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eBook Reading with the Latest iBooks App

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Thanks to the iBooks app, your Apple iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, or iPod touch can be used as a feature-packed eBook reader. Using this app, you can access the Apple iBookstore to acquire specially formatted eBooks and then read them on your iOS mobile device's screen. Jason R. Rich explains some of the new features added to version 3.0.2 of the iBooks app, which was released in mid-November 2012.

For millions of people who have begun using some type of eBook reader, the concept of picking up a traditionally printed book, newspaper, or magazine has become as antiquated as listening to vinyl record albums or watching TV shows or movies on a black-and-white (non-high definition) television set.

Just as Apple has played a tremendous role in causing the extinction of audio CDs in favor of digital music players (iPods), the company has also introduced millions of people to the concept of reading eBooks on their iPhone, iPad, iPad mini and iPod touch's screens, thanks to the iBooks app and Apple's online-based iBookstore.

Reading eBooks on an iOS mobile device has become an intuitive and customizable experience that's easy on the eyes and allows the readers to enjoy their favorite books virtually anywhere. In fact, once the optional iBooks app is installed on your iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, or iPod touch, you can also store your entire eBook library on your device, so any eBook you own is accessible anytime and anywhere.

Version 3.0.2 of Apple's iBooks app adds a handful of new features to your eBook reading experience. While the iBooks app does not come preinstalled with iOS 6, it can be downloaded and installed (or updated), for free, from the App Store. Once installed on your mobile device, iBooks gives you access to Apple's iBookstore—an online bookseller that offers one of the largest collections of eBooks in the world.

As always, to access iBookstore from your iOS mobile device, you'll need access to the Internet via a 3G/4G (LTE) or Wi-Fi connection. However, once one or more eBooks have been downloaded (transferred) to your device, an Internet connection is no longer needed.

As you browse iBookstore, you'll discover more than 1.5 million eBook titles, including digital editions of current bestsellers from popular authors and publishers, out of print books, books published by small publishing houses, as well as literary works by self-published authors. Some eBooks are free of charge, but most need to be purchased using the credit or debit card that's linked to your Apple ID account (or an iTunes gift card).

The latest version of the iBooks makes it easier than ever to go online, access iBookstore, and find the eBook titles you're looking for. Once you launch the iBooks app, simply tap the Store button that's displayed near the top of the iBooks app's screen. You can then browse through newly published or featured eBooks by tapping the Books button that's displayed near the lower-left corner of the screen.

After tapping the Books button, to narrow down your search, tap the Categories button (iPhone) or All Categories button (iPad) to search for eBooks by category, such as Business & Personal Finance, Fiction & Literature, Mysteries & Thrillers, Romance, or Sci-Fi & Fantasy.

If you already know the exact title of the book you want to acquire and read, the name of an author, or the subject matter, you also have the option to enter it into the Search field within the iBooks app. Or you can easily browse through eBooks listed within the New York Times bestseller list, iBookstore's Top Charts list, or eBook listings from popular authors, for example.

All eBooks acquired from iBookstore are specially formatted to be read using the iBooks app on your iOS mobile device. Once you've downloaded one or more eBooks, tap the Library button that's displayed near the top of the iBook app's screen to begin your eBook reading experience.

Reading eBooks on Your iOS Mobile Device

The main Library screen of the iBook apps resembles a virtual bookshelf. To begin reading any eBook that's stored within your device, simply tap the book cover graphic that's displayed on this Library screen.

Each page of an eBook resembles the printed page of a traditional book. At this point, you can hold your iOS mobile device in landscape or portrait mode, and the appearance of the eBook pages will automatically adapt accordingly.

However, to further customize your eBook reading experience, after you've opened an eBook and it's being displayed on your device's screen, tap the "aA" icon that's displayed near the top-right corner of the screen. A pop-up menu will appear that offers several customizable options.

After tapping the "aA" button near the top of the pop-up menu window, you'll see a Brightness Slider. Using your finger, move the dot within the slider to the right to enhance the brightness of the screen, or move it to the left to decrease the brightness. Your iOS mobile device will automatically adapt the brightness of the screen based on the current lighting, but the Brightness Slider allows you to override this setting so you can adjust the screen's brightness to a level that's comfortable for your eyes.

Tap the "a" button to decrease the font size of the text used throughout the eBook. Each time you tap this button, all the text within the eBook will automatically shrink slightly. You can tap this button several times until the font size has been adjusted to your liking. Meanwhile, you can increase the size of the font by tapping the "A" button.

To change the font used throughout the eBook, tap the Fonts button. A list of popular fonts will be displayed. Tap your font selection to reformat the entire eBook so it displays the text using the newly selected font. At the bottom of this font list is a Themes button.

