Mavericks How-to: Use iBooks for organizing, reading, and shopping

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iBooks was introduced in 2010 for the iPad. With Mavericks, 3.5 years after iBooks came out for iOS, Mac OS X finally gets in on the action. Unlike iOS devices that have to download iBooks from the App Store, the Mac comes pre-loaded with it. This how-to will discuss how to organize and read your books, and how to shop for new books in the iBooks Store.

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Once you press the “Get Started” button on your first run of iBooks, you’ll need to sign in to your Apple ID. Once you sign into your account, iBooks displays all of the iBook purchases you have made. These books are currently stored in the cloud (denoted by the cloud icon in the upper right hand corner of each book) and they are not ready for reading yet. When you sign in to your Apple ID it asks if you want to sync, and it will sync bookmarks, highlights and collections across all of your devices. (If you miss this step, you can always choose to set up syncing later by clicking on iBooks in the upper left hand corner, opening the preferences screen, and checking the “Sync” box.)

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 7.24.17 PMTo download the books onto your Mac, select the book, then double click it. This will download and open the book for you. Once you start downloading books, you can check on the status of the download by clicking the button with an arrow on it in the toolbar.


Just like you organize books on a physical bookshelf, you have several different ways to organize books in this digital bookshelf. To start organizing, I recommend clicking on “Sort By” in the upper-right-hand corner. From here you have several different options. “Most Recent” organizes the books by the order in which they were last opened, with the most recent up towards the upper left hand corner. Choosing “Title” organizes the books by the title. “Sort Manually” allows you to drag and drop the books in whatever order you like, such as newest purchase to oldest purchase. “Show Title & Author” puts the information underneath the book, making it easier to find. Unchecking “Show Purchases in iCloud” allows you to see the books that are only stored on the Mac.

At the top, you have different viewing options. By default, when first using iBooks it is set to “All Books.” The next view is “Collections,” which is where you can find any PDFs that you have stored in iBooks. These will sync across all of your devices. Using Collections is an easy way for you to organize your bookshelf. By pressing the + button in the lower-left-hand corner, you can create a new collection, name it, and drag the book on top of the collection to add it. Instead of dragging the book into the collection, you can right-click on the book and select “Add to Collection,” “New Collection,” or “New Collection from Selection.” The collections you create will sync across all of your devices.

Clicking on “Authors” at the top leaves the layout the same, but adds a panel on the left-hand side that lists all of the authors in your library. Clicking on a particular author will show you books that were written by that author. Clicking on “Categories” shows you the genre the books fall under. These are predefined from the iBooks Store and you cannot change the categories. The last layout view, “List,” shows you which books you have in a list view much like you’ll find in iTunes or in Finder. Here you are able to see when the book was last read, the date it was added, the file size of the book, as well as if the book is in the cloud or on your computer.


To start reading a book, double-click on it or right-click it and choose “Read”. If the book you are reading has intro media, iBooks automatically starts playing it. While reading, swipe right-to-left with two fingers on your trackpad, click the arrow on the right-hand side, or use the arrow keys to turn the page. However, if the book you are reading has thumbnail previews, doing those commands will turn chapter-by-chapter. Clicking on the thumbnail opens up that page, and then you are able to navigate page-by-page.

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You can have two books open at the same time. Clicking on the book icon in the upper-left-hand corner shows your iBooks library and opens it in another window. From there you are able to choose another book to read. This could be beneficial if you are doing research or if you just want to compare two different selections.

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Some books allow you to change their appearance. It seems that books made in iBooks Author do not allow you to change their appearance. If your book has the “aA” button in the upper right corner, then  you are able to change the theme, font size, and font style of that book. Similar to customizing the books appearance on iOS, the bigger “A” button will make the font bigger. You are able to select a different font with one of three different themes: white (black on white), sepia, and “night” (white on black). You can make all books go into full screen mode by pressing on the button in the upper right hand corner with the two arrows pointing in opposite direction.

While reading books, you can highlight different passages in the book and take notes while reading. This is a nice feature, especially if you are reading a book for school or are writing a paper. To do so, select the section of the book you want to highlight. iBooks detects you are highlighting a passage and automatically displays different options for to what to do with the passage.

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Choosing one of the colors at the top will highlight the passage in that color. “Add Note” will allow you to comment on the passage you have highlighted. “Copy” allows you to copy the text and paste it into a document. Pasting automatically places the passage in quotes, and includes the title of the original work and a link to the book on the iBooks Store. “More” gives you options to look up information on the passage, search the book, web, or Wikipedia for that phrase, share the passage via Facebook, Twitter, Messages or email, or have the computer read it aloud.

