And now some good news. Several years ago, we criticized the book choices available for download from public libraries. The result was a spontaneous demonstration by angry librarians. (The whole idea of an angry librarian was beyond our ken.) “It’s not our fault,” they yelled in unison, “it’s the publishers!”
Well, times have changed, and now you can get thousands, maybe millions of free titles. The lode is so rich, we’ll probably let our Audible.com audiobook subscription expire, much as we have enjoyed it. Instead of paying $15 a month, or $100 for 12 books at a time, we’re exploring the free world, so to speak. We’re expecting an angry demonstration from publishers any moment now.
We started with Hoopla Digital. All you need is a library card and you only need to show it once. Go to HooplaDigital.com, put in your library card number and choose a book. Joy selected Tortilla Curtain, by T.C. Boyle. The website said she could listen for free for 21 days and the book would automatically return itself. There’s also a free HooplaDigital app for your phone. You can check out up to six items at a time.
Counting regular books and comic books, Hoopla has more than half a million to choose from.
Overdrive.com has even more titles, more than two million, and a free app for your phone called “Libby” (kind of a quiet, polite librarian).
Why use Hoopla Digital when Overdrive has more titles? Well, sometimes Hoopla has something Overdrive doesn’t. For instance, Hoopla has Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit but Overdrive doesn’t.
If you’re interested in publishing your own book, consider SELF-e. When you’ve gotten it written out on your computer, go to self-e.library-journal.com and click “submit.” After submitting to SELF-e, your e-book may appear on the websites of participating libraries. If your book is selected by Library Journal, it will also be available in libraries across the United States and Canada.
LOTS OF LITTLE DINOSAURS
You can play a game called Jurassic World Revealed with your voice alone, if you have an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot or Show. It also works with smart speakers, like the Sonos One, that have Alexa built in.
The story inside the game was written by David Grossman and Joe Pinney. Grossman is famous among gamers for writing the classic video adventures The Secret of Monkey Island, and Maniac Mansion. More recently, Pinney has written Telltale Game’s Game of Thrones and Jurassic Park.
To play the game, you answer questions given to you by a journalist who is trying to find out what is happening to the dinosaurs. She pauses every couple of minutes to ask questions like, “Should we risk getting close enough to try to heal the dinosaur’s wound?” We said “yes,” and she said, “I knew I liked you.” We encouraged her to pull a tranquilizer dart out of the creature and then bandage the wound. If you saw the movie you may be a bit ahead of the game.
Meanwhile, back at the dinosaur ranch … you open the Alexa app to get the game started on your speaker. Tap the menu (looks like three stacked lines) and choose “Skills.” Search on “Jurassic World” and tap “enable.” To start the game, say “Alexa, open Jurassic World.” If you have to leave the room or are otherwise busy, that’s OK. If she has to ask you the same question twice, the game automatically stops. Say “open Jurassic Park” to continue.
TEXTING FROM A COMPUTER
Joy suffers from dry eyes, and a chief culprit is too much cellphone use. One way to avoid that is to use a computer for text messaging instead of a phone, whenever you’re home.
If you have an Android phone, try Google’s text messaging app on your computer. First tap the Messages app on your phone. Tap the hamburger icon (three stacked lines) and choose “Messages for Web.”
Then go to Messages.android.com. You’ll see a big picture of a QR code. Position your phone over it and tap “Scan QR Code” and you’re in. Your phone is now linked to your computer. You’ll see all of your saved text messages on your computer screen and can reply to them or type new ones from your computer keyboard. It’s a lot easier to do text messages on a big keyboard.
If you have an iPhone, see the article from Mashable.com, “Five Ways to Text From Your Computer.”
THAT TINY SCREEN
Text on a phone’s screen is often too tiny to read. There’s a fix.
On your iPhone or Android phone, go into “Settings” and tap “Accessibility.” On the iPhone, “Accessibility” is under the “General” tab. There you’ll see options for font size and display size. You can also turn captions on, to get captions on videos. Wow, what a huge difference, and we do mean huge.
On your Windows computer, when you’re on the Web, you can hold down the “Ctrl” key and tap the plus sign to enlarge anything you see there. On a Mac, hold down the “Option” key, tap the “Command” key and then the plus sign.
Bob and Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at bobschwab@ gmail.com and email@example.com.