TarHeel Reader Books – a great resource for iBooks on your iPad

Over the past few weeks I have presented quite a few workshops where I have talked about making custom bookshelves within iBooks for self-selected reading time – or just for making a range of books available for students to enjoy! One of the resources I have been using to contribute to custom bookshelves is TarHeel Reader books, imported into iBooks. TarHeel Reader, as I’ve said before, is a fabulous resource and gives you over 20,000 potential eBooks for your iPad through iBooks. I’ve had several requests to write this process up as a step-by-step – and so here goes!

Before you start this process, make sure that you have downloaded Apple’s free eBook reader iBooks and have it available on your iPad, iPod touch or iPhone. If you need assistance with this process there is a video with the process at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0QaycZGtE0.

Now let’s start getting a TarHeel Reader book ready to go! To begin, go to www.tarheelreader.org. Search for a book you think your reader might be interested in – or you can use a book that you already know that they enjoy reading of course!

Once you have selected a book in Tar Heel Reader, make sure you select the Setup button on the title page of the book.

Title page in TarHeel Reader

Once you are into Setup a range of options are now available to you. The one we are interested in is “Download as PowerPoint”. Download the TarHeel Reader book as a PowerPoint and save it on your computer.

Once you have the book on your computer, open the TarHeel Reader book in PowerPoint and then save it as a PDF. Depending on your computer and your operating system the process for saving it as a PDF will be different. Saving as a PDF is built into the Macintosh operating system – but on a Windows computer you will need a 3rd party program to do this with. If you don’t have a PDF program already loaded, try a free PDF converter like CutePDF.


Screenshot on Windows 7 with PowerPoint 2007 and Adobe Acrobat installed


Screen shot on Mac OS 10.6.8 and PowerPoint 2008


Once you have saved the book as a PDF then you just need to drag and drop it into iTunes on your Mac or PC. Make sure you drop it into the top left hand corner of iTunes, as per the screenshot below.

Now you need to sync your iPad, iPod touch or iPhone and the book will go across. You might just want to double check that your iPad is setup to automatically sync books by clicking on your iPad (on the left hand side in iTunes) and then clicking on the Books settings (at the top of the screen) and checking that “Sync Books” is ticked. See the screenshot below.

Once your iPad has finished syncing, grab your iPad and open iBooks.

The PDF will automatically have been added to the PDF bookshelf. To get to this, click on the Collections button on the top menu bar and then select “PDFs”.

You can now use the same Collections button to make new bookshelves and create custom bookshelves for individual students or on different topics. You can then use the edit button to move PDFs, purchased books and other ePubs where you want them. Two examples are below:

I hope you enjoy using TarHeel Reader to expand your iBooks collection – and let me know if you have any questions :)


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About Jane Farrall

Jane has been working in the disability and assistive technology field for over 20 years. She has extensive practical experience in both Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and in teaching children and adults with disabilities to acquire literacy.

Jane has worked as a school and adult service based therapist and literacy teacher. She has also worked as an assistive technology specialist at both ComTEC and at Spectronics and is currently working as an independent consultant in literacy, AAC and Assistive Technology.

She has completed a Masters in Special Education focusing on literacy acquisition in children and adults without speech. Jane is a former Chairperson of AGOSCI (Australian Group on Severe Communication Impairment) and is the founder and organiser of the Big Mouth Camp, a camp for school aged students using speech generating devices and their families. You can get more information about Jane at her website www.janefarrall.com.

10 Responses to TarHeel Reader Books – a great resource for iBooks on your iPad

  1. Randi says:

    This is great, thanks for outlining these steps. My son loves his books on his ipad and it’s hard to find age appropriate books for low level readers.

  2. Jim Sprialis says:

    Hi Jane
    CutePDF is a great pdf conversion tool for Office 2003 users. Users of more recent versions of PowerPoint can download the free “Save as PDF” addin from Microsoft…. http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=7

  3. Jane Farrall says:

    Thanks Jim!

  4. Julie says:

    I LOVED the ability to save the TarHeel Reader books as a PDF and open within iBooks on an iPad. I did this with success however I would also like to have the text read aloud. I tried to use the built-in Voice Over feature which did read the first page of the book but then it would not allow me to turn the page. Any suggestions for how to get text-to-speech working for these within iBooks?

  5. Jane Farrall says:

    Hi Julie, Unfortunately at this stage I don’t have a solution. I’m hoping that Apple goes ahead with adding more comprehensive text-to-speech into iBooks. They did announce that at one stage but then said they had had problems and it was on hold – but hopefully it will come.

  6. Helen Briffa says:

    Hi Jane,
    My son was able to easily install Tarheel books onto the ipad using your step ny step process. I too was wondering if Apple has yet improved its text-to-speech so that the books can be read out loud. Thanks for the great instructional manual, Helen

  7. Gary Bishop says:

    The new version of Tar Heel Reader allows downloading books in EPUB format for direct import into iBooks. Check it out after this Friday, 8 February and see all the new features. Sometime later this semester the EPUB books will include speech, simply choose a voice for the book before downloading.

    We’re also working on making the site compatible with VoiceOver so the native text to speech can read books and so that they can be displayed on refreshable Braille displays.

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