Author Archives: ari

53 nonfiction books about reading, bookstores, libraries, and about other books

2017-07-20

For some readers, books are objects that they care for more than any other products they have used or purchased. Other readers love to collect books and show them on bookshelves at their homes. Then, there are readers who happen to be writers as well, and tend to read in a different way than ordinary book readers.

If you are one of those book lovers who appreciate the published word so much that you are willing to read a book about books, here are some recommendations for you. Bookriot has put together a list of 53 nonfiction books about reading, libraries, bookshops, collecting, and about other books. These books are not about writing, although some of them have been written by famous authors.
Finland's National Library in Helsinki
Here are 53 nonficiton books on books according to Bookriot.

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose
The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life by Andy Miller
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell
How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett
My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop by Ronald Rice
The Pleasure of Reading: 43 Writers on the Discovery of Reading and the Books that Inspired Them by Antonia Fraser
The Polysyllabic Spree: A Hilarious and True Account of One Man’s Struggle with the Monthly Tide of the Books He’s Bought and the Books He’s Been Meaning to Read by Nick Hornby
Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books by Nick Hornby
The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe by Ann Morgan
Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone
The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester
1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die by Peter Boxall
At Home with Books: How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries by Estelle Ellis
Bibliotopia: Or, Mr. Gilbar’s Book of Books & Catch-All of Literary Facts & Curiosities by Steven Gilbar
My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
The Book by Julius Friedman
Book Crush: For Kids and Teens – Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Interest by Nancy Pearl
Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason by Nancy Pearl
The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History of All the Great Books You’ll Never Read by Stuart Kelly
Where I’m Reading From: The Changing World of Books by Tim Parks
The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski
Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry
The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell
Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books by Michael Dirda
Classics for Pleasure by Michael Dirda
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages by Michael Popek
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes
A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel
The House of Twenty Thousand Books by Sasha Abramsky
How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen
Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home by Susan Hill
Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books by Maureen Corrigan
The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time by David L. Ulin
My Ideal Bookshelf by Thessaly La Force
My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud
A Passion for Books: A Book Lover’s Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Love and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books by Harold Rabinowitz
Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet
Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places by Rebecca Rego Barry
Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores by Hans Weyandt
A Reader on Reading by Alberto Manguel
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma
Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins
So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch
When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History by Lewis Buzbee

If you want to read an ebook that is a collection of stories published in other books, download Traveling in Scandinavia for free.

Bookriot collected a list of 47 fiction books about books as well. You may view those recommendations here.

It takes 5 drafts before a writer can tell the manuscript for a book is ready

2017-07-11

Writing a book is hard work that takes time, requires patience, and persistence. The process of writing is individual, and continuously develops as experience and the number of published books grows. For instance, my own process has always been to write multiple drafts, and edit them until the outcome is what I had envisioned.
a writer stares at her computer screen with a pen in hand
That’s why it is so inspiring to find out that author Jeff Goins has identified five stages in the writing process that each represent a draft for a manuscript that is continuously being improved. The number is very close to the number of drafts I tend to write. Another inspiring thing is that Goins is refreshingly brutal when it comes to describing how the process of writing a book really works.

Here is the summary of Goins’ five-draft book writing process.

Draft 1:
Ideas. Often unstructured, and may only make sense to the writer.

Draft 2:
Structure. The manuscript begins to take shape. If it doesn’t, something is terribly wrong.

Draft 3:
The rough draft. At this point, the text is readable and can be edited. The whole work can be reviewed if something is missing.

Draft 4:
Cut. It is time to make it simple and easy to read which means cutting all the excess words and paragraphs.

Draft 5:
Finetune. Final edits, and the last chance to show it to reviewers for improvements.

The good news for writers who have never had the courage to even begin writing a book is that the threshold is actually low. You are not going to write that book at one go, but it is a step-by-step process where you continue improving your text until the whole work becomes a finished manuscript.

The next step after the five stages of drafts is to work with a publisher’s editor who may have ideas how to further improve the manuscript. A good editor knows that he or she is not always right, and that it is a collaborative process to get the book finished. It means respecting the author’s opinion and voice.

