How to fix a lack of PDFs in iBooks

iBooks icon

(A wee post for Mr. Google if no-one else). The Apple discussion forums are full of disgruntled iBooks users, lamenting the loss of PDFs they have sync’ed (or are trying to sync) to their iPhone or iPad, and I joined their serried ranks recently.

I updated to the latest ’n’ greatest (version 1.2), and sure enough: no more PDFs.

“What the flip?” thought I. Like many, I gather PDF-based texts as I pootle along the highways and by-ways of t’internet, and it’s super to have them to hand in one’s iOS device of choice. So you can surely imagine my dismay when oodles of lovingly-curated docs had gone the way of British manufacturing, or jobs in IT.

But do not fear! If the same thing has happened to you, here’s how I got mine back: it could work for you too!

  1. Remove all PDFs from your iTunes library. Do not elect to delete the files from your machine, just from your iTunes library
  2. Locate the physical files on your hard drive (normally found in the “Books” sub-directory within your iTunes folder hierarchy)
  3. Move ’em all somewhere else (and remember where! Don’t use “that secret place”, you’ll never find them). Move just the PDFs; ignore any author / album folder hierarchy they may have had
  4. Sync your iOS device for good measure (it definitely shouldn’t have any PDFs on it now, just epub format books and the like)
  5. Highlight a single PDF in your back-up folder, and drag it to iTunes. You should see the familiar green “plus” icon as it adds the file to your library (I presume this is the same in Windows, but don’t have iTunes on that platform, so bear with me)
  6. Check that the newly-added file appears in the “PDFs” list when you look at books on your iOS device (I’m assuming you’ve left your phone / iPad connected to your iTunes machine). Interestingly, my fubar-ed PDFs, prior to fixing things, didn’t appear in this list. Instead, they were commingled with books, suggesting that iTunes had become most discombobulated
  7. Sync, and check that the newly-(re)added PDF is now on your device. If so, add the rest in the same way

Why has this happened? Why do you need to re-add your PDFs? Well, my theory is that some of us (cough) are quite anal, and categorise our PDFs with “artist” (i.e. author) names and the like. By default, iTunes organises one’s content on one’s hard drive, using folders for artist, album, and so on. It would appear that iBooks 1.2 takes to this badly, hence why re-organising PDFs (and leaving them be: no extra tags!) seems to pacify! (Simply reversing this tagging isn’t enough; you have to remove and add back).

So, a couple of bugs to sort out there for Apple I reckon. Oh, and whilst they’re at it, why not have iTunes start to recognise their own OS metadata for PDFs (author, date, description, etc.)!

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I’m a software architect / developer / general IT wrangler specialising in web, mobile web and middleware using things like node.js, Java, C#, PHP, HTML5 and more.

Best described as a simpleton, but kindly. You can read more here.