First look at Liberio beta, a slick, free eBook publishing service

My friend and colleague Jennifer Keenan (@keenanjenn) asked me recently on Twitter:

I had not, but we both requested invites for early (beta) access. When I had a few minutes I started to play around with it, and I’m really impressed.

A screenshot of the Liberio login screen on a computer

 

It’s still in beta, so not everything worked perfectly (but nearly so!). Overall it’s pretty awesome.

I wrote a short story (originally published here) and so I tried making an ePub file using Liberio.

You have a library of your own stuff. When you click/tap on the “plus” item, you can either select a Document from your Google Drive or upload a file from your computer. I grabbed a Google Document, and it was ready in seconds.

Libary view.

 

You have some control over the settings in your published book. Here are the basics:

Edit Book screenshot.

Expanding “More Options” gives you these choices:

Edit book advanced options screenshot.

I especially liked the License and Rights section, which gives you “All Rights Reserved” and then a half dozen Creative Commons choices.

Pro features aren’t available yet. Also, I’m not a pro :)

I didn’t try uploading a cover image (because I have neither mining photos nor pictures of silver), but the option is there.

When you’re ready to publish, you save your changes and then choose a sharing method. Just saving will upload an ePub file to your Google Drive. You can download to preview the file in your reader of choice (the site doesn’t display for you, but that’s hardly a problem these days), and you can share via email or social media.

Sharing options in Liberio.

For comparison, here are the versions produced by Calibre and by Liberio as viewed on my iPad Mini. Note that publishing in Calibre provided more control but was rather finicky. I think I like the Liberio default better, and being thoughtful as I create my Google Doc would give more control, I imagine.

Calibre-generated eBook viewed in iBooks on an iPad Mini.

Produced by Calibre.

Liberio-generated eBook viewed in iBooks on an iPad Mini.

Produced by Liberio.

The site looks great on my iPad and iPhone both, although there were a few intermittent browser issues. Some problems may have to do with the wifi here, I’ll admit. Being mobile-friendly makes it much more useful in then K-12 context, I think.

The view on an iPhone

Liberio also gave me an email address to send feedback to, and they’re very responsive so far (both by email and on Twitter at @LiberioApp). I’m looking forward to a few tweaks and updates, and I’m hoping this could be an easy way for students to publish online. This is one to watch, for sure.

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LaTeX in WordPress

I assumed I would have to pay fees, get a plugin, or use WordPress.org in order to have math rendered in my blog posts. Not so.

Details are at http://en.support.wordpress.com/latex/, but here’s a sample:

f\left(x\right)=\frac{5}{2}cos(x-\pi)+\frac{1}{2}

Nice, eh? It renders an image and puts the \LaTeX in the ALT tag. I love it.

Reflections on #EdCampSault

edCampSault logo

Sault Ste. Marie’s first EdCamp was this past Saturday. As promised, here are some reflections on the event and on the learning.

Event Logistics

There were some challenges, and some lessons learned.

When I made the poster for the event I included the web address (http://edcampsault.wordpress.com) but neglected on the poster to actually tell people to register. We started to worry that perhaps people were coming, but hadn’t told us they were coming. That makes ordering food kind of difficult. We ordered for an extra 1o people, so we had waaaay too much. I had my share of coffee (4 cups) but there was still a lot left.

A lot of food.

We used a Google Form for registration, which worked very well. One for the “do it that way again next time” list.

Saturdays are tough at the best of times. This Saturday we were up against the OSSTF Annual General Meeting, basketball and volleyball camps, OAME 2014 (bus returned at 3am on Saturday), the PQP2 course in the Sault, and Mother’s Day (Sunday). There were a LOT of people who told me they wanted to be there but couldn’t because of prior commitments.

About half of the registered people actually attended (we had 12), so that meant we didn’t really need five breakout rooms. We dropped it down to two rooms, so participants had two topics to choose from at a time. If there were more people (I was hoping for 40), we could have had more options in each time slot.

Promotion was exceptionally difficult. It’s hard to get word out by email when people don’t really understand what EdCamp is about and how it works. I made a video, sent out flyers by email, and created a Facebook event. I’ll be interested in the feedback from participants about how they heard about EdCampSault.