If a writer is not working with a publisher, it is beneficial to get a professional editor to review the manuscript before publishing it.

Tour de France in Europe is the world’s biggest cycling race, but which cities are the most bicycle-friendly in the world?

2017-07-01

The Tour de France is regarded as the world’s biggest sports event when measured by the number of spectators who are watching the race live where it happens. Professional road cyclists race for three weeks in July along a route that mostly zigzags in France, but also in neighboring countries. In 2017, the race starts in Germany. Spectators have free access to follow the race at any point of the route. The best spots have thousands of enthusiastic fans cheering the riders, and since the race is 3540 km / 2200 miles long (in 2017), it adds up to millions of spectators.

The Tour de France is more than 100 years old event, but also the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) and the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain) are traditional three week stage races with long history where the world’s best professional road cyclists compete in teams against one another. Can there be any relation to the popularity of cycling in daily life of ordinary citizens because cycling as a sport is so popular in Europe?
Copenhagen, Denmark: cyclists in front of bicycle rental shop in the city center
Let’s look at a list of the world’s 20 most bicycle-friendly cities in 2017. The ranking has been prepared by the Copenhagenize Design Co. that selected 136 global cities, assessed each one against a set of 14 parameters, and arranged 20 top cities in order. The common denominators that defined the best cities are quite straightforward: cycling is understood as a serious transport method, cities have invested in infrastructure, and they have a desire to make cities better.

Here is the 2017 ranking for the best cities for cyclists as compiled by Wired.

1. Copenhagen, Denmark
2. Utrecht, Netherlands
3. Amsterdam, Netherlands
4. Strasbourg, France
5. Malmö, Sweden
6. Bordeaux, France
7. Antwerp, Belgium
8. Ljubljana, Slovenia
9. Tokyo, Japan
10. Berlin, Germany
11. Barcelona, Spain
12. Vienna, Austria
13. Paris, France
14. Seville, Spain
15. Munich, Germany
16. Nantes, France
17. Hamburg, Germany
18, Helsinki, Finland
19. Oslo, Norway
20. Montreal, Canada

What do you know, France gets the biggest number of cities into the top 20. Germany, Netherlands, and Spain – all very successful nations in bicycle racing – follow France. Only two cities outside Europe made it to the top 20: Tokyo and Montreal.

If you want to follow Tour de France, the official web site of the race is Le Tour, and here you can see which television channels are broadcasting the race live.

For travel information on France, here is a travel guidebook for download.

Vuelta a Valencia 2017

This is why the Apple MacBook sucks, but a Windows 10 laptop doesn’t

2017-06-25

Here is the nasty truth: the user interface software Apple uses in its MacBook laptops and iMac computers is seriously outdated.

In other words, Apple computers suck. Compare a Mac’s user interface to a modern user interface, like Windows 10, and you have to admit that someone has mastered her homework while the other one has lost her vision and only enjoyed success that once seemed never-ending. I claim that the user interface of macOS is 10 years behind Windows 10, at least.

I am talking about Apple’s line of computers, MacBooks and iMacs, that are running the macOS operating system (I am currently running Sierra version 10.12.5). This operating system is based on Unix software. Apple has developed its own graphical user interface on top of Unix.

In fact, Unix is the best thing in Apple’s macOS software. The Open Group has certified that it really is Unix. For anyone who codes anything – web pages, enterprise applications, php scripts – having a full Unix under the graphical user interface is a great time saver and testbed.
Apple MacBook desktop, macOS user interface
Apple introduced the OS X operating system software in 2000, and shipped it in 2001. MacOS is the same as OS X, Tim Cook just recently updated the name. When Steve Jobs introduced the brand new software 17 years ago, it was specifically the user interface that got people excited. It was simply amazing at the time.

Plenty of development has happened in OS X/macOS during the past 17 years, but in essence, the user interface is still the same. Yes, the dock icons are cute, but so what?

The worst thing is the windowing and the menu system of the macOS user interface software. Look at the user interface of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS. It is consistent. Or Android, or Windows 10. Consistent and intuitive. The windows and menus behave rationally and you find them in the same places wher you found them the last time.

