Columns > Published on January 18th, 2017

Tech and Product Round-up: Janurary Edition

Welcome all to the first Tech Round-Up of 2017. This month, it's beginning to feel a lot like the future, with self-driven cars and even air taxis on the horizon. But while car and tech companies drive us further into The Fifth Element or Back to the Future Part II territory, one handy browser extension bolsters a service from the "past," making it easier to locate the books you want to read at your local library. Finally, another company merges past and present with a paper notebook digitization service that just might actually work.

Let's jump right into this thing, shall we? 

Several Companies Ramping Up Self-Driving Technology Development

Like something out of a sci-fi novel, self-driven cars are becoming more and more of a reality. The Verge reports that Google hopes to launch an autonomous line of ride-share cars to compete with Uber and Lyft—basically, the same service those companies offer, but without human drivers eerily assembling music playlists appropriate for your destination (or smelling bad and/or talking about how they're afraid of all the Californians moving into their state). Nissan has also jumped on the self-driving car bandwagon, choosing London to test their autonomous automobiles, according to Reuters. And finally, this from TechCrunch: Airbus hopes to test their self-driving FLYING auto-taxis by the end of this year. 

What does this mean for writers? Well, most obviously, you could potentially be living in a world where you can write at the same time you're commuting to and from your day job (assuming you don't live in a city that has decent public transportation, in which case you can do that anyway). However, let's hope this technology is damn-near perfected by the time it becomes a real-life thing, otherwise 2017 will quickly become the year all the writers died, joining the musicians of 2016 in celebrity heaven. 

Library Extension Steers You Away From Amazon

Find yourself cruising the Amazon book section, looking for ways to spend all those gift cards you received at Christmas? Are you having trouble dropping the hammer on some of these purchases, because you don't want to waste all that free money on something you might not like? Well, if you're a Chrome user, you can utilize a browser extension called Library Extension, which will help you find some of those interesting but not quite purchase-worthy books at your local library. (I found out about this extension via The Huffington Post, by the way.) It works like this: As you browse Amazon (as well as Barnes & Noble and Goodreads), a column on the right side of the screen tells you whether or not the book is available at any local library location (see image below, courtesy the Library Extension main page). Pretty simple. And sure, you could technically go to your library's website and search for the book there, but this way, you're killing two birds with one stone by essentially browsing two book databases at the same time. 

Mod Makes Your Handwritten Notebooks Digital For Cheap

Last on our plate today, I just found out about this company called Mod that produces rather nice notebooks and journals akin to the Moleskine brand, but they also transfer all your handwritten notes, journal entries, sketches, etc. into digital notebooks that are rereadable and, yes, searchable within a multi-device friendly web app. Now, there are devices and services that do this already, so you might be asking, what makes Mod different? Simple: instead of using some kind of special pen or sensor device to automatically digitize anything you write, you mail your physical notebook to the company and they begin the scanning process. 

Yeah, you could do this yourself, but it would take a very long time, and given that Mod only charges you $25 for the notebook, the digitization service, and the prepaid mail-in envelope, it'll be money well-spent. Of course, you just have to be comfortable with someone having access to all your personal thoughts and writings, and that alone would keep me from ever utilizing a service like this (my journal is my therapist), but if that concept doesn't bug you, you're good to go. Take a look at Mod's intro video, embedded below.


That's all for this month. I'll be back in February with more writer-focused tech news and reviews. If there's something you'd like to see covered in this feature, send an email to, and I'll have a look.

Until next time.

About the author

Christopher Shultz writes plays and fiction. His works have appeared at The Inkwell Theatre's Playwrights' Night, and in Pseudopod, Unnerving Magazine, Apex Magazine, freeze frame flash fiction and Grievous Angel, among other places. He has also contributed columns on books and film at LitReactor, The Cinematropolis, and Christopher currently lives in Oklahoma City. More info at

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