Thoughts on the Nook Color

I’ve been fascinated with the concept of e-readers since the first Kindle was released by Amazon, but there have always been several things that held me back. First and foremost was cost. Several hundred dollars for a device with one purpose doesn’t make you want to run out and buy one. Second was that I’ve always loved books – the smell of the paper, the ease of taking one with you, the visceral FEEL of them. Last of all was the uncertain nature of an e-book. The idea of DRM that forces you to re-purchase books for multiple devices makes me unhappy. The episode where copies of George Orwell’s 1984 were removed from devices without users’ consent put the nail in the e-reader coffin for me.

For awhile.

Then there was the development of ePub. A free and open file format that can be transported across multiple devices?

Sweet. Sign me up.

Then I started hearing about the Nook Color. The more I heard, the more intrigued I was. An e-reader device running Android that could do books, magazines, newspapers, text books, and ALSO surf the web and handle games and apps? This was no single-purpose device, and for $249, the price wasn’t unreasonable.

I’d found my e-reader. An unexpected windfall of a gift card gave me the excuse to purchase it.

At this point in time, I’ve read three or four books on the Nook Color as well as explored some of the extras like Sudoku and chess. Overall, it’s been a god-send and I love it. (Caveat: I suck at chess.)

I changed my whole “only paper books for me, please!” mindset when I realized that I currently have nearly 1,000 books.(This *does not* count my husband’s books. He is probably even more prolific than I am, but he collects comics and manga since he’s an art guy.)  This is not in itself a bad thing. There is just one problem– I am allergic to dust. VERY allergic. Not anaphylactic shock allergic. More like if I get it on my skin it feels a bit like I imagine acid would feel, and if I breathe too much of it in I start to wheeze and get dizzy to the point where I have to lie down the rest of the day.

Sadly, books = dust, and if I am honest with myself I just cannot handle dealing with several thousand of them and the dust they would collect (or that they kick up when you rearrange shelves and move them around). I will never part with quite a few of my precious hardcovers, of course, and I have many signed paperbacks that I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of either. Everything else, however, is getting moved to a digital format just as soon as I decide whether trying to scan and convert them is more or less of a hassle than rebuying all the damned things. I WISH someone had a “trade in your hard copy for an ePub” program.

So the concept of the device itself has many merits. But you are probably here for my opinion of the actual device. The answer to that question is more complicated.

I love being able to carry dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of books with me. The Nook Color comes with 8GB of built in memory and I’ve not even hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of storage yet. It also has an SD card slot – cleverly hidden under a flap in the back of the device and which is pretty darned hard to find if you don’t know where it is. I haven’t added an SD card yet, though, because I haven’t needed to.

I never had a regular Nook or any other e-reader, so I can’t compare the speed of page turns but I’ve heard the Color is faster. It seems fast enough to me. The only beef I have there is that sometimes the touch screen doesn’t seem to register my taps. You can also turn pages with a swipe, though, and that always seems to work so if I change my method I’m sure there’ll be no issues.

Book organization could use some work. Luckily, the software can (and has been) upgraded to add functionality. For now, though, shelves can only be created or rearranged from the Nook itself so there’s no software or meta tags you can use to set things up before hand. You must add each book individually to its shelf – either by pressing and holding on the book’s cover image one at a time and choosing a shelf from the menu or by adding books manually from the shelf. You do get a list of books when adding from the shelf, but it’s your *entire* list of books on the device with check boxes and this method is just as difficult as adding them individually if you have more than a few books on the device.

On the other hand, the Nook Color has a simple and easy to use search feature that hasn’t failed me yet. So as long as you know what you’re searching for, you shouldn’t have any problems there.

I also like the bookmark function. The device will automatically save your place if you put the device in standby or open a different book. It’s also supposed to sync across devices, so if you leave your Nook at home, you can keep reading  from where you left off on your phone or laptop. I haven’t tried this feature much beyond an initial test, but it seems to work properly.

As far as extras, I’ve already mentioned Sudoku and chess. There is also a Pandora app (haven’t tried it, though I love Pandora on my phone), a web browser (haven’t used much), and a couple of other things I haven’t used and so don’t remember. You can , of course, shop and purchase books from the device as well. There is also supposed to be a B&N app store opening up shortly, so you’ll be able to add additional do-dads if you so desire.

A couple of shopping caveats – the Nook Color is only available in a Wi-Fi version, so no 3G shopping from anywhere. Also, you must have the device registered to your B&N account and you MUST have a credit card on file there. Your credit card number is used as a “password” to the DRM on B&N’s ebooks.

On the bright side, it’s very simple to back up your books in case of theft, loss, or breakage. I was able to back up to my hard drive and add the files to my Calibre library very easily. This makes organizing and keeping tabs of what you’ve bought fairly no stress.

I like the Nook Color even better because it’s possible to back up your ePubs and move from device to device without having to worry about whether your purchased data will continue to work. No wondering about the legality of stripping DRM just so you can read a book you’ve already purchased on your phone or on a new device. This was a huge concern for me because not only is removing DRM legally & morally questionable, but because it’s a big pain in the ass.

I don’t want to circumvent any software, I’m  not a pirate, I just want my files to continue to WORK if I buy a new device later on. With ePub, there’s no worries. Simple & easy for the consumer means there’s no reason to look anywhere else for a way to manage files. Of course, pirates always find a way to do what pirates do, but most of us just don’t want the not inconsiderable sums we spend on books to go to waste when the Next New Shiny gets released.

