How to download and read ebooks with Apple Books on iPhone and iPad

Apple Books on iPhone
Apple Books on iPhone (Image credit: iMore)

Formerly known as iBooks, the Apple Books app is the all-in-one book store and reading application for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. You can use it to read ebooks and listen to audiobooks, but before you can do that, you need to know how to find and download books in Apple Books.

We'll show you how to do exactly that below and explain everything from page-swiping behaviors, highlighting, and searching within books to navigating the Book Store to find your next favorite title. Read on for all the details.

How to download a book from the Apple Book Store

As we explore the features of the Apple Books app, let's start on page 1: Finding something to read.

The Book Store has been reorganized into sections, including For You (recommendations based on previous purchases), New & Trending, Top Charts, Book Store staff recommendations, genres, etc.

  1. Tap the Books app.
  2. Tap the Book Store tab to browse the virtual shelves.
  3. Tap the Browse Sections button to get a list of sections in the Book Store.

How to download a book from the Apple Book Store: Open Books, tap on the Book Store tab, tap on Browse Sections (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap a section to browse.
  2. Tap a book to download.
  3. Tap Get (if the book is free) or Buy if the book has a cost. If you'd like to download a sample chapter from the book, tap Sample. You can see more information about the book by scrolling up within the book's card.

How to download a book from the Apple Book Store: Tap on a section to browse, tap on a book, tap Get if the book is free or Buy if the book has a cost (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Authenticate with Face ID, Touch ID, or your Apple ID password and the book will begin to download.
  2. Tap Read to read the book.

How to download a book from the Apple Book Store: Authenticate with Face ID, Touch ID, or your Apple ID password and the book will begin to download, then tap Read (Image credit: iMore)

How to search for a book in Apple Books

If you know the name of the book you're interested in (or its author), you can search for it and get results for books and audiobooks both in the Book Store and in your library.

  1. Tap the Search tab.
  2. Enter the search text.
  3. Tap Search or a suggestion in the list of matching results.

How to search for a book in Apple Books: Tap the Search tab, type in the search text, tap Search or a search suggestion (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap a book to begin the steps to download the book.

How to read a book in Apple Books

Now that you've got a book, it's time to read.

You can access any book on your device by tapping the Library tab. You can also use the Reading Now tab to continue with the book you're currently reading, resume other books you've recently been reading, and recommendations for books based on what you've bought before.

  1. Tap a book to open it.
  2. Tap the right margin or swipe from right to left to go to the next page.
  3. Tap the left margin or swipe from left to right to go to the previous page.

How to read a book in Apple Books: Tap a book to open it, tap the right or left margin to navigate pages, or swipe (Image credit: iMore)

You can change this margin-tapping behavior in the Settings app. When you're done reading, tap the back button in the upper left-hand corner to return to your library. Your place in the book will be saved automatically—no bookmark required.

How to quickly scan through a book in Apple Books

You can flip through the virtual pages in your book with one finger. Try that with a regular book.

  1. If the controls do not appear at the bottom of the page of the book you are reading, tap on a blank part of the page.
  2. Touch and hold the dot in the scroll bar at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Drag left or right to move through the book's pages.

How to quickly scan through a book in Apple Books: Tap a blank part of the page to bring up the controls, touch and hold the dot on the scroll bar, drag left or right to move through pages (Image credit: iMore)

How to use the Want to Read Collection in Apple Books

Think of Want to Read as a wish list containing books that you're curious about or that other people may have recommended to you.

Books that you've downloaded but haven't finished are automatically added to the Want to Read list. In addition, you can add other books to this collection. Here's how to do it when browsing the Book Store.

  1. Tap the Book Store tab.
  2. Tap a book you're interested in.
  3. Tap Want to Read.

How to use the Want to Read Collection in Apple Books: Tap the Book Store tab, tap on a book, tap Want to Read (Image credit: iMore)

The book will be added to your Want to Read collection.

How to set a bookmark in Apple Books

Not too many people can finish a book in one sitting, and that's why bookmarks were invented. You can set a bookmark—as many of them as you want, actually—quickly and easily in Books.

  1. If the controls do not appear at the bottom of the page of the book you are reading, tap on a blank part of the page.
  2. Tap the Bookmark icon in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen.

How to set a bookmark in Apple Books: tap a blank part of the page to bring up the controls, tap the Bookmark icon (Image credit: iMore)

The bookmark icon will turn red and get added to a list of bookmarks for that book. To remove the bookmark, tap it again.

How to see a list of bookmarks in Apple Books

  1. If the controls do not appear at the bottom of the page of the book you are reading, tap on a blank part of the page.
  2. Tap the list icon in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.
  3. Tap the Bookmarks tab.

