How to Sync Non-iBooks Epubs from iPad to iBooks in Mavericks

| How-To

After years of an inexplicable absence from the Mac platform, Apple finally brought iBooks to Mavericks. If you have epub ebooks and PDFs in your iPad or iPhone iBooks library that didn't come from iBooks, you may have noticed that they didn't appear in iBooks on Mavericks, but it's easy to fix that.

Amazon has the lion's share of the ebook market with its Kindle platform, and the company has apps for Kindle, Android, Mac, Windows, and even your browser. That only works for Kindle format ebooks, though, and it turns out there are lots of other places to get ebooks.

Apple's iBooks is the best, in my opinion, but there's also Nook and its apps, as well as DRM-free epubs sold by third party ebook stores, some publishers (including O'Reilly), direct by authors, and by anyone making epubs with great software like Scrivener. Those DRM-free Epub files can be read in iBooks, too.

I've long made epubs of my own manuscript as well as any other long form fiction from other writers that I was editing. Make the epub, send it to Dropbox, open in iBooks, and edit away.

When Apple launched iBooks in Mavericks, however, those third party ebooks, including my own manuscripts, were nowhere to be found on my Mac. My iBooks-purchased books were there—including any notes and highlights I had made—but my other epubs were MIA, as demonstrated below.


iBooks in Mavericks - Where Are My Epubs?

When I went looking for answers, I found two ways to fix it. The first was to manually add those epubs to iBooks in Mavericks. According to this thread on Apple's support boards, that will cause them to sync between your iPad (or iPhone) and your Mac from then on.

That seemed sloppy, and it turns out Apple included an easy way to sync those files, and it's built into iBooks on Mavericks. In the File menu is an option called "Move iBooks from iTunes," as shown in the image below.

File Menu

iBooks in Mavericks File Menu

Select that option, and...that's pretty much it. After a moment, your non-iBooks epub files will appear in iBooks in Mavericks, as shown below.


iBooks in Mavericks - Now With More Epubs™

This includes any notes you made on your iPad, as shown below.

Editing Notes

Editing Notes

The only thing I don't get is why this is even an option, why users much do this. If Apple is going to move iBooks to a dedicated iBooks app, as it did in Mavericks, it should sync your entire iBooks library out of the box without the user having to do anything.

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Thanks. I collect journal articles (Palaeo and Geology mostly) and never figured out a way to get them to synch between devices. I’ve been re downloading them on my Mac and iPad which is a pain.

Bryan Chaffin

I feel your pain, geoduck. It’s hard to understand why this simply handled with the release of Mavericks.


Just opened iBooks on 10.9.1 for the first time after upgrading from 10.8.whatever, and the first thing it did was copy over all the books I had in iTunes.

Maybe you did it with 10.9.0 and Apple made it happen automatically with 10.9.1?

Bryan Chaffin

Hey D R, it copies over all of the iBooks ebooks automatically. It did that on launch for me, too. It was the non-iBooks files that weren’t showing up until I went through the process above.



It copied over all the book files I had in iTunes, none of which were purchased through iBooks, just pdf’s and epub’s I have purchased elsewhere.

Bryan Chaffin

Interesting, D R. Very. I wonder what the difference is?

Anyone else have any info?


I just checked, and all my private pdfs, epubs, etc. (most I made myself) are synced also. I think, though, that today was the first time I have launched iBooks on my Mac. I do know I had to enter my .mac password on launch. grin


Maybe they fixed the process with 10.9.1 and you did it with 10.9?
Maybe it worked for me because I hadn’t bought anything through iBooks?

And once I did it, going back to iTunes and clicking on “Books”, it gave me an alert saying iBooks now manages books and then disappeared from iTunes.

Stephen Inoue

Good info. Used this to get all our iBook purchases to show up.

This didn’t work for the epubs that are on my wife’s iPhone 4s running 7.2. I ended up using iMazing (a $30 iOS file transfer backup tool) to select her phone, choose “File System” and select .epub files from her Purchases (even though this were downloaded as free ePub files directly on her phone).

In iTunes I was able to select her iPhone, select Apps, scroll all the way to the bottom and choose File Sharing > Kindle > and select all her .mobi books and use the “save to” to save the files to my Mac, and later to her new phone 6 plus using the “add” button. 

Hope this helps someone!

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