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eBooks: eBooks Basics - Software, Apps & Accounts

A guide to eBooks at the University of Winnipeg, including viewing, searching, and downloading eBooks in our collections.

Software, Apps & Accounts

In order to download eBooks with DRM (Digital Rights Management), you will need to sign up for an Adobe ID.

Why do I need an Adobe ID?

An Adobe ID is used to verify that your devices (computer, eReader, or mobile device like a tablet or phone) are authorized to view the eBook. If you want to view the same book on multiple devices (ie, download to your laptop AND phone), they will need to be authorized with the same Adobe ID. