Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Apple Books' giant leap forward

iOS/iPadOS offers a very useful feature of being able to read content on the screen. It gets even more useful when its reading a book app and the “pages” turn themselves so it can keep reading without user assistance.

I've done this a lot with Amazon's Kindle app. I've also listened to some old books on Google's Play Books app (a somewhat appropriately named app for that use, if unintentional because it was only following the Play theme and not a native universal feature in that app). Apple Books could also use Apple's screen reading feature, but it also read all headers and footers on the page, too.

Old book app rankings: Amazon, Google, Apple

Apple is now well out in front as far as I'm concerned, and Google has fallen way behind.

Apple Books has not only fixed its old issues, it now has a far superior experience. No longer does it show (so it doesn't read) the headers and footers. But it's now the only app the screen reader can read and keep reading page after page with the screen off, and even while using other apps.

Yes, even if I'm checking email, have another book app open, or whatever, the underlying operating system is now capable of the screen reader turning the page and loading the new page of text into memory, and continue reading, all with the Apple Books app only running in the background.

Kindle still runs the same as always. It can turn pages and keep reading. The app must remain open and in the foreground with the screen on. If I highlight something while it's reading, I often need to restart the screen reader after the end of its current page.

iOS/iPadOS can no longer read Google Play Books screens at all in many cases, even with “flowing text” set to the display. When it does, it doesn't turn the page—even with a page turning setting enabled for eReaders. (I'm guessing that setting/feature is there only for when it officially has an audiobook available, not when the operating system can dynamically generate audio from a book.)

New rankings: Apple, Amazon, Google

This definitely increases my use of Apple Books and decreases my use of Google Play books. 

I'm sure I'll still use the Kindle book app plenty as I've bought a lot of books there. The highlighting feature and its flexible uses like exporting highlights is still very useful. I've not seen highlighting be as useful in Apple's or Google's book apps.

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