iPhone and iPad

A Beginner’s Guide to Setting Up an Ebook Library on iPads

Bakari Chavanu 03-11-2012

The recently announced iPad mini, along with similar digital tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 make for nearly perfect e-reading devices. From the near paper-like reading to the easy download and archiving of eBooks, there’s hardly no reason now not to build an eBook library. As this infographic The Rise Of e-Reading [INFOGRAPHIC] I have a nice paper book collection in my office of 800 titles (and counting), but part of me wonders if, in 50 years or so, that library will be a rare endangered collection. With... Read More points out, e-reading is on the rise and it’s becoming easier to start an e-library.


This beginner’s guide recommends apps and features to get you started in building your library. Though the focus on is on the iPad, because it’s the device I’ve used for the last two years to build my e-library, the recommendations apply to other devices, including the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes and Nobel Nook. But as I will later explain, the iPad offers some extra features that you will eventually find useful over other devices.

Ipad iBooks

From Book To eBook Library

Building an e-library is ten times easier than building and maintaining a paper book library. I’ve had a paper book library of several thousand books for almost 25 years, but downsizing my book library and building an e-library is not only saving me money, but it’s just of course easier to manage and access.

So after you’ve purchased your iPad, you will want to install at least two e-book reading apps on your device: the iBooks Reader and the Kindle for the iPad. Both are free downloads.

Ebook library


These readers can sync your e-book purchase between your other iOS devices, and all your purchased ebooks are archived on both your Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks accounts. So after you’re done reading a book, you can delete it from your device to gain back space, and re-download it anytime for re-reading or reference.

Ibooks ipad

Though there have been significant updates to the Kindle and iBooks app, my 2010 article about reading eBooks in both apps is still relevant for getting started.

The biggest advantage in my view for using these apps is that you can download the first first few chapters of Kindle and iBooks eBooks and preview them before you decide to purchase. It’s like browsing books in a bookstore, but even better because you can purchase a book you like and download it in less than 30 seconds.


Free sample

Most eBooks range between $9.99 to $12.99. While there are good arguments why eBook prices should be lower, if you’re an avid reader, the savings you make on ebooks will pay for your iPad in a very short time. And another advantage with reading on the iPad is that you can sync the books and pages you’re reading to your iPhone. Even the last page you read on one device will update to that page on another device.


In terms of building your e-library, if you like reading classics, Open Culture has an awesome list of over 375 free ebooks for download to the iPad and other devices. And Yaara shares additional websites 4+ More Websites to Find Free eBooks for iPad A while back we wrote about the best places to find free iPad books. The article yielded many useful comments and suggestions from you, and made me want to explore the area even more. I’ve... Read More for free eBooks for the iPad.


eBook Links & Annotations

If you’re an avid reader and/or student, there are a few other apps (in addition to the e-readers) and webpages you will want to include a folder on your iPad. For iBooks, you browse and order eBooks through the iBooks app itself. The app consists of both your purchased and sampled books, but also a link to the iBooks Store.

Ibooks Store

You simply tap on the Store button on the top-right side of the iBooks app to browse the iBooks Store. It’s also where you will find your Purchased iBook books.

IMG 1911


In the case of Amazon, you get a much wider selection of eBooks. So I suggest you download this Kindle Store link on your iPad and iPhone. You can save the link to your device’s Home Screen/Books folder by tapping the Share button in Safari and then the Add to Home Screen button. At the end of sample Kindle book pages there’s a link to the Kindle Store, but those links no longer work because of the restrictions setup by Apple. So you will need to use the aforementioned Kindle Store link to download books and make purchases.

Add to homescreen

Another Kindle page you should include in your Books folder is a link to the highlights and annotations you make in your purchased Kindle books. You can also download Kindle Reading apps for other devices, including your Mac and PC.

Kindle for Mac

The computer versions of the Kindle will give you even more access to your annotations, enabling you to copy and paste passages from your Kindle books. Currently, and ironically, there is no Mac version of iBooks.

While it’s indeed cheaper to purchase a Kindle or Nook reader, the iPad, and especially the new iPad mini makes for a better reading experience, in my view, because you can add additional apps and links to the device that can be useful to your reading and other media interests.

So have you started an e-library already? What devices and apps do you use? What features are wishing for as this market grows?

Related topics: Ebooks, iBooks, Organization Software.

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  1. Somaiya Ebrahim
    November 9, 2012 at 11:14 am

    wish i had an ipad..

    • Alan Peery
      November 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm

      Consider the Nexus 7 from Google. Price is better and it is more flexible.

      • Bakari Chavanu
        November 26, 2012 at 9:33 pm

        Can't disagree with you here.

  2. Katrina Holloway
    November 8, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    There's also the Bluefire Reader App for the iPad, which manages ePubs & books under Adobe Digital Editions Copyright. I've been borrowing ePub ebooks with my Android phone with this app, works like a charm (the App is also available for iPad). You can also buy & stock an ebook library in there.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 26, 2012 at 9:32 pm

      Cool, Katrina, I'll check it out. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. michel
    November 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    as another commenter remarked, I would like to know if you can read Gutenberg texts on a iPad. Also, is there an alternate to ibooks or the Kindle app? I don't want my reading tracked.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm

      Michel, I'll check up on that. I don't know much about the Gutenberg.

