My book collection takes up no space. With my phone in my pocket, and wearing my AfterShokz headset, I have hundreds of books to keep me occupied wherever I go. And when I buy new books, I don't need to worry about whether I have enough room for them on the shelves.
That's quite different from the braille books I was given to read as a child, where even the shortest novel took up several massive volumes. Wading through all those volumes was daunting. Later on, I learned about the digital library of audiobooks from the RNIB in the UK. But although they had a wide selection of books, it was a limited range compared with what I have access to now.
Once I got my first iPhone, millions of books were suddenly available to me, and I could buy them at the same time and at the same price as everybody else. I started reading more than I had ever read before. Now, when I hear about a book I like the sound of, I can usually find it in an accessible format, however popular or obscure that book is. I've used two ebook apps: iBooks and Kindle. I'd recommend both, although I more often use Kindle because they have more books and are sometimes slightly cheaper.
For audiobooks, I downloaded Audible, and soon found that it was more convenient than the RNIB library I had been using previously, and had many more books. With my 24 book annual membership plan, I can buy all the books I want at a very reasonable price.
Most popular books, whether fiction or non-fiction, have ebook and audiobook editions. So how do you decide which format to buy? I find that the two formats serve slightly different purposes. In ebooks, it's easier to navigate to different parts of the book. The chapters in Audible books don't have titles. That's generally not an issue for a novel, but if you're reading, for example, a collection of short stories or essays and want to skip to a particular piece, having a list of numbered chapters is not very helpful. Since an ebook gives you access to the text of a book, rather than a recording of it, you can search for words and phrases, and if you need to quote the book in a piece of writing, you can be sure that the punctuation in your quote, and the spellings of any unusual names or terms, are exactly as they appear in the text. In addition, I find that I can read ebooks more quickly.
On the other hand, with a good narrator, audiobooks can add an extra dimension to your reading. There's nothing quite like having a real human voice telling you a story. Hearing a book performed by a good actor, or the author reading their own work, adds something you don't get from the ebook alone. If you want a book in both formats, you can often get the Audible version at a dramatically reduced price if you buy the Kindle edition first.
There are still a few areas where the iOS reading experience could be improved. Although it's increasingly rare, there are times when a book isn't available in digital form, so I hope publishers will continue to make more books available. I would like publishers to understand that, for some of us, ebooks and audiobooks are the only ways of reading.
Some Kindle academic books are produced as print replicas. If you try to open one of these, VoiceOver will say, "VoiceOver does not support this content." This is especially frustrating because those are exactly the books that readers need to study in detail. You can search in these books, and Kindle for PC can read them aloud, so the Kindle files must contain the text, and not just images of the printed pages. It shouldn't be difficult to make the text available to VoiceOver.
I would like ebook publishers to start adding image descriptions to books. If, for example, the current page contains a chart, VoiceOver could give a summary of its key points.
Finally, I want to be able to navigate through the rows and columns of tables within ebooks, rather than having the whole table read at once. If VoiceOver treated tables in books the same way it treats them in webpages, they would be much easier to read.
Despite these frustrations, I love the fact that I can download and read so many books so easily.
What apps do you use for reading? What do you like about reading on iOS? What do you dislike about it, and how do you want it to improve? Please share your thoughts in the comments. Keep reading, and keep the discussion going..