iTunes 9.1.0: Add But Not Read ePub eBooks

iTunes 9.1.0 is out. I expected it — just not for today!

There are two key changes:

1) Category in the right sidebar
2) The ability to add ePub eBooks to the Library

See changes and testing via screensnaps after the break.

Instead of adding a distinct Books (or even iBooks) folder, Apple got lazy and combined audiobooks with “text” books.

This is FAIL.

Just as there are people who argue that eBooks are a mutant species of book, I argue that audiobooks aren’t books at all. Books are what people read, not hear.

Lumping these two different things together should not have been done. Again, if Apple had any librarians over there, this would have never happened. Apple: Hire some librarians — and metadata specialists!

ePub eBooks can now be added via the Add File to Library menu item. Here’s a test ePub I use:

Click = big

There it is mixed in with a free audiobook preview I grabbed from iTunes a while ago.

That the cover displays is a good sign for iBooks on the iPad.

Right clicking on the ePub:

And things begin to get gory at this point for those of us who know books. Here’s the Get Info … [note I have redacted the file pathnames in snaps like these]:

This is extremely sloppy of Apple, simply recycling the music Get Info for books.

Notice that the page count of the book is not listed and the metadata options are just not there. Missing are basic things such as publisher and year of publication (which isn’t even mapped to the existing Year field!). And although there’s a Genre field, there is no book metadata (Biography, for example), mapped to it. (Please, do not leave Comments defending Apple. This is a multi-billion dollar corporation, not some impoverished guy in a garage doing it himself with no money or resources. Don’t be a suckup.)

To contrast, let’s look at the Info for this ePub via Adobe Digital Editions:

Adobe Digital Editions is hardly the gold standard when it comes to book metadata, but at least this listing shows book-like info, displaying both Publisher and Page metadata.

Adobe Digital Editions also allows sorting on book data:

OK, let’s see something good about the new iTunes. It’s CoverFlow for books!

Click = big

That is nice. That is what I wish the iPad’s iBooks application had instead of the faux shelves. (Actually, the iPhoto interface would be best for iBooks.)

Here I’ve added my still-unfinished ePub adaptation of Jack London’s The People of the Abyss:

Click = big

I’ll skip showing the Get Info… for Abyss as it’s not much different than what’s been shown (only one additional field is filled in: Sorting->Sort Album).

So, here’s the verdict:

It’s easy to add ePub eBooks to iTunes
A possibly-problematic ePub cover displays fine
There’s CoverFlow!

Lumping different items together
Poor metadata display
No desktop eBook reading yet

It’s odd that Apple would release this before Saturday. Perhaps Apple believed it would be best to give people time to import their current eBook libraries into iTunes for easy syncing on Saturday.

On the other hand, this opens the question of whether the desktop iTunes application will permit reading eBooks at all.

We’ll have to see what happens.

Two final notes:

1) There is no specific mention of “eBook” or “book” in the new EULA for this version of iTunes.

2) PDFs do not get added to the Library (not that I expected that, but it was worth a try).

12 responses to “iTunes 9.1.0: Add But Not Read ePub eBooks

  1. Hmmm… So pretty much typical Apple behavior. Their habit of lumping things together never changes.
    I’ll download the new iTunes tonight when I get home and wander around.

  2. Pingback: Apple releases iTunes 9.1 to support the iPad | iPad Watcher

  3. Hire some librarians is a great idea!

  4. Thank you for the research. I am now convinced Apple has gotten sloppy/careless about ebooks, or allow a drop deadline get in the way. Not like Apple. I have never heard or read anyone at Apple was passionate about ebooks, multimedia yes. I will now have to wait to see if Apple really embraces ebooks like they did multimedia. I am worried Apple is not willing to be a leader on ebook innovation and revolution. Librarians would not be fearful to set Jobs straight. Perhaps thats why none was a beta tester ;-) Looks like iPad 2.0 might persuade me to buy. Keep up the probing.

  5. PDF’s ? I have pdf’s that I’ve downloaded via iTunes U. They show up fine in iTunes.

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  7. Eh?! How are you doing that? Do you mean they actually list in iTunes and then open in the Apple PDF reader (Preview, is it?)?

  8. Livid Hominidae

    Silly question that I can’t find the answer to-

    Will Apple’s ePub DRM scheme use Adobe DE?

    Also & Slightly OT:

    Any rumors to back up last year suppositions that Apple will eventually offer DRM-free additions of all books “à la mode de” current music offerings after arriving at a royalty cut and price point with the publisher cartel?

  9. I covered iBooks DRM very early on:

    Edited to add: With the new Agency model in place with book publishers, Apple will have to accede to their whims in regard to book pricing and bundling. That is, until the Justice Department and FTC wake up to the issues of Restraint of Trade, Price Fixing, RICO, et al.

  10. Yep just drag it over to iTunes. Also happens for albums from the iTunes Store that come with attached PDFs (for example Brooke Waggoner, Heal for the Honey). Organising PDFs is just as bad and I suspect Apple just copied PDF behaviour for ebooks.

  11. Ironic, the best ebook format for the iPad is the Kindle application. The Apple “magic” days are over. Android beats Apple hands down. Time for Jobs to move on.

  12. >>>Android beats Apple hands down.

    Not even close: