Posted by & filed under Product Updates & Tips.

It’s clear from the comments thread on this blog post that a lot of you are eager to know the status of the Safari To Go iPad app. And I would be too in your shoes! It took a bit longer than expected to make the app compatible with the latest (4.3) version of iOs, but a Release Candidate is going out to beta testers on Monday, and we expect to submit it to the App Store before the end of next week.

There were three major problems with the initial app released last year. Here’s some detail on what we’ve done to address each of them:

  • Non-native controls. While cross-platform frameworks like PhoneGap can (and do) deliver great app experiences, in our case that approach was compounding performance issues (discussed below) and presenting a reading experience that didn’t match what people expected based on other long-form reading apps like Kindle and iBooks. We scrapped the prior code, and started fresh in native Objective-C.
  • Too many features. We tried too hard the first time to replicate every bell and whistle from the Safari Books Online desktop Web interface into the iPad app. This time around we took everything off the table and added things back in only if we believed they were really essential to the expectations and experience for an iPad user. We’ll be adding additional features (like advanced search and text highlighting) in over time of course, but this app is meant to complement the Safari Books Online service you’re familiar with, not duplicate it in app form.
  • Performance issues. Most of our system API calls were designed when “the Web” meant a place you go in your browser at your PC. Combined with the sheer file size involved with some of the books and videos in Safari (especially those supplied by the publisher only in PDF form) and exacerbated by the non-native coding approach, our first app was just too slow. The new app is much snappier, but re-coding couldn’t address all of those issues — while we are working to make larger-scale system changes, in the meantime no app is going to perform well trying to pull down 200+ MB files on a 3G connection, so like other streaming-service apps like Netflix, this one’s best used over Wi-fi. We’ve trying some different options from a UI and coding perspective for a lighter-weight interface for slower connections, but I didn’t want that to hold back releasing an initial version.

Here’s some screenshots to give you a peek at what to expect from the Safari To Go app. The main page gives you quick access to what’s new, what’s popular, and what you’ve recently viewed, along with a Search box:

Home

Most of the books in Safari are presented in reflowable (and resizable) HTML. In the case of titles provided by the publisher in PDF-only, you’ll see images of those pages:

Reader

Searching from within a book delivers results from just that title:

Search in book

Search results from the main screen include both books and videos:

Search

We’ll have more screenshots and details posted soon. It’s been a pleasure working with Ken Yarmosh and his team on this app, and I look forward to hearing your feedback as we make Safari To Go the best it can be.

 

About the Author

Andrew Savikas, Chief Executive Officer

Andrew Savikas is the Chief Executive Officer at Safari Books Online. Prior to his appointment as CEO, he held the positions of VP of Digital Initiatives at O’Reilly Media Program Chair for O’Reilly’s Tools of Change for Publishing conference , and interim Chief Executive Officer of Safari Books Online. Andrew blogs at blog.safaribooksonline.com and toc.oreilly.com, and is also a regular contributor to the O’Reilly Radar blog and to “Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto,” a collection of essays on the future of publishing, http://book.pressbooks.com. Andrew previously led the digital publishing and ebook program and strategy for O’Reilly Media, including both print and digital production of all O’Reilly books. He sits on the board for the Book Industry Study Group and is on advisory boards for Bookshare and the University of Michigan Press. He frequently speaks at technology and publishing conferences all over the world and is also the author of “Word Hacks: Tips & Tools for Taming your Text“.

Andrew holds a B.S. in Media Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an MBA from Northeastern University in Boston.

Tags: iPad, mobile,

139 Responses to “Safari To Go iPad App Update”

  1. Jeff Kuckelman

    Hello. This is good news. I have been patiently waiting for an update Is it possible to be a beta tester of this app?

    Thank you

    • Andrew Savikas

      Thanks for your interest, unfortunately there’s a hard limit to the number of devices that can be included in a beta (ad-hoc) app distribution, and we’ve already hit that limit (it’s only 100 devices). I’ll add you to the waiting list if a spot opens up.

  2. Tcha-Tcho

    owyeaaahhh now we have simplicity! Great… if the app work as expected you gonna have more one client back!

  3. PatrickI

    Great report. This is the very first time in months that you’ve finally confirmed that you were updating to native controls. A few weeks ago when you said that you were still experiencing performance issues, without additional explanation it seemed it was due to the continued use of non-native controls. But now that you simply explain the issues with large PDF files, it gives subscribers a reasonable expectation on the performance of the app over 3G…and it’s not unreasonable – most people know to download large content files (movies, music, apps) when they have a better connection. If they don’t know, then they learn quickly.
    Surprisingly (up until now) here are a couple quotes from your developer Ken Yarmosh’s website describing his App Savvy book:

    This practical reference shows you how to engage customers early and often, so you can get their input for creating an app they’ll be passionate about.

    and

    Begin talking with customers and marketing your app before it’s built

  4. Rodrigo

    Wow!!! This is what all of us were expecting!!

