Michael E. Cohen, writing for TidBITS:
iBooks is not quite as unreliable and confusing as it was when I wrote about it last year, but neither has it improved nearly as much as loyal iBooks users deserve. Moreover, what little support documentation Apple provides is sketchy and inaccurate, leaving the impression that even the support and documentation departments within Apple are ignoring iBooks.
Cohen's library may be an edge case with over 700 titles, but the problems he mentions are basic usability issues that should get fixed.
iBooks StoryTime, an Apple TV-only app, was released with no announcement by Apple today. Apple explains in the release notes that:
With Read-Aloud narration and beautiful illustrations, every handpicked title in the app transforms Apple TV into an engaging place for young readers to enjoy the stories they love.
The app, which comes with a free Dora the Explorer book, is designed for young children. Additional books can be purchased from the Featured Books section of the app. The number of books available is modest, but high-quality with a nice mix of classic children’s books and familiar modern characters.
The read-aloud feature can be turned on or off. When the feature is on, the book is read by a narrator while the words in the book are highlighted in sync with the narrator’s voice. In read-aloud mode the pages are turned automatically. Pages can also be turned by swiping on the Siri Remote when the read-aloud feature is turned off.
iBooks StoryTime (currently US-only) is a free download on the Apple TV App Store.
The iBooks Store is today featuring the launch of 'A Game of Thrones: Enhanced Edition':
Navigate the astounding world of Westeros with the enhanced editions of George R.R. Martin's magnificent series. Available only on iBooks, they're the best way to read this thrilling epic. Interactive maps, author notes, glossaries, family trees and illustrations add to the adventure, whether you're new to the books or speak fluent Dothraki.
A Game of Thrones is the first book in the series, and the Enhanced Edition is available now. The other books in the series are also set to received Enhanced Editions over the coming months. A Clash of Kings is coming on 27 October, A Storm of Swords is arriving on 15 December, A Feast of Crows is arriving 2 February 2017, and A Dance with Dragons is expected on 30 March 2017. The Guardian has a few more details on the Enhanced Editions, including this quote from George R.R. Martin:
“We’re now entering a new period in the history of publishing,” said Martin, announcing the new edition. “The digital book gives readers the ability to experience all this rich secondary material that had not been possible before. These enhanced editions, available only on iBooks, include sigils and family trees and glossaries. Anything that confuses you, anything you want to know more about, it’s right there at your fingertips. It’s an amazing next step in the world of books.”
This is not the first time the iBooks Store has released Enhanced Editions of a popular series. Last October saw the release of Enhanced Editions of the Harry Potter series on the iBooks Store, which included new illustrations and animations.
In a press release from Apple:
Apple today announced that enhanced editions of all seven books in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series are now available exclusively on the iBooks Store for readers around the world to enjoy on their iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac. Customers can download individual books featuring full original text, interactive animations and elaborate artwork bringing these beloved stories to life in a unique way. Harry Potter fans will also find annotations throughout their literary journey, written by the author herself.
Each book costs US$9.99 and they are available in 32 countries today. French, German and Spanish versions are also available for pre-order and will be released on November 9 in 18 additional countries.
“I’m thrilled to see the Harry Potter books so beautifully realised on iBooks for the digital world; the artwork and animations in these enhanced editions bring the stories alive in a delightful new way,” said J.K. Rowling.
I had a quick look through the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and there are quite a few illustrations. They all look terrific and the animation really does bring it to life (they're reminiscent of the moving images of the Daily Prophet, or perhaps more appropriately, Live Photos from the iPhone 6s). But that's about it, the rest of the book is virtually identical to a standard ePub.
Jennifer Maloney, writing for The Wall Street Journal last week on the rise of phone reading has some interesting stats regarding the iPhone 6:
Since the release of the bigger, sharper iPhone 6 and 6 Plus last September, Apple has seen an increase in the number of people downloading books onto iPhones through its iBooks app. Some 45% of iBooks purchases are now downloaded onto iPhones, an Apple spokeswoman said. Before that, only 28% were downloaded onto phones, with most of the remainder downloaded onto iPads and a small percentage onto computers.
This increase isn't limited to Apple's iBooks app:
Amazon has also noted the development. Among all new customers using Kindles or the Kindle app, phone readers are by far the fastest-growing segment, an Amazon spokeswoman said, declining to disclose figures. Among those who use the Kindle app, more people now read books on the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus than on any other Apple device, even the popular iPad Mini, she said.
Note how Apple said “downloaded onto iPhones” and not “entirely read on iPhones” – but still, it makes sense for people to read books (and I would assume, web articles) more continuously and ubiquitously on an iPhone than an iPad, especially thanks to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today upheld 2-1 the 2013 verdict that found Apple and major publishing companies conspired to fix e-book prices.
