Rhapsody 2.0 App for iPhone/iPad/touch

This video really says it all.

Now, the implications are something else.  9,000,000 songs on my iPod touch for $9.99 a month sort of competes with what Apple is selling at their iTunes Store.  However, Rhapsody isn’t trying to sell songs to iPhone/iPod/touch users – in fact, if you click the buy button inside the Rhapsody 2.0 App, Rhapsody directs your request to iTunes.  That’s very gracious of Rhapsody.  Or was that the price for Rhapsody to get into Apple’s App Store?  I don’t know, but it works for me.  Why buy songs when you can rent them so cheaply?

I loaded the Rhapsody 2.0 App on my touch, logged in, picked my current favorite playlist, and started playing music.  A breeze.  All the existing playlists I’ve built on my regular Rhapsody account showed up.  Right now you can search on albums and songs within the app, and add them to a playlist for playing, but as this video promises, soon we’ll be able to play songs and albums directly, without adding them to a list.  Although, I’m thinking it might be easier to always use the playlist, but make one called “New Albums To Try” and then when Tuesday rolls around, put anything I want to listen to on it, and clean it out before next Tuesday.

And I tried the trick in the video of downloading my the songs in the playlist and then shutting off the Wi-Fi.  The 55 songs on my Songs Rated 10 played instantly.  Very cool.  I have a first generation iPod touch and it drains the battery very fast when Wi-Fi is on, so this is a great feature for me.

It took me a bit of poking to find the random play and repeat play buttons – they are hidden away on the song time scale that only shows up if you touch the screen near the top of the album cover.  When a song plays you get cover photo to look at, and behind it if you hit the info i button, you’ll get a short essay about the artist.  Overall, the app does everything I want but I’m expecting some nice surprises in future versions.

Rhapsody is a subscription music service and most music fans don’t cotton to that marketing model.  Those that do love it.  It’s another reason why Apple allowed Rhapsody in their app store, because renting music is so unappealing to the masses.  This latest version of Rhapsody (the service, not the app) is cheaper and has more features. 

And it makes a lot of sense to stream music to a phone where people have limited storage space.  I’d need a 128GB iPhone to store the songs I own.  Streaming 9 million songs works just as easily with an 8gb phone as a 16gb or 32gb model.  Because the Rhapsody 2.0 app lets you pick out albums using your mobile device, you don’t even have to mess with a desktop other than to sign up the first time.

Rhapsody is great for people who like to try a lot of new music.  It doesn’t take much effort to try out 20-30 new albums a month, and of those, I might add 10 songs to a playlist.  I won’t own those 10 songs, but I will have tried a lot of new albums.  It’s pretty cool to read your favorite music review magazine and just play the album while you’re reading the review.

It’s also convenient to have all your favorite songs and albums tagged into playlists for quick and easy access.  Think of an artist, group, album or song and type it in the search box.  If Rhapsody has it you can play it.  I’d say 90-95% of what you can think of is available.  There are a few famous holdouts, like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.  If I could convince Rhapsody to change anything, I’d ask them not to sell songs and albums from artists that don’t stream.  I don’t like paying to promote their work.

Generally where Rhapsody and other subscription services are weak is for finding out of print albums.  Of course, no one else is selling them either.  This is why people should still buy CDs.  Any time you find an album you really love, buy it on CD to save forever, because even in the digital world where keeping things in print would be a snap, albums disappear into obscurity.

JWH – 5/2/10

Kindle for iPhone/iPod touch

I bought the Kindle when it first came out but ended up selling it to my friend who read more books than I did and traveled far more often.  I discovered that I prefer to listen to books on my iPod rather than read them on paper or the Kindle.  My Kindle found a good home with Linda.  It’s been to Paris, all over the U.S. and Mexico, and its getting a lot more use.

However, when Amazon announced that it was releasing the free Kindle for iPhone today I jumped at the chance to try it on my iPod touch.  It took all of a minute to find, install and connect to my old Kindle library at Amazon.  There were a handful of books I bought, and a few Linda had bought while testing my Kindle, and it took much less than a minute to copy one to my touch to read.  Everything was completely simple, intuitive and perfect.  Reading is about like reading with my eReader program.

Kindle reading on the iPod touch is very nice.  The font sizing is adjustable, and the text is very sharp and dark.  The screen page real estate is much smaller than the Kindle, but not bad.  Both the Kindle and the touch have a narrow viewing area, which means the eyes have an easy time scanning back and forth.  With the Apple device you must page more often.  I’m happy enough.  Who knows, maybe I’ll start eyeball reading more often.

Since I sold the Kindle there have been times when I wished I still had one when browsing Amazon and seeing a book I wanted that’s much cheaper than a hard copy.  Especially for instant accessibility.  Although I prefer to listen to audio books, there are times when I have to read with my eyes.  I’m in two book clubs and often the monthly selections for discussion are not available on audio.  More often than not, they aren’t available for the Kindle either, but when ordering these old classic science fiction novels on Amazon, I keep seeing that notice that encourages authors to provide a Kindle edition.

Lucky for me Audible.com is actually reprinting tons of classic SF.  It’s strange waiting to see which high tech technology old science fiction will show up on first.  I’m currently listening to The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov after finishing an audio edition of The Green Hills of Earth by Heinlein.  But I considered it a bummer that Babel-17 by Delany was only available in a dead tree edition.

I especially prefer ebook reading when the book I want to read is large and heavy to hold, like The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited 4th edition, a biography of the great 1960s rock group by Johnny Rogan.  The damn tome is as big as War and Peace.  I have to fold a pillow in my lap to hold it up.  An ebook version to read would be wonderful.

The Kindle for iPhone app is a killer idea from Amazon.  No, they won’t sell another Kindle 2.0 for each new user, but they will get more converts to ebook reading.  Plus, if you’re a Kindle user who wants to read in bed without a nightlight, just load your book on an iPhone/touch.

There is no ordering books from Amazon through the Apple device, unless you use the tiny Safari.  What Amazon expects you to do is shop while on your big computer.  Books you buy for your Kindle library will show up on the little device and are easily transferred.  I hope they make Kindle readers for desktops, laptops, netbooks, notebooks, PDAs and smart phones.  I also hope Amazon license’s the software technology so other ebook makers can join the Kindle revolution.

Sadly, there seems to be no feature for reading on your Kindle for iPhone app the kinds of documents (.doc, .pdf) that you can send to your real Kindle.  I only see books that I bought at Amazon and archived in my Kindle library.   I was able to send books I bought for my Fictionwise.com library to my old Kindle, but I can’t do that now.  I can get those Fictionwise books through my eReader.

Who knows, I might learn to like reading again and buy another Kindle.  I was mighty tempted by that text to speech feature.

JWH – 3/4/9

Further Adventures with eReader on the iPod touch

For some reason I’m getting more hits on the iPod touch eReader eBook post than anything else I’ve written lately, so I must assume that the iPod touch and eReader are a hit combination.  Since I wrote that post, eReader has come out with version 1.2 that offers many nifty new features and they’re promising 1.3 real soon now.  Also, the eReader.com site, a spin-off from fictionwise.com, seems to be expanding daily, which implies another kind of success.  eReader software isn’t just for the iPod, there’s also versions for Palm, PocketPC, Windows Mobile, Symbian, Windows, Macintosh and OQO systems.

When the Kindle came out stories about it on the blogosphere were more common than stories about Sarah Palin today.  Using the iPod touch and iPhone for an ebook reader hasn’t garnered that much notice.  I prefer the larger screen of the Kindle, but never wanted to carry it around.  The touch/iPhone is designed to commute wherever you go, and wherever you go you can now read your book when you get there.  That’s pretty cool.

The screen of the touch/iPhone is better than PDAs and most other smart phones, so for a portable reading device it does very well in the visual department.  The screen is physically about one fourth to one third the size of a paperback book page, but the number of words varies because you have several font size settings.  Even though the screen is smaller than the Kindle, it’s brighter and sharper.  Overall though, the Kindle’s screen is much nicer to read from because of it’s perfect size.

