Monday, April 24, 2017

Useful Tools: Books and Movies

This is the second in a series of posts recommending useful resources in various areas. These are apps or tools I use regularly. Today's topic is: Books and Entertainment.
All apps are for Android, and links will take you to the Google Play store. (website and app) is the standard portal for borrowing digital content from public libraries. I have checked out tons of ebooks this way. Reading them in the Overdrive app works fine, but when possible I get my books in kindle format, as I prefer the reading experience and features of the kindle app. I've also enjoyed many audiobooks from my library via Overdrive. (website and app) is another library content portal, with a different licensing system. If your library subscribes, this would be well worth trying out. Their book selection is much more limited, but most items are recent releases or other titles that Overdrive doesn't have. In addition, Hoopla has a broad selection of music, TV shows, and graphic novels. (It's how I listened to the Hamilton soundtrack and watched The Librarians). 

In contrast to Overdrive's model, in which a library buys a certain number of copies to lend (which results in waitlists for popular titles, and different collections available from different libraries), Hoopla's content is always available, with a limit on the number of items a patron can check out each month. So if Hoopla stocks something you want, you can get it right away!

My only complaint is that Hoopla's app does not deal well with orientation changes of your device. If you turn your phone, it will spend time loading the book again and probably lose your location. Make sure you lock your phone display into portrait if you plan to read something in the app. is the best book tracking website I've seen. I love it: for logging and reviewing books I've read, for finding and keeping track of books I want to read, and for seeing what my friends recommend. In most respects I find the app inferior to the web version, but it does have the incredibly convenient feature of adding books by scanning them. This used to be ISBN barcode-only, but a recent update added the ability to identify books from the cover. Strangely, that messed up the reliability of ISBN-scanning, but the cover-scanning feature works so well that I usually don't miss it. Adding a dozen library books at a time is fast and simple, which is great since I try to keep up with all of the picture books we check out. aspires to be Goodreads for movies. (At least, that's how I use it. I'm sure the creators have a somewhat different vision for their product, to judge from the number of features I don't use.) I use it to log and rate movies I see, but that's about it. I tried several similar websites, and this was the best one for my purposes.


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