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iBooks and the iBookstore

You've likely heard about Apple's iPad, the slatelike computing device that some people have compared with a large iPod touch. In addition to being a great media player, though, the iPad is a darned good e-book reader. The means for getting e-books onto the iPad is Apple's free iBooks app. This app—designed for reading e-books and PDF files as well as downloading e-books—turned out to be so popular that Apple took the next logical step and offered it to iPod touches and iPhones running iOS 4 and later. Let's look at how it works on the iPod.

Getting iBooks

Before you can visit the iBookstore, you need to have a copy of iBooks on your iPod. Apple doesn't install it by default, so you must download it, which is easily done. Just launch the App Store icon, tap the Search button, enter iBooks with the iPod's keyboard, and tap the iBooks entry that appears. You'll see a list of results, with the iBooks app at the top. Tap it, tap the Free button, and enter your Apple ID password. iBooks downloads to your iPod.

Browsing the iBookstore

To obtain books from the iBookstore, launch the iBooks app, and tap the Store button in the top-right corner of the display. Do that, and the virtual bookshelf flips around and takes you to the iBookstore (Figure 4.6).

Figure 4.6

Figure 4.6 Apple's virtual bookstore.

Like the iTunes and App stores, the iBookstore features the now-familiar five icons along the bottom of the screen. In this case. those icons are Featured, Charts, Browse, Search, and Purchases. They break out this way.

Featured

Tap Featured, and you see a screen that includes (as I write this chapter) four banners: two that promote specific titles, one author entry, and one that links to a collections screen (such as Big Fall Releases). Below the banners is a New & Notable section that lists new and popular titles.

In the top-left corner is a Categories button. Tap it, and up scrolls a list of book categories (analogous to the iTunes Store's Genres section). Tap a category, and you're taken to that category's screen, where books are listed under a New & Notable heading. To return to the main Featured screen, tap Categories again; then select All.

Charts

The Charts screen lets you browse the iBookstore's hot titles as well as those books featured in The New York Times' best-selling fiction and nonfiction lists. To see the big sellers at the iBookstore, tap Top Charts. Below, you'll find the top ten paid and top ten free titles. Below each list is a Ten More Books entry that, when tapped, shows you exactly that. Tap the New York Times button, and you see lists of the ten top fiction and ten top nonfiction titles along with the Ten More Books entries for each list.

A Categories button appears in this screen as well. Tap it, and you'll view the top-charting e-books for the category you choose (Arts & Entertainment, Classics, or Fiction & Literature, for example).

Browse

Tap Browse, and you're presented with an Authors screen, with Top Paid and Top Free buttons adorning the top. Below is an alphabetical list of authors. Just find an author whose work you want to explore and tap his name, and a list of available books appears.

Search

You've searched for something on your iPod or within the iTunes or App store by now, right? Same idea here. Tap in the Search field, type in a keyword, and tap the Search button. Choose what you like by tapping it in the list of search results.

Purchases

When you purchase media from the iTunes Store, you have the opportunity to download it once. Should you need to download it again—because you've lost your first copy, for example—in most cases you'll have to pay for it again. (I say in most cases because if you ask Apple very nicely, it may let you redownload your media once.) But just as with the App Store, when using the iBookstore you can redownload items you've already downloaded. This feature is very handy when you have multiple iOS devices, you've neglected to download a book to each one of them, and you're not within easy reach of your computer and iTunes.

The means for pursuing this redownload path is the Purchases screen. As long as you're logged in to the iBookstore with your Apple ID, the Purchases screen will show all the books—both purchased and free—that you've downloaded. Those books that are currently on your iPod have the word Downloaded next to them. Those that you've downloaded but haven't put on the iPod show the word Redownload. To redownload a book, tap Redownload and enter your Apple ID and password; the book downloads to your iBooks library.

Downloading and syncing books

Now that you have iBooks on your iPod and have a notion of where to find things, let's download a free book. Apple and the publisher of A.A. Milne's beloved children's tale Winnie-the-Pooh have made said B.C.T. free for the taking. To get your copy, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Search.
  2. Enter winnie with the iPod's keyboard and tap Winnie-the-Pooh in the results list.
  3. In the screen that appears, tap Winnie-the-Pooh.

    The book's page in the iBookstore opens.

  4. Tap the Free button, which changes to Get Book; then tap Get Book.
  5. Sign in or enter your Apple ID and password when you're prompted to do so.

    The screen flips around to reveal the image of a wooden bookshelf, and Winnie-the-Pooh's cover appears on the top shelf with an embedded progress bar. When the bar disappears, the book is ready to read, bearing a New banner across the top-right corner.

    When you next sync your iPod, this book and any others that you've obtained on your iPod will be copied to your iTunes Library and will appear when you select Books in iTunes' Source list.

The iBookstore isn't the only way to get books on to your iPod. You can also drag ePub- and PDF-formatted documents into iTunes. Do that, and the files appear in iTunes' Books pane, ready for you to sync to the iPod.

Reading books with iBooks

Reading a book or PDF with iBooks couldn't be much easier. Just launch the iBooks app, and by default, you see a bookshelf populated with the e-book titles you've downloaded. If you've also synced PDF files to iBooks (by adding them to iTunes), you can see them by tapping the PDFs button at the top of the screen.

