Apple Books app review – the Sleeping Beauty woke up too late

Apple Books iOS 12 - application review and opinion

Redesigned Apple Books was launched together with iOS 12 in September 2018 / Image: Apple

Apple Books app, launched together with iOS 12, is meant to rediscover the joy of reading on the iPhone and iPad. But others did it before.

The completely redesigned book and audiobook app from Apple was previewed at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2018, and announced a few days later.

It’s a rare thing to see Apple being excited about their book-reading app. A thought shared by Steve Jobs ten years ago in an interview for The New York Times – “The fact is that people don’t read anymore” – is still hanging in the air.

But this time they are serious. To highlight that the company is not going to let it go, the app was renamed from iBooks to Apple Books.

The app is beautiful, and there is no doubt about it. It joins the growing list of iOS apps that are built around the idea of easy use and bold design. The serif header typeface makes the app belong to the world of book geeks, not tech geeks.

Apple Books has everything users would want to start reading books and listening to audiobooks on their new iPads or iPhones.

The Reading Now section is the app’s quick start. You will find here the titles you’ve recently read or listened to. Plus, it lists all the books you’ve added to your wish list. And there is a bunch of recommended books from Apple’s bookstore, based on your browsing history.

There is a redesigned Library section which helps the user better manage the collected books and easier find the right one. There is also the Bookstore section – something you would expect from the app that is the only one in the Books category that offers seamless integration with the bookstore. As you probably know, other bookstores, naming only Amazon and Kobo, removed from their iOS apps store links to comply with tough App Store rules introduced back in 2011.

Apple Books is among these iOS apps that combine books and audiobooks. You can use this single app to read ebooks and listen to audiobooks. Why have two apps if you can have one? Especially, that it’s an endpoint of the bookstore that offers titles in both formats.

Oh, and there is a cool new feature that automatically turns on the night mode when it gets dark. The theme is not the same as the night mode in the book-reading view. The dark color is applied to the entire app, including Reading Now, Library, and Bookstore.

As I said, the app is beautiful. It’s like The Sleeping Beauty who finally woke up.

The only problem is that it happens too late.

The unified quick shelf, user-friendly book management, night mode… doesn’t it sound familiar? It should. Other apps did it before.

All these featured were introduced in the overhauled Kindle for iOS app a year ago. A unified shelf is something you can see in the Libby app. Theme switching is available for many years in the Marvin app.

It seems to me that Apple’s initiative in the book market ended in 2011 when the company introduced App Store rules that kicked off the competition from in-app purchases. Since that time, other book platforms were trying their best to keep iOS users interested in exploring their stores while not offering them direct buying links.

And Apple got lazy. Being the only company that offered in-app book purchases, they didn’t use this opportunity at all. The bookstore section was there in the app that was there. And nothing more. For seven years.

Others were not lazy – just the opposite. Other book platforms were getting highly creative in keeping their readers engaged. And readers got used to a not-so-convenient process of buying new books on the computer or via mobile browser only to see them appear in the book-reading app a few minutes later.

The new Books app has shortened the distance between leading book providers and Apple. But it should have happened a few years ago. Users who started buying books in other ecosystems will not be eager to switch platforms. There are fewer and fewer people who start their adventure with digital reading the moment they buy their first iPad.

And last, but not least. The app is the face of the ecosystem. Apple Books is a charming beauty, but it looks like the rest of her world is still sleeping.

⇢ Apple Books Free

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