Calibre’s Open Source Software Makes It Easy to Read Free eBooks (and Much More)

We at Open Culture have discovered a handy piece of software that will make it easier to use our collection, 600 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices. Calibre is a free e-book library management software that lets users convert e-books from one format to another.

Say that you’ve downloaded Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in the open ePUB format and want to move the book onto your Kindle. Calibre can convert the text into all of the major e-reader formats, including Kindle's proprietary format. The program will then sync the text to your device and you’re good to go.

Calibre supports e-book formats used by major manufacturers (including Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Sony), but if your device isn’t listed in the program’s list, Calibre’s “generic device” option will most likely do the job.

The program also offers a default viewer for reading texts on your computer, and books can be converted from one platform to another, making it easy to move books from your phone to iPad to laptop and beyond.

Calibre fills a niche for e-book readers, providing a simple way to manage e-libraries. The program also helps manage and organize online magazines, newspapers and other reading materials. Click “Fetch News” and Calibre will scan selected online news outlets and catalog them in your collection.

You can even buy books by using Calibre’s interface to search for the best price on a selected title.

You can download Calibre here and then start mining our ever-growing collection of Free eBooks.

Kate Rix writes about digital culture and education. Find more of her work at .

The Latest, Greatest Cultural Perk of Amazon Prime: Stream Movies and TV Shows to the iPad

When Amazon launched Amazon Prime in 2005, it didn't offer that much in the way of benefits -- just free shipping on Amazon goods. Now if you pony up $79 per year, you get some good cultural perks: You can borrow over 145,000 e-books and read them on your Kindle and devices with Kindle apps. What's more, you can stream thousands of movies and TV shows through your computer, select blu-ray players and now ... drum roll please .... the iPad. Just yesterday, Amazon released its free iPad app, which means that Prime members can start streaming movies on their tablets right away. If you're not a member, you can always try out a one month Free Trial to Amazon Prime. And if that doesn't move you, you can simply dive into our collection of 500 Free Movies Online. Ars Technica has more details on the pros and cons of the app here.

Shakespeare’s Satirical Sonnet 130, As Read By Stephen Fry

"My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun," begins Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare. But why read the rest when you can see and hear it, in the video above, from Stephen Fry? No matter how often I've wished the voice inside my head could sound like his, I just can't master intracranially replicating his distinctive combination of accent and manner. This deficiency bothers me especially when reading works as worthy as Shakespeare's sonnets. Sonnet 130 in particular, a satire of the increasingly and obviously hyperbolic odes to female beauty popular in Shakespeare's day, practically demands a persona as dryly knowing as Fry's. But neither Fry in any of his work nor the Shakespeare of Sonnet 130 seem content to simply pop balloons of grotesquely overinflated sentiment. They know that, in refusing to trot out grandly tired comparisons of lips to coral and cheeks to roses, they pay their subjects a more lasting, genuine tribute in the end.

Fry's reading comes from a new iPad app, Shakespeare's Sonnets. In an apparent realization of all those literary "multimedia experiences" we dreamed of but could never quite achieve in the mid-nineties, it presents the 154 sonnets as they looked in their 1609 quarto edition with scholarly notes, commentary, and interviews with experts. Other performers enlisted to read them include Patrick Stewart (presumably another sine qua non for such a project), David Tennant, and — because hey, why not — Kim Cattrall. A fine idea, but new-media visionaries should take note that I and many others are even now waiting for apps dedicated to nothing more than Stephen Fry reading things. Someone's got to capitalize on this demand.

Related content:

Shakespeare in the Original Voice

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar Read in Celebrity Voices

Acclaimed BBC Production of Hamlet, Starring David Tennant (Doctor Who) and Patrick Stewart (Star Trek)

City Poems: A New Literary iPhone App

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Stanford Launches iPhone/iPad App Course on iTunesU (with New Peer-to-Peer Learning Features)

Just about everybody these days is developing an app, right? A few lucky coders might see their work up in lights if they act fast.

