Platform: Nook Color (similar versions available for Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad)
Cost: Free to download, but requires a Netflix subscription (one month free trial and then $7.99 a month).
Barnes and Noble is shipping out the latest addition to the Nook family, a tablet that rivals the Kindle Fire and iPad. The new Nook Tablet looks enticing, but Nook Color owners not quite ready to empty their wallets for the latest device will be happy to know that Nook Color has also become more tablet-like. Over 300 apps were released this month and a massive update introduced highly desired functionality, including vivid graphic novels and streaming movies. This App of the Week post will evaluate one of the most significant upgrades, Nook Color’s Netflix app.
Available as a free download, the Netflix app delivers crisp, quick-loading videos. Upon logging in with my Netflix username and password, I was greeted with a row of videos that I had started earlier in the week on my television (see picture at left). With a tap, I continued watching The Office: Season 2 right where I left off. Continue reading
Title: Taptu - DJ Your News
Platform: Nook Color, Nook Tablet, Android, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad (Requires iOS 4.0 or later)
How many newspapers, blogs, websites, and social networking sites did you scan today before visiting the YALSA Blog? Whether it is for reference questions, professional development, or leisure purposes, the amount of information librarians consume on a daily basis can be somewhat overwhelming. This week’s app, Taptu – DJ Your News, helps combat information-overload by “mashing, mixing, and merging” all your social networking content, favorite websites, and news sources into a visual stream that can be browsed with the sweep of a finger.
Adding your favorite news feeds and websites is a simple task. Taptu’s “StreamStore” features popular streams sorted visually and by topic (see the image at right). In addition to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, Taptu has hundreds of curated topics like “2012 Elections,” “Twilight Breaking Dawn,” Continue reading
Title: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Interactive eBook
Platform: iPhone (3GS, 4, or 4S), iPod touch (3rd & 4th generations), iPad (iOS 4.0 and later)
Released in time for Halloween 2011, this interactive eBook brings to life the Regency-era undead of Seth Grahame-Smith’s cult-classic novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The app includes 400 “brain eating pages” of text, graphics, interactive features, music, and animation.
PadWorx Digital Media and Quirk Productions have successfully produced a game-like reading experience that will appeal to teens. The promotional video illustrates how the text comes to life as the reader taps through the pages.
Atmospheric music and sound effects will further draw the reader into the story, and the interactive features are a true example of the media’s potential. Dripping blood, brain splatter, and feasting undead–all excellently rendered! Moreover, the developers corrected a minor lag between page turns with version 1.0.1. Continue reading
Title: Celebrity Tweets
Platform: Android (OS 1.05 and up), Nook Color, Symbian
Cost: $1.99 (A free version is also available for phones with Android or Symbian OS)
Have you ever wondered if you were following the real President Barack Obama, Stephen Colbert, or Lady Gaga? This simple app allows users to view and compile tweets from celebrities’ official Twitter accounts. The 300+ profiles include popular names in music, movies, politics, and sports. An additional miscellaneous category features news stations, magazines, stores, and even a few authors (e.g. Neil Gaiman). Users can view celebrities’ Twitter feeds, access trending topics, search Twitter, and compile favorite profiles.
The best thing about Celebrity Tweets is that you do not need to subscribe to Twitter to view the content. Non-tweeters can use the app to keep track of celebrity updates, gossip, and news. No previous knowledge of Twitter is required; the straightforward menu items allow novice users to navigate and view the content with ease. For example, a large thought bubble labeled “Add to Favorites” at the bottom of each profile helps users add celebrities to a favorite list.
The simplicity of Celebrity Tweets is also its weakness. Although finding celebrities on the provided lists is a painless process, there is no easy way to follow a person not included on the lists. I would love to add some of my favorite YA authors, but options for this type of personalization are limited. Users can access tweets mentioning unlisted celebrities by using the search feature, but it would be much more useful if subscribers could manually add other profiles. Teens that do not follow the typical set of mainstream celebrities might be slightly disappointed.
This app will be useful for teen librarians interested in staying abreast of popular entertainment news. It will also be a good recommendation for teens that do not have Twitter accounts but still want to know the latest information about their favorite celebrities, musicians, and athletes.
