Posted on by & filed under Product Updates & Tips.

Late yesterday we were notified that our new iPad app, Safari To Go, was approved by Apple for general release in the App Store. Because it can take up to 24 hours for the new app to propagate through the App Store some people will be able to search and find the Safari To Go app before others. If you are not able to find the app, you should be able to see it by the end of the day (v1.0.3). We were able to see it moments ago.  

Our current plan is to provide monthly updates to the Safari To Go app so we can continue to add features and address your feedback with future releases. Some of the items already on our list for the next release include page swipe, landscape mode, html view option for the offline reader and folder management (add/edit folders).

I happen to own an iPad without 3G, and after using this version of Safari To Go for the last couple of weeks, I know the Offline Bookbag feature alone has been invaluable for me as I travel!

Thanks for your patience and we really hope that Safari To Go will make a valuable addition to your Safari Books Online subscription.

CJ Rayhill, SVP
Product Management & Technology
Safari Books Online

Tags: apple, iPad, Safari Books Online, safari to go,

98 Responses to “Safari To Go Approved for App Store Release”

  1. Beau Randall

    Got it! Looks fantastic so far. Safari Books and OmniFocus account for about 80% of my iPad’s use, so this is a big one for me.

  2. GSnyder

    Congratulations on getting this out! It definitely looks like it’s going to fulfill its promise.

    There do seem to be quite a few minor bugs and design issues with the application, though. Is there some kind of official feedback channel where these issues can be be reported?

  3. Oliver

    Ok, got the new version. List of bugs is pretty long:

    1. Text entry for login is slow to accept characters.
    2. It didn’t auto login the second time I entered the app (although it did the third time)
    3. You can’t scroll along the far right or left edge. That is how I scroll in basically every app using my thumb.
    4. The inertial scrolling is basically MIA. Worst. Scrolling. Ever.
    5. It doesn’t save state on exit. Ideally I’d come back up to exactly where I was, or at least be asked about it.
    6. It doesn’t save view mode. I like HTML mode, but it always comes up in print mode. I like full screen mode, but it always comes in standard mode.
    7. Bookmark logo overlaps last couple of characters of text in some books in html mode.
    8. Entire app just feels slow. Its so slow that I think the web interface available is probably still better than this app. :-(

    If you had two development teams working on it and chose this one, I wonder how bad the other version was!

    I’m extremely sad to say it, but this is probably the lowest quality iPad App I’ve installed. I know its a 1.0, but come on, I made this list after 5 mins with the app…

    • GSnyder

      Yeah, it doesn’t feel at all like an iPad app, does it. I’m very surprised that this application was approved in its current state.

      • Oliver

        Yeah, I’m kinda surprised Apple approved this. I’d much rather pay a couple of dollars (heck, I’d pay $10, which is a VERY high amount for an ipad/iphone app) for a well developed app. Of course, now that’s impossible since I wouldn’t want to waste my money if this is what I got.

        There are definitely better Javascript scrolling library’s out there than the crap that Nitobi dumped into this thing. Arstechnica used phonegap to develop their app also. It’s not perfect, but its LOADS better than this; so I know it can be done.

    • David

      Yeah, the scrolling is a bummer. It takes forever to scroll to the bottom of a long HTML page, due to the inertia problem.

      Also, it looks like I can’t use the bookbag feature for a while, since I unknowingly used up all my “swaps” while trying to get the previous buggy release to work. :(

      It almost looks like some sort of wonky UI toolkit is in use, instead of the usual Cocoa Touch stuff, leading to the “slow to accept characters” problem.

      • Beau Randall

        In the post on the 18th

        “The app we selected was developed by Nitobi, a company based in Vancouver and known for its PhoneGap mobile development framework.”

        From the PhoneGap website

        “PhoneGap is an open source development framework for building cross-platform mobile apps. Build apps in HTML and JavaScript and still take advantage of core features in iPhone/iPod touch, iPad, Google Android, Palm, Symbian and Blackberry SDKs”.

        So there you have it. We’re going to be partially screwed here, but on the upside Safari Books will be able to launch on multiple platforms fairly quickly.

        I haven’t had the chance to notice this issue as the only book I’m reading right now isn’t available in HTML. To my surprise/pleasure the app seems to preload adjacent pages and page flips are almost instantaneous after I’ve seeked to a particular page.

        Downloading to my Bookbag is a pain. The app isn’t 4.2 compliant and will force to restart from the begining. I’m downloading a 900+ page book and while it started out fine at first, it’s slowed to a crawl. Been going over an hour now and not yet finished.

    • CJ Rayhill

      Thanks for your feedback. We will be working with Nitobi to continue making the app better based on your feedback.

    • Raymond

      Interesting list Oliver,I think this is what you get when you go the non native route for a platform,this feels like swing on OSX. A couple of points of my own

      1 The app only works in portrait mode, is there any ebook app on the iPad that is locked in a particular orientation?

      2 what’s is print mode/HTML mode? Did those guys take a look at iBooks and other readers in the store for a reference at all?

      3 Going from page to page uses almost none responsive buttons at the bottom.

      This app looks well designed ,only if it were a native app, it might have been one of the best.

      Safari please make a native app, it doesn’t have to have all the features at launch but at least it will sure suck less.

    • Brian

      this app is so buggy that reading is not fun at all. Look at ibooks and kindle app, have you ever thought about it while designing this app?

  4. Beau Randall

    Anyone seeing the bookbag feature actually working?

