Macworld Masterclass: Browse through literary history on your iPad

Read the classics with the British Library’s 19th Century Books app

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  • anno Intro
  • British Library 1 Step 1: Choose your service
  • British Library 2 Step 2: Books galore
  • British Library 3 Step 3: Biblio-browsing
  • British Library 4 Step 4: Lost for words
  • British Library 5 Step 5: Reading festival
  • British Library 6 Step 6: Read offline
  • More stories
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Intro

Reading a book on a tablet device might seem the epitome of modernity, but the British Library’s 19th Century Books app puts a rich historical spin on it. Here is a treasure trove of 19th-century writing, with lovingly reproduced pages from this most literary of periods.

Extra content includes context-giving YouTube clips popping up throughout, and British Library curators offering collections of books to introduce you to a topic.

You can subscribe to an incredible 30,000 books (60,000 by the end of the year) for £1.99 per month. A free taster gives you 100 books to look through, and the chance to download books to read offline. So: install the app and prepare to get historical.

Vital Info

Device: iPad
Difficulty: Beginner
Time required: Depends how fast you read

What you need

iOS 4.0 or later
Wi-Fi or internet
British Library 19th Century Books app (free)

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Next Prev anno

Reading a book on a tablet device might seem the epitome of modernity, but the British Library’s 19th Century Books app puts a rich historical spin on it. Here is a treasure trove of 19th-century writing, with lovingly reproduced pages from this most literary of periods.

Extra content includes context-giving YouTube clips popping up throughout, and British Library curators offering collections of books to introduce you to a topic.

You can subscribe to an incredible 30,000 books (60,000 by the end of the year) for £1.99 per month. A free taster gives you 100 books to look through, and the chance to download books to read offline. So: install the app and prepare to get historical.

Vital Info

Device: iPad
Difficulty: Beginner
Time required: Depends how fast you read

What you need

iOS 4.0 or later
Wi-Fi or internet
British Library 19th Century Books app (free)

 

Step 2 of 7: Step 1: Choose your service

Once you’ve downloaded the app (it’s free from the App Store), start it up. The app will check to see if you’ve already subscribed, but if it’s your first go, you’ll see this screen. You can choose to try a selection of 100 books for free, or opt to take out the paid-for subscription to the whole service.

 

Step 3 of 7: Step 2: Books galore

If you opt to pay the full whack, you’ll be led through Apple’s In-App subscription process. It costs £1.99 per month, and will renew every month until you cancel it (that’s how they get you). However, a monthly subscription does give you access to an absolutely massive selection of books.

 

Step 4 of 7: Step 3: Biblio-browsing

Whether you opt for a subscription or the 100-book sampler, your home screen looks like this. Here you can view featured collections and highlights, and launch to any part of the app. Tap any panel to get a fuller description of the library item, and browse the app using the shortcuts at the bottom of the screen.

 

Step 5 of 7: Step 4: Lost for words

Some of the book entries have multimedia content attached to them, such as Emma by Jane Austen. You’ll find these little treats when you tap on a book entry and scroll down on the book’s summary screen. Bits of content like this make it very easy to get lost in the app for hours.

 

Step 6 of 7: Step 5: Reading festival

Once you’ve found a book you want to read, tap the ‘Read this book’ button on the summary screen. Here you’ll be taken to a faithful reproduction of these historical texts (complete with blank pages at the start – it hasn’t crashed, they’re meant to be like that). Flick left and right to turn the pages. 

 

Step 7 of 7: Step 6: Read offline

To read a book offline, you need to download it. While you’re reading a book, tap the ‘+’ sign at the top-right. Then tap ‘Add to bookshelf’. The book will download. Make sure you let it download fully (there’s a progress bar) before you disconnect from the internet. Books you’ve downloaded appear in your ‘Book Lists’.

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