    The only thing I want you to confirm is that the “offline bookbag” feature is available on this first release.

    Because, to be very honest, this is what everybody really wants.

    But I’m want this release on my hands ASAP!

    Thanks, guys!

    • Andrew Savikas

      There is an offline bookbag feature. That was one of the buggiest features in the original app, so we’ve scaled it back to a single book at a time initially while we see how it performs at scale this time around (especially for the really large titles).

      • Cody

        Are you saying we will only be allowed one stored book at a time? Or just download one at a time? I hope it is the latter. I am usually reading a few books simultaneously and would like to have some reference ones available as well. If you are having infrastructure problems (which is what it sounds like), I would offer two suggestions:
        1. Offer some sort of download cap per time period (e.g. one book a week).
        2. Get onto Amazon EC2 or some other grid service. Scaling problems only get worse.

        • Andrew Savikas

          Initially it will be one book at a time. That will change, but it’s what’s going out right now. There’s some discussion about affirmatively selected full books vs. implicitly pulling down stuff around what you’re reading (i.e., 20% ahead/behind the last 10 things you looked at), and I want to see some real usage data before having that conversation.

      • Cody

        I have a WiFi iPad and want offline books available so I can read them when I am on the train, in the park, etc. where there is no network available at all. Caching and a single-book download will not be much utility to me. I actually bought the WiFi iPad over a 3G after asking you guys explicitly last year whether offline reading would be possible with the app. In my wildest dreams I never imagined nearly a year later… oh, never mind.

        • Andrew Savikas

          I would be frustrated too if I were you! The single book limit is temporary, and I hope you’ll find this app a big improvement over the previous one.

      • Daryl

        Will increasing the number of books available for offline reading require an app update (and lengthy Apple review cycle) or is this something that can be changed via server-side configuration?

        • Andrew Savikas

          It will require an update, but from experience (and reiterated by other app developers) updates generally process much more quickly than initial submissions (unless it’s a really major update).

  5. Ken Duesling

    Really looking forward to this app. Been waiting for it and wondering if I had missed the announcement. Thanks for the update. Be happy to help with testing it if you’re looking for any more users to run it through the paces.

  6. Andy Dent

    With regards to the PDFs supplied by publishers, do licensing restrictions prevent you from carving them up into smaller chapter-sized chunks for “streaming” delivery?

    Quite frankly, the existing Safari web service is slow enough that my main interest is being able to use it offline. I can’t leaf through a book at speed with the offline version even with its HTML pages at anything near the same speed as a local PDF on a desktop or iPad. It may be a function of being in Perth, Western Australia and a long latency to a central server but it’s got distinctly worse in the last six years.

  7. Thomson Tan

    It’s very exciting to see this update. I have a simple question about this. Does the new App support to change background color and style when reading books? White background is very boring for me, and I hope I could change the color to a more soft one.

    • Andrew Savikas

      Initially, you’ll be able to change the font size, brightness, and switch to white text on a black background. Changing the background to other colors is an interesting suggestion, and we’re happy to consider adding that.

  8. Peter Tran

    I’m sure you have an army of interested readers with a few that are pretty savvy on developing applications for the iOS. A few suggestions: see if you leverage your readers and get their help or post any technical challenges you’re running into. Thanks for the update and I’m really looking forward to using a native app for Safari. Using the browser just doesn’t cut it on the iPad.

  9. Ajay

    Thanks for the update. Can I be added to the beta testers?
    Looking forward to the offline book bag feature.

  10. PatrickI

    Although the issues with the PDF-form books are presenting app-performance challenges, I truly appreciate it as one of the defining features of safaribooksonline of tremendous value. I prefer and enjoy technical books that rely heavily on formatting and layout (e.g. Visual Quickstart series, Deitel series, Head First series), and having owned and used the original Sony reader, Kindle 2, and even Kindle DX, these books do not translate well (or well enough to my satisfaction) to reflowable text such as ePub or html format. For the time being I use my tokens to download the PDFs, but to be able to do this with this upcoming iPad app (with a good wireless connection, of course), with the ability to store at least one (for now) in the offline bookbag is exactly why I (and I assume many others) excitedly check for progress on this app almost daily!

  11. Alex Tatiyants

    Great news, really looking forward to the updated version! One question: this is probably obvious, but one of the main pain points of offline storage in the old app was the inability to remember bookmarks. This was addressed, right?

