IT PLAYGROUP, MAR. 3, 2008
For this IT Playgroup, John L., Melissa and Pioneer Press technology reporter Julio Ojeda-Zapata discussed their experiences with the Kindle e-book reader. Ojeda-Zapata also brought in a Macbook Air and John discussed the free screencast software Jing.
The Amazon Kindle is an e-book reader that uses the Mobipocket format and e-paper. E-paper is easier on the eyes than a computer screen, but it is not back-lit. You can buy a night light for an extra charge. The Kindle costs $400, but that includes free cell-phone style Internet access that works anywhere and with no monthly fee. As a web browser, it is clunky. The controls are clunky too, especially compared to an iPod, and it is easy to hit the "back" button by accident while reading. The Kindle is not compatible with older e-book formats, but many publishers are offering e-books in the Kindle format. It is easy to use the software on your computer to buy books, or to buy them online using the device, and you can save your whole e-book library on the computer while only having some items on the Kindle. You could save money by downloading free public domain e-books from sites like Project Gutenberg, but buying on Amazon is so easy that consumers may prefer it, as they do with iTunes. The Kindle also can be used for e-audiobooks. Whether libraries can loan out Kindles is currently unclear.
The MacBook Air is a notebook with a normal-size screen and keyboard, but very, very thin. It can fit into an interoffice mailing envelope. Because of the lightness, it is slower than other notebooks and there is very little hard drive space and no CD/DVD burner. The owner is expected to have external storage of some sort. It seems like it would be best for a second computer for people who travel a lot, or for students with limited space and access to networked storage. If the MacBook Air or similar notebooks take off, web-based applications may become more popular.
Jing is free software for creating screencasts. It captures video and sound of what you are doing on a computer screen. You can also draw on the screencast for for emphasis. This would be great for making instructional videos that staff could watch when and where they wanted. Previous screencast software was quite pricey. Jing will upload screenshots at screencast.com (there is a monthly fee for hosting), or you can host them on your own Internet server for free.