Monday, May 30, 2011

Books, coffee and contentment

I can't help myself.

Last week, I told you how much I love my Nook, and shared with you my conundrum about whether I should get a Nook Color, an iPad, an Android tablet of some sort or just leave well-enough alone and keep my first-generation Nook. Thanks to some co-workers, I was in Nerdvana on Friday when I got to test-drive a Nook Color and an iPad. For my money and my needs, I have decided to get the Nook Color.

The front windows offer a view of
downtown Bowling Green Ohio
But this blog entry isn't about my decision, even though I thought I should follow up on my last post. Instead, this entry is about the exact opposite: Paper, ink, the smell of pages, the feel of trade paperback books with the non-glossy covers that feel so good in your hand. And coffee. You can't forget the coffee.

On Friday, I decided to purchase the Nook Color. On Saturday, my wife and I went out and bought 15 books...actual physical books. That is in addition to the 12 books we bought last week, and approximately 24 books that my first-grader picked out a few weeks ago. That's more than 50 books purchased over the course of two weeks, for a household that has two Nook readers. The pile of 27 adult books (not including the books for my first-grader) comes up to my 2 1/2-year-old son's nose. The pile is so tall that I can't straddle it without knocking a few over. I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty nuts. What is even more crazy, is that we paid about $36 for all of them. More on that later.

Where did we get all of these books at such a ridiculously low price, you ask? At an awesome home-grown coffee shop/used book store called Grounds for Thought in downtown Bowling Green, Ohio.

If I could, I would go there every day. The atmosphere is amazing, the coffee is to die for (I highly recommend the house blend and something they call the Pooh Bear), and the selection of used books is astounding. They claim to stock more than 150,000 used books.

It is a great place to go to concentrate, to get inspired, to dream, to contemplate, to create, to write, to study, to read, to people-watch, and to meet your future spouse. I have done all of that within those walls. I like it a latte.

The customer base is just as varied, including professors, goth, high school, undergraduate and graduate students, professionals, people conducting business transactions or reviewing house blueprints over coffee, study groups, couples of all ages, gamers, knitters, teachers grading papers, and parents of little children checking out the newest board books in stock. I have just about seen it all. They often intermingle, creating friendly chat with strangers. I'm starting to think the ever-present delightful aroma of coffee is responsible for this harmony. Either that, or the music that is always playing in the background. Usually, the music is something I have never heard before, and is always intriguing. It all combines to create that atmosphere I am talking about. Grounds for Thought is a cultural experience as much as it is anything.

Where the magic happens
I haven't even mentioned their collection of VHS tapes, records, sandwiches, donuts, and ice cream. And don't forget about the free Wi-Fi!

So about those 50 books for less than $36. How did we do that? All of the books are used. Traditional paperbacks are half off the cover price. Trade paperbacks and hardcovers are priced as marked on the top right corner of the first page. Visit the store for any additional pricing details.

Some of the books we got were purchased with book credit. When we got our Nooks, we pretty much cleared off our bookshelves of physical books. Instead of taking them to Goodwill, selling them at a garage sale, or throwing them away, we took them to Grounds for Thought, which put them on their shelves to sell, in return for book credit. We took that book credit and purchased other books without a cash transaction.

GFT Incredible Book Sale Flyer
Our first receipt of the day
This past weekend (Memorial Day Weekend), Grounds for Thought held its annual "Incredible Book Sale," during which we got 15 books for $35.15. During the said "Incredible Book Sale," they took an additional 50% off the price of all of the books. We found some books we really wanted, but I'll tell you, it also allowed us to get some books we would have glanced at, but never would have bought at full or even half-price.

We got so many books that I don't know which one to read first. The cool thing is that as we read them, we can box them back up and take them back in for more book credit!! It's like the ultimate recycling program for bibliophiles.

The adult books we purchased
during the last two weeks
As I wrote this, my wife went back and bought four more books. My youngest son now has to stand on his tiptoes to see over it the new pile. The wife took all of the photos you see on this blog entry while she was there. You can see more photos she took at Grounds for Thought here.

Most of this blog was written on Saturday, but it is now 3 p.m. on Memorial Day (Monday...two days later). I just bought another book, and I am drinking a nice cool iced tea at Grounds for Thought as I post this over their free Wi-Fi.

We love it there, and this weekend has proven that even though we have gone the route of the e-books, we will probably never fully convert.

Grounds For Thought is located at:
174 S. Main Street, Bowling Green, OH 43402
Their phone number is (419) 354-3266.

Recent news stories about Grounds for Thought include:

BG News:

Cleveland Examiner:

Tolle, Lege!

