Library Books & eReaders

Now firmly placed as a mainstream item, ebooks have grown in popularity enough for many libraries to have started making digital versions from their catalogue available for lending.

The only thing you’ll need, except your eReader and an appropriate library card, is an Adobe ID (see below).

Most libraries that do provide ebooks are using the Adobe DRM protection system, which also means that most dedicated eReaders (Sony, Kobo, etc) and several eReader apps (Bluefire, OverDrive) can be used to read these DRM protected library ebooks.

I’m going to write three very short tutorials on how to get your library ebook onto your eReader/App. One of these three options should give you enough information even if yours is not actually covered here.

Adobe ID / Activation

As libraries are using the Adobe DRM protection you will first need to create an Adobe ID before you’ll be able to read those borrowed books. If you don’t already have one, then please visit the Adobe website and complete this form.

Adobe Digital Editions (ebook reader)

Unless you are using the OverDrive iPhone/Android app (see below) you must install Adobe’s Digital Editions Reader so that your library books can be activated before they are transferred to your ebook reader.

Download Adobe Digital Editions here.

The first time you run DE, you will be asked to activate it with the Adobe ID and password you created previously.

With DE installed, you don’t even need a digital reader as you can read EPUB books on your computer directly from within Digital Editions. If you do have a digital reader, then read on.

Bluefire eReader App for the iPad and iPhone

Bluefire has become a very popular app as it was the first eReader to allow Adobe DRM EPUB files to be added no matter where you bought your books from, which also makes it perfect for users wanting to read library books on the iPad.

First, download the Bluefire Reader app from iTunes (available for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch).

Before continuing please activate Bluefire with your Adobe ID; start the app and on the “Library” page click the “Info” icon, located at the bottom. Here you will see the button for activating your Bluefire reader.

Next, visit your library’s website, checkout an eBook, and click the download link – when asked to save or open, select “Open with Digital Editions”.

Using iTunes we will now transfer the book to the Bluefire app;

  • Connect your iPad to a computer and start iTunes.
  • Select your device (iPad/iPhone) and click on the “Apps” tab.
  • Scroll down to the “File Sharing” section and click the “Bluefire Reader” icon in the Apps section.
  • Click the “Add…” button.

At this point you’ll need to browse to where Adobe Digital Editions has stored your eBook. By default they will be saved to one of these locations;

On Windows: your-home-directory/Documents/My Digital Editions
On OSX: your-home-directory/Documents/Digital Editions

The EPUB book will then transfer to Bluefire where you can then start reading.

Library Books on a Dedicated eReader (Sony, Kobo, etc.)

Dedicated ebook readers often have their own software for adding books, but we will stick with using Adobe Digital Editions to get your library ebooks on to your eReader.

I’ll be using the Sony Touch Edition for this example, but it should be the same for all devices that support EPUB with Adobe DRM protection. This procedure will be very similar to the way you do it when you purchase ebooks from a store, so please refer to your documentation for more detailed help. Otherwise here is the brief outline.

  • Connect the eReader to your computer and start Digital Editions.
  • Unless you have already done so, you will be shown the “Device Setup Assistant” – you will need to authorise your reader.
  • Visit your library’s website, checkout an ebook and download to DE.
  • From within DE drag the book(s) to your reader – In my case I dragged them to PRS-600.

And that’s it.

Overdrive eReader App for iPhone and Android

OverDrive are a digital distribution company who provide ebooks to all libraries. They also have their own app which is available for both Apple and Android devices.

As I don’t have an Android device I’ll be doing this tutorial with my iPod Touch, but the procedures should be the same on Android systems.

Download the “OverDrive Media Console” app from iTunes (or Android Market Place).

Once downloaded;

  • Launch the app and click on the “Get Books +” button (top right).
  • On the next screen click the “Add a Website +” button.

You’ll then be taken to the OverDrive website where you can search for your library. In my case, I searched for “Manchester Public Library” – searching for “Manchester UK” or “Manchester Great Britain” generated no results, so if you don’t find your library on the first go, try a different search.

  • Select your library from the list.
  • Clicking the link under the “Library Systems” heading – you’ll be taken to that library’s website.
  • Sign in to your library account, find a book to checkout.
  • When you click the download button you will be taken back to the OverDrive app.

As this will be the first time you’ve used OverDrive, you will be asked to sign in with your Adobe ID. Once done, you can proceed with the download and start reading your new book.

The OverDrive app is perhaps not the best eReader out there, but the fact that it makes getting books from a library to your device very easy, it can be a better option for many people.

