Saturday, July 31, 2010

Software Review: The iPhone/iPod Touch Kindle App by Amazon.com

The Internet has really transformed how we work and play.  One thing I'm really grateful for is connecting with all sorts of like-minded people; especially other mom bloggers.  Recently, one mom blogger in particular, Karrie over at Mommatudes, posted questions to her followers about e-readers.   E-readers have really caught on, and more and more people are looking into investing in one.  Obviously, the choices can be a bit overwhelming.

Several months ago, I blogged about my favorite "Mom-friendly" apps for the iPhone/iPod Touch that I really love; ones in particular that helped me reduce my carbon footprint.  My top favorite back then and still to this day is the Kindle app from Amazon.com for my iPod Touch.  This amazing app turns your PC, iPod/iPhone/iPad, Blackberry, or Android device into an e-reader.   Did I mention that it's also free? ;)

Karrie posed a lot of great questions for current e-reader owners, and I took the time to answer them from the perspective of a user of an e-reader app for a multifunctional device.  Below is my reply to Karrie's post, along with a few more expanded details.

Great post, and good questions.  My husband and I used "e-readers" long before the phrase even existed.  We've carried smart phones for years, and there have always been various text readers that would integrate on those devices.  Hubby and I read a lot, and just like we enjoy having the convenience of only needing to carry one device to manage all of our communications needs, it's worked out perfectly, being able to tote along "books" in the same way.

1. Do you own an eReader.  If so, what brand?

My husband carries around an Android-based Google Nexus One phone, and uses one of the Android-based readers.

I don't use my cell phone as much as I used to, so I carry around one of the "free" flip phones, and do my e-reading (and Facebooking, e-mailing, Twittering, checking my calendar, compiling my grocery list, battling vampires, farming zombies, etc) on my iPod Touch.  I downloaded the Kindle app from Amazon for the iPod Touch, and that is truly my absolute favorite app!  It's also free, and available for PCs, Blackberries, iPhone, iPad, and Android phones as well.

2. If you do not own an eReader, would you like to purchase one in the near future?  If so, what brand?  If not, why not?

Just like my favorite Food Network star, Alton Brown, we don't believe in "uni-taskers".  First, e-readers are not small, and certainly don't fit in my purse or pocket.  Second, you are then "married" to the store where you bought that e-reader (If you have a Kindle, you can only buy from Amazon; a Nook, from B&N, etc.)  With my iPod Touch, I can download other e-reader apps, including B&N’s Nook app, and Apple iBooks, and not be locked into one provider, and I can take advantage of the best e-book prices.  At the end of the day, my iPod Touch does so much more than show me the text of books, and price-wise, I think it's a better bang for your buck.

Still, if I had to choose a standalone e-reader, it would be a Kindle, because I have so many Kindle books already.  However, the Kindle is NOT backlit, and I do most of my reading in bed, right before falling asleep. I’m also not sold on the “e-ink” technology, that it would justify buying a standalone device that does nothing but show me text, albeit crisper text.  I’ve been a computer geek since age 13, and reading from a screen is second-nature.  I'm very happy with the display output on my second-generation iPod Touch, and I'm sure if and when I upgrade to my next iPhone or iPad with the new retina-display technology, my e-books will look even better.

Also, FYI: I recently tried to purchase e-books at B&N for the iPod Touch Nook app.  What an absolutely frustrating experience.  If you don't believe me, try out the Kindle e-books site first, and then browse around on B&N's.  There is absolutely no comparison between how well Amazon has their Kindle store laid out, versus B&N's, which is clumsy, lacks the same at-a-glance reviews and details, and doesn't have the same categorization.  After selecting a few titles at B&N, I actually got so frustrated that I abandoned my cart in the middle of the checkout process.   Did I mention that I have a bachelor's degree in IT management, and minored in e-business? The Internet is my life.  With that being the case, I can confidently say that in the e-book world, Amazon leaves B&N eating their dust.

3. What features are most important to you in an eReader?

Portability, ease of use, text quality, wide range of selection of books at reasonable prices.

4. If you have an eReader, are you going to upgrade to another brand or a newer eReader soon?

As the Kindle apps all "talk" to your Amazon account, you can start reading one book on one device (say, your PC), and then pick up your Kindle, or iPod, or Blackberry, and continue right where you left off. 