EdCampIsland was at the same time on Manitoulin Island, so we set up a TodaysMeet chat area to connect the two. We dipped in from time to time.

The Board

“Building The Board” took a little while. We had planned for 30 minutes, so we gave everyone lots of time to write out their ideas and mark on the existing ideas that interested them. We built the morning first (2 sets of 2 sessions), then built the afternoon during the lunch break (3 sets of 2 sessions). We stuck to the schedule fairly well, except that people didn’t really use the transition time we planned for (they just kept talking and learning).

Here are the topics we settled on (links to Google Docs for notes):

Room 1 Room 2
9:50-10:35 Strategies for helping students with anxiety Digital assessment/portfolios
10:45-11:30 Assistive technology/students with ASD Social media and teaching (Twitter, etc.)
11:30-12:20 Lunch
12:20-12:50 Multiple Intelligences Writing!
1:00-1:30 Video Problem-Based Learning
1:40-2:10 Learning Goals and Success Criteria Technology for keeping your teaching life organized
2:15-2:30 Closing Remarks

The Sessions

The sessions themselves stuck fairly well to the topics. The Social Media session drifted a lot from what I was expecting, but that’s not a bad thing – it was a great conversation, and it brought in people from outside the room via Twitter.

Sometimes I have attended/hosted professional development sessions in which the overwhelming feeling was one of frustration: “I don’t have X so I can’t do Y in my classroom”; “that wouldn’t work in my classroom”; “you don’t understand how Z affects my school/classroom”. EdCampSault suffered from NONE of those sentiments. It was overwhelmingly positive, open, hopeful and thoughtful. The entire day felt awesome – we were working together to help one another as a community of teachers and learners, exactly it was supposed to be.

The learners were from a variety of roles (elementary, secondary, SERT, VP, program staff, composite school, alternative school, and outside agencies), so that helped to make the session topics diverse and the conversations rich.

The Learning

I think I’ll save that for another post. I haven’t sorted through all of my learning here yet.

Next Time

Yes, I think there should be a next time. I think we can hold it in the late fall or early winter (weather doesn’t matter much for a local event), and try to have more boards involved in promoting the event. Other than promotion, it’s not too difficult to organize (for me; Jenn Keenan did the heavy lifting). EdCampSault was a great opportunity, produced some great connections, and it will have a direct, positive impact on classrooms.

Great apps for reading comics and graphic novels

Last week I griped about the problems reading graphic novels on my iPad (gentle rant here). While I haven’t solved the problems of the portrait-only-and-can’t-zoom Kindle app, I found two others which are even more awesome than Cloudreaders (it’s still good, if less polished, and has some unique features – you can get it here). Neither can read the DRM-crippled Kindle comics.

Chunky Comic Reader

Screenshot of Chunky Comic Reader for iPad.
This app is brilliant. Really, really great. It has an interface that effectively disappears while you’re reading. I don’t just mean that the icons and buttons aren’t visible; I mean that you forget that there are controls because everything is so completely intuitive.

When I finish a book, it brings up a thumbnail of the cover of the next book. Tapping it takes me there.

When I read in landscape mode, I scroll down the page. Swiping brings me to the top of the next page, which is exactly the behaviour I want (Cloudreaders doesn’t do this).

It integrates with Google Drive, Dropbox, and a few other services, as well as Mac and Windows shared folders, FTP sites, and more.

Apparently there is right-to-left reading for all you manga aficionados.

The developer is responsive on Twitter (@ChunkyReader) and seems friendly (I didn’t have a problem; I just tweeted some kudos).

The app is $2.99 now FREE, which is a great price for such a seamless interface. Plus it has a nice icon (actually, I liked the previous icon better).

Darkhorse Comics

Screenshot of the Darkhorse Comics iPad app.
I haven’t tried the Android version, but the iOS version is sweet. I bolstered my library on Free Comic Book Day and now have 32 titles to churn through. It won’t let you import non-Dark Horse comics, but they have an extensive selection, so I’m okay with that for now. Otherwise the app functions exactly as you’d expect (that is, like Chunky Comic Reader but for DH’s DRM titles).