Apple updates iBooks with some new features

Apple has updated its iBooks applications. At its annual World Wide Developer’s Conference, Apple has announced some new features to its iBooks application that more closely mirror other e-reader applications.

Currently, the iBooks application allows users to put purchased epub titles, from Apple’s iBooks Store, and non-DRM laden titles into the iPad application through iTunes’s application sharing feature. This has worked quite well thus far.

Today Apple has added some new functionality: PDF support. This is probably the biggest single item that could have been added to bring it fully on par with the other e-reader offerings by Amazon, Sony, Barnes and Noble and others. All of these have been able to read PDF files natively for some time now. This will allow users to put their own PDF files, whether they be books, manuals, or whatever, into the iPad without resorting to opening them within e-mail.

Another new feature is the ability to highlight sections of text and create bookmarks, and notes from the highlighted sections. This feature is a must for students. The ability to select specific passages and make notes can help eliminate the need for a pen and piece of paper in order to maintain notes for their classes.

The final feature is that Apple has taken a page from Amazon’s Kindle playbook and provided syncing your last read location, bookmarks and notes automatically to and from all of your devices. This can make the notes feature even more useful for students. The ability to take notes on your iPad while studying and having them on your phone to peruse while eating lunch, or even right before a class, can be indispensable. Amazon’s Kindle has provided this for some time using its patented Whispersync technology.

Apple has made some much needed improvements to its iBooks application. This will be available on the iPhone ‘later this month’—meaning probably around the 20th or so, just before the iOS4 launch release. If you’re already using the iBooks application on your iPad and have an iPhone it makes sense to download this. The application will be free, but some purchases may require a fee.

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