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New Guest Post On Library Tech Talk

Are you getting annoyed with Google Reader, or feeling overwhelmed when it regularly say “1000+ unread?” Check out my guest post over at Library Tech Talk about an alternative that is much less overwhelming and much more visually pleasing.

“Google Reader is a great tool for organizing all the blogs, sites, and content you subscribe to, but it’s not always the most visually stunning. It’s a list of endless posts from various blogs, and it can be overwhelming, especially when you have 1000+ items unread. That’s where Flipboard comes in!”

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New Ways to Discover Content

People have been discussing the demise of RSS for a while. Even in the library world, Lauren Pressley had a great post not too long ago about how she is ditching RSS for Facebook and Twitter. This doesn’t point to the uselessness of RSS though, it points to the development of interesting, beautiful, and intuitive new ways to discover content.

RSS is far from dead. I still use my Google Reader, not to mention Twitter for content discovery. But I’ve also been playing with a several other services and apps to stay current, get new ideas, and serendipitously find things I didn’t even know I was looking for.

Alltop

Alltop is a site that aggregates some of the top resources from around the web on certain subjects. They bill it as a “online magazine rack of the web” collecting headlines from various blogs and online sources. You can look at all the popular posts in topics like design, science, food, and they even have a page for libraries.

Paper.li

Whereas Alltop is a magazine rack, Paper.li is a customizable newspaper for the web. You can use your Facebook stream or Twitter lists that you’ve created to make a daily web newspaper. Playing around with it, I created a paper called The Info Pro Intelligencer using my librarians Twitter list. Paper.li then, after creating a list, selects content from the list and then displays stories, videos, and pictures following a newspaper format on a daily basis. You can even set it up to tweet when the most current issue is available.

Flipboard

flipboard app for ipad

Flipboard is an app for the iPad that again describes itself as a “social magazine.” You can use lists or individual feeds from Twitter or you can use your Facebook profile to create different e-magazines that parallel your interests. You can also share any of the stories right from the app. It’s a really beautiful design, and a very different way of discovering content than staring at a list of tweets.

Pulse

Another iPad app, Pulse breaks out of the newspaper/magazine mold and creates an entirely new way of viewing news that interests you. It is a really intuitive way of viewing content (Steve Jobs even featured it in his keynote about the iPad). You can subscribe to certain blogs or feeds and it automatically populates itself whenever you open it. And unlike an RSS reader, things don’t keep piling up. You just get the most recent 25 or so posts.

The model of trying to read everything is impossible. There is simply too much content out there. You can’t be scared, as Bobbi Newman states, to declare bankruptcy on your reader and mark all as read. Better yet, instead of letting things pile up and feeling like you have to read them all, try using services that allow you to pop-in and pop-out of the stream of content. You won’t miss anything.

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The Perfect E-book Reader

Christmas is just around the corner, and I’m sure people are giving their bibliophile loved ones Amazon Kindles or Barnes and Noble Nooks as gifts. There are still some flaws with these devices though. This begs the question, what would the perfect e-book reader look like? What features would it have? Well, the perfect e-book reader…

  • Can do more than just read e-books – E-book readers need web access. In this world of multitasking and shortened attention spans an e-book reader that can only read e-books fails. The average person only reads four books per year. This makes devices dedicated solely to e-books into toys for gadget geeks or people that read voraciously. A device that only reads e-books is still playing to a small market. Also it would be useful while reading an e-book to look up a fact on Wikipedia or share a quote you just read on Twitter.
  • Has multi-touch technology – Instead of having buttons to turn a page simply touch the upper corner of the page, or gesture across the screen like you’re turning a page. If you want to zoom in on an image within a book simply pull your fingers apart around it (similar to the iPhone’s technology). This would certainly enhance the experience of reading an e-book.
  • Reads multiple formats – The perfect e-book reader would be able to read any format in which books happen to be, whether it’s in HTML, PDF, a Google Book, e-books from Amazon, e-books from library subscription databases, etc.
  • Allows you to write in the margins – Like regular books, the perfect e-book reader would allow you to write in the margins and personalize your copy of the book. The reason we love books is because we form personal connections to them. We write notes to ourself and try to interact and have a conversation with the book. The perfect e-book reader would allow you to highlight passages and attach notes to them. It would also allow you to share these notes if you wanted. Then we really could start having conversations with our books.
  • Is readable for long periods of time – It would have to use something like e-ink which more closely mimics a paper reading experience than a backlit LCD display and causes less eyestrain. The device would also have a long battery life. At least enough to make it through an entire book.

Some of these features are possible and in use, but there is still some growing that needs to take place in both technology for a device and e-book standards, practices and legal issues. To create the future, though, we first have to dream it. What else is needed for a perfect e-book reader?