IMG_20160418_135115When I started using iTunes and an iPad again, it didn’t take me long to run into one of the things I really don’t love about iOS: the difficulty of transferring media back out of your iOS device once you’ve put it on there.

Android devices generally treat themselves as a USB hard drive, providing access to the entirety of internal storage. By comparison, iOS devices are a “roach motel” for data—it checks in, but you can’t usually check it back out again. All you get when you hook up an iOS device via USB is access to the DCIM folders where it stores photos—and you can’t even delete the photos that way.

What’s more, iOS devices are strictly monogamous with the computer they were originally synced to. If you hook up an iPad that you used to use with an old computer and try to sync it back to iTunes on a new one, iTunes’s only option is to erase all the data synced from the old computer in order to be able to put any material at all from the new one onto it.

As it happens, I haven’t bothered re-syncing my old iPad—I was able to back it up without losing any data. But it was synced to the version of iTunes on my old computer, which no longer exists anymore, so if I do want to sync new content onto it, I have to lose all the old content I already have. Fortunately, given that I hardly use the thing anymore, that’s not exactly a major concern.

However, one thing that is a concern involves some of the e-books I have on there. In particular, the multimedia Beatles EPUB, Yellow Submarine, which we’ve mentioned here a few times. I snagged it on the old iPad when it was free from iTunes, and now that I have a new iPad I wanted to see how the thing would look, perhaps under the auspices of revisiting my old iBooks review to see how much the app has changed.

But I ran into the problem that the e-book no longer exists on the iBooks store—hence, there’s no way for me to download it again. And iTunes won’t let me rescue it from my old iPad. So, what to do?

Fortunately, five minutes of Googling produced a simple solution. After running into a dead end (TouchCopy, which costs $30 for a version that will do e-books), I ran across a free solution called Appandora that worked perfectly. Windows 10 did give me an “unknown app developer” alert when I installed it, but I was able to get around that by clicking “read more” and “install anyway.”

AppandoraAfter that, it was simply a matter of hooking up the iPads, finding the e-book in question on my old one, exporting it, then importing it into my new iPad. The exporting process did take a while—I briefly worried that maybe it wasn’t going to be able to pull the book out after all—but then, it is a 319-megabyte monster. Once it was on my hard drive, re-importing it into the new iPad went much more quickly—and when I opened iBooks, there it was.

Alas, the e-book file won’t open properly on applications on my desktop computer—both Adobe Digital Editions and Nook simply found 282 blank pages. Perhaps that’s due to the DRM? Appandora doesn’t in any way crack DRM or bypass technological protection measures—it just copies files from one place to another with any DRM still intact. But iBooks is still able to open it on the new iPad, because it still uses the same encryption key. In any event, the e-book works on both the old iPad and the new one, so I’m pleased as far as that goes.

So, that’s how you rescue e-books from an old iOS device. Though I didn’t have occasion to try it with them, it should work just as well with photos, apps, music, or videos, too. It’s really too bad that after all these years, it’s still necessary to use a third-party solution like this to rescue content from old iOS devices. It would be nice if Apple could try to be a bit more like Android in these matters.


  1. Android used to treat the file system as a usb mass storage device when connected to a computer via usb. This changed a few years ago. Android adopted the Microsoft Media Transport Protocol. This has caused me problems since this is not supported on my Macintosh computers.

    The work around is to use a wifi ftp program to transfer files of all kinds between my Android devices and my computers, Mac and Linux.

    E-books can be transferred via usb using Calibre which support MTP on both the Mac and Linux as well as on Windows.

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