Category: Books

Learn to Play Go Series as EPUB

The five volumes of the Learn to Play Go series are now available as EPUB, which opens them up to readers on Android and Windows. Janice Kim’s award-winning series takes the complete beginner step-by-step all the way to playing real Go.

Learn to play go series covers
(Of 142 books in Go Books, all but 7 are now available as EPUB.)

EPUB App Recommendations

I’ve updated my recommendations of EPUB readers. On Android, I suggest you try Reasily and Adobe Digital Editions. On Windows, Readium Desktop seems to be working better than calibre. Each one comes with its own set of issues, no perfect choice out there. Please let me know what’s working for you, and keep providing feedback directly to the developers of these apps to help improve them.

App Store Confidential

Tom Sadowski was responsible for the App Store in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland from 2014 to 2019, and in his book “App Store Confidential” he provides a look behind the scenes. According to this Verge article, he’s had a falling-out with Apple, and Apple is trying to block publication of the book. The book is still available on Amazon, but only in German.

As the workings of the App Store are of crucial interest to developers, I read through it from a developer’s perspective and noted what I learned – interesting, but nothing that I think Apple should be blocking the book for. I grew up in the German-speaking part of Switzerland; for those who don’t know German, I’ve provided approximate Kindle locations below, so you can use e.g. Google Translate for more detail.

App Store Teams

For each country there are business managers and editors who are dealing with the customers as well as the developers in their region [loc 596]. The editors curate the App Store, and don’t just suggest apps, but also intend to shape the app culture.

The Discovery tab is refreshed at least twice weekly, presenting users with the most relevant, popular, and best monetizing apps [loc 609].

While the editors are working more in the background, the business managers talk with and advise developers in key accounts [loc 623]. The key accounts are based on top grossing (if you’re in the top 20, you can be sure you’re on Apple’s radar), strategic (accounts that have regional significance) [loc 638], and startups (where they’re looking at long-term monetizing potential) [loc 658].

Project Berghain

In 2016 he set up a program to help startups in Germany; in 2018 they launched Project Berghain [loc 941], where they evaluated over 300 apps, asked more questions of 20 apps, invited 10 apps to pitch-meetings in Berlin, and then decided on 5 apps that they were going to support [loc 954]. The apps were all based on subscriptions, had an innovative product, and a strong team.

Success Factors

Products, people, and passion: The **product** needs to be so good that it enriches the user’s life, and the user is willing to pay for it [loc 1034]. The **people** need to include a UI expert, a programmer, and a sales person [loc 1045], and need to have **passion** for their product.

Advertising comes last: the product needs to be convincing, otherwise marketing is not going to help [loc 1072].

For subscriptions to be successful, they need to enrich people’s lives, and convert users into paying customers [loc 1133].

How to Get Featured

Different factors help an app get featured [loc 1184]: quality, UI design, user experience, innovation, localization (the more languages, the better, as editors can then suggest the app worldwide), video and cool artwork.

To get in touch with App Store team, he suggests having somebody who is already in touch with the App Store team recommend you [loc 1240]. Keep emails short, add a short video that introduces the app, don’t mention money or other apps [loc 1256]. Possibly ask for a personal meeting. And if Apple contacts you, provide the asked for material quickly and without questions [loc 1261].

More

The book also includes anecdotes about Tim Cook visits, personal and app stories, and more on where he thinks the App Store is going. If you’re dealing with the App Store, you should find a way to read it, as you’ll come at it from a different perspective and notice details that were not important to me.

The Right iPad for SmartGo

I often get asked about getting an iPad for SmartGo Kifu and Go Books – which iPad should you get? Here are my recommendations.

iPadOS: My main recommendation is to make sure the iPad you get can run the current version of iOS (now iPadOS). Yes, SmartGo can also run on some older versions of iOS, but it’s no secret that I’m working on an all-new version of SmartGo, and that one will require iOS 13 when it’s released. (No ETA yet.) iPads are long-lived, so you want to future-proof your purchase: at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPad#History, you can see which iPads support the latest iPadOS.

Cost: Ten years ago, the original iPad started at $499. The newest iPad is now available for only $249 at Amazon ($329 from Apple). The iPad Pro is pricier, starting at $799. Note that Apple also has refurbished iPads.

Size: The regular 9.7″ iPad was a great size, and the newest version features a 10.2″ screen. The 10.5″ iPad Air and the 11″ iPad Pro give you more screen without adding much size or weight. The screen on the 12.9″ iPad Pro is magnificent, but it’s not quite as portable as the smaller ones. With the 7.9″ iPad mini you pay more to get a smaller screen; I’d only recommend that one if portability is paramount.

Storage: 32 GB is fine for SmartGo, no need to get more. There are many other reasons to get more storage, e.g. for photos and videos, or movies for long flights, but go games and books are small and won’t impact your storage. (Can’t recommend old iPads with 16 GB, as a significant part of that is used by the system.)

