How Apple’s Books App Has Changed in iOS 16

Originally published at: How Apple’s Books App Has Changed in iOS 16 - TidBITS

Apple has overhauled how you read EPUB ebooks in the Books app. Here’s how to use the new interface and take advantage of its somewhat hidden customization options.

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You used to be able to set the brightness while reading separately from the system brightness. I used that quite a bit and still miss after many months of beta use.

Being able to tap a theme and switch the settings in one go is nice, if (as is typcial for Apple) you like Apple’s defaults, but it’s a lot more taps to customize. And I wish you could name a theme and have it sync to all devices.

Also I could’ve sworn I saw a setting for showing real page numbers but apparently Apple added that awhile ago and it’s only if the epub supports it.

Off topic from the books UI:
Briefly way back in early iOS 16 betas there were a bunch of extra shortcut actions for books that were really nice. They disappeared and haven’t reappeared even in 16.1 betas.

I still occasionally have issues with syncing, even epubs i bought from the bookstore vs. uploaded into Books. Between iPad and Mac seems reliable, phone is a crap shoot (all devices on latest 16.1 betas)

Pre-Orders, when they ship, will get stuck in this weird mode where it will only show me the preview and the “buy now” button even though I already paid.

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RIP skeuomorphic page turn. I suppose its days have been numbered for quite a few years now, but I still am sad to see it go. I enjoyed the whimsy of it. That said, I mostly am used to / like the changes they’ve introduced. I like being able to see the % complete in a book without having to return back to the main book listing page.

Add: For most of the iPad OS 16 beta, the overlays when you tap have been poorly placed and clashed with the text of the actual book. I’m glad to see they have fixed that in the latest beta.

Until Apple Books is capable of doing a simple author or title sort correctly, none of the rest matters. For a decade or more half my authors have been sorted by last name, the other half by last name. In fact, the Apple Books author sort of titles by some prolific authors lists half their titles under their last name and half under their first name. Title sorts show the same sort of nonsensical arrangement. Some titles are sorted by a, an, or the, while some are correctly sorted by the first word after the article. Earlier versions of iBooks let the owner alter the file metadata, but recent versions do not. (Just as well, I suppose, because I really don’t feel like spending months editing the metada of 600 EPUB files.) Anyway, iBooks/Apple Books has sucked since very early on, and it still sucks. Apple should just cede the territory once and for all to Kindle, and stick to video. (I was going to say “or music,” but if you’ve taken a look at your Apple Music library lately, the sorting there is even worse, and that’s not even taking into account duplicates, split albums, incorrect versions and album art, etc., etc.) “Apple is now a services company.” Yeah, right….

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Still very frustrated by the store search results. Why would I want to see results for books in foreign languages that I cannot read?

It should be possible to only get results for selected languages.

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My problem with the Books app is that I am unable to consolidate date my purchases across from my and my wife’s devices (pads, phones, and Macs). For example, I can’t find a Reading Now page on the Macs or the Account button (my face) that allows me to Family Share. Some it may be that some devices are intentionally held at Mojave for use of crucial 32-bit apps.

Has anyone else had these problems and been able to resolve them?

It used to be possible to load ANY epub into Books. A few months ago this changed. Now one can only load books downloaded from Apple.

Is there any way to bypass this restriction, so that non-Apple epubs may be read in Books?

I have been reading books on my phone and iPads for over 10 years…from the very beginning as an original iPhone and iPad user. I’ve read close to 600 books.

That being said, I feel the IOS 16 interface is change for the sake of change. MUCH less user friendly. I can no longer easily/quickly get to the table of contents, brightness, font size/type or see where I am in the book.

I may need to check out Kindal again which I hate to do as a Apple Fanboy.

I may as well vocalize while I’m at it that I don’t care for the current library which changed some yeas ago from the old bookshelf library which I loved and found so easy to use. Especially the ability to sort by authors or date read in a clear list format.

Thanks for listening!!

Bill who loves TidBITS.

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I don’t see the problem. I downloaded a non-Apple epub on my iPhone running IOS 16.0.2. I then opened Files and the Download folder and tapped the newly downloaded epub. It opened. Closing the file showed it as the most recent addition to Apple Books (which I confirmed by opening Apple Books on my computer).

