Jun 27

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

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?

About the author

Steve Umstead

Steve Umstead has been the owner of a Caribbean & Mexico travel company for the past ten+ years, but never forgot his lifelong dream of becoming an author. After a successful stab at National Novel Writing Month, he decided to pursue his dream more vigorously…but hasn’t given up the traveling.
Steve lives in scenic (tongue-in-cheek) New Jersey with his wife, two kids, and several bookshelves full of other authors’ science fiction novels. Gabriel’s Redemption was his debut novel, published in February of 2011.


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  1. Mike Crate

    My kindle was the only method I used to read e-books so syncing was never an issue, got myself an iPad a couple of weeks ago and it’s running the Kindle app of course but the iBooks app is also getting a work out. Still not a sync issue because the iPad is now the primary device but I’m using a little mp3 played for audiobooks so might be worth experimenting to see if I can have the same content on both devices and seamlessly switch between them.

  2. Jeff Altman (@jeffaltman)

    For as long as I remember, I’ve been doing this with both purchased and sideloaded books on my rooted Nook Color running CM7 loaded with Nook and Kindle apps and my Samsung Captivate loaded with Nook and Kindle apps. I read my phone on the train and my CM7 Nook at home.

    1. Darren Cato (@shaded2)

      As far as i know the nook apps do not sync side-loaded content. I really like the nook products, especially for the ease of sideloading but i have not been able to get it to sync sideloaded content. I would be interested in a solution.

      1. Fritz

        Nook will not archive sideloaded files.
        To simulate archived files store your books in Dropbox and open “archived” files using the Dropbox app or from the Dropbox website using the Mercury browser available on the iTunes appstore.

        You can use any storage available at an internet address as your online archive, by using the Mercury browser to download & open the “archived” book.

        With both these apps you will have a choice of most of the iDevice ereaders as they will put up a menu of detected apps capable of opening the book.

        To archive a book. Use a PC (Windows, Linux, OSX, or something else) that can upload the ebook file to the cloud storage.

  3. danniehill

    You know, Steve. I’ve always hung around smart people hoping a little would rub off on me. It seems to be working in your case. I alays thought a sideload was… never mind.

  4. J Steele

    I have loads of books (mobi) I sideloaded on my Kindle Fire: is it possible for me to read these on my Ipad 3 with the Kindle App and if so how?

  5. jiva

    kindle syncs “furthest page read” across devices for “personal documents”. though, i think it might be a relatively new feature.

  6. teriann

    i have a kindle 3G and I’m wondering if I can load the books i purchased from nook on to it, and how do i do it?

    1. Steve Umstead

      It’s the same basic process in reverse, though you will have to find where on your Mac/PC the Nook books are kept. What may be easier is to connect your Nook via USB and drag/drop the files from there onto your computer’s desktop. After that you’d need to use Calibre (see above) to convert them to .mobi files, then upload them to your Kindle. If they are DRM protected when you bought from B&N, that’s another discussion I can’t get into (but Google is your friend if you need to ‘remove DRM’).

    2. Steve Umstead

      Whoops – when I said see above, I thought this was a different post I did. I’ve got a breakdown of the conversion process here: http://steveumstead.com/2011/06/23/converting-a-kindle-book-to-nook-format-or-how-i-synced-my-life/

      But again, it’s the other way (Kindle to Nook).

  7. anotherchris

    No need to load epubs via iTunes; mine were imported into iBooks via Dropbox or e-mail, and sync works fine (iPhone 3GS and iPad3; both still on 5.x). I think book syncing of non-purchased books has just swayed me into getting a new iPhone rather than an Android :)

    1. Sue

      How do you import using Dropbox and iBooks? I just tried it and it didn’t work. iPhone 4, OS: 6.0.1.

      1. Fritz

        Late reply, but maybe this will help others landing here.
        Install the Dropbox app on your iPad/iPhone/iPod
        Make sure the book is in the Dropbox folder
        Log into Dropbox using the iDevice app
        Select the ebook you are loading
        Dropbox now says “Unable to open file”. At the lower right is an icon that looks like a box with a downward arrow poking in from the top. Click that icon and select the app you want to use to open the ebook.
        On my iPod it offers iBooks, Nook, eReader & Mercury. The first three are ereader apps and Mercury is a browser that can sideload directly from a download link

        To sideload using the Mercury browser.
        Download the book
        Click the downloaded file in the directory list that will be displayed
        Select the app you want to open the book with
        On my iPod it offers iBooks, Nook, eReader & Dropbox :)

    2. Steve Umstead

      Interesting…worked via email? I had tried that way back when, albeit in the ancient iOS5 days. Maybe with iOS6′s better cloud integration… Will try it later, thanks for the heads-up.

    3. Michael Chow

      I cant sync the books as you suggested via e-mail.

  8. J Scott

    I have a kindle and and iPad. I have downloaded a ton of books on my iPad through tuebl. (I am assuming this is what you mean by side loading. I have children who love the iPad and so my time is limited to it. Would like to sync all the tuebl books I have on my iPad to my kindle. How do I do this. I tried calibre. But can’t get them to sync

    1. Steve Umstead

      You can’t sync books between Kindle and iPad the way you describe, except for one method: Emailing the .mobi file to your @kindle.com address. That way the file will use their Whispersync system to sync across all devices and apps – meaning you’d then need to read the books on the iPad using the Kindle app.

  9. Urb

    How do I get the books I get from authors onto my nook from my iPad? I get a lot of books from authors and publishers–places other than B&N. how do I get these books onto the nook, after I receive them on the iPad? Do I have to sideload them? I’m scared to.


  10. Kaske

    Excellent, it works. I’m on iOS 6.1.3 on iPad and 6.1.2 on iPhone and it worked like a breeze. It is worth mentioning that I keep my media *out* of iTunes.

    Many thanks.

  11. Galane

    I’d love to see an app that does direct device to device syncing of sideloaded books. Copy thhe same file to 2 or more devies or computers and the app reads the Kindle or other progress data then makes it match using bluetooth or WiFi.

  1. My name is Steve, and I’m addicted to technology. [Hi Steve!] « Steve Umstead: Paginations

    [...] My most recent solution for syncing sideloaded content, outside of my iDevice-only post, is this: emailing a .mobi file (after converting it from ePub using Calibre) to my Kindle address. [...]

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