I hope this tutorial helps and if you come across any issues that need sharing, please leave a comment and I’ll update the article.

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63 thoughts on “Library Books & eReaders”

  1. Thank you so much! I was stumped for a moment when I wasn’t sure how I would read library epub books on my new ipad until I discovered your post and I’m excited to try it for myself.

  2. Nice article. I love being able to read library books on the nook and on my Droid phone. The software for the Droid is not as robust for DRM book but Aldiko 2.0 will read them ($2.99 until they decide to update the free verion)

  3. I’m having a problem. I download from my local library on to AED, then download to my Nook Wi-Fi. But when I try to open the book I get message “user not activated.” Please advise.

  4. Awesome! Spent an hour looking at all the how-to’s on the library’s website and nothing worked. This did it 10 seconds. Thanks!

  5. Great post! Using my PC I have managed to download my library books to Adobe Digital edition and have also set up Bluefire. I now have Bluefire on my iPad but I am unable to move the books from ADE to Bluefire using the tutorial instructions.
    Help please :)

  6. @michael grant, as I am based in Europe I don’t have access to a NOOK, so I’m unable to help you. Hopefully someone with more knowledge of this eReader will chip in.

    @Jill, remember that you will need to add the books to Bluefire using iTunes. If you’re still having problems please drop me an email and I’ll see if we can get to the bottom of your issue.

  7. Thank you so much. I always wondered how you can get the digital library books on my droid 2. But I do not want to pay moeny for the app. They should update the free version.

    Thanks anyway.

  8. Your articles are so helpful! thanks! My library has overdrive audiobooks and adobe ePub books. I have successfully managed to download both on to my Ipad but when I open the ebooks the book size on my screen is about the size of a smartphone with very small print. If I use the 2x option in the lower right corner of the screen, it enlarges the page but the print is too blurry to read comfortably. What am I doing wrong?

    My library uses overdrive so that is what I use to download. Any ideas? Thanks!

  9. @Michele, I don’t have a Blackberry so I’m not sure of that situation. I will try to find out myself but in the meantime perhaps one of our other readers knows something about it. Anyone?

    @Kate, at the moment there’s no native iPad version of the OverDrive app (iPhone only) so this is why. Until OverDrive release an iPad version you’re probably better using the Bluefire app. Don’t worry, it’s free!

  10. Is there a list anywhere of libraries who lend e-books? My local authority libraries don’t; is there an online source for UK residents?

  11. OverDrive has released an iPad app now & it works pretty well.

    I am looking for a way to read my library books on my iPad and iPhone the same way the Kindle app allows: I can access the books from either device (since they are stored in the cloud rather than on the device) and the app remembers where I was, so it updates the device when I open it, no matter which device I was reading last. However, the OverDrive app seems to store the books on the device, making them readable on one device only, which stinks.

    I want to transfer the ePub files to my Kindle app somehow, but I am stumped.

  12. @Amy:
    [I want to transfer the ePub files to my Kindle app somehow, but I am stumped.]
    I use the Stanza app on my iTouch and transfer epubs via WiFi. If you don’t have WiFi you can email them (Gmail works well) and get them into Stanza that way.

  13. Getting library books to my Nook is the easy part. The hard part is how to get epub books that I’ve bought and finished reading from my Nook to my library, like I do with hardcopy books. Certainly with the ridiculous prices that are being charged for ebooks I should be able to own them.

  14. I have followed all the instructions for using Bluereader for my Ipad, yet once I do the transfer, I still get an error message that says “Book Format Error-This book cannot be opened because the format is not recognized or is invalid.” Any suggestions?

  15. Hi Sarah, you’ll need to make sure that your library is giving you EPUB ebooks and that those ebooks use the Adobe DRM (check with your library).

    If that still doesn’t work then my best advice is to speak with Bluefire themselves. I’m sure they will get you up and going quickly.

  16. @Alison: You could try the Bucks website and click o e-audio or you could search for e-audio on the internet but if you use the one via Bucks you would have to have a Bucks libary card. However this website (whenever I’ve used it) lets me borrow the books for free! (however this may be becauseI’m part of the bucks libary. You also have to sign up to e-audio seperatly. hope this helps though.

  17. I am thinking about buying an IPad and that I can read library books occasionally is a must. I use ADE to download to my Nook presently. I read several books a week and would like to download my current selections to both devices. I prefer reading the Nook but at night when my hubby is sleeping I can continue reading the same book witout a light. Possible?