    Rebooted my iPad. Launched the app, put a book in my bookbag. Over 30 minutes later (granted this is over 3g) it actually claimed it finished. Proceeded to open the book and it was slow enough that I simply didn’t believe it was reading from my device. Shut the app down, turned off wifi, started the app again to find it tell me… 0 books in my bookbag. Turned on wifi again and restarted the app. It showed my one book in the bookbag but then proceeded to download it all over again.

    Really? This is a total showstopper of a bug, don’t understand how an app can be released without its killer feature not operational.

    • CJ Rayhill

      Please be sure that the book download and unpacking is complete before you take your iPad offline. If you go offline before the post-processing is complete (after the download), it will not show up as being available in your bookbag. Try deleting the title from your bookbag and adding it again to ensure that it completes the entire process.

      • Beau Randall

        I tried again with a smaller book and waited five minutes afterward. That time it worked. So I guess that’s a minor inconvenience at this point, as the offline feature is quite nice once it’s working (at least non-html) – very fast.

        Thanks for the response, as far as this reader is concerned, the other issues in the app are minor compared to this working.

      • Beau Randall

        Relating to your response about the bookbag not being used while you are online – I understand that Bookmark and Notes isn’t being implemented, but the fact that you actively click on the Bookmarks section and select the book from there should not load the book on the device. If the user is interested in those features they can select the book from their bookshelf.

        It shouldn’t be an online/offline thing, rather a bookshelf/bookbag thing. Offline the user is forced to use only the bookbag. But online the user has a choice, it should’t result in the same functionality for two different selections.

      • Beau Randall

        ” you actively click on the Bookmarks section” should be ” you actively click on the *Bookbag* section”

    • Tom Cliffe

      I found that even after I downloaded a book that it still tried to read it in online mode from the server. This was a very slow respone to load pages. When I truned of WiFi I did get the book in my book bag and the respone time was very fast.

      Would like to be able to read the local version of the book in my book bag even when I am on line.

      • CJ Rayhill

        The reason we default to the online view, even if the book is in your Bookbag folder, is that we haven’t yet implemented the Bookmarks and Notes feature into the offline reader yet. We wanted to make sure that if you needed/wanted to use those features, you still could while in online mode. If you want to use the offline reader, it would simply be a matter of turning off your wifi/3G access. However, we do have plans to add the Bookmarks and Notes feature into the offline reader so that they sync up when you reconnect. After that, we can default to the offline reader for any titles in your Bookbag, regardless of whether or not you are online.

  5. Erik kristensen

    Cool that this is out, but it is very hard to add books to the bookbag, it works only about 1 in 10 times. Scrolling in favorites is hard in icon mode An unusable in list mode in the favorites box

    • CJ Rayhill

      Can you send us a screenshot? All the icons appear fine on our version. And it would be helpful to know more about your issues on placing books in the Bookbag folder. You definitely have to wait until the files are downloaded and complete their post-processing before taking the iPad offline.

  6. Eldon

    I noticed a lot of weirdness with the app once I downloaded the update. (images not showing up, etc, etc).

    So I uninstalled the app and re-installed clean and sure enough a lot of the quirkiness I was seeing went away. Granted I was running the accidental release from a few days ago so this might just be specific to me.

    But I will say that this is definitely a significant improvement over the accidental release a few days ago.

    • CJ Rayhill

      Thanks for trying again. We have no idea how/why the accidental disclosure of a previous version showed up for a brief time in the App store, but you are correct in that we highly recommend that you delete any previously existing version before downloading the approved app from the App store.

    • JeffS

      @Eldon I was also experincing the exact same thing. So I deleted the old one and reinstalled. That fixed the missing icon problem.

      I had previously downloaded a book to my book bag, now when I shut off wifi the app hangs at trying to sign in. Shouldn’t it just continue on so I could read my book offline?

      • CJ Rayhill

        Yes, when you sign into the app in an offline state, it should immediately bring up your Bookbag folder so that you can read any titles that reside there. Please contact our customer support group for assistance if you can’t get it working again.

  7. Richard

    It seems OK once you start reading a book (although it would be more slick if you could ‘flick’ pages like you can in the iBooks and Kindle apps instead of having to press a button). The performance of the app in general is pretty awful. It’s not written using Flash by any chance?

    • CJ Rayhill

      As mentioned in my previous postings, this was written using the PhoneGap framework, not Flash. Page swipe is already on our list of short-term feature enhancements.

    • Nic Werner

      Hi Richard, thanks for your feedback. We are working to add page swiping for page turns. The application was written using Phonegap, which is a framework that uses HTML/CSS/JS for development. More information is available here:

      – Nic.
      Mobile Product Manager

  8. Geoff

    Having trouble with the bookbag feature. A book I just put on my bookshelf can’t be moved to the bookbag for a month? What’s up with that?

    • CJ Rayhill

      Any book that is currently on your Bookshelf is also allowed to be in your Bookbag folder, you do not have to wait a month. Please contact our customer support group to get assistance on solving your particular issue.

      • Geoff

        It turns out that the drag-and-drop feature in the “My Favorites” overlay screen was failing with the message regarding my next swap date being a month away. As suggested by a later post in these comments, by viewing the overview for the book and tapping the favorites from there, I was able to add it to the bookbag without waiting a month.

        Hopefully an update to the app will fix these quirks.

  9. Kurt Hill

    This app does need some work.

    1. It’s slow
    2. Page scroll bar at top of page does not seem to work properly.
    a) I can scroll to the end of a book before the marker reaches the end.
    b) Worse, I can scroll to the end of the bar, but not be at the end of the book.
    3. User interface needs polish
    a) When selecting a book, the whole list flashes, not the selected book.
    b) When scrolling book list, it often “picks up” the book instead of scrolling.
    c) Use the same UI as everything else! Books downloading should show a progress bar just like all other books in other readers, or apps from the app store.