If the bookshelf-as-interface thing doesn't work for you because you've synced a lot of books or PDFs to your iPod, tap and flick down the display. A Search field appears, along with Cover and List View icons. Tap the List View icon to see titles arranged in a list. When you view titles in a list, four sorting buttons appear at the bottom of the screen: Bookshelf, Titles, Authors, and Categories. Tap one, and the titles will be sorted by this criterion.

To read a book or PDF file, just tap its icon. The book or PDF zooms to the fore and displays the first page (which, in the case of e-book files, is often the cover page). To turn pages, just flick from the right side of the screen to the left or tap the right side of the display. To back up a page, flick from left to right or tap the left side of the screen. To move to a specific page, drag the page slider at the bottom of the screen. When you do, a small window appears that tells you the chapter name as well as the page number you've slid to. At the very bottom of the screen, you see a page-number indicator—74 of 305, for example. When reading an e-book, you'll also see the number of pages left in the book. With PDF files, small thumbnail images of the PDF appear at the bottom of the screen.

At the top of the screen, you see the series of buttons shown in Figure 4.7.

Figure 4.7

Figure 4.7 An e-book page with reading controls.

Here's how to use each button.

Library. Tap this button to return to the list of all the books or PDFs in your iPod's library.

Table of Contents. Tap this button, and you see a screen that displays the book's table of contents, if it has one. (Not all books include a table of contents, and no PDFs do.) Tap a chapter in the table of contents to go to the beginning of that chapter. This screen also contains a Bookmarks button. When you tap it, you see a list of any bookmarks you've added to the book or PDF you're reading. (I show you how to add bookmarks later in this section.) To return to reading the book, tap the Resume button at the top of the screen.

Brightness. The iBooks app allows you to adjust the iPod's brightness independently. This feature is terrific for those times when you don't want to disturb your bedmate with a bright light when she's trying to sleep and you're hoping to read. Just tap this button and drag the Brightness slider to make the adjustment.

Fonts. The next button, Fonts, lets you change the size of an e-book's text, the fonts it uses, and whether you see a white or sepia page. (The Fonts button doesn't appear when you tap the PDF button, as you can't change a PDF's font or font size.) The small and large A buttons allow you to choose the size of the text in nine increments—from you-will-never-need-glasses-in-your-entire-life Lilliputian to Coke-bottle-bottom-glasses gigantic.

You can also choose a font; Baskerville, Cochin, Georgia, Palatino, Times New Roman, and Verdana are your options. All but Verdana attempt to replicate the serif fonts used in most paper books; Verdana looks far more "computery," with its sans-serif appearance. Also, a Sepia On/Off toggle lets you change the color of the page from white to slightly brown.

Search. Tap the Search button, and you have the option to search not only the contents of the book or PDF, but also Google and Wikipedia. When you search for contents within a book or PDF, iBooks is quite literal. When you're reading Winnie-the-Pooh, for example, if you tap in the Search field and enter winnie-the-pooh bees, you receive no results. Enter winnie-the-pooh and some bees, however, and you get two results—pages in the introduction and in Chapter 1—because that exact phrase appears on those pages.

If you care to search farther afield, tap either the Search Google or Search Wikipedia button at the bottom of the screen. Each button launches the Safari app and takes you to the related Web site, where you see the results of your search. To return to iBooks from such a search, just double-click the Home button and tap the iBooks icon in the resulting Dock.

Bookmarks. Earlier, I promised to tell you how to bookmark pages in a book or PDF. As it turns out, the process is only as complicated as tapping the Bookmarks button at the top of the screen. Do so, and a red bookmark appears on the currently displayed page. When you page through the book in the future, you'll see this red mark on each bookmarked page. To delete a bookmark, simply tap it; it disappears. (You can't delete bookmarks from the Table of Contents page, however.)

Setting in-book options

When you tap and hold a word in an e-book, a gray bubble appears, offering four or five options: Copy, Dictionary, Highlight, Note, and Search (Figure 4.8). (These options don't appear for PDFs.)

Figure 4.8

Figure 4.8 An e-book's in-book options.

The in-book options work this way.

Copy. This option appears when you select words in an unprotected e-book, such as the free e-books available from the iBookstore and Project Gutenberg. (You can't copy text from the retail e-books sold at the iBookstore.) Copy does just what it does in any other iPod app—copies the word or selection to the iPod's clipboard. Then you can paste the text into a different app, such as Notes, or into a email message.

Dictionary. The iBooks app includes a built-in dictionary. When you stumble upon the word dirigible, for example, and need to know its meaning, just highlight the word and tap Dictionary.

Highlight. Some people love nothing better than marking up their paper books with a yellow highlighter. This command offers the electronic equivalent.

Note. If highlighting just won't do the trick, and you prefer to jot notes in the margins instead, this button is the way. Tap Note, and a yellow field appears along with the iPod's keyboard. Type your note and tap Done, and a Note icon appears in the book's margin. Tap the icon to edit or read the note.

Search. When you want to find every instance of the name Voldemort in your electronic copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, you may be surprised to discover that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is named several hundred times in the text. Results include not only the page on which the term or phrase was found, but also a snippet of text in which the term appears.

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