence, for instance, are better team players, leaders, negotiators, mentors, and may even be better friends.  They have keen insight into what makes people tick, and can use this skill to help solve people problems, resolve conflicts, anticipate the needs of others, or bring diverse groups of people together in an inclusive, collaborative way. It’s no wonder that those who have a developed emotional IQ are in huge demand. One of the main reasons that Fortune 500 companies high executive leadership coaches, for instance, is to have them focus on developing the “soft skills” – those that demand higher Emotional Intelligence – in those who have leadership responsibilities.

Our Emotional Connection to Fiction

There is also research that reveals a potential link between reading novels and raising one’s emotional IQ. Keith Oatley, a professor of cognitive psychology a the University of Toronto, conducted some that has just recently been published. He recommends works of fiction – but especially those that are more character-driven than based on plot. His research suggests that fiction books with complex and interesting characters do more than just entertain us. They also give us a deeper understanding of human nature, raise our emotional IQ, and help us develop valuable qualities such as empathy. Natalie Phillips, a professor who teaches English at Michigan State University, said that the new data from Professor Oatley’s study supports the same kind of data that her own laboratory tests of readers have revealed.

Can Fictional Characters Help Us Develop Character?

Some scholars say that novels are an exceptional vehicle for learning how to make moral and ethical decisions, too, and that they can be a way to practice or exercise these skills. That’s because as we read a work of fiction with highly developed characters, we tend to feel connected to them and we imagine how we would react or behave if we faced the same situations that they do. Some academics have compared it to using a flight simulator to practice how it feels to fly a real jet. But in this case, the novel is the simulator, and it is letting you practice relating to others while making smart choices when faced with complex situations.

Vicarious Learning

Readers also get to observe the impact of choices that characters make. In Romeo and Juliet, for example, Shakespeare presents circumstances that many typical teenagers face. But because of limited information and some hasty decisions based on hunches or what they believed had happened – even if the reality was quite different – Romeo and Juliet’s experience becomes one of the world’s great romantic tragedies. There are also novels like The Great Gatsby where priorities involving whether to pursue meaningful relationships or material ambition come into play. Meanwhile in less serious novels, like those by the award-winning crime writer Elmore Leonard, readers learn that as the saying goes, crime does not pay – even if reading about it does pay off in huge ways in terms of giving readers a roller-coaster ride of entertaining thrills, healthy humor, and surprising twists of fate. The people in the novel can be role models or we can learn from their mistakes to avoid the same pitfalls.

Reading Stimulates Internal Growth

Book characters undergo experiences that researchers say can be internalized by readers, in order to support our everyday cognition or emotional growth. People who first read fiction and then are tested for empathy, for instance, scored higher than those who were tested without first reading. They also showed both physical and neurological changes. Brain scans, for example, showed increased electrical activity in the region of the brain that corresponds with emotion – because the reader was having a genuine emotional response to the fiction they were reading. Other studies have shown that reading strengthens neurological connectivity and encourages the development of synaptic pathways – so that reading may actually have a direct correlation to processing more complex, higher-level thoughts.

While more research needs to be done, and deserves to be funded, the big question that these fascinating research projects raises is one that readers ask themselves all the time. Which eBook should you download and read next? Browse the vast inventory of multilingual fiction titles – and audio books – as well as the nonfiction offerings on free-ebooks.net and see what kinds of intriguing novels you can find to boost your Emotional Intelligence and your overall knowledge.

When Water and E-readers Don’t Mix: An overview of the Kobo Aura H2O

kobo-aura-h2o-smallHere we are in the peak days of summer, when excursions to lakes, pools, rivers, and beaches are a great way to find relief from the heat and just have more fun. Nothing adds to the pleasure like a good book to read, either, and e-books are the handiest and most portable way to go. But that presents a potentially serious dilemma. How do you pack along your high-tech e-reader device without the risk of ruining it if it gets splashed on or you accidentally drop it into the water? Fortunately there is one e-reader that was designed and engineered from the ground-up to meet this challenge. The Kobo Aura H20 is touted as a water-resistant e-reader, plus it has lots of other outstanding features that make it a real contender in today’s e-reader marketplace.

Key Features: Pros & Cons

There is a large non-glare touch screen that is almost 7-inches wide, which many users prefer to the typical Kindle screen which only stretches to about six inches. The lighting is excellent, and the e-ink quality is superb. The ComfortLight features lets you adjust the lighting, and the backlit screen is high-resolution and works beautifully in all sorts of different lighting conditions.

  • The Kobo Aura H2O supports virtually all of e-book formats, including EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RFT, CBZ, and CBR. There are also built-in features for highlighting text and taking notes as you read, bookmarking pages, selecting your preferred font, doing searches, consulting a dictionary, and more.
  • You can sort library of books in the ways that most other e-readers allow, such as with the most recently read shown first, and when you go back and start reading a book again it will open up on the last page you read. You can also bookmark a page by tapping the upper right hand corner of the screen.
  • The downside that most reviewers cite with the Aura H20 – besides its rather steep price tag – is that since it is not an official Amazon product you cannot directly download as many books as easily. Amazon has a vast, ever-expanding library – whereas Kobo’s inventory is not quite that large.

The Aura H20 also doesn’t run as fast as some other high-quality e-readers, and it can take longer to complete downloads from the Kobo bookstore.  If you need an e-reader that also doubles as a fast web browser, the Kobo product may not be the best choice. Those who are going to use it exclusively as an e-book reader will probably be quite satisfied with it, and when you aren’t using its Wi-Fi the battery lasts a long while.

Is it Worth the Price?

The Aura H20 sells for almost $200 new, which is about the same price for the Kindle Voyager – a sleek, top-of-the-line Kindle with extraordinary features and 3G network connectivity. The newest Kindle, the Oasis – which boasts 10 LED lights for unequaled aesthetics and ease of viewing/reading – costs about $100 more than the Aura H20. Meanwhile a variety of other popular, highly ranked e-readers including Fire and Paperwhite models can be purchased for much less money.

So what distinguishes the Aura H20 enough to warrant paying so much for a less sophisticated and not quite as powerful e-reader device? The big selling feature is its water resistance. Of course if buying a water-resistant e-reader is not in your budget, you can always buy a water-resistant protective cover for your device. There are even some that offer nearly waterproof protection, although the do tend to be rather bulky. The Aura H20, on the other hand, is a sleek design and there have even been reviewers who did tests involving putting the Aura H20 completely underwater for a short while. Apparently it emerged still functioning as normal, which is really impressive.

If you like to read at the beach, while boating on the lake, while relaxing on an inflatable raft in the swimming pool, or while taking a long soak in the bathtub – then the Aura H20 may be your dream-come-true.