Friday, September 23, 2011

"Scientifically Based Reading Research" -- Some Thoughts

Recently, as I was reading through a summary of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), I came across the peculiar phrase "scientifically based reading research" and had the following thoughts:

I get concerned when I see phrases like "scientifically based reading research".  Pretty much anything these days can be "scientifically based," as any corporation with the money can fund a "research" study and get results that -- shockingly! -- scientifically validate that the program they have for sale does indeed 'get results'.

In terms of the idea of "reading research," why do we constantly seem to need some new and innovative program to teach students how to read?  Did no one in the history of humanity ever learn to read until these programs were developed, beginning in the 20th century? (Yes, that's a smart-aleck question.)  Whatever happened to the 'old-fashioned' ways of learning to read just by working directly with kids and helping them to do it and to learn to read on their own?  Of course, that kind of old-fashioned method cannot be patented, copyrighted, or sold for a significant profit.  And it also tends to work better in smaller class-size situations where one-on-one instruction is more feasible, but this of course would mean that money must be spent on actually hiring more teachers and not on the latest fad-of-the-month/year program.

"Scientifically based reading research" -- Savior or Snake Oil?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kindle Content Distribution via the Kindle Web Browser

For anyone interested in making their own content / ebooks / documents downloadable directly on the Kindle through the Kindle web browser, try the 4-step method I used for my Catholic Resources for Kindle project:

1. Convert content / ebooks / documents into the Kindle-friendly MOBI format using an ebook conversion tool such as the free, open-source Calibre.
-- MOBI (.mobi) = Retains basic formating & images; text is reflowable
-- TXT (.txt) = Plain text only, no formating or images; text is reflowable
-- PDF (.pdf) = Maintains exact layout of page text and images, but text is NOT reflowable, and may be too small to read easily on the Kindle screen
[UPDATE 29-November-2010: The Kindle web browser will only download MOBI files to the Kindle device, and will save them on the device as an ebook.  TXT files will be displayed in the browser, and not saved to the device as an ebook.  PDF files cannot be downloaded at all with the Kindle web browser.]

2. Host your content / ebooks / documents somewhere on the Internet.
A free and easy-to-use solution is the Public folder option at (Signup here for 2GB of free online file storage):
-- Upload your content to the Public folder (or a sub-folder in the Public folder)
-- Right-click on the uploaded file and select "Copy public link" to get a link/URL directly to that file
-- [Note: You do not need to install the Dropbox software onto your computer in order to use the service.  Dropbox can be used to share files entirely through the web interface.]

3. Link to the location/URL of the content / ebook / document that you have hosted on the Internet.
-- If you are using Dropbox to host your files (see step 2, above) then the link obtained through the "Copy public link" step will be what you use.
-- Collect the links and put them on your webpage, blog, course page, etc. -- anywhere your audience or potential audience may find them directly or through a search engine.

4. Kindle users can download your content / ebooks / documents directly onto their Kindle using the Kindle web browser.
-- Once Kindle users have navigated on the Kindle web browser to your web page with the links to your content, they can follow these simple downloading instructions (from my Catholic Resources for Kindle project):

Instructions for downloading eBook files to your Kindle with the Kindle web browser:
1. In the Kindle web browser, click on the link for the eBook you want to download.
2. Confirm that, "Yes," you want to download the file.
3. Wait for confirmation that the file has been successfully downloaded.
-- [Note: Make sure to test this process yourself on your own Kindle to make sure everything is working.]
-- [Note: I know that this process works for downloading .mobi files, but I have not tested it with .txt or .pdf files.  I suspect that it may not work for .pdf files given the way the Kindle web browser is configured.]

-- You can make your content available directly through an Internet-connected Kindle device, thereby bypassing the need for a computer + USB cable as an intermediate step to copy the files onto the Kindle.
-- Bypasses the Amazon distribution channel, leaving control of content distribution in your own hands.

-- Kindle users must manually navigate in the Kindle web browser to the web page with the content links, and then download each file they want onto their Kindle.
-- If you want to control access to your content, such as limiting it only to paying customers or a specific group of people, the method described above won't allow for any such restrictions.

Please leave a Comment if this method works for you, or if you have any useful modifications or suggestions!

UPDATE (26-JAN-2011): Web Interface for Copying Files to Your Kindle
If you are looking for a personal / private web-based interface for storing ebooks & documents online in order to copy them to your Kindle directly via the Kindle web browser, note that the (Signup here for 2GB of free online file storage) web interface works well with the Kindle web browser (tested on Kindle 3 / version 3.0.3 software).  The same file type / extension restrictions as listed above in  "1. Convert" apply.

(Originally Posted: 14-November-2010)