With that being the case, sometimes I would like to have a larger screen to read on, like when I'm lounging outside on my deck.  I will most likely invest in an iPad down the road, when the prices come down, and my Kindle books will easily sync between my iPod and iPad, and know exactly where I left off, without a hitch.  Many of my favorite magazines are now available on Kindle, and having a larger screen to enjoy those would be great (and would save more trees).  The iPad will have the same multipurpose functionality like my iPod Touch.  Eventually, my iPod Touch will be replaced with an iPhone, if and when T-Mobile has them on their network.

5. What do you love most about your eReader? (Pls mention brand)

I love my iPod Touch Kindle app, as I buy so much from Amazon already.  All of my e-books are tied to the same, already-established account.  I also love that I don't need any wires or special software to transfer e-books to and from my iPod.  In fact, I can sit here at my PC, browse Amazon for some new books (and there are TONS of free ones, and very cheap ones), and with a couple clicks, they are ready for my iPod.  Then the next time I turn on my iPod and start the Kindle app, it automatically (and wirelessly) checks my Kindle account for anything new, and within minutes, my new books are ready to go!  Deleting old books is easy, with a couple taps, and they still remain tied to my Kindle account, should I ever want to read them again.

I'm also the GreenOrganicMama, so how could I not love that no trees were harmed in the production of my books ;)  No shipping/freight/emissions were involved either; save for the running of the computers involved. 

6. What do you most dislike about your eReader? (Pls mention brand)

I admit it; I'm a member of the spelling/grammar police.  There are the occasional typos in e-books that make me nuts.  LOL! 

I'm a HUGE Sookie Stackhouse fan, and I'm a little irked that I had to pay $12.99 for the latest and greatest installment, and it was very late coming out on Kindle.  Apparently, that was something to do with the fee structure that Amazon pays to the publisher.  So, the most you'll pay for a Kindle book is no longer $9.99, though there are still plenty of books to be had for less than $4, including recent bestsellers.  I also enjoy that Amazon lets you “Send a Sample”, which sends the entire first chapter of that e-book to your device for free!  
Amazon is also very good about updating their special deals frequently.  I noticed the Apple iBooks app doesn’t seem to keep up as such.

One final beef would be that J. K. Rowling, the amazing author of the beloved Harry Potter books, flat out refuses to bring Harry Potter into the e-book world.  I know she’s made her oodles of money already, and anything else she might make from e-book sales would be just a drop in the bucket, but she is losing out.  Amazon just announced that Kindle book sales have surpassed hardback copy sales.  Muggles don’t enjoy books in the same way they used to.  The Hogwarts Express needs to leave the station. 

7. How much are you willing to spend on an eReader? Or how much have you spent on an eReader?

My second-generation iPod Touch was $183, and the Kindle app is free, as are many of the other e-reader apps.  If I could do it all over again, I'd still choose the iPod Touch, over a Kindle.  Price-wise, they are almost the same.  Functionally, they are worlds apart.  While e-books are here to stay, sadly, just like many cell phones have taken the place of the standalone GPS, the standalone e-reader will soon be a thing of the past, too.  With my iPod Touch, I couldn't be happier with having this little multifunctional "mini computer", complete with my library of books in my pocket, at my disposal :) 

Karrie, hope you find the e-reader/app that suits you best :)




No promotional consideration was paid for this post. 
eReader questions were posed by Mommatudes.com. Responses are based on my personal purchases.
Image courtesy of Amazon.com.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Book Review: The Global Forest by Diana Beresford-Kroeger

The Global Forest
Thank you to Penguin Group USA for another fantastic eye-opening book.  The Global Forest by Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a must-read; a collection of short essays, as can only be written by someone with a true passion for life and the Earth we all share.  

Trees and plants are all around us, and sadly, the first of many things we take for granted.  However, as Diana Beresford-Kroeger's beautifully composed essays tell us, life as we know it would be changed forever without them.  This is a truly unique book; part history lesson, part biology class, and all woven together seamlessly like a walk through nature.  How many of our modern-day medicines come from the healing herbal secrets, uncovered by aboriginal peoples?  Animals have even evolved to seek out certain species of plant life; from the bucks rubbing their itchy, shedding antlers on the trees with natural antiseptic growing right in their bark, to the hippos feasting on a steady diet of favorite plants, to help them sweat out their own natural form of sunscreen.  It's amazing how in-tune animal species are with nature's ability to heal, grow, and protect; a lesson we all could stand to re-learn.  Plants provide so much more than just the air we breathe, and a little greenery in our landscapes.  Without them, our entire planet's survival would be in jeopardy.  By taking care of our forests, we take care of ourselves.

The Global Forest is easily one of our new favorite must-reads to be added to our green library.  We certainly have a whole new appreciation and respect for nature, and hope others will also.




