vulture bytes

Vulture Bytes: A Hulu Plus Alternative and Free McSweeney’s for the iPhone

This week, while we weren’t preparing Bytes, we tested out the various culture-for-free options that Matthew J. X Malady laid out in Slate. Pop culture never sounded so attainable. But culture on the cheap can still be culture on a gadget. To wit, this week’s selections: McSweeney’s on your iDevice, a hub for long-form journalism, another TV-on-your-phone app, e-books in the library, and gloves that control your iPod by remote.

For a guy who made himself out to be so lost in Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers sure made out okay. There’s the fiction empire, the literacy nonprofit, and the avant-garde newspaper experiment. Perhaps his most lasting, wide-reaching contribution has been McSweeney’s, the publishing house that created a market for writing as heady as it was witty. There’s been an iPhone app for the McSweeney’s website for a while, but it hasn’t been free until now. Shoe reviews written by Goldilocks are even better on the iPhone than they are on your laptop.Price: Free
If the decline of long-form journalism has brought us anything beneficial, it’s a greater interest in long-form journalism. The #longreads movement on Twitter has been well-documented, with sites like,, and all leading you to as many links as possible. But those sites are more grab bag than database. is the place to go for people who so love long-form journalism they want to make sure they never miss a thing. Byliner lets you follow the writers you love most, collecting them in a Twitter-like feed of things to read. You won’t have to search something out anymore; now the 10,000-word essays come to you. And if that doesn’t keep you busy enough, Byliner publishes original long-form content from writers like Mark Bittman and William T. Vollmann. Dust off those glasses.Price: Site is free; original singles are $1 and up.
Last week we told you about the hypocrisy of networks charging you $8 per month to watch a show on your iPad through Hulu when they offer the same show for free in the network app. But that’s a hypocrisy for the Apple users — Blackberry and Android users don’t have an option to use network apps to watch for free. For them, the solution has likely been Hulu Plus. But Bitbop is a nice alternative. Once owned by Fox, it offers NBC, FOX, Comedy Central, and other networks’ shows for $10 per month. You can get more content for less on Hulu, so why bother with Bitbop? Because it doesn’t just let you stream the episodes, it lets you download them. It’ll come in handy when a water mane breaks and you’re stuck on the subway for an hour. Price: $10 per month; free for a trial week
Kindle owners, rejoice: You finally have a reason to go back to the library. Until this summer, Vulture Bytes, who is paid to know about these things, had no idea that you could take out e-books for free from the library. That was partly because you couldn’t do it on Kindles, the brand name that represents all e-readers (Kleenex : facial tissue :: Kindles : e-readers). But now you can. This week Amazon announced that Kindle e-books are going to be available at 11,000 public libraries. The selection won’t be robust right away — the Times has the details — but it’ll still be free. Somebody ought to do an e-reader update to that old “Library Card” song from Arthur. Price: Free
These gloves that act as an iPod remote are ostensibly for snowboarders, putting “a whole new spin on the ‘mute’ grab,” as the website says. But they also raise a great question for the rest of us non-boarders: Why isn’t there more clothing with iPod functionality built in? There are shirts that leave room for a headphone cord, of course, but why not a full remote? As we increasingly go wireless, we should also increasingly go touchless. The iPod can become an obelisk in our pockets, only touched by proxy so we don’t smudge it up. All this to say, buy the Burton gloves as a political statement that you want more things just like it.Price: $159.95
Vulture Bytes: A Hulu Plus Alternative and Free McSweeney’s for the iPhone