    This app is barely usable at this point. Better than nothing is one of the best things I can say about it! The added value of being able to read my Safari books offline is too significant not to have to suffer through this app, though!!


  10. Sean


    I’ve been trying the app for around 20 minutes now and its not obvious to me how to add books to the bookbag. I’ve tried dragging books from the 10-Slot Bookshelf to the Bookbag, but it says “Bookshelf Next available swap date is [date when I can remove the book from my Bookshelf]”

    Am I missing something here? How do you add books to the bookbag?

    • Sean

      Ok, maybe I should have clicked around a bit more before I asked – I’ve managed to add a book to my bookbag by dragging a book from my history to the bookbag. That threw up an error but it seems to have added it and is generating the offline book (I hope).

      It feels very quirky at the moment but as this is the first release I guess thats understandable. If this improves and works as I hope it will it will definately make it the app I use most on the iPad, so thanks safari for developing it.

      • CJ Rayhill

        If you are a Bookshelf subscriber, only titles that are currently on your Bookshelf will be allowed to move into your Bookbag folder. You can add books to your Bookbag folder in one of two ways:

        1) Drag and drop them from an existing folder or
        2) Go to the catalog page for the book and choose “Add to My Favorites” — then select the Bookbag folder.

      • Nic Werner

        Hi Sean,
        You can currently add books to your Offline Bookbag by first having them in your Bookshelf, and then adding it to your Offline Bookbag by selecting “Add To Favorites” from the Book overview page.

        In the next update you will be able to use the My Favorites overlay and drag a book directly from your Bookshelf to the Offline Bookbag. I realize this is an inconvenience and I appreciate your patience while we address these issues.

        Nic Werner, Mobile Product Manager

  11. Chris B

    Very frustrating not to be able to increase font size on books without HTML versions. You can pinch and zoom but everything just ends up blurry. That, combined with the lack of landscape mode, makes this book, for example, – – practically unreadable. I also don’t understand why books that I can read through the mobile site (which requires an HTML version) don’t appear with an HTML option in Safari To Go. Images in HTML versions also appear to be broken.

    I appreciate what a complex endeavor it must have been to offer your entire catalog through an iPad app. That said, this app lacks the user experience polish I would have expected from an app this long in development and testing. I had been looking forward to this for months and I’m a bit underwhelmed. I can read some books (mainly those without images and with an HTML version) without a problem, but it’s frustrating that I can’t have this same experience on the iPad with all the books on my bookshelf.

  12. Jon


    After a very long beta test period and what seemed like a good selection process, we’ve ended up with a very buggy and horribly slow app. I appreciate that you don’t necessarily want to invest in a single mobile platform, but when the usability is sacrificed so much – I really don’t buy it.

    This is a horrible app to use – it doesn’t look or behave like any other iOS application and I’m amazed Apple approved it.

  13. Charlie Eriksen

    Wow. How did apple approve this application ? There’s fundamental issues with this applications so obvious it’s not even funny.

    I hate to say it but I don’t hope you’ve gotten a company to resin your website to support the iPad. And this is a sad excuse for an application, when it’s practically just a web browser with a page in it running some scripts

    The user experience is terrible. Sadly, it’s only just better due to the offline ability.

    Now I understand why it wasn’t released the last couple of deadlines. Because the only thing that could have made it worse, would be that it didn’t work or always crashed.

    As a subscriber who only subscribes to read on his iPad, I’m seriously considering just going back to amazon and/or “borrowing” books. This seemed like a nice way to get reading material while supporting the writers. But if you can’t allow me to consume the books in a nice way, I’m afraid the experience with pirated book is 10x better and much cheaper.

  14. Colin Fraizer

    Wow, don’t be so critical, guys. It’s not perfect, but it’s probably my favorite app already, I am very grateful that SBO got _something_ out there now and can improve it based on our feedback.

    Bravo, Dev team. The majority of us appreciate you!

    Best regards,
    –Colin Fraizer

  15. Carl

    Bookbag is not really working. Somehow I managed to get two in there by dragging after several attempts and saw them download but I’m giving up on getting more. Above method of adding them from the Book Overview page is not working for me. Most of the time it says it’s generating books to download but that’s it.

    A lot my books have disappeared from my favorites while trying and that’s no fun since the search is returning 0 results for ‘C#’ so I have to go online to add my books back.

  16. David Comdico

    This is a very disappointing release which I’ve been waiting for since the summer when I was given a July releasse date. I truly hope it improves in time, but I’m surprised to see so many bugs and user interface issues, most of which have been mentioned in replies to this post.

    I would suggest that you make it as clear as possible in your release notes that the drag and drop bookbag features is not implemented yet and give clear instructions on the current workaround. The current experience is very frustrating.

  17. Garth

    Here are my detailed comments after using the app for a bit. I will submit these to the knowledge-base alias that CJ mentioned as well.

    Overall, I think the design is pretty solid. The app has the right amount of “stuff” in it. The UI is attractive and easy to navigate. Those are the things that apps most commonly get wrong, so you’ve cleared many of the major hurdles. On the other hand, I think the design is sabotaged by a poor implementation, and I’m not sure you can recover without ditching PhoneGap.

    I should say also that I’m bothering to write up these complaints because I treasure Safari and I love the idea of Safari on iPad. It would delight me to see this application succeed and prosper. I can imagine using it constantly, though perhaps not in its current form.

    Simply put, Safari To Go does not behave like an iOS app. I would be willing to bet a sizable chunk of change that the app is based on a cross-platform development kit, as Beau Randall surmises. [and CJ later confirmed] Well, you’re not fooling anyone. Apps like this are exactly the reason that Apple has historically resisted the use of such libraries in iOS. And if STG is any indication, Apple made a mistake in giving in on this point.