No promotional consideration was paid for this post.  One copy of "The Global Forest" was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

The Winner of Our Yoreganics Organic Soap Nuts Trio Giveaway!!

Thank you to all of our green, organic readers, and to Yoreganics for another wonderful giveaway!

As promised, one reader has been chosen via Random.org, and will enjoy the Yoreganics Organic Soap Nuts laundry trio, and bonus SuperMint organic lip balm!  Our laundry came out fresh, and all naturally clean, thanks to these amazing dried fruits from the Soapberry tree!  

Here are the results of our Random.org drawing:

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

20
Timestamp: 2010-07-18 19:57:20 UTC

Congratulations to Eco-Friendly and Frugal!!  Please check your e-mail, and we'll make arrangements to get your prize pack out to you!! :)

Thank you again to all of your entries!  Soap nuts really are the way to go for an all-natural clean, and what better way to sample these for yourself than with this wonderful trio & bonus lip balm from Yoreganics!  

Happy washing!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Winner of our $25 Franklin Goose Organic Baby and Family Store Gift Certificate Giveaway!

Thank you to everyone for the enthusiastic response to our Franklin Goose $25 Gift Certificate Giveaway!!  I'm glad you got to see for yourselves the huge selection of  organic and all-natural products at this wonderful online organic baby and family store.

My apologies for the delay in choosing our winner today.  There were technical issues with Blogger, that have since been resolved.  So, without further ado, here is the result of our Random.org drawing:


Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

26
Timestamp: 2010-07-06 01:32:45 UTC

Our winner is Justine M!  Congratulations, Justine!  Please check your e-mail, and we'll make arrangements to get your $25 Franklin Goose gift certificate delivered, for you and your beautiful babies to enjoy :)

Thank you again to Franklin Goose for generously allowing us to review the totally awesome Way Basics Spin Cubes; our new favorite shelving solution, made from recycled paper, and for this great gift certificate giveaway. 

Hope everyone had a fantastic 4th of July weekend!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Green Product Review and Giveaway: Organic Soap Nuts Laundry Trio by Yoreganics!

Would you believe me, if I told you that laundry soap grows on trees?  It does in Asia!  It's even USDA-certified organic ;)  Welcome to the wonderful world of soap nuts! 

Sharing our dirty laundry with you today, is the Green Organic family.  We had the pleasure of trying out a sample of soap nuts from Yoreganics; one of the few companies specializing in organically-sourced soap nuts.  But what is a soap nut?  The soap nut is actually not a nut; but the dried fruit from the Soapberry tree.  Yoreganics chooses the fruit from the Sapindus mukorossi species of Soapberry tree, as this variety produces the most of its key cleansing component: saponin.  When agitated in water, five soap nuts, tied in a little muslin bag, are plenty enough to get through four to six loads of laundry!  Soap nuts do all this, while being non-toxic, chemical-free, allergy-friendly (they're berries; not nuts), and as Mother Nature  herself designed them, they're good for the Earth, too.

I've actually had quite a bit of fun doing load after load today, and my dryer just beeped, signaling the end of the fourth load that we've washed with soap nuts today.  I have to say, I am really impressed by cleaning power packed in these little cherry-sized dried berries.  They have a hard shell, and are hollow on the inside.  The shell is actually where the saponin lies.  While the soap nuts have a sort of tangy, dried fruit smell (it kind of reminds me of the dried fruit my California relatives send us as gifts), they actually leave no smell at the end of the wash cycle!  They also do an amazing job of cleaning, all without suds!  The corporate conglomerates have misled us over the years, that you have to have bubbles (and lots of them) to get clean.  Not true!  The bubbles are a visual indicator; and if you ask me, I think they're a trick to try to get you to use more  (and eventually buy more) of the product to create more suds.  Since moving into our new home, I finally have the high-efficiency washer and dryer I've been salivating over for years.  HE washers don't like suds anyway.  Suds in a front-loader are a BAD thing (unless you want the sudsing action to continue onto your laundry room floor) ;)

So, the first load up for the day: the lights , whites, and pastels, including Green Organic Girl's wardrobe, adorned with their weekly carnage of food stains and miscellaneous preschool-age stuff.  The challenger: five very brave, dried soap nuts, tied securely in their accompanying muslin bag.  I also added a 1/2 tbsp of the "Brightens & Whitens" laundry enhancer; Yoreganics' own special weapon, free of chlorine, artificial fragrances, phosphates, and enzymes, yet powerful enough to tackle all sorts of stains.  The "Brightens & Whitens" went in my powder dispenser, and the cloth bag with the soap nuts went in with the clothes.  And away we went!

