Friday, April 20th 2012
I have written a number of posts about reading ebooks on various devices, and in particular, reading them on my Blackberry smart phone and, more recently, on my iPod Touch – see, for example, More on ebooks (yes, more!) and the references therein. While this is extremely useful because it means that wherever I go, I have books to read, as long as I have my phone or my iPod with me, I have hitherto been limited to free books obtained from sites such as Project Gutenberg and ManyBooks.
The reason for this is that books you buy or download from your friendly local public library are DRM-protected and this means that you can read them only with applications that can accept your Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) login details. (Yes, you can get software that removes the protection but that’s a different topic that I leave for now.) It makes it impossible to move them from one device to another (say, from the PC to the iPod or Android tablet) unless these latter devices have DRM-enabled ereaders onboard.
On the iPod I have a very competent ereader called iBooks. With this I can read any book that is in the epub format. Unfortunately, it does not accept ADE login data. Quite by chance, I recently discovered another reader for the iPod called Bluefire. I installed it and tried it out. To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed with it because, although it’s as good as iBooks, it is not obviously better and therefore seemed to offer no particular advantage. But wait! I then noticed that it claimed to be able to register your ADE login details. Was this correct? If so, this could prove a very valuable advantage indeed.
The first thing was to enter my ADE details. You do this by opening the program and clicking on “Info” on the bottom right of the screen. This takes you to the “Authorize” screen where you can enter your Adobe ID and password. After a bit of chewing, it came back with the message that my account was now authorized. The next task was, of course, to try this out.
Barnet Libraries (where I used to work) now has a Digital Collection, accessible online. Books are DRM-protected and set to “expire” after 14 days. I logged in and chose a book more or less at random. It happened to be Vincent van Gogh: Portrait of an Artist, by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan. I “borrowed” this by adding it to my basket and set it to download. The download screen offered to open it in ADE, which I accepted. The book is quite a hefty download at over 9mb but it soon arrived and was ready for the next step.
I then opened my email client and emailed the book as an attachment to my iPod. When you open the email on the iPod, any attachment is displayed and what you need to do is hold your finger or your stylus on it until the “Open with” screen appears. From this I could choose Bluefire. After a few moments, Bluefire displayed its bookshelf with the library book on it. Would I be able read it?
I clicked on the book and… well, it opened! So I can now buy or borrow from libraries any books that are DRM-protected with Adobe Digital Editions and read them on my iPod. Brilliant!
Bluefire handles two formats, epub and PDF. However, books in PDF encoding are “hard formatted”, that is, the reader displays them with the pagination as it is in the original and cannot reformat it to fit the screen. This means that you either cannot read it because the font is microscopic or you zoom in and then have to keep scrolling right and left, up and down, to read the pages. By far the best solution is to use an application such as Calibre to reformat the book to epub. The reader can then handle it in the most convenient manner.