    I will enumerate some specific issues below, but the main points are 1) Everything is sluggish and unresponsive — even the simplest buttons — and 2) Most standard features behave “kind of like” their usual iOS equivalents, but not exactly. In addition, I see quite a few rendering and fit-and-finish issues that I suspect would be unlikely to occur if the app were written in the normal way. In short, there’s very little wrong here that wouldn’t be fixed simply by reimplementing in Cocoa.

    Specific issues:

    1) Fluidity is the sine qua non of an iOS application. Apps should start up quickly and return the user to some semblance of what they were previously doing. Safari To Go takes a full eight seconds to start up, which may not sound like a long time but is eons on the iOS time scale. STG seems to have no idea what I might have been doing in the past – it always takes me to the home page and forces me to wait while it tediously downloads the covers of the featured books, one by one. (Of course, multitasking support should go without saying, too – it’s surprising to see a new app released without it at this point.)

    2) Most transitions within the app are delineated by a painfully tedious fade animation. I don’t know if it’s just making me wait while it animates or if there’s actual work going on behind the scenes, but either way, it doesn’t feel right. This form of transition is also somewhat foreign to iOS. Generally speaking, transitions in iOS apps are heralded by motion animations. (And unfortunately, these animations are more complex than they look — see this example. I would imagine it’s quite hard for a cross-platform library to replicate them with the right feel.)

    3) Another example of STG’s failure to emulate standard iOS look and feel is in the area of scrolling and zooming. Scrolling regions (and this seems to apply to pretty much everything from the HTML view to the various TOCs) do not pan smoothly; they jump and jitter as if afflicted with Saint Vitus’ Dance, often moving counter to the actual direction of the gesture.

    4) Pinch-to-zoom in the Print view is vaguely similar to an actual iOS pinch-to-zoom, but again, not really. It feels like a constant-rate expansion or contraction rather than something that actually follows the location of your fingers. As with transitions, it’s hard to appreciate how much UI engineering went into the iOS zoom facilities until you see them contrasted with a naive duplicate. Then the difference becomes obvious.

    5) Scrolling generally means swiping in iOS, but STG often doesn’t take this to heart. For example, the home page forces you to click tiny arrow buttons to scroll among the featured books. To be fair, Apple does this in their own app store too, but in that case the number of items you are scrolling is potentially unlimited. Here, you are always looking at 3 or 4 of perhaps 10 featured books. There’s no reason you should have to do this with buttons. (Is it a huge usability issue? No. Does it illustrate the general tone-deafness of the app to iOS conventions? Yes.)

    6) The book-reading pane is another area where swiping left or right should be meaningful. It’s not; you can only navigate from page to page by tapping the margins or the arrow buttons. Swiping isn’t being used to implement something else, so there’s no reason not to allow it here. Just look at the iBooks PDF reader and do what it does.

    7) There are a variety of rendering and UI bugs that seem likely to be linked to the use of a non-native UI library. For example, press and hold the Browse button on the home page and watch as the app pauses pregnantly, then highlights the button for a moment, then de-highlights the button on its own. Or you might get lucky and have the button highlight normally. Other button-like objects such as TOC entries don’t have any selection feedback at all. Still others, such as the tabs in the book info panel, have highlights that draw outside the bounds of the control.

    8) Scroll vertically in the book info TOC and notice that the whole TOC jumps about 8 pixels to the left after you’re done. Also, chapter titles in the TOC have a blue background that draws out of the bounds of the TOC control when a chapter title is at the top.

    9) There are a number of places where the UI exhibits “flashes” for no apparent reason. That is, you can see intermediate UI states being drawn that should never be exposed to the user. It seems to happen a lot in the book info panes; for example, try just tapping in the middle of the Overview pane. (For fun, you can also drag there; the overview will track your finger, then drag some more on its own after you release, then snap back.)

    10) And finally, something that’s probably not attributable to having an intermediate layer: pages for the Print view seem to be rendered at 1:1 for the full page, then heavily JPEG compressed. When you zoom the text in to fit the screen, the text looks terrible. For example, see the unretouched image here. Did no one think this was going to be an issue? It’s even noticeable in unzoomed Full Screen, since the pages appear to be rendered for the non-Full-Screen layout.

    When STG zooms in on its own on a sparsely-populated page, the effect can be even more dramatic; for example, here.

    Page positioning in Print view seems a bit peculiar as well. There’s a left margin, a right margin, and a bottom margin, but no top margin. The cropping on the top of the page is so close that I find myself constantly wondering “Is there more text scrolled just off the top of the page?” For an example, see this screenshot.

    I had the same experience as Oliver above regarding autologin. The first run prompted me for my info, the second run did not autologin but did retain the info, and the subsequent runs logged me in automatically.

    • Adil

      I was delighted to know that finally we have safari for iPad, unfortunately it seems a web app rather than native iOS application. I had the worst scrolling experience in iPad using STG. I liked the UI design but I wish this will be developed in objective-c rather than js and HTML crap frameworks which doesn’t seems to work here!

  18. Kip

    I’m happy to have access.

    Couple notes:

    Pinch to zoom doesn’t zoom from your touch points, it zooms from the center and then you have to pan to the area you originally wanted magnified.

    The highlighting when you press various items doesn’t always match the size of the item. Examples include the Safari Books Online logo at the top left, books whose cover image isn’t a portrait orientation like the Twitter Book.

