Category: 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

Learn Go Now

In March, Google’s AlphaGo is going to play a five-game match against Lee Sedol. For Go, this may become the equivalent of Kasparov’s match against Deep Blue. Tremendously exciting. And if you don’t know the game of Go, you’ll miss out.

So how do you get up to speed so you have a clue what’s going on? Several possibilities:

  • Friend or Go club: If you have a friend who has been trying to tell you about Go for years, now’s the time. Otherwise, check the American Go Association or the European Go Federation for a Go club near you. (In Salt Lake City, we meet every Thursday after 7 pm at the Salt Lake Roasting Co. — everybody is welcome, and we love to teach beginners about the game.)
  • App with tutorial: The SmartGo Player app for iPhone and iPad includes a tutorial that guides you through the (very simple) rules, then provides over 100 interactive problems to apply those rules (much more complex) and practice your tactics. Then as you play against the computer, it automatically adjusts the handicap to keep the game challenging.
  • Books about Go: There are a number of books that will give you a good introduction to the game , e.g. the “Learn to Play Go” series by Janice Kim followed by the “Graded Go Problems for Beginners” series. Here’s a list of beginner books. If you have an iPad or iPhone, use the Go Books app to read and solve problems interactively; if you prefer printed books, click on the Printed Book link in that list.

Enjoy learning about Go — it’s a game worth knowing. There’s a reason it has been played for thousands of years, and it will remain popular even after computers eventually conquer it.

iPad Pro: Not Free

Remember how the savings from buying digital Go books would be enough to buy you an iPad Air? Since then, the Go Books library has grown by 27 books. Do the savings now add up to an iPad Pro, the ultimate tool to study Go? No, sorry, not quite.

You can buy all 27 books for $224 in Go Books. Or you can spend $302 to buy 19 of them on paper — eight are available exclusively in Go Books. You get more books, and the savings are real, but not enough to step up to an iPad Pro.

The books you can’t get anywhere else include “Lee Changho’s Endgame Techniques”, several books by John Fairbairn including “Honinbo Tournament – Early Years”, a new look at Igo Hatsuyōron 120 split into 120 problems, and “Just Enough Japanese” by Richard Hunter to help you understand those printed Japanese Go books sitting unread on your shelf.

You can have books sitting on your shelf gathering dust. Or you can have books in your iPad and iPhone that get better every year: fewer typos, improved layout, and easier to read at night. And I plan to keep adding value to the books you’ve already bought.

So this holiday season, get yourself an iPad for reading and start saving. But maybe not an iPad Pro.

Read at Night

Go Books on iOS now includes dark gray and black backgrounds for better reading at night. That was not a feature I saw a need for myself, but I started getting a number of requests for this, and it’s clearly a significant issue for many. Whenever you want to read Go books, I want to encourage that, whether it’s day or night.

Blog night mode

Please let me know how this new night mode works for you. So far, I have not changed the diagrams — do you also need the board to be darker?

Bonus feature: You can now choose three-column layout on the iPad. Probably not that useful, which is why I had not enabled it before, but I think you’re going to love three or even four columns on the upcoming iPad Pro. (The Mac version of Go Books already supports four-column layout.)