Books on iPad

Found a strange issue today with my new M1 Pro MBP. I used Migration Assistant to move everything from the old 2015 rMBP including the mapping of my iPad Air 4th gen. Looking in Books on the MRP I see a total of 79 books, 9 series, and 70 PDFs. Plugging in the iPad Air and doing a sync with All books selected for sync results in only 19 books, 10 series, and 1 PDFon the iPad. Tried rebooting everything, the iPad is trusted by the MBP, and even tried selecting “selected books” and unchecking everything, syncing, and then reselecting All Books followed by resync again. No luck.

Finder…when the iPad is plugged in…only shows a subset of the books and none of the PDFs that are visible in Books.

Any ideas on magical incantations I should try? I could do a local backup and then restore from backup if necessary…but since the backup would include only the limited number of books either in the Finder under Books or o the iPad I’m not sure that would do anything.

Since I only see a limited number of books/PDFs in Finder as options to select for syncing when the iPad is connected…perhaps it’s a matter of nuking some file on the MBP instead…googling didn’t reveal any answer although I did log out and in to iCloud on the iPad and uncheck/check the Books option in iCloud on the iPad based on what I did find. I poked around in ~/Library and didn’t see anything obvious where Books preferences or the prefs for the iPad might be.

I discovered this same problem on my own system (trying to sync PDFs from a Mac running Big Sur to an iPhone 13 running iOS 15). See also Can’t sync PDFs from Books to iOS.

It appears that Apple no longer supports syncing your own books (that is, those not purchased from Apple’s store) over USB, but only via iCloud. Here’s what I did to get mine to sync:

  • Allow the Books app on your Mac to access your iCloud Drive. Go to System Preferences → Apple ID → iCloud → iCloud Drive Options. Then make sure the check box for Books is checked
  • On your iOS device, enable Books to sync from iCloud. Go to Settings → Books. Then look for the iCloud Drive slider (in the Syncing group) and make sure it is turned on.

Now, in your Books app, you should soon see the books in your library. Initially, you will see them with a cloud icon, indicating that they are not present on the device. When you tap the book to open it, it will be downloaded from your iCloud Drive.

If there is still a way to support sync of books over USB, the way you used to be able to, I don’t know what it is.


Thanks David…that works. It doesn’t explain why Apple broke a system that worked perfectly fine to begin with…or why books and pdfs that show up in the Books app on Monterey don’t show up as options to sync in Finder for the iOS device…but then Apple never explains why they take things away pretty much.

And what about folks – like me – that have never used or set up iCloud?

This probably explains the issues I had sync’ing PDF/non-Apple books from my Mac to my iPad. I eventually got sync’ed by booting in Sierra and using iTunes 12.6.5.

If you don’t want to use iCloud then using the kindle app works fine for reading files and doesn’t have the shared capacity problem most common with the free tier of iCloud.

Though if you’re not using it for anything else 5gb is enough for a lot of books.

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Based on what I’ve seen so far, you won’t be able to sync books. You’ll need to use a third-party PDF viewer app.

But, as @Gw44 wrote, the free tier of iCloud Drive includes 5GB of storage, which should be more than enough if you’re only going to use it for sync purposes.

This isn’t syncing books between Macs and iOS devices, but I use iMazing to transfer PDFs to my iPad from my Mac, where I read them with iBooks.

It’s a manual activity (rather than automatically being done each time I use iMazing); but it’s convenient and reliable.

PS iMazing also provides a lot of other useful features for people who use their Macs with their iOS devices. My primary use is having iMazing downloading iOS apps from the App store onto my Mac, and then installing them from there onto my iOS devices. It allows me to keep older versions of iOS apps – allowing me to install an older version when a new app release screws things up.

Years ago I dumped iBooks after it screwed up my carefully curated library on my iPad. I had my books manually organized in Author+Series order because iBooks didn’t have that as an option. I replaced it with MapleRead SE from MaplePop and have never looked back. On my iMac I use Calibre to convert non-ePub books to ePub.

Can MapleRead read books purchased from the Apple Book Store?

Not directly. I had to use iBookCopy on the books I’d bought from the iBook Store to get usable ePub versions. I haven’t bought books from Apple’s store in over 5 years as I find books at other stores that Apple doesn’t have or are cheaper than Apple’s price.