    • Andrew Savikas

      Currently bookmarks work as expected while you’re online. I pulled offline syncing of bookmarks out of scope for the first release, but we’ll add that later.

      • John

        Thanks for that update, Andrew.

        Even though there is no offline sync of bookmarks, will we be able to have bookmarks at all offline? What about searches when offline?

        Thanks,
        John

  12. Roy Wagner

    Great to see that the revised app is ” coming soon”. I still use my old, original version with it’s bugs. Safari Books Online is definitely on the leading edge for book accessibility.

  13. Ryan Thompson

    Great to hear, thanks for the update. Looking forward to seeing this in the market.

  14. boo yip

    Targeting a smaller range of features and doing them well sounds like a sensible way to approach this development. Limiting the offline bookbag to a single volume is a reasonable compromise to get the app out the door. The interface looks great. Colour me excited.

  15. Olaf

    I wonder if users that subscribe to the full Safari library through ACM will again be excluded from using the App.

    • Andrew Savikas

      I don’t know offhand, but will find out for you.

    • Andrew Savikas

      You should be able to access the app once it’s available, that limitation was resolved in this new app

      • Olaf

        Thanks a lot Andrew, for looking into this, that sounds great!

      • Don

        What about those of us who just muddle along with the partial library that we get with our ACM subscription? Any access there? #include

  16. Gordon McGregor

    Good to hear that this is coming. Have been using the buggy old version for a while now. Would be happy to beta test and provide feedback.

  17. DaveP

    I have to agree with the comments about offline access being one of the major features that made the iPad app so useful. I often have several reference books That remain in my offline book bag and need access to them at times when I don’t have Internet access (when flying, for example). If this feature is limited to only having a single book available offline, the feature, and consequently the app, is rendered almost useless.

    • boo yip

      I agree that one book offline is not great, but Andrew suggests this is a technical limitation rather than a company policy, so we can hope additional slots will be made available in future. Ultimately, I’d be surprised if the bookbag ever went above 3 concurrent titles, as they do want to sell books as well as subscriptions. I will be using the app on-net for 95% of the time, so a marked improvement over the HTML version on ipad is what I’m looking for at launch.

      • DaveP

        Looking at it from an app development perspective, I can see the limiting factors here. I have to be consider:

        A. Memory footprint of the app (can an entire book be memory resident)
        B. CPU resources (DRM, Page rendering, etc.)
        C. Local storage (How many books can I store)
        D. Network access (How much bandwidth can my app reasonably use)

        Of the 4, only two are specific to offline books. The storage requirement for books could be a bit high if you are talking about 10 * 200mb books, however I don’t really see this as a technical limitation. It’s more of a user choice. Do I store more books or keep the entire Judas Priest discography on my iPad.

        That only leaves bandwidth. The amount of data transferred to pull down a single book can be sizeable and with monthly caps in place can eat up your entire allowance just to fill up a 10 slot bookbag. No to mention to poor folks that might try to do this on an edge connection. That said, there are a few ways to fix the glitch.

        1. Limit the size of the offline bookbag
        – This prevents having someone add 10 books at a time and prevents swamping a 3G/Edge connection, but if the 30 books/mo limit is still in place it won’t address people burning through monthly bandwidth allowances.
        2. Limit offline bookbag additions to wifi only
        – This would take some of the strain off of the folks who are trying to do this over 3G/Edge, but I can imagine the conflict it would cause
        3. Hybrid solution – Intelligent download management
        – Implement a system that prevents concurrent downloads, makes people aware of the size of each download, and incorporates progress indicators.
        – This is certainly a more complicated solution from a programming perspective, however it maintains functional parity (from an offline books perspective) with the previous release.

        I completely understand the position these guys are in. They’ve already put up the capital to have a this app written several times over. The use of a cross-platform framework doesn’t offer the performance needed and now they are back to the drawing board in obj-c and have to write many of these features form scratch. Add to that the fact that they took a bit of a black eye on the first round and the delayed release is frustrating at best. I understand getting something out with minimal features, but would like to see some commitment to what features are in the works for the first update. I’m of the opinion that a larger offline bookbag should be relatively high on that priority list.

        Just my $.02

        • Andrew Savikas

          Great analysis. Bandwidth is definitely the biggest issue, both in terms of file size and current size of API call results (like lists of popular books, including metadata, covers, etc). We’re working on a lighter weight 3G interface, but I also want to see real data about how many people are using this on wifi vs. 3G. The offline space will grow for sure, though I want to see more live usage data to understand whether it’s more about full books or large chunks across many different titles. Looking forward to learning!

    • Andrew Savikas

      There’s a hard limit to the number of devices you can distribute an ad-hoc build to, but we’ll definitely do our best to include you.