After one normal cycle, I was very pleasantly surprised!  No smell whatsoever; except that of clean fabric!  As the soap nuts remain in the machine through the whole cycle, the saponin they released in the rinse cycle acts as a fabric softener.  Our clothes were fresh, bright, clean, and soft.  No odors, and no residue.  Just simply clean.

I continued on with three more very large loads, taking advantage of our wash drum's 4.4 cubic-foot capacity.  The soap nuts worked great on everything from bath mats, a queen-size comforter, towels, sheets, and finally, reusable mop pads.  Everything came out fresh and clean.  I then did some further research into soap nuts, and you can actually boil a batch for 20 minutes, strain the liquid, and have your own multipurpose cleaner.  A few soap nuts tossed in the utensil basket of your dishwasher will also get your dishes clean.  Now that is impressive!  When they're all used up, soap nuts don't get mushy, but the shells do get a visible waterlogged appearance.  That's when it's time to put them in the compost, where they will readily biodegrade.  Laundry soap that falls off a tree.  You can't get any simpler and more natural than that.

We really have to extend a big thank you to Yoreganics.  We thoroughly enjoyed their Laundry Trio, which includes not just the soap nuts and "Brightens & Whitens" enhancer, but also an all-natural coconut-based stain remover!  It's perfectly sized to carry around on-the-go, and I love that it's a great bleach-free alternative to some of the pocket-sized stain removers on the market.  Yoreganics has also won over this die-hard lip balm fanatic with their Simplemint certified organic lip balm; a bonus gift that comes with every Laundry Trio.  It goes on smooth and has staying power, thanks to the balanced blend of organic palm oil, beeswax, and extra virgin olive oil.  Then it leaves a refreshing tingle from the added essential oils of peppermint and spearmint.  It smells great, and feels great :)

Now, here is your chance to win a Yoreganics Soap Nuts Laundry Trio & Lip Balm all to yourself!!  One lucky GreenOrganicMama.com reader will win one of these awesome trios :)


Thank you to everyone who entered! This giveaway has come to a close. Please click here to see the results of our Random.org drawing and to congratulate our winner!


Please be sure to read the complete rules:

To enter this contest, first visit the Yoreganics Soap Nuts FAQ and see what they have to say about these amazing berries. Then, come back here and please leave a comment below, letting our readers know one fun fact you learned about Soap Nuts. Please be sure to leave your e-mail address, so I may contact you if you're the lucky winner.

Want extra chances to win?

For additional entries, please first leave a comment with one Soap Nuts fact from the Yoreganics FAQ, and then do any of the following, for a maximum of 9 (nine) total entries in this giveaway contest [please be sure to come back and leave a follow-up comment for each of these completed tasks, in order to be counted as an additional entry]:
  • Like Yoreganics on Facebook
  • Follow @Yoreganics on Twitter
  • Like this giveaway on Facebook by clicking the Like button at the bottom of this post
  • Follow GreenOrganicMama.com with either our RSS feed, or with Google Friend Connect
  • Follow GreenOrganicMama.com on FaceBook with NetworkedBlogs
  • Follow me on Twitter @greenorganicmom 
  • Tweet this giveaway: I just entered to win Organic Soap Nuts with @GreenOrganicMom 
  • Display our GreenOrganicMama.com badge on your blog
By entering this contest, you have read and understand the rules and fine print of this contest:
  1. Contest ends Sunday, July 18th, 2010 at 3:00PM EST
  2. Contest open to U.S. and Canadian residents
  3. Giveaway prize pack of one Yoreganics Laundry Trio sampler consists of: soap nuts, cloth bag, "Brightens & Whitens" laundry powder, stain remover spray, and Simplemint lip balm, to be awarded to one (1) randomly selected winner.
  4. One (1) winner shall be chosen from the pool of valid comment entries, using Random.org
  5. Winner will be contacted via e-mail, and will provide a valid U.S. or Canadian mailing address, for the purpose of directly mailing one giveaway prize to the winner.
  6. If Winner does not respond via e-mail within 48 hours of the prize drawing, another winner will be selected via Random.org, and new winner will be awarded the prize.
  7. Approximate retail value of the prize pack: $9.98 USD.
  8. Giveaway sponsor reserves the right to modify the prize package and quantities.
  9. Winner will be announced here on this blog, on Twitter, and on FaceBook.
Good luck to everyone!! :)





Photos copyright GreenOrganicMama.com.
No promotional consideration was paid for this post.
One Yoreganics Laundry Trio was provided for the purpose of this review.

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