iTunes ePub eBooks: Display Options

OK, I could kick myself across the room for not seeing this sooner.

In my lame defense, I plead for mercy in that I did not expect to be doing any of this sort of testing/investigating until later. Also, I do not use iTunes except for peeking into the App Store every now and then.

Anyway, see what I finally tripped over after the break.

Note: iTunes experts will not find anything here new. This will be of interest for those who haven’t used iTunes much. I hope.

Under View, select Grid View and then Show Header:


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This displays the Header (highlighted here in red) from which three different displays can be chosen. This is by Authors:


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Notice how the covers now turn into roundrect icons! And there’s a book count underneath each author’s name. Also notice how the ordering is screwy: Ann Morven, then Bower, B.M. — firstname sort, lastname sort. The Morven book is from Smashwords, the Bower book was created by someone over at Mobileread’s forum. So, what sort of author metadata is in a Smashwords book?

Under Categories it gets interesting:


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Again, with a count of books for each Category. Except that not all are Categories. A Christmas Carol is a Category? And why is the Gutenberg Holmes not under either Novels or Action & Adventure? And why is the 23rd Century book in its own Category and not under Science-Fiction? Murder Piping Hot, from Smashwords, should be under a Mystery category — so where did haggis come from? Also notice how many are thrown into Unknown Genre! What’s happening with all of this metadata?

What’s going on will be a separate post, in fact, because this screwup will sabotage Apple and everyone else selling books.

Selecting the Science-Fiction roundrect:


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Goes to a listing of that book. If there were more than one in this Category, they would also be displayed:


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Now, under View->View Options


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Boom! We get the metadata options …


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… except they’re nothing but recycled from Music and Video!


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Now notice this slider, highlighted in red:


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Sliding it to the left shrinks the covers:


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… and sliding it to the right makes them ginormous:


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CoverFlow can be made full-screen by clicking on the opposing arrows in a roundrect, highlighted in yellow here:


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Going to View->Column Brower->Show Column Browser brings up another view — but first, notice what I’ve highlighted in red. Those are metadata options that are grayed-out. Nothing there for books!


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And here is the view:


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Adding View->Show Column Artwork


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… and here is that view:


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Overall, while iTunes has a lot of display options, the overall experience lacks the intuitiveness that made Apple famous. It seems as if the overall framework of iTunes has been somewhat frozen and new options simply plopped in without any regard to consistency of access or ease of use. Nonetheless, what’s there is, I guess, better than not being there.

But that metadata! That will be covered in the next post. This is very serious business and will work against Apple’s efforts and the selling ability of every eBook publisher.

2 responses to “iTunes ePub eBooks: Display Options

  1. Jason Weaver

    Mike, Don’t know if you realise but you can change a lot of the metadata by selecting an item and going to File > Get Info. It’s still a fudge, trying to cover music, TV shows, films, etc. But most of the crappy examples you cite above (haggis) are from inconsistent formatting by writers and publishers. It’s the same with music. Most of the time when you import a file, you end up re-formatting the metadata to your own satisfaction or filling in the blanks. I agree that Apple should work on a more elegant solution but the lack of metadata isn’t really their fault. Anyway, have a play with the extra Info options if you haven’t already discovered it. You can change genre and groupings and, once you get the hang of it, make some pretty sophisticated combinations.

  2. If the metadata is just being carried over from Smashwords when the ebooks are sent Apple, Sony, etc. then the problem isn’t the distributors’ fault.

    It’s the authors. Authors & publishers are the ones who input that data.

    You have to choose your keywords wisely, but some will just throw anything in order to have their titles show up in the searches more often.