Flipping pages is much nicer with eReader on the touch/iPhone than with the Kindle or the eBookman I used to have.  You can set eReader to swipe or tap for page turning.  I set mine to tap, so I just touch the right side of the screen to page forward, and the left to go back.  Having a touch screen greatly reduces the need for buttons.

My 1st generation touch has 2 buttons, and the newly released 2nd generation touch has three, adding a volume control and tiny speaker, something I wanted.  I’m quite anxious for another button though, an on/off switch for the Wi-Fi for the iPod touch.  The wireless system drains the battery fast.  My touch will drain in 1-2 days even doing nothing if the wireless is on.  I now have to go through several taps to turn the wireless on or off.  An even more sophisticated solution would be software that turned the wireless on when I sent a request out on the Internet and turned it off after a set period of time.

The iPod touch is about four times heavier than a Nano, and much bigger, so it’s more of an effort to carry around, but still just 4 ounces, or 120 grams.  It fits in my shirt pocket like the Nano, but its very noticeable there, whereas the Nano is unfelt.  I’ve started carrying my touch some, but I’ve got to admit I’d rather carry the Nano.  Whether I carry the touch all the time will depend if I get completely hooked on it.  99% of my use is for listening to audio books, so unless I start using the touch more, I might go back to my Nano.  I think I’ll need several months to grow into the iPod touch, to know if I regularly need all of its features.

The frequent low battery message is what keeps me switching back to the Nano.  I can get a lot more time if I shut off the Wi-Fi, but that’s annoying to keep up with.  Another way to improve battery life is shut off the screen.  This is only good for listening to music and audio books, but eReader does have a feature for showing white text on a black background.  I wonder if that saves energy.  The claimed battery life improvements in the 2nd Generation iPod touch makes me wished I had waited a month to buy a new iPod.  I certainly wouldn’t buy a 1st generation touch now unless it was very cheap.

One way to adapt to the touch’s battery weakness is to buy a cradle and leave it on it whenever I’m not using it, but with the battery supposedly only good for 400-500 full cycles of charging, would that be good for it?   The iPod touch loses it’s charge so fast when the Wi-Fi is on that I’m thinking mine is either defective or it has a serious flaw.  The Kindle, even with the broadband on lasts four or five days.

The iPod touch also does not seem as robust as the Nano.  Upgrading to iTunes 8.0 crashed it completely and I had to do a restore, which took a bit of fiddling to get done.  I kept wondering why the touch was always backing itself up, well now I’m glad it had.  The restore loaded my upgrades, settings, eReader books, and extra applications, but not my music and audio books.

I bought the iPod touch because I wanted walk-around access to the Internet.  I was also thinking of buying the Asus Eee PC for the same reason.  After a few weeks of ownership I’ve learned that I don’t actually need to access the Internet that often when I’m away from my work or home computer.  It is fun to play with the touch while reclining in my La-Z-Boy, but weirdly the best function I’ve found for those idle moments is cleaning out old email.  Browsing the web on the touch’s 3.5″ screen is the coolest I’ve seen on a small device, but it’s not any fun in practicality.  Good for emergency searches.

When it comes down to it, the real use I have for an iPod is audio books.  I spend hours and hours every week listening to audio books, and the Nano is far superior for that task.  The best thing I love about eReader is getting free classic books, but not to read.  When you listen to books you never know how many names and words are spelled.  Having the text on eReader makes a great supplement to audio books.  It’s not something I use often, but it’s very nice.

Audio books have ruined me for reading printed books, so when I do read with my eyes it’s mainly email, RSS feeds and the web pages.  That makes the touch good for email and RSS feeds if they are nearly all text.  HTML email is better read on a big screen.

