We have moved to the age of the digital empire and beyond, technology has grown so much and so fast (even just in the past 10 years). I still remember my old 8.5 in floppy drive PC, and the floppy disks were actually floppy! Technology has grown so much and so fast and reached the hands of just about everyone that’s in school setting; student syllabi in middle schools now say “no cell phones in class or they will be confiscated.” This to me is so crazy, that’s it’s reached even to the youth of our nations, but how is that in colleges I still see 99% of the students reading from a real textbook (an expensive textbook at that). I see 80% of students at colleges with laptops, on tables while they read these books; 75% with some form of smart phone, using it to text as they walk to class; and more and more students with these new tablets (iPad/Android/Windows/etc…).
This is going to be a write up and tutorial or sorts, if you like you can just skip the next few paragraphs to get the information on programs.
So the question I had for myself when I was gearing up to go back to school was simple, how can I save money on books and be as paperless as possible? I Already had a smartphone, it was just manner of finding out what’s & how’s of accomplishing this. So I sat down at my computer (yeah I don’t got a laptop lol) and started doing a bit of searching. I looked all over the interwebs to find the best of the best programs and setups to use; ideas that I wanted to make a reality.
So after all my research I went online and bought my own little tablet, (the newest and greatest out so far) the ASUS Transformer Prime. So I setup these programs, bought as many of my books for classes online (find a little more than half of them in digital format). I quickly stripped all the Amazon/B&N books of their DRM protection
they’re my books and by golly I’ll read them with any program I damn well please and the courts have upheld the ruling of; You bought, you own it, you can do what you want with it, just no reselling or giving giving it freely to others
You know I have been doing pretty great with being almost all digital! I Just need my keyboard dock for the tablet and I’ll be perfect… So, I have been doing just fine: recording class audio; taking notes (I’ve always taken notes and then rewrote them, it’s a study habit that works great); reading my books (this includes highlighting them, writing notes in them, and even having my computer/table/phone read them to me). I really have only run into 1 real snag with my setup and that’s the fact that the notes/highlights I put inside my digital text doesn’t sync with the rest (this is of course my fault/developers faults). The reason I say this is because I know I can buy an book/textbook through Amazon and have all notes and bookmarks sync to all Kindle devices, but that would limit me:
- I wouldn’t have a Text-to-speech eReader;
- If the book wasn’t on Amazon (or if you went the all B&N route) I would be S.O.L.;
- I don’t want to be stuck with just 1 company, I hate being limited and I am willing to deal with that one problem for the sake of the freedom.
So by this point either you’re still reading and thinking “This sounds like a good idea, I can save some money on school books and be better organized digitally.” OR you’re thinking “Damnit, just tell me what programs are best man!” …. if neither of these 2 cover your current thought, comment/e-mail me or you stopped reading already lol.
So now to the grit of the programs, what’s the best and how do I get it?
- Free your books that you purchased, go and download Calibre on your computer (PC is best). Then follow this guide to free your books from the corporate chains. **Note AZW4 files are just PDF locked inside an Amazon format and it’s easy to extract the PDF from it; if enough people comment asking how I’ll write a quick tutorial on how.
- PC/Mac Reading: Nook Study on your PC or Mac (This is what I use to sort all my books by class, have TTS, a cool interface, and it just works; though the TTS is the blind TTS, meaning it reads even the menu to you) and just import all your books (PDF/ePUB/mobi) that you unlocked with Calibre. It is also important to point out a new guy called Blio that has a lot of the same features, and does some better, but only supports XPS format which is easy to convert to with a PC. Blio is cross platform as well, meaning you can have it on iOS, Android and PC (Sorry, no Mac version yet). The reason I mention Blio is the fact that it has a great TTS setup and interface, though can be a little laggy on older computers, and has all the features as the Nook Study, but works on more platforms; the downfall is it’s XPS only format, but that is easily overcome with an easy convert and the awesome books you can buy from them (they’re like animated talking story books!), they really should just allow standard ePUB format import and I hope they will.
- **Note: It is important to mention, that Nook Study has the ability to purchases a lot your books you may need as well from the B&N store, these are mostly just PDF files locked by B&N with different extensions and can be unlocked as well, but there is a different method.
- Phone/Tablet Reading: to be honest this more up to the device and owner, but I’ll give my thoughts.
- Android: Moon+ Reader Pro
- UPDATE: I have recently stumbled across a better eReader for android called, Mantano and it is far superior to moon+ and supports PDF books/textbooks as well and will still read the PDF to you too. It has in my opinion a better interface and a lot better ebook support & TTS function, it doesn’t quite fully support ICS (android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich), but it does still work and it you don’t want the paid version, the free, ad supported, one still has all the same features as the paid.
- iAnything: Use iBooks (I’ve been told it’s amazing and has TTS built in like Moon+)
- BB/Palm/Windows Phones: You guys are kind of on your own here, I have no clue what the best one is anymore, I used to always use MobiPocket, but I heard it died.] **For PDF’s incase you have any, the best on Android is Repligo Reader.
- Phone/Tablet Note Taking: Evernote is the real king, all you have to do is take the notes (or recording OR do both at the same time) and it syncs to the web, PC, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BB, Palm. It has so many different uses beyond notes that it is just an all around great app to always have. As well if you pair it in with the study section, it makes an unbeatable pair.
- Phone/Tablet Studying: Now this is a new field here, there hasn’t before been a real good place where students can have there notes digitally, as well as create flash cards, find classmates, or borrow notes & study materials from classmates All online. Now we have the answer, and that’s StudyBlue (With Tablet & Phone Apps too)! They are just awesome, I’ve been working with them (by sending a lot of feedback and talking with the employees) trying to make their platform the absolute best there is around and once it’s good enough (just a few minor bugs need fixing) I actually plan to talk to my campus about using it for their disabilities services area. Going with StudyBlue will be worth it, especially if you have classes with me in them lol.
**Note: StudyBlue will sync up with your Evernote account, making keeping organized and automatically syncing your Evernote notes straight to your study place
So there is a quick overview of the programs that I use daily. And I have all my information on every device I use (I can even print from all my devices at home as well if I want). This is the era of the digital empire, embrace the ease of use, and stop sweating. Get organized, go paperless, and work & study from anywhere without having to hold a big bulky expensive textbook.
So as a closing note, I’m not sure how many people out there are as OCD organized as I am, but if so there is an APP for you on Android, iOS, Web/Chrome; it’s called My Home Work. And it is awesome, for organizing. It doesn’t currently sync to Google Calendars yet, but I’m going to pester them about it till they do lol. With this little app ($1.99/year) you can organize your class times, and schedule of when everything is (including study, reading, quizzes, HW, papers, presentations, and more).
One last thing, I am thinking of doing a specialized in depth post on each subject category and show they work. Would anyone be interested in reading that? I was thinking of maybe not only doing picture tutorials/screen shots, but maybe even working in a video or something.
**If there is an App that you think is better out there, especially in the case of Windows/BB Phones, let me know I’ll be glad to look into them and maybe even break out my old windows phone.**