I read epubs on my iPad, not iPhone. I used to get a new (old) into books by dragging them into iTunes on my iMac, then onto Books in iPad.
If there’s a way to get non-Apple epubs into the Books app on an iPad, I’d be grateful. I did contact Apple who said yes it used to be possible but now it is not.

2012 iMac 10.15.7

I just did this the exact way listed in the post above you (to quote):.

I had an .epub file (which I created myself from a friend’s draft of a book he published), which was in iCloud Drive. I tapped the file, and it immediately opened the Books app, with the ePub file in the list.

iPad Air running 15.7.

Thank you! How do I get the epub into iCloud Drive?

That I just copied on my Mac, but if you can download it in Safari on the iPad you can save it to iCloud Drive. (It doesn’t need to be iCloud Drive - it could be Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, it could be in local storage on the iPad - basically any provider that works in the Files app.)

On the Mac, just double-click the epub. If Books is your default app for epub, that will import it. (Otherwise, Open With Books.) As long as Books is set to sync in iCloud, that will also copy it to your other devices.

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My go-to epub reader is Marvin 3, which is highly customizable but hasn’t been updated since 2018. One great aspect of this app is that it also runs reasonably well on an M1 Mac. However, with iOS 16 and the iPhone 14 Pro, Marvin is starting to show its age. It’s still functional, but the custom contextual menu is gone, and the top line of text is partially obscured by the dynamic island of an iPhone 14 Pro.

The problem is that there seem to be no good alternatives out there, probably because Books is “good enough” for a lot of users. I like the updates to Books, but of course there is just one niggly feature missing that prevents me from using it. That feature is the ability to adjust the side margin width to fit more text on the screen. I’m too distracted by those gigantic side margins that make a column of biggish text on an iPhone only four to five words wide.

For now I’m limping on with Marvin, but I’d be thrilled if Books or another app were sufficiently customizable to replace it.

Unfortunately there’s no version for Mac, but for iOS Mapleread is quite good.

https://www.maplepop.com/web/mr/index.php

There are three flavors, CX (free with limitations), CE (full features for epubs), and SE (full features for epubs and pdfs). It can edit metadata, access and serve OPDS/HTML, pretty good notation, and you can export notes in several ways. (I email notes to myself in a simple enough html that they’re adequately of readable in plain text and they live in a dedicated mail folder.) User interface is pretty flexible. It’s drm-free books only.

On the mac I use the ebook-viewer.app from calibre (which I otherwise don’t like). Install calibre, then set all .epubs to open in ebook-viewer.app in the finder. It’s not great, but I haven’t found anything better and I seldom want to read an epub on a mac anyway, just check for a decent conversion, or look something up.

For metadata, I decided a while back that time spent fussing with metadata is time that could spent reading instead. I use Finder as the filing system with standardized file names and a tolerable directory hierarchy. Find Any File and or HoudahSpot work well to turn up what I want. (Names are ala “Vo - 2 When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain.epub”) Once I choose something I just copy it to the relevant iPad.

For adbobe drm books on iOS, there’s Bluefire Reader. I haven’t used it for a long time but I remember it as being adequate. For pdfs, I use Goodreader.

Thanks, guys. But I don’t think anyone has told me how to get an epub from my iMac onto my iPad. Also, I don’t know how to get an epub into iCloud (if that’s necessary) and iPads don’t have the “Files” folder mentioned above.

I am assuming you are using the latest iPadOS (15.6.1) and macOS (12.6).

Do you have Books set to synchronize via iCloud?

On the Mac: System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud > iCloud Drive; Check iCloud Drive and click Options; Be sure that Books is set to synchronize.

On the iPad: Settings > Books; Under SYNCING, turn on iCloud Drive.

Now any books you add to Books on the Mac should shortly appear on the iPad (and vice versa).

As I said above, add the ePub to Books on the Mac simply by double-clicking the ePub file.

If you do the above, then you don’t need the Files app to transfer ePubs in Books, but it is useful for many things, especially transferring random files between devices. See Use the Files app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch - Apple Support
See especially Step 1.

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^Check these settings first. Then:

  1. Open Books app on Mac.
  2. Get the .epub file from Finder, and drag it into the Books app.
  3. It syncs to your iCloud Drive, and thus is downloadable in the Books app library on all your devices.

Done.

On the Mac version I believe I’d also check the Account menu to make sure that your Apple ID is logged in. I think that’s what makes epubs (and purchased content) sync via CloudKit.