The windows and menus in macOS live in parallel universes that are not quite sure how to interact with each other, if at all. An application window at the bottom of the screen has its menu at the top of the screen. An application window has problems of remembering all the other windows opened in the same application. Copying, moving and working with files in Finder is nearly impossible unless you open multiple Finder windows. The installation process of applications from outside the App Store occasionally reminds me of apt-get, a Linux command prompt installation program.

I understand that many Mac users open one application, fill the whole screen with it and are happy that it works the way it does. Because computers are very efficient multitasking machines, I want to exploit that feature and run several applications and windows simultaneously. On a computer, it must be easy and quick to switch between application windows.

I use both Mac and Windows computers at my work. Sometimes, I use both of them during the same day, but usually, I may work two weeks on a MacBook and then, two weeks on a Windows laptop. I also use smartphones, tablets, ereaders and perhaps a camera during a day. Experiencing many different user interfaces during an hour of work is normal. There is only one user interface that constantly bugs me: macOS on my MacBook laptop. It just doesn’t fit in today’s world. It lives in the past and is burying itself deeper in the past every day.

Microsoft has taken multiple courageous steps in order to keep Windows operating system’s user interface relevant. If we look back at the last 17 years of Microsoft’s PC operating system, Windows XP and Windows 7 were successful, although both included major changes in their user interfaces. Windows Vista and Windows 8 were less successful, many people hated them and switched back to the old version. Windows 10 development team could take all the learnings from the previous version that wasn’t popular, and created a really solid user interface for Windows 10.

Microsoft Windows is 10 years ahead of Apple macOS user interface, at least. Windows 10 fits right in to today’s world of tablets, smartphones, ereaders, cameras, and other devices we daily use.

MacOS was designed at a time when we purchased mobile phones for making phone calls and for sending text messages from a black-and-white screen of four rows of forty characters, two megapixel digital cameras were a novelty, Facebook didn’t exist, tablets only cured diseases, home automation meant buying a dishwasher, and being online all the time was impossible because of ultra-high mobile network costs.

One piece of software – in addition to the underlying Unix – on Mac computers is brilliant. It is the iBooks Author application used for creating ebooks. The books laid out in the iBooks Author may have video, audio and animation elements as well as interaction with a (human) reader. It is possible to create smart, useful and beautiful ebooks, like text books, travel guidebooks and other nonfiction works in iBooks Author. This Apple application compared to its competitive products reminds me of times when Apple computers were number one machines in everything that involved graphics and laying out publications.

Perhaps my only option is to wait and hope Apple does something about its software that is powering its computers. But I won’t wait for long. There are always other choices.
Windows 10 PC desktop user interface

Hands-on video: comparison of an ereader and a tablet as ebook reading devices

2017-06-18

Recently, we studied the Kindle ereader and the Fire tablet in order to discover their differences as ebook reading devices. We concluded that – in addition to the price – the biggest differences were display, multipurpose vs single-purpose product and battery life.
kobo aura one ereader
The Ebook Reader blog recorded a video that lets you view a comparison of the Kobo Aura One ereader and the Kindle Fire HD 8 tablet. Both products have about 8 inch screen: the Aura One has 7.8 inches and the Fire tablet 8 inches. The dimensions of the screens are different, so it looks like they are not the same size, but they are very close.

In any case, the video shows one more key difference between ereaders and tablets: weight. Tablets are heavier than ereaders. It may not matter to you, because it depends on how you usually hold your reading device. If you are holding the reading device so that your arm tires, then the weight can be a factor for you.

View the video by The Ebook Reader below:

Why tablets are heavier than ereaders although they have roughly the same screen size? There are more parts inside the tablet than inside an ereader. The processor is usually more efficient on a tablet, it has more memory, perhaps larger speakers, and above all, a bigger battery. Batteries are surprisingly heavy, and the color screen of a tablet is power-hungry, whereas an ereader’s E ink screen is very power-efficient.

The current price gap is wide between the products seen on the video: the Kobo Aura One is $229 and the Fire HD 8 tablet $79.