Half of the books I bought for myself were found on the rack my wife stood next to while taking this photo. The rack is not visible.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I did it all for my Nook

Okay, the title of this blog entry is a really REALLY bad pun on a somewhat offensive (to some people) Limp Bizkit song.

All of that to say I love my Nook. LOVE. MY. NOOK.

Jenn and I decided to get e-readers last fall. We did our research and whittled our choices down to the Barnes & Noble Nook or the Kindle.

We knew that the Kindle was hugely popular, $10 cheaper, and that two of Jenn's sisters owned them. To us, those were three good reasons to buy Kindle.

Instead, we decided to buy Nooks because:

1) At the time, Nook was the only one that offered sharing (since offered by Kindle)

2) At the time, you couldn't borrow books from the library on the Kindle, but you could on the Nook (soon to change).

3) Barnes and Noble has real brick-and-mortar stores. If you visit the store with your Nook, you can download exclusive content, read any book you want in-store without buying it, and get special in-store offers on food and drinks.

4) The battery was customer-replaceable on the Nook.

5) You could add an SD card to the Nook, but not to the Kindle.

6) I can download a book in epub format from any store I want, whether it's Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million, and still read it. With the Kindle, you HAVE to buy in from Amazon. This fact alone was enough to sway me.

Jenn and I discussed all of these factors, and chose the Nook. We visited our local store at Fallen Timbers shopping center, and were helped by a very knowledgeable gentleman who you don't find in box stores. He even tipped us off to the fact that about four days from the day we were talking to him, the company was going to announce a new product and that unconfirmed rumors indicated it would be a color reader.

We waited and were blown away by the Nook Color. However, due to the price and the battery life, we decided to stick with the original Nook.

We love it. It is small and light, and easy to see the screen. We got the Wi-Fi version, so we have to be where there is Internet connection. But if you are going on a trip, who cares? Either you make sure you have enough books on the machine, or you find a free hot spot where you are visiting, and download from there. Not a big deal.

My biggest complaint about it is that the web browser isn't great. It's manageable if you get used to it, but I would rather use my Droid to surf the Web.

But now I find myself with a new problem....I want to get a tablet. What to get, what to get, what to get...

Should I get an iPad (LOTS of money, no Flash capability)? Should I get one of the Android-based tablets scheduled to come out this year? Should I get the Google Chromebook that comes out in June instead of a tablet? Or should I get the Nook Color?

The Nook Color has a lot going for it, as it does a lot of what the tablets do, and that capability will only grow. The problem with it is that it does not use e-ink, and is back-lit. One thing I love about the original Nook is that you need a light source (i.e. a table lamp or the sun) in order to read it. this causes less eye strain.

The Nook Color is always back-lit and theoretically causes more eye strain, and it is not offered with 3G connectivity. But it connects to the Internet and social media, and e-mail, and has all many useful apps, so I am really leaning in that direction. On the other hand, I could get an Android tablet at twice the price and download the Nook app to get the same effect with 3G and more capability. But Android still hasn't been perfected for the tablet market, and again, it's twice the price of the Nook Color.

Regardless what direction I choose, I am still left with the question of what to do with my original Nook. I really like the e-ink feature and the longer battery life. My gut feeling is that by this time next year, I will have a Nook Color and will either kept my original Nook as a backup, given it to my 7-year-old, or sold it to someone.

But one thing is for sure....I am sold on the brand. I LOVE MY NOOK!!

So what do you think....What should I do? iPad, Android tablet, Chromebook, or Nook Color?

And for what it is worth, while the battery life is unheard of and amazing with the Nook that was announced on May 24, I still wouldn't buy it. The proportions are all wrong. Another thing I like about my Nook (and the Nook Color) is that the proportions are right so it still feels like a book. That is important to me.

Photo Courtesy of  orb9220

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Social Flutter-by

In 2006, I met my wife Jenn, and she introduced me to a Web site called "MySpace." I signed up, found about 3 people I knew and thought it would never fly. I suppose, technically, I was correct, because Facebook took over, and MySpace became a site for musicians and other artists.

I signed up for Facebook, too, but I got tired of checking two accounts and seeing the same people on both sites. So I cancelled my MySpace account and decided to just keep it simple.

Five years later, it's no longer quite as simple, but I'm having fun!!

Let's put this in perspective...

Up until two weeks ago, I had my Web site, which has existed at different addresses since 1998, a Facebook page, a Google site, a LinkedIn account, a Picasa account, a YouTube account, and sharing documents on Google Documents. Then there was the Twitter account, which I got but never quite figured out why or how to make it useful, and the blog you are reading right now.

That's all well and good, but then during the first week of May, a couple of things happened that changed my point of view about not only social media, but also how I handle my personal information on the Internet.

In early May, Jenn's second cousin (who I know mostly through family reunions and Facebook) "liked" a site called "Surviving the World." She happened to find this site through a social sharing site called StumbleUpon.

