20 December 2011
In October, Apple published a free update to the iPad software, called iOS5, that introduced 200 new features and bug fixes. New iPads bought after the introduction of iOS5 will have it installed by default and older iPads can be updated for free.
Working with my publisher John Wiley, who have done a fabulous job on editing and layout as usual, I've published a free update to the book to cover iOS5.
The free iOS5 for the iPad guide shows you how to update your iPad (if necessary) and introduces the new features, including iMessages, tabbed browsing, the Reminders app, iCloud for wireless backup and synchronisation, the Notification Centre, new gestures and more.
If you have a copy of my book iPad for the Older and Wiser, this guide is like a bonus chapter that would come at the end of the book. If you don't have a copy, this guide will still get you up and running with iOS5 and will also give you a taster of the style and content of iPad for the Older and Wiser.
The 47-page guide is available as a PDF that you can read on your iPad or on your computer. Download the free iOS5 for the iPad supplement.
You're welcome to share that free supplement with your friends and post it on your blog. Let me know if you'd like any images, text or anything else to help you spread the word!
16 December 2011
Mute Records has been home to some of my favourite artists, including Inspiral Carpets, Depeche Mode and Erasure.
Amazon is now offering a free sample album from Mute, which you can download and play on your computer, iPad, iPhone or other MP3 player. To buy MP3s on Amazon and add them to your iPad, you'll need to use your computer. Visit Amazon on your computer (click here to go straight to the Mute album [link removed - now offline]), click the button on the right to add the song or album to your basket, and then click the basket in the top right and click Check Out to begin the buying/downloading process. Amazon has some special software you will need to install, which will download your music and add it to your iTunes library for you. When you synchronise your iPad, iPod or iPhone with your iTunes library, the music will be copied across so you can play it on your device. See iPad for the Older and Wiser for advice on synchronising your computer with your iPad.
Amazon's music is in MP3 format, which means you should be able to play it on any digital music player, including the iPad.
Some of the music on the Mute sampler is quite experimental, but there are some poppy tracks too, and the price is a bargain! If you haven't tried downloading MP3s at Amazon before, it's a risk-free way to test the process too. These sample albums tend to be available for free for a limited period, so I recommend you don't delay, download today!
12 December 2011
Apple is once again running the 12 Days of Christmas promotion this year. From Boxing Day (26 December) through to 6 January, Amazon will make a song, video, app, TV programme or book available for free download for just 24 hours. The promotion is a great way for Apple to welcome people into the iTunes store who got an iPad, iPod or iPhone for Christmas, and also gives its loyal customers some nice freebies too.
In previous years, downloads have included the Trivial Pursuit game, pop videos by Lily Allen, Ting Tings and Katy Perry, and lots of songs and music EPs.
Check in at the store each day during the promotion period to see what's new, or download the dedicated app.
09 December 2011
Apple is promoting a free ebook of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine, which shows the capabilities of the new version of its iBooks app. It's fantastic fun for younger readers, and a showcase for what the concept of a book might become for everybody.
There have been lots of apps that modernise the concept of the pop-up book. My friend Chris Stevens created the Alice for the iPad app, which is one of my recommended iPad apps. It uses clever physics simulation for the reader's interaction with the pictures, so that the characters move as if on springs, or respond realistically to you shaking the iPad. He shared the code to do this in his book Designing for the iPad. There are lots of other people who have created apps for their books too, so that readers can interact with them in memorable and engaging ways.
The interesting development here is that the Yellow Submarine app works within the iBooks app, which further blurs the lines around what defines a book. The iBooks app is great. I was really impressed with the user experience iBooks offers with my own books (including iPad for the Older and Wiser), but so far it's been mainly about reflowing text, searching text and viewing images. It hasn't offered a huge amount of interaction. Maybe that's because I don't usually read children's books, but in any case, I haven't seen anything like the Beatles app working as iBooks content, and the fact I had to upgrade iBooks to get it to work suggests this type of interaction is new to iBooks.
The Yellow Submarine book is everything you would expect: colourful, surreal, and interactive. The animations are quite subtle: it's not a video, but small parts of the image move, such as a waving hand or a waggling tongue. You can tap pictures to make them perform other moves and can sometimes drag pictures (such as butterflies) around. The Sea of Holes is fun, with The Beatles popping up and down like a whack-a-mole game. There's an option to have the book read aloud to you, with the words lit up as each one is spoken. The app includes embedded videos you can play within the page, and short bursts of music that are played when you tap some of the characters. The only disappointment is that the music bursts are quite short. I haven't bought the Yellow Submarine album from iTunes, but I do have many of the songs from albums I've bought on CD and it might have been nice for there to be a way to integrate playback of those.
There's still some work to be done on refining the user interface. The problem is that there can be a conflict between the book's content and the iBooks controls. For example, you can often touch a character to make them sing or move. Indeed, the whole point of the book is that you touch things to see what they might do. If you touch a character that doesn't have an action assigned to it, though, iBooks is likely to interpret that as a tap on the app, and turn the page or show/hide the iBooks controls. It feels broken when you touch a character to see what they might do, and it turns the page, or when the controls keep popping in and out of view as you try to explore the book.
These new iBooks capabilities create fantastic opportunities for book authors and publishers: it's easy to think of educational content that would benefit from simple animations, embedded videos or interactive elements (such as lifting the flap to reveal an answer). It's also a nice way to add value to written content. Authors often have access to audio recordings or other research materials which would be considered bonus features on DVDs, but which don't really have an outlet in book publishing.
To get the app working, you'll need to update your iBooks app (tap the App Store icon on your iPad, then tap Updates at the bottom, then find iBooks in the list, and then tap Free). Then go into the iBooks store and download the Yellow Submarine iBook. If you put the book into the app before you upgrade the app, it won't work unless you've previously upgraded to iBooks 1.5. Here's a direct link to download the Yellow Submarine ebook. There's more information on updating apps and downloading ebooks in iPad for the Older and Wiser.
Now I have the urge to check in with Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and catch up with Henry the Horse, Lovely Rita and all the other surreal characters there. Cue the music!
01 December 2011
My book iPad for the Older and Wiser is officially a bestseller. It's currently the #1 book on Amazon.co.uk in the Silver Surfers category, and the #1 book on Amazon.co.uk in the computer hardware category. It holds the second position in the chart for all computer science books.
You could argue that all the niche charts make it easier to get a bestseller now, but there’s still a lot of strong competition out there. It’s nice to know that my book has charted above every other book about the iPad and every other book about computing for the over 50s.
The book’s sales ranking overall is #1,655 out of all the books Amazon sells, which puts it ahead of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (#2,808), Pride and Prejudice (#1,925) and The Catcher in the Rye (#1,834). That’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek: these books have sold steadily over a generation or more, and will continue to do so for decades to come. But it’s still nice to think that for a brief period my book was more popular with Amazon’s customers than some of the most famous books in English. And this is the highest ranking I remember any of my books getting on Amazon, too.
The response to the book has been fantastic. I attended a U3A meeting recently and the members there were really enthusiastic about the book and the iPad. It’s been getting some great reviews too. Many thanks to everyone for their support with it. You can find out more about iPad for the Older and Wiser here. It's available to buy in all good bookshops, including Amazon.