Speed: For SmartGo Kifu and Go Books, speed is not currently a major factor, but I hope to take more advantage of processing power in future versions. There are apps that are based on Leela Zero or KataGo that will use all the processing power that you can give them. If that’s important to you, look at the processor: the 2018 iPad Pro with an A12X will be fastest, followed by the 2019 iPad Air (A12) and the regular 2018 iPad (A10). Note that the iPad Pro is likely due for a refresh this year.

Accessories: No accessories are needed for SmartGo. But if you want the iPad to take over more of the functions of your PC, you may want to add a keyboard cover. The newest iPad supports the Smart Keyboard, but that one requires you to perform origami each time you set it up, while the keyboard on the iPad Pro is a snap to set up. All the newest iPads support the Pencil, but the Pencil for the iPad Pro attaches and charges magnetically, which makes using it much more convenient. So if these are important, I’d recommend an iPad Pro, as it’s a significant improvement, but the difference in price is also very significant.

Hope this helps you decide on the right iPad for you. The newest iPad at $249 is a steal, and will easily pay for itself thanks to Go Books.

ePubs at gobooks.com

Go books are now available as ePub. I wrote about the plan in November; it took a while to get all the details sorted out.

You’ll see that gobooks.com sports an all-new design, courtesy of Scott Jensen. The previous site was focused on the app; the new design puts the books front and center. You can now also list the books by series and by author. Tap on a book to get details, to download an ePub sample, and to buy it.

Available books: Currently, 81 of the 134 books are available as ePub. Books from Hinoki Press and Good Move Press may not be available as ePub for a while. As for Kiseido and Board N’Stones, I have agreement in principle, but am waiting for their signatures. All the other publishers are on board, and their books are all available as ePub. The button for buying a book will be labeled either EPUB+GOBOOK or GOBOOK ONLY, depending on whether that book is available as ePub.

Issues with ePub: The iOS and Mac apps still offers the best reading experience; ePub readers have a ways to go. Please check out the page on issues and recommended ePub readers. For example, to solve problems, you’ll want to read in single-page (portrait) mode to hide the answer on the next page, as ePub doesn’t support page breaks well. On that page you’ll also find instructions on how to download ePubs of books you’ve already bought.

The Go Books app was released April 11, 2011, almost 8 years ago. It started out with 8 books by 4 publishers, and was limited to iOS. The Mac app was added in January 2015, along with the ability to buy books directly at gobooks.com. Time for the next chapter.

Go Books as ePub

Go Books has been a solid success: 134 books by a dozen publishers and over 40 authors, containing over 70,000 diagrams and 8,000 problems, all about the game of Go. However, so far the books have been limited to the Apple ecosystem: iPad, iPhone, and Mac. I’ve gotten requests from many of you on Android and Windows, and I’m sorry I didn’t have a solution for you. For a while, I explored the possibility of creating separate apps for those platforms, but that turned out to be too hard and expensive to create and maintain.

I finally have some good news: I’ve been working on converting Go books to ePub, the standard for digital books, supported on all popular platforms. I’ve been able to bring the main dynamic elements from the Go Books app to ePub format: interactive replay of diagrams as well as interactive solving of problems. ePub reading apps differ in how well they support this; reading apps not supporting JavaScript will simply display diagrams as static images.

While ePub can’t offer all the features of the Go Books app, it has other advantages:

  • Platform-agnostic: You can move to different platforms without losing your investment in books.
  • Future-proof: ePubs will continue to work even if the Go Books app and gobooks.com were to wither away at some point. Future devices are very likely to support ePub.
  • User-friendly: You can choose ePub readers that already support your favorite features, instead of begging me to add those to the app.

That said, to implement interactive books, I’m using parts of ePub that not all readers support, and even those that do support JavaScript and SVG are often buggy. Please let the authors of these ePub reading apps know about any issues you run into.

The following are the apps that have been working best for me; please let me know about other apps that can handle these ePubs.

Here are three Go book samples converted to ePub:

Epub covers

Questions? Some answers below; let me know what else you’re wondering about.

Will all books be available as ePub?

My goal is to get all the publishers onboard. Most books for sure; can’t promise every book at this point.

How will this work?

You’ll buy the book directly on the gobooks.com website (as you can already do now), and in addition to reading the book in the Go Books app, you’ll have the option of downloading an ePub file of the book. You can then read that in your ePub reader of choice.

Will the ePubs include DRM?

No, the ePubs won’t be encumbered by DRM (Digital Rights Management). DRM would reduce your choice of ePub reader and add unnecessary complications. We trust you to respect that the ePub file is for your personal use only.

What about books I’ve already bought?

You’ll be able to download ePub files for the books you’ve previously bought (assuming you’ve associated them with your email), so you can enjoy those books again on a different device.

Will the Go Books app go away?

No, the Go Books app will still be able to deliver better layout, better features, and better integration than an ePub. The Go Books app will still remain the best way to read about Go, and the iPad is still the device I’d recommend for anyone who wants to study Go — not just for Go Books, but also for SmartGo Kifu.

