Bugs: Disappearing iBooks and configuration problems

Bugs: Disappearing iBooks and configuration problems

Problem with iBooks disappearing from your iBookshelf, or getting a configuration error telling you have to restore your iPhone or iPad and reinstall iBooks? You're not alone. We'll go over the bug and try to troubleshoot after the break!

Disappearing iBooks

iBooks seems to be... well, a little quirkier when it comes to errors than its older iTunes and App Store cousins. Sometimes when it launches you can watch your iBookshelf populate with titles only to see one or more disappear right before your eyes. (We've had readers report a dozen or more disappearing). Luckily, you can redownload your previously purchased iBooks:

  1. Tap Store, top right
  2. Tap Purchases, bottom left
  3. Tap redownload for any iBooks that have disappeared

iBooks redownload

It's a pain but it's better than music, movies, or TV Shows where there are no re-downloads.

If you're near your Mac or Windows PC, you can also just re-sync and that might fix it, though I've had to redownload some even after sync.

iBooks configuration error

This one is even more galling. You tap to open a book and start reading but instead get an error messages saying "There is a problem with the configuration of your iPhone [or iPad]. Please restore with iTunes and reinstall iBooks."

Restoring in iTunes is a nuclear option and Apple shouldn't be so quick to recommend it. In my experience, the following work in most cases:

  1. Exit iBooks
  2. Double click the Home Button
  3. Tap and hold iBooks in the Fast App Switcher dock to put it into Jiggly Mode
  4. Tap the X in the corner to Force Quit iBooks
  5. Click the Home to exit back to the Home Screen
  6. Relaunch iBooks

iBooks force quit

Others have recommended restarting your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, or syncing to iTunes on your Mac or Windows PC. Restoring your device should be a last resort.

We've gotten some comments that this only affects devices with multiple iTunes accounts on them, or Jailbroken devices, but there's no clear pattern we can determine so I think it's most likely just a bug. Hopefully Apple fixes it soon. They invented iTunes, dagnabit. Managing digital downloads should be a cakewalk for them by now.

If you've had this problem, let us know what you've experienced and if these tips help fix it. If you've got more or better fixed, leave them in the comments!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Bugs: Disappearing iBooks and configuration problems


I have this problem. I tried deleting and reinstalling. That didn't work so I deleted and reinstalled via iTunes. Didn't work either so I gave up. Not worth anymore time. I'll just use kindle. I'm JB btw

I have the problem as well. Since Kindle/Amazon are the better choice anyway, it's not really an issue.

I've had this problem exactly twice on my iPhone 4 (jailbroken) and never on my iPad (pure). My theory is that this is a problem either with jailbreak or with 4.1, since I haven't updated my iPhone to 4.2 because of the lack of untethered jailbreak. I can assure you that it has nothing to do with multiple iTunes accounts. My wife and I share an account, meaning we only have one.
If it's s jailbreak problem, which I suspect it is, then serves us right. Apple can easily look the other way.

I have this problem, too - but I'm not JB.
The bigger issue for me was the disappearing PDFs. I can re-download the books, but the PDFs are gone for good.

I'm having the same problem with my iPad, ( which is jail-broken) but my iPhone 4 ( which is jail-broken with the same tool as the iPad) works flawlessly.I'm on iOS 4.2.1, jail broken with redsn0w b7 (untethered) but you guys are 4.1 and having the problem?

I have this problem too, since iBooks 4.2 on an iPad, jailbroken both in 3.2 (with PwnageTool) and later in 4.2.1 (with redsn0w, tethered), and also on an iPhone 3G/4.2.1, jailbroken with PwnageTool. I've tested this quite a bit, I'm quite sure it only affects DRM'd purchases fro the th e iBookstore. If there is no DRM (which is not required by the iBookstore), there is never a problem. I've generally found that repeated attempts (as many as 5 or 7, sometimes with some long presses included) will eventually bypass it, although only until the book is closed or iBooks is quit.
I bet that it relates to the Fairplay DRM coding, and may not be intentional, since it can be bypassed with persistence (although maybe it is intentional).

To clarify my previous response, I am referring to the "Please restore itunes and reinstall iBooks" alert. I have not experienced the missing books bug or the repeated cover bug (not mentioned here, but also reported).

I am in NEED of a way to remove Fairplay DRM. I paid for my text book and it runs on my iPad, but i want to be able to read it on my iMac, and also allow my friend to run it on his CPU as well. I really dont want to pay for software to do it. If you could point me in a direction of where to look because i ve spent the last hour on google and found nothing relevant.

I had the same problem, just before..
I tried deleting the app, and reinstall it via iTunes, didn't work..
Then I tried to delete the app, restart my iPhone, reinstall it via iTunes, again didn't work..
Lastly I tried deleting the books on the iPhone, and then redownload the books I wanted on my device, and it worked :)

I have the same bug with an error message asking me to reinstall. However, I found a fix that works and is a lot less 'nuclear'. Accept the message, and just open the book again. Sometimes I have todo this 4-5 times, but eventually it opens fine and tree are no more issues (until I relaunch the app, that is). Try it out.

Same problem here on JB iPad 3G (untethered 4.2.1)
None of the tips above worked for me.
Any other solution would be greatly appreciated.

I think the problem of ibooks is the winnie the pooh book. i downloaded a couple of other free books to try them and they worked perfect, the only book that doesn't open is the winnie the pooh one. I think steve jobs doesn't want nobody to read his favorite book. LOL!!!!!

i have JB iphone4 4.1 and i had same prob. try to open multiple time and hopefully it will work. mine did.

What works for me, for the configuration error: force ibooks to quit (either restart the phone, or force it to quit with the "jiggly" mode from the quick-switch bar); then, reopen ibooks, then open a free book. Close the free book, open the drm'd book. So far so good for me.

Hey, I have the configuration problem, I exited iBooks, restored my iPad, and re installed it, but still I got the same message! What do I do?

My solution was to switch to Stanza. If you have a book in iBooks which is playing up, you can search for where it is stored (right-click, 'Show in Finder" and from there, copy the epub file into Stanza in Apps panel.

After update to iOS 5, all of my PDFs disappeared. I tried restarting iBooks,
but that didn't work. Will probably try to resync, and restore with iTunes next. Note: my iPad2 is attached to the iCloud, I don't know if that made
any difference. Naturally, it shouldn't have.

Addendum to my previous post re: disappearing PDFs: this is device
independent. It also happened on my iPhone 4 (not 4S).
Also, I did try syncing the iPad2 with iTunes on my PC, as well as restoring
the 'Pad from the PC: neither worked.
An 'interesting' observation: right after I clicked 'iBook', but only the first
time on each device, the PDFs all appeared on the screen; after a few
seconds they were gone, for good.
Anyone have the same experience?

I have a iphone 4, i downloaded a book and it shows as downloaded, except it never loads, the bar that turns blue to indicate it downloaded just remains empty, i tried to redownload but it doesnot give me this option, just inicates it is downloaded. I tried sync with my mac, and nothing.

What about previously purchased books that now only contain a few pages with a pink error box stating that "This page contains the following errors: error on line 1 at column 1. Document is empty on line one at colums 1: encoding error

I have been having trouble with iBooks for about 4 months. I have NOT done a "jailbreak" don't even know what that is! Or anything else. Every time I try to put a PDF in iBooks it appears then disappears . When is Apple going to DO something about this!!?