iOS: Sideloading .epub & .pdf files

There are a number of iOS apps that read .epub and .pdf files but the ways to get them to your iOS device are limited. So I’ll show you how I sideload books to my iPhone and iPad and you can decide if you like the process enough to adopt it for yourself.

Pre-requisite: iBooks installed on your iOS device.

If you are immediately intimidated by the length of this tutorial, please scroll down to “In conclusion” and read that. MOST of this is a one time deal, never to require repeating. Believe me, it’s worth it.

Step One – On PC: Creating a Dropbox account

This process requires a Dropbox account, but if you have SugarSync or or any other application that will allow you to access remote files on your iOS device then you should be good. If you already have this setup on your iOS device, skip to Step Three.

Alright, glad you’re still here with me. First things first, we need to get you a Dropbox account. Dropbox is basically a software that grants you some web storage and has a client for your PC/Phone and Tablet which will allow you to put a file in once place and access it everywhere. Cloud storage can be awesome, yes?

So go sign up for a Dropbox account via this link:
Note: This is a referral link but you and I will both benefit from it. We both get extra storage. It’s not a monetary thing.

It will walk you through the process of the sign up and installation of the desktop client. I highly recommend the desktop client piece, it will make future book sideloading a breeze.

Step Two – On iOS: Install Dropbox

This is really just as easy as going to the App Store and downloading the free app. [ Link here ]


Launch the app and login with your Dropbox credential. Things will be a little bare but we’ll remedy that soon enough.

Step Three – On PC: Place the .epub or .pdf file in Dropbox

If you installed the Dropbox desktop client, you now have a folder on your computer called Dropbox. If you can’t find it, you can right click on the Dropbox icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen next to the clock.


Next step is to move the .epub or .pdf file that you want to sideload to the Dropbox folder. I’m going to move a book called Arena Mode by Blake Northcott over. Since I helped fund the project via Kickstarter, I got DRM-free copies of her new book in multiple formats.

I created a folder in Dropbox called aBookTutorial, but you can call it whatever you want or skip folders all together. It’s up to you. I created a folder and store my ebooks there. I downloaded the epub and pdf file from her website via a link I was sent. You could have gotten the .epub or .pdf file from just about anywhere. It doesn’t really matter how you got the file, drop it into your Dropbox folder. Wherever you want to.

FYI – Here is what my folder looks like on my desktop


Dropbox will then shoot those files up into the cloud. It may take a few minutes (or longer, if your book is particularly large.)

Step 4 – On iOS: Confirm File Sync in Dropbox

Now we’re going to confirm that our files are syncing up. If you see the folders and files you’ve created, then you are good. We’ll move onto Step 5. Below is what my Android device looks like after I performed Step 3 above.

After I’ve logged into my Dropbox app, I see this


When I click into it I see this


Step 5 – On iOS: Sideload .epub or .pdf into iBooks

There are a number of apps in the App Store that will open .epub or .pdf and luckily you’ll get prompted to open these files in the application of your choosing. Here’s how.

5a. epubs:

When I select the arena-mode.epub with a press I see a graphic with text that reads: Unable to view file. This file type can’t be viewed. That’s okay.


What you are going to do instead is click the icon in the bottom right hand corner that looks like you’re putting something into a box. This icon here:


When you press that icon, a new menu is going to shift up from the bottom. It is going to list the apps on your iOS device that support the .epub extension. Choose Open in iBooks. Alternatively, you can select whichever app you prefer, maybe you like the NOOK application. That’s fine too. For the sake of my tutorial, I chose iBooks.


iBooks will launch with your epub loaded into it. Read. Enjoy.


5b. pdfs:

PDFs are a little different because the Dropbox app has support for them but we can still sideload our .pdf file into iBooks.

When I select the Arena Mode .pdf in Dropbox it loads in app.


This is hardly desirable since Dropbox isn’t necessarily meant for eReading. However, there is an icon in the bottom right hand corner that looks like an arrow pointing into a box.


When you press that a menu will sweep up from the bottom. Choose Open In…


This will bring up a menu similar to what you saw when sideloading epubs. A list of applications capable of reading .pdf files will popup. Chose the application you want. I am going to choose Open in iBooks.


Here you see Arena Mode in iBooks.


To switch between your epubs and PDF’s simply press the middle button that says PDFs. It will change to Books. Press it again to switch it back to PDFs.

That’s all there is too it.

In conclusion

If you aren’t familiar with Dropbox or cloud storage in general you may be looking at this tutorial and thinking ‘there is no way I am going to do that everytime’ but the work is already done. From now on all you have to do is copy your epub or PDF file into the Dropbox folder of your choice, wait for it to show up in the Dropbox app on your iOS device, tap the file and enjoy. In a nutshell, you do Step 3 and Step 5. That’s it. Easy-peasy. You got this.

Optional Final Step

Please consider making a donation for my efforts in bringing you this tutorial.

If not PayPal, I sure wouldn’t hate a Kindle Gift Card. If you’d rather gift a book so that I don’t use that gift card on coffee or electronics, here is a link to my Amazon Gift Registry. Ignore the big ticket items, this is also where I keep my Christmas/Birthday wishlist. =)