  18. Thank you for the excelent tutorial for reading library books on my ipad 2.!!! was trying for months to do this. simple and very easy to understand for us who are not quite as computer savy!

  19. Thanks for all the info. I’m able to download the books to Overdrive on my android tablet, but I would like to be able to read those files in a different reader, like fbreader. But when I try to open the file from my sd card, fbreader comes up with a blank screen. Is there a way to transfer the file from Overdrive to another app?

  20. @Kira, only reading systems that support the Adobe DRM EPUB books can be used, so if the reading system does not support that, it will not work. I don’t believe fbreader has support for DRM.

  21. Im having problems with ADE it says authorized with another account. How do I correct this to my current Kobo and Sony e readersmommabarb

  22. @mommabarb, if you need to change your ADE authorisation to another account you first need to deactivate it. Load up ADE and then use following key combination;

    CTRL + SHIFT + D

    Then you can re-authorise with another account.

  23. Hi thanks for the response but what did you mean by load up your ADE purchase new books, or download from Kobo store where the books are already there ( cant sync them from the Kobo library) can only download From Kobo via ADE button in Kobo purchased books and Sony picks them up. if I download from Sony Reader library they go on my device (syncc) and can download to sony reader, open my Sony reader and get protected page. Will try your suggestion but need to know what load up ADE (as I have removed the books when I cant download from ADE to Sony. Mommabarb

  24. Ok my 2 cents, I have a coby 7024 and can download books via overdrive console from local library but the reader in overdrive is awful it splits the page in half length wise and you can not change the margins or so far I have not found a way. Anyone know a way? Can use aldiko but overdrive has locked the files.


  25. I just recently bought a Sony PRS-T1. I want to borrow books from our library and have gone through all the steps, but don’t seem to be able to do it. We don’t have WiFi, but were reassured that it did not matter. When I touch Public library it tells me no WiFi configuration has been found. I’m frustrated and am ready to take it back. Any ideas?

  26. @Spencer…. You have to have WiFi and a computer. I had a Sony and used Adobe Digital Editions to get library books. That model may have a built in hotspot to link to the net to buy books but it won”t work for the library. I gave away the Sony (didn’t care for the screen clarity) and now have a Kindle and a Nook. Both use Adobe Digital Editions (very easy to use). My next challenge is an Ipad using Mike’s instructions. I may be back with questions!

  27. @Spencer and all…. Correction to previous post. The simple Kindle requires WiFi but not Adobe Digital Editions. You pick the book from your library, it goes to the Amazon website and then is downloaded to your book. I love it! I will probably only use my Nook for redeeming gift cards from friends and family.

  28. I was using overdrive And my local library on my I pad with no problems. Now when I touch the overdrive app it it pops up then immediately disappears. In the meantime I downloaded the I book app and bought a book and downloaded the kindle app which I have not used. Not sure when the problem started but I think it was after the I book app installation.
    I would greatly appreciate any help

  29. Do these instructions also apply to a Kindle- since they are now allowing free library check out of books?

  30. @Jill,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,The Kindle requires WiFi but not Adobe Digital Editions. You pick the book from your library, it “goes” to the Amazon website and then is downloaded to your Kindle.

  31. You’re the best! … I have to say that this is NOT the most intuitive – i.e., user-friendly, i.e., comprehensible-even-by-bright-people – process, so thank heavens someone (you) took the trouble to de-obfuscate it. I *do* have an Android device, and it’s surely not your fault that the “old” version of the software didn’t work. PLUS, Android devices (mine is a Cruz, a $75 iTab knock-off – well, there ARE some compromises) vary almost as much as ancient PC’s did, maybe more, in fact. Operating systems, hardware, memory, etc.

    But the good news is that one of NYC’s 3 library systems – are we lucky … or is this why some people are anti-tax, anti-gov’t – had “Harriet the Spy” in ePub form ready to check out … and you made it possible for me “to take it with me.” May good things happen unto you, for thine is a miraculously good blog. (Thanks, too, to Google, for putting you 4th or so in my search.)

  32. When I am done reading my books I’ve downloaded on overdrive from my library….is there a way to return or do I just have to wait until my time is up and they automatically go back in? Have my limit checked out….done with all but one… Which I’m reading now….didn’t see anything to click to delete….

  33. No, you can’t “return” your books. You will have to wait till your lending period is up. The books don’t “go back in”, you just won’t be able to read them anymore and they stay on your device till you delete them.