When you tap the Themes button, the pop-up menu window changes. Three colored dots are now displayed near the center of the window. The default theme is White. This features a white background with black text. Tap the Sepia theme to change the background color to a light tan, which some people find easier on their eyes. The third theme option is Night. This displays a black background with white text.

In addition to selecting one of three themes, also choose how the pages of your eBook are displayed. You now have three options. The default Book option displays a virtual book on the screen, with menu and command icons displayed near the top and bottom of the screen. When you tap the Full Screen display option, all the ancillary graphics are removed, and only the pages of the eBook are displayed. While using Full Screen mode, tap anywhere on the screen (except for the left and right margins) to make the onscreen menu and command icons reappear.

By default, iBooks displays eBooks on your device's screen in a way that replicates a traditional book. To turn the page forward, swipe your finger from right to left across the virtual page. To turn the page backward, swipe your finger from left to right across the screen. After tapping the "aA" icon and then tapping the Themes button, if you select the Scroll option, the text within your entire eBook will be displayed as a single virtual page. You'll need to swipe or drag your finger upwards to advance, or swipe/drag your finger downward to move back within the book.

The eBook Reading Experience Is More Interactive

As you read an eBook, tap and hold your finger on a word for a second or two to highlight that word and make a menu appear. This menu displays the Copy, Define, Highlight, Note, Search, and Share commands. The selected word will also be highlighted in blue. Using your finger, move the blue dots displayed to the left and right of the selected word to select additional text such as a phrase, complete sentence, or a paragraph.

Tap the Copy button to copy the selected text into your device's virtual clipboard. You can then Paste that text into another app, for example. Tap the Define button to look up the definition of the selected word. Tap the Highlight option to highlight the selected text using the highlight color of your choice or underline text using this feature.

As you're reading, it's possible to annotate an eBook and add customized notes to the pages by tapping the Note button. By default, a yellow sticky note will appear (although the color of the note can be whatever color you select using the Highlight option). Use the virtual keyboard to compose notes that will be saved as part of the eBook file. You can then view, print, or share your notes later.

Tap the Search button to locate the occurrences of a specific word or phrase within the eBook; or tap the Share button to share the highlighted and selected text with others via email, text/instant message, Twitter or Facebook.

Any time you exit from the eBook you're reading, either by tapping the Library button to return to the iBook app's Library screen or by pressing the Home button on your iOS device, the page you were last reading will automatically be saved. So, when you relaunch iBooks on the device you're using (or on any iOS mobile device that's linked to the same iCloud account), you can pick up reading from exactly where you left off.

However, you can also mark specific pages of a book using a virtual bookmark. To do this, tap the Bookmark icon that's displayed near the top-right corner of the page as you're reading. A red Bookmark graphic will then be displayed near the top-right corner of that page.

Later, to view your bookmarks and notes, tap the Table of Contents button. It's displayed next to the Library button. Then, from the Table of Contents screen, tap the Bookmarks tab to view your saved bookmarks, or the Notes tab to view your saved notes. You can also tap any chapter number or title to jump directly to the appropriate page within the eBook.

Customize the Library Screen

By default, the Library screen displays all eBook titles currently stored on your iOS mobile device. However, by tapping the Edit button, you can sort your eBooks into separate collections and then display those individual collections. From within Settings, it's also possible to display all eBook titles you own within the Library screen, even if those eBooks are not currently stored on the iOS mobile device you're using.

By customizing the Library screen, you can sort your personal eBook library by book series, subject matter, or author, for example. These customizable features make it easier to find and open eBooks once you've acquired a vast library of eBook titles.

Further Customize Your eBook Reading Experience

To further customize your eBook reading experience, launch Settings from your device's Home Screen and tap the iBooks option. From the iBooks menu screen within Settings, it's possible to adjust a handful of settings that impact your reading experience. These settings can be turned on or off by tapping the virtual switch that corresponds to each option.

For example, when you turn on the Both Margins Advance option, instead of having to swipe your finger from right to left to advance to the next page, you can simply tap your finger on the left or right margin to advance to the next page of the eBook.

By turning on the Sync Bookmarks option, all your saved bookmarks will be synced with your iCloud account. Thus, you can start reading an eBook on your iPhone, for example, but continue reading from exactly where you left off on your iPad or iPad mini (or vice versa).

The latest version of the iBooks app also provides the ability for publishers to update content within their eBooks. By turning on the Online Content option, if a publisher releases an updated edition of an eBook you've previously acquired, those updates will automatically be downloaded to your device.

Final Thoughts

The latest iBooks app also allows you to load and view PDF files that are stored on your iOS mobile device. As you'll discover, iBooks offers a pleasurable eBook reading experience. If you're using the app for the first time to read eBooks, it will take some getting used to, especially if you've been reading traditionally printed books your entire life. However, after that initial adjustment period, you'll enjoy being able to read your favorite books and having them with you wherever you take your iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, or iPod touch.

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