Now, we have five factors that influence the decision which one is the right product to choose: display, multipurpose/single-purpose, battery life, weight and price. Everyone has his or her own priorities that specify which factors rise on top, and it makes the decision easier.
Amazon FIre HD 8 tablet, 2017 model

Travelers rejoice, EU has removed roaming charges! But what about visitors from non-European countries?

2017-06-15

European Union has reached a crucial milestone in its effort to create a truly single market for its member countries. Telecommunication service providers whose networks we use when we make phone calls and connect to the Internet are not allowed to charge extra if you take your mobile phone to another EU country and let it connect to a local network. You can make phone calls and use Internet services for the same price as in your home EU country.

woman talking on cell phone
All EU citizens who travel are certainly happy about the decision that was inaugurated on June 15, 2017. If you have a prepaid SIM card, doublecheck your operator’s policy. For instance Vodafone still charges extra if you use your prepaid SIM card in another EU country, but it was the only one I could find. Others are following the new EU policy.

What if you arrive in Europe but don’t have a SIM card from a EU country? Usually, you would purchase a prepaid SIM card in the country where you landed, right? Well, that’s what you still can do. Here is the best part: choose wisely, and you can roam in EU countries with that SIM card and only pay the charges of the card’s home country. If you buy your prepaid SIM card in Germany, and travel to France and Italy, you consume your voice and data plan according to the German operator’s home plan.

The initial period for free roaming is two weeks. If you roam longer than two weeks (14 days), your operator has the right to contact you and perhaps apply extra charges.

So, the thing is to doublecheck that the prepaid SIM card operator doesn’t have extra charges for roaming, and you want to have a SIM that can be topped up via the Internet or via phone. In some countries, you must walk into the operator’s shop to top up, but that’s not going work if you travel.

Thank you, EU! Here is the statement concerning free roaming from the EU office that includes an extensive FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) as well.
prepaid SIM cards for internet access

This is a travel writer’s most important tool on the road

2017-06-13

When any professional, for instance, a digital nomad or a remote worker, who is working while traveling, packs for the next assignment or destination, there is always the question if something could be dropped from the travel kit. The number of electronic devices seems to be gradually growing in my travel bag, at least. Which tools are the essential ones to get the job done, if the assignment is to write on the road?
digital nomad working at a terrace near fruit farms of Murcia

Here is the set of key tools for a travel writer according to my experience.

Maps.

Both digital and paper maps are crucial for planning. For navigation on the road I use offline digital maps, but I have good printed map books as a backup.

Laptop.

Most writers type their manuscripts on laptops, and so do I. Nonetheless, it is quite amazing how little laptops have developed if you compare them to tablets and smartphones that have gone so far in such a short time. Where is the touch screen in laptops? Decent battery life? Protective cases for taking them on the road?

Smartphone.

The ultimate communication tool for keeping in touch with collaborators or calling tourist information offices of the world. The camera on the phone is also a very useful and important tool for a writer.

Tablet.

I use tablet a lot for planning (maps, distances between distances, routing) and researching background information on destinations. On the road, it is the in-car navigation device instead of the dashboard GPS. Tablet is probably the first tool that many other travelers drop from their toolset, but in the future, I may even choose tablet and keyboard instead of a laptop.

prepaid SIM cards for internet access
Local prepaid SIM card.

Some travelers rely on Wi-Fi hotspots to get online, but the best way to have Internet access when you need it is to buy a local prepaid SIM card with data plan. Insert the SIM card to your smartphone, 3G/4G Wi-Fi router, tablet or laptop.

Backup disk.

The next backup disk I am going to get is a portable, wireless SSD disk. In the office, I can continue using USB hard drives that can store terabytes worth of data.

Camera.

I write and take photos for books, but even if you wouldn’t take pictures to be published in an upcoming book, camera is a vital tool for a writer. Photographs have many functions: they show how a place looks like, they help a writer to remember details of a place, and they can document objects.