Will the ePubs be updated over time?

Yes, as I find ways to support new features or improve existing features, or simply fix typos, the ePub files will be updated. I plan to provide an email notification when your books get a significant update, so you can download the newest version. For example, inline diagrams won’t be supported in the initial version, but I hope to add that in the future.

What about multi-lingual books?

In the Go Books app, you can switch the language of a multi-lingual book on the fly. I have not found a good way to support that in ePub; instead, you’ll download a separate ePub for each language.

When will this be available?

It will be available when it’s ready. (Sorry, I’ve been burned too often by giving even vague dates.) There are still corner-cases to work out, server code to write, websites to update, and agreements to ink, so definitely not 2018.

Meanwhile, please try out the ePubs above with different reading apps on your devices, and provide feedback to me and to the app authors.

Dictionary of Basic Tesuji

The fourth and final volume of Dictionary of Basic Tesuji by Fujisawa Shuko is now available in Go Books on iPad, iPhone, and Macintosh. The project started mid 2016, and the first three volumes were published October 2016, February 2017, and July 2017. William Cobb of Slate & Shell did all the hard work of converting the books to digital format.

Four volumes of Basic Tesuji

The four volumes contain 714 problems and 3070 diagrams. But the real story is the 3743 inline diagrams: instead of deciphering text that describes alternate move sequences, just tap to see a diagram with the move sequence. This makes the digital version much easier to learn from.

Page showing inline diagram

Tesuji are moves that make the most effective use of stones; knowledge of tesuji will improve your fighting skills. This series brings together the full range of tesuji, categorized by the purpose for which they are used: invading, reducing liberties, securing eye shape, taking sente, linking up, taking away the base, and much more.

While many of the problems are hard, single-digit kyu players (and stronger) should benefit from this series. For weaker players, I’d recommend first working through the Graded Go Problems for Beginners or Black to Play! series, then read e.g. Tesuji by James Davies or Five Hundred and One Tesuji Problems by Richard Bozulich.

Search and URL Scheme

The newest versions of SmartGo Kifu and SmartGo for Macintosh both include the enhanced names dictionary by John Fairbairn (GoGoD), with mini-biographies of over 4,000 players: life, career, status, teacher, Go style, and notes. Just tap on the player name above the board to see the biography.

Blog takemiya bio 

Improved search

The names dictionary includes translations as well as alternate names, and these are now used to significantly improve searching for players. Just type in the search bar, and it will try to match any property containing that text.

You can use ! to negate, e.g. type ‘Kato !Masao’ to look for all the other players named Kato. Anything that looks like a four-digit year will be matched to the date property, and you can search for a range, so e.g. ‘1990-1994 Takemiya’ will search for games Takemiya played during those years.

For more precise searches, you can test for specific properties and conditions, and combine conditions using & (and) and | (or). For example, you can type ‘winner=Lee Sedol & result~~0.5’ to find half-point wins by Lee Sedol (spelled Yi Se-tol in the game collection).

Blog winner lee sedol 

URL scheme

This kind of search is powerful within the app, but you can now access it from other apps too, thanks to the smartgo:// URL scheme. For example, the following link will get you directly to Shusaku’s ear-reddening move:

smartgo://games?id=1846-09-11a#127

Or find all the games played between AlphaGo and Ke Jie:

smartgo://games?player==AlphaGo & player==Ke Jie

Or find cool kyu-level problems:

smartgo://problems?coolness=10 & difficulty<=1k

Recent games of Gu Li playing black against Lee Sedol:

black==Gu Li & white==Lee Sedol & date>=2012

Games that Takemiya won by resignation playing black against a 9 dan:

smartgo://games?black=Takemiya Masaki & result=B+R & rankw=9d

Games played in the Kisei or Honinbo tournaments:

smartgo://games?event~~Kisei | event~~Honinbo

Three-stone handicap games played in the ’90s:

smartgo://games?handicap=3 & date>=1990 & date<=1999

Single-digit kyu life and death problems:

smartgo://problems?difficulty<=1k & difficulty>=9k & genre~~life

Please let me know how you use this new feature, and what could make it more useful to you.

Properties and operators

Here’s the complete list of properties currently supported (SGF tag):

  • Player: player (PB/PW), black (PB), white (PW), winner (PB/PW/RE), loser (PB/PW/RE), rankb (BR), rankw (WR).
  • Game info: id (GN), date (DT), event (EV), round (RO), komi (KM), handicap (HA), oldhandicap (OH), result (RE), rules (RU), time (TM), source (SO), analysis (AN), user (US), comment (GC).
  • Problems: difficulty (DI), coolness (CO), genre (GE).
  • Special: favorite (FA), any (any game info property).

The following operators are supported (comparisons are not case sensitive):

  • == or = : Equal
  • != : Not equal
  • ^= : Starts with
  • ~~ : Contains
  • !~ : Does not contain
  • >= : At least
  • <= : At most