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iBooks update brings narration feature to some titles

A new feature in Apple's iBooks application will read books and automatically turn pages for a handful of children's titles.

A new update to Apple's iBooks application lets books narrate to readers, including following along word by word, and automatically turning pages.

The feature, which went out today as part of a software update, is targeted at children's books, some 44 of which were available earlier today before Apple pulled mention of it from the iBookstore, along with several of the titles.

Two books CNET downloaded with the feature enabled ahead of the removal do not have working narration, suggesting that the feature may not have been ready for prime time. An Apple representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.

Apple's read-aloud feature in one of the compatible books.
Apple's read-aloud feature in one of the compatible books. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Amazon famously included computer-driven text-to-speech narration as a feature of its second-generation Kindle device, before giving publishers the capability to turn it on and off for specific titles. In this case, the narration is human, akin to third-party book reading apps that mix e-books with a voice track, and differ from so-called "enhanced" titles, which include embedded video and audio clips.

Along with the read-aloud feature, the update tweaks enhanced books to automatically start playing audio and video. Apple also says the application is now "more responsive" when opening large books, and a bug that had pages showing up twice has been fixed.