Copying text from iBooks


Q: I am still confused by what is for me a deal breaker. Is there an out-of-the-box way to copy-and-paste content (ie, whole paragraphs, not the entire book) bought from iBooks or in ePub format to a note jotting program such as DevonThink Pro. I am mainly interested in non-fiction books with factual contents that I’d like to keep gathered in a research file. I have read a lot about iPad so far, but nobody seems to mention this rather obvious function. Am I missing out something? Any third-party solution you can suggest to this copy/paste issue will do as long as it doesn’t involve jailbreaking.

Copying text from iBooks

– Anonymous

A: The first challenge is actually being able to copy the content from the iBooks app. iBooks does not allow you to copy text from books that are purchased from the iBookstore, likely due to the copy-protection. Selecting text in these books will give you options to bookmark (highlight) the text, look a word up in a dictionary, or perform a search based on the selected word. You’ll notice the “Copy” option is not available here.

With unprotected ePub files you’ve imported yourself, on the other hand, the same options appear, but you’ll see a “Copy” option is also available to transfer the selected text to the iPad clipboard.


Copying text from iBooks

So if you’re working primarily with public domain ePub files that are obtained from sources outside of the iBookstore, you should be able to copy the content using the clipboard without any difficulty. Some DRM-free iBooks may also be available from the iBookstore that provide this capability as well.

Transferring this content to another application on the iPad is simply a matter of opening that app and pasting it in. To transfer to an app on your computer, simply paste the text into something that you can send to your computer, such as an e-mail to yourself or the built-in Notes app which can sync through iTunes. A very handy app called Pastebot can also be used to automatically sync clipboard content between your iPad and your Mac, or you can look at any of the number of third-party note-taking apps such as Evernote or SimpleNote that can wirelessly sync with a web service or a companion app on your computer.


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Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.