Friday, May 18, 2012

Firing up Seniors with a New Tablet

                Getting down to basics, most of us seniors just want to “keep connected” as our physical worlds narrow down a bit.   Here, Willow Valley brings everything closer to us.    A simplified handheld computer device might help with that. 

                What we need is to be able to get to the doctor or drugstore our family or bank or entertainment without moving much from where we are.  Same thing if traveling.

                We need a  simple device to help with that: small, very heap and easy to use.   In its simplest configuration, it would have a menu:

                Contact family
                Contact doctor
                Contact Bank
                Order prescriptions
                Listen to the radio
                Read the paper
                Read a book
                Let the device read an eBook to us
                Get information
                Make a phone call
                Get the weather
                Listen to music
                Get help

                It would be the size of a book and we could use it to and from anywhere.    We would reach for it and get connected immediately.

                Well, they don't come that way.    They come with too much to set up and learn.

                Wait a minute, maybe we could do it right here, with a smart  Kindle Fire or its lookalike powerhouse, the stunning new Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.

                Tap or click to browse about the Kindle Fire.

                Now we, or a friend, need to get out our new device and bring up what we are reading here, and start with the Links.    Click on them where they appear below.   We can also go through the motions  here if without a device at hand  yet.     Snrtech is set up for either way.

                The Fire actually has some of these these choices already on its homepage: Newsstand-Books Music-Video-Docs-Apps-and Web.   Just click on one of them.

                It has others pre-installed:

                Then, hiding in “Apps” are:  email and weather and others, and we can add in a few we need, easily.

                Hiding in “Web” is our browser, which can go and get everything else.

                SO, the Apps and Web will then get the rest done for us!

                What we will do is go to the link below and search, click, and “install” what we need:

                From Apps, then:



                                Phone (Samsung only)

                Wait, to install these do we need an account  sign up here for Fire.   (Does not mean you need to buy anything, but the store needs to know who uses what apps, if only to update or delete.)

                (If you bought your Kindle from Amazon, it may already be set up.  Here is the store for the Samsung ab 2 7

                From the web:, search and bookmark:


                                Pharmacy (your provider) e.g.

                Make bookmarks!!  When you get there, click for a bookmark.

                Maybe we would like voice (speech) recognition.   I don't like to type so much any more.     There are such apps from both online stores.               The Fire internal mic does work with an apple mic-headset or equivalent.   Then, search in “Apps” for the “voice” apps.

                That does it for the menu items.    We need to sign in for some items with our EMail, or register  right then and there.    And there we are.   We’d need WiFi, which Willow Valley has close by everywhere and provides it in our apartments for $25 a month.

                The Samsung has similar pre-installed apps, actually mostly the same.       Just click on the Google Play Store icon and go.

                The two devices do almost all the same things.  Amazon provides apps from its (limited) store, Samsung from Google's main store.  Same for Books and Music.

                (Where Amazon may not have an app you want, there are usually ways to get it anyway, by sideloading.     That is not necessary for the Samsung.)

                However, I  then simplified the process.  I did it via DropBox, whereby the same file is accessible on both computer and tablet---no hookup needed.) Just Install it on both device and larger computer.

                Another Samsung advantage for PC and Mac users is that it runs the super Google Chrome browser which integrates all data together with any other of your computers.    However, both devices do much of that automatically anyway, even bookmarks with Xmarks. App.

                Recently printing from both these devices got much easier:

                Also, both devices support external wireless keyboards, so that very little is left that they cannot do.  They cannot work with a large display, however.      That will come next.   And then, who needs any other computer?

               What?  You want Microsoft Windows, TOO??    The Samsung can install the CloudOn app for Windows Word, Excel, etc.     You thought Microsoft would be left out?

Use these useful books just as reference or right now before having the device.    You don’t need to absorb it all, but it is good to have a friendly book there to help if you ever do get into all the other things to do.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Finding eBooks for Kindle Fire (and other readers)

Update: May 2012 from December 2011 (lots of tech changes here):

(Update Note 5-26-2012: A simple way to get ebooks from your library is to go to the library site on PC or MAC and check them out.    Click for the Lancaster County Website.    You will then be able to check out Kindle versions online to be sent to your Kindle if available.   Without a PC or Mac click or tap here for video instructions.)