    The scrolling that others have mentioned, yes, it doesn’t feel very iPad/iPhone like. Also when you scroll a table of contents, it occasionally shifts a bit right to left after scrolling down a screenful or so.

    Please continue to update and improve this app.

    Thank you again for making it available even if it isn’t perfect for everyone.

  19. Jack

    I’ve noticed now that after installing the app that my iPad backups don’t run to completion. I have to cancel the backup step. Removing the app resolves the problem.

    • Kurt Hill

      Yes, I just discovered that removing STG fixed my infinite backup…

    • Colin Fraizer

      I had the same experience. I sync my iPad to my iTunes library on a Windows 7 64 PC. The backup phase hung–apparently forever. I aborted the sync and removed the app.

      After removing Safari To Go, the backup completed successfully. This is a serious bug that needs to be addressed immediately.

      (It won’t stop me from re-installing the app, which I *love*–though I certainly see its flaws.)

      Someone from SBO should address this immediately.

      Best regards,
      –Colin Fraizer

  20. Jason

    Ill add a few more logs to the fire:

    Trying to navigate the My Favorites section is a joke. There is no way to scroll without activating the drag event. How the heck do you use this thing? All of my searches return zero results. Most of the images are broken. I can’t increase the font size in print view…

    I have been waiting for this app for so long and the reality is very disappointing. In fact, the mobile website is more useable. The key points to having an app should be to improve the reading experience and enable offline content. You’re automatically compared to Kindle and iBooks. The experience has to match those apps and that’s a tall order given their maturity. So, why not work out a content distribution deal with Amazon and leverage the kindle platform? It’s already portable to most devices and it offers native performance.

  21. GSnyder

    There doesn’t seem to be any way to return to your search results once you’ve descended into the detail view of a particular book. Is that in fact the case?

  22. Michael Haubenwallner

    This might be a bit OT here, but considering the purchase of an iPad especially for SBO reading – how is the performance of SBO in the iPad browser and are there any limitations compared to browsing from a PC/Mac?

  23. Charlie

    Dear Safari Books,

    I have happily paid for your service for a while now, because I expected you to deliver on your promise on this application and that you met your previous 2 deadlines. As a software professional, I understand that things slip a month or two.

    When I then get this app and can clearly see how bad of a job your contractor has done for you, resulting in what justified my subscription being no longer a justification, I can’t help but be sad. I posted about my disappointment in this last night.

    But I simply find it inexcusable that you’ve deleted my comment on this post since I posted it yesterday. I really don’t think that’s a way to treat a customer. And to be frankly honest, I don’t think I can justify spending a lot of money on a subscription like this when you have no respect for your customers like this. I could have lived with the application, as there’s no alternative. But deleting a comment like that is disrespectful.

    So that’s -1 subscriber. I hope you change your mind and tell your contractor that they need to do better than this, and develop a native application. The difference is night and day. When that happens, I’ll resubscribe in a heartbeat. Please feel free to email me when that happens.

    • Charlie

      And so it seems like my reply was brought back, as well as a number of other replies that had gotten removed.

      • Safari Books Online

        Hi Charlie,

        I’m not sure why your comments or other comments disappeared as we did not remove them. But, all comments require approval so maybe they just were not approved yet? In any event, thank you for sharing your comments and feedback.


  24. Volkmar

    I am very disappointed. This is really an unprofessional piece of work. There are so many good apps for the IPad that are practical and fun to use but the Safari app is just clumsy and slow. I wonder how bad the other version was compared to this one. This is embarrassing O’Reilly.

  25. amit

    I love the App and the hardwork you guys have put in. I wonder why people are looking into bugs. This is a free app and Safari was nice enough to even bring it.

    So suck it up guys and enjoy what you got. I am sure the leadership in Safari mobile applications will continue to improve the app.

    Kudos the Safari team for bringing it out.

  26. Junyoure

    The production app installed right over the beta (yes, I was a legitimate beta tester) and gave me all sorts of problems with the book icons not diplaying, sluggish, etc. Removing the app and reinstalling (as suggested by support earlier in this thread) eliminated most issues. However, I have 10 books in my book bag and any attempt to download them gets anywhere between .1% and 10% complete and the application crashes out.

    Summary: I have been unsuccessfull in caching my bookbag for offline reading, any suggestions?

    • Nic Werner

      Hi Junyoure,
      We’re noticing that certain books are causing STG to crash or become unresponsive. Can you list which books you have in your offline bookbag? At this time, I recommend removing the books from your offline bookbag and adding them one at time, allowing each to download first before adding the next. This will help narrow down the issue.

      • Junyoure

        Hey, Nic. I have already removed and readded them, as the original list of books were from the beta, and since removing the beta and reinstalling the app helped stability, I thought this action would fix the bookbag…. It did. I didn’t add them one by one, but added seven of my originals back at once. The download took a while, but didn’t crash out and when the iPad “slept” I could then wake it, re-enter STG and the bookbag would continue downloading.

        So, I’m stating that my issues were from installing the production release OVER the Beta….not a stellar idea.

        Now, if you want a list of the books or any other feedback, I’ll send you my email address from another channel with the list of books I had in the bag.

        thanks for the reply.


  27. A.AlShaikh

    I Have A Suggestion If I May, Why Not Implement A Bug Tracking Website (Like Bugzilla) Where Users Can Tell You The Different Glitches Within Your Application, And You Get To Be Transparent With Your Customers On When Their Issues Will Be Addressed That Is If They Will Be Addressed.
    That I Believe Will Be Beneficial To Both Sides Of The Business Equation.

  28. Ashu Joshi

    It would be really nice to be able to support Corporate Accounts – which if I am not mistaken is a major chunk of the Safari Online business. Our corporation as a Single Sign On (SSO) mechanism to log on to Safari Online. To really make this useful – O’Reilly should enable that through some mechanism for their iPad application.