  18. DaveP

    Andrew, you make a good point that I hadn’t really considered. Much of the content that Safari provides is already, or can easily be broken down by chapters, allowing individual titles to be further subdivided into more manageable sized pieces. While it would introduce additional complexity to offer both chapter-based and entire title downloads, there is a lot of flexibility there. Perhaps all downloads are handled as chapters and the app manages binding them together into titles behind the scenes? Just a thought.

    In any case, I’m glad the idea of having an app for iPad is still being worked on. In my case, I often find myself using the iPad to bring up a title on Safari for reference while I’m working on something on the computer. I find that I rarely use the website from my computer anymore. We all hope to soon see what you’ve been working on all these months. The latest major redesign may not address all the wishlist items on day one, but it sounds like a solid foundation. Many thanks to you and the entire developer team for your continued efforts. I’d love to try out the beta, but also understand the device limits in the provisioning portal. Too bad, I’d love to have this with me for a trip next week. Until I finally upgraded to 4.3 this week, the app has helped me kill a lot of hours in airports.

  19. NWang

    Great application, but only for US at this moment.

    When will it be available to the UK app store?

    • Andrew Savikas

      It’s not available in the App Store anywhere just yet. When it is, it will be available worldwide.

  20. Thomson Tan

    Does this mean I can get this new App at this weekend even if I am not a beta tester?

    • Andrew Savikas

      We expect to submit it to Apple very soon, but it won’t be available until it’s approved by Apple, which can take days or sometimes a week or longer.

  21. Adrian Nier

    Is this going to be an international release or US-iTunes Store only?

  22. Daniel Jabbour

    Will we be able to keep the old app AND the new one on our iPad at the same time? If not, will the old one continue working?

    Like others have pointed out, the offline bookbag is a huge feature for me. I do NOT want to give up the ability to have 10 books cached on my device (something I use EVERY day on the train). Sure it’s buggy, and I usually have to force the device into airplane mode (since otherwise it won’t use the cache by default), but I read every day on the train, and without this feature, the app would basically be useless to me.

    So will the old API keep working for the old app? I’ll hold onto it so long as I can still have 10 cached offline books, bugs and all (and yes, it crashes at least once a day).

    • Andrew Savikas

      The old app will continue working. If you’d like to keep using the old one, just don’t update the app.

      • Colin

        Excellent – I await with baited breath :). If only you guys would sign up the pragprog.com books, my life would be sort-of complete!

        • Andrew Savikas

          Please let them know you’d love to see them available in Safari!

  23. Kevin

    I’d really like to see this app for the iPhone, too, not just for the iPad. I carry my iPhone everywhere, but wouldn’t an iPad – heck I don’t even own an iPad yet! What does the magic 8 ball predict on the iPhone app front? Thanks!

    • Andrew Savikas

      We intend to start work very soon on an iPhone version. Much of the code can be re-used of course, so it’s more of a UI challenge to scale things down a bit, but our designers are working on it. We’d like a few weeks of usage data on the iPad app to feel more confident, but I want to have an iPhone app as much as you do!

  24. Matt

    Andrew, did you actually submit the App for approval yet? I’m very excited to get my hands on it!

      • Cody

        Yay! Hopefully Steve’o will give it the thumb’s-up quickly! Thanks Andrew!

      • Col

        The wait is killing me :) Has anyone seen it in the wild yet? Do you know if it will be released by apple into the UK at the same time as the US?

        • Andrew Savikas

          When it’s approved and goes live, it will be available worldwide. Apple’s review process can take 1-3 weeks (sometimes longer).

    • Andrew Savikas

      That depends on how long it takes for Apple to review/approve. Can vary from 1-3 weeks (sometimes longer).

  25. Brian

    I’ve got to say that offline reading is the main feature for me all the way back to Bookbag. 1 book at a time isn’t really going to cut the mustard, even short term. Given the 3G contracts out (basic level of 1GB pcm) there I really think it’s clear that you are going to see much more WiFi usage than 3G and most of the 3G usage is going to be search, read a chapter or two and then leave. It doesn’t take analysis to work that out.

    After all this time I’m more than a little disappointed. I really don’t care if my iPad app shows me the latest books, etc. I’m not looking to use the iPad on the site in the same way I do my PC, I have a PC for that.

  26. Gary George

    I am looking forward to the app… the iPad would seem like the perfect platform for quick and easy research.

  27. Jayson

    I really love the amount of quality content available through Safari and was disappointed in the the bugs of the first version. It’s very nice to see that these issues are being addressed. I’m excited for the next version of your app even with it’s initially reduced feature set. Keep up the great work!

