If you’re a bookworm like me, you’ve probably discovered that iPhone and iPad users are spoiled for choice for e-reading apps and marketplaces on iOS. Kindle, Kobo, Google Books and iBooks all offer up huge libraries, but they also have the irritating habit of locking you in to a proprietary reader. Should you happen to prefer one over the other, you’re stuck using the associated marketplace.
If the books you’re buying don’t have DRM, though, you don’t have to simply mind your manners and read how the booksellers want you to read. Whether you want to move your books between apps because of situations like Amazon sunsetting Stanza or you just prefer the way one app handles night mode over another, you should be able to use the reader you want to use. It just might take a little elbow grease.
First up, let’s look at freeing your books from their various apps. Then we’ll talk about moving them into others.
Downloading Your E-books For Use With Other iOS Apps
Stanza: Since Stanza’s on its very last legs, it’s well past time to rescue your library of e-books from its clutches. Unfortunately this is much more difficult than it sounds. First, you’ll need to back your device up to iTunes. If it’s currently backing up to iCloud, this will be messy:
1. Open Settings on your iPad or iPhone.
2. Navigate to iCloud > Storage & Backup
3. Disable iCloud Backup
Then plug your device into a desktop system or connect over Wi-Fi (Windows and Mac will both work for this process) and open up iTunes. Click on your device and make sure “Encrypt iPhone Backup” is disabled. You can turn it back on after getting your Stanza e-books back, but you’ll need it off for now. Then right click on your device in the sidebar and click “Back Up.”
Once you’ve got a backup on your system, visit this page. This is Lexcycle’s Stanza Book Restore Tool. Follow the company’s instructions to extract your e-books from your backup, and then you’re done. If you don’t like leaving an unencrypted backup lying around, make sure to delete it when you’re done. And if you disabled iCloud backups, take a second to turn them back on.
Google eBookstore: If you purchase an e-book through the Google eBookstore and don’t want to read it in the Google Books app, your options are limited. But it is possible to access many of your books through at least one other reader.
To get the file you need to do this, visit the eBookstore on any computer. Click the cover of the book you want to download under “My Books.” Click the “i” in the upper right corner of the screen — this will drop down a list of options. Click the “Read on your device” link, and then scroll down to “eReaders and other devices.” If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to download an .epub file directly. If not, you might be stuck with a .ascm file. We’ll get in to what to do with that below.
Kindle and NOOK: Neither of these stores deal in non-DRM books, so any e-books you purchase from Amazon will need to be read in one of your linked Kindle devices, and any e-books your purchase from Barnes and Noble will need to be read through your account in the NOOK app.
Kobo eBooks: The Kobo store makes downloading your e-books easy, but since most are protected with Adobe DRM there aren’t many other options for reading — again, we’ll get into that below. Still, it’s dead simple. Just visit the website, log in to your account, and click “My Library.” All your downloadable books will be listed with an easy-to-spot download button.
iTunes: Many of the books available for iBooks are protected with DRM, which may limit your ability to import them into other readers, especially for offline reading. But getting them out of iBooks and into something else couldn’t be simpler. Just sync your phone with iTunes, click on Books in the sidebar and find the book you want to move. Right click on it and either Show in Finder on Mac or Show in Windows Explorer on Windows. From there, you can take the file and do whatever you’d like with it.
To tell if it’s DRM protected file, right click on the book in iTunes and click “Get info.” Under the Summary tab there will be information about the book’s DRM protection if it’s digitally locked.
Importing E-books Into Other iPad or iPhone Apps
iBooks: iBooks makes managing your books unbelievably simple. Just take your PDF or ePub file on your computer and drag it into the iTunes media sidebar. This will add it to your library. Then, next time you sync your device, check to make sure “Sync Books” is checked under the Books tab. You can also download ePub files directly to iBooks from email.
Kobo:To add ePub books to your Kobo app, open your device in iTunes. On the Apps tab, scroll down until you can see the Apps and Documents boxes. Select Kobo from the list of apps and drag your ePub file into its corresponding Kobo Documents box. Assuming the book isn’t DRM protected, this will load the book into your Kobo app as soon as you sync.
Kindle: Not only can you not take anything out of your Kindle, you also can’t easily put anything into it. If you want to load an external file into the Kindle app, you’ll need to convert it to .mobi first — that’s the proprietary Kindle format. To do that, you’ll need to download Calibre, a third-party application. Just load your file into Calibre, select it and hit “Convert books” to create a .mobi file.
Once you’ve done that, you can follow the instructions for Kobo above, dragging the new .mobi file into the Kindle Documents box.
Adobe DRM (.ascm) files
Most iOS e-reading apps won’t deal with Adobe DRM files, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of options. Bluefire Reader is a free e-reader app that can handle .ascm files. They aren’t actually e-books at all, but are instead links to download the file from a central server.
If you’ve borrowed an e-book from a library or downloaded a .ascm file from Kobo Books, the Google eBookstore or anywhere else, just email that file to yourself. Tap the attachment on your phone after installing Bluefire Reader and it will open the app and download the book for you. It isn’t the most elegant reader of the bunch, but it has most of the features of more popular apps. More importantly, it’s the only way to read many of these books.
That covers some of the most popular e-book stores and reader apps for iPhone and iPad. You should be well on your way toward reading independence with this guide. But if you have a method we didn’t find, or a store we didn’t cover, let us know in the comments.