General Questions

How did the Take Control series begin?

Take Control began in 2003 as a radical rethinking of how books are written, edited, published, and yes, even how they are read. Take Control was started by the husband-and-wife team Adam and Tonya Engst. By the time they began Take Control, they had authored or edited more than 25 traditional books and written hundreds of magazine articles for major Mac magazines. And, they’d spent the last 15 years gaining experience in internet publishing with TidBITS, their website (updated quite often) and weekly email newsletter about Apple and Internet topics. These experiences helped them develop the Take Control model, which results in highly practical ebooks that cover much more detail than a magazine article but that are shorter, more focused, and more timely than a typical printed book.

In May 2017, Adam and Tonya sold the Take Control series to their most prolific author, Joe Kissell. You can read about the transition in Take Control Books Acquired by Joe Kissell and the Take Control Transition FAQ.

I’d like to review a Take Control ebook. Can I get a review copy?

Sure thing. Just use the contact form to send us a note, telling us which ebook you’d like to review and for what publication.

Why don't you have a book on ____?

People regularly write to us to ask about “missing” titles in our catalog—titles that otherwise seem like they would fit with our collection. Here are some of our responses:

  • Apple Music: Our book that covers Apple Music (both in the sense of the paid streaming service and the app named Music, which was the successor to iTunes) is called Take Control of macOS Media Apps.
  • Dropbox: We used to have a book on Dropbox, but when the company started taking the product in unfortunate directions, we stopped updating the book and later discontinued it. We will not be updating it in the future, as we fundamentally disagree with Dropbox’s business model and software design principles.
  • iMovie: Any book that covered iMovie adequately would have to be extremely long, and it would also require vast amounts of supporting video material. It’s not a good fit for the Take Control format. In addition, even if we created such a book, it is virtually unthinkable that we would be able to sell enough copies to recoup our expenses.
  • Keynote: We once had a book about Apple’s Keynote app, to go along with our books on Pages and Numbers. Unfortunately, hardly anyone bought it, and sales were too low to support continued updates. When it went far out of sync with current reality, we had to discontinue the book. There has been renewed interest in the app, and we are exploring ways we might potentially bring the topic back in some form in the future—but no guarantees!
  • Photoshop: The story here is similar to that for iMovie—the book would have to be so long and complex that it wouldn’t make sense for our format, and so expensive to produce that it could never make financial sense for us.

Apart from these specific examples, we’re often asked about small, independent (but well-loved) apps. Our answer there is generally: Unless we can get significant marketing support from the developer, and a certain baseline of guaranteed income, the math doesn’t work; we wouldn’t be able to sell enough copies of such a book directly to our own customers for the author to end up with even minimum wage for the time they put in.

All that said, there are still many potential topics for future Take Control books! See the next few questions…

I have an idea for a Take Control ebook that I’d like you to write so I can read it!

Great—we love to hear your ideas. Use our contact form to send us your thoughts.

I’d like to write (or edit) a Take Control ebook. How should I proceed?

Use our contact form to start the conversation.
It’s all a matter of whether the business details work out, but if your product has a sufficiently large user base, we’re happy to talk with you more. Please use the contact form to tell us what you have in mind.

I’d like to resell Take Control ebooks from my website. Do you have an affiliate program?

We’re in the process of transitioning to a new affiliate program, and we hope to have it up and running during 2022. Details will be available on our Take Control Affiliate Program page. If you’re running a larger ebook retail site that wouldn’t integrate with our affiliate program, use the contact form to send us a note and we’ll talk.

Do you use copy protection on your ebooks?

No. Our ebooks do not use copy protection because it makes life harder for everyone. So we ask a favor of our readers. If you want to share your copy of an ebook you’ve bought with a friend, please do so as you would with a physical book, meaning that if your friend uses it regularly, they should buy a copy.

Pre-Ordering Info

I don’t have an account. Do I have to create one before I can order a book? I don’t see any way to do that.

You do not need to have an account to place an order! Indeed, an account would serve no purpose if you aren’t already a customer. So, just ignore the username and password fields, put stuff in your cart, fill out the requested info on the cart page, and click “Check Out.” When you do this, we’ll create an account for you automatically. If you want an account because you purchased one of our books from another site, see How do I add a book to my Take Control account if I bought it somewhere else? below.

