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Posts tagged with "books"

Sofa Debuts Modern iPad App, Rich Themes Experience, and More

I suspect I’m not alone in saying that 2020 has been a big year for personal media consumption. The absence of normal social events has meant more time for reading, watching shows and movies, and other forms of relaxation.

At the end of last year I wrote about how I was using Sofa, a media list app, to track the TV and films I’d watched in 2019. I’ve used the same approach throughout 2020, and it continues to work well for me. The only change is that I’ve been testing a big update to Sofa for the last few weeks that’s available now. Previously exclusive to the iPhone, Sofa now offers a rich iPad experience complete with Split View, Slide Over, and multiwindowing, keyboard shortcuts, and mouse and trackpad support. Additionally, today’s update adds a robust theming system to the app and seamless iCloud syncing. It’s a strong step forward for the app, making it more versatile than ever before.

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Book Track Adds Reading Status, Statistics, Quote Entries, and More

Earlier this year I reviewed Book Track, a new book library manager that debuted across iPhone/iPad and Mac. I noted that the app offered a strong foundation to build upon, but its young age showed in the absence of several valuable features. One such feature, library importing, has been added since then, and today’s 1.2 update introduces a handful of excellent additions as well: reading status, statistics, quote entries, and loan status. This promising app is evolving faster than I had even hoped.

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Book Track Review: A Modern, iOS-Friendly Library Manager

The App Store contains millions of apps, yet for some app categories there can be a real scarcity of quality options. Book tracking, for example, features a few solid choices that are still actively developed, but largely this category receives less developer attention than I’d hope. One new option that debuted recently is Book Track, an app designed to provide key library management features in a clean and simple interface. When it comes to utilities like book trackers, I prefer that apps keep complication to a minimum while still providing the key functionality I need. Book Track, with a few exceptions, largely succeeds at that.

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Apple Harnesses TV+ and the Books App to Launch Oprah’s Book Club

Earlier this year when Oprah Winfrey took the stage at Apple’s March event, she teased a book club project that would manifest in some way through Apple’s new TV+ service. Today in a press release, Apple has shared the full details about this new project, officially named Oprah’s Book Club, which will utilize both TV+ and Apple Books in a special cross-service format.

Apple and Oprah Winfrey today announced Oprah’s Book Club will connect a community of readers worldwide to stories that truly matter by today’s most thought-provoking authors. Winfrey, the esteemed producer, actress, talk show host, philanthropist and CEO of OWN, will partner with Apple to build a vibrant, global book club that has the power to both transport and transform people — turning every book into an opportunity for self-discovery, and bringing the world together through reading.

Winfrey’s first book selection is “The Water Dancer” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, available for pre-order now on Apple Books in both ebook and audiobook formats, and debuting tomorrow. Winfrey will interview Coates for the first installment of her new exclusive Apple TV+ series, “Oprah’s Book Club,” premiering November 1. A new episode will be available every two months. For every Oprah’s Book Club selection sold on Apple Books, Apple will make a contribution to the American Library Association to support local libraries, fund programs that give access to everyone and create lifelong readers at an early age.

As if the marriage of TV+ and Books for Oprah’s Book Club wasn’t enough, Apple’s also leveraging its business by hosting the very first of Oprah’s author interviews at none other than Apple Carnegie Library. Additionally, Apple News today is offering a special preview of Oprah’s first book selection. Now that’s some synergy.

It’s exciting to see Apple start to utilize its roster of services such that they complement one another. The company has dabbled in similar efforts before, like through its featuring of the World Cup last summer, but we haven’t seen anything as sustained and on-going as Oprah’s Book Club will be. I’m curious to see what other potential cross-overs Apple has planned moving forward.

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Sofa Review: A Simple Tool for Tracking Movies, TV Shows, Books, and Podcasts

We live in a time when media options are growing at a fast pace. It’s a golden age for television, with great shows debuting all the time; the film industry is being transformed by the infusion of new competition from streaming giants like Netflix; podcasts are becoming more mainstream by the day; and despite books not being in a similar growth phase, new titles are still being written constantly. In this crowded media landscape, it’s hard to keep track of all the great content waiting to be enjoyed.

In the past I’ve kept notes in Apple Notes containing lists of TV shows, movies, podcasts, and books to check out. Lately, however, I’ve been using an app called Sofa.

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Apple Releases Materials for the Everyone Can Create Curriculum

Last March, Apple held an education event in Chicago where it unveiled a 9.7-inch iPad with Apple Pencil support and a new curriculum called Everyone Can Create. Since then, Apple says over 350 schools worldwide have begun working with the program. A complement to its Everyone Can Code initiative, Everyone Can Create is designed to help teachers and students use iPads in creative pursuits such as drawing, music, photography, and filmmaking.

Today, Apple announced that as part of the Everyone Can Create initiative, it has released four student guides and a teacher guide that are available in Apple’s Books app.

“We believe Apple technology can help unleash every child’s creative genius,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Working closely with teachers, we have built the Everyone Can Create curriculum to help bring creative expression and the arts into the classroom, and to help students stay engaged through creativity and ultimately be more successful.”