Title: Doodle Jump Deluxe
Platform: Nook Color, Android (iOS 1.5 or later), iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad (iOS 3.0 or later), Blackberry (iOS 4.20 or later), Windows Phone 7
Cost: $2.99 (Nook Color, Windows Phone 7), $0.99 (Android, iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Blackberry)
App developer Lima Sky warns gamers that Doodle Jump Deluxe “is insanely addictive.” As just one of over ten million downloaders, I quickly became hooked. The concept is simple: bounce the Doodler up and earn points. Tilting the tablet or smart phone left or right helps the user propel the Doodler toward springy platforms to avoid “themed baddies.” Check out the official trailer to see the game in action.
Doodle Jump’s teen appeal exists on multiple levels. Doodle-like illustrations on graph paper add charm, and the different themes (e.g. space, jungle, winter, etc.) and levels keeps the app fresh even after hours of play. The ability to compete against up to seven other players also adds a social component.
Unfortunately, the multi-player option is only available “locally” on most platforms. To compete with other gamers, the challengers must pass the tablet or smart phone back and forth. The option to race competitors through simultaneous play is available via Game Center for Apple devices.
Despite the limited multi-player functionality, libraries could easily host Doodle Jump competitions or tournaments. The fact that Doodle Jump will soon be available for Xbox Kinect makes this fun game even more accessible for libraries. Doodle Jump projected on a screen will undoubtedly increase friendly competition and work well with existing teen programs and game days.
Title: Drawing Pad
Platform: Nook Color, Honeycomb Tablets, iPad (iOS 3.2 or later)
Barnes and Noble recently introduced a collection of apps for Nook Color, and I enthusiastically downloaded a few to test out the features. Drawing Pad by Darren Murtha Design is one of the most downloaded and reviewed apps for Nook Color. It is also available for a variety of other touch screen devices including iPad and Android tablets.
Drawing Pad’s collection of tools includes paintbrushes, color pencils, crayons, markers, stamps, background papers, stickers, and erasers. I had fun testing out each instrument to create the image below. The tools are easy to use and respond well to Nook’s touch screen. There is a variety of colors available, and the different stroke types and pre-made stickers makes this app a lot more fun than other simple graphic painting programs (e.g. MS Paint). It also allows you to save images to an art gallery or share via email, Facebook or other apps.
A few minor improvements could have made this application a lot more user-friendly. The “pencil box” covers up a fraction of the art board. I did not realize part of my picture was blank until I went to save it. Fortunately, the tools can be slid shut by clicking the box’s handle. One of the major problems reported by reviewers on bn.com is that the program occasionally freezes when saving graphics. I did not experience this issue, but I did have trouble figuring out how to send images via email. When you click to share, Drawing Pad presents a list of apps that accept pictures. Rather than automatically attaching the image, you have to go into your Nook Gallery and select the image. A YouTube video displaying the iPad version suggests that the process might be easier on Apple devices (i.e. there is actually a Facebook button on the latest version).
Why should you care about Drawing Pad? Besides being a lot of fun and supporting creative expression, this app has a lot of potential for programs. For example, you could invite teens to draw up alternative book covers to share on the library’s Facebook page. You could also prompt teens to create images for characters as part of a summer book club exercise. You might also test out the app just because some of the young adults at your library likely use it. A testament to its quality and popularity, Apple named Drawing Pad the “iPad App of the Week” in December 2010.
April was National Autism Awareness Month, but now that we are well in to May it is important to not forget how autism affects our communities and the teens we work with. Autism is a term used to describe a spectrum of brain development disorders, including PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified), Asperger’s Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. One in 110 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism, making it one of the most prevalent childhood disorders. Based on the statistics, the chances are that at least one of the teens you interact with is affected by autism. What can we do as librarians to serve young adults with autism?
The most important thing to remember is that autism is a spectrum disorder, and no two young adults with autism will have identical needs. Like many librarian-patron interactions, it is sometimes most useful to ask the person or his or her caretaker, “Is there something I can help you with?” For some great ideas about how you can offer better services for patrons with autism, check out Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected. The organization has produced a series of customer service training videos that are worth watching if you are interested in learning more about libraries and how we can assist this underserved population.