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Posts tagged with "books"

Sofa 3.0 Adds New Ways to Manage Your Media Lists Along With a New Business Model

Sofa 3.0, an app that I last reviewed in March, is out with loads of new ways to track, organize, and browse the media lists you create. The app also has a new subscription business model for its pro features.

Media recommendations come at us all from every angle, whether it’s friends and family or sources like reviews. You can save lists of books, movies, videogames, and other media you want to try in lots of ways. You could use an app like Apple’s Notes or Reminders, but they’re general-purpose apps that don’t address the specific needs related to media consumption. Plus, trying to track media in something like a task manager gets out of control and messy fast.

Another option is to turn to an app designed for a specific type of media, and there are many good options available on the App Store. The advantage Sofa has, is that it makes it just as easy to pick a book as a movie or something else when you’re deciding what media to try next. It’s a subtle but important distinction. With single-purpose apps, you need to decide what kind of media you want to consume and then turn to an app to pick something. Sofa dispenses with the first step allowing you to answer a broader question: “How do I want to spend my free time?” That a one-stop approach is one of Sofa’s greatest strengths and one that the app leans into hard with the latest excellent update.

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Downtime Organizer Sofa Adds Apps, Audiobooks, Board Games, Deeplinking, Backups, and More Themes

Sofa is a terrific downtime organizer. Since its release, the app has seen frequent updates that have added features and refinements that make it an excellent one-stop destination for collecting media you want to enjoy later. We’ve covered the app before, so I won’t revisit its core functionality here, but if you’re new to the app, be sure to check out our previous reviews for more details.

The headline feature of Sofa’s latest update is the addition of apps, audiobooks, and board games to the lineup of media it can track. I’m especially pleased to see that iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps have been added to Sofa. I’ve long considered trying new apps as a form of entertainment. Even poking around productivity apps that most people would consider ‘work’ apps is fun for many people.

The addition of apps is timely given the trend towards subscription-based apps with free trials. If an app catches your eye, but it’s got a relatively short free trial period, you can drop it into Sofa to try later when you can make the most of the trial. The addition of apps also provides a way to track games on Apple’s platforms that weren’t always available in Sofa’s videogame category. However, the change also means that you may have to search for an iOS game in a couple of different places at times.

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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.