Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Library resources online - explore your regional libraries for some amazing resources. Also, my Amazon ECHO arrived yesterday. Initial brief report.


  I've mentioned this earlier and am updating the info -- there is a treasure that many of us have at our fingertips without realizing it -- none of my friends knew we had the access I'm describing in this updated posting although we are all somewhat heavy readers.

One day, while looking for information on something, I wanted to access Infotrac which has articles going back to 1970s or so, in full text, for participant institutions like my city library.  I live in California, and the requirement for accessing my library's special online resources is California residence.

  To give an example of what may be available in your area -- the Berkeley and San Francisco libraries both give its members access to databases that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive for most of us.  And merely as a California resident, I am able to access both.  (I didn't look for others.)  Many of you will have similar access in your areas.

 Infotrac is one of the offerings and a more common one.
  See http://www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org/services_and_resources/online_resources.php for an example of what is often available through public libraries in the U.S.
.  I saw, on a web search, that many remote county libraries have the same access, so it's not just where a university might be.

  Besides Infotrac, I clicked on one of the gazillion links that came up on my screen, this time:
  This link will work only for people with a Berkeley Public Library card, even if California residence is all that's needed.  A similar link should work with your own public library's link, which you can google.  That'll depend on the state you're in.

Safari Books Online
To see, OTHERWISE, what Safari Books Online is like without the special public library access, here's their own site.  The regular situation (without library access) -- They have a free trial, but the monthly cost is, at $39/mo. for full access to all their books (see what's included, below) in the Safari "Bookshelf" option.  In this blog article, I'm describing the (free) "Library" option instead.
   I have no affiliation with Safari Books Online.  And, at $39/mo, or $399/yr for full access to all their books  (no limit on time spent online)  their regular offerings may be worth a look for any who need such books regularlyh for their work or study.

  The rest of us may have, though,  free public library access to what we need from that collection.

  The free library access version, if your library has it, is to almost all the current major computer/technical books that I've browsed at Barnes & Noble while lamenting that I couldn't justify spending that much money, since I wanted to read so many of them. It gives access to most of the current offerings I'd browse at the store.

 Included in the free Safari Books Online are O'Reilly Media, Prentice Hall, Addison-Wesley, PeachPit Press, New Riders, Sams, que, Adobe Press, and many others.

 It's all current -- books on items like Photoshop CS5, some on using Facebook :-) --  and so I tried it at the library (from home) for free to see what the various e-books are like, to read on my desktop or netbook.

 These offerings are FULL TEXT and speedy online reading if you have fast Internet access.  Every now and then a graphic image might not show up where it should but all the text is there as well as most of the graphic images. I did a tutorial on fixing photos from a book that normally costs $40 to buy.

I hope that most reading this will be able to find similar resources at their regional or state libraries.

Pennsylvania's Free Library of Philadelphia offers a library card for out-of-state-residents for $50/year (the link is to www.freelibrary.org/register/getcard1.cfm ).  No in-person visit required in Philadelphia.
  HOWEVER, while they do carry Infotrac and a myriad of other reference databases, they unfortunately don't carry Safari Online books.  They DO carry Overdrive for ebooks (for those of you who don't get Overdrive for easy Kindle book public library borrowing on Whispernet and need to rely on 3M instead but would prefer the easier to use Overdrive).

My Amazon ECHO arrived today
I ordered the almost vaporware Echo in January, and it actually arrived yesterday, after I had really lost interest.  But I'll report tonight on my initial explorations and I have to admit it's more fun than I had guessed.  After reading in the forums about all the things that didn't work quite right at first, from the paying beta-exploration customers who nevertheless related what they did like so far, I found that most of my instructions were working well (without doing the 'training' in my voice and enunciation), after the requested almost daily feedback to the Echo team who are adding features on a regular basis.  For example, lowering the volume while I'm doing something else, normally you'd say 'softer' or 'lower volume' or 'level 4' -- but I just said, naturally, "Alexa, not so loud" and it went down.  It's 'learned' from customer feedback.

Word on the street now is that Amazon has positioned itself ahead of Apple, who had to stall theirs for a while, and mainstream reviewers are more delighted than they'd expected to be.

I'll blog on this tonight when I get back. It's been interesting to see my own reactions to using such an odd duck but also I was surprised at why I like certain aspects of it. A sort of weird but fun experience I'll explain later tonight.