I just realized that paper and pen are not included in the list of key tools. It is very rare that I use the trusted and reliable note taking technology, but occasionally I do. Pen and paper are usually somewhere near to make notes, for instance, during a phone conversation, but they are not vital tools anymore. Another thing I realized is that occasionally I need help. Hubstaff Talent is a service for finding remote talent.

mirrorless SLR digital camera with zoom lens
If I had to choose only one tool from the list above, which one would be the most important for a travel writer? Camera.

Yes, a camera. I am slightly surprised by my choice, but if I had to select only one thing I can take along for the next trip, it would be a camera. By taking a photo, I can document details of things I would have to write down. Overview photos of landscapes and city streets help me remember how a place really was. I can quickly document information boards that highlight the key points of a sight or a protected park. Video clips of local markets, main squares and pedestrian districts remind me of the buzz and feel of the place. A camera is also a handy note taking aid: I can record a video clip with a note to myself. If it is my job to take the photos for a book or an article, those images have to be taken as well.

Naturally, when the time comes to start actually writing, a camera won’t help anymore. But the photos and videos will.

Nordic food and travel book Eight Arctic Seasons has won the Gourmand Award for the best Scandinavian title

2017-05-30

8 Arctic Seasons is a book that lives and breathes the sensitive Arctic environment as it describes gourmet meals prepared from local ingredients that often are enjoyed outdoors. The book also takes readers to exquisite adventures to the North. Above all, it is a beautiful book filled with photographs of the Arctic moments, meals and landscapes.
8 Arctic Seasons book in the snow with Liisa KokkarinenLiisa Kokkarinen, Editor & Co-author of the book took it for a spin near North Pole.

The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards were founded in 1995 by Edouard Cointreau. Every year, the best food and wine books (printed and digital), and food shows on television are being awarded.

In 2017 award ceremony in China, 8 Arctic Seasons: Discover – Taste – Experience was the Scandinavia Cookbooks category winner in the global Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

Janne Honkanen and Liisa Kokkarinen, who were the key contributors to the book, have day jobs at Luxury Action Ltd. The company is based in Finnish Lapland from where it covers the entire Nordic region, including Greenland and even North Pole. Custom tours are planned with the environment and gastronomy in mind, a source of inspiration for the book as well.

The book is available both as printed edition (at Akateeminen bookstore) and as an ebook (check availability and prices here).

Still wondering what the eight Arctic seasons are? Starting from summer, they are: the ever-rising sun, Midsummer harvest, colors of autumn, the first snow, Christmas time, frosty winter, crusty snow and departure of ice.

An image from 8 Arctic SeasonsAn image from 8 Arctic Seasons.
8 Arctic Seasons book, food photo
Eight Arctic Seasons book in the North with Liisa Kokkarinen

The best smartphone for travel photography

2017-05-27

Smartphones, especially high-end models, come with so good cameras that even some professional photographers admit they use camera phones for photography. It is, after all, the one camera that is always with you when traveling, commuting or visiting friends. Different phone manufacturers use different camera components, and most importantly, different software algorithms that create an image from the captured bits of light. So, there are differences, but which smartphone camera is the best?
Google Pixel XL smartphone
Android Authority ran a test for high-end smartphones in order to find out the best camera. This time, they did not ask the experts, or measure the various aspects of digital images, but they asked the public. Anyone could vote for the pictures taken on each camera. The pictures can still be viewed on this web page.

The pictures of a camera that received the most votes was the winner. If professional photographers and camera experts had evaluated the sample images and chosen the best camera, the results would have been different. The public and the experts simply look for different things in images.

I remember when Sony was the number one television manufacturer in the era of CRT tubes, and everyone competed against Sony telling how natural the colors on their TV sets were. Many tests were organized where the public could choose the TV set whose colors they liked the best. Usually, the TV set with the brightest colors won. Having the brightest colors doesn’t have anything to do with image quality, but if that is what the public wants, that is what the public will get.

Anyhow, this is a refreshing way to rank cameras. High-end LG and Samsung camera phones have done well in all types of tests, and this test confirms it hasn’t been for nothing. The Apple iPhone didn’t participate in the test because it was meant for Android phones alone.

