Rescue iBook content

I need some help/suggestions for how to rescue the content of an iBook my father-in-law have written.

What I know is this:

  • It’s written in iBooks Author
  • The source file might be corrupt (it can’t be opened he says - I have not seen this file)
  • The actual book is on his older iPad
  • It’s close to 100 pages with historic data about a village in Sweden

I want to help him rescue the content of the book but I can’t figure out how to do it. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to do this?

My initial thought are

  • Try to get the corrupt(?) file to see if I can open it or extract the data. I don’t know if this file actually exists/contains any data. First attempt would be Pages, if that doesn’t work I’ll use BBEdit and see if I can get to the data. Unfortunately, I’m not at all sure that this file actually is the source file or that I can get hold of it.

  • Second plan idea is to somehow get the iBook from his iPad onto one of my machines but I can’t figure out how to do this.

Any ideas/suggestions for how to do this?

= jem

Michael Cohen is our resident expert on iBooks Author. @mcohen, any ideas?

Not sure how to get the iBooks Author book off of your iPad (much depends on the version of iOS the iPad runs, and whether it has synced with Books or iTunes or not), but if you CAN do that, you can open it in BBEdit and find the text in various xhtml files in it—note, there’ll be a LOT of code embedded in the xhtml text.

If you have the source file (it should have a .iba filename extension), you can drop it on the latest version of Pages and Pages will open it and convert it to Pages format if it isn’t corrupted.

You can also drop the .iba file on BBEdit and find the text in a .xml file inside it, but it will be surrounded by so much code (even more than in the xhtml files in the .ibooks book itself) that it may well be useless to you.


Thanks for the info, good to know what I can expect.

I have talked to a person who will go and check if the document can be found, and if so send it to me (father-in-law is 87+ so I don’t want to explain what to look for over the phone).

= jem

I would use a tool for the Mac like PhoneView from ecamm software to get access to the iPad content. There are others as well. That may permit you to find the .iba file and copy it to your Mac.

.iba files only exist on a Mac. On on iPad there will only be the published form, .ibooks or .epub.

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epub is just a zip file – you can rename it to .zip and extract the contents and find the original XHTML files that make up the book. Be some work to get that back into plain text, depending on how complicated the formatting is, but it is possible and beats retyping it.

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If you get the epub, or maybe .ibooks file and Pages doesn’t like it, calibre (on the mac) should be able to do a conversion to text only. How clean that is will depend on the formatting, but it’s probably better than starting out extracting from html by hand.


BBEdit, if you get that far, has a command that will strip most of the code:

Markup > Utilities > Translate HTML to Text…

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Two quick suggestions that I have know awareness as to how effective they might be in the recovery:

I love File Juicer which has saved me a number of times rescuing text from corrupted or ancient files.

Also, I wonder if iMazing might help him capture the file.

Just my 2 cents worth (which is probably worth .5 cents)

Good luck.

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Thanks everybody, I was lucky and managed to save an earlier version of the document into a Pages document (and did a backup and made a few suggestions of how to avoid this in the future).