iTunes Modifies ePub eBook Files

This post is a follow-up to Experiment: Add Missing eBook Covers In iTunes.

The problem here is that since I don’t have an iPad — yet (hurry up, 3G!) — my testing and questioning is not clean and systematic. All this is being done on the fly right now, so I tend not to do the kind of follow-through I ordinarily would.

A Commenter at the above post stated that adding a cover to an ePub eBook file in iTunes does indeed modify the file itself.

Since I took yesterday off, it’s only today that I got around to seeing if this is true.

And I’ll be damned, it is!

Here is the Cheaters ePub file broken open in its original form after being downloaded from Munseys:


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And here is the Cheaters ePub file broken open after a cover has been added to it using iTunes:


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Two files have actually been inserted into it!

And this is what’s inside the iTunesMetadata.plist file:


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There are several things I could say about that, but they’d most likely be all half-cocked, so I’ll shut up.

I’ll leave it to the ePub file format experts and metadata experts to chime in.

Personally, I am surprised that Apple is modifying the actual ePub file itself. However, isn’t that what I’m asking it to do by changing the cover?

I also wonder if this will work with DRMed eBooks. Random House is notorious for stripping away the print covers and adding text file-like ones. Here’s an example of what happens to Christopher Fowler‘s new Bryant & May on the Loose.

Searching for it at Sony’s eBook Store:

Will show this as its cover:

Meanwhile the printed edition has this:

And if you think that doesn’t matter, just look at the asking price for the eBook:


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So, would I be able to to give some back to Random House and replace the crap text file-like cover in the actual FairPlay DRMed ePub file with its proper one in iTunes?

I don’t know. Yet.

But those of you with an iPad, feel free to try and Comment.

Update PostScript: No, Sony eBook Store eBooks will not work on the iPad. Different DRM schemes. I used the Fowler book as an illustration of what Random House does.

One response to “iTunes Modifies ePub eBook Files

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