Apple has quietly released a new feature for its iBooks app that is just now getting noticed. Users can now open and save EPUB files without first syncing them with iTunes. The folks at TidBITS first uncovered this change, which is terrific news for iPhone/iPod touch and iPad owners alike.

EPUB is a free and open e-book standard used by many book publishers. This change makes opening and saving EPUB files on an iPhone or iPad as straighforward as clicking on it.

For example, users can email EPUB files to themselves and transfer the attachment to iBooks. You can also copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to Apple’s book-reading app.

More importantly, users can now open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and easily open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically.

For example, I purchased iPad: The Missing Manual at O’Reilly.com. Previously, to get this file onto my iPad, I had to download it first to my Mac. From there, I imported it to iTunes and finally, synced it the tablet.

Now, the process is much easier: All of have to do is download it from the website and open it in iBooks. It is automatically saved and the next time I sync my iPad 2 with iTunes, it is saved to my Mac for other uses.

Open EPUB files from website

Open EPUB files from website

Sample of EPUB import

Sample of EPUB import

Apple was wise in giving its customers this feature. By doing so, it makes iOS devices that much more useful.

What do you think? Leave your comments below.