Library Info

January 2010 - Posts

Finding Great Deals on Text Books Online

For many of us, mid-January is nothing special. It may be around now that you’ve finally returned those unwanted Christmas gifts or given up your new year’s resolutions. But for many people it’s time to return to the classroom which means it’s time for the dreaded task of buying text books. I am a big believe in supporting local businesses but it’s just not always possible when you need such specific titles so I go straight to the internet.

Nearly everyone has their preferred online option. Some love the easy interface of Amazon or the pretty colors of Barnes & Noble. But if you’re really trying to find the best deal on new and used books isn’t it best to compare them all? Enter Rather than sleuthing around the internet, one site at a time, you have the option of searching for the item you need at BigWords who will then search multiple sites for you. Among others, they search Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion,, and eCampus. After you enter all of the books you’re looking for, BigWords makes recommendations based on both the price of the book and shipping costs. Plus, while you wait for them to crunch the numbers they provide you with a list of one-liners to amuse you. One down side of the service is that you will still need to create accounts with each vendor you buy books from. BigWords just allows you to search multiple sites at a time in order to find the best deal.

There are plenty of great services like this. If you’re interested, share your favorite online book sellers in the comments.

Improve Your Touch Typing the Free and Easy Way

Every day in the library I see adults striving to improve themselves and learn new things. Recently we’ve seen a rising interest in updating computer skills, either for personal satisfaction or to remain competitive in the job market. For some, this means attending one of our Microsoft Quick Start classes at the library to learn about Office 2007. Others work on developing specific skills such as touch typing which is what I’d like to talk about today. With such a skill there’s nothing to it but to do it. Here are two recommendations for free, online programs which can help.

Klava is a flash-based, online typing program which is incredibly simple and super handy. Simply go to the website, click in the text box and start typing. There's no registration and no fees which I always appreciate. Klava (shown above) provides you with a list of words which you then type into the text box. As you go, it keeps track of several things for you. The numbers at the top of the screen and to the left show you your characters per minute from the two previous lines. The numbers to the right of that show you your error percentage. Klava also gives you good hints as you go: turning the text box dark gray if you make an error and highlighting the letters you struggle with. The drop-down menus at the bottom of the page allow you to change from Basic English (short words and letter combinations) to Advanced English (full sentences). You even have the option of practicing on a Dvorak keyboard if you have the ability to configure your own keyboard to that format. Klava's strength is its simplicity and I definitely encourage you to give it a try if you are interested in improving your touch typing or just have a few minutes to kill. 

Typing Web is a more popular (and free) tool to help practice touch typing. Typing Web is very different from Klava. It includes multiple typing lessons and tests and is graphic heavy. Unlike Klava it does include a timer and provides words per minute rather than characters per minute which I find to be a more useful measurement. If you need more visual stimulation than Klava provides, Typing Web might be a good choice for you. This program also lets you bypass registration if you’re so inclined and just get straight to typing. Typing Web does have quite a few ads and, unfortunately, some of them are of the flashing variety which can be a bit distracting.

There are countless other typing tutorials and tests online that may be just as good. But I find these to be simple (especially in the case of Klava) and well-organized (Typing Web). Give it a try if you have a minute and see if it helps!