uBooks Reader Update

10 June 2010

Here it is: the long-expected update for the popular free uBooks iPhone reader has been released. The reasons for such a long expectation made up in a whole story…

Functionality

But let’s hold on with the story and let’s check out the screen-shots and its functionality:

uBooks reader in night mode uBooks reader in day mode

I will emphasize some of the application features:

  • soft scrolling
  • page-flipping animation
  • application language
  • configurable tap zones
  • book search function
  • manual screen turn
  • bookshelf
  • bookshelf search function
  • folders
  • percent-based book navigation

uBooks reader text options uBooks reader settings

The thing you can’t see from the screens is that downloads are available using:

  • http server
  • ftp server
  • web browser
  • public storage

An Instructive Story

If you want to skip the story and see the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch best reading application (as we consider it) go straight to that post.

If you’re are interested in iPhone/iPad application development then continue reading.

And now the story that began on September 25 of 2009, when censors from AppStore gave the green light to the creation of the first free version. But unfortunately the payware version release was postponed by the censors for an indefinite period. Motivation of the release denial was simple – the private frameworks usage.

To raise the user friendliness, the risky decision of Webkit framework hidden abilities usage was made. That’s exactly what Cupertino guys didn’t like. It is still a mystery how the freeware version has passed through, as it’s built on the same principles and differs only in containing banners.

We had learned a good lesson and the new version development started. We wanted a version that would lack all the flaws of the previous one, notably we wanted to get rid of WebKit. The Control to outline the text was named Viewer. And the work in full swing began…

Viewer was to be made in to ways: using OpenGL and our know-how. Two teams working in parallel were formed. We decided the team that develops the commercial version faster and with better quality will be the winner. Charged with the spirit of competition we worked for a while and finally team with our know-how was the first to finish, but the it wasn’t over. We were to unite two versions and fix all the previous version defects, to add some useful stuff that would make bookreading more comfortable.

One of the main drawbacks that many people complained on was the incorrect TXT files encoding recognition. To solve this problem, the algorithm that analyses the frequency of the symbols usage and suggests the encoding used in the files, was developed. And certainly we didn’t forget about the user convenience – after converting the book into our own format we left the possibility for its re-encoding.

We have developed our own format of books saving for rapid file navigation. This format represents xml with numbered paragraphs and symbols amount for more accurate positioning. For the rapid XML navigation we have decided to refuse from NSXMLParser offered by Apple and to use Xpath technology instead, which provides faster access to the required paragraph and its drawing.

The hardest task was to optimize drawing process of the text displayed in small font during autoscroll. Jerky movements at reading books were tiresome for eyes. The reason for it was inability of the processor to perform drawing and data processing in one stream fast. Having divided these operations into several streams and synchronized them, we have significantly unloaded the processor. It lets users perform additional background actions, for instance, to listen to music while reading.

By the way, all members of the team were supplied with iPhones and they tested the application not only while working, but in everyday life too, that is to say at home, at transport, and, certainly, at work. This way we were interested in the most rapid application development with better quality, embedding new ideas on usability. One of the usability features is built-in web browser, which let you surf Internet sitting in the café and download a new book without using notebook or PC.

The development of uBook is in progress. After its release in Appstore, we’re planning to convert it to a new and ambitious device iPad, to expand app’s functionality, to raise its credibility and speed.