Before we read that book we need to get it.

To get a book, we first need to FIND it.

 It should be possible to go to one site for any book, find it, and read it.   
That is not possible yet, though there is progress since this piece was originally written last fall.   The Kindle Fire offered then as now a limited Amazon subset of all the books and “apps” available on the basic eBook marketplace, itself now transformed into Google Play.   

 So this is a revision and update of my December article on how to find and get books on Kindle.  This is a 7” diagonal device, and there are larger devices, especially the iPad with its larger screen.    Importantly for some may be a possible 10” Fire.   Much here also applies to reading eBooks on the PC or Mac.

Hardware and software have both changed.  Note that the original Fire was dedicated to obtaining books and tools for getting them from Amazon’s online store.   One new look-alike and workalike device, introduced on April 20, the Samsung Tab 2 7 works like the Fire except that it has a state-of-art foundation and much easier access to books and apps through the new much broader Google Play store, and elsewhere, at a cost of $250.  (Many) more such devices will be coming, such as from  Apple, Google, Asus, Acer, and Lenovo, along with cheaper devices down to $100.

The Samsung lookalike is also a fully capable computer with GPS, Infrared, expandable memory, internal mic, camera, phoning, speech recognition, and Google Chrome and its many cloud sharing features.  It looks exactly like the Fire.   You might call it an unfettered Kindle Fire.  It can use a remote keyboard.      It runs some formerly "only iPad" apps.

The effect is that the new device also makes getting eBooks easier, though most books can still be obtained with more effort with the Kindle Fire.  At the same time, the Kindle has simplified sending certain documents to Kindle, such as "pdfs".

All this could change.   The Kindle Fire could (and should) be upgraded with a download.  Kindle Fire sales are falling as Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7” sales rise.

Now, to find WHAT you want to read, (for heavy readers) join goodreads)   In your searches, know that many books are free from whatever your source may be.

(In the following, it will be helpful to know what an “app” is.   The Kindle Fire is a device which has the Kindle reader app in it, along with other apps or applications, such as Email or Weather or News.   These are known also as “.apk” files which may be installed from Amazon, and more and more online “stores”, along with eBooks.   Some of them greatly aid in getting books.)

Whereas the Kindle Fire can load  selected apps easily, the Samsung can load them all easily.    However, the Kindle Fire can be loaded with nearly all, with extra effort and computer savvy, from unofficial app stores which are proliferating.

The Kindle Way to Find Kindle Books

 If the book is an Amazon book, the process is simple.  Click on Books.    Search for the book.      Click on the cover to read it.    Of course, you need an Amazon account to get it, even if free.

            Many readers will need to do no more, though Amazon offers much more:     We can search by genre.   We can buy a dead-tree copy of the book.    We can borrow it.    We can read an Amazon library book.   On the Amazon book website there are reader comments about books.  

But suppose Amazon does not  have the book we are seeking.  The Kindle software does use a proprietary format of its own and also excludes some other major formats and libraries.   So then we need to find that book elsewhere. The Kindle Fire makes this possible by offering a browser which accesses more than just Kindle accessible books and media.

We can, for example, do a simple Google search.     Generally, though, there are better places to look.  For that we go to our browser directly:

The Browser Way to Find Books

The old Google way:

The first place to look is Google Books.   Not Google, not Google eBooks, but just plain Google Books.    Click here:  Then you will need to sign up (register).   Here Google has been creating a massive listing and electronically readable source of: the Library of Congress, the British libraries and the German equivalents (with huge numbers of English books in the last).

A search of Google books will not only find books.   If it has a book listed, it will show your where and how to get it or read it.     Importantly, it will let you read it on screen or get it elsewhere.

            That comes close to the being the simplest way to find and read an eBook. 

Reading the book from Google Books’ webpage is easy     The book can be read on either Kindle Fire or ANY other computer, either streamed from the cloud or downloaded to read away from the cloud and/or transferred to Kindle Fire.    To read on the Fire from Google books, you need only to access the mobile webpage above. Create a Fire bookmark for it. 

