Apple is pre-installing iBooks on its new mobile iOS 8 operating system and will allow up to six family members to share books, music, TV shows, films and apps.
The iBooks move means many millions of Apple users will get iBooks on their devices by default without having to download and install an app.
Under the Family Sharing scheme, up to six people can share purchases from iTunes, iBooks and the App Store without sharing accounts. Purchases are paid for with a single credit card and children’s purchases can be controlled from a parent’s device. Photos and a family calendar can also be shared.
Other ebook retailers, including Amazon, do allow sharing of ebooks, but only on to different devices on a single account, so a person can, for example, read an ebook they’ve bought on their Kindle, iPad and smartphone.
It will be interesting to see publishers’ reactions to the Apple sharing move as it probably won’t be very difficult to circumvent the “family-only” restriction to copy in friends to share books, although the fact that only a single credit card is used could provide some deterrent.
The new version of iOS will be welcome to many Apple users who have been disappointed and confused with iOS 7.1. The new mobile OS is scheduled for release in the autumn as a free upgrade for the iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPod touch 5th generation, iPad 2, iPad with Retina display, iPad Air, iPad mini and iPad mini with Retina display.
Apple is also upgrading its desktop OS, currently Mavericks, to Yosemite in the autumn. It added a desktop version of iBooks last year but the details for the new OS do not reveal whether iBooks will be pre-installed with Yosemite.