Archive for May, 2014

Thing 11 for me was pretty easy, as it was about library specific tools. I’ve been using the Boopsie apps for Hennepin and Anoka Counties for over a year, use Overdrive all the time on my 4 different devices, and help people with versions of OneClick, Overdrive, Zinio, and 3MCloud all the time at work. I have lots of opinions about all of them!

The two Boopsie apps are fairly comparable, and relatively easy to use. I always feel that the login process takes forever, but it does the trick. However, when there was an issue with the server, the Anoka County app would walk through renewing like nothing was wrong and give you no error message, but failed to actually renew any items. That caused a lot of trouble all around, and was actually a really good indicator of just how many people use the app to renew their items. Otherwise, I use it to check Hennepin’s hours, and occasionally search for and put an item on hold. For those purposes, the apps also work well, though I wish there was a way to limit or filter the search results.

Overdrive is the app I use most often, though. I think it works very well, and has a lot of great options. There are a few things that Kindle does better that lead a few people to download Kindle versions instead of reading their ebooks through the Overdrive app, and mainly that is the ability to read the book to you. While Overdrive has some great settings built-in to help make reading easier, it will not read an ebook to you. The settings are easy to manipulate, and the playback for audiobooks is great (I love the skip back 15 seconds option, along with the 15 seconds ahead, or the sleep timer). One thing it really has going for it, though, is the ease of returning items. Really, really easy to do. The biggest drawback, though, is that it can’t download files in the background, and can get really hung up if it gets interrupted mid-download. For ebooks, that isn’t usually an issue, as they tend to download quickly. For audiobooks, however, that can really slow things down. I’ve had people have their download get stuck and not be able to complete downloading because they turned off their device before it was finished or their connection got cut off.

The 3MCloud app works pretty much the same as the Overdrive app, though it is a little harder to figure out how to return items early and requires switching views. There are more inconsistencies (to switch to list view you click a button on the top right, to get to the normal shelf view, you have to click on the back button) that make it a little harder to figure out the first time. It also doesn’t give you a nice little tour the first time you open the app like Overdrive does, so you have to figure it all out by yourself. One of my biggest pet peeves with 3MCloud is actually not tied to the app specifically, but is tied to the account creation aspect on any device. Whenever you set up 3MCloud, it looks to see if the device already has an Adobe ID associated with it. If there is none, it will create a generic one without telling you. Then if you try and set up one through Overdrive later, it will complain that one is already connected to that email address, which causes a lot of confusion and frustration.

OneClick Digital requires an account to have been made on the full website before you can use the app, but once you’ve done that, it works pretty well. My biggest problem is finding what I want to listen to, but that’s just a problem with the collection, not the app. I tend to favor juvenile and young adult materials, as well as fantasy, and the first two are hardly at all on OneClick (you can’t sort by those genres), and the fantasy is mostly classics with a handful of romance or mystery with some fantasy elements. There isn’t much of the newer high fantasy showing up at all. Regardless, I find the app to be relatively straightforward, though it is a little unclear that you have to close the search webpage in order to get back to your bookshelf of checked out audiobooks.

Finally, Zinio is my least favorite app in terms of the shear amount of confusion and headache. I’ve had more people come in completely at the end of their rope with this app than any other. The confusion comes from the fact that the Zinio app is not actually specifically for the library. It is the regular Zinio app, where people have to pay for everything in order to view it. This means that you actually have to open a web browser, log in to Zinio, and then checkout items. Then you have to have a second, regular Zinio account that is not connected to the library Zinio account (though you can use the same login credentials), in order to view what you’ve checked out from the app. Unlike the other apps, there is no checkout period, or way to get to the library portal to their catalog. In terms of actually viewing magazines once they are checked out, it does work well. It is easy to zoom in and out, go to certain pages, and so forth. The headache lies in just getting to the point where you feel like you can understand it enough to use it at all. If they just created a library specific app, and allowed you to view your borrowed items without having to have a second login, things would be a lot easier!

Photo sharing is the topic for thing 10, along with a little bit of editing. I decided to try Instagram, as it is the most well known and heavily used of the photo sharing apps out there, and therefore the most likely to come across my desk at Tech Time. I created a very simple account, and found that I spent more time exploring the different ways you can tweak the photos than actually sharing them. It took me a little bit to get the hang of it, since the icons weren’t always clear, but I managed to find my way around. A little tour would have been appreciated, though!

When you create an account, you can choose to find friends and import contacts from various sources. Unlike some apps, it does give you the option to skip that step. After the set up, you can either search for other people and their pictures, see what your friends have posted, or post your own. This is where I had the most fun playing with the app. It has a number of built in filters and basic editing features that you can use when you take your picture (or upload one already on your device). One issue I had was that the filters weren’t named helpfully (most of them were just place or people names, possibly references that I just didn’t get because I’m either too young or not tied in to pop culture enough!), and that the sample image of a hot air balloon really didn’t show the differences very well. Otherwise, you can rotate the image by degree, and do a few other very basic tweaks. You will need to edit your images in another app if you want to really change your colors, do cropping, basic clean up, or removing red eyes and stuff like that. It’s more just fun filters and effects to add at the end before posting them, just for a little bit of added interest.

That said, I did see that there are a lot of pictures posted that are just as they were taken, so some people are using the app more as a digital photo album for their friends. I may keep using it in that way, but I feel like I am more likely to use it for pictures of funny or bizarre things that I see. Things like amusing signs, critters in unexpected places… just funny occurrences that I would want to share. We’ll see how much I actually wind up using it, though!

EDIT: I guess the technology gods listened! Not a month later, there’s news that the latest version of Instagram comes with much more in terms of editing tools: brightness, contrast, warmth, saturation, shadows, highlight, darken, and the usual magic wand. This puts Instagram safely in the image editing category as well as just the sharing category, making it more of a heavy hitter and less of a lightweight.