All in all, big thumbs up for this device. This skeptic has been completely sold on the concept.  I can’t wait to start moving a big part of my collection from hard copy to digital.

WordPress Multi Site Domain Mapping on Shared Hosting

Before you start, you’ll need:

  • WordPress installed in your root directory.
  • To follow these directions from the Codex to enable Multi-Site.
  • The WordPress MU Domain Mapping Plugin – trunk version – from step 1 of this tutorial. Follow the instructions for steps 1-3 there to enable the plugin and get it working.

Step #4 is where things get tricky, and it’s also where things may be different for your own server. This is what is especially difficult about using Multi Site – there is no set formula that is guaranteed to work for everyone.

With that said, these are the steps I took to enable WordPress Multi Site on a shared hosting plan.

  1. Create your sub-site as a sub-domain from the wp-admin panel of your main domain (ie, seconddomain.primarydomain.com). You do this by going to Super Admin > Sites > Add New. Make sure that you can log in and that everything works. I don’t recommend making too many customizations at this point, because it could take a couple of tries to get everything working correctly.
  2. Point the DNS of your second domain name at the name servers of your primary domain. Don’t forget this step, or all you’ll end up with is “Server cannot be found”! This was my mistake, and it took me 2 days to realize it. (Yeah, I can be dumb as a rock sometimes!)
  3. “Park” your secondary domain on top of your primary domain name using your web host’s cPanel. This points your second domain to your first domain without the need to worry about any settings, which is why it’s better than trying to add it via an Add-On Domain. If, at this point, you try to visit seconddomain.com in your browser, it *should* redirect to your primary domain. If it doesn’t, you know you have a problem.
  4. Now you can go back to Otto’s handy-dandy instructions and map your domain name. Essentially, you log into the secondary site and go to Tools > Domain Mapping. This step is what turns seconddomain.primarydomain.com into seconddomain.com.
  5. I recommend you read through the rest of Otto’s tutorial [linked above] before you try any of this.
  6. Keep in mind that you will need to go in and separately set the DNS and “park” EVERY domain name you wish to map this way. This is the drawback of not using the method described in the next paragraph.

Most of the tutorials I read through kept talking about adding A records or CNAMES. Which is a nice way to do it, but essentially requires that you be on a VPS or at the very least have a static IP address. That’s not a feature that’s usually possible on a shared hosting server, though, so that makes it hard to do. Luckily, with the method described above, you shouldn’t need to mess with any of that, even if you WILL need to set up each domain name separately.

Now for some disclaimers:

  • This post is offered without any sort of warranty at all, so follow these steps at your own risk. I won’t be responsible if you mess up your site or your server.
  • With that said, I can try to help if you’re having trouble but I am by NO MEANS  an “advanced” user of WordPress. I’ve merely picked up a few things in the 4+ years I’ve been using it.
  • WordPress Multi Site is NOT really recommended for a shared server install. This is because your provider will get very upset with you if you start creating hundreds of blogs under your shared plan. If, however, you are like me and merely have 4 or so low-traffic blogs that you’d like to keep updated with a minimum of fuss, then this method could work for you(*). But if you are unsure at all whether this will work on your hosting plan, please contact your provider and ask first.
  • And with THAT said: if you *do* use the above post in order to do something crazy like start installing hundreds of blogs, I WON’T be held responsible for that either. Your hosting provider could – and would be completely justified if they did – disable your site entirely if you abuse it. Be smart, and don’t be a dick.
  • (*) If you do only want to host a handful of your own blogs, you’ll want to go into Super Admin > Options > Registration Settings and set “Allow new Registrations” to disabled. This should be off by default (at least it was for me), but it doesn’t hurt to make sure.

I don’t think I’ve forgotten anything, but feel free to ask questions if you think there’s something missing. (It’s late, and I’m tired, so anything is possible.) And for my regular readers, if you’ve read this far: Wow. I’m impressed. Remind me to buy you a drink the next time we meet. Also: we’ll be back to our regular book-blogging mischief tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

Kindle 2 Controversy

So there seems to be some trouble brewing for Amazon’s Kindle 2. One of the  features on the newest version of Amazon’s e-book reader is a text-to-audio function. Now, I’m assuming that the K2 uses a robot voice to read the text, but maybe someone in the know could enlighten us? In any case, the Author’s Guild claims that this function will be devastating to the audio book market, and that the authors need to be paid licensing fees.

As a writer, and as a consumer, I disagree.

I greatly enjoy audio books, it’s one of the things that keeps my brain happy when I’m working at my day job. I love to hear a good audio book reader, one who can let you know who’s speaking just by using a specific voice. I find it hard to think that any Kindle robo-reader is going to match that.

For that same reason, I don’t think I can get upset as an author that someone may be able to push a button and have my work read to them by a machine. It’s just not going to be the same as a real live person reading the story. Besides, it’s just as easy for someone to press a button and create a torrent to upload to the internet.

So no, I don’t agree that Amazon needs to pay authors to be able to have a generic machine voice read their work aloud. Just like I don’t believe consumers should have to pay authors for the privilege of reading their children bedtime stories. Neither is the same as having a true professional voice actor reading the story. People who really enjoy audio books are going to know that.