What forms of payment do you accept?

You can pay with a credit or debit card, Apple Pay (with a suitably configured copy of Safari), PayPal, Amazon Pay, or wire transfer.

How can I give one of your ebooks as a gift?

If you want to purchase one of our ebooks for a friend or relative, we currently offer only a low-tech approach. Run through the order process as you normally would when buying a book for yourself. Once you’ve downloaded the book, you can send it to the recipient as a normal email attachment. Or, if you’re looking for a more concrete object to present, you can save it to a flash drive.

But…if you’ve already purchased a book for yourself, our system won’t let you buy a second copy as long as you’re logged in (because we’ve had a huge problem with accidental duplicate purchases!). So, the workaround is to log out on our site and then place the order.

In the future, we hope to be able to offer a better, less awkward, and more flexible way to make gift purchases.

Can I buy multiple copies of ebooks for students in a class I’m teaching?

Yes, if you’re teaching a class and wish to purchase copies of our ebooks for your students, we offer steep discounts. For more information and to apply for bulk pricing, visit our Class Copies page—though note that this page is not yet fully operational.

Can I get my ebooks on CD?

We no longer offer CDs containing your purchased books. However, you can re-download them as often as you want, indefinitely, from your Take Control Library, and we encourage you to make your own backups in whatever manner suits you best.

Ordering Help

I get an unhelpful error message when I try to use Apple Pay. What’s wrong?

Although Apple Pay has worked great for most of our customers and we’ve had thousands of successful Apple Pay transactions, a few people have had problems. We’ve been exploring the issue with our reseller, FastSpring, but unfortunately we have no immediate hope of a solution. If you see an error message when attempting to use Apple Pay, first of all: we’re very sorry. (It’s not your fault, or our fault, or even FastSpring’s fault, but rather an issue that affects the upstream payment processor FastSpring uses, and which has so far resisted every attempt to solve or even understand it.) To work around the issue, you can either choose a different payment method in our store, or buy our books directly from Apple Books. (Most, but not all, of our titles are available there, but only in EPUB format, and Apple has no mechanism for offering discounted upgrades to new editions.)

The cart isn’t working right. What should I do?

If you experience trouble ordering, try these tips:

  • Quit your browser and then relaunch it. If this does not solve the problem, and you write in to us for help, please try to provide as much information about what went wrong. A screenshot is ideal, if easily done on your end.
  • Try another browser. Although we test our pages with multiple browsers, it’s possible that you have different settings or a different version.

I’m outside the United States but I want to pay in U.S. dollars. How can I do that?

It’s…complicated. Currently, FastSpring ties currency to location. So, if you want to pay in U.S. dollars, you have to click the flag icon on the checkout screen and select United States as your location. At that point, FastSpring will ask you for a ZIP code, because that is how they determine whether you are in a part of the U.S. where sales tax is required (discussed below). If you don’t have a ZIP code, you might get stuck at this point.

Officially, FastSpring’s response is: sorry, but our hands are tied. They are obligated to collect taxes based on where you are geographically located, regardless of the currency you use; yet their system currently offers no way to choose a non-local currency. So, if you were to enter the ZIP code for a U.S. location in which ebooks are not subject to sales tax, your payment would probably work, but FastSpring could not endorse this approach because they could get in trouble with your local tax authorities. I have asked repeatedly for currency to be decoupled from location, but so far, that does not appear to be in FastSpring’s plans.

Do you charge VAT for ebooks sold to EU customers?


What if I’m purchasing for a tax-exempt organization?

Enter your VAT ID when placing your purchase.

Why was I charged sales tax?

All payments are processed by FastSpring, our authorized reseller. FastSpring, as the merchant of record, is obligated to collect sales tax in certain U.S. states (the list is long and growing) and several other jurisdictions around the world. We have no control over the circumstances under which FastSpring does or does not apply sales tax.

Note that in certain situations, if you’re connected to the internet using a VPN, and the VPN endpoint is in a state or country other than where you reside or where your bank account is, various unexpected and undesirable consequences can occur. For the most reliable and predictable results, either turn off your VPN while placing an order, or make sure it’s connected to a server within the same tax jurisdiction.