The new Google Way

Google now has a new such book ”store” called Google Play,, from which books may be most simply obtained and read.

            This “store” app may be installed on the Fire only with some trickery     The Samsung has it pre-installed.    

Other Website Access to the World's Books

It so easy to publish a book that all books are not available from the major libraries.

There is, for example, Lulu books, where you can self-publish your book.   Indeed, major publishers also use Lulu, which prints on demand, one copy at a time   You can go to the Lulu website and download it from there, often free.

Open Library

There are other sites than Google books.

 A major one is (20,000,000 books).      This source works like Google Play.   Here we may also borrow a book.    We may even find it in a nearby library.   We may read it online, if available.   It is possible to read the book online on the Kindle Fire, but easier on a larger computer.     It is helpful to make another bookmark for openlibrary.

Fortunately, openlibrary will send books direct to Kindles from its website on PC or KIndle Fire itself. (Another major archive is, the mother "ship" of openlibrary.)

Here is Amazon's guide to these:

Photocopied eBooks

That brings to mind the fact that all books are not in text electronically readable format.    Google Books and openlibrary also have many photocopies of books readable online and by Kindle if available that way.   You may even buy from them a paper photocopy of an out-of-print book

 When faced with a choice of paper or eBook, I find that if I know what I want, I prefer to be able to read it by eBook reader or online.   If not, I prefer to access the paper copy.    For example, I read the daily paper online.   I read the Sunday paper in print, where I can be exposed to much that is otherwise unknown to me.

The Fire can also look for areas of interest and aggregate these into magazine or newspaper-like format online, using apps such as .gReader Pro, available for Fire from Amazon, and newly FlipBoard.

Libraries and Formats

Most local libraries offer eBooks online.    Newly they also offer huge numbers of public domain books which do not expire.

Much has recently been simplified in the process of getting them.   . For a simple way to get books from your library, just install the Overdrive  "app" from Amazon or the Overdrive website    Alternatively, we can also go to our Library’s webpage and look for digital or eBooks and Overdrive there.

Not only does Amazon have its own library.   There is Nook’s library for the Nook reader, and many other such libraries such as Sony’s

Fortunately, the Fire can operate AS the Nook, for example, and access the Nook library.     It can operate as other readers and access other libraries.     Popular libraries are manybooks and feedreader and gutenberg.   A app from Amazon store such as Aldiko turns the Kindle Fire into the Aldiko reader to access such libraries   The Kindle can turn into other readers, such as Stanza and Bluefire and Cool Reader just by installing apps for them.

Each of these “apps” usually includes selected libraries and selected digital formats.

These libraries are not always readable on another eBook reader or app.    Amazon has its own format, AZW.     The books in each of these libraries may need conversion, treated again below.

I get eBooks from openlibrary and send them to the Kindle for use with Aldiko, using a format not supported by Kindle but readable on the Fire with Aldiko.

Here are some of the main: formats for the newer readers


 Kindle now handles: TXT, MOBI, AXW, PDF, HTML.  PDF files may be emailed to your unique Kindle email address (yourname@kindle,com) with the word Convert in the subject line. This is important.

Nook handles: TXT, PDF, EPUB   Sony:  BBB, TXT, PDF, RTF

What a mess.    The  AZW  and The EPUBS are the most popular eBook formats.   The PDFs are widely used public documents.


To date, it has required a conversion tool called Calibre to access and convert books to read in a particular source’s format.

The trend, though has been for each library to access more and more formats, as described below.   For example, you can send a converted book easily from openlibrary.

Therefore, with the Fire, the easiest way up to recently has been simply to avoid conversion and simply to install the so-called “app” which makes the Fire work as a Nook or some other reader.

I use:

MOBI: FBReader, iReader
EPUB: FBReader, Mantano
PDF: Kindle, Mantano, Adobe Reader

FBReader is an old reader, recently greatly improved; some PDFs may not read well in any such app.