Screenshot 2013-11-07 12.36.58To view all of your notes and highlights, click the post-it note icon on the toolbar or press command-4. This opens all of your notes and highlights in a left-hand panel, showing the time and date they were created. Clicking on the page number jumps to the page with the highlight or note on it.

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The book has to be made with iBooks Author in order to use the Study Cards feature. Textbooks come with the book’s glossary term as Study Cards, along with questions and answers the authors created. When you highlight passages in a Textbook it makes a Study Card out of it. However, you cannot create a “traditional study card,” with your own question and answer on each side. To view the Study Cards that come with the textbook, you can press command-5, click on “Study” in the upper left hand corner of the Notes panel, or select “View” from the menu bar and click on “Show Study Cards.”

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When viewing a Study Card click on “Flip Card” or press the spacebar on the keyboard to see the answer to the question. You can flip through the cards by clicking on the arrow on the right- or left-hand side, use the arrow keys on the keyboard, or swipe with two fingers on the trackpad. You can also change which cards you are viewing by clicking on the table of contents button in the upper left hand corner next to “Done.”

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When you are done reading a book it is a good idea to place a bookmark, so iBooks will save your place and sync the spot that you finished reading to all of your devices. To make a bookmark, click the ribbon in the upper-right-hand corner, which will then turn red. The triangle right next to it shows you all of the bookmarks you have created in the book.

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iBooks gives you access to the iBooks Store, which allows you to download new books right onto the computer. To get out of your Library and into the iBooks Store, click “iBooks Store” in the upper-left-hand corner.

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The iBooks Store is laid out just like the iBooks Store in iOS. On the top you are able to switch between different views and categories. “Featured” is the main page in the iBooks Store and shows you the newest books that are available. “Top Charts” shows you the top 200 most popular books. The “NY Times” button will show you the New York Times Fiction and Nonfiction Bestsellers. “Categories” will organize the books based on their genres. “Top Authors” will show you the most popular authors in the iBooks Store. There is a search field in the upper-right-hand corner, so if you know what you are looking for, you can type it in and find it immediately without having to browse through the entire store. Clicking on a book will show you a description of the book, screenshots from the book, and reviews by readers.

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Parents are able to set up parental controls to limit the access their children have to the iBooks Store. To do so, in the upper-left-hand corner, click on “iBooks,” and then click on “Preferences.”

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Next, click on the “Parental” tab. From here, you are able to either disable the iBooks store in its entirety, or simply restrict access to books with explicit content.

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After awaiting 3.5 years for iBooks to come onto the Mac, I am enjoying reading on my computer immensely. I hope this article has helped  you enjoy reading your iBooks on your Mac, too.

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  1. No mention that iBooks for Mavericks completely ruins your library and doesn’t allow you to fix it? This article needs to be updated warning people that iBooks can completely destroy your entire library’s metadata with no easy way to fix it. It may work as a reader, but you have a very, very good chance of your entire library being ruined with no real way to fix it. This article needs either a complete rewrite to include this, or a section all by itself explaining this.

    • Stuart Nicholson - 9 years ago

      I agree All my pdf magazine collections were all over the place. It’s going to take awhile to do it manually. Selecting by name simply put all the pdfs in name order regardless whether they were part of a series. Only way to fix it is to make Collections for each magazine then grab them (from all over the place) and put them in the collection. Also you can no longer click under the book or pdf and rename it. You now must do it before you put them into iBooks. For me this is a crap update. I much preferred the control I had before. Also unsyncing iBooks in iTunes warns you that it will remove very other thing you have. So I’ve not been game to try that.

    • greyitout - 9 years ago

      Agreed. iBooks for Mac was a half-baked, premature release. It is purely a reader and that’s all. Destroyed my library. No way to edit metadata or organize books. Removes ability that was previously there in iTunes to do so. Bad enough that I finally deleted it using AppCleaner and got rid of the Bookstoreagent to revert back to storing books in iTunes. Maybe if Apple builds some actually useful features into it, I may try again but once-bitten…

    • Attila Skyler Magyari - 9 years ago

      I totally agree. It’s a new trend at Apple that they make their software dumber as before. iBooks is two steps backwards and made also my whole library useless. Shame on you, Apple! And shame also on the journalist they hype this program. It’s hype without reality.

    • Alex Grossman - 9 years ago

      I agree completely. The loss of functionality in terms of organization and editing metadata from iTunes is a deal breaker and until this is fixed, I am loath to upgrade to Mavericks or to use iBooks on Mac. There has been extensive and wide ranging discussion of this issue/problem on the Apple Support forums.

      • Jan Hopmann - 9 years ago

        Yes, I moved to Marvin together with Calibre !

