The Hidden PDF & Web Page Capabilities of the Books App

Most people associate the iPhone/iPad Books app with reading or listening to books that they acquire from the Apple Store.  There is no question that it is a strong eBook reader.

But there are some hidden functions for saving and storing PDF files or downloading and reading web pages.  This nugget will shine the light on some of those hidden functions.

Receiving PDF Files

A PDF stands for Portable Document Format.  It is a file format, invented by the Adobe, Inc.  It is a common file format for exchanging documents between people, systems and organizations.  It is common that when you download information from a web site, the format of the document may be a PDF file. Here is a favorite example of a PDF file that you can download from the IRS website.




It is also common to receive PDF documents in email.  If you were going to distribute a document to a group of people, a PDF format is a well-understood and easily handled file format.  You can read the attached PDF file by tapping on it in your Mail app.  

When you download or receive a PDF file, you can store and read that file in the Books app.  This means that you can read it offline or take the document with you in a car or airplane.  

All of the situations that we describe will use the Share Button and Share Sheet to perform these functions.  More about the hidden functions are share are found in other Recipes and Nuggets at the Senior Tech Club site.  See Nugget #16 The Hidden Functions of Share.

Here are the steps in various situations.

Save or import a PDF

If you receive a PDF file in an email or you download a PDF file from a web site, you can save the  PDF into the Books app.

Here are the steps:

Save a PDF file that’s attached to an email or on a website

  1. On your iPhone, iPad, or iPad touch, tap the PDF on the website or in the email  to open and display the PDF file.  
  2. Tap the share button .
  3. Tap Copy to Books from the apps line of the Share sheet.  Tap More if Copy to Books is not displayed in the apps row.
  4. You can later read the PDF by launching the Books app and accessing the Library icon at the bottom of the screen.



Save a Web Page as a PDF

If you encounter a web page with an article that is long and  you would like to download so that you can read offline at a later time, you can download a web page into the Books app as a PDF file.  For example, some of the Recipes on the Senior Tech Club website can be long and you would like to save the Recipe as a PDF so that you can study and review it.  For example Recipe #410 Reading Books with the Books App.  


Here are the steps. 

  1. In Safari, open a webpage, for example  (Books App)  
  2. Tap the Share button .
  3. Tap Books in the Apps panel.  If it is not displayed tap More, the Books will be presented in a list of apps.  

Save an Email as a PDF

If you receive a long and important email, you can convert this email to a PDF file to store in the Books app.  The one action that is unusual in this process is that you tap as though you are going to print the email but then use the Share button to copy it to the books app.

Here are the specific steps.  

  1. In the Mail app, tap an email to display the full contents of the email.
  2. Tap the more actions button , then tap Print.
  3. Using two fingers,  pinch open on the print preview and a larger full screen image of the email appears.
  4. Tap the Share button  in the upper-right corner.
  5. Tap Copy to Books in the Apps panel.  If the Books app does not appear, tap More to display the full list of apps.


A hidden feature of the Books app is it’s ability to store and read PDF files that you download from the internet or receive as an attachment in an email.  

Additionally, you can download web pages or full emails into the Books app. All of these hidden features use the Share button in the various apps.




Additional Information

The Senior Tech Club recommends the following additional resources for members that wish to pursue additional and/or advanced information on this recipe:


Senior Tech Club Recipes and Nuggets on the Photos and Camera apps:

Six Common Shared Icons with Shared Purpose and Shared Tasks
015Six Common Shared Icons with Shared Purpose and Shared Tasks
Find Free or Affordable Books for iBooks
412Find Free or Affordable Books for iBooks
Reading Books with the Books App
410Reading Books with the Books App
The Hidden Functions of Share
N16The Hidden Functions of Share