10 things you should know about iBooks and iBooks Store

iBooksSo, you’ve got a nice shiny iPad, and one of the things you’re going to do is to read books on it.

Most probably you’ll want to check out Apple’s own book-reading app iBooks. Go ahead, but be aware of all the pros and cons. This post will list most of them.

The major weakness is that Apple grows their products, iBooks among them, in a walled garden. It’s extremely hard to get in – and extremely hard to get out.

For anyone who doesn’t sleep with MacBook Pro, Apple’s world may seem odd and create a lot of confusion. Well, Google search traffic to our site proves this – a lot of entries come from key phrases like “how to search iBooks Store without iPad.”

First confusion to clear: a difference between iBooks and iBooks Store. iBooks is the app to read books. You can buy these books in the iBooks Store, which is a part of the iTunes Store.

10 things to know about iBooks and iBooks Store

1. iBooks Store does not have a web store

For anyone spending most of the time with a browser opened on a computer and running in the background all the time, this seems to be the oddest thing to learn.

Yes, it’s true. You can’t browse on the web for things offered in the iTunes Store (music, apps, books). Apple simply doesn’t offer a web storefront that would let easily find and buy goods using Firefox, Google, or Safari browsers.

Instead, you’ll have to download iTunes app to your computer. It’s available not only for Mac, but also for Windows. From there you can both browse the books, and manage the library or purchased titles.

An, hey, if you keep scrolling down the Google search results page, you may see the site with the url address ibookstore.com. Don’t get cheated. They’ve got nothing to do with Apple, although the site’s design resembles iTunes. They actually sell stuff from Amazon.

2. …but you can still search iBooks Store using Google

How to search iBooks Store without iPad? It’s possible, and you don’t even need to download and sign up to iTunes.

Apple doesn’t have a web storefront, but the content from iTunes is available online (in a limited form, though), and can be searched using Google.

A trick is to limit search to one site only. Here’s an example that finds books about Steve Jobs in the iBooks Store US:

site:itunes.apple.com/us/book/ "Steve Jobs"

When you click on a search result, you’ll go to a web preview of the iTunes Preview page with book details.

iBooks Store web preview

If you want to search iBooks Store localized outside US, simply replace “us” with the two-letter code of your country. For example, the same search in the German iBooks Store will be:

site:itunes.apple.com/de/book/ "Steve Jobs"

3. You can’t read books in the browser

Many ebookstores offer access to users’ book library in the web browser. Amazon has that, Kobo has that, Google has that.

Access via web browser is very helpful if you seriously think about using the iPad for learning. Some things just have to be done on a bigger screen with a full-size keyboard.

When you start using iBooks app, you’ll have to accept the books you have can’t be opened and read in a browser.

You can only use iBooks app on the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch,… and finally MacOS.

4. There is an iBooks desktop app for Mac

Making iBookstore/iBooks accessible via web browser would make it more popular among non-Mac iPad users.

However, Apple finally came with iBooks to MacOS devices. iBooks application is free to use, and is installed as a part of the new MacOS 10.9 Mavericks, which is also free. If your hardware is new enough, you can download Mavericks via Mac App Store.

There is a pretty impressive list of options iBooks has. It will certainly make it easier not only to read, but also study books and documents from your iBooks library.

The best thing is that with iBooks you can open and keep as many books as you want. If you are using iBooks Author, now you will be able to preview your ebooks in the iBooks app – a relevant update to iBooks Author has appeared in the Mac App Store.

iBooks for MacOS Mavericks

5. iBooks is the most convenient book app for iPad/iPhone

Out of many book reading apps in the iTunes Store, iBooks is the most convenient one, because it offers seamless access to iBooks Store. You can buy new books without leaving the app.

Competitors don’t offer this feature. This is not because competitors don’t know how to do it. This is because competitors would have to pay one-third of each purchase to Apple. Both Apple and its competitors are too greedy.

6. iBooks Store is not compatible with the rest of the world

Apple is using the popular ebook format, epub. Pdf is also supported, but not recommended on the smaller screen of the iPhone, or even iPad Mini.

You can upload own books to iBooks (tips come below). Make sure the files are unprotected, because now we enter the walled garden.

Most files in the iBooks are protected with Apple’s own DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology called “Fair Play”.

How to check out if the file from iBooks Store has DRM

In the iTunes all on your computer, select the book, and choose File ⇢ Get Info. The status of the Kind field says:

  • “Book” – it’s the book you added yourself
  • “Purchased Book” – downloaded from iBooks Store, but DRM-free
  • “Protected Book” – book from the iBooks Store, with Fair Play DRM

While DRM-ed files bought on Kobo can be read on Nook, or vice versa (same DRM system from Adobe), this is not the case with iBooks. Fair Play is not being supported by any other ebook vendor. You’re stuck with Apple.

Amazon is also not compatible with the rest of the world, but Kindle Store is the largest and most advanced ebook store in the world.

7. iBooks Store is not available in all countries

The fact that you can buy iPad in your country, and set up iTunes account doesn’t mean you can shop iBooks Store.

While users from over 150 countries can sign up to their local iTunes Stores, iBooks Store is available only in about 50 countries.

Countries where iBooks Store launched so far

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela.

You can use the iBooks app without the iBooks Store, but you’ll have only a rather symbolic selection of free ebooks, so you should rely on other sources of ebooks (and remember, they will have to be DRM-free).

8. You don’t have to download own books via iTunes

When browsing Apple site for tips on how to add own books to iBooks, the advice that comes is to connect the iPad/iPhone via cable to computer and add books through iTunes.

Cables in times of cloud services are something too obsolete and definitely not comfortable.

There are three more ways to upload own books to the iBooks app:

1. Open an email attachment in a Mail iOS app
The most common method is to send an email to yourself, with epub file as an attachment. Then open the email in a native Mail app on the iPhone/iPad.

2. Use iOS cloud service app (Dropbox, Google Drive)
Download epub books in bulk to Google Drive or Dropbox on your computer and open them from within Google Drive/Dropbox app on your iOS device.

3. Use Safari to open a file from url address
Some sites (Project Gutenberg, Feedbooks) have clear url addresses of ebook files. When you tap on a link to epub file (ending with .epub), you should be able to open it with iBooks.

9. No one will gift you a book for iBooks

Currently there is no way to gift an ebook from iBooks Store.

If you wish to get an ebook as a gift, you should suggest iTunes gift card. Just make sure it’s bought in the iTunes Store in the same country as you are using. Otherwise you won’t be able to redeem it.

10. iBooks is not the only choice you have

Tablets and smartphones offer one wonderful thing: a choice. You can read ebooks not in one book app but many. You can pick up iBooks, or Kindle, or Kobo, or Marvin, or a combination of few of these apps.

Be smart and don’t stop exploring on the library view in the iBooks app.

So, if you are ready, here is a simple guide on reading ebooks on the iPhone (works well for iPad and iPod Touch).

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