As noted by Fortune, Apple's argument that the Department of Justice was misguided to target Apple when Amazon was dominant didn't convince the majority:
That argument, however, appears to have carried little sway with Judge Livingston who argued that Apple and the publishers could not rationalize their behavior on the grounds they were challenging Amazon:
“Plainly, competition is not served by permitting a market entrant to eliminate price competition as a condition of entry, and it is cold comfort to consumers that they gained a new ebook retailer at the expense of passing control over all ebook prices to a cartel of book publishers,” Livingston wrote.
There's no doubt that this is a complicated issue, fraught with many valid but opposing arguments. Ultimately though, I can't help but agree with the end result and this section was particularly persuasive to me, from page 98 of Judge Livingston's judgement (courtesy of The Wall Street Journal):
Because of the long‐term threat to competition, the Sherman Act does not authorize horizontal price conspiracies as a form of marketplace vigilantism to eliminate perceived “ruinous competition” or other “competitive evils.” Indeed, the attempt to justify a conspiracy to raise prices “on the basis of the potential threat that competition poses . . . is nothing less than a frontal assault on the basic policy of the Sherman Act.” And it is particularly ironic that the “terms” that Apple was able to insist upon by organizing a cartel of Publisher Defendants to move against Amazon — namely, the elimination of retail price competition — accomplished the precise opposite of what new entrants to concentrated markets are ordinarily supposed to provide. In short, Apple and the dissent err first in equating a symptom (a single‐retailer market) with a disease (a lack of competition), and then err again by prescribing the disease itself as the cure.
Apple could still appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, but it is not a certainty that the Supreme Court would agree to hear the case. In response to today's ruling an Apple spokesperson issued this statement to Fortune:
“Apple did not conspire to fix ebook pricing and this ruling does nothing to change the facts. We are disappointed the Court does not recognize the innovation and choice the iBooks Store brought for consumers. While we want to put this behind us, the case is about principles and values. We know we did nothing wrong back in 2010 and are assessing next steps.”
Previously available on the web from Apple's developer portal, the company's iOS Human Interface Guidelines are now on the iBooks Store as a free download (via Dave Addey). The 20 MB guide is compatible with iPads as well as Macs running iBooks on OS X Mavericks, and it takes advantage of the app with inline video playback, two-page page layouts, and built-in annotations (plus, of course, font size and color controls for reading settings).
It looks like Apple did a nice job in converting the guidelines to iBooks, and annotations appear to be especially useful for developers and designers learning the principles of the iOS 7 visual language. The iOS Human Interface Guidelines are available on the iBooks Store here.
When I first started writing Paperless, the iBooks store did not exist. There were no snazzy tools for me to incorporate rich-media with text and I was facing up to the fact that I was going to have to Frankenstein ePub and PDF to get what a wanted, a book that not only told you how but also showed you how. I spent weeks researching and testing and still didn't have it nailed down. Then Apple announced iBooks Author and the iBooks store and I immediately abandoned all prior efforts and jumped to the new platform. iBooks Author gives me exactly what I need to publish the books I want to make.
I didn't stress this enough when I launched my first book on the iBooks Store: iBooks Author has its quirks, but the fact that a guy like me can put together an interactive book and sell it in over 50 countries with no additional fees is pretty amazing.
iBooks was one of the most obvious examples of an app that made sense in Apple's pre-iOS 7 world, when metaphors for describing real world objects were king. You had a shelf full of books, highlighting that looked like it was drawn by hand, and page curl animations that mimicked the feeling of flipping through a real book. The app was warm and inviting, providing a sense that you were browsing the modern equivalent of an actual book.
Apple has been staggering a lot of updates post-iOS 7, focusing on core product suites like iWork and iLife, coming back to apps like Remote at later time. I figured an app like iBooks would need some preferential treatment, given its importance to Apple's ecosystem, their focus on education, and the relevance of the iBooks Store in the digital age. It would have been perfect to have on hand during this September's Keynote, but maybe it would have been too much to announce on stage at once.
iBooks 3.2 features a brand new design that follows in the footsteps of Newsstand, with gradient rows replacing wooden shelves, leaving covers to stand out on their own. While some might have deemed all of the previous textures distracting, it's almost a shame to see all of the rich design in the app stripped away. It's still largely the same app as before, but it's just been reduced to generic iOS 7-isms we're all familiar with by now: textual buttons, straightened lines, and outline icons.
What's gone is the charm — the new iBooks is strictly all business. Highlighting no longer has that ink-on-paper look to it, nor does inserting a note resemble a sticky or Post-it note. The app has received an iOS 7 inspired reskin, but what's Apple doing to really show off this design's potential? Developers such as Tapbots are taking iOS 7 design much further with apps like Tweetbot 3.
There's also an update for iTunes U which is similar in design, using the same design language to describe courses and content.
iBooks and iTunes U are free updates from the App Store. Download them directly via the links below: