This week marks my first time contributing to the Tecca WWIN (What We’re Into Now). I gushed about the Series 7 Gamer I just bought (more on this later) and made a sad face about The Closer finale, but I forgot to mention the fiction I’ve been reading.
This is a particular crime since my whole short fiction reading setup is very tech-influenced. I read way more now that I have a good device and good apps to make it all possible.
Just a year ago I was complaining about how it was still an annoying multi-step process to get short fiction from my favorite magazines onto my mobile device of choice. Back then it was my eReader. These days I read on a tablet, but only because none of my eInk eReaders has the versatility I need for what I do.
The tablet I use everyday is a 7-inch Galaxy Tab, which is the perfect size for tableting, according to me. The two apps I use to grab short fiction are the official Google Reader app and Pocket (used to be Read It Later). Sometimes I have to use the browser.
Many of the online magazines I read have RSS feeds, so I subscribe to them in Google Reader. Every month I go to the Fiction folder, find the stories I want to read, then Share them to Pocket. Even if the RSS feed doesn’t have the whole story, it doesn’t matter. Pocket goes to the source link and pulls the webpage into their app.
For the magazines without an RSS feed, I go to the browser. Same deal there. I find the stories I like, then Share them to Pocket.
Pocket is awesome. It pulls in and saves all the links I share to it, then has the full text waiting for me to read whenever I want. It automatically caches everything offline, so if I’m on a plane or on the subway I can still read my stuff.
I used to use Readability, but that app went wonky on me too much and also wasn’t reliable with the offline cache.
Pocket makes reading a bit easier on the eyes by offering some control over background colors and font size. Settings aren’t as robust as eReader apps like Nook or Kindle, sadly.
So, you ask, why can’t I do this on my eReader? It’s not that I can’t, I just don’t like the options available for eInk eReaders.
Most of the services available for saving web pages (which is where these stories reside) exist for the Kindle. There’s Instapaper, which I used for a while, and now there’s a new Chrome extension for Kindle that works similarly to Pocket. Problem is, I much prefer Nook to Kindle.
The reason I can’t get stuff automatically sent to Nook is entirely Barnes & Noble’s fault. For whatever reason, they don’t feel the need to create a WhisperSync-like system where you can easy send stuff to the Nook via email or syncing to a cloud service. Instapaper does have a way to download your saved pages as an EPUB file for Nook, but then you have to transfer it yourself. An extra step.
It would be worth taking if Instapaper’s formatting wasn’t extremely odd. What I like about Pocket is that it gives you text or the actual layout of the web page. Nothing janky.
Instapaper might be better at this now, I don’t know, it’s been a while.
Still, being able to click once and know that the story I want to read will be where I want to read it is a big thing for me.
Several online magazines have started creating eBook versions for people with eReaders, and I think that is awesome. Some will deliver to Kindles automatically, but not Nooks. This has something to do with how ridiculously hard it is for a magazine to get into Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s newsstands. And perhaps it’s prohibitively expensive, too.
Once again, the eBook sellers are putting barriers between me and the stuff I want to read, thus costing both themselves and content creators money. All by making stuff far more complex than it needs to be.
Anyway, this got me to wondering how other fiction lovers read stories from their favorite online magazines? Do you get the eBook versions, save them to your phone/tablet/eReader some other way, or just read on a computer?
- I should point out here that I only bother to do this with magazines I really, really like. If I come across your zine and it has no RSS feed and has no track record with me, I skip it. Shorter: Magazines, get an RSS feed. It’s 2012. Come on. [↩]
Last week Google announced that their podcasting app, Google Listen, will soon be kaput. For those out there that use the app this is sad news. (Personally, I never liked Listen.) If you’re looking for a replacement or trying to find a good Android podcatcher in general, you should check out DoggCatcher.
DoggCatcher isn’t free like Google Listen. And $4.99 is on the expensive side for an Android app. It’s worth the price thanks to a long list of features and settings, including full (and customizable) automation of podcast maintenance duties.
The top reason why I settled on DoggCatcher after an annoying search for a podcast app for Android is the automation. Once I subscribe to a feed I never have to worry about whether the app downloaded the latest episode. It does so automatically, checking for new items at an interval the user can set. I don’t want to have to force an update since I often go to listen to podcasts when I’m not connected (such as on the train). Whenever I do new episodes are there.
For those of you who’d rather stream podcasts than take up space on your device, that option is available, too. Users can also customize how many episodes to keep and will delete old files to save space.
There are dozens of settings that govern what DoggCatcher does with podcast media files from how often they’re downloaded, when to delete them, whether to download over mobile broadband or not, and even whether to keep files even if they’ve been deleted from the podcast server.
Another feature I love is the ability to create podcast playlists. I find this useful in the shower — I can listen to several short podcasts in a row without having to touch my phone.
Adding podcasts to DoggCatcher is easy. Users can import their Google Listen subscriptions as well as adding by search, category browse, or feed URL. The app also collects together certain highly sought-after podcasts in groups, such as BBC, NPR and TWiT casts.
The discovery bit on the app could be a little better, but is there. It’s better if you already know which podcasts you want to listen to, though.
DoggCatcher will download and play both audio and video podcasts.
The only con to this app is that it doesn’t have much eye-candy. The user interface is straightforward instead of being super pretty with tiles or attractively designed podcasts pages and other things you’ll find in apps like Stitcher Radio. This is a minor issue, obviously.
Due to all it does and how well it works for me — I’ve used the app across four Android phones and tablets with no stability issues — I recommend DoggCatcher to anyone looking for a good podcasting app. It’s well worth the $4.99 price.
Stitcher Radio is one of the more popular podcasting apps, possibly due to all the advertising they do in podcasts. I’m not a fan of the app since you can’t listen or watch podcasts and video casts when offline.
For those who always listen to podcasts when connected to the Internet, this is not a big problem. However, even when I drive I’d rather listen to local media than stream since streaming uses up data. People on limited data plans don’t want to waste megabytes on something they should be able to download when connected to Wi-Fi.
Other than that, Stitcher is a fine app for exploring and discovering podcasts. I like that the app will recommend new podcasts based on what you already listen to. Plus, Stitcher does a good job of curating podcast content.
If content discovery is more important to you than saving the media locally, then Stitcher is an excellent free alternative.
K. T. Bradford
If code is poetry, then CSS is The Iliad. In the original Greek.
I write about and review mobile technology, which means I get to spend the day steeped in laptops, smartphones, tablets, eReaders, and other things that go beep. Lest you question my status as a ChicGeek, I'll proudly claim an unabashed love for netbooks, Linux, science fiction, and curly hair products. You can find my new reviews and articles on Digital Trends and Techlicious.com.