Check often: Temporarily-free recently published Kindle books
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.  Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.

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  1. i have been a subscriber to safaribooksonline since 2007. The subscription level i have does not appear to be still offered -- it's cheaper than what's currently offered (and quoted by you). It let's me have a "bookshelf" of 10 titles. A title must remain on the shelf for at least one month before it can be replaced. In addition the subscription comes with 5 download tokens per month each token good for 6 months. These tokens can be used to download PDF chapters from the books on your shelf (you can read any book on your shelf in a browser window at any time). I don't use it as much now as I did a few years ago. This Safari subscription is also included with an ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) membership.

    I've had my Echo since back in November 2014. Initially I used it to ask a lot of questions, and to play selections from Prime music. But usage dropped off to the point where I used it as an alarm clock, and as a Bluetooth speaker for my main laptop. I do a lot of searching on google -- I ought to train myself to "just ask Alexa" (:grin). Lately, I've started using it for my shopping list (replacing scraps of paper). Alexa is in my bedroom, and the remote is in my kitchen -- so it's easy to ask her to put items on the list.

    I already use OneNote and 2Day (a windows phone app with voice input) for my to do list -- so Echo wasn't going to work there. However, with the advent of IFTTT support (it's nice that every week or so Amazon adds new features to Echo), an interface between Alexa and OneNote is now possible.

    I'm expecting a big splash with the Echo in the fall for the holidays including integration with Fire tablets, Fire TV, new Fire phone (hopefully) -- as well as perhaps integration with non Amazon devices such as Smart TV's, ROKU, etc.

    The publishers participating in the Safari program are listed below -- they pretty much span the technology publishing universe:

    O'Reilly Verlag
    Microsoft Press Deutschland
    Wiley-VCH Verlag
    Prentice Hall
    O'Reilly Media
    Microsoft Press
    Adobe Press
    John Wiley & Sons
    Oracle Press
    Cisco Press
    Pearson Certification
    Packt Publishing
    New Riders
    FT Press
    Career Press
    Total Training
    Class on Demand
    IGI Global
    Course Technology
    Morgan Kaufmann
    Focal Press
    Project Management Institute

    1. Hi, Edward -
      The direct subscription level you have with them directly was described by my first blog article back in 2010. It was $23/mo. for access to 10 books per month, with no limit on time online.

      So I went to see what's going on these days for NON-library access and saw the new $39/mo. for all books (vs the excellent (public library) subset of current books) and the $399/yr price (avg $33.25/mo. for normal direct subscriptions.

      The Berkeley library pages explain that
      "You are accessing a Custom Safari Books Online Library that contains a subset of 8,347 titles from Safari Books Online's overall content...[of 30,000+ books and video]"

      Now, the direct subscribers get a ton more, but I can hardly deal with 8,000+ titles and am most interested in the current ones when it comes to computers and tech/web/application area (Photoshop, Dreamweaver. In-Design, Javascript, CSS, html, other programming, Microsoft Office, even things like Facebook and Twitter books that are 'old' and no longer apply within months of publication... But I can see why you would want many of the titles I saw there, for your work and interests, and yours come included with your ACM membership.

      Re Echo, options have opened up. You can now play selected artist stations from iHeart and they've included Pandora too.
      I did find that the ability to ask for specific playlists I made wound up having me dancing because they were all songs I like, and the list is long so I don't tend to get tired of them, but the radio stations open you up to more.

      The News options now include quite a bit more, and I tend to want to use the Echo only when I'm puttering around in the kitchen where my hand's aren't free. Nice to say 'next' for another news cast or for another song or to suddenly say "What's playing?" and get an instant answer. With volume levels on songs being so variable, it's a real convenience to issue a volume change via voice rather than running to turn it up or down.

      For searching, people tend to say "wikipedia [topic]" and at least the first paragraphs will be read and the rest is sent to your tablet or phone for reading. I think you can just use 'wiki' but I haven't tried that yet. Will get this off and add another reply as the replies are size-limited.

    2. Edward,
      Re ToDo lists, I use a special app for that, but with the Echo feature being so convenient, I'm using it for the things I remember while walking around when not on a computer or tablet and I can easily say to add this or that. It's something I can then check later to add to my regular todo if wanted.

      It's nice to not even need to take out a phone to open up an app even.

      IFTTT support is terrific.

      Thanks much for that full listing of publishers included in the Safari Books Online program.


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