How to free up your iPhone and iPad storage space by removing unwanted books

MacBook Air iPad Air iPhone 5s

Our previous how-tos shared tips on saving storage space on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad by removing photosvideos, songs and apps. And last week, we shared an excellent tip on clearing ‘Other’ storage occupied by Safari’s Reading List, app caches and temporary data.

With that in mind, you’d be surprised to learn that electronic books can take significant amount of storage space.

While a typical book found on the iBooks Store is about two megabytes in size, a textbook with enhanced features like audio and video will typically require anywhere between a few hundred megabytes to up to two gigabytes of storage, per textbook.

Now, if you’re anything like me, your devices are stuffed to the gills with multimedia-rich smart reads. In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to identify the amount of on-device storage consumed by iBooks content, teach you how to reclaim storage space by removing books and PDFs you’ve read and share a few useful tips along the way that I bet you didn’t know about.

We’re going to cover the following topics in this tutorial:

Table of contents

Let’s get started.

iBooks and iBooks Store requirements

Starting with iOS 8, the iBooks app comes preloaded on your device and can no longer be deleted like in previous iOS versions, in which iBooks is an optional download from the App Store.

Content sold on the iBooks Store content varies by country. Although iBooks and the iBooks Store are available in all App Store countries, some content and features may be unavailable in certain countries due to regional restrictions.

Downloading from the iBooks Store and using iCloud features requires an Apple ID and Internet access. Books created with iBooks Author can be enjoyed on the iPad with iOS 5 or later, but not on the iPhone or iPod touch.

iBooks on iPhone
iBooks on iOS: your bookshelf (left) and the iBooks Store (right).

iBooks requires an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad with iOS 6 or later.

How big is my iBooks library?

Unlike movies, TV shows and music videos, books can’t be removed through the Settings app. To check out how much storage space iBooks content has eaten up, tap on the iBooks section in Settings > General > iPhone Storage > iBooks.

iBooks storage space used

Hiding and showing purchased iBooks

In addition to the books imported into iBooks via the “Open In” feature (or synced through iTunes), your bookshelf contains all your iBooks Store purchases. The app provides a handy switch to hide purchases that haven’t been downloaded to your device yet. Just tap the Collections menu at the top and flip the Hide iCloud Books switch to ON, as shown on the screenshot below.

Hide iCloud books

About deleting and re-downloading purchased books

Like other iTunes items, your purchased books can be re-downloaded as many times as you want, unless your purchase was refunded, iTunes in the Cloud is unavailable in your country or the rights holder has for whatever pulled its content from iTunes.

More on downloading past purchases is available in Apple’s support docs:

Tip: iTunes in the Cloud is unavailable for audiobooks, ringtones and alert tones so you can’t re-download those items. iBooks Store purchases can auto-download to the Mac, too.

To enable the feature, open the iBooks app on your Mac, choose Preferences from the menu and tick the box under the Store tab labeled “Download new purchases automatically”. You’ll agree that using your Mac for keeping copies of all your iBooks Store is a sound strategy, right?

Speaking of backups, I wholeheartedly recommend using Time Machine or a similar tool to make backup copies of your whole iBooks library on a regular basis, just in case.

About Sync Collections

With Sync Collections set to ON in Settings > iBooks, you can organize your books into custom collections that will automatically synchronize to your other devices authorized with the same iCloud account. Any changes to any of your Collections are instantaneously synced across your iPhones, iPads and Macs.

For instance, moving a book into the custom “Must Reads” collection on your iPhone also puts it into “Must Reads” on your iPad and Mac devices with Collections syncing enabled, and vice versa.

iBooks Sync Collections

With Sync Collections enabled, deleting any purchased book presents you with options to remove a local copy from this device or from all your other devices with Sync Collections enabled.

To enable Collections syncing in iBooks for Mac, tick the “Sync bookmarks, highlights, and collections across devices” box under the General pane of iBooks Preferences.

iBooks for Mac Sync Collections

Collections syncing is a great time-saver, even more so if you want to remove a downloaded book from all devices at once. On the other hand, it can pose a major headache in cases when a book is no longer available for re-download.

How to delete books on iOS

Follow these steps to delete purchased books from your iOS devices.

With iBooks Sync Collections enabled

If Sync Collections is enabled, attempting to remove a book from an iOS device brings up the option to Delete This Copy or Delete From All Devices.

This lets you choose between freeing up storage on just one device or keeping your iBooks organized the same way across all devices. The following steps describe removing a book from an iOS device with iBooks Sync Collections enabled.

Step 1: Open iBooks on your device by tapping its icon on the Home screen. Alternatively, pull down on any Home screen and search for “iBooks” to launch the app straight from Spotlight search results.

iOS remove iBooks

Step 2: Choose a Collection by tapping on the label centered at the top of the app’s interface. Up pops a panel listing both built-in Collections (“All,” “Books” and “PDFs”) and custom ones. Narrow down your book listing by choosing a desired Collection or hit “All” to collate all your iBooks purchases and downloaded PDFs in one place.


Select collection

Tip: Custom Collections can be created by choosing the “+ New Collection” option.

Step 3: Mark the books for deletion by hitting the Select button (or Edit in iOS 8) in the upper right. Now choose the books you wish to remove by tapping on their covers.

Select and delete the book in iBooks

Tip: To cancel without deleting anything, just hit Done again. Choosing “Move” lets you move selected items to a Collection.

Step 4: To delete the selected book(s), hit the red Delete button in the upper left corner next to the Move option. If iBooks Sync Collections is enabled, you’ll be prompted to either Delete This Copy or Delete From All Devices (selecting multiple books changes the wording to Delete These Copies).

Delete book from all devices or not

If you Delete This Copy, only the copy stored on this device will get removed. Choosing Delete From All Devices removes the book from your bookshelf across all devices with iBooks Sync Collections enabled.

With iBooks Sync Collections disabled

If Sync Collections is set to OFF in iOS Settings > iBooks, deleting a book will offer just one option to Delete This Copy. The following steps outline removing a book from an iOS device with iBooks Sync Collections disabled.

Step 1: Open iBooks on your device.

Step 2: Choose a desired Collection at the top of the iBooks interface or select “All” to display all books and PDFs kept on this device.

Step 3: Hit the Select button (or Edit in iOS 8) in the upper right. Now tap on one or more books you wish to remove from the device.

How to delete iBooks Sync Collections

Step 4: Tap on the red Delete button in the upper left corner, next to Move. You’ll be prompted to Delete This Copy, or Delete These Copies if you’ve selected more than one book in the previous step.

Delete this specific copy

With the Hide iCloud Books option disabled (see “Hiding and showing purchased iBooks”), deleting a book purchased from the iBooks Store won’t remove its cover from your bookshelf. What happens instead is the book cover receives a cloud icon denoting purchased content.

To re-download the book to your device again, just tap its cover.

Related articles

Consult the following how-tos and tutorials for more tips on freeing up storage space on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad.

I hope you’ve learned something new in this tutorial.

You’ll hopefully put this knowledge to work in order to manage iOS storage space more efficiently than before.

As is our wont, we’re open to your thoughts and suggestions regarding future how-tos. Do drop us your suggestions, future submissions and ideas at