How to open (non-DRM) iBooks without an iPad or iPhone

iTunes can do a lot of things. You can buy media (like music or movies) and play them. But when it comes to books, you’ll find you can buy them, but can’t open them with iTunes. If you believe Apple’s own documentation, you can apparently only open iBooks on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch (the latter two running iOS 4.0 or later). For iTunes users not familiar with these limitations, it can be an incredibly frustrating experience to buy something only to realize you can’t open it.

If you’ve found yourself in this situation, there’s a potential workaround thanks to Apple’s use of ePUB, the closest thing that exists to a digital book standard. The only hitch is that many books for sale on the iBooks store have been copy protected, meaning you can’t open them without any of the aforementioned iDevices. In this article, I’ll be detailing exactly how to open an iBook (without copy protection) on your computer.

The first thing you’ll need to do is install an application capable of opening an ePUB file. AZARDI (a project of Infogrid Pacific) and Calibre (an open source project) both offer free ePUB readers, but I prefer using Adobe Digital Editions as it can be used to open DRM library books as well.

If you haven’t already downloaded the book from iTunes, make sure you’ve done so by clicking the Download button on the book you’ve purchased. If you’ve already downloaded the book, the button appears grayed out and says Downloaded.

Find the book by opening your Books Library, which is accessed from the menubar on the left. This displays the covers of all the books in your library in the main window. To find out if your book has copy protection, right click the book you want to open and select Get Info. In the Information popup window, the first field underneath the cover says Kind. If it says “Protected Book” in this field, you cannot open the book without an iOS device. Anything else in this field (such as “Purchased Book” or just “Book”) means you can continue. Right click the book again and select Show in Finder (Windows users will see Show in Windows Explorer).

This will bring up a Finder (or Explorer) window with your file selected.

If you’ve already associated ePUB files with the application you installed, simply double click to open the file. Otherwise, right click and select Open With and select the application.

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