Public library ebooks – easier than you may think!

Feb 06 2011 Published by under libraries

I’ve maintained for a long time that ebooks are the wild west and a real mess. That has not changed a bit! If you got a Nook for a gift or have an iPhone, you can be pretty functional pretty quickly. First, I highly recommend checking out this blog: . It has lots of practical advice.

Now, why would you want to get ebooks from the publib? Mine has Mary Roach’s new book and the HeLa book plus things from Pinker and Tyson and Hawking – so fun science reading. It also has business and self-help books as well as lots of good fiction – all paid for by your tax dollars! No out of pocket costs to you. Typically you’ll need to visit a local branch in person at least once to get a card before you can just check things out online.

There are two big vendors for public libraries: Overdrive and NetLibrary. Overdrive seems to really be the biggest, but I suspect NetLibrary will make a comeback once their new evil empire owners really take control. (academic libraries have many, many, many more choices and I heard that ebrary is going for the publib market, but I’m not sure how that’s going).

For ereader devices like the Nook and the Kobo, you typically transfer library books over using the cable connected to your computer. In my case, I have Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) installed on my computer and authenticated to the same e-mail address as my Nook. When you set up your Nook or your ADE, you would have been asked to register at You can change either of these, but they have to match.

When you see an ebook on overdrive you want to read, you click to check it out and in my case, we can pick a 7-day, 14-day, or 21-day loan period. I understand that in the ritzy county to the north, they only get 14-day loans. Then you hit the download button and it shows up in ADE. In library view, you’ll see the cover with a little banner across saying 14 days left or whatever (the file will be there after 14 days, but you can’t open it). Then you plug your Nook or Kobo into the usb port and it appears in your ADE ( a little icon picture of the device), and you can drag your new book over and put it on the device. That’s easy.

If you have an iPhone or iPad, you could download the Overdrive app – but it’s gotten pretty poor reviews. Another option is to download the BlueFire app. Following the steps from before, when you hit the download button from your library’s overdrive site, you downloaded an .acsm file. E-mail that file to your iPhone. Open the attachment with BlueFire and voila! You now have the book on your iPhone. This doesn’t allow you to sync between your two readers, so you would have to remember your place.

It’s actually not so hard anymore. Give it a try.

4 responses so far

  • Zuska says:

    Wow, this is the first thing I have come across that makes me think having something like a Nook might be worthwhile...

    • Christina Pikas says:

      Maybe. You might also consider the ones that run the Kobo software (like Literati) - they're probably half the price.
      In any case, the ability to read library books is key and you can't do that on a Kindle.

  • Have you found any way to use library ebooks without Adobe Digital Editions? I'm looking for the privacy workaround.

    • Christina Pikas says:

      Bluefire is technically a workaround to ADE, but the privacy issues are the same. In my state, library records are protected by code. I'll bet that code doesn't extend to wherever ADE and Overdrive keep records.