  28. Marcos Scriven

    Was thrilled to hear an update was imminent, then totally deflated when I read you could only keep one book! That’s a very silly limitation – if you download just on wifi, then I don’t see the problem?

    I really like using the online version – but don’t see any point in a native app that doesn’t give you the one benefit of a native app…

    • Andrew Savikas

      I totally understand your frustration. The bookbag feature was one of the buggiest features in the original app, and because we know it’s such an important feature, we want to make sure it’s performing well “in the wild” before upping the size. I use Safari too, and absolutely want there to be a useful amount of offline access — we’ll get there!

  29. Gerd Feiner

    hello, do you have any idea when the safari to go app will be available in the german store? i have been a long time subscriber to the full package and would love to read books on the native ipad app.

    • Andrew Savikas

      It’s pending approval by Apple. Once it’s approved, we’ll make it available worldwide.

  30. Richard Goodwin

    What I don’t understand is that the core cause of the initial failure of this app was to NOT solicit feedback from your full user base before you released (clearly the profile of the beta testers did not match at all the larger pool). Why you did not do that is a mystery to me. I hope it is radically better this time.

    • Andrew Savikas

      We actually did gather quite a bit of input this time around, including reviewing a lot of the feedback that did come in the first time around during usability testing, but unfortunately wasn’t incorporated into the initial app. Though there’s a lot we still want to do, I truly believe this version is a major improvement.

  31. Oliver

    This is good to here. I wonder if it will make it through the Apple review process. Is the whole subscription model going to end up being a problem? I was actually kind of worried that after Apple put in the subscription changes, this app would be killed permanently, relegated to a mediocre web application.

    • DaveP

      There’s a lot of FUD out there about the Apple “Subscription Tax” The idea behind it wasn’t that all apps with back-end service subscriptions get pegged, but instead that developers could allow in-app subscriptions that are processed using Apple’s transaction servers. The latter is subject to the subscription overhead charged by Apple.

  32. Ryan Thompson

    Being that the app hasn’t been approved yet, and the issues Apple has with competing services, and the issues they have with subscriptions that they do not take a 30% cut from, do you think you will post this app to cydia if all avenues with Apple prove futile?

  33. Eric Wright

    Any reason for the delays? Honestly, Safari Books Online is probably the #1 reason I bought an iPad and the web app is not quite cutting it for me. I’ll be majorly peeved if Apple rejects this app.

    • Tim Schafer

      I’m holding out for this app before buying an iPad. It is THE killer app for me.

    • matt

      I’m in the same boat. What the heck is going on? Any updates people?

    • Danilo Souza

      I bought an iPad hoping to use it with safari books. Hope it gets approved soon. Or like was posted before, maybe it could be submitted to cydia.

  34. Pavel Krupets

    Same here. I bought iPad to read books. Do you have any plans to support other platforms?

  35. Rod Montrose

    I purchased Safari mainly for what I thought was the about to be released iPad version. I also don’t like the web browser interface they have. I would like to see something official from Safari if this is a day or months of delay on this.

    • Andrew Savikas

      We expect the app to be available this week, and will post full updates on this blog once we know for sure.

      • Bryce

        Yaaay!!!! Just echoing the excitement. As many others here have said, this is *the* killer app for the iPad for me.

  36. Trixy Fox

    I am so excited for the app to be released. I currently use my iPad to read the web version of SafariOnlineBooks, and I use it every day. This app is a HUGE deal to me. I was really looking forward to a Monday release but I guess I will have to wait a couple more days. Thanks guys for all of your hard work. I hope the release is a big success.

  37. Geoff

    Great to hear you guys listened to your customers feedback. I can’t wait to see the new app.
    And thanks for keeping everyone informed.

  38. Zach

    I’m starting to lose faith that this is going to be released.

  39. Daryl

    Are there any plans to offer a more aesthetically pleasing font for book content? This is one of the huge differentiating factors between other book reading apps (i.e. Kindle and iBooks) over web content.

    • Andrew Savikas

      Yes, we’ll be adding font selection in a future release.

  40. Ryan

    Do you suppose the app will be available tomorrow sometime?

  41. Ian King

    Beginning to loose faith that this will ever appear……..

    • Andrew Savikas

      Can you hold out one more day? Look for more details and some good news Wednesday morning.

  42. Eldo

    I tried the new app. It gives an error on login:

    Login Issue
    Missing required parameter
    “password”.

    • Eldo

      It is a bug if you have a special character(like #) in your password, the login fails with the error mentioned.

      • Safari Books Online

        It is a bug and we are working on fixing it.

