Apple today pushed out an update to its iBooks application for iOS devices [App Store], bringing several improvements including a new "read-aloud" narrator to select children's books.
iBooks 1.3 adds several new features and improvements:
- Help your children learn to read with the new read-aloud feature included in select children's books from the iBookstore.
The read-aloud feature uses a real narrator to read the book to you, and in some books, it will even highlight the words as you read along.
- Enhanced books can now automatically play audio or video included with the book.
- Makes iBooks more responsive when opening very long books.
- Addresses an issue where some books may display the same page twice.
It is possible that the text-to-speech aspect of the new read-aloud functionality is based on technology from Nuance that has been rumored to be making its way into iOS 5, but Apple has not specifically disclosed the basis for the new feature.
We have not been able to track down any books compatible with the new read-aloud feature yet, so it will be interesting to see how quickly and how widely it is adopted by authors and publishers.
Apple's new iTunes 10.3 offers access to the iBookstore from the desktop for the first time, although an iOS device is still required to read the books.