Experiment: Add Missing eBook Covers In iTunes

In iTunes ePub eBooks: Cover Display Problems, I showed how the “industry standard” of ePub can screw up eBook covers.

A Comment was left by StarChip, suggesting I could simply copy&paste the missing cover in. Well, that also got me thinking about a dialog box I saw but didn’t try in the beginning.

I’m wondering if this method can actually add missing covers to ePub eBooks.

The book I decided to try was The Cheaters, because it has a wonderfully lurid and pulpy cover:

I could have gotten to the cover by breaking open the ePub file, but I really wanted a low-tech method that others could follow.

So, I opened the eBook in Sony’s Reader Library software (PC link, Mac link), which has a full-screen mode.


Click = big

Adobe Digital Editions lacks that mode. And I really wanted the biggest possible image. If all you have is ADE, use that.

What I did was a screensnap — as shown above — and then cut out the cover image, like so:

Sure, it’s not sharp, but the cheesiness of it adds to the pulpy charm. I saved that image to my hard drive.

Next, I launched iTunes:


Click = big

There’s the book I want to do. I did its Get Info by right-clicking on it (it can also be selected by drop-down menu):


Click = big

And then I selected the Artwork tab:


Click = big

And then clicked on Add…


Click = big

And navigated to the cover image, then clicked on it and hit Open.


Click = big

And BOOM! It seemed to work.

But what I don’t know is whether or not this is a fix for displaying only within iTunes or if that cover will transfer over to an iPad and then be displayed as part of the eBook itself in iBooks.

I didn’t bother to try the copy&paste method, since this seemed to work. If you try that, leave a Comment.

This could also be accomplished with Calibre, but I really wanted the easiest possible way to do this, without burdening people with yet another program to download just for a cover insertion.

Update: According to a Comment, this is a hack for Apple itself. In other words, it displays the cover in iTunes and on the bookshelf in iBooks — the Apple side of things. However, the cover does not appear when the book is being read — the ePub side of things. So, to really fix a cover, the ePub file needs to be cracked open. Since that kind of process can be a bit involved — and with purchased eBooks (especially from Random House, which generally have crap covers of only text!) would involve “illegally” breaking DRM, I will not do a post about this. Well, for now.

11 responses to “Experiment: Add Missing eBook Covers In iTunes

  1. Andrew Meit

    Nice hack. Reminds me of old ResEdit days. I wonder if you can do more? Keep up the experimenting…keep pushing back… :-)

  2. It will stay as a book cover on the iPad book shelf. You will not see it while reading the book, though.

  3. Pingback: devblog.feedmyereader.de » Blog Archive » Fehlende Cover in iTunes

  4. This looks like it should work.

    Thanks for Calibre. It converts various formats to ePub. It’s also free, which is fantastic.

  5. Calibre has been around for ages and has been the tool Sony Reader owners turned to in the early days to get their own books — in LRF — on the device. The dev is really dedicated and has made tons of improvements over the years.

  6. Ohhhh… so it’s basically a hack for the *cover* display on both the iTunes “shelf” and the iBooks shelf. That’s very interesting. It means Apple isn’t modifying the ePub file itself. Thanks.

  7. They inject two files into the epub file at the top level: one with the cover image and one with the iTunes metadata. These files are not referenced in the rest of the epub. So,.. the way Apple adapts epub is sort of incomplete…

  8. Are these actually *in* the ePub file, or sorta accompanying them when everything is wrapped up with the FairPlay DRM?

  9. ePub is a zipped folder with a bunch of xml and media files, right? (You can even unzip the content using the unzip command line utility. The Finder’s uncompress command might not work.) They put these files into the same folder next to the rest of xmls. Almost every other file (maybe except for the .opf that defines the epub structure) is separately encoded with what I think is FairPlay DRM.

  10. So Apple is actually taking a package from a book publisher and modifying it?

  11. If you mean that iTunes modifies the epub package by adding those extra files, then yes. If you are talking about the DRM, I do not know if Apple is doing that or the publisher, but that’s how some books from iBookstore look like. The few books from Project Gutenberg I have seen do not have DRM. Some other free books do.

    Another interesting observation is that there is a way for Apple to prevent a book to be synchronized with iTunes: the free Winnie-the-Pooh book that is added to you iPad as soon as you install iBooks does not show up in iTunes after synchronization.