The only acceptable use for DRM

I’d been aware for some time that a lot of libraries had embraced the ability to check out ebooks, but not until this weekend did I get around to actually trying it. I was quite pleased to discover that both of our local libraries, the Seattle Public Library and the King County Library System, provide the ability to do electronic checkouts.

Since KCLS is the one I have a card with, I gave that a shot over the weekend and succeeded in checking out both Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood and Justin Cronin’s The Passage. I selected both of these novels because they were specifically available in Adobe Digital Editions ePUB format, and therefore were friendly to my nook.

The process of getting the books onto my nook was less friendly than it should have been, and pretty much went like this:

  1. Check out the book from the library web site and download a small file.
  2. Open up Adobe Digital Editions and then actually launch that small file so ADE could see it. If I tried to doubleclick the file without launching ADE first, then I got an error message that claimed ADE wanted an update it didn’t actually need. The file then opened up the actual ebook so ADE could see it, complete with the timestamp for how many days I was allowed to keep it.
  3. Close ADE and then plug my nook into my Mac via USB, then re-launch ADE so it can see the nook. (This is because I’ve had trouble getting ADE to recognize the nook’s been plugged in if I launch it first. In retrospect I could have saved this step by just plugging in the nook first thing and then launching ADE and keeping it open, but I didn’t think of that at the time.)
  4. Copy the book onto my nook.
  5. Profit Reading!

I’ve been working on reading the Atwood and it looks just lovely on the nook, just like all the other ebooks I’ve read. And I honestly am fine with the DRM in this case, since if you’re going to do electronic library checkout, there needs to be some way of keeping track of how long the library patron is allowed to keep the content. I have no problems whatsoever with DRM in this case telling me “HEY YOU HAVE 18 DAYS LEFT ON THIS KTHX” and then making the book magically go away if I run out of time.

There are still issues here of device compatibility, though. I cannot check out ebooks to my iPhone just because Adobe Digital Editions does not like the iPhone; as I understand it, it’s a matter of ADE being a Flash app and iOS doesn’t do Flash. Or something to that effect. I can however check out to the computer, and from there, as described above, I can copy down to the nook. So that’s all fine.

Less fine is the question of file format. ADE does PDFs as well as ePUBs, and while the nook in theory talks PDF, in actual practice so far PDFs I’ve looked at on my nook come across sloppily formatted. They’re still readable, but it’s a clumsy reading experience and just not as pleasant as reading an ePUB, or a PDF on a device that’s capable of showing it to me as it was actually formatted. This is the nook’s fault, though, not ADE’s. (I suspect that Kindle owners would have a better time with an ADE PDF but I have no firsthand experience with that.)

Anyway, though, once I got the books checked out, that was awesome and I plan to make use of this ability more in the future. I expect it will help a great deal in whittling down my Enormous Reading List of Enormousness.

As a general FYI to Seattle-area folks, here are the pertinent links if you’d like to try out this shiny ebook checkout thing for yourselves:

You do of course need a library card for either system, but hey, library cards are Awesome Things and should be had regardless. 🙂 Enjoy!

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