Searching across multiple ebooks on an iPad
February 20, 2017 10:42 AM   Subscribe

I would like to be able to do a search for a word across all of the cookbooks that are on my iPad at once. Say I want to quickly see whether any of my cookbooks contain a recipe to make a specific food, or that uses a certain ingredient. I could use the Unix command grep to do the search on my Mac. What can I use on the iPad?

I could do this if I had my cookbooks on my Kindle. It allows searching across multiple books. But cookbook files are so big, because of the illustrations, that I don't have room for them on the Kindle I use for reading novels. The Kindle App on the iPad does not allow searching in more than one book at a time, and neither does the iBooks app, as far as I can tell.

I have the Calibre program on my home desktop computer and can use it to convert to just about any other ebook format. I do NOT want any solution that requires a connection to the internet at the time of use. It's okay if I need to access the internet when setting things up initially, though.

Any ideas?
posted by artistic verisimilitude to Technology (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, i was hoping that the iOS-wide Spotlight search would have at least indexed the books downloaded by iBooks if not the Kindle app, but it only indexes the titles (and even then only the ebooks, not PDFs saved in iBooks). Similarly i confirmed that the search function in iBooks searches the store and you can only search within a book when you are in it.

I’ve submitted feedback for iBooks to suggest that they provide a way to search all books while within iBooks.

Searching for “ebook reader” on the app store turns up other third-party apps. Perhaps one of them already has this functionality.
posted by D.C. at 3:33 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

To the best of my knowledge this is not possible from the iPad. The hack I would do if this were my problem would be to save versions of the EPUBs without images (probably using regexp which ... bleh) and then just toss them on my kindle for the index factor.
posted by jessamyn at 5:52 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

There's a free utility for Calibre called EpubMerge. Just install it, combine whichever cookbooks you'd like into a single .epub file, then search within that "omnibus" book on your device like you would any other. As long as there aren't a lot of hi-res pictures, it shouldn't take up too much extra space on your device.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:30 PM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Three very helpful answers. Thank you!

I am happy to say that EpubMerge does the job. I am currently searching my gigantic merged cookbook. It is huge, thanks to the ridiculous number of images that almost all cookbooks contain. Fortunately I have plenty of space on the iPad, and it is worth the storage space.

This is really neat! I can go back and forth looking at the recipe for the same item in two different cookbooks that are included in the merge. I didn't realize how many recipes I had access to for popovers.

The only problem with EpubMerge is that I cannot, when I follow a search hit to a particular recipe, tell which cookbook I am in, except when I am familiar enough with the style of a book to tell at a glance. I can live with this, but what would be ideal would be if I could get the header or footer on each page to mention the title or author of the cookbook. I need to look to see if that's already included as a possibility.

I was working on the regexp and it looks doable, and also found that txt files look like they should meet most of my needs, but stopped work on that in favor of EpubMerge.

Using another ebook reader on the iPad would be a good idea, if any of them have this capability. I don't know how to find out whether they do have it, without paying for and downloading each one. So far none of the reviews of different ereaders I've found mentions this issue. If there is one that can handle it, I hope that maybe someone can post about it.

I have submitted my feedback for iBooks to make the suggestion. Thanks for confirming that the iBook search doesn't do it, and thank you particularly for also determining that Spotlight doesn't do it. It seems as though it really ought to.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 6:19 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Amazon has introduced a Kindle Paperwhite in Japan, the 'Manga Model', that holds 32 GB of ebooks! Currently it can be purchased in the US via eBay; reportedly Amazon will start selling it in the US this fall (2017).

This completely solves the problem. Now one can easily fit dozens of cookbooks on a Kindle, no matter how profusely illustrated they are, and have loads of room left over. The search function easily does a simple search of the text of all of the books on the device for a word or phrase, and presents the results as a list of books, along with the number of times the word appears in each book.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 6:37 PM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older Refinancing an investment property >50% renter...   |   What is this little piece of swag's function? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.