The iPod touch is a novelty that I may or may not get addicted to carrying around.  Buying it made me glad I didn’t rush out and buy the iPhone.  I love the Internet as seen through my 22″ Samsung LCD.  But anyone who grew up carrying a Gameboy around will probably find the touch a fantastic device.


iPod touch eReader eBook

I just bought an iPod touch 8gb for $199 refurbished at the Apple Store.  I’ve been wanting a carry around Internet device and the iPod touch is very elegant.  It took nothing to set up – just typed in my Wi-Fi code and I was connected.  I immediately upgraded it to the new 2.0 software so I could have the Exchange client.  That also worked smoothly.

And I’ve already gotten my first App, the eReader, which lets me read ebooks on the iPod touch.  The eReader allowed me to log into my Fictionwise.com account and access my Bookshelf there.  That’s the great thing about Fictionwise, it remembers your purchases and will let you download any book again, even in a new format.  I’ve had ebooks I bought from Fictionwise on a eBookwise 1150, Kindle and now the iPod touch.

The eReader on the iPod touch offers crystal clear type, but small, so it’s not as comfortable to read on as the Kindle.  However, after buying the Kindle I discovered I’m not much of a book reader any more, and that I’m really an audio bookworm instead.  It’s extremely easy from within the eReader program to jump to sites like Manybooks.net, to find free or commercial ebooks.  eReader has it’s own URL entry box to take you to places that provides PDB formatted books.

From inspiration to reading, it only took me about a minute to find and download “The House of Mirth” by Edith Wharton.  That’s the next audio book I plan to listen to, so I thought it might be fun to read it while I listen to it.

Even though I’m primarily an audio book person, it will still be nice to have visual books on the iPod touch for times when I’m at loose ends somewhere away from home and want to read, but that brings up the next issue.

Carrying Around the Internet

The advent of smart phones inspired me to want a way to carry around the Internet for 24×7 instant access to information, but I never could stomach the idea of paying their large monthly bills.  I’m currently on a  pay-as-you-go plan with T-Mobile and I add $50 worth of minutes about every 4-5 months.  It’s wonderful not having a cell phone bill.  When small mobile Wi-Fi Internet devices showed up on the market, I thought they were a good compromise – not perfect, but pretty good.  So I started researching.  I finally decided on the iPod touch when I saw it for $199 refurbished.  I like it, but I’ve got to learn how to carry it around.

I currently carry a 2nd generation iPod Nano in my shirt pocket.  The iPod touch might be too heavy to put there.  I carry my cell phone in my left front pants pocket, so the iPod touch could go on the right side, but I worry about it getting damaged, so I’m thinking about a small iPhone holster for my belt, but my pants are already overburdened with keys, wallet, phone, change, handkerchief, and sometimes voice recorder, so that I’m constantly hitching them up.  Carrying around another device is going to be annoying.  An iPhone would have been ideal because one device would replace two.

The obvious solution would be to start carrying a purse, but I think a bandolier would be better, although my wife already thinks seeing my white iPod headphones permanently hanging around my neck is nerdy enough.  I wouldn’t be bothered by any statement my carrying a purse would make, but so far I haven’t seen one I really liked.  I’d want something like a small sleek messenger bag made of leather, but if I’m going to start carrying a purse, why not plan to throw a few more items in, like a camera or a Eee PC, which means I’d want a bigger bag.

Also, I haven’t decided if the iPod touch is the perfect portable Internet device.  I can browse the net fairly easy with it, with some sites a lot more readable than others.  The iPod touch provides a convenient way to read and delete old emails, but it’s primary function would be to look up data, like movie times, weather info, or trivia, and listening to audio books.  I’ve wondered if I jumped up in size to the 7″ Eee PC if it wouldn’t make a substantially better carry around Internet device.

You don’t realize how important a keyboard is as a human-machine interface until you hunt and peck on the iPod touch.  The iPod touch certainly does a lot with it’s 3.5 inch 480 x 320 pixels screen.  I think it will take me weeks to truly explore the potential of this device.  Sooner or later I will want broadband access, because I figure in five years everyone will carry around the Internet.  I just don’t know what the device we will carry will look like.

Part 2:  Further Adventures of eReader on the iPod touch



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