    • Nic Werner

      Hi Ashju,

      We are working to provide SSO to our corporate customers, and will have that in a future release. Which company do you work for? If your company is interested we can include them in our testing program.

  29. Stephen

    I think one of the main questions here is whether the poor quality of this app (and it is poor, make no mistake) is due to the programmers, or the framework.

    In other words, is a cross-platform app of this type inevitably going to be unresponsive, and deliver a bad user experience.

    If the answer is “yes”, the prospects for significant improvements in this app are minimal. If the answer is “no”, hopefully SBO will take note of some of the comments, and address this app’s most egregious failings.

    I can’t really answer that question, but I am convinced that the problems are at least in part due to a lack of skill, attention to detail and / or testing on the part of the developers.

    For example, the SFO site happily allows me to log-in using a password containing non-alphanumeric characters. The iPad app doesn’t, reporting that it is “Missing the required parameter ‘password'”, suggesting that the programmers completely neglected to escape the user input.


    • Beau Randall

      “the problems are at least in part due to a lack of skill, attention to detail and / or testing on the part of the developers” – listen up Safari Books, when you provide software to people who did it for a living and are likely at the top of their field, you best be ready ;)

      I don’t even know if one levy a criticism of lack skill in this case… this seems more like a “we’re over our heads but we need to get something out there” kind of experience. Apple’s expenditure on inertial scrolling work may very well be an order of magnitude or more above the entire development cost of this product. Google with their vast resources puts out a comparatively kludgey experience.

      My feeling is Jobs was right on this one. And I’ll join the echoes of how this one got out the gate – it seems like it would violate the human interface guidelines in a number of areas.

      That said, I’m happy that it’s hear. Offline reading (once I am actually successful in getting a book in) is a far superior experience to what I was previously doing using iCab and that’s where I’ll be spending 99% of my time. It is a shame 1) position is not saved and 2) I have to turn off wifi to use it.

  30. Michael Van Kleeck

    It’s a start. I’ll keep my Safari subscription simply because this is available. But it needs work. My requests:

    1. Give me a real search so I can find the info I’m looking for across multiple books
    2. Implement the same page-turning gestures that I use in iBooks
    3. Improve the speed- everything is very slow
    4. Give me clickable indexes so I can jump right to what I need

    I’m available for contract work if you need a developer to bring these features to Safari users!


    • Safari Books Online

      Thank you very much for your feedback, Michael. I will be sure to share your feedback and offer to help with our product team. Glad you’re staying with us!

      – Rose

  31. Kurt Hill

    Why do the books take so long to download? eBooks in all other readers I have tried (iBooks, Nook, Kindle) are quite speedy to download. A single book can take well over 30 minutes to download. I am downloading one right now that looks like it will take 90 minutes.

    As near as I can tell, this is a download issue – not a “preparing books” issue — at least, the App does not indicate anywhere that it is “processing” — the only indicator is in the “My Facorites” (folder) view, where at the top it says “Downloading x books to offline bookbag (1.4%)”.

    This app is a great in theory, but not so much in practice — yet, I hope! Please get some refinements out very soon!

  32. Thomas

    This is a very poor iPad app. As some have said above, it really is an embarrassment. Using PhoneGap means you can easily move this app to other platforms but it would seem that that is the only good thing one can say about the platform. If you didn’t intend to make a native app for the iPad perhaps you should not have wasted your time and put your efforts into making a better mobile site for the iPad and other tablets. A better mobile site tailored to tablets would likely provide a better user experience than this app does.

    The application looks nice on the surface but when it comes to actually using it, it doesn’t behave at all like an iPad app and generally the experience is poor to unusable. Apple seems to have put a lot of work into figuring out how user interface elements should behave on a touch screen and the overall experience reflects that attention to detail. This app is missing that polish and usability, the worst, but not only problem, being the scrolling behavior. If this was a native app scrolling and other behaviors would work how you would expected.

    I hope the app gets better because as it is the reading experience on the iPad is poor. It takes away from the value of having a subscription to Safari Books Online.

  33. Matt

    ‘Safari To Go’ could have been so much better! Makes me wonder what kind of feedback was given during the testing of the application. There’s obviously some kind of speed issues with the application, and major problems with the ‘Bookbag’ feature as have been mentioned on this blog.

    I hope the developers can sort out these issues, either by reimplementing the application as a native iPad application, or at least be sure to minimize the speed issues of using PhoneGap.

    With that said it’s still better than not having ‘Safari To Go’.

  34. Daniel Laughland

    Well it’s…functional. The main thing I use my iPad for is reading Safari Books, so I’m glad to have this new interface, but it’s still a cludge. I have yet to encounter any cross-platform framework that impressed me, so I’m not really surprised. At least it’s free and I can save some download tokens. You guys are lucky that your service is so damn valuable on its own, otherwise I might be a bit put off.

    Feature request: Chapter numbers in the Table of Contents! Why would you ever omit those?

  35. Søren

    Generally i’m positive about this first version of the app.

    PhoneGap or not – I think the UI is great and believe that safari can provide more features to us due to the multiplatform approach. Therefore I can live with s-o-m-e of the mentioned issues

    Related to bookbag download. I downloaded 3 books yesterday. Each did take between 3-5 min, so everyone seeing longer downloads i think it is related to some servers being overloaded. I think it is to early to blame the app.

    I want to thank Safari for doing this app – they could have choose not to do it. And it must say, that I’m glad for the version i have here – compared to nothing. If people dont like it – dont use it. You still have the normal approach to read the books. Warning to cancel subscriptions based on this or think it de-values your subscription is just childish behaviour. Remember this is value-add to your subscription – not a core feature.