What about places like Norway and the UK that have recently discontinued sales taxes for ebooks?

For the moment, FastSpring still charges these taxes, because their system does not yet have a way to exempt only certain types of digital products from taxes. They are very well aware of the problem, however, and are reportedly working to update their infrastructure to make it possible for vendors like us to offer ebooks for sale without taxes in jurisdictions where they’re no longer required. We do not yet have an ETA on this change.

It sounds like FastSpring is an imperfect solution for you. Why don’t you just switch to another company?

We chose FastSpring because they came the closest, of any company we could find, to meeting our payment needs, which include processing credit and debit cards, Apple Pay, and PayPal; collecting (and reporting and paying) taxes in all the jurisdictions where they’re required; and integrating with the shopping cart software we use. And really, they are quite good much more than 99% of the time! But no, they’re not perfect. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a drop-in replacement. There are alternatives, but they have other (rather significant) tradeoffs. In the best case, we’d need to spend a month or more of development time getting another solution in place, in addition to significantly higher ongoing costs and accounting requirements. That could theoretically happen, but not soon.

Downloading and Working with Ebook Files

Why are your filenames inconsistent?

When you download one of our books, it might have a title like Take Control of Zoom (1.1) or it might look like TCoZoom-1.1. (In both cases, there will be extensions afterward, like .pdf or .epub, but whether you see these depends on your device, operating system, and settings.) Sometimes you might have books on your device with both types of names, and that can be confusing (as well as making it harder to sort your files and see which versions you have).

So, why aren’t our filenames always the same?

Consider a book like Take Control of Zoom. That’s the book’s title, and we think it’s helpful to put the version number right in the filename, so the name we want to use for it is the first example—Take Control of Zoom (1.1). The problem with that is, downloadable files on our website can’t have spaces in their names—that screws up all kinds of things. We can’t have the “pretty” names we prefer. So, many years ago (long before I started running Take Control), the decision was made to remove the spaces, turn “Take Control of” into “TCo” (for compactness), and put the version number at the end following a hyphen, rather than in parentheses. That’s how we end up with things like TCoZoom-1.1.

But wait! You may very well have a file with the “pretty” name on your computer. How did that happen? Well, we offer our PDFs in two forms: regular and zipped. The regular, raw PDFs will have filenames like TCoZoom-1.1.pdf. But when we zip them, we start with the original file that has the nice-looking name, and then we give the awkward name to the Zip file, so it’ll look like TCoZoom-1.1-pdf.zip. But once you download that and unzip it—your browser might even do this automatically for you—you get the file with the nice, original name.

So, for PDFs, you can get the file with either the full name or the abbreviated name, depending on whether you download the zipped version. Then…why can’t we do the same for EPUB and Mobi formats?

Ah. That’s where it gets tricky. Macs and PCs have no trouble unzipping downloaded files, but depending on your mobile operating system and version, you might need a third-party app to unzip a file on your phone or tablet. (And even if you don’t need a separate app, it could be an irritating and non-obvious extra step.) What we want is for people to be able to download an EPUB or Mobi to the Files app and then open it immediately in the Books or Kindle app, without having to figure out how to uncompress it first. And that’s why we don’t offer zipped versions of the EPUB or Mobi files.

So, our EPUBs and Mobis always have the “ugly” names, and the PDFs sometimes do.

Now: your follow-up questions are inevitably:

  1. Why don’t you at least offer the option of zipped EPUBs and Mobis with the nice names? We could do that. But then having to explain why we have six different files you can download, what the implications of each one are, and how to decide which one you want, becomes extremely complicated—especially for busy people with no interest in tech minutiae.

  2. Why don’t you put all the files together in a single Zip file, so that you get the nice names when you unzip it? We could do that too. But we’d still have to offer separate EPUBs and Mobis for those who need them, and a lot of people have bandwidth and storage constraints that make downloading stuff they don’t need an unpleasant prospect.

  3. Why don’t you just give up on the “nice” names and, in the name of consistency, use the “ugly” names everywhere? We could do that as well. But then we’d get complaints from people who are used to the PDFs with the nice names, and we’d lose our one opportunity to give the files what we think of as their proper, canonical names.

