Category Archives: Technology

Hoopla Adds eBooks and Comics

I just noticed last night that the Hoopla app/service I use (thanks Hoover Library!) has expanded its offerings. Movies, music and TV shows have been readily available for download since day one. But now we have access to eBooks and comics as well.

* please note I have not tried to read or view comics in the Hoopla app. I am simply comparing catalogs and services at this point. eBook readers and comic apps are hard and I do not know yet if Hoopla has a good one.

I am always interested in finding new things to read and am pretty excited at seeing what the eBooks section will offer.


So far it does seem to be a little different than what’s over on OverDrive which the library supports as well (thanks again, Hoover Library, you guys rock!). There seems to be a difference in publishers. Many of what is on Hoopla (while not big names) are not titles that I have access to on OverDrive. I only spot checked five books so far, but this seems to be the case. And I’m glad for it. The less overlap the better.

Hoopla eBooks so far as I can see seems stronger in the cooking, self-help, and Christian categories. Though there are lots of romance, kids, and some fiction as well. But OverDrive shares these strengths and is currently a little stronger in the mainstream categories.

I’m not a comic book/graphic novel reader. I wish I was because I hear such great things, but I just can’t get into the groove. It’s not a snob thing, they’re just too slow for me (maybe another post on this thinking soon?)


Noticably absent are Marvel comics. I have no idea if they’ll come on board or not. They’re all Disney-owned and working with Amazon, who knows. But DC Comics is testing the waters here. There are about 30 comics presented in the “Featured” area. Most of these are “digest issues” so each book contains 4-15 comics in there. Which is handy if you’re trying to catch up on a series or something.

What they’re lacking in Marvel characters they make up for with. . .  a Bill & Melinda Gates comic? a Kate Middleton comic? I even saw an Amy Winehouse comic book.


So the stock and quality is all over the map with Hoopla’s comic book offerings. No doubt it’ll get better.

I assume Hoopla is the same everywhere, but maybe it is dependent on each library’s contract. How it works here is that we’re allowed 10 downloads a month. That allotment can be made up of any mix of movies, music, TV, audiobooks, and now eBooks and comics.

Let me just say – libraries are awesome. I hope you live someplace with access to something like the JCLC system. To use Hoopla just load the app on your device and log-in with your library card number. You will instantly be able to access any content/services that your local library supports.

Do you use Hoopla?

Two eReader Apps You Should Check Out

Here are two iOS ereader apps that I think you should try. Both Readmill and Marvin read ePub files and offer features that iBooks is nowhere close to rolling out.


This app has quickly become my favorite app to read in. The design of Readmill is fantastic and they have pioneered many of the highlighting-type features that kindle and iBooks have adopted.

readmill ereader appsWhat really makes Readmill great is the community and sharing aspects. Basically, (if you turn on the features) it turns any book you’re reading into a book club. You don’t necessarily “follow people” (though you can), but while in a book other people’s highlights and comments pop up, just as if they were scribbled in the margins of a paper book. In Readmill you can reply to their marginalia or highlights and then others can respond to you, etc. You’ll have a full blown discussion before you know it… all centered on this shared experience of that very book you are reading. Of course, you can also ‘@’ people not reading the book to help promote the book or spur interest/discussions among your friends, but the idea of a group of people gathering around the shared reading of a book is fantastic. I really like the notion of discovering people to follow based on their ideas and observations alone.

readmill ereader appsI have always read business books in paper. I need to scribble and make notes in non-fiction books. But I recently gave Readmill a go for a business book and can honestly say I was better for it. I stumbled on a few people, in the Readmill community, who had read it before me and made some fantastic connections inside that book. These were ideas that  I may never have come up with on my own. It was a cool experience.



Marvin is a fun app to read in as well, but for totally different reasons. You do have amazing controls over the color, brightness, etc. and the design is solid. Plus, they have some nifty features to help folks with dyslexia or near-blindness. Marvin also allows one-click downloads from free eBook sites, Dropbox, Readmill, ODPS, and Calibre integration.

marvin ereaderBut my favorite feature of Marvin is the Deep View. Once you click ‘OK’ the Marvin app will quickly read your whole book in about a minute. It will then offer you a list of every name in the book with external links and how the names appear to be related in the book. It will also offer you a summary of the book (free Cliffs Notes!) if you’d like one. It will also compile a list of articles about that book, article about the author, and other internet content related to the book. It’s like setting your own private wiki-pedia for the book you happen to be reading.

marvin appOnce you integrate that with IMDB, etc. it gets to be very very fun. I’ve found I enjoy reading older books in this app as I’m always amazed at how many author “from the days of yore” knew each other, hung out together, berated each other, or mentioned each other in their books and reviews.

For every Brat Pack in Hollywood, there were at least 10 groups of authors paying attention to each other.


While neither Readmill or Marvin have direct access to a robust bookstore like iBooks or kindle, these two ereader apps are worth the extra two clicks to getting an ePub side loaded to read. Check them out. I’d love to know what you think.

Reading Technology in Education

A friend sent me this photo in an email:

reading technology

After Googling around it looks like it comes from a soon-to-be-released book Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age. The book seems to be about technology and schools and reading technology and education, but I’m not sure.

That’s a great find though. No doubt the same argument was made when slide rules gave way to calculators. And of course books to Nooks and iPads.

Though there has been some interesting research lately on how well reading technology devices serve kids and in what areas they fail the students. I wonder what these studies would have turned up had they been conducted when the chalk and slate were abandoned?

Not too mention that with the glut of books in the late Nineties (and Harry Potter) it wasn’t un-heard of for the publishing industry to run out of paper for a bit.

Maybe this principal from 1815 was onto something. Ain’t technology grand?

Where eBooks Fail

I buy 100% of my non-fiction as paper books and about half of my fiction as ebooks. This is because, when it comes to non-fiction, device makers have yet to consistently deliver a reading experience that comes close to paper when reading charts, graphs, maps, highlighting, writing in margins, etc.

I wanted to share this 16-second video as an example. I took it at a B&N while checking out the largest most expensive nook HD they had on display. So here I am flipping through their sample ebook of The Hobbit, viewing an inline graphic:

Do you know how frustrating that is? The screen actually goes black. . . every. . . time. Imagine what it’d be like trying to view a business book (logging 15 seconds just to see an image) with a gazillion charts or a travel guide with detailed neighborhood maps!? I know everyone is moving at a break neck speed and trying to keep up with formats, devices, standards, unlocking content, etc. but we’re all killing the book if we’re not openly honest about on which devices ebooks fail and where they work.

I bet publishers never thought they’d see themselves in the “customer service” field. But I know they’re getting more and more  calls/emails from upset customers because their “book doesn’t look right”. Trust me when I say that reading a travel guide, a Kindle Fire customer will have a totally different experience from a Kindle Paperwhite customer. But the book gets a bad review all the same, even when it’s the device’s limitations. Someone should have helped that customer understand what they were getting when they bought the device as well as when they bought the book.

I hope publishers, device makers and device sellers will be more honest and open about what the eReaders and eBooks are good for and when a pound of paper yields the better user experience. No one wins when the reader is frustrated.