    • Laurie Klapman - 9 years ago

      Here is how to delete iBooks and get book management functionality back to iTunes (including the ability to edit metadata):

      1. Open Activity Monitor and kill the bookstoreagent service.

      2. Delete the file for that service:/System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/CommerceKit.framework/Versions/A/Resources/boo kstoreagent

      3. Use AppCleaner to remove iBooks app completely.

      4. Restart iTunes and Books menu will appear again there.

      5. Copy our ebook files from our backup back to internal storage. This is mainly for ebook files that we didn’t purchase from iBookstore. Don’t worry about books that we purchased from iBookstore, we can re-download them again.

      6. Delete the ebook files from~/Library/Containers/ iTunes library will detect them as missing. Right click for each book, choose “Get Info” and it will ask the location of the file. Point the location to the ebook file that we have restored. Yes it’s probably a long and tiring process especially if we have plenty of books.

      7. An alternative way of step 6 is to delete all the books from iTunes library and re-import them from the files. All the metadata we created before should remain unchanged.

      8. Re-download books that we purchased from iBookstore. Or alternatively if we have those books in our iPhone or iPad, we can just sync them with iTunes and choose to transfer those books.

      • Bruno Mariante Viana - 9 years ago

        in case i do that and remove ibooks, how can I reinstall it, in case I want it back?

      • Cat ALina - 9 years ago

        wow, than you so much…..follow step by step and my library is back… exited to have my old library back on Itunes.

        you are awesome

  2. Jerry Fisher - 9 years ago

    While iBooks for Mac is a nice start, the lack of metadata editing is frankly baffling given how thorough Apple typically is when coding and testing it’s software. iTunes can do far more with metadata editing than iBooks can. As much as I dislike saying this, I’d recommend potential users of iBooks to stay away from it until Apple addresses the serious shortcomings. In the meantime, while it is fugly as sin, Calibre simply can’t be beat. It’ll handle just about any kind of ebook format and better yet it’ll allow you to make changes to the metadata to your hearts content. Best of all, it is completely free (although a donation if you find it useful is encouraged).

  3. saboto - 9 years ago

    I would like to decide on what location this reader stores MY files.
    I have a 90gb library of ibooks and I wouldn’t like it to be on the system drive.
    As of today iBook only made my life worse.

  4. Pau (@PauRiera) - 9 years ago

    I thought that via iCloud, if I dropped a PDF in iBooks for Mavericks it would automatically appear on the iPhone/iPad. Do we really need to mail or use Dropbox to move PDFs between the mac and iOS devices? I hope it gets fixed in future updates.

  5. All edit and management capabilities have gone! I can’t change a name, can’t edit artwork etc. PDF-files open in Preview (not in iBooks) and bookmarks are not synchronized. This is quite a set-back for users who use a lot of PDF’s or create their own e-books!

  6. Hi Sarah,

    This is a good article, on how to use iBooks for Mac in its current state. Thanks for writing it.

    However I would also like to point you to two threads on the apple forums that cumulatively have received over 15,000 views that deal with two issues: metadata editing and library management.

    There are a lot of users that are frustrated because mainly what iBooks for Mac did was remove those features that used to exist when books were managed by iTunes.

    iBooks for Mac is wonderful to read and is a great first step. But the fact that we lost functionality we had for the last 3 years is a major blow to a lot of users and it would be great if we could make this voice heard a bit louder.

    Here are the discussions in question:

    Thanks again for a good article,


  7. Matt Miller - 9 years ago

    Not to mention iBooks for Mavericks moves all your books from where you had them nice and orderly to some hidden folder deep within the OS and renames all files to gobbledigook so you can’t figure out what book it is unless it’s opened. For me this was a big “F” you to all us “organizers of data” out there. Please fix this issue!!!

  8. Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

    So the author writes a lovely article about the new iBooks app and every single comment (except this one) basically just shits all over it for not mentioning things that have nothing to do with the product in question? Great. Good job Internet.

    To add my two cents to the “debate” … personally I wish iBooks didn’t allow PDF books at all. They are crap and they are not real books in any realistic sense of the word. They are PDF’s.

    I’d like to see PDF’s handled in the “Newstand” app on iOS, since:

    – most magazines are PDF’s already
    – most PDF’s are crappy “sort of” documents and don’t deserve to be treated like books.

    On Mac OS X, the solution to all the whining below is to not use iTunes or iBooks to sort your crappy PDFs of ripped off content. Just throw them in the finder and use Preview like you are supposed to. Then the organisation of same is totally in your control and up to you.

