Social Media ProBook – Resource for Power Users

Every so often, these social media companies come out with a free resource to get you to pay attention to their expertise. That isn’t a bad thing – you can often get some great, free information or, at the least, jumping-off points for more study if so desired. Eloqua is one of those companies that sell revenue generation using new media and the Web and they are savvy enough to turn to some real experts in the social media realm for their very slick, graphically pleasing new tome: The Social Media ProBrook. You can download this eBook and perused at your pleasure. Whether you believe there is such a thing as a “social media expert” or not, there are definitely gems in this book. Check it out and get Social Media – smarter. And check out their blog post introducing the resource here.

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Dip Into eBook Waters

Are you curious about ebooks and ereaders, but haven’t yet tried them out? I only recently started consuming books electronically (I know, hard to believe for such a die-hard tech fan), and I have to report that the experience has been mostly favorable. For me, the best feature of ebooks is portability – if you are traveling with limited space, it is much easier to stow 4 or 5 electronic novels than it is to find precious space for the same number of paperbacks. Synced bookmarking across devices, search, instantaneous dictionary look-up and notation features are also useful and unique to the ebook experience.

But maybe you aren’t sure. There is some cost involved in the purchasing of a Kindle or similar device, as well as in the downloading of electronic copies of your favorite books.

For the uncertain, there is a decent option – scour out free ebooks and readers to see if screen-reading is for you. For the classics, there is no better source for free ebooks than Project Gutenberg (link here). They were the first and still are the best. You can pull Project Gutenberg books directly into your iDevice using the Stanza iphone or ipad app (link here), which, by the way, is also free. Free books. Free app. And, for what it is worth, reading on the iPhone was surprisingly more manageable than I would have guessed. Project Gutenberg’s books are free in the U.S. because the copyright has expired on them (hence their uniformly “classic” nature), but this may not be true outside of the U.S., so search accordingly.

Another option is sign-up site Wowio (link here). Wowio is not limited to classics – you can find modern titles. How do they do it? Wowio uses sponsors who will cover the cost of the ebooks in order to earn your business. Wowio has a special bent towards comics, so check out their selections if like pictures with your words.

Looking for technical ebooks? Check out PDFCHM.net (link here).  Want to step into a virtual public library? Check out World Public Library (link here). With more than 750,000 ebooks in over 100 languages, there should be SOMETHING in there to read. While it is technically not free, the $8.95 annual membership price is paltry compared to what I spend during my average trip to Borders or Barnes & Noble.

Of course, there is always the controversial Google Books database (link here). While paid and free are mixed in this monumental database, the older the volume, the more likely you will find free material. Or check out the offerings at ManyBooks (link here), where you might find more recent free materials.

After pulling your books down from the internet onto your desktop, consider loading the free Calibre app (link here), to organize and sort them. You can even convert their formats to different ereader standards, which can be very helpful. Calibre is not the most intuitive software to use, but if you are persistent, you can manage its tricks. If you are all about organizing, take the time to fill in each book’s metadata, such as author, publisher, etc., so that you can later browse your burgeoning collection more effectively.

One issue you may find frustrating is that there are several different ebook formats (and DRM issues for paid books) that may make using a single reader difficult in the long haul. Calibre does offer book format conversions to a point. The free iPhone / iPad Stanza app works with ePub, eReader, PDF, CBR, and DjVu formats. If you are simply trying out ebooks and have an iDevice, then I recommend downloading Stanza and then browsing free sources like Project Gutenberg from within the Stanza app to download and go from there. If you find yourself loving ebooks, then you may ultimately choose a dedicated reader like the Kindle or Nook, or start using the very slick iBooks (also free) reader and integrated book store on your iDevices. The syncing of books and data across my iPad and iPhone was a pretty cool feature, particularly as my voracious reading wore down the battery of one device.  

All in all, I have been positive on my own ebooks foray. I definitely look forward to the day when I can combine my technical and leisure reading on a single, feature packed device, with search and download rendered so intuitive I barely need to think about issues such as conversion, metadata, organization and multiple formats. But, for now, the experience still works well enough to justify dedicating a measure of your time to trying it out.

The First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All The Books

With all apologies to Shakespeare and Ray Bradbury, I am not talking Fahrenheit 451 here. I am talking the new Engineering Library, opening this August, at Stanford U, now with 85% fewer books! Apparently, the reduction is due in some measure to lack of interest – many volumes hadn’t been checked out in five years or more. To combat literary overcrowding, the new library will be lean and mean with 10,000 physical volumes representing the library’s most popular books, compared to the prior, more than 80,000 dusty tomes crowding the shelves. The materials will still be available in searchable, digitized form and brows-able from laptop or “other” mobile device.

