SparkNotes going cellular

Originally called The Spark when it debuted in 1999, SparkNotes is now available as an app for your mobile device.  While SparkNotes shouldn’t be used instead of a text, it can be very helpful when trying to understand everything that is going on.

The free app comes with 50 study guides, a check-in feature to help facilitate study groups as well as a function to share what you’re currently studying on Facebook.

Read the story by Cameron Summerson or get the SparkNotes app.

Potter to be read by all

The popular Harry Potter series went on sale in ebook format in the last week of March. 

 Unlike most ebooks, they are for sale exclusively on J.K. Rowling’s new web store Pottermore.  Instead of being encrypted like the ebooks you buy from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, these books are in an EPUB format, the most popular open ebook standard, that can be read on pretty much any computer or device. 

According to an article from The Salt Lake Tribune, “publishers insist on encryption in the form of ‘Digital Rights Management,’ or DRM because they believe it stops piracy.”  Really, they just want to make sure you have to buy your books from the same place you bought your eReader.

Until now, Harry Potter books have been among the most pirated books in the world because there have been no legal electronic versions.  Fans have had to scan or even retype entire books to be shared online.

Now, legal electronic versions are available on Pottermore in a variety of formats compatible with whatever eReader you happen to be using.  All downloads will include invisible “watermarks” that identify the buyer to discourage widespread sharing but will be able to be shared between friends.

If this method of selling unencrypted ebooks turns out to be a success, it may pave the way for other authors to follow suit and change the way ebooks are sold forever.

Learn more in the original article by Peter Svensson.

How to get ebooks for free

Last week, I told you about Whichbook, a site to help you find new books to read in my post Looking for a new book?.  This week I will introduce you to Scribd, a document sharing site where you can find many ebooks.

Scribd is a social network for books.  Instead of statuses and pictures you share books, magazines and documents.  You can upload your own work, or read what others have uploaded.  It’s not only individuals using Scribd either, big companies like CBSSimon & Schuster and The New York Times upload content too. You can find everything from business presentations to popular novels, and then share what you’re reading with your friends on Scribd, Facebook and Twitter.  You can even embed your documents in your sites on Blogger and WordPress.

All you have to do to get started is create an account.  If you choose to log in with your Facebook account, Scribd will automatically connect you to any of your Facebook friends that are on Scribd.  If you don’t want to connect it to your Facebook, there is also an option to create an account with your email address.

With your account you can create collections where you can store your documents or the documents you find.  There are three different types of collections:

1.  “Public-moderated” meaning anyone can see your collection, and people can add documents with your permission.

2.  “Public-locked” means anyone can view your collection but only you can add documents.

3.  “Private” means only you can view and add documents to your collection.

Another great thing about Scribd is that you can get documents that are compatible with a variety of devices.  Not only can you access documents online, you can also download them as pdf or txt files and send them to any of  your various mobile devices.

I won’t guarantee that you will be able to find every author or book you search for, but if you are willing to be flexible you should be able to find something you will like on Scribd.

Looking for a new book?

Finding a new book can be a hard thing to do, especially when you only have a general idea of what kind of book you’re looking for.  Naturally, I would first suggest going to the Books page.  However, if that doesn’t yield the kind of results you are looking for, there is another place you can look called Whichbook.

Whichbook is a site, created by Opening the Book Ltd,  that “enables you to search for a book that up to now may only have existed in your own mind.”  Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign in. It isn’t necessary to sign in to use Whichbook. In fact, you may want to play with it first, but if you plan to use it often it may be a good idea.  You can choose to sign in via Facebook or using an email address, again it depends on your preference.
  2. Select what four factors you want to base your search on (humor, violence, predictability, sex, etc.).
  3. Use the sliders to choose where on the range of each factor you like your books to fall (Expected-Unpredictable, Gentle-Violent, Funny-Serious, etc.).
  4. Select “GO” and the site generates a list of titles that match your preferences and ranks them “Best Matches,” “Good Matches” and “Fair Matches.”
  5. From there you can read a short extract, see each book’s profile (where they stand on the scale for each factor), see parallel books ( books with the same profile), share the book on Facebook or through email or find similar books.

If that doesn’t yield the kinds of books you’re looking for you can either alter the factors you chose, find new ones or search for books based on the characteristics of the characters or plot or based in a specific setting.  They even have an author list so you can find books you know you like, click “Find Similar” and see similar titles that way.

Whichbook has also created a  few ready-made lists for its users as well as giving you the options to create your own to which you can add any books you find on their site.  If you want to share that list with Whichbook users you can even ask to add your list to their Guest Lists.

Each book’s profile also includes “Borrow” and “Buy” buttons.  Unfortunately, the “Borrow” button links you to the UK’s library system so it isn’t much use here in the States.  The “Buy” however, links you to the book listing on Amazon and is much more useful.

So if you’re looking for a new book, give Whichbook a try.  If you like what you find share it with us on the Books page.