Moving Your Ebooks from a Mac to the iPad

It’s easy to buy ebooks on the iPad with the iBooks app when accessing Apple’s iBookstore. But what if you have some ePub or PDF books on your Mac or PC that you’d like to move to your iPad? Here’s how in a few easy steps.

There are two types of ebooks you can import to your iBooks app on the iPad: ebooks in ePub format and those in PDF format. The first thing you’ll need to do is identify those files on your Mac or PC, then drag those ebooks into the Book section of iTunes. Then you can sync them to your iPad. (Everything here applies equally to iBooks for the iPhone or iPod touch.)

Let’s say that you just bought an online ebook from O’Reilly ( Here’s a sample of our page where my wife has already bought a technical book, “Log4J.” Note that you can chose to download the selection in several formats. If you haven’t already done so, download it in either ePub or PDF format. Or you may already have some candidates residing on your Mac, for example, the Take Control ebooks * in PDF format.


O’Reilly Online Product Page (Purchased)

1. Launch iTunes. Click on the Books entry under Library on the upper left.


Library section of iTunes

2. If you don’t see the Books entry under Library in iTunes, you’ve probably never synced a book with the iPad **, so use iBooks to download a free book. (Use the Browse tab at the bottom of iBooks to see all the free books in the iBookstore. Pick one you like and sync your iPad. See items 4 & 5 below.)


Free books in the iBookstore via iBooks app

3. Open a Finder window and navigate to the ebook you’ve downloaded or already have on hand. Drag the icon of the book from its current location onto the Books section of iTunes. Don’t worry if it’s in ePub or PDF format; iTunes and iBooks will keep track of the difference. Repeat for all the books you want.


iTunes drag. Here, I’ve dragged both a PDF and an ePub book into iTunes from the desktop.

4. Your ebooks are now in iTunes, but need to be synced to your iPad. First select the iPad icon on the left side of iTunes, and then click on the Books tab at the top of your iPad page. It should look like this:


Books to Sync in the Books tab for iPad

5. Select the options you want and make sure the box is checked next to the book(s) you want to sync, then click the Sync button on the bottom right. iTunes will transfer your books to your iPad and keep them synced.

6. Launch iBooks on your iPad. If you’re using iBooks 1.2 or later, the books in ePub and PDF will be properly sorted to the two corresponding bookshelves. Swipe right and left to go back and forth between ePub and PDF books.


The ePub book (circled in red) that we bought from O’Reilly

That’s all there is to it. If your iPad gets full, you can always deselect some books for syncing. In future articles, I’ll go cover additional details about handling ebooks on your iPad.


* Tonya Engst told me that a reader can click the “check for updates” button on the cover of the TCO ebook and then download the same title in ePub format. The ePub format allows highlighting in iBooks, an attractive feature for many.

** When you first download the iBooks app, Winnie the Pooh is included free.  But some users have had it disappear after an iOS update, and you might not have noticed it’s missing.  In any case, the first sync with your Mac or PC should create the Books category under the Library listing in iTunes. See the second screen shot above. If you’re still having trouble, make sure the Books option is checked in iTunes Preferences -> General.