Library administrators foresee a time when the library will hold no physical books at all. Engineering is a rapidly changing field. Thus, the material upon which engineers rely must change quickly. Sound familiar, lawyers? Faculty already embrace e-books, which are more responsive to these changes. And faculty and library staff can see how students’ interactions with material have changed dramatically, as new students rely more heavily on virtual information for  reading, research and composition.

Stanford is not alone in this. Quoting from the NPR Digital Life article (link here), where I found this story:

And while it’s still rare among American libraries to get rid of such a large amount of books, it’s clear that many are starting to lay the groundwork for a different future. According to a survey by the Association of Research Libraries, American libraries are spending more of their money on electronic resources and less on books.

Lawyers, law librarians, and legal publishers, take heed. The paper book, as a research or reference device, may well be on its way out and practitioners will welcome the ability to scan and search treatises online. It’s the wave of the future.

You can listen to the NPR story here:

NPR Digital Life

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From eBook to iBook

With an iPad equipped with iBooks (or iPhone with iOS4), I have wondered – how do I get run-of-the-mill variety PDFs and eBooks into iBooks. MakeUseOf has answered my unspoken call to action. Check out their primer (link here) on how to drop or convert ePub and PDF eBooks into an iBook-friendly format. They cover the topic beautifully with screenshots, so that even a dummy like me can do it. Points of interest from the article:

  • If you already have lots of ebooks or PDF formatted material already, you can drag and drop them into the Books tab in the left column of iTunes.
  • You can convert your other digital literature materials into ePub or PDF so that you can put them in the library.
  • Buy books from the iBooks store (see the “store” link in iBooks on your iDevice). Find free ones by typing “free” into the search box in the store.
  • Load PDFs attached to emails into iBooks by tapping on the PDF attachment, selecting “open in iBooks” along the top of the open attachment, and view it there.

Great tips to get you started on your iBookshelf.

Pulling Free Content Into Kindle

If you use a Kindle or a Kindle application, you might like this news: the Internet Archive / Open Library and Amazon have partnered to pull OL content into your Kindle device with a few clicks.

Open Library, a project of the Internet Archive (which offers other great resources like the Way Back Machine) seeks to add a page for every book written (whew!). They are currently at 20 million records and climbing.

Simply search the OL and, if the section labeled “read” in your search result contains a button marked “send to Kindle”, you can get the book. Click and you will be redirected to Amazon. Log in, select the device you wish to send to and click again on the “continue” button. Voila – your OL e-book is now in your device.

Not all titles in the OL can be sent. If a particular item is a poor OCR (optical character recognition) candidate – i.e., not easily scanned, it won’t be offered in EPUB or Kindle format. But, for those that are, what a nice, quick, FREE way to add some reading material to your e-bookshelf!

Hat tip to ResourceShelf.

Search PDFs & eBooks via Live PDF (and Google & Bing)

With new content consumption devices popping up faster than you can spell “i-P-a-d”, you surely will need some content to consume. How about a search engine for PDFs and eBooks. Live PDF (link here) lets you query Google or Bing (although not at the same time) via a single search interface for PDFs and eBooks on any topic. Your results will take you straight to the downloadable content, where you can whisk it from the ether into your internet-enabled reading device.

There are no filters, categories, sorting options or any other form of data / search manipulation tools on the page, but you can view the last 10 searches! Here is to hoping that one of the previous ten visitors was looking up stuff on the semantic Web!

Thanks, MakeUseOf!

More Business For Your iPhone

It’s iPhone week this week. When isn’t it iPhone week? With new apps popping up hourly, there is always something new to try out.

Today’s offering is from McGraw-Hill Professional. MHP is offering access to its collection of business-focused ebooks through a dedicated ebook reader developed in partnership with ScrollMotion. Topics include career development, management, innovation, entrepreneurship, communication, finance, investing, and more. The first group of available titles includes two recent best-sellers, How to Make Money in Stocks by William J. O’Neil and Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty by Ram Charan. 

MHP plans to make more than 600 titles available before the end of 2009 and to expand into other professional areas.

Phillip Rupel, president of MHP, hits the nail on the head in summing up why this product is so exciting for them (and for anyone looking to market in the 21st Century):

“The audience for business books on the iPhone is an enormous untapped market, representing hundreds of thousands of commuters and other voracious readers who always have a smart phone in their pockets,” said Calvin Baker, ScrollMotion Chief Content Officer. “We’re thrilled to be working with McGraw-Hill to put their fantastic library of best-selling business books into the pockets of globe-trotting executives worldwide.”

That’s right, Phil. Hit ’em where the live (and work).

MGP’s ebook site is here. App press release can be found here.

Hat tip to ResourceShelf.