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ebook library checkout

Ebooks and Ereaders

How to read ebooks, Part 6.2: Adobe Digital Editions on Linux

I’m dedicating a small post to this just because userinfotechnoshaman asked me about this a while back, and I never did answer his comment on that. (Apologies, Glenn!) He asked me at that time:

Any word on how tricky it is to get ADE to run with Wine? This is, of course, relevant to my interests!

I waffled on answering this in no small part because I didn’t actually know. I don’t normally run Linux as a desktop OS at home, although I have an Ubuntu VM on my Macbook, so I had no firsthand information. But that said, one of the lovely things about the Linux community is that if you have a question that needs settling, chances are somebody out there has investigated that problem and has a solution or at least a workaround.

A judicious bit of Googling therefore got me this thread on the Ubuntu forums, wherein users are discussing ADE on Linux via WINE. It dates back to 2008-2009, but given that I still haven’t heard that Adobe plans to do a Linux version of ADE any time soon, (and, for that matter, I haven’t seen a new build of ADE in a while either), I’d say it’s a safe bet the information therein is still reasonably current.

Anybody out there who does have firsthand experience running ADE on Linux, or who is aware of any Linux-based solutions for checking out ebooks from libraries, do speak up!

Ebooks and Ereaders

How to read ebooks, Part 6.1: More on checking out library books

I totally fell over finishing these posts up, but would like to get back to this series of posts now that I have new data to add to them courtesy of my recent iPad. And, conveniently enough, that ties back into the last post I did, which was about how to check out library ebooks!

I have discovered to my pleasure that there’s an iPhone/iPad app called Overdrive Media Console. This thing talks to Adobe DRM, and will go out and yoink down ebooks for you from any library websites that are compatible with the app. Here’s what you do:

  • Go install the app from the App Store.
  • If you don’t have one already, create an Adobe ID so you can authorize your i-Device to unlock Adobe DRM books.
  • Log into the app with your Adobe ID, and let it authorize your device.
  • Click the “Get Books” button up in the right hand corner to search for library websites. I found mine with little effort, and once you’ve found your library, the app should add it to your list.
  • You can then use the app to load your library’s website (it’ll open in Safari). In my case, that loaded in Safari and gave me a mobile version of the site, hooked into the app.
  • Log in with your library’s website credentials so you can get at your account.
  • Use the website’s systems, whatever they may be, to download items you check out. In my case, when testing this tonight, I had two books checked out and was able to simply tap the Download button on each to have them come straight down into the app.
  • Read!

This was, in short, awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I actually prefer reading on the Nook (for various reasons I’ll get into in the next post in the series), but getting the library books onto the iPad was so much easier and less headachy than getting them onto the Nook that I will probably do this for all future library checkouts. The main point of headache for Nook-based checkouts, the painful ADE app Mac-side, is completely bypassed this way. I would definitely recommend this for my fellow i-Device owners.

Now, here’s the best part: this app is not exclusive to i-Devices, either. There are desktop versions for both Windows and Mac, AND there are mobile versions for Android and Windows Mobile users as well. Check out these other versions, people, and report in on how well they work for you!

All of this does of course assume that you have a valid account on whatever library system you’re checking out books from, so be sure and handle that separately from getting the app installed. You may need to hunt around a bit to find a library system you can use, if your local one doesn’t support electronic checkouts. Y’all please feel free to report in on what library sites you like, whether or not they allow checkouts from persons who don’t live in the area, and anything else you’d like to share!

As a last note, thus far my library experiences with ebooks are limited to the Nook and to my iPad. So if folks out there are aware of other systems that allow interesting ebook checkouts, share those too!


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!