The results – the best smartphone camera is:

1. The winner was Google Pixel XL
2. Samsung Galaxy S8
3. LG G6
4. Sony Xpera Xzs
5. OnePlus 3T
6. Huawei P10

Google Pixel XL smartphone by HTC
View the test images and detailed results on the test page.

It would have been wonderful to have Nokia in this camera test as well. Recently, the company has introduced Android phones, and it had the best cameras when it was still the king of mobile phones in the 2000s.

What is the difference between the Kindle ereader and Fire tablet if I want to read ebooks?

2017-05-18

The Amazon Kindle ereading device and the Fire tablet have been designed for different tasks. Nonetheless, there is one application in both products that lets users to do exactly the same thing: read ebooks. If reading ebooks is the most important task you are going to do on your device, here are a few tips for choosing the right product.
amazon fire hd 8, 3 tablet colors
In June 2017, Amazon starts deliveries of new improved versions of two popular tablets: the Fire 7 and the Fire HD 8. Since they are priced very competitively at $49 (7 inch model) and $79 (8 inch model), and both can be used for ereading, the question is: should I purchase the Fire or the Kindle for reading books?
Amazon KIndle Oasis
Lets forget about the price for a moment and study the three key differences between the Fire tablets and Kindle ereaders.

1. Display.
The display on an ereader is designed to resemble paper and ink. It is black and white only and can’t display moving images. The amazing thing is that the E ink display commonly used in ereaders is actually better than paper and ink. For instance, in sunlight, it is difficult to read a book printed on white paper, but ereader screen is fine even in direct sunlight. You can change the text size on an ereader, but not on paper. A typical display size on an ereader is 6 inches. A tablet display has colors and it can show videos, but in sunlight there is not much hope. Common display sizes in tablets are 7, 8 or 10 inches.

2. Multipurpose product vs. single-use product.
You can only read on an ereader – and listen to music or audiobooks, but the whole purpose of an ereader is to give the best possible reading experience, nothing else. A tablet is a multipurpose computer that can be used for almost the same tasks as a laptop. If you will be using your device only at home, think of the way you are going to use it, and choose accordingly. If you will take the device along for your travels, which one is more useful for you: single-use or multipurpose product?

3. Battery life.
Typically, battery life of an ereader is weeks rather than days. A tablet has consumed the energy stored in its battery in a couple of days. Both times of course heavily depend on the way the devices are used. Both can be recharged via USB from a laptop, wall socket, or from a portable power bank.

Now, let’s consider the price. At the moment, Amazon has priced the products as follows.

The Kindle ereaders start from $79 and up to $300. All models have 6-inch black and white screen designed for reading.
The Fire tablets start from $49 and go up to around $100 depending on the configuration. You may choose between a 7-inch and 8-inch color display. If you are interested in differences between the Fire tablet models, here is a page that lays out all the details.

Don’t forget that the Kindle is not the only ereader in the market. For instance, Kobo ereaders are used across the world by book lovers who shop in other stores than Amazon, and read EPUB-formatted ebooks.

In addition, if you already have a tablet or smartphone, you can try how reading ebooks feels on it by downloading the Kindle reading app on your device. Simply search for the Kindle app from the application store.

Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet, 2017 model

Key features and technical information for the Fire HD 8 tablet

– 8-inch touch screen, 1280 x 800 resolution at 189 ppi.
– HD video playback.
– CPU & RAM Quad-Core: 1.3 GHz , with 1.5 GB of RAM
– 16 GB (11.1 GB available to user) or 32 GB (25.3 GB available to user) of internal storage.
– Battery life up to 12 hours of reading, surfing the web, watching video, and listening to music.
– Battery charge time under 6 hours using the micro-USB power adapter included in the box.
– Wi-Fi Connectivity.
– USB 2.0 (micro-B connector) to connect to a computer, or to charge your device with the included power adapter.
– microSD slot for additional storage space.
– Compatible with content formats: Kindle (AZW), KF8, TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, Audible Enhanced format (AAX), DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, Dolby Digital (AC-3), Dolby Digital Plus (E-AC-3), non-DRM AAC, and many video formats.
– 640×480 pixels front-facing camera. 2.0 megapixel rear-facing camera
– Location-based services via Wi-Fi
– Colors: Black, Marine Blue, Punch Red, Canary Yellow
– External volume controls.
– Bluetooth, A2DP compatible for stereo headphones.
– Speakers
– Microphone.
– Size: 8.4″ x 5.0″ x 0.4″ (214 mm x 128 mm x 9.7 mm)
– Weight : 13.0 ounces (369 grams)