Apps designed by the first 1,000 developers to register for Stanford’s new online course on iTunesU will be considered for showcasing on the university’s iTunes site.

The course, Coding Together, is based on the popular classroom version taught by Paul Hegarty at Stanford. It covers iOS 5 and focuses on apps for the iPhone and iPad platform. Sign-up ends on July 6 and the course runs until August 27. Lectures from earlier versions of the iTunesU course were incredibly popular. Some were downloaded more than 10 million times. But the new iTunesU course offers some new social networking and learning tools.

Stanford has teamed up with the social learning platform Piazza to enable students to pose questions to course instructors, other students and app developers around the world 24 hours a day. It’s a feature that on-campus Stanford students already have access to, but it’s a first for iTunesU. And it adds a whole new degree of interactivity to the iTunesU course experience.

As of Thursday afternoon, 11,065 students enrolled in the course, with signups continuing in the hundreds per day. And, collaborative study groups have spontaneously popped up all around the world -- from Silicon Valley, to Brazil and Germany, to India, China and Bangladesh.

Again, you can find the Coding Together lectures on iTunesU here, and sign up for Piazza's peer-to-peer learning groups here. We also have 50 more Free Computer Science courses in our collection of 500 Free Courses Online.

Kate Rix is an Oakland-based freelance writer. Check out her work at .

Microsoft Rolls Out Its New Tablet in Fine Apple Style

This week, Microsoft rolled out its new tablet, simply called Surface, which gives you another way to enjoy our courses, moviesebooks, audio books and the rest. In many ways, Surface resembles the iPad in its look and feel. And when it came to unveiling the tablet, Microsoft's execs couldn't think outside the box created by Steve Jobs. A video made by ReadWriteWeb makes that rather painfully yet amusingly clear....

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Download David Hockney’s Playful Drawings for the iPhone and iPad

Last year, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto staged an exhibit of David Hockney's playful drawings produced with/for the iPhone and iPad. Hockney became an early adopter of Apple's popular devices and started creating finger-drawn images (using the Brushes app) in 2008. Initially, the English painter only shared his digital drawings with a small circle of friends. Then he decided to make them available to the larger world, presenting them first in Paris in 2010, and then later in Toronto. Here, Hockney explains the basic thinking behind his Fresh Flowers exhibitions.

Throughout the Canadian exhibition, the ROM invited the public to download a series of free images by Hockney. They're all still online, and we've gathered them below. What will you do with them? Put them on your iPhone or iPad, of course. (Find instructions here and here.) Or whatever other device you please.



Celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge with a Free iPad App

When it opened to vehicle traffic in May, 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Since then eight bridges have surpassed it in length, but the iconic international orange span is still the most photographed bridge in the world. This month marks the Golden Gate’s 75th anniversary and the California Historical Society’s exhibit, A Wild Flight of the Imagination, celebrates the event with a look at the bridge’s construction. The exhibit has also been made available as a free eBook for the iPad, which includes historic photographs by Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange as well as a short film of bridge designer Joseph Strauss speaking to a reporter during the bridge's construction. At the time, experts said that the Golden Gate strait’s ferocious winds and strong, swirling currents would make construction impossible. But the design introduced deflection theory, which utilizes a thin, flexible roadway and long cables that reduce structural stress.

The interactive app is accompanied by a musical score—the opening selection from composer Rob Kapilow’s Chrysopylae, Greek for “Golden Gate.” Early users of the eBook reported glitches with the app’s audio. The culprit may have been the side mute switch, which must be flipped off for the audio to work. Also, make sure your iPad’s volume is up. Like the exhibit in the society’s San Francisco museum, the app includes access to images of some 350 objects and ephemera related to the span’s construction. Almost as nice as a walk across the bridge’s 1.7 miles, and not nearly as windy.

Kate Rix writes about k-12 instruction and higher ed. Visit more of her work at .

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