If we had it to do all over again, I think we’d adopt a different convention: we’d give our files “proper” names but just use hyphens instead of spaces or parentheses: Take-Control-of-Zoom-1.1.pdf. At this point, however, switching to that type of naming would be certain to infuriate people with dozens or even hundreds of our books collected over the years, because the new names wouldn’t match either of the old patterns.

We’re very sorry this situation exists, but we don’t currently have a solution that will make everyone happy.

How do I download my ebooks?

After your successful purchase, you’ll receive both a receipt and an email message containing the download links; depending on your browser, you may also see a page there with download links for your books. Almost all of our books are available in PDF, EPUB and Mobipocket formats so you can select the format(s) that works best for you. If you’re not sure which format is for you, we suggest PDF for a carefully laid-out page view on a computer or iPad; EPUB for reflowable reading in Apple Books on the Mac, iPad, or iPhone; and Mobipocket for Kindle devices or the Kindle app. (Note: On May 2, 2022, Amazon announced EPUB support for Kindle, which will also mean discontinuation of support for MOBI. Once all of Amazon’s Send to Kindle apps have been updated to support EPUB, we will stop distributing our books in MOBI format.) If you have any trouble downloading your books from the email message or the confirmation webpage, please feel free to log in to your Take Control account and download your books from there. Your account is available 24/7 and it will be updated with your new books almost instantly after a successful order.

Important note: On an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, although PDFs can be displayed right in your browser, other file types (including EPUB, Mobi, and zipped PDF) download directly to the Files app. So if you tap a download link and nothing appears to happen, look in the Files app for the downloaded book. You can then tap it to open it in the appropriate app.

If you experience trouble downloading your purchases, try these tips:

  • Look for the email message we sent you with the subject “Your Take Control Books order is complete.” (This is separate from your receipt!) Try again using the download links in that message. If you don’t see the email with the download links, please check your spam/junk mail folder. More often than not, that’s where it is. (Note that we can only send messages to valid email addresses; if you mistyped your address or entered a fake address like mickey@mouse.com, you obviously won’t get the message.)
  • Go to your Take Control Library and tap the format you want to download. (Refer to the “Important note” just above if doing this on an iOS/iPadOS device.)
  • Read Device Advice for help with installing and reading ebooks on your iOS/iPadOS device, Kindle, or Nook.
  • Don’t spend hours on this… if you’ve tried a few things and it’s not working, contact us and tell us what you’ve tried and what problem you are having. We will get back to you, probably with an easy solution!

Where’s the table of contents? How do I use it?

Most Take Control ebooks begin the table of contents on page 2 of the PDF. You can click (or tap) any topic in the table of contents to jump to it. Most PDF readers can also display the table of contents in a sidebar, making it extra easy to navigate, and we create our ebooks with the assumption that many readers will use this feature in order to get around easily. In Apple’s Preview, for example, you can view this sidebar by choosing View > Table of Contents. In Adobe Acrobat, “bookmarks” correspond to table-of-contents entries.

How do I make the text bigger?

In Acrobat, you can increase the size of the text by clicking the window’s Zoom button to make the window as wide as possible, and then choosing View > Fit Width. You can eke out more horizontal width by closing the Bookmarks tab (click the Bookmarks tab at the far left of the Acrobat window). In Preview, resize the window manually and click the Zoom In button; to save more horizontal space, close the left-hand sidebar.

How can I scroll quickly?

To scroll using keyboard shortcuts you must first click in the main text area. The Page Up and Page Down keys may be the easiest (and they scroll by screen when you are viewing less than a full page). In Acrobat, the Left and Right arrow keys scroll to the previous and next page starts.

How can I read one of your books on a mobile device?

To learn about various ways to install and read a Take Control ebook on an iPad, iPhone, Kindle, or other mobile device, see Device Advice.

Can I print one of your ebooks?