        Unfortunately, at this time, subscribers cannot have special characters in their passwords (ie., %, &, $ #, etc.). The workaround: You need to change your password to one that does not include one of those characters. To do that, you must login to the full site and click on the “My Account” link at the top right side of the page. We plan to address this issue in a future release of the app.

  43. David Jellison

    I am trying to find Help on the mechanism in the new App.

    Specifically I want to understand which gestures work and how they work. I was just reading a book and swiping to the left – or touching the lower right margin – to page forward. But at one point, it kept going backwards. I had to use the Table of Contents to get past that point. Perhaps something I am missing about how the controls work.

    When I went to Help from the Account screen, it took me to a FAQ page in the web browser, which did not include the help I was looking for.

    Thanks, DaveJ

  44. Roy Wagner

    The revised app is outstanding! I can finally get back to reading my “tech books”.

    However, the app does have a few “bugs”. How can I report them?

    1. For “MyBookmarks”, the “Edit” button ONLY displays a “Delete” button (which does delete from the top), but the “Edit” should be displaying the toggle circles to select what bookmarks to delete.

    2. The search can sometimes run on “forever” when it cannot find anything; e.g. and ironically, it cannot fine “app savvy”.

    And a few other minor issues. Still it is a great app!

    • Kim

      It seems that you don’t allow negative comments to be published. I’m surprised that my constructive criticism was not published. This is unethical, you are a big company, and I’m very disappointed.

      • Andrew Savikas

        Hi Kim,

        I’ve personally been monitoring the comments and haven’t seen anything from you in the pending queue. Please re-post your comment, or you’re welcome to contact me directly (Andrew at safaribooksonline.com) and I’ll make sure your feedback gets to the right place.

      • Kim

        Hello.

        This forum is old now, so I’ve posted my review on itunes. Frankly, I rarely write negative reviews (my philosophy is to not speak at all if I don’t have anything good to say), but after being silent through my last two disappointments, I felt that I should speak up.

        You initially publicized the iPad app’s availability for last summer (in early 2010) and many people signed up for the service based on that. This is not fair since people like me, who prefer not to read on a wide-form computer screen signed up.

        This promise hasn’t materialized yet, as the app that is now released seems to again be a beta version (I’ve gone into more details on the app store review).

        I’m sure you were under pressure this time around, but it would have been better if you didn’t hype up the release date and just released one that’s at least usable (swipe doesn’t work?). Lower the expectations.

        People wouldn’t be so upset if you just took a week or two more to make sure the app works prior to submitting it to the app store.

  45. Michael Goodson

    My university provides access to Safari online. As such, I do not have a login. Is it possible for me to use this app? It would be really great if it were possible.
    Thanks,
    Michael

  46. Vinny

    Hello,

    Great improvement over the original app! Really, it’s much better.

    I’d like to request a small feature fix. When I resume reading, it gives me a screen and starts me off at the start of the chapter. This isn’t helpful when I’m switching between apps. If you can make it simply resume what I was viewing before the switch, it would make the app much more user friendly and usable.

    Thanks in advance,
    Vinny

  47. Andy Dent

    Agree with Vinny. It’s sad that a company which has so many books on proper iOS development have neglected the basics of usability – it’s fundamental to be able to return to the same context when you relaunch an app. Safari to Go is uniquely bad compared to every other technical reader app.

    • Andrew Savikas

      Yup, that’s an annoying bug in the app, and we (including the development lead, an author of one of those great iOs books in Safari!) are currently working on a fix. Thanks for the feedback.

  48. Peter Tran

    Andy D.,

    That’s not a very constructive criticism. I don’t see how your comment help make the application better. I’d like to give the SBO developer(s) kudos for working hard for getting us a usable application.

    -Peter

  49. Matt

    I agree with Peter. Great job to the development team. Most of us realize that there are some bugs that need to be worked out, but this is still a very useful app. Much appreciated.

  50. Andy Dent

    Sorry if my brief criticism was seen as just being critical and not constructive. Here’s some more details specific things that need fixing before it even equals the usability of the current web UI (on the same iPad).

    1) The “offline” book is not using its offline copy when the app has a network connection. Going into the offline book which is supposedly fully cached (and works with no network connection) results in waiting for network traffic to load the book and jump around within it.

    2) The entire UI grinds to a halt whilst network operations are happening. That includes bringing up the collection of Favourites when you have to login.

    Maybe the usability problems are a lot more visible from over here in Western Australia than they are sitting in an office a lot closer to the Safari servers. I suggest you require that your developers use a slow network when they are testing if nobody has seen these problems yet. Maybe it’s a ping time issue (I’m on 1.5MBS broadband).

    If you want an example of how to mix sophisticated network updates with a responsive UI, please take a look at the Evernote iPad client.

