There are a lot of tutorials on how to load PDFs into iBooks, but none say how to backup or transfer them back to your computer. I understand there is a button to email them, but I probably have accumulated 100 or so useful pdfs on my iPhone.

I worry if I click sync books, it will erase everything I have on my iPhone and only use what's on my computer the first time I do it right? I have never synced it before loading the books.

Is there any safe reliable (hopefully native) way to preserve books and PDF that were loaded natively from iOS? I do not want to risk losing them. I'm using iCloud, does that back them up as well? Either way I would like to have an extra copy of them on my hard drive.

7 Answers 7


Grab a copy of iExplorer (freeware), connect your phone, open iExplorer, select your device, and navigate to Media > Books. All your PDFs should be there.
However they all have cryptic names and there's no QuickLook in iExplorer, so you need to copy them all and then look which ones you need.

  • 1
    I did get it to work, you right click on your device in the itunes side bar and hit transfer purchases.
    – rubixibuc
    Mar 5, 2012 at 8:03
  • 1
    Last freeware version is which doesn't work on my machine ...
    – testing
    Oct 21, 2018 at 16:46

Even though you've already solved it, I transfer in between my iPad/iPhone with Dropbox. I usually buy a lot of books on my iMac that are epub or pdf that aren't in iBooks, so the quickest way to transfer them and keep them backed up is in my dropbox. When you install the app on your phone, you can navigate to a book and select "Open in iBooks". It's a really handy way to transfer things in between the devices.

  • 2
    But can you go back from iBooks->PC? Nov 12, 2012 at 22:23
  • @Pureferret if the book is inserted into iBooks first (which usually only happens if you've bought it from the app store) but if you're buying a pdf or epub not from the store, then it's a lot easier to get it to your device and have the ability to have it backed up in dropbox as well. Nov 26, 2012 at 17:23
  • But how? I can only send by mail or print ...
    – testing
    Oct 21, 2018 at 16:46

Why not select share from the document in iBooks, then send it to yourself by email, then the attachment can be downloaded onto any computer from your email?

  • I just tried this and indeed it does! It is probably not the fastest method, nor the most practical to transfer many books, but it's probably the easiest. Interesting how nobody had answered this before!
    – kevin9794
    Apr 7, 2013 at 20:16
  • I somehow don't get this option in iOS Mail or in iOS iBook Sep 18, 2014 at 20:34
  • This doesn't help much when you have a hundred books to back up, though...
    – James B
    Nov 22, 2015 at 14:53

I'm using Adobe Reader as a way to store and transfer PDFs through iTunes.


None of the suggestions help if you downloaded a file directly from the internet (say ORielly Books, or Safari Books), directly into iBooks. You can't get anything out of iBooks into Dropbox, or your computer, without shelling out additional $$$$.


As of iTunes 12.0.1, the "Books" section of the iTunes library seems to be missing, making this already tedious process even worse. Here are the highlights of the situation:

  • PDFs in iBooks (typically added on the device via the "open in iBooks" functionality) are not backed up in your iTunes/iCloud backups.

  • Syncing only transfers PDFs in the books category of your iTunes library to your device. (Syncing does not transfer anything from device to iTunes, so this makes sense.)

  • There is currently no automated system for pulling the iBooks PDFs to your iTunes library. You need to manually send the PDF to yourself (via email or another means.)

  • Since the books section of the iTunes library is M.I.A. you have to add the pdf to the music library, and then manually change it's type to books.

You can find the original illustrated guide to this hot mess under the bottom "Bonus Tirade: Transferring PDFs from iBooks" in this article I wrote: http://deciphertools.com/blog/2015_01_27_itunes_sync_vs_backup_ensure_data/


Open iBooks on a Mac, and open the PDF file, which will be opened in Preview. Your can save a copy of it from Preview, either from the File menu (with Option key pressed), or from the title bar of Preview.

This is handy for a couple of PDF files.

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