I was first introduced to Safari Books Online soon after it launched in 2001. As someone in the tech industry, it almost seemed too good to be true…an extremely large catalog of technical-related books available to read for a very reasonable subscription fee. Today the service might be described as a kind of Netflix for technical, design, and even some business book titles. Pay a monthly (or yearly) subscription fee and depending on the kind of account, it’s possible to have unlimited access to the 13,000+ books and videos in the Safari Books Online catalog by consuming them through the web browser.
But today that changes.
I’m happy to announce that the Safari Books Online service is now also available on the iPad as “Safari To Go.” That’s due to the incredible effort of both my team and many, many amazingly talented folks at Safari Books Online lead by CEO Andrew Savikas.
Fans of the service know that an initial version of the app was available back in November 2010 but what’s launching today is a completely new app with zero code reuse—v2.0—focused on a true native iOS experience. That means readers will find common controls and interactions available in most iPad apps and more specifically, iPad reading apps. More significantly is that with the approach we’ve taken, readers will benefit from much faster browsing of the book catalog, smoother reading experiences, and be able to finally enjoy reading a book offline when not connected to Internet.
The 2.0 version of Safari To Go also sports a new design, which feels like a native iPad app while also more closely reflecting the Safari Books Online brand. During the initial discussions about working together on this app, we suggested that the Safari Books Online team lead the visual design of the application with us focusing on user experience and the development. With this plan, we’d ensure Apple’s guidelines would be respected and at the same time, allow the Safari team to leverage its vast knowledge of its customers and brand. The positive feedback on the revamped design (and the app overall) indicates that this decision was a smart one and we’re proud of the new experience the two teams created together.
There were several mandates when we started this app. The first two, mentioned above, we’re related to improving performance and creating an app with a native look-and-feel. The final was to focus on developing a stable set of core features and then to iterate on them going forward.
As an example, notes and tags are not initially available in the application. Similarly, we found the performance on 3G to be sub-optimal due to the amount of content that transmits over the air. So, it was collectively decided that only an offline book should be accessible when on 3G for the first release of the v2.0 version.
Because of how we’ve built the app, we’re now in position to more quickly iterate on these and other features. In fact, we’re just now testing an update internally, which should be pushed to the App Store shortly. The Safari Books Online team also has a roadmap for upcoming releases with the expectation to update it and re-prioritize features based on customer feedback.
For existing Safari Books Online subscribers, I hope that you’ll download the new app (iTunes link). If you don’t have an account, sign up for a free trial today and go take a look. We’re just getting started, so let us know your feedback and what you hope to see in the future.