How to see a list of bookmarks in Apple Books: tap a blank part of the page to bring up the controls, tap the list icon, tap the bookmarks tab (Image credit: iMore)

To go to a particular bookmark, tap it. Swipe left to remove a bookmark from the list, then tap Delete. To return to the page you were reading, tap Resume.

How to see a table of contents in Apple Books

Most books have a table of contents. If your book does, you can use it to jump to a particular chapter without scrolling through the entire book.

  1. If the controls do not appear at the bottom of the page of the book you are reading, tap on a blank part of the page.
  2. Tap the list icon in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.
  3. Tap the Contents tab.

How to see a table of contents in Apple Books: tap a blank part of the page to bring up the controls, tap the list icon, tap the Contents tab (Image credit: iMore)

Tap the table of contents entry to go to that page.

How to highlight text in a book in Apple Books

You can use the tip of your finger as a virtual highlighter—in different colors!—to mark significant passages in a book.

  1. Open a book.
  2. Touch and hold at the starting point of the text you want to highlight, then drag to the end of the text.
  3. Tap Highlight.

How to highlight text in a book in Apple Books: Touch and hold the starting point of the text you want to highlight, then drag to the end of the text, tap Highlight (Image credit: iMore)

How to change the color of a highlight in Apple Books

Tapping highlighted text reveals a menu of options to work with that highlight.

  1. Tap the Highlighted text that you want to edit.
  2. Tap the colored circles to display a palette of colors.
  3. Tap a color. The underlined A button will remove the color highlight and underline the text instead.

How to change the color of a highlight in Apple Books: Tap the highlighted text, tap the coloured circles, tap a color (Image credit: iMore)

How to remove a highlight in Apple Books

  1. Tap the Highlighted text that you want to delete.
  2. Tap the delete button (trashcan icon).

How to remove a highlight in Apple Books: Tap the highlighted text, tap the trash icon (Image credit: iMore)

How to add a note to a highlight in Apple Books

Once you have highlighted the text, you can also add a note to it.

  1. Tap the highlighted text that you want to add a note to.
  2. Tap the note button (speech bubble icon).
  3. Enter your text and tap Done

How to add a note to a highlight in Apple Books: Tap the highlighted text, tap the note button, enter your text and hit Done. (Image credit: iMore)

You'll now notice a little color-matching square beside your highlighted text. You can tap this to read or edit the note at any time.

How to review notes in a book in Apple Books

The list button at the top of the page in your book provides convenient access to all the notes in your book.

  1. If the controls do not appear at the bottom of the page of the book you are reading, tap on a blank part of the page.
  2. Tap the list icon in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.
  3. Tap the Notes tab.

How to review notes in a book in Apple Books: tap a blank part of the page to bring up the controls, tap the list icon, tap the Notes tab (Image credit: iMore)

To go to a particular note, tap it. To return to the page you were reading, tap Resume.

How to remove notes from a book in Apple Books

There are two ways to remove notes from a book.

  1. In the book, tap the highlight for the note you want to delete.
  2. Tap the delete button (trashcan icon).
  3. Tap Delete to remove the note and its highlight.

How to remove notes from a book in Apple Books: Tap the highlighted text, tap the trash icon, tap Delete (Image credit: iMore)

Another method is to use the list of notes.

  1. If the controls do not appear at the bottom of the page of the book you are reading, tap on a blank part of the page.
  2. Tap the list icon in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.
  3. Tap the Notes tab.

How to review notes in a book in Apple Books: tap a blank part of the page to bring up the controls, tap the list icon, tap the Notes tab (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap the Notes tab.
  2. Swipe left on the note you want to remove and tap Delete.

How to remove notes from a book in Apple Books: Swipe right to left on the note, tap Delete (Image credit: iMore)

How to find text in a book in Apple Books

One of the biggest benefits of an electronic version of a book is searching for text and finding it almost instantly. Here's how to do it.

  1. If the controls do not appear at the bottom of the page of the book you are reading, tap on a blank part of the page.
  2. Tap the magnifying glass icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
  3. Enter the search text and tap Search.

How to find text in a book in Apple Books: tap a blank part of the page to bring up the controls, tap the magnifying glass icon, enter your search text and tap Search (Image credit: iMore)

You can tap any result to go to that part of the book and use the links at the bottom of the list to search the web or Wikipedia. And if you put a page number in the search field, you can tap the page number in the search results to go to that page.

Turn your Apple device into an e-reader

As you can see, the Apple Books app has some reasonably advanced functionality tucked away in various menus. So whether you've already picked up the best iPad for reading or want to make the most of every spare minute to read a bit more of the latest page-turner on your phone, the Apple Books app is a great choice.

Updated April 2022: Updated for iOS 15.