    • Good job, Mr. grey. You’ve told everyone to shut up because your use case is unique and therefore the only one that matters. The omission of the way iBooks handles your library is a MASSIVE one since it completely ruins metadata and moves the books to a place that isn’t well marked, and doesn’t ask for your permission to do so. I have an iTunes library that’s over 100gb and since I have an SSD as my boot drive, I don’t want about 30gb of books and PDFs on it. I use an external drive for that. And it doesn’t just ruin metadata on PDFs, it ruins it on everything, purchased through the iBooks store or not. There’s no customization, there’s no way to edit ANYTHING that iBooks screwed up and there’s no easy way to revert back. I use PDFs for work so I need that metadata to stay in place. You are not special, your case is not unique. This article is poorly written almost to the point of being irresponsible to the readership of 9to5 and it really needs to be amended.

      I really wish people like you that want to try and put on a superiority complex in your comments would realize the world doesn’t revolve around you and your needs. iBooks is crap. Plain and simple. It offers nothing good, and everything bad. It is an app that needs to be at least equivalent to the iOS version and how iTunes handled it and it most certainly isn’t. Apple has moved towards making your content harder and harder to control, and removes vital and useful features with every product release. iBooks is bad and Apple needs to pull it and completely rewrite it because as it stands now, it’s terrible. You may not think so, but you’re obviously “special” and everyone else is wrong, correct? The answer to that question is no. iBooks may work for you, but it’s not a good app.

    • Also, how is iBooks ruining your books library not applicable to the article? Can you please explain how it isn’t? When you open iBooks for the first time it wants to import your iTunes books and when it does it completely ruins everything, and puts the books in an inane folder and screws everything up. Pointing that out is as relevant to an article about iBooks as can possibly be.

  9. Tim (@TimW0lf) - 9 years ago

    Sarah, too bad you are leaving out a very important part of iBooks and only write possitive things. This articles sounds like an advertorial.

    9to5Mac is a very interested source for Apple customers, I would like to think because of the valuable information, but also because 9to5Mac is honest and doesn’t just ignore crucial information. Please take the comments here into consideration (for example the links on provided by Nicolas El Hani). Thank you. That would improve your article and will like be taken more seriously.

    I agree with everyone except Mr. Grey.

    iBooks doesn’t have the feature that was possible in even iTunes: to edit titles and metadata. If I had an easy choice, I would remove iBooks and use iTunes again to sync books with my iPad (and iPhone). And find another viewer that doesn’t mess up my books.

  10. Tim (@TimW0lf) - 9 years ago

    Usually writers of articles reply on comments on their own articles here on 9to5Mac. Unfortunately Sarah Guarino hasn’t replied yet.

    There is a twitter contact of hers here, but she doesn’t reply on that one too, except the positive retweets of others. How come she’s so selective?

  11. Greg Shenaut - 9 years ago

    I’ve been playing with iBooks on my Mac too. I downloaded the free Sigil app to allow editing my epubs. My workflow is: select one or more books, drag them into a temporary folder, and hit delete to remove them from iBooks. Then go through the books using Sigil to fix author names, titles, cover, language, or even to fix certain egregious errors in the text itself. Save from Sigil, and drag the epub(s) back into iBooks, and insert them into collections.

    I’ve been using collections, and it appears to work fairly well; they sync between my iPhone and my Mac in terms of content. However, what I was hoping was the when you manually put the books into a certain order on the Mac, that order would be available on the iPhone. However, it isn’t (or maybe I haven’t see how to do it).

    I’ve pretty much concluded that I should modify the titles of all of the books I have that are in series (and that’s a lot of books) so that the first few characters indicate the sequence (and probably also the series, since in a few cases several authors contribute to a single series). I’m looking for some way to automate this somehow, so I can have a script extract the current title, author, etc of a bunch of books into a file, then edit the file the way I want them to be, and have a script update all of the books.

    In my opinion, all ebook readers, including iBooks, should allow full editing of both metadata and content of the books, which is unlikely to happen. But at least by combining iBooks and Sigil, you can get reasonably close to that, at least for most books I have. (Not sure how this would work with DRM-encoded books.)

  12. Richard Foord - 9 years ago

    Monumentally the worst piece of software that Apple has ever released.
    – No functionality on the desktop to edit and easily arrange and manage metadata
    – Inability to specify library for where the books will be held : especially if you want to utilise network storage
    – Ridiculously obscure location on the mac to hold the physical books

    All the “how to do this in iBooks” tips to make up for the above points involve many many more steps than an ordinary human being wants to take !!!

  13. I need single column full screen reading experience for iBooks #mac #programming book

  14. Jan Lindner - 9 years ago

    Ibooks is certainly a problem app. Here is a challenge Apple fix it. Surely with all your program expertise, it should be easy.

  15. Amit Mathur - 9 years ago

    But when I try to open my pdf files into iBooks it opens it in Preview… is it a default functionality. Can’t we do anything about it. I want to open my PDF files into iBook Reader only. Can you help me in doing that.