    So comment the bugs in a respectly and constructive manner and lets hope safari listens. Worst case is that they abandon the app partly related to all the comments..

    So respect to Safari for doing this is the first case…

    And keep up the good initiative and please continue refining the app!

    Best regards
    Søren (who is not related to safari in any way)

    • GSnyder

      Søren, you’re not the only one who seems to feel this way (and by “this way”, I mean “it’s free, so stop yer grousing”). But Safari is an actual product that people and institutions pay real money for. Quite a bit of money, in fact — all the pages you can read from Safari costs about four times as much as all the movies and TV shows you can watch from Netflix.

      I think it’s perhaps a bit shortsighted to think of the web site as the core service. The core service is the library, and anything that makes the library more valuable to clients creates value for Safari as a business enterprise. When people say, “I’ve been thinking of nothing but Safari To Go for the last six months, and now that it’s here, I’m disappointed and I hate you all for ruining my life,” it should sound like cash registers ringing. It means “Psst! Want to create a huge amount of value and wealth? Then write a good iPad app.”

      This isn’t just hypothetical. I’m fortunate to have Safari access through work, so I’m pretty familiar with the mainline product. However, I wouldn’t pay for it out of my own pocket. I just can’t do that much reading on a desktop computer screen. But if I could read Safari titles in the same way I read iBooks, I would certainly pay if I had to.

      Safari isn’t likely to get any extra money out of me personally (because I already have access), but you better believe that that ability to shift people from “nice, but kind of pricey” to “sure” is going to have repercussions. Tablets and e-readers are going to account for a large fraction of technical book reading in the very near future, so this project is critical to Safari’s business mission. It’s too important to be treated as a hobby or as something that’s not worth doing right.

  36. Max Schilling

    I gotta jump on the bandwagon. I’m sorry to say, but this app is terrible. The performance makes it nearly unusable to turn pages. I need to click the page turn button any number of times to get it to actually register. The ability to drag books into the offline bookbag seems very flaky and not iPad like at all. If I am reading a book I cannot find a way to have the app remember where I was in the book. When I re-open the book it goes right back to page 1 every time. I’ve also never seen clunkier scrolling or dragging in an iphone or ipad app.

    Look at the Kindle app or any number of other apps that allow reading books. Using this app is NOT a pleasant experience. This is a major disappointment.

    • Max Schilling

      I had been waiting patiently for this app, but after spending last night and this morning attempting to use the app, I’ve cancelled my Safari Bookshelf account. I’d rather purchase the eBooks and be able to read them in a usable eReader on the iPad then spend money for something that is this poor.

      • Daniel

        Agreed. This service is worthless to me if it can’t provide the books in a better format. Even if the app worked flawlessly (which couldn’t be further from the current truth), this app would suck because its UI is so poorly designed. If SBO refuses to pull the plug on this app and fire their developers, I’m more than happy to pull the plug on my subscription.

        Seriously, does Rayhill’s nephew work at Nitobi or something? How is it possible that SBO is alright with spending money on such garbage?

      • Adil

        I wouldn’t cancel my subscription just because of this app! I like Safari and I would encourage them to think about creating a native iPad app and taking the full advantage of iOS. I believe the next version would be a killer!

  37. Andrew B

    I’ve been disappointing by apps before, but this one actually makes me feel angry. I bought an iPad and a SBO subscription way back when the app was promised to be ready in July.. and after months of delays and beta testing I figured it was going to be perfect! Far from being perfect it is actually borderline unusable and I find it hard to believe that a) this was beta tested at all, and b) that Apple would approve something that has such obvious bugs and unbelievably bad performance. I wish Apple had kept with their original idea to prevent non-native apps from being sold in the app store.

    Safari Books what were you thinking? Ok so you have a platform independent app that you provide for free, but those of us who spend forty a month on a subscription would gladly pay good money for an app that actually works.

  38. A Frano

    I have found the Book Bag to be completely useless. Despite placing a few books in it, these were not accessible when out of wifi range. Without this feature being reliable I’m sad to say that this application is useless. It’s even slower than the website too.

    I’ll add my voice to the chorus. Please make a native iOS app. It took you this long to make a “multi platform” app. I’m pretty sure a native one would have taken you half the time to make.

  39. CausticMango

    Look, don’t take this the wrong way — I mean this to be constructive criticism — but ditch whatever you used to make this app (sounds like it was PhoneGap). It’s terrible; whatever minor benefit you might get from it being “cross platform” is completely overshadowed by this app’s awfulness.

    It may actually have been the final straw to make me cancel my Safari Books subscription.

    As a fellow iOS developer, just go native. It’s not difficult and your customers will appreciate it. This app is kind of an insult, especially when you consider how expensive the subscription is to begin with.

  40. TchaTcho

    Please, rebuild this crap.

    I dont gonna even comment about this app. If you need cross mobile use titanium instead of phonegap. This will compile in native language for each device.


  41. geoff

    Hi sbo,

    Whilst initially disappointed, i’m sure you will fix up the many complaints on the app. 1.0 eh =(
    Looking forward to ver 1.1.