Each student guide, which is free to download in the Books app, includes projects designed to help students learn new creative skills progressively. There is also a teacher guide with over 300 lesson ideas that can be used in a variety of subjects.

The curriculum includes projects that use third-party apps like Tayasui Sketches School as well as Apple’s apps too.

Although the Everyone Can Create guides are being released after many students are already back in school, teachers have had preview materials since the summer, which should help them incorporate the new materials into their lessons if they’d like. Everyone Can Create extends Apple’s curriculum offerings beyond coding, which I like because it should reach a broader group of students. It’s also designed to fit with existing subjects taught in schools, which I expect will make the iPad more valuable to schools that have adopted them.

The Everyone Can Create books are available as free downloads in Apple’s Books app.


Serial Reader Adapts Books for the Smartphone Age

Our Internet-driven society has seen a decline in book reading, though not necessarily a decline in reading altogether. Despite book readers being less common than in past decades, we all do a fair amount of reading each day on our smartphones – reading messages from friends, or tweets, emails, Facebook posts, notifications, articles, and so on.

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed reading books, and I continue to read them regularly – though not as much as I’d like. However, I also read an abundance of emails, tweets, messages, and articles every day. A day may pass with me not reading a book, but that never happens with the likes of email and messages. Part of the reason my Internet-driven reading habits are more consistent than my book reading habits is that I have to read those things to do my job. But there’s another reason too: email and Slack demand my attention each day via push notifications, while books do not. Add to that, emails and messages come in bite-sized quantities, whereas books are much longer, and thus more intimidating.

Serial Reader aims to fix that.

No stranger to the App Store, Serial Reader has been around for several years, but I recently gave it a try for the first time. The premise of the app is simple: it contains a collection of over 550 classic books that can be delivered to you in bite-size chunks. At a time of your choosing, Serial Reader will send a daily notification informing you that your latest issue of, say, War and Peace, is available to read. Each issue is compiled with an estimated reading time under 20 minutes, though most I’ve seen are around 10 minutes – very easy to digest. We all receive regular interruptions from Internet services that take 10 minutes out of our day at a time, and with Serial Reader you can plan those interruptions in a way that helps you read more books.

By offering up small helpings of a book each day, and delivering that book’s latest “issue” through a notification, Serial Reader fixes key barriers to book reading. While I wish I could use it with my own collection of books, the public domain classics included in the app offer a wealth of quality options.

If you want to read more books, Serial Reader offers a clever, convenient way to do that. And there’s no better time than the present to give the app a try – it just received a big update to version 3.5, with a new multi-column reading mode for iPad, curated book collections, alternate app icons, and a design refresh.

Serial Reader is available on the App Store.


Apple Is Building a Media Platform Like Never Before

Have you ever watched the construction of a new building while knowing nothing about what the finished product would be? You track its progress a piece at a time, clueless about the end goal until finally there comes a point when, in a single moment, suddenly it all makes sense.

Apple’s media ambitions have been like that for me.

In recent years, Apple has taken a variety of actions in the media space that seemed mostly disconnected, but over time they’ve added up to something that can’t be ignored.

  • 2015: Apple Music and Apple News launched.
  • 2016: Apple Music redesigned; TV app debuted.
  • 2017: App Store revamped with dedicated games section; Apple Podcasts redesigned; TV app adds sports and news.
  • 2018: Apple acquires Texture; iBooks redesigned and rebranded Apple Books.
  • 2019: Apple’s video streaming service launches?

Apple already has control of the hardware that media is consumed on, with its ever-expanding iPhone business and suite of complementary products. It has invested significant effort into building the apps media is consumed in, as evidenced above. And finally, it’s also building the paid services media is consumed through.

And the company is doing these things at a scale that is unprecedented. Once not long ago, Apple’s primary media platform was iTunes. Now, hundreds of millions of users consume media every day through Apple’s suite of spiritual successors to iTunes:

  • Apple Music
  • Apple TV (the app)
  • Apple Podcasts
  • Apple Books
  • Apple News
  • And the App Store

Apple has one unified goal, I believe, driving all its media efforts: it aspires to utilize hardware, software, and services to provide the entirety of a user’s media experience. If you consume media, Apple wants to provide the full stack of that consumption, from media delivery to media discovery. My aim in this story is to share an overview of how that goal is being fulfilled today.

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How Aqua and Bondi Saved Apple

Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels has published a book called Aqua and Bondi: The Road to OS X & The Computer That Saved Apple, a history of the critical role OS X and the iMac G3 played in Apple’s comeback from the brink of financial ruin in the late 90s. As Hackett explains in the introduction to the book,

OS X and the iMac’s stories are intertwined, but are often told separately. Apple’s strength is most obvious when its hardware and software are working in harmony, and that’s what was needed to save Apple in the late 1990s. Turns out, it worked.

Aqua and Bondi shares that story for those who haven’t read it before. It’s a consideration of Apple at a very interesting time in its life and the products it shipped.

I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Aqua and Bondi and love it. Not only is the story of OS X and the iMac G3 told in a compelling and accessible way, but the book is full of fantastic photos drawn from numerous sources, including Hackett’s own collection of colorful iMacs.

Aqua and Bondi is available from the iBookstore and as a PDF from aquaandbondi.com for $3.99.