Newly, however, Calibre has an easy-to-use app itself for iPad and for other readers, Calibre Library.  This app brings easy access to a huge library of books and journals.  That app does not work with the Kindle Fire.  It does work with the Samsung Tab 2 7.

 There ARE ways to use Calibre with the Fire.    Calibre can auto-send documents to the Kindle Fire library and thence to the Kindle Fire Kindle reader.   Techies may Tap or Click for Calibre for Kindle.    Also, Tap or Click for more information. You will see two options here: auto-send from PC to Kindle Fire, and Aldiko access from Fire to Calibre on PC---I use both.   If not a techie, Tap or Click to read the Calibre manual.

With the Fire, it is also possible to download books from Calibre by obtaining your ip address from your main computer (get it from the command window), adding a firewall exception (8080), and entering the result on your Fire browser:   Then the downloaded book will be found in the Fire's download directory..    It can then be opened or moved to the book folder where the Fire will see it. 

"APP" Readers

So far, I might note that some other Kindles than the Fire may be able to read ePUB books in other ways.      gReader PRO above from Amazon or  Google stores current news from Google’s Reader app which aggregates your choice of news.  Both apps run on the Fire and are available from Amazon.

            Where an app like like Google Books above, is not available from the Amazon store, many apps may be nonetheless installed to the Fire   There is a procedure for that, too, described below.

Again, newly, installing such an app is easy to install on an reader such as the Samsung, using the largest app store, Google Play.

Now if all this seems complicated, you do not need to do it all at once.    The Kindle store alone will work until you cannot find the book you want.  Just know that there are other ways to get it.


(Much of the following is simplified in the Samsung Tab 2.   Whereas many apps and books are not easily obtained from Amazon’s somewhat limited library, the Samsung accesses the exhaustive Google library simply.)  This Amazon should change. 

Your book may appear in a reader as archived.   If so, you have it, but need to download it to read it offline and away from wifi.

The Fire does that quite automatically for Kindle books from their store.    We can download books when connected simply by touching the book cover picture and selecting it for download.     The book cover has a little arrow which identifies it as not downloaded yet
This process works for Nook, and most others readers, too.

Downloading from Elsewhere

Downloading will get you a book directly from many other sources, such as Google Books, openlibrary, Lulu, and Overdrive.   Once that has happened, you may need either to access it on the Fire or on PC and then transfer it to Kindle..

Downloading is usually an option shown by source websites right on their webpage.     From PC the books need to be either transferred or converted, or both.   In Windows 7 the books go to the download directory or to a shared directory.

As mentioned, from PC books can be converted with Calibre and easily sent to Kindles.    You may need to plug in the Fire to PC via usb cable to do so.     For the Fire, you can also simply Email PDF files as an attachment and send them to your own primary kindle-specific email address listed by Amazon in Kindle Manager   (In the Subject box type Convert)

If eMailing, though, you then need to save them in Fire’s eMail and go to an app you got downloaded from Amazon Store called Documents to Go, where you can click on them to bring up the appropriate reader such as Kindle or Aldiko or Mantano above.

Also, from PC or Mac it is possible to send eBooks and apps into the cloud where the Fire may access them, using an app called Dropbox, which can be downloaded to run on PC and Mac. Dropbox is available for Fire from the Amazon store.

Then, if we save a file on Dropbox on PC it automatically appears on the Fire.   If you click on the downloaded file in Dropbox on the Fire, it will then be accessed as above by the available readers, such as Kindle, of course, but also Nook, and others.  Now Google offers an alternative to DropBox call Drive.   I use both.

 (Now, there are those who warn about viruses, worse those wanting to sell you antivirus software.     Consumer Reports says the exposure is unlikely for cell phones---the Fire has the same system as a cell phone.  )  OK, you can obtain the Lookout or AVS antivirus software apps if paranoid.

 Now, with all this, you access the libraries of the world from anywhere, and without going anywhere.  

            In a small book-sized device you have the world of media of all kinds as opposed to needing a big computer, and also record player, cd player, tv recorder and player, movie theatre.   All in the palm of your hand.  With the Samsung, and others to come you will have most of the capabilities of your PC or Mac, even a wireless keyboard.