Using iTunes to manage PDF books
June 26, 2010 3 Comments
In my hopeless struggle to clear the ever increasing document mess, I noticed that, after music and photos, the documents that seem to have the higher growth rate both in terms of numbers and cataloging needs are the PDF books and manuals.
Partial support for PDF was already available in iTunes for quite a while, as it was needed first for music booklets and later for iTunes U lessons, but proper support for PDF books was added only since iTunes 9.2, where Books are now a new category of documents managed by iTunes.
Warning! Apple completely redesigned iTunes, and support for books was removed, being delegated to iBooks.
The workflow is similar to managing music with iTunes, except you don’t have to scan the CD covers, since the artwork is automatically created from the book cover page.
You start by importing the PDF documents into iTunes, either by using File -> Add to Library or by using Drag and Drop. The new documents will be imported into the iTunes library with Media Kind: Book, making them appear under the Books category,
with the Name metadata filled in with the original file name
and the Artwork showing the first page of the document.
The rest of the metadata fields are empty, and need to be manually entered.
Once the library grows, finding the new books between the many existing books may become tedious, so one possible solution would be to define a new Smart Playlist to select all PDF documents having no Genre:
When having the new added books at hand, you open them one by one in Adobe Reader, and copy/paste various information from the book to iTunes metadata (File -> Get Info).
Since the Get Info fields are the same for all documents, accomodating them for books is more or less a matter of personal taste.
For example, I use Genre to categorise documents. The actual values I use for these categories are: Articles, Books, eBooks, Magazines, Manuals, Specifications.
Other conventions I use:
- Name: the exact name, as on the cover
- Artist: the author name, as it appears on the cover; for multiple authors, list them all, separated by comma
- Year: the publishing year, usually from the copyright notice
- Album: the same as the book name for individual books; for groups, the collection name
- Grouping: a custom word defining the content; the actual values I use are: Apple, Audio, Embedded, Graphics, Microsoft, Photography, Python
- Composer: the publisher name, for example “Addison-Wesley“; if the document is a personal document, not published by an official publisher, I use “(author)”
- Comments: the copyright notice, like “Copyright © 2009 Apple Inc.”
- Video Episode ID: the ISBN codes, or ‘-‘ if the document has no ISBN; for example “ISBN-13: 978-0-321-55545-8; ISBN-10: 0-321-55545-7 (pbk)“
- Video Description: additional text used after the book name, for example the book “Expert Python Programming“, had an additional description text “Learn best practices to designing, coding, and distributing your Python software“
One of the very powerful features of iTunes, that contributed to the decision of using it for managing books, was the extended browsing capabilities, allowing to very conveniently search books by name, author, editor, etc.
For example, I use the following arrangement:
To make this arrangement possible, I use the following configuration:
In the bottom part of the iTunes window, I display the following fields: Name, Size, Year, Author, Composer, Episode ID, Category, Grouping, Album, Description, Kind, Date Added, Rating.
Similar to groups of tunes, for group of books, like manual sets, I use the Album name to record the group name. For example, I have a group called “Mac OS X Server Version 10.6 Snow Leopard” containing a lot of Apple original OS X Server manuals.
- iTunes is an already available solution, no need for additional software
- multiple browsing criteria, multiple sorting columns
- multiple viewing capabilities, including the great “View as Cover Flow”
- expected good integration with other Apple ecosystem members, like iPad and iPhone
- books are stored in the global iTunes storage, no need to worry about directories, file names, etc
- no need to worry for separate backups, as long as you backup the entire iTunes library (you DO backup your music, don’t you?)
- works both on Mac and Windows
- further increase the dependence on iTunes (“the new uniform” as my friend Ion named it)
I’m using iTunes to manage books for quite some time already, and although before 9.2 there were some quirks, now the entire solution seems fully functional. And, with the iPad’s huge success, I’m pretty confident Apple has all good reasons to further expand iTunes support for managing books.