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I’m now syncing *sideloaded* books across multiple devices. Here’s how…

June 27, 2012 10 comments

Just a little quickie tech-talk post today. Last week I picked up my first iPad* a few days after buying my son an iPad 1 and falling in love with it.

* Why is this significant? Because I’ve been a Mac-head since 1986 (lugged a Mac SE-HD to college in 1988 as my portable computer – ah the memories of trying to find an open AppleTalk port in the computer lab). I’ve been an iDevice-head almost since the iPhone hit stores, and swear by them. But I never pulled the trigger on an iPad – to me, it was a tweener. I have an iPhone 4S and a MacBook Pro – why get something that’s between them? Boy, was I mistaken…love at first swipe.

Over the past few days I’ve been customizing it, installing apps and music, some videos, and generally just hugging it to death. I might even name it. But last night, something magical happened (Steve Jobs’ words, not mine). I found out it syncs books.

What I mean by syncs books is that I can read an ebook on my iPhone, and pick up where I left off on my iPad, and vice versa. I’m not tied to one device, or having to remember what page I was on.

I can hear you now:

Steve, you’re an idiot. Syncing last page has been available for Kindle since day one, and Nook, and Kobo. Where have you been, moron? 

Ho ho, I say! Those devices and apps do a fine job of syncing books purchased through their stores, of course. All of them do. (Well, my Nook app experience has had some issues, swearing I’ve been on page 115 of Randolph LaLonde’s Spinward Fringe now for two weeks.) It’s part of the allure of “read anywhere” and technology in the cloud. I’m not talking about that. What I mean is:

iBooks will sync SIDELOADED books across devices.

Try that with your Kindle or Nook. Sideloading is taking an ePub file and ‘manually’ loading it into your device. I can do that with my Nook Color, an Android tablet and read with Aldiko, my mother can do it with her Kindle, and I can even click on a mail  attachment with an ePub file on my iPhone and have it ‘sideloaded’ to my Stanza app. But sideloading means the store behind the software won’t sync across devices – it won’t even know you have the file.*

* There is a way with Kindle by emailing the .mobi file to your @kindle.com address, but if you’ve acquired an ePub file, conversion is another step, and if you have ‘questionable’ material or perhaps ill-gotten files, giving Amazon access to those files may not be desired.

So what do I do when a fellow author sends me a copy of his/her book to read? Or I pick up a file off Smashwords? Or a public domain book? iBooks to the rescue. It WILL sync last page/collections/bookmarks across devices for any file, store bought or sideloaded.

On all iDevices, go to Settings > iBooks > turn ON Sync Bookmarks and Sync Collections. Now here’s the real key – you need to upload via iTunes in order for the sync to work. Drag the ePub file into iTunes, connect the various iDevices, and sync that book file to all of them. Poof, done. Now ANY ebook you load onto your iPhone will sync with the iPad, other iPhones, iPod Touch, whatever through iCloud.

So now I’ve begun collecting all of my ePub files (I’ve sideloaded plenty into various apps) into iBooks, and I’m ready to read anywhere, anytime.

Did I get anything wrong? Was I behind the times and everyone knew this? How do you guys read sideloaded books?

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