Ever since school, and as long as I can remember, I never read books. I used to like factual books, picture books and encyclopaedias, but I never read stories.

In the last year though, I’ve started to get into reading proper novels. I’ve taken advantage of offers in shops like The Works, three selected books for £5, not really knowing what to expect. Admittedly, there are several I haven’t read, but I have read a few, an they’ve been enjoyable. I seem to be drawn to crime novels, and have been unable to put them down.

More recently, I’ve discovered the free iBooks app available on the iPhone and quite a large number of free books available. I’ve already read a couple that have made good reading, and I’m in the middle of a third one.

I’ve also discovered Goodreads, where I can rate books that I’ve read and discover new ones. I haven’t yet rated enough to get recommendations, but they have a great app where you can scan barcodes of your books to add them to your goodreads library. You can then say whether you’ve read them, what rating you give them, and once you’ve read and rated 20 books, you will start getting the recommendations.

If you have an iPhone, download iBooks, and browse through the bookstore for free books. You’ll be surprised what books you can get that you don’t have to pay for. Many of the classics whose copyright has expired are available for free, along with a surprising number of modern books in all genres.

I used to really want the Amazon Kindle, but now I just don’t think there’s any need. On an iPhone you can also download the Kindle app so you can use the Kindle bookstore.

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Apple’s iBooks app

I love Instagram. Fact. But what is it about this little app that has made it so popular?

Instagram is an app available for the iPhone and now the Android market that enables users to take snaps of square proportions, apply a tilt shift or a centre focus effect, apply a style that represents a number of vintage or toy camera effects, and upload the image for others to view.

You can follow users, and they can follow you. You have a timeline of posts t hat have been posted by people you follow, much like Twitter. Anyone can click a ‘like’ button on your image, much like Facebook, and anyone can post a comment on your image. You can include tags with the # symbol, again like Twitter. And yet Instagram does not provide a facility for browsing a user’s images or following users on their website. It is all done via the iPhone app.

I’ve become somewhat addicted to Instagram, I like the effects, I like the sharing of images, and I like. The community. There seems to be a generally very positive vibe among the users, none of the hate messages that can pop up on Twitter and Facebook and the like. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen; I’m sure it does, but it’s isolated and very rare.

Since its launch a wide range of associated applications and websites have cropped up that enhance what you can do. You can now, for example, use a website to browse a users’ posts etc. you can download all sorts of iPhone apps that allow you to apply different effects to images, to help crop them to the right proportions, to create text-based graphics and more, so there is a great range of possibilities.

Recently, Instagram’s target audience has expanded, perhaps trebled, with the launch of the app for Android smartphones. It’s now even more available and even more popular. With a whole new wave of creative people tapping into it and sharing their lives.

The app has turned every user into a photographer. It has given them the power and inspiration to be creative and to express themselves, and for this reason alone it is great. With many young people using the app and sharing their pictures, it has inspired them to look at the world differently and, hopefully, inspired a whole new wave of future photographers.

My Instragram username is @laurencemadill
Below are a few highlights of my Instagram uploads