DIY project: turn your smartphone into a scanner that converts paper books into ebooks

2017-04-29

People who read actively may have invested a significant amount of money in their book collections. Every time they have to move to a new place or want to take their library with them on a vacation, they have to ask themselves the inevitable question: why can’t I have all my books in digital format on my tablet, ereader, phone or laptop? Well, now you can. If you have any do-it-yourself spirit in you, it is possible to build a pretty fast scanning system for digitizing your whole home library.

Tiflic book scanner by Mohib
Anyone who has ever tried to scan a paper book one page at a time on an ordinary home scanner knows how hopelessly time-consuming effort it is. In practice, it is impossible to scan a home library consisting of more than a few books this way. If you have seen a video how, for instance, the very fast Google book scanning system works, it is impressive, but very expensive and requires pages to be ripped from the books.

Canadian book lover (and obviously a talented tinkerer) Mohib has spent a long time building a book scanner that is fast enough for mass scanning of books, but economical and easy to build at home. Now, Mohib’s Tiflic Book Scanner has reached a milestone where the system can scan 900-1100 book pages per hour. This is achieved without having to destroy the books. In effect, you are able to scan 2 – 5 books an hour. After the initial investment, you get that many ebooks for free every hour you have time to flip pages on the system.

How does the Tiflic Book Scanner work? It is not a fully automatic system, but you have to flip the next page for the scanner. But maybe you can read a book, listen to music or watch a movie while flipping pages. Other than, the system operates autonomously once it is set up.

The best way to get an idea how the scanner works is to watch this video:

If you want a Tiflic scanner, you have to build it yourself. Mohib has shared very detailed instructions how to build a Tiflic scanner here (a PDF document). Plenty of information and questions and answers have been posted on this forum page.

The main components of the book scanner are:
– A smartphone with a decent camera. Mohib used an Apple iPhone 4.
– Hardware that holds the camera.
– Page flip mechanism.
– Application for the smartphone to take photos.
– Bluetooth trigger for the smartphone for taking the photos at the right moment.
– Software for processing the photos, and perhaps an OCR application that converts images of pages into text.

Let us and Mohib know if you have managed to build a Tiflic scanner yourself. Maybe we fetch our paper books from a warehouse and build one for the Klaava office as well.

Via ActuaLitte.


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Fun and rewarding World Book Day 2017 experiences around the globe

2017-04-20

World Book Day 2017 is celebrated on Sunday 23rd April in thousands of locations across the globe. Also known as the World Book and Copyright Day, the purpose is the share the joy of reading (and why not writing, too) with other people. The story goes that the date was picked because in 1616, Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died on that day.

Unesco has a web page where you can register your own book or copyright -related event. There is also a map where you can view events taking place on the World Book Day. One place with a large number of events is Conakry, Guinea because it has been designated the World Book Capital 2017 by Unesco.

The best way to find even small events is to browse the event calendar of your home town. The usual suspects are libraries and bookstores.

H-P VIrkki interveiew at the Ebook fair in Helsinki, FInland
One of the most memorable World Book Day events for us took place in Finland a couple of years ago. Possibly the world’s first Ebook Fair was organized and streamed live via the Internet to book lovers who could watch interviews of authors at their homes and in offices. One of the interviewed authors was H-P Virkki who talked about his book Stunts, Scenes and Safety – Introduction to Movie Stunts.

Here are a few moments from past World Book Day events.

Go to DOnostia/San Sebastian

World Book Day in San Sebastian, Spain. Photo by Go to Donostia/San Sebastian.

North Ireland. Photo by Northern Ireland Executive.

A map of most popular books by country was created by backforward24:
Literature world map by backforward24

Literature map of Europe (backforward24 at imgur):
Europe literature map backforward24