    • Andrew Savikas

      Hi Andy,

      Our Dev team does test on a variety of devices and network speeds (which is a big reason we’re still not ready to push out 3G). The content itself is cached locally in the bookbag even when online; the network activity is usage data we need to allocate royalties to the publishers. For offline use, the usage data is stored while offline, then transmitted when connected. We didn’t encounter performance issues like you’ve described in our testing, but we’ll look into it to re-evaluate our approach. Making sure we’re accurately tracking usage when online keeps our publishers happy and comfortable with the bookbag concept — which in turn makes sure we can try to keep our customers who like the bookbag feature happy.

      Thanks for the feedback, it’s appreciated and we’re listening!

  51. Andy Dent

    I mainly want to apologise for the tone of some of my comments on this blog and explain a little, especially if people are reading who are used to me being a much more pleasant person online! I have been a bit embarrassed reading through the thread.

    My mother is in the late stages of dying from leukemia and it’s a cause of stress, along with some job and other personal stresses, that has made me into a much less nicer person than normal.

    I will try to keep things a bit more civil :-)

    As an interesting corollary, I think there’s something about both Safari and the iPad that makes people react more emotionally. Safari is an incredibly important service for me. Living in Western Australia, books are very expensive so mostly bought from overseas and still quite expensive to ship, with the ecological cost of long-distance transport weighing on my conscience. The use of Safari and eBooks is very important to me as a mitigation. Paying for Safari is my informal Carbon Tax.

    The iPad is also *mine* in a way unlike any laptop I’ve read books on before. Apple set an incredibly high example of responsiveness which makes it even more jarring when the experience isn’t delivered. If things aren’t going well in my iPad world I’m more petulant in response than on any Mac or Windows machine.

    There *have* been huge improvements in Safari to Go between 2.0.0 and 2.0.5 and I have a lot of confidence you will continue to improve. We’re about as far from your servers as it’s possible to get on the planet, unless you have satellite internet users, so I’ll continue to be a great tester of network performance.

  52. Øyvind Johnsen

    Hi.

    I have been using safaribooks for quite some time trough work. Really love it, and missed it alot when I quit a couple of months ago. Today I saw the ipad app and immediately signed up for a subscription after reading about the offline bookbag feature. I have an iPad 3G, but travels alot and live in a country where 3G is not the most reliable thing. Also on flights there is no 3G…

    I was really excited up until I got the message that my current book in the offline bookbag would be exchanged when I tried adding a second book. After beeing disappointed for a while I looked in appstore and sure enough… “Fixed issue with adding Bookshelf books to Offline Bookbag” it says. Books… not book. Maybe its a good idea to mention this in the description of the app? If I had known about this limitation I would not have waited to sign up… It really makes it kind of pointless.

    When will you fix this extremely annoying limitation?

    • Anonymous

      Since noone obviously did not have time to answer.. Ill do it myself. With a reply / rephrase of my first comment.. This I wrote about a week ago on a flight while being annoyed. Then I decided not to post it… Until now, when I discovered that your app actually needs wifi to work. Yes I have 3g and yes I was stupid enough to think safaribooks app would work over 3g… No go!

      So here we go.. This is the comment I wrote on the flight: (yes I did order the book from amazon as soon as I was home).

      Safari books blog rephrase

      I would like to rephrase some of my original comment on the ipad app. After getting over the initial disappointment I decided to give it a chance and choose a book for todays flight to read from the offline bag. So far so good… But there it stopped. I switch between apps when I read quite often. The first and biggest annoyance is that the app does not start up where I left it… Well actually it sort of does, but then jumps to a white screen for between 8 and 23 sec (yes I have been timing it…) and then it displays the start of the section I was reading… Not where I left off? This makes me wonder.. Did you actually test this thing before you submitted it to apple store? I cant imagine that this kind of behaviour would slip trough actual real world testing.

      I think I want my $42 back and my account disabled until those “issues” are fixed and I can keep a usable amount of books in my offline bag… Like 5-10 or so. Like I said, I bought the subscription based on the ipad app you bragged about. It did not mention those bugs anywhere in the description of the app in the appstore. And yes, I will call the white-screen-of-waiting and the jump-to-section-start features bugs. They bug me. They should also have bugged you enough to atleast mention them in the appstore.

      I am really looking forward to when you fix all those issues but until then this is just a waste of time and money. 

      (end of original post)

      …after writing the above in notes on my ipad ready for pasting to your blog I tried to resume reading my offline book. But now your app only shows a black page when I press start reading. Trying again… Long flight ahead. And more black. Wonderful. F***!

      An ipad reboot later and the app is again “working”.. After displaying some more white I am at the start of the section I was previously reading. Wow. That is like 3 pages in one hour. 5 minutes of effective reading, 40 minutes fighting the app, looking at white or black screens and 15 minutes writing this post. Oh the joy!

