OS X 10.9 Mavericks and Ebooks: The Good, the Bad and the Confusing

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With the arrival of the iBooks app on OS X 10.9 Mavericks, those who have large ebook libraries on their Macs face some conundrums. In a recent article, Where Did My Books Go?, I explained that your ebooks are no longer stored in your iTunes Media folder. They are now hidden in an obscure folder, and the file names are changed. If you want to back up a large ebook library, you need to make sure to back up this folder.

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But there’s another issue you need to know about. You can no longer add epub books to your iTunes library; but you can still add PDFs. This has two effects. First, you cannot change any metadata in the iBooks app. So if you get a book and the author’s name is wrong, or the genre (or “category”) is incorrect, you can’t alter these. Second, if you have any epubs that are digital booklets for albums – such as those provided with downloads purchased from Hyperion Records – you can no longer store them with your music.

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First, the metadata issue. Even if you buy all your ebooks from Apple, you’ll find that authors’ names are not consistent (some are Last Name, First Name, others are First Name Last Name), and you’ll likely want to change the categories of some books, if you sort books that way. There’s no native method for doing this any more, though there are a few third-party apps that claim to be able to edit metadata of epubs (I haven’t tried any yet). But once the books are in iBooks, it’s not simple to change the metadata. Since there’s no Reveal in Finder command for a book, you need to look in the folder I told you about in this article, but where the epub files won’t have recognizable names. You’ll have to root through the files to find the book you want.

Update: There’s an easy way to get copies of books in your iBooks library: just drag them to the Desktop or to a folder.

As for digital booklets, which you may want to store with your music, there’s no way around that, other than to only use PDF versions. Hyperion makes both; most labels only provide PDFs (if they provide digital booklets at all). This is a shame; Hyperion’s initiative is laudable, since epubs let you choose a font size, and the books are more readable on small-screen devices, such as an iPhone or iPod touch. You could put all your epub digital booklets in iBooks, sync them to an iOS device, and read them with the iBooks app – or read them on a Mac with iBooks – but they won’t be as accessible as when they’re stored with an album. But note that, in spite of the separation of books from iTunes, you still choose which ones you want to sync to your iOS device from the iTunes interface.

It’s good that Apple has (finally) released an iBooks app for Mac. This makes reading books on a Mac very easy. However, it’s not so good that they’ve sequestered these books in a hard-to-find folder, and eliminated the ability to edit metadata. Perhaps a developer will pick up the gauntlet, and create an app that can scan the books in that hidden folder, and let you edit their metadata. This would be a good thing, and make it easier to manage a library of ebooks on a Mac.




1 reply
  1. Smedley Butler says:

    I agree with most of your article and it is good that you are sharing this information. The changing of file names is definitely “evil.” You are wrong about being able to add DRM free EPUBs. Drop them on the iBooks icon in the dock (at least that’s what I’ve done) and they are added to the library. The weird thing is now to sync them with your iPad or iPhone, you do that in iTunes. Cheers

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