Thoughtful, detailed coverage of the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, plus the TidBITS Content Network for Apple consultants.

iBookstore Finally Appears in iTunes

Those who went to the home page of the U.S. iTunes Store on the Mac last week and were paying close attention were rewarded with the first glimpse of Apple’s new wing — the iBookstore. That’s right, you can finally browse all the titles in the iBookstore from a Mac or PC in iTunes, rather than solely from within iBooks on an iOS device. (We’re not yet certain what the international availability of the iBookstore will be, and it’s likely that Apple will be rolling it out separately in different countries, with different collections of titles.)

This move has been far too long in the coming, and it has been painfully obvious that it was necessary. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being able to buy books from within iBooks, much as books can be purchased from a Kindle, but it made no sense to prevent people from buying from within iTunes on a Mac or PC as well, especially considering that Apple has trained us to use iTunes for so many types of purchases. Amazon would never reveal the ratio (and I doubt Apple ever will either), but I would bet that most Kindle books are purchased via the company’s Web site and only later downloaded to a Kindle device or app. That has undoubtedly played a role in Kindle books outselling print books at Amazon.

If you’re at all familiar with the iTunes Store, the iBookstore merges in seamlessly. There’s a top-level button for Books, with a drop-down menu if you click the little triangle that appears next to it when you mouse over the word. The menu lists all the promotions and categories, and choosing one displays just books in that category. There are also collections like New & Notable and Bestsellers (and it’s nice to see some of our Take Control titles, along with other books by our authors, appearing in the Bestsellers list).

Books appear as a category in search results, but, unfortunately, iTunes truncates long titles, much as iBooks does. This is terrible for series-based titles like Take Control, although the series that suffers even more is “The Complete Idiot’s Guide,” whose titles are truncated beyond all utility. Readable cover thumbnails are tremendously important for working around the iBookstore’s discrimination against long titles.

Purchasing works just as you’d expect, with downloaded books placed in the Books category in iTunes for later syncing to your iOS device. It’s worth noting that, on your next purchase from iTunes, you’re required to agree to changes in Apple’s terms and conditions. The three important changes are:

  • Apple may have added the iBookstore to iTunes, but the terms and conditions clarify that iBookstore purchases “made on a computer will not be viewable on any computer, but will require an iOS device with compatible software to be viewed.” We hope Apple will update Preview in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion to be able to view EPUB files. In the meantime, you can use EPUBReader in Firefox (see “EPUBReader Displays EPUBs in Firefox,” 10 September 2010) or the entirely non-Mac-like Calibre, at least for those titles that publishers have chosen to keep free of DRM.

  • Apple is now explicitly stating that once you enter your account password to purchase anything other than an in-app purchase, you won’t be required to enter it again for 15 minutes. And once you’ve entered it for an in-app purchase, you won’t have to enter it again for additional in-app purchases within that time. See “iOS 4.3 Now Prevents Inadvertent In-App Purchases” (11 March 2011) for how Apple came to this policy.

  • There are new terms and conditions that explain how new and previously purchased content can be downloaded automatically to multiple computers and iOS devices, and how those devices must be associated with accounts. These changes may need careful reading once iCloud is fully active so we know what’s allowed.

Concerns about the search results and the lack of a Mac-compatible EPUB reader from Apple aside, we’re extremely pleased to see Apple bringing the iBookstore to iTunes, and we are curious if it will impact our sales at all. We prefer that our existing customers purchase directly from us because we earn more from those sales, and because our system automatically creates Take Control accounts for customers and adds purchased books to them, whereas account creation and title management is a manual process for those who purchase from the iBookstore. But at the same time, we’d very much appreciate it if new customers were able to discover our work through the iBookstore, and that should happen more now that people can browse the iBookstore through iTunes.


Make friends and influence people by sponsoring TidBITS!
Put your company and products in front of tens of thousands of
savvy, committed Apple users who actually buy stuff.
More information: <>

Comments about iBookstore Finally Appears in iTunes
(Comments are closed.)

Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-07 08:01
One caveat about iBooks and EPUBReader in Firefox: EPUBReader can not read protected books purchased from the iBookstore. Instead, you see the following message: "Your ePub-book is protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM). For this reason it can unfortunately not be opened."
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-07 08:31
Ach, of course... And Calibre is in the same boat - it can't open DRM-protected ebooks from the iBookstore.

