Using iBooks and the iBookstore

iBooks logo


Using iBooks and the iBookstore

iBooks bookshelf

With the combination of the hi-res Retina Display screen and terrific apps, reading ebooks on the iOS is a treat. Not only do book lovers get a wide selection of ebook apps to choose from, if they use Apple's ebooks app, iBooks, they can sync their books and reading across all their devices and enjoy some great page-turn animations.

If you're looking to get into the world of ebooks, or want to learn how to use iBooks, read on to find out how to read in iBooks, control how books look, search and annotate books, and more.

Since iBooks is available for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, running iOS 4.0 or higher, this article applies to all of those devices.

Before we dive into deep, though, you may want to check out these basic how-tos:

Reading iBooks

iBooks reading options
iBooks reading options.  Apple

The most basic aspects of reading books in iBooks are very simple. Tapping on a book in your library (the bookshelf interface that appears when you open iBooks) opens it. Tap on the right side of the page or swipe from right to left to turn to the next page. Tap on the left side or swipe left to right to go back a page. Those may be the basics, but there are a number of options that can make your reading experience more pleasurable.


You may prefer a font other than the default one that iBooks uses (Palatino). If so, you can choose from five others. To change the font you read a book in:

  • Tap the aA icon at the top of the screen
  • In the menu, tap Fonts
  • Tap the font you prefer.

You can also change the size of the font to make reading easier. To do this:

  • Tap the aA icon
  • In the first row of the menu, tap on the small A on the left to reduce the font size
  • Tap the larger one on the right to make the font larger.


Some people find that reading using iBooks' default white background is difficult or can cause eye strain. If you're one of these people, give your books a more pleasing sepia background by tapping on the aA icon and moving the Sepia slider to On.


Reading in different locations, with varying light levels, calls for different screen brightnesses. Change the brightness of your screen by tapping the icon that looks like a circle with lines around it. This is the brightness control. Move the slider to the left for less brightness and to the right for more.

Table of Contents, Search & Bookmark

You can navigate through your books in three ways: by the table of contents, search, or bookmarks.

Access any book's table of contents by tapping the icon in the top left corner that looks like three parallel lines. At the table of contents, tap any chapter to jump to it.

If you're looking for specific text within your book, use the search function. Tap the magnifying glass icon in the top right and enter the text you're seeking. If it's found in the book, results appear. Tap each result to jump to it. Return to your results by tapping the magnifying glass again. Clear your search by tapping the X next to the search term you entered.

Even though iBooks keeps track of your reading and returns you to where you left off, you may want to bookmark interesting pages to return to later. To do this, tap the bookmark icon in the top right corner. It will turn red. To remove the bookmark, tap it again. To view all of your bookmarks, go to the table of contents and tap the Bookmarks option. Tap each one to jump to that bookmark.

Other Features

When you tap and hold a word, you can choose the following from the pop-up menu:

  • Dictionary
  • Highlight - View your list of highlights from the bookmarks section of the table of contents
  • Note - Add a note to a word or passage. Read the notes either from the table of contents (a yellow post-in note appears next to them) or by tapping the post-it note icon on the page where the note is.

iBooks Formats

Adding PDFs to iBooks
Adding PDFs to iBooks.  Apple

Even though the iBookstore is the main way to get ebooks to read in the iBooks app, it's not the only place. From public domain sources like Project Gutenberg to PDFs, there are lots of options for good reading in iBooks.

Before you buy an ebook from a store other than iBooks, though, you need to know it will work with your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. To do that, check out the list of ebook formats that iBooks can use.

Adding Downloaded Files to iBooks

If you've downloaded an iBooks-compatible document (especially a PDF or ePUB) from another website, adding it to your iOS device is very easy.

  • Download the file to your computer from whatever website/source you prefer
  • Open iTunes if it's not already open
  • Locate the downloaded file and drag it to the Library section of iTunes in the top left. When that section turns blue, let go of the file. This adds it to your iTunes library
  • Sync your device with iTunes
  • In the books tab, check the box next to the files you want to sync, including the new book you've just added.

iBooks Collections

iBooks Collections

If you've got more than a few books in your iBooks library, things can get pretty crowded pretty quickly. The solution to neatening up your digital books is Collections. The Collections feature in iBooks lets you group similar books together to make browsing your library easier.

Creating Collections

  • Go to the main iBooks library screen (the bookshelf page)
  • Tap the Books button at the top center of the screen
  • The page that appears shows all your collections (Books and PDFs by default) and lets you create new ones. Tap the New button at the bottom of the screen to do so
  • Give the new collection a name and tap the Done button on the keyboard
  • The new collection will appear in the list and is now available to add books too.

Adding Books to Collections

To add books to collections:

  • Go to the location of the book or books you want to move. In most cases, or at least when you first start using collections, this will be the Books collection (indicated by the Books button at the top center of the screen)
  • Tap the Edit button
  • Tap the books you want to move. A blue checkmark will appear on each selected book
  • Tap the Move button
  • Tap the collection you want to move the book to and it will be automatically moved there.

Viewing Collections

You can view your collections in two ways:

  • Tap the Books button in the top center of the screen from the default library view
  • This shows a list of all your collections. Tap the one you want to view.

Alternatively, you can swipe to the left or right when you're viewing the bookshelf interface. This moves you from one collection to the next. The name of the collection will be displayed in the center button at the top of the screen.

Editing & Deleting Collections

You can edit the name and orders of collections, or delete them.

  • Go to the main iBooks library screen (the bookshelf page)
  • Tap the Books button (or another collection name) at the top center of the screen
  • On the Collection screen, tap the Edit button at the bottom of the page
    • To Delete a collection tap the red circle icon to the left of the collection and then the delete button that appears at the far right. If there are any books in that collection, they will be moved to your main Books collection unless you move them somewhere else before deleting their collection
    • To Edit the name of a Collection, tap the collection name and use the onscreen keyboard
    • To Re-arrange the order of the collections, tap and hold the three parallel lines icon at the right of the collection name. Drag the collection to the location you prefer and drop it there
  • When you're done making all your edits, tap the Done button at the bottom right of the screen.

iBooks Settings

iBooks Settings
iBooks Settings.  Apple

There aren't many other settings for you to control in iBooks, but there are a few that you may want to learn how to use. To access them tap on the Settings app on your device's home screen, scroll down to iBooks, and tap it.

Full Justification - By default, iBooks have a ragged right-hand edge. If you prefer that the edge is smooth and the text is one uniform column, you prefer full justification. Move this slider to On to enable that.

Auto-hyphenation - To fully justify text, some hyphenation is required. If you're running iOS 4.2 or higher, slide to this On to hyphenate words rather than forcing them to a new line.

Tap Left Margin - Choose what happens when you tap the left side of the screen in iBooks - move forward or back in the book

Sync Bookmarks - Automatically sync your bookmarks to all of your devices running iBooks

Sync Collections - The same, but with collections.