    In any case, I get a ‘Next available swap date is 2010/11/24’ error when moving a book from my bookshelf to the bookbag, but the other 3 books worked fine, and I have 1 slot free still……?? halp pleese O.o


  42. Victor Volle

    issues in order of importance (for me):

    1) scrolling “velocity”
    2) side sweep to get to the next page/chapter or
    if allow to “scroll” beyond the bottom line to the next page /chapter
    3) remember where I have previously been and directly go there
    4) overall clumsiness

  43. rgoodside

    Dear Safari,

    I feel like I’ve been slapped in the face. After months of delays and anxiously awaiting this app’s release, we get an unfinished, unprofessional, and almost unusable collection of lagging keystrokes, random crashes, and glacial load screens. This is a black mark both for Nitobi, for producing such horribly designed software, and for Safari for making the mistake of using their services. I only hope that the outcry in these comments is enough to make you reverse course and produce an app that doesn’t rely on the PhoneGap framework. Safari is a great service, and it’s sad to see the brand embarrass itself with such an amateurish release.

    Your paying customer,

    Riley Goodside

  44. CJ

    Garbage! This thing does not feel like an iPad app. Swipe does not work, many images don’t show up properly, and I can’t get an item in my bag. This is sad…I expected MUCH MORE from Safari! Don’t download until this fix this junk.

  45. RussellCorey

    I travel a lot and I work in the tech field. Safari on the ipad would be perfect so I was pretty much looking forward to this for a while.

    The good:

    The app now exists; in a pinch I can read books on the plane now.

    The UI is relatively straightforward though not really ipad like.

    The bad:

    Browsing for books can be annoying. When you select a title and add it to favorites you can’t just go back to your search results. It looks like you have to actually go back and kick off the search again.

    Offline reading is a great to have feature. Unfortunately its a raster image and relatively low resolution. I can read for about 15 minutes before I need to take a break and some figures are just unreadable.

    You can’t search for text in offline mode

    You can’t annotate in offline mode

    Online reading in HTML mode is a little awkward. You swipe down to the bottom of a section and then use “prev/next page” to bounce to the next section. I understand this is essentially how the website behaves so maybe providing a visual cue in the app would help.

    Nice to haves:

    A way to invert text display. In the dark its nice to swap to white text on black to not blind the guy trying to sleep next to you on the plane.

    Landscape mode.

    Zoom functionality in offline mode.

    Does it sync with your notes you take on the website? If not this would be nice to have, as well as syncing back up to the website.

    I would be curious to see what the submission you turned down looks like.

  46. David

    The central problem is that everyone who wants to deploy a book reading app has to reinvent the wheel — make the same mistakes, learn the same lessons, and put in all the development hours from scratch. I wonder if there could be a business opportunity to develop a solid reading app that content distributors like Safari could license and brand as their own. Such an app would be 1) cheaper and higher quality than an in-house project, 2) provide native versions for multiple platforms, 3) provide the content protection that the publishers desire, and 4) provide pluggable support for various distribution scenarios and formats (i.e. online/offline, HTML vs. EPUB vs. PDF vs. raster images, etc.). It could be a win-win deal for everybody.

  47. Victor Volle

    it seems that the “bookbag offline” folder can not be accessed from the web site (probably because it is expected that the books in it are downloaded), but

    1) I may be at another computer and want to copy/paste some code snippet (I then have to
    search for the book again?)
    2) the book has not yet been downloaded (I have yet to find out which books are downloaded and
    why it takes so long)

    I have deinstalled the App. In its current form it is useless for me.

  48. Sean


    A little further feedback – backup/sync to itunes now takes so long that I’ve gave up after 45 minutes. I’ve uninstalled the app and it worked after that.

    Pity, I was really hoping that this would work – maybe the next version will be better.

  49. Travis

    Tough room. At first I was going to write an angry post but everything I would have said is already posted so there isn’t any reason to say it again (or to light a flame). Obviously you guys know what you need to do for 1.1. I would very much like to see this app improve and succeed so please don’t give up on us. I’m looking forward to using the bookbag as our 3G coverage here is horrible. Thanks SBO, keep the updates coming.

  50. Nate

    A few notes. I pay for this service out of my own pocket since I am a contractor, and have found it invaluable. I was looking forward to the addition of an *iPad* app. Not an app that “pretends” to be for the iPad but is really just a glorified “web application” all the way down to the non-standard user interface.

    I would recommend having the entire Dev team to a in-depth study of the interface for the Kindle & iBooks apps, and then create a completely new native app. Remove about half of the so-called “features” in your current app.

    The opening page should have my favorites/bookbag and the last book I read. Not the “top books, featured books, and new books”. I care about getting to the book I am currently reading quickly. I can add books on the website and search for books there. Notice how amazon links to their store from the app instead of trying to make the app do everything!

    “My Favorites” is in a popup box??? Why? It wastes screen space at the top and bottom. Take a look at the iPad email app for a widget that does this job much better. Folders in the left pane, content in the right. This stuff is *not that difficult*.

    Ensure you have these important things when reading a book:
    * brightness/contrast setting
    * font size (and a few basic font faces – less is more)
    * background color setting (white text on black, black text on white)
    * bookmarks & highlighting
    * quick access to table of contents, beginning, specific location
    * touch gestures to turn pages and zoom in and out (this is probably the *WORST* app i have seen for gesture and touch support)

    I will be going back to the website and the full screen “HTML” view, since at least then I can view it in landscape mode and zoom in without blurring the text. And its much faster than the app!!

    I appreciate the effort that you’ve made with this application, and hope that it improves to the point that I can someday come back to it and use it.

  51. Stefanie

    Wow. I guess you should have gone with Plan A. Some perform while others dream.

  52. Corro'll Driskell

    I have been pretty impressed with the Safari on the Go app. It is great when flying across the country. Of course, there are some features that I would like to see added, such as, scrolling. I look forward to the update in the app store.


  1.  Living In The Clouds: Safari Book iPad App, First Impressions
  2.  » Safari To Go: how not to build an iPad app