Is Apple Planning to Bring Ebooks Back into iTunes?

I wrote earlier that a new Media Kind shows up in iTunes 12.1, and linked to a blog post where Doug Adams explained that there are two new “hidden” playlists in iTunes: Books and PDFs.

This got me thinking. Could Apple be planning to bring ebooks back into iTunes? There was a logic to splitting them out, and releasing the iBooks app. This app serves three purposes:

  • You can manage ebooks with it
  • You can read ebooks with it
  • And you can buy ebooks from the iBooks Store

But the iBooks app is the only part of the iTunes Store that isn’t in iTunes. And you can still purchase ebooks from iTunes; they just download into iBooks afterwards. It is a bit confusing having two storefronts, and two different interfaces. Add to that the fact that iTunes still manages your ebook syncing. So what’s the point of having another app?

I know, you’re probably thinking, “But they should dismantle iTunes; it’s too bloated!” It’s a valid point, but one which I feel to be incorrect for many reasons. The main one is that, as long as you’re syncing all you media content with one app, it makes things more confusing to have multiple apps to manage that content.

In any case, you can add PDFs to iTunes now, and you have been for a very long time. If you add a PDF to your iTunes library, say by dragging it to a playlist, it gets added with the Media Kind of Music. This is because the assumption is that you’ll be adding digital booklets that go with albums you’ve downloaded.

Screen Shot 2015 02 01 at 7 05 07 PM

If you change the Media Kind to Book, however, you see different fields in the Details tab of the Info window.

Screen Shot 2015 02 01 at 7 06 32 PM

These fields are appropriate for a book, suggesting that Apple has planned to either let you store ebooks in iTunes, or shift your books from the iBooks app.

Note that if you change the Media Kind of a file to Book, you won’t be able to find it in your iTunes library. There is no Books library (well, there is, but it’s hidden; see below), and, unless you put it in a playlist, you won’t be able to see it. It won’t show up in searches either. I put the two books I used for the screenshots above in my iTunes library, setting the second one to the Media Kind of Book, and here’s what I see when I search for the author’s (my) name:

Screen Shot 2015 02 01 at 6 59 50 PM

If you right-click a book, and choose Show in Playlist, you’ll see that the Books playlist is listed:

Screen Shot 2015 02 01 at 7 21 29 PM

Select it, and iTunes jumps to the Book List in the Audiobooks library:

Screen Shot 2015 02 01 at 7 21 48 PM

There’s no direct access to this Book List from the Audiobooks library. But if you click the View Options menu, you’ll see options that fit with a Books library:

Screen Shot 2015 02 01 at 7 23 59 PM

Perhaps Apple has found that not enough people buy ebooks, or that many still buy from iTunes and not the iBooks app. Perhaps they want to shore up ebook sales, and make media management more coherent.

For now, this is all speculation. But there’s no reason to have the Book Media Kind, or to have windows that show fields for books, and a hidden Books library, unless they’re going to serve a purpose. This code is certainly needed for people not running Yosemite or Mavericks, which don’t have the iBooks app, since iTunes still manages ebooks on earlier versions of OS X. But since there is no iBooks app for Windows, it could be more logical to roll ebook management back into iTunes, to unify the app across platforms and OS versions.