Yes. The PDF version of an ebook in the Take Control series should print reasonably well on a typical home printer. Here are some printing tips:

  • Click Ebook Extras on the cover of the PDF to make sure you have the latest version of the ebook and to verify that we don’t plan to release a new version shortly (if you are asked to log in, you may simply close that dialog; look in the Update Plans section to see our latest update plans).
  • Consider printing 2-up (with borders showing), which puts two pages on a single piece of paper. Alternatively, if your printer supports it, try duplex printing (which puts one page on each side of a piece of paper). However, do not mix 2-up and duplex printing unless you enjoy novel pagination schemes.
  • When printing on a color inkjet printer, to avoid using a lot of color ink, look for an option to print in black-and-white.
  • In the unlikely event that Adobe Acrobat Reader cannot successfully print the PDF, try Preview or another PDF app.
  • Your printer may not have enough memory to print the entire ebook at once. If it gets stuck before completing the job, or cannot print the ebook at all, try printing in batches of 50 or so pages.

It is OK with us if you print a single copy of your ebook at a copy shop, such as FedEx Office.

In the future, we hope to be able to offer paperback versions of many of our books, in addition to ebooks. However, we do not yet have any specific plans to announce.

Dealing with Ebook Updates

How do you handle updates to your ebooks?

Conditions permitting, we generally try to keep our books updated as changes occur in software, operating systems, cloud services, and other technology. Some books are updated quite frequently, others infrequently, and in rare cases, a book is never updated.

Minor updates are free. Incrementing the number after the second decimal point (for example, going from version 1.0 to version 1.0.1), that means it’s a “bug fix” release—something like fixing typos or making other very small corrections. Incrementing the number after the first decimal point (for example, version 1.1) indicates more substantial changes.

If we increment the first number (as in, going from version 1.1 to version 2.0), that’s a new edition, which means it is considerably revised, often with new chapters, large amounts of rewriting, or other structural changes. Updates to new editions are not free, but we nearly always offer a significantly discounted upgrade to customers who had a previous edition of the book.

How do I check to see if an update is available for an ebook I purchased?

If your ebook is in the PDF file format, on the cover (page 1), click Ebook Extras (or, for older titles, Check for Updates). A few of our oldest titles lack a Check for Updates button; in that case, contact us and we’ll take care of you.

If you are not reading a PDF-formatted version, skim the first page or so of the “Read Me First” to find information about accessing updates or “Ebook Extras.”

Whether you click (or tap) the Ebook Extras button or the link in the Ebook Extras section of the book, if you aren’t logged in to your Take Control account, you’ll get a dialog where you can log in or create a new account. (N.B. Creating new accounts is not yet available on our new website, but we’re working on it.) You can close the dialog if you don’t want to deal with logging in.

On the resulting webpage, look for any free update that you are eligible for. If your ebook is dated, you might also see an offer for a discount on a new edition. If we have anything to say about future update plans for the ebook, that information will appear in the Update Plans section.

Can you send me an email message when you release an updated version of my ebook?

Yes! Just make sure your contact preference is not set to “(Almost) Never.”

Managing Your Take Control Account and Email Address

How do I use my Take Control account?

You can log in to the Take Control website to re-download your ebooks. You can also set your email preferences for whether we contact you, and at which email address, by logging in and adjusting your profile.

For extensive help with your account, see the Account Help page.

How do I log in?

At the top of the Take Control site, fill in the Email and Password fields, and click Log In. If you don’t know your password, use the Password Reset page to set a new one. (Prior to May 1, 2017, if you had an account on the TidBITS website, your Take Control account and your TidBITS account were the same account. Those accounts have now been separated, so if you change your password for one of these accounts, it will not change in the other.)

How do I subscribe to (or unsubscribe from) Take Control announcements, or change my email address?

You can adjust your email address and contact preferences on the Account details page. You can choose to receive periodic email about new titles, upgrades, and special offers; only announcements of free updates to books you own; or no email other than transactional messages.

How do I add a book to my Take Control account if I bought it somewhere else?

Registering books that were purchased on other sites (such as Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play, DEVONtechnologies, Rogue Amoeba, or Literature & Latte) is not currently possible, but it’s on our to-do list. We cannot yet say exactly when it will be possible to do this. Sorry!

What is Take Control’s privacy policy?

alt concepts is committed to protecting your privacy. You can read the full privacy policy.

How to Contact Us

If you still have questions or want to contact us for any reason, you can use our contact form to send us email, or if you prefer, send a message directly to support@takecontrolbooks.com.

Although we often respond to customer email messages right away, our goal is to reply within one business day.