Extracting ebooks from Apple iBooks for Mavericks

I decided to remove a lot of the read ebooks from my library but wanted to back them up first, especially the ones that weren’t purchased via iTunes. iBooks on Mavericks had “imported” them all from iTunes and as a result I couldn’t just right click on them in iTunes and use Show in Finder.

First step was to locate them – turns out they’re in ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.BKAgentService/Data/Documents/iBooks/Books/

Next problem was that all the files had been renamed from something human readable into a large string of hex characters! The Books.plist file contained a lot of metadata, including the original filename and the current full path of the ebook. I wasn’t about to go renaming them manually so wrote a quick Perl script using Data::Plist::BinaryReader to extract the data structures and print the values for ‘BkDisplayName’ and ‘path’ from each book.

Then I found that although some of them were still .epub files, quite a few had been unpacked into directories containing the epub contents but not with the OEBPS subdirectory.

I wasn’t about to go updating the script to repack all the epubs and just on a whim thought I’d try dragging an ebook out of iBooks onto the desktop.. it worked! The one I had tried was one of the unpacked ebooks but on the desktop was a zipped up epub file. I wish I’d tried dragging them in the first place as it would have saved a lot of hassle!

To back them up, I ended up simply selecting all the ebooks and dragging them to a separate folder. Now I can remove all the read ebooks from within iBooks without worrying about losing them.

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Simon

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