Thursday, December 9, 2010

Apple, stop invalidating my EPUBs with your iTunesMetadata.plist file

Dear Apple:

I'm really tired of iTunes adding an iTunesMetadata.plist file to my original EPUB files every time I test said EPUB files on my iPad or iPhone through iTunes. To add insult to injury, every time you do it, it causes an error in ePubCheck—since the EPUB file now contains a non-manifested file—thus making the file invalid for uploading to your iBookstore.

Could you please quit it?

Liz Castro


Feel the same way? Feel free to copy the above letter and post it in your own name to Apple's Feedback page for iTunes. Perhaps if enough of us speak up, they'll listen.

For more information, see iTunes invalidates EPUB file for iBookstore???


  1. Thanks, Liz!
    Also participated in that.
    Hope that will get better some time...

  2. Perhaps we should take up a fund to fly you to Cupertino, where you could picket the appropriate building with a sign saying, "Leave my EPUB alone!"

  3. I did the same, and added this:

    "iTunes should NEVER modify the source file that I add to an iTunes Library -- it should modify the copy in the Library ONLY."

    It's akin to you dragging an MP3 onto iTunes, and iTunes recompress the source file as M4A. It's lousy.

  4. Feedback sent. I copied your letter and added the following paragraph:

    "Standard formats are really important. The epub file format IS A STANDARD, please respect it! We hate Microsoft for refusing to make IE W3C (webstandards) compliant for years; don't do the same thing with iTunes and epub. You can get more information about the format here:"

    Let's just hope they listen.

  5. I agree, it's quite troublesome to get rid of that error each and every time you are testing your books! And while they are at it they should finally do something about the pagebreaks, jeeze it's such a bother and so unwieldy to make it via extra files.

  6. I have another question about publishing since all this validation stuff is getting complicated. I'm just getting back to further my project of converting a magazine I design to epub and also for Kindle. It will not be sold, but rather available for free since it is a university publication. Do I have to go through iTunes? Do I have to have all the requirements you talked about with having an ISBN? Wouldn't we be able to just make the epub available on the university website where the pdf is already available? Thanks for all your help, I made my complaint to Apple today. Hope it helps!

  7. @Lisa, I'm no ISBN expert, but my understanding is that an ISBN identifies books in the sales chain for resellers. So, if you're selling or giving the book away on your own site, no ISBN is necessary.

    The iBookstore (or Amazon) or whatever is just another way of expanding your publication's reach. The iBookstore requires an ISBN whether or not you charge for the book.

  8. Hi Liz,

    I have another question to clarify something from the book. I'm sorry if this does not seem related to this blog entry, but I have been trying to get this right, and there are hardly any good resources for epub learning except for you, and no one to talk to about it since hardly anyone knows how to do this properly (and I'm thanking my lucky stars I found you over the summer!)

    With all the things that have to be done in InDesign and the xhtml/css files, I've been going through systematically with your book to do each step. I am having a difficult time understanding the Maintaining InDesign inheritance in CSS section. You have shown an example in the InDesign from something other than the Walden example? I'm not finding the "code" styles in the formatted examples you provided in the Walden example. Any suggestions or tips to expand on this section of the book?

  9. @Lisa re distributing free books. Many of the commercial outlets and facilitators (iBookstore, Smashwords et. al.) support zero cost eBooks. However, some will consider those options to be too much trouble. There are other options. Here are a few that occur to me:

    1) If you have a web site and the server supports the ePub MIME Type (application/epub+zip), you can make an ePub document downloadable from a relative or absolute link such as Click Here to Download. The reader then loads the .epub file into an appropriate reader directly or "sideloads" it into the for subsequent synching to the on iOS devices. The will also facilitate bringing that file into other iOS apps such as Stanza. There's a Firefox extension called "EPUBReader" that can make use of this link as well as other options that I'm not aware of.

    2) Less well known is the fact that you may include an .epub file in an RSS feed as an attachment such that subscribing to it with the results in it being synched to all connected iOS devices. If your institution has an iTunes U site, you'll be happy to know that you can use this feed to populate a course or collection in iTunes U.

    3) Calibre includes a server that will make your book library available in several ways (web page for desktops, mobile devices and as an OPDS catalog. Although intended as a personal server, a professor could make their library accessible to students by sharing the address and password if one has been imposed.

    You mat have noticed that I use the phrase "ePub documents" rather than "ePub books." That's because academics may want to use ePub for things other than book-length documents. Think "course pack," assignment, long-form argument, handout or even syllabus.

  10. Did todays iBooks update (1.2) fix this problem?

  11. @James. No, it couldn't have. The extra file is added by iTunes, before it ever gets to your iPad (and the iBooks app there).

  12. There was a small update to iTunes (10.1.1) today too, but I think anything was mentioned about epub's.

  13. Thanks for the heads-up. I'll go check!

  14. Perhaps a stupid question, but until/if Apple changes this policy (unlikely: imho), couldn't an epub designer add a dummy iTunesMetadata.plist to the ebook, and list it in the manifest?

    I would imagine other ereaders would ignore it, and Apple would just overwrite it, but it would then pass ePubCheck.

  15. Here, here. Apple, you need to listen to the good Elizabeth on this one.

  16. So far I have been testing for validation through Threepress epubcheck. I do not have an iPad and am trying to prep a document to be distributed through my client's website instead. I have had to get rid of the .DS_Store added when I go to zip the file in order to validate it. That can be gotten rid of easily through using a command in Terminal. My question is, when does iTunes add this .plist? Can this be avoided when the file is zipped by doing the same thing in Terminal? Seems like if it shows up after it is zipped, you would never get rid of it, and never have validation. If you don't mind my asking as I am still new to all this, what are the steps to actually get rid of it?

  17. Lisa,

    If you are distributing thru your client's website, then you don't have to use iTunes at all. The iTunesMetadata.plist file gets added *when* you add the epub to your iTunes book list for syncing to an iOS device. You can check if iTunesMetadata.plist is in an epub file thru the following terminal command:

    prompt> zip -sf mytest.epub

    the -sf shows the files in the epub file. If you do see the iTunesMetadata.plist file (usually the last file in the list), then you can use zip to dlete the file directly *without* unzipping the file:

    prompt> zip -d mytest.epub iTunesMetadata.plist

    Note that you specify the zipped file (your epub) *before* iTunesMetadata.plist. (BTW, you could do the same for the .DS_Store file: zip -d mytest.epub iTunesMetadata.plist .DS_Store)

    Good luck!


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