    • Alan Peery
      November 24, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      The Stanza app would be my top choice.

  4. Jim Spencer
    November 6, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Well, nicely written article, but if we have no desire to have an iPad, and instead want an Android driven device, where is the guide for doing that? Personally, I'm a Kindle, Kindle Fire fan myself.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm

      Jim, you've given our writers another topic for future articles. I would have included the Fire and the Android, but I don't have either. But thanks for requesting it.

    • Alan Peery
      November 24, 2012 at 3:53 pm

      I would avoid the Kindle, as Amazon has purposely crippled its version of Android. Imagine a car that you can only drive to one supermarket chain and you'll get a pretty good idea of the impact. Google's Nexus tablets (buyable on https://play.Google.com) are price competitive and more flexible. Load the Kindle app and the FBReader app and you are ready to go.

      One of the place you should visit if you like science fiction is Baen Publishing, as you can buy direct at lower cost.http://www.baenebooks.com/t-ereaderinstructions.aspx gives instructions. I actually send their books through to the kindle software running on my android tablet, so there are many ways to do this.

  5. mike pilkenton
    November 6, 2012 at 8:03 am

    Check out ereadernewstoday.com

    it's well worth your time.
    quality bargains and free ebooks in your email every day

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 6, 2012 at 11:54 pm

      Hey Mike, thanks for letting us know about this site. Will definitely check it out.

  6. Leigh Holing
    November 6, 2012 at 2:13 am

    My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can't believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do, Fly26.com

  7. Joe Mama
    November 5, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    I'd advise looking at Calibre (linux, mac, windows).

    It manages your library, converts almost any format to any format, downloads to devices, and has an ebook reader.

    Free at:

    • Nora Martinez
      November 5, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      But do you have to manually input your books into Calibre?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 5, 2012 at 10:51 pm

      Hey Joe, thanks for this. My article focused on the basics, but Calibre ebooks is an app people should know about it. I will check into it more.

  8. Jenab
    November 5, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    I have downloaded four ebook apps, however, is there a way to show a listing of the books without opening each app? I sometimes read several books at one time and I have no way of knowing which app shows which books, so I end up opening 2 or 3 or 4 apps to see the title I was reading or searching for.
    Any answers to my problem?
    Thanks for your help…

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 5, 2012 at 8:33 pm

      Hmm, that almost sounds like a Finder's issue, which the iPad doesn't have. I don't even think you can do a search for books on the iPad, but content of most apps are open to search. Yeah, Jenab I don't think there's a way to access what you're looking for. There's an app called iBookshelf in which you can keep a listing of all your books, but it would mean inputing that information.

  9. Paul N. Sheldon
    November 5, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    My public library's e-book collection features mostly epub formatted books. These also appear in Project Gutenberg. Is Apple willing to include the ability to deal with epub formatted books? I purchased a Nook Color because it reads the largest variety of formats.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 5, 2012 at 8:27 pm

      Paul, you bring up a good point and question. I haven't explored e-pub books enough, and it's a subject that I wish I could have addressed in the article. Thanks for your feedback.

      • Karl
        November 8, 2012 at 3:43 am

        iBooks will open ePub books fine, in my experience. But I may have only tried it with unprotected ones from Project Gutenberg.

        • Alan Peery
          November 24, 2012 at 3:36 pm

          If you are looking for a free reader app with free books two of the best are Stanza for iOs and FBReader on Android.

        • Alan Peery
          November 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm

          Stanza handle ePub format and others, and it is more flexible in how it displays than iBooks.

  10. Karen
    November 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Thanks so much. I learn so much from MUO. Keep up the good work!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 5, 2012 at 8:26 pm

      Hey Karen, thanks so much. It's great to get your feedback.

  11. Ahmed Khalil
    November 4, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    very nice and strong app thanks for sharing this article

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 4, 2012 at 7:16 pm

      You're welcome, Ahmed. Appreciate the feedback as usual.

  12. Junil Maharjan
    November 4, 2012 at 4:00 am

    There should be a similar article for android tablet users

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 4, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      Good point, Junil. I'll see if another MUO writer can produce it.

  13. Andrea
    November 4, 2012 at 3:38 am

    Great article, thanks for the simplicity and links. One link that I couldn't access was "my 2010 article in both apps is still relevant for getting started." Could you send me the link or fix the hyperlink?

  14. josemon maliakal
    November 3, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    My wish to have a free library app

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 3, 2012 at 6:28 pm

      Josemon, I believe there are apps for downloading free ebooks to your device.

  15. Boni Oloff
    November 3, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Yap, IPad can also used as intensive ebook reader. And i think MOU also have Giveaway about ebook reader too in twitter, I choose IPad, but i think the Giveaway is closed, I don't know who is the winner.

  16. Nikhil Chandak
    November 3, 2012 at 5:19 am

    amazing ebook library of books !!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 3, 2012 at 6:27 pm

      Thanks for your feedback, Nikhil.