Bending iBooks (Mis)Behaviour To My Will

For those of you that don’t know, I buy a lot of books.  Around 30 – 40 a month.   I used to buy exclusively physical books but I like to keep ones I enjoy to re-read and I am fast running out of house so now about 80% of my book purchases are digital.  Sometimes from the iBookstore and sometimes from Amazon.  I refuse to play the DRM game but that’s a story for another day.  I now have around 3500 books in iBooks that I read via that app on my iPad and phone. In 2011 (I think) Apple introduced “Collections” so I could group books together to make them easier to find.  Apparently Collections have a maximum limit but I’ve never reached it because beyond about 40 they simply aren’t useful to have to scroll through. Here are a few of mine, I have 25 or so more

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The problem is two fold.  With 3500 books and only 40 collections that puts about 90 books per collection which is a lot to scroll through unless they are sorted within the collection.  You can manually sort but Apple has a tendency to randomly resort everything by “most recent” (which seems to be triggered by any kind of update) so you can spend your entire life trying to sort things together.  Take Ben Aaronovitch for instance, a writer a like and I have filed his books under Steampunk/Fantasy (they are “urban fantasy”) but when he publishes a new book every two years it appears at the top of the collection, because it’s the newest.  Meanwhile all his other books are dotted all over the place and what I want to see is what I’d see if I shelved them at home – all the books by one writer grouped together.  iBooks has no way for me to do that and make it stick.  I can view by author but that’s not the same thing as I can’t move around in that view.

So what I wanted was simply to be able to have all books by each writer grouped together to make them easy to find in each Collection.  It turns out the fix for me was to turn iBooks (mis) behaviour against it.  I discovered that adding a book to a Collection actually updates a timestamp within the epub which marks it as recent for sorting purposes.  Even if the collection you are moving a book into is the same one it’s already in so this is what I did

  1. Step 1 in the iBooks app on OSX or iOS search for a writer “Ben Aaronovitch”
  2. Select all books found
  3. On OSX right mouse click and choose “Add To Collection” and select the Collection you want the books in, even if it’s the Collection they are already in
  4. On iOS choose “move” and select the Collection you want the books in, even if it’s the Collection they are already in
  5. That’s it.  No matter where all my Ben Aaronovitch books were they will now be grouped together and sorted at the beginning of my Collection.  I can then go through and do the same to any other writers I want to group

The nice thing is that this is a quick and easy process that can be repeated anytime you buy or download a new book but a writer you’re collecting.

Or maybe it’s just me 🙂