PDFs in iBooks

In this tutorial, we are going to tell you how to get a PDF file on your iBooks shelf for safekeeping and easy access.

So, your friend just sent you a PDF copy of Dan Brown’s newest novel and you want to read it on your iPhone. I’m not going to ask how your friend got a free copy of a brand new best seller, but I am going to tell you how to add it to your iBooks app.

You can save any PDF file to iBooks by following a few simple steps. There is one prerequisite: you must already have the iBooks app installed on your device. iBooks comes pre-installed on all new iOS devices, but in case you are running an older version of the operating system, you can download iBooks for free from the App Store.

The following instructions work for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

How to save PDF to iPhone or iPad

First, open the file from somewhere in your iOS device. It can be sent to you through email, saved in your Dropbox folder, picked up from a Web browser, or anywhere that a PDF file can be saved. Now the way to add the PDF to iBooks slightly varies depending on where you are getting this PDF from.

If you are getting the PDF from Safari

save safari PDF to iBooks

When the file is open, tap on the screen to call up the Open in iBooks tab (in Safari, the tab will show up right after the download is complete, but will disappear after about a second). So briefly tap once on the screen to make it appear again. At that time, you can select Open in iBooks, which will open up iBooks and save the file there.

If you are getting the PDF from other apps

PDF Share menu

Other apps, including the Mail application, will require you to select the “Share” button first. The Share button looks like a square with an arrow pointing upward. For example, if you have opened a PDF file in Dropbox, you can save it to iBooks by tapping the Share icon. When you tap the icon, a list of options will appear. Select Open In and then select “Copy to iBooks”.

copy PDF to iBooks

After the file opens in iBooks, it will automatically be saved to the reading app. So, when you go back to your iBooks library, you will see it sitting on your PDFs shelf.

You can switch between books and PDFs by selecting the tab at the center-top of the bookshelf. Depending on which shelf you are in, it will either read, Books, Audiobooks, or PDFs.

You can save any PDF to iBooks on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. You just have to make sure the app is installed on your devices before you select the Open In tab or the Share option. Now you can save all of those digital role-playing game books you backed on Kickstarter right in iBooks. Game on!

  • I wonder what are the qualifications for the average user to post an article in this site. i feel I can actually contribute far more interesting and useful articles about top quality apps and hidden jailbreak gems in customization. Idownloadblog should consider user made articles and if its up to their standards after being reviewed they can publish it.

    • FYI this may be pretty useful to a lot of people who enjoys the hobby or reading which is what’s been driving the world even to date, the rest came afterwards.
      I’m sure you can contribute as much as everyone else, however I would still denote Lory’s contribution is and has always been a good one. 🙂

      • Lee Scuppers

        This post was extremely useful to me. I don’t care about hidden jailbreak gems and other arcana that only a few hundred power users on earth will ever care about. I care about saving a PDF to iBooks without wasting time fighting iTunes.

      • Diego Milano

        Good to see Lory’s old articles are still sparkling good comments and found useful. 🙂

  • Carlos Gomes

    I swear I don’t like to be a d*ck, but this was embarrassing.

  • Falk M.

    Are you guys for real?
    What’s next? How to enter your SIM PIN after booting your iPhone?

  • Pedro Gonsalez

    How does iBooks handle PDF files compare to the PDF readers (ie PDF Expert)?

    Also to the “experts” the world is larger than just you. You can skip this article and save your keystrokes for elsewhere. I found this article informative because I was not aware that PDFs were compatible in iBooks. Thank you and keep up the good work Lory.

    • FabianPVD

      You should explore iBooks more then if you’ve gone into the tab to change where you which books where it’s there’s a big obvious PDF button.

    • lorygil

      Pedro, I actually prefer using PDF readers. My go-to app is GoodReader. I like it because of the annotation and Wi-Fi file sharing capabilities. A PDF file will look the same in iBooks. However, most PDF reader apps are specifically designed to give the user more features than simply reading and bookmarking. If you don’t already have a great PDF reader app, iBooks is a reliable alternative. Plus, you can sync your PDFs between devices using iBooks.

  • FabianPVD

    Anyone with an average attention span could’ve figured this out …. the fact that this is an article is just… ugh.

  • Ian

    I don’t see why so many people find this post useless. Many people don’t know how. A large majority of us aren’t techy people, so this to them is new. Agree?

    • Exactly. If ever article on iDB was like this I might say something / stop coming here. However now and again an article like this comes out which is very useful to some people. In regards to opening PDF’s in iBooks at the end of the day it is still a PDF and probably looks nothing like the iBook version…

  • Chris

    Now if I could only get the pdf’s back that were erased with the last update. Thanks apple!

    • Apple

      You’re welcome.

      • Chris


  • Mark R Medina

    Thank you for the post,yes I’m a newbie to Apple. I learned something new.

  • Mike Kobrin

    Here’s one MAJOR catch. I added several PDFs via email, and they DISAPPEAR each time I plug my iPad into my computer. I do not have the Sync button selected in the Books tab, in fact I don’t do any kind of sync whatsoever. I have all my media set to sync manually. Yet only the books I send to iBooks via email disappear. Extremely annoying, and iTunes is very finicky about which PDFs it lets me sync (which is why I have to sync some by email).

  • I find it weird that apparently you can’t sync a PDF file via iTunes. Can’t classify the PDF file as an ebook even if its in the library…

  • Lisa P

    I have Chrome, the problem is the ibooks app doesn’t come up in the share button?

  • Cecilialxs

    Recently I found an extremely easy-to-use tool named WinX MediaTrans which is so helpful to save PDF files to iBooks on iPhone iPad.
    With it, large PDF files can be synced to iBooks in batch just in a flash. It also enables you to import EPUB books/magazines, MP3 audio books to iBooks in iPhone 7/7 Plus/6S/6, iPad Air 2, iPad Pro, iPod Touch, etc. Besides, exporting iPhone iPad iBooks files to computer for backup purpose or deleting PDFs, iBooks in iPhone iPad can also be achieved effortlessly with this clean and safe iBooks manager.