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.

26 thoughts on “Is Apple Planning to Bring Ebooks Back into iTunes?

  1. Perhaps those hidden playlists are involved with the bookkeeping that iTunes has to perform when it syncs books with devices, and have nothing to do with bringing ebooks back into iTunes.

    • If it was just playlists, I’d say that might be a good reason. But since there actually is a hidden Books library, I’m not so sure.

  2. Perhaps those hidden playlists are involved with the bookkeeping that iTunes has to perform when it syncs books with devices, and have nothing to do with bringing ebooks back into iTunes.

    • If it was just playlists, I’d say that might be a good reason. But since there actually is a hidden Books library, I’m not so sure.

  3. I really prefer separate apps and just wish they’d make a separate app for syncing everything and allow iTunes to go back to just being a really easy to use and powerful database of music.

  4. I really prefer separate apps and just wish they’d make a separate app for syncing everything and allow iTunes to go back to just being a really easy to use and powerful database of music.

  5. iTunes actually manage lots of my books, ePubs as well as PDF. The fact is that I can read them with iBooks sure on my Mac and on my iPad, but iBooks will synchronize only files that are bought on the iBooks store.

    If I want to sync all my others books, which are about 99 % of my library, I have to let iTunes do it. iBooks will see them, but will not synchronize them. That is not any thing new. It was all time the case since iBooks went to OS X too.

    So the Books section is still here. Not in the main column as a Library, but it appears in the column when I connect a device, as my iPad or my iPhone. In this case, there will the Books entry in the “Setting” section (from where I will define the synchronisation process fro the books), and an another Books in the “On the device” section, where I can browse all the books I have in my iPad, for example.
    All the files not bought on the iBooks store, that I manage with iTunes are also shown in iBooks, in which I may open them for reading, but iBooks will never manage them.

    It is quite logical in fact : iBooks is mainly an interface to the iBooks Store. Itunes is still the synchronizing engine for every thing, bought from any Apple stores, or bring by ourselves. What is missing here is an “iBooks Match” service that will do for the books that “iTunes Match” do for the music.

    • iBooks stores the books, iTunes syncs them. There is no Books library in iTunes – at least none that’s visible – but there is a Books item to choose sync settings. It’s quite different.

  6. iTunes actually manage lots of my books, ePubs as well as PDF. The fact is that I can read them with iBooks sure on my Mac and on my iPad, but iBooks will synchronize only files that are bought on the iBooks store.

    If I want to sync all my others books, which are about 99 % of my library, I have to let iTunes do it. iBooks will see them, but will not synchronize them. That is not any thing new. It was all time the case since iBooks went to OS X too.

    So the Books section is still here. Not in the main column as a Library, but it appears in the column when I connect a device, as my iPad or my iPhone. In this case, there will the Books entry in the “Setting” section (from where I will define the synchronisation process fro the books), and an another Books in the “On the device” section, where I can browse all the books I have in my iPad, for example.
    All the files not bought on the iBooks store, that I manage with iTunes are also shown in iBooks, in which I may open them for reading, but iBooks will never manage them.

    It is quite logical in fact : iBooks is mainly an interface to the iBooks Store. Itunes is still the synchronizing engine for every thing, bought from any Apple stores, or bring by ourselves. What is missing here is an “iBooks Match” service that will do for the books that “iTunes Match” do for the music.

    • iBooks stores the books, iTunes syncs them. There is no Books library in iTunes – at least none that’s visible – but there is a Books item to choose sync settings. It’s quite different.

  7. as a seller through iBooks store, I wish they’d offer iBooks on windows and android. I mean I’m going to eventually have to offer my books through ComiXology / Kindle / Play to capture Windows / Android.

    Any yeah, massive plus on the separate syncing app – ideally Apple would produce a device-to-device sync backbone for files than any app can use as a bridge between a desktop and mobile apps.

  8. as a seller through iBooks store, I wish they’d offer iBooks on windows and android. I mean I’m going to eventually have to offer my books through ComiXology / Kindle / Play to capture Windows / Android.

    Any yeah, massive plus on the separate syncing app – ideally Apple would produce a device-to-device sync backbone for files than any app can use as a bridge between a desktop and mobile apps.

  9. Great observations about how books are synced but ultimately I think even audiobooks will end up in the iBooks app.

    Physically syncing media to a Mac or PC, is increasingly becoming the way a minority of users gets data and media onto their gadgets. The preferred method by Apple seems to be via the cloud, for better or for worse.

    I know I’m in the minority of people who post, but I think iTunes 12 took a turn for the better by beginning to more distinctly segregate media even with the app. I have to believe that they’ve heard people’s cries of bloatware and are moving in the direction of separating out any media type that really isn’t core to the app.

    I hope the iOS apps portion of the Mac version gets merged into the Mac App Store with different tabs therein to view by platform/device. iTunes for Mac shouldn’t be held back any longer by its PC sibling.

  10. Great observations about how books are synced but ultimately I think even audiobooks will end up in the iBooks app.

    Physically syncing media to a Mac or PC, is increasingly becoming the way a minority of users gets data and media onto their gadgets. The preferred method by Apple seems to be via the cloud, for better or for worse.

    I know I’m in the minority of people who post, but I think iTunes 12 took a turn for the better by beginning to more distinctly segregate media even with the app. I have to believe that they’ve heard people’s cries of bloatware and are moving in the direction of separating out any media type that really isn’t core to the app.

    I hope the iOS apps portion of the Mac version gets merged into the Mac App Store with different tabs therein to view by platform/device. iTunes for Mac shouldn’t be held back any longer by its PC sibling.

  11. >• You can manage ebooks with it

    I could do that with iTunes, and better. I could edit the author and title information and genre. None of these are available in iBooks.

    >• You can read ebooks with it.

    Big fat hairy deal. I could install numerous other free or nearly free readers that could read any ebooks in my Books folder.

    >• And you can buy ebooks from the iBooks Store

    Again, I could do that in iTunes before.

    The only thing iBooks added was a built-in program for reading books. But it took away simplicity by adding a separate program, even though I still need iTunes to sync books to my devices. It stores ebook unzipped, unlike iTunes. This means I can’t keep a shortcut to my books folder in DropBox so I can copy them to my devices when away form home. Also, editing the info for books is far more limited.

    TLDR: Added the ability to read books on my computer out of the box. Removed remote syncing, simplicity, and editing book data.

    iBooks is a failure.

  12. >• You can manage ebooks with it

    I could do that with iTunes, and better. I could edit the author and title information and genre. None of these are available in iBooks.

    >• You can read ebooks with it.

    Big fat hairy deal. I could install numerous other free or nearly free readers that could read any ebooks in my Books folder.

    >• And you can buy ebooks from the iBooks Store

    Again, I could do that in iTunes before.

    The only thing iBooks added was a built-in program for reading books. But it took away simplicity by adding a separate program, even though I still need iTunes to sync books to my devices. It stores ebook unzipped, unlike iTunes. This means I can’t keep a shortcut to my books folder in DropBox so I can copy them to my devices when away form home. Also, editing the info for books is far more limited.

    TLDR: Added the ability to read books on my computer out of the box. Removed remote syncing, simplicity, and editing book data.

    iBooks is a failure.

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