      (here I actually managed to read 15 pages…)

      After being able to read 15 pages the app decided I had learned enough for now and went white on me when I tried to turn to the next page. Ok, I thought… I guess I just have to be patient… And waited. Nothing happened. Got impatient after a minute or so looking at white screen and tried to turn page again only to be returned to the start of section. Argh! 

      First thing I will do when getting back online (after posting this of course) will be to buy the book I tried to read from amazon.com to go in my ibooks or kindle app. Beautiful apps. You should show them to the people developing your app. And maybe also ditch those 100 original beta testers and require that the next batch of beta testers have atleast 5 minutes experience with both ibooks and kindle. Maybe even include some of your customers as beta testers. 

      Phew.. That was a long post.. But as you probably can imagine it was a very boring flight indeed :) And still 30 minutes until we land. Please look at this (mostly) as constructive critisism… As I said, I am looking very much forward to when this app works smooth and I can jump between a book (maybe even several books) and other apps the same way as with most other apps on my ipad. 

      Øyvind Johnsen

  53. HY

    Hello, has there been any progress with getting those of us who access safari online via our university portals ability to log to the iPad app? I just got an iPad and I’m itching to use it, as our the four other members of my mobile strategy group!

    Thanks!

      • Anonymous

        Based on their URL it’s Ohio State. I’m staff at George Mason University and we similarly have licensed access from within the campus network.

        I’ll reiterate my previous request – I’d love to see access for those of us who have accounts via our professional memberships with the ACM. Both those and the internal campus stuff seems to be handled via Proquest, if that helps at all.

      • phearlez

        They’re Ohio State based on their url. I’m at George Mason University and we also have access to Safari from within the university network.

        I’ll reiterate my earlier request for some support for those of us who have subscriptions via professional memberships. I have access via my ACM membership; the login seems to be via an org called ProQuest (who also enabled the on-campus access, though that doesn’t require a login) and it’s a bummer not to have the more robust support the app provides.

      • Safari Books Online

        Thank you for your posts.

        Safari Books Online’s iPad app and mobile website have access to features that are not accessible by anonymous users (those who access Safari Books Online via the university library’s account and who do not have a login and password). There is functionality built into the app that requires an individual account. For instance, using the iPad app, our subscribers can cache a book of your choosing for offline reading. Users can also take advantage of our folders to save favorite titles, videos and so on.

        We understand that many student, faculty and staff using these services want to use the iPad app and the mobile user interface. In response to these kinds of requests, we have developed an enhanced service for university libraries that allows students, faculty and staff to create an account with a login and password, if they choose. With a login and password, the iPad app and mobile user interface are accessible.

        If this is of interest, please let your librarian know so they can talk with their ProQuest representative about enabling this service.

    • Steve

      I also go to Ohio State and use Safari Books through Proquest. Waiting years to get this working is really frustrating. What is so hard supporting a platform (Proquest) that you guys offer to schools?

      • Andy Dent

        I think the real problem is that they went with a non-native app. It’s just a hybrid app providing a native launch platform for a web app. That imposes some significant technical limitations on the app and until they replace it with a full native app I don’t think they are going to be fixed. The missing ability to cache credentials and exert fine control over network communications is one of the weaknesses of a hybrid app.

      • Bill Levien

        @Andy Dent – Thanks for the feedback.

        Our iPad app is a native iOS application developed specifically for the iPad, however I can definitely understand that there are certain pages that may feel like a website.

        Since a lot of the content is delivered in HTML and is rendered off the screen before it is displayed on the page, you will sometimes see the “loading” indicators while the content is being retrieved and before content is drawn. We also must download quite a bit of data to display things like the Book Overview, Table of Contents, and the actual page contents before rendering it on the pages and we also do a fair amount of caching to minimize the transfer of information and time to load.

        We are working to make these experiences as smooth as possible, and if you haven’t seen the latest version 2.08 there have been significant improvements in all those areas, especially paging, with even more to come soon.

        If you have any specific sections that feel like they could use enhancement please feel free to let us know where we can improve!

  54. HY

    Yup that’s the only way we can access safari online now is through proquest. That only gives us access to the desktop version however, the mobile version doesn’t accept the session credentials.

  55. christian

    Hey I discovered this website to be really interesting! Thanks for such a great site. Bookmarked!

  56. Ingo

    At this time is seems impossible to access Safari using an Android Tablet through Proquest.

    • Ingo

      I will contact my library and suggest that they discontinue the Proquest / Safari service. The service as it is offerec at present is useless to me – I require access using an Android Tablet.