I had played with StumbleUpon a couple of times in the past, but ended up moving on instead of really locking into it. But Surviving the World changed that for me, and StumbleUpon is now on my Chrome browser toolbar, and a tool that I use daily when I am bored or have a couple of extra minutes to fool around and I don't want to get locked into a bigger project.

Then I found a handy sharing tool called Shareaholic. The site says I have been a member since August, 2010, but I don't remember signing up for it. But apparently I did. But I didn't really start using it until early May. More about Shareaholic later.

The most important event to influence my view of personal information and sharing it on social media sites occurred on May 4, when I attended the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Association of Ohio (ADAPAO) conference in Columbus for work. Having set up a Web site, blog, Twitter and Picasa accounts for work, I attended the conference looking for ways to better use social media to further our goal.

During that time, I sat in on two presentations given by Alvin Trusty, who is the Director of Educational Technology at the University of Findlay. His biggest message was that whether you intend it or not, information about you can and will be found on the Internet. His example was about a co-worker who used the Internet for research and e-mail. She used no social media, and did not put personal information online if she could help it. She was convinced that nobody could find anything about her online. In short order, Alvin Trusty found a photo of her from a High School yearbook.

The point is, information about you is on the Internet. If you own your information, you can control it. And if you put your name on enough information, and post all good information, you can drown out the bad stuff, like that picture of you sleeping in your own vomit that your roommate took but didn't tell you about, but uploaded it to Facebook and tagged you in it. If you put your real name on your online stuff, and if you upload and share a lot of it, the chance that a future employer will find that information decreases.

That one concept changed almost everything for me. The one thing I still won't do is announce on Facebook when I am not home. That's just stupid.

Since then, I have updated all of my previously-existing social media, started blogging again (which is why I am writing this), and I have joined several additional social media sites, including the following:
  • Delicious - A bookmark sharing Web site that I soon will be using to network the resources of my co-workers.
  • FourSquare - Discover places to visit and things to do in your own hometown or anywhere else. You do this by "signing in" to the places that you visit. If you have the most visits to a place, you can be the "mayor of the business. The extra benefit of this is that there are deals and offers, so when you check in at, say, a restaurant, you get a coupon on your phone for a free or reduced price on an item. But you have to be careful about how you do this. Check your settings. Do you want to broadcast where you are on Facebook or Twitter? Make sure you check the security settings. The only people who know where I am on FourSquare are friends of mine, and I don't have the service automatically post my location on Facebook or Twitter.
  • HootSuite - A social media dashboard that helps you monitor and post to several social media services at once.
  • Springpad - This is a notepad/to-do list combined with a method to research the stuff you take notes on.
And what makes all of these services so handy is that they all have apps, so you can check them on on your smart phone while you are on the road.

Not only that, but most of these services link to your Shareaholic account. So when you find a site you like, you click the Shareaholic button, and you can share the site through most of these servies.

In addition to that, I also began listening to podcasts again, specifically The Dave Ramsey Show, and CNet's Buzz Out Loud, which is a technology podcast. And my Android phone automatically downloads these, so i can listen to them wherever and whenever (I'm listening to Buzz Out Loud episode 1472 as I write this).

I also connected to Mashable to follow and comment on social media news.

The point to all of this is two-fold. First of all, control your information. The more services you sign up for, and the more sharing you do on each, the more you can control what others see when they type your name into a search engine. Second of all, you never know if you can use something unless you try it out. I came close to NOT using FourSquare due to home security issues. But since I can control the settings, I decided to give it a shot. Will I keep using that or Springpad? I have no idea. But I'm giving both a try.

So go out there. Explore the world. Use the knowledge of others to expand your own. There are some great tools out there. You just have to find what works best for you. Enjoy!

And while your at it, check out my social media sites. The links are at the right. -->

So tell me...what are YOUR favorite social media outlets? I probably have room in my life for a few more!

As for me, I am going to see what I can StumbleUpon.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Back in the Saddle

One year and four months gone, but now I'm back.

Reading through the old stuff, I see a lot of negativity, fear and insecurity, dominating over a couple of interesting (at least to me) posts.

I have spent the last 16 months trying to figure out where I was going to go with this blog. I knew I needed to find a better use for it, but .... what?

I'm still working on the exact direction, but it's going to be some commentary on technology, observations about life, quirky findings, a soap box rant every now and then, and whatever bizarre or funny stories I decide to share.

So far, I have about 14 ideas, and I hope to add one a week. With any luck I will get my first one out pretty quickly. What will it be about? One of those things in the list above, I suppose. You will just have to check back and see!

Welcome me and to you. I'm so excited that we're here. I can't wait to get started!