Saturday, July 31, 2010

Kindle and Nook For Android Brings Back Reading Whole Books

Barnes and Noble Nook eBook Readers
Image by Wesley Fryer via Flickr

Amazon and Barnes and Noble recently released Android versions of their Kindle and Nook readers. These have been a long-awaited apps on my part. I have not been able to read an entire book in years. This is mainly because I already carry a laptop and my notebooks. Carrying a book in addition is more cumbersome. Recently I finally read a fiction book. It has been years since I've read fiction.

I do not own a Kindle. Mrs. Mata recently purchased a Nook. I could never plop down the courage to buy one or the other. I'm more of a freemium kind of guy. I like to try it before I buy it. I tried the Kindle and Nook on my PC. This didn't really work for me. When I'm at the computer, I feel the urge to work or do stuff, not read. Of course, computer monitors are also not that great for reading either.

The biggest advantage to owning a reader, I imagine, is the portability. It is portability that makes Kindle and Nook apps for Android useful for me. I already carry the laptop, mobile phone, and other gadgets with me every day. A reader, like a book, would just be another item to carry. This problem is eliminated now that I can purchase and read books on my phone.

Adding to the portability is that your last read page gets updated on all your reader devices. That is really cool.

Now that I've experienced reading a book on my Android, I am more inclined to save up for a Kindle or Nook. I would most likely leave my reader at home for reading around the house. Having the ability to carry my books anywhere, even without the device, really makes the whole experience worth it for me. I'm a great fan of Evernote for the same ability to access notes and information anywhere.

Yes, reading books on my phone's tiny screen is not ideal. But, it does give me an option for those times when I have a few minutes to read here and there. Furthermore, I can now stop buying dead tree versions of books, which overpopulate my home.

I have not yet decided whether to go with the Amazon or Barnes and Noble reader. They both offer similar features and convenience. My wife opted for the Nook. So, really my choice is whether we want compatibility or an additional device in our home. I'll write another post on my considerations later.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The eBook Reader Debate

Amazon Kindle e-book reader being held by my g...
Image via Wikipedia

My family is probably not alone in the debate as to which electronic book reader to buy. The two in question are the Kindle by Amazon, and the Nook by Barnes and Noble. It is a tough choice for us because of the completely different experiences we have in shopping for books. To put it plainly, we prefer the online shopping experience with Amazon; and, we spend a lot of time at our local Barnes and Noble book stores where we buy books off the shelves. While it makes sense to combine our physical and virtual shopping, the fact is that Barnes and Noble's website really isn't as cool as Amazon's. So, that is really our main cause of debate. We prefer the Amazon website over Barnes and Noble's.

To be fair, we are not comparing apples to apples. BN is a book store. Amazon sells books amongst many different things that aren't even tangentially related to books. So, Amazon gives more variety in what you can buy. This makes Amazon better at fulfilling multiple needs in one visit. However, none of those items apply when discussing eBooks.

I have talked to others regarding a preference for readers. Thoughts vary based on shopping preferences. For example, geek friends prefer the Nook because it runs on Android. This means you can hack it to do things that it probably was not intended to do. What really interests me is that the Nook reader makes Google Books useful.

Even though you can read entire books through Google, their online reader is lousy. You can't bookmark or annotate. It's basically reading an online PDF that you can't download or use. The Nook allows you to download and read these books in a much easier way than on your computer screen. The Nook also allows you to lend books to others, which is an awesome thing. This brings the whole ebook reading experience closer to the real thing.

Besides the online shopping issue, I personally like the Kindle better because it doesn't have that stupid little touchscreen at the bottom. I'm a geek; I can't figure out how to navigate the damned thing. Kindle, on the other hand, is just intuitive.

I've talked to another friend who owns a Nook. He is very happy with the Nook. He likes the ability to download Google Books, enjoys the ability to lend books, and is very pleased with the product, overall. However, he and his wife will probably be a 2 ebook reader home. They are going to get a Kindle too; they simply are more in tune with Amazon than with Barnes and Noble, even though, like me, they have the advantage of visiting local stores.

I think our home will probably also be a dual ebook reader home too. If you look at the raw numbers, my family buys a crapload of books from Barnes and Noble stores. But their website sucks. I HAD TO RESEARCH how to find Google Books on their site. We'll buy the Nook because we are already good customers and can get cool offers when visiting the store with the device. But, having experienced neither, it was a tough choice for us to make up our mind which to get first.

I'm currently trying the Android apps for both. Right out of the gate, I like the Nook app better than the Kindle app. They both offer the same functionality; I just think that the Nook app does a good job of animating page turns. But, in all honesty, they are both equal in terms of ease of use and functionality.

It might seem strange that such a debate would become an issue within a household. Our family consists of readers. We have books everywhere. Quite honestly, we are running out of room to put books in our little apartment. It is, therefore, important that we select an electronic platform for our books. Whichever we choose will likely be our ebook reader of choice for life. Whatever the savings of buying electronic books; we are not going to buy the same books twice. So, it is important for us to choose the one that will carry us for decades. So, we probably will have one of each reader at the outset.

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Shoeboxed is Sensible Outsourcing

From Stock is undoubtedly the most useful outsource service I have found to date. In terms of value, Shoeboxed is one of the best investments a freelance/work at home person can make to keep track of finances. It would take me longer to do what they do; and, I would not earn money doing it.

I signed up for around the turn of the year as a way of tracking my expenses for the new tax year. I have tried other ways of tracking expenses: by text message, by instant message, by voice message, by evernote, and you name it. They all fail me because I forget to use them.

I considered scanning my own receipts. So, I signed up for the free version where you scan and upload your receipts to the Shoeboxed website. This did not work out so well either. First, I haven't a self-feeding scanner that can scan skinny receipts. Secondly, I never made the time to scan the pile of receipts I gathered. In retrospect, if I were inclined to organize my records, I would do it daily, come hell or high water, never mind my paltry excuses. But I don't. So, when the end of the year comes around, I end up scrambling and breaking my head trying to organize my records.

A month ago, I got a call from Shoeboxed offering me a 1 month free trial of the service. Prior to this, I had considered the possibility of subscribing to the service. I came to accept that I could use a hand in scanning and organizing my receipts; but I only my business receipts, which are not quite as many as my personal receipts. However, I ran into a snag. The Lite version leaves it up to you to buy your own envelopes and stamps to mail your receipts to Shoeboxed. I spent time shopping for envelopes and stamps. I realized that for only $10 more per month, I could avoid the hassle. I emailed my Shoeboxed rep to up my trial subscription to the next level.

Within a few days, I received self addressed, prepaid envelopes to mail in receipts. I stuffed the first and sent away. Within days, they arrived and showed up in my Shoeboxed account, scanned, categorized, and organized. All I had to do was verify and adjust the few odd purchases. I can definitely do this.

So, for $20/month, all I have to do is dump receipts into an envelope I keep in the car, mail it in once a week, or so, and then categorize the few oddball purchases I made. The brunt of the work is done by Shoeboxed.

The amount of work I would have spent scanning, organizing, looking for stamps and envelopes is gone. Even if I only look at my account once per year, the time savings is well worth it. This is time that can be spent relaxing or working hard for the money. You've probably heard that you should work ON your business, not IN your business. Shoeboxed is what they're talking about. Outsource the administrative; focus on generating income.