Apple has released beta five of iOS 9, and in this release iBooks has gotten a new Gray color style. In previous versions of iBooks, the only styles were White, Sepia and Night. White offered black text on a white background, Sepia offered black text on a tan-colored background, and Night offered white text on a dark black background.
The new Gray style uses white text on a gray background and it works surprisingly well as I'll discuss in more detail below. This feature addition to iBooks in iOS 9 was a bit of a surprise to me since there had been no mention of it anywhere that I could find before it was actually released.
iBooks new Gray style looks like a lighter version of Daring Fireball
Daring Fireball is one of the most popular Apple blogs on the Web. It has a huge number of followers and the blog's readers look forward to reading John Gruber's take on Apple news each day. Daring Fireball also uses white text on a grayish background, which provides a very different look and feel than most other blogs.
I remember the first time I saw Daring Fireball and I did a bit of a double take since I hadn't seen many blogs with a grayish background and white text. It took me a little while to get used to it, but once I did I appreciated the understated elegance of that color choice. It gives Daring Fireball its own unique identity in terms of design, and it's pretty easy on the eyes once you get used to seeing it.
John Gruber and Daring Fireball have been on Apple's radar for a very, very long time now. So it's no surprise to me that the company probably decided to incorporate an option in iBooks that could be considered loosely based on the Daring Fireball blog. If it works for such a popular Apple blog then why not offer it to readers in iBooks?
Daring Fireball's background is a darker, bluish kind of gray than the gray background in iBooks, but it's close enough that the new Gray style in iBooks could be considered an homage to Daring Fireball. Only Apple knows for sure, but it's hard not to think that once you see it in action in iBooks.
I can understand why Apple opted for a lighter, different shade of gray than the one used at Daring Fireball. If it was as dark as the Daring Fireball site, it would be too close to the Night style that iBooks already had before iOS 9. So a lighter homage to Daring Fireball makes much more sense than trying to replicate it exactly.
Why bother with a Gray style in iBooks?
Some might wonder though if a gray background in iBooks is really necessary, given the other color choices that were already available. After all, if you have White, Sepia and Night then what place does Gray occupy in terms of reading in iBooks?
I read frequently on my iPad Air 2 and I've noticed that the Gray option works great for me during the day. I have always tended to dislike White because I don't like seeing a white background all the time when I read, so in the past I've opted for Sepia since it was the only day-time alternative.
But I started reading with the Gray option enabled and it works perfectly for me. The Gray background is darker and easier on the eyes than Sepia (and much better than White) during my day-time reading. And I have no problem reading the white text on the gray background.
The new Gray option in iBooks also makes the text stand out and the background fade away while I'm reading. I was somewhat surprised to feel that way, but I suspect I won't be alone once other iBooks readers try the new Gray option. It gave a Daring Fireball kind of flavor to all of my books in iBooks.
How to use the Gray style in iBooks in iOS 9
If you want to try using the new gray background in iBooks, just tap on the font icon at the top right and then tap on the gray option to switch to it. It works in regular view or in scrolling view.
I've found that the Seravek font looks very good with the gray background in iBooks. Your mileage may vary in that regard, of course, since everybody has unique preferences when it comes to fonts. But do try Seravek at least once to see if it floats your boat.
No Gray style in iBooks for OS X El Capitan yet
While I don't generally read in iBooks on any of my Macs, I looked for the gray style in iBooks in the latest OS X El Capitan beta (beta 4) but, alas, Apple has not added it yet. I'm not sure why it's not available but I hope that they add it since it makes sense for iBooks in OS X to have the same color options as iOS.
Hopefully, we'll see a gray option in iBooks when OS X El Capitan is released in the fall, if not sooner. I'll be installing each developer beta between now and then so I'm hopeful that one of them will come with the gray iBooks style available in it.
Update: OS X El Capitan beta 6 has added the Gray style to iBooks. Well that didn't take very long. Thanks Apple!
Kudos to Apple for the Gray style in iBooks
Apple has always been famous for giving its customers features that delight them but that they didn't know they needed. And I think that's very much the case with the Daring Fireball color option in iBooks in iOS 9.
If you had asked me if I wanted the Gray style, I would have probably just shrugged my shoulders or simply said no. It wasn't on my radar and I probably wouldn't have thought that it would add any real value to the iBooks reading experience. But I would have been very much wrong if I'd taken that attitude.
So kudos to Apple for adding the Gray style to iBooks. I didn't know I needed it, but now I'm sure glad it's there for me to enjoy.
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