  34. Spencer, it’s a bit of a roundabout route on the Sony. You need to have an Adobe ID and connect to the Sony store. There’s a pretty good guide here:

    Tammy, it depends on your library; if your library supports it and the book is Adobe Digital Editions, you can. To do this, open ADE, click on the (extremely tiny!) arrow next to the book, and in the drop-down menu, click on ‘Return this book’, and ADE will send a message to the library to change the status. If you log into your library account, you should then see that the book has gone. I assume a similar thing operates if the books is an Overdrive one, but I haven’t tried it yet.

  35. Re Jill’s comment, it’s important to note that the Kindle will not work with libraries outside the US that use Overdrive or Adobe Digital Editions. If library use is important to you, consider buying an alternative device.

  36. The instructions for setting up EPUB books from my local library to my Ipad 2 are fantastic. It did take a bit of trial and error but your instructions lead me through the process quickly. Thank you so much for posting this helpful information!

  37. I have a new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and I installed the Overdrive app, and set up an Adobe account, and authorized it. The problem is that when I try to download an ePub ebook from the library, it doesn’t download, but the browser sits with five lines of data that appears to be an acsm, but no ebook is downloaded. The data text in the browser window starts out with urm:uuid:f1227b83….. What am I doing wrong?

  38. I wish I had read these comments when I first got my Kobo! My problem now is getting a book I bought from ITunes onto my Kobo. It seems to be in EPUB format, but I’ve had no luck with Adobe Digital Editions, or Calibre in getting in readable format onto my reader. It comes up with a blank cover and no contents beside part of the index. Any help available? I keep emailing Apple support but no response yet.

  39. I’m waiting to hear what you say to Gary John! I also have the Samsung galaxy 10. 1 tablet, and I would like to start checking out books from EPUB. I didn’t know what the process was to be able to do it, so I’ll be waiting to hear back also. .

  40. @Gary, unfortunately I don’t have an Android device to be able to test this myself. I do know that in Adobe Digital Editions you get an ACSM file from which ADE downloads the full encrypted EPUB book. I would imagine the Overdrive will do the same thing, but I don’t know why it’s not.

    At this point I would advise you to contact your library and ask them this question – I expect they can help.

    Please do let us know the outcome.

  41. Mike, Thanks for your reply and suggestion. I had also sent my problem directly to Overdrive, after getting their e-mail address from my library’s IT person who had never seen the problem before. Apparently, Overdrive had because they quickly sent the following solution, which did correct the problem. Hopefully if someone else has the problem, this procedure will help them. Thanks again.

    Hello Gary,

    I apologize for the troubles that you are having downloading the OverDrive
    titles. The error you are receiving can be resolved by changing the User Agent
    String from desktop to mobile. This can be completed by following the steps

    1. Open the browser.
    2. Press the menu key and select Settings.
    3. Scroll to and select User Agent String. You can change this to either tablet
    or mobile to allow the download of the title
    4. Clear the web browser’s cache and cookies.
    5. Return to the library site and complete the download.

  42. I enjoyed your article. You did a good job of explaining the options. I have a problem though, and I hope you can help. My wife downloaded a library book via Overdrive on her iPad. No issues there. But- she also owns a Nook and wanted to download the book there also. For the Nook, she needs to use Adobe Editions and when she tries to download it, she gets an error saying the book is already checked out. She has the same id’s for Adobe as she has for Overdrive. I am guessing that Overdrive and Adobe do not communicate- so she is out of luck. Is there a way around this? Thanks.

  43. Mark, The libraries have only so many electronic books available for checkout. Some have only one. It sounds like your wife downloaded the last one available when she downloaded it to her iPad. Once that one expires, (7 or 14 days) it will again be available for checkout by the first person who sees that it is again available. Or if they have more than one, when the other one(s) expire they too will be available to whomever verifies its availability at that library. Good luck!

  44. Mark, I have a Nook and a Kindle and have all but quit using the Nook. With the Kindle I can download a library book to my Kindle…..and the same book for the same period (7-21 days) to a Kindle App on my iphone, my ipad2, and my PC. Also Amazon lends a new book each month to Kindle owners. I don’t think the same can be done with the Nook because of needing to use Adobe.

  45. Thanks for both comments. I understand the library loan out process and know she would have to go the the end of the que if she wants to reload the book onto her Nook. Too bad the Nook is not more flexible, like most of the other tablets out there.

    Getting a Kindle is out of the question for now- she will just read it on her iPad. Interesting to see that it is more flexible- being able to read on multiple platforms. We may keep that in mind if there is a reader purchase in the future.

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