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how to read ebooks

Ebooks and Ereaders

How to read ebooks, 2015 edition, Part 2: Android

This is the second post in my updated series on how to read ebooks, reflecting my knowledge of what’s available as of 2015. The previous post was on reading ebooks on iOS. This one will cover how to read books on Android devices.

When I say “Android device”, what do I actually mean?

First things first: Android users know that, of course, their devices come in far greater varieties than iOS ones do. This is simply because Android as an operating system is not limited to any specific device. The ones I have immediate experience with are Google Nexus ones and Samsung ones, both phones and tablets.

But, anyone who has half an eye on the various ereaders that are available today will also know that many of the non-iOS tablets are in fact running some form of Android on them. This is particularly true of the Samsung Galaxy Nooks, which are straight-up full Android devices, albeit with Nook apps installed along with Samsung’s own proprietary stuff.

Kindle Fires, on the other hand, are running a heavily mutated version of Android that Amazon calls FireOS. Likewise, the older Nook HD runs a mutated version of Android that uses a proprietary B&N launcher.

So for purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that “Android device” means “any device that’s running a full install of the Android operating system, as opposed to a proprietary version specific to a given ereader”.

With that established, let’s talk about your reading options.

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Ebooks and Ereaders

How to read ebooks, 2015 edition, Part 1: iOS

A while back I did a series of posts about how to read ebooks. But this is a fast-moving technology, and a lot of what I said in those posts is now no longer precisely true. So since digital books continue to be highly relevant to my interests (because hi, yeah, Victory of the Hawk and Bone Walker are both now available in digital form!), I wanted to do some newer posts to reflect my updated understanding of your options if you want to read books in digital form.

This post will focus on reading on iOS. Subsequent posts will cover Android, desktop computers, what your current options are for dedicated ereading devices, ebook subscription services, and checking ebooks out from the library. I’ll add other topics by request or as I think of them.

And this post is long, so most of it will go behind a fold!

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Ebooks and Ereaders

How to sideload a mobi file to Kindle on an Android device

When Victory of the Hawk dropped in April, a friend of mine in Kentucky won the draw I did for the entire trilogy. Which was all YAY! So I set her up with EPUB copies of the three novels, and also told her that if she wanted to read them on a Kindle device or app, I could convert them to MOBI as well.

However, we ran into a snag. Linda told me that she was having trouble getting the MOBI files into the Kindle app on her device–which in this case was a Samsung Galaxy Android tablet. Since I happen to have one of those as well (i.e., the Samsung Galaxy Nook), and since I am after all a QA Engineer in the day job, I decided to see if I could repro her problem.

(This is kind of long, so details behind the fold!)

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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!

Ebooks and Ereaders

How to read ebooks, Part 6: How to check out library ebooks

This is part 6 of my posts on how to read ebooks. Here I’ll get into how to check out ebooks from libraries that support that, and what you need to be able to do this. Basically, you will need two things: Adobe Digital Editions, and an account with the library of your choice (which must be set up to do ebook checkouts).

I mentioned ADE in my previous ebooks post, so will just briefly repeat here that ADE is supported on Windows and Mac computers. (Linux users, you’ll have to run it via WINE, I fear.) It supports both EPUB and PDF files, and the list of ereaders it supports is over here. The major ereaders I’m aware of that ADE supports are the nook, the Sony readers, and the Kobo.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: the Kindle is NOT supported by ADE, and to the best of my knowledge, that’s because of Amazon using its own proprietary DRM format. So right now, Kindle users aren’t able to use ADE to check out library books. This may change if the Kindle picks up EPUB support, though. Kindle users, if any of you are aware of alternate means through which you can check out ebooks, drop me a comment and let me know!)

Now, in order to be able to check out books from an ebook-capable library, you will of course need an account with that library. You’ll want to check out the website of your local library and see if they have a “Downloads” or “Digital” or “Ebooks” section, and if so, you should be able to follow their procedures for getting an account set up. (Some libraries may allow out-of-area access to users who want to check things out over the net as well, so even if you don’t live in the area of a library you’re interested in, find their website anyway. You may still be able to get an account.)

Once you have ADE set up on your computer and an account with the library you want to get content from, you’ll basically want to follow the library website’s directions for how to check out a digital book. You’ll want to look for either EPUB or PDF files, depending on what ebook format you’re better able to read.

What you’ll wind up downloading though will be a stub file, not that actual book. Once you’ve downloaded that file, you’ll want to open ADE and then doubleclick the stub file download, so that ADE can then open up the actual book with the timestamp on it that says how long you’re allowed to have it. (Note: On my system, I’ve had to be careful to open ADE first, otherwise I get error messages that claim I need to download an update I don’t actually need. Your mileage may vary depending on your system.)

Once ADE has the book, you can read it right there on your computer. However, if you want to copy it down to your ereader, you can also do that via ADE. If your ereader is plugged into one of your computer’s USB ports, ADE should see it (one more note: you may need to plug in the device first and then launch ADE; I have that problem with my nook). And if ADE can see it, you should be able to just copy the library book right down to the device.

And then you can read! You should be able to use ADE to delete the file off the device when you’re done with it, and you can also use ADE to “return” the book as well.

For the next post in this series, I’ll talk a bit about various technical differences between devices I’m familiar with, and how difficult it is to get books onto them.

Ebooks and Ereaders

How to read ebooks page added!

It occurred to me that I should have a top-level page about how to read ebooks on my site, so I have now added one. If you hit the index, you should see it now on the menu.

If you like, please feel free also to refer people interested in the topic to

Comments on all the posts welcome, and I’ll edit and update the posts to reflect any errors I might have made. Please especially feel free to share your experiences with the reader clients of your choice on my previous post, folks!