Transferring PDF digital booklets between iTunes libraries


Q: I have manually added many PDF digital booklets to my music albums in iTunes. I change the media kind to Music, and am able to give the booklet an album name, track number, composer, and other metadata in common with the music tracks on that album. All works well for this within that iTunes library.

The problem arises when I copy those files to another hard drive and add the files to another of my computers, with its own iTunes library. Sometimes the PDF file doesn’t copy at all. Sometimes it does copy, but it loses all its metadata and thus is no longer linked to its corresponding album.

Am I doing something wrong? Or is there a better way for me to set my
digital booklet PDFs so that they stay with the correct album, but also can be copied to my other hard drive and library with metadata intact?

– Jeff

A: Unfortunately, this is a limitation of iTunes as it relates to the PDF format; unlike most media file formats, there isn’t any standard way for iTunes to store track-related metadata within a PDF file. When you tag a PDF file within information such as artist and album name, this information is stored solely in the iTunes library database, and not written into the PDF file itself, as there’s basically nowhere to put it.

This means that when you move the PDF file to another iTunes library, you’re basically starting from scratch. It’s worth noting that this problem isn’t exclusive to PDF files either—users who work with lossless WAV files frequently run into the exact same issue, as the WAV audio format does not support metadata information either.

If you’re a Mac user, you may be able to work around this with AppleScript. Although there don’t appear to be any stock AppleScripts that do exactly what you want, several scripts are available that may help as a starting point. PDF Adder can help with entering the metadata during import and Tags to File Comments can save your metadata into the Finder Comments box for the file. You can find these and other scripts that may be useful for building a more specific solution at Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes.

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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.