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BLOG: iBooks 2 for iOS

Lex Friedman | Jan. 25, 2012
Whenever I’m asked to review an e-reading app, my first reaction hovers around snarky amusement.

iBooks already offered a screen that consolidates all of your notes and highlights for a given book. While that screen now looks slightly different depending upon whether you’re reading a regular or optimized book, it remains tremendously helpful either way. New in iBooks 2—but limited to optimized books—is a Notecard view.

The new view groups your highlights and notes into virtual notecards, with your highlights on one side and your notes on the other. You can shuffle the notecards to test yourself, and even limit the cards to highlights of a specific color. And you can optionally include glossary terms from the book in the notecards—words on one side, definitions on the other. It’s a shame you can’t use notecards to study notes taken in regular books, and I can’t imagine the limitation is a technical one; it’s simply a feature Apple has only chosen to make available for optimized ebooks.

Notecards do suffer from one frustrating oversight: You can’t jump from a notecard directly to the highlighted text in context within the ebook. You can do so from the more traditional notes view, and it’s a great way to dive in when you’re reviewing your notes. Apple at least includes the page number as a reference on the notecards, and since iBooks 2 introduces the ability to use the search field to jump to a specific page, all is not lost. But a direct link from card to associated book page would eliminate a couple steps.

In an optimized ebook, a two- or three-finger pinch takes you from your current page back to the Chapter overview screen. That screen provides links to subsections within the chapter, along with thumbnail-based page navigation. (You can pinch with more fingers if you disable multitasking gestures in the Settings app.) In a regular book, you instead tap to bring up the menu, and then tap the navigation icon, and then tap for the Table of Contents.

Besides their far smaller file size, regular books in iBooks offer a significant advantage compared to their fancy book brethren, perhaps the best reading-centric feature iBooks offers— a small text indicator stating how many pages remain in the current chapter. One key advantage paper books hold over ebooks is the ease with which you can flip ahead to find a good stopping point; the “pages left in this chapter” indicator offers an excellent digital alternative—and it’s nowhere to be found when reading optimized ebooks.

Additionally, iBooks has never once crashed on me while I was using regular books, since I first started using the app. In less than a week of reading the occasional textbook, I encountered two crashes that left me starting at nothing but Apple’s stock linen background. I needed to force-quit the iBooks app and relaunch it to get back to reading. I have yet to reboot a paper book.


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