However, it is worth noting that this is not necessarily Apple's fault - applying DRM is the publisher's decision. So none of the Take Control titles in the iBookstore have DRM applied to them and are thus readable in EPUBReader and Calibre.
lpcurri  2011-06-07 08:56
Not being able to read on computers as well as iOS devices is the primary reason I purchase from Amazon Kindle or Nook instead of iBooks. I do hope Apple realizes this is likely true of many--especially students.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-07 09:16
I can't imagine they don't realize it, but I also can't imagine why they haven't solved the problem yet.

This is partly why our primary publishing format for Take Control is PDF - everyone can read it everywhere - and EPUB and Mobipocket are secondary.
lpcurri  2011-06-07 12:04
The PDF versions are great! I wish all e-books were that simple and portable. If I pay the money to purchase an e-book, I want to choose where and on what to read it. Textbooks are the worst...they want you to pay about 75% of new print price to RENT it.
David Blatner  2011-06-07 15:00
The strangest thing to me is why Apple hasn't yet allowed PDFs to be sold in the iBookstore. It can't be that hard to wrap their DRM around a PDF, you'd think.
gastropod  2011-06-08 22:31
I'm pretty sure it's because if there were a desktop reader, it would become easy to find the key and strip the drm. Even though I'm sure Apple could hide it more cleverly than Adobe did for Adobe Digital Reader (clearly labled in a .plist!), it would still be findable.

iBooks even tries to look for signs of jailbreak, and if it finds them, it refuses to launch.

So my policy is to buy preferably drm free epub, or since that's rarely possible, adobe drm epubs (rarely pdfs--I hate pdfs because the text can't reflow and I need BIG font sizes) from whoever (powells, booksamillion, etc), then strip the drm so that I actually own the book, not rent it, and can read it on anything.

Note, I do buy the books--I want authors to keep writing stuff. Not sure how I feel about first-sale and reselling--generally books come to my house and never want to leave again...
Dennis B. Swaney  2011-06-08 08:58
I thought I saw mention of iBookstore in iTunes during the WWDC keynote.
As for DRM, when did Jobs change his anti-DRM stance? I'm surprised that he has embraced DRM in the stores again. Maybe he is being blackmailed: "Support DRM or we'll withhold your medical treatment" ;)
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-08 12:55
I think it's "Support DRM or we won't put any of our ebooks in the iBookstore."

But at least it's option for those of us who don't like it and refuse to apply it to our books.
David B  2011-06-09 01:21
Apart from DRM issues epub files can be opened and read on a Mac using the (Sony) Reader, the Barnse & Noble, Adobe Digital Editions,,
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-09 06:14
I should really do a comparison of these apps. For what it's worth, Stanza Desktop for the Mac appears to be dead - it hasn't been updated in years and never left beta. There's no more download for it on the Stanza Web site - they're just focusing on the iOS app.
gastropod  2011-06-09 15:09
You can still download the stanza beta, But it isn't worth it.

I've yet to find anything decent. calibre is slow and clunky, and you have to copy the books into its manager. FBReader has some support for epub, but it's also dreadful. Adobe Digital Reader's only virtue is that it will read adobe drm. I use it to do the initial download of what I buy, but I'd never read more than a page or two in it. I didn't know about the Sony and B&N readers; I'll grab them this weekend hoping for the best.

What I've been doing when I want to read something on a real mac is to either unzip it to read in a browser (often works, not always, depending on how the publisher did their links), or for simple things, converting to rtf with calibre.
This isn't specific to books, but I wish that Apple would implement tooltips in the iTunes Store (and in iPhoto). It would solve those problems with truncated titles. Two other pet peeves:
(1) When you're browsing, you can drill down to the exact area you're interested in, but if you perform a search it takes you right back to the top level.
(2) The store could really do with tabbed browsing. If you do a broad search that gives you lots of results, and there are several items you want to check out, it can be difficult to relocate those items when you come back to the results screens.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-14 06:27
While browsing through the iBookstore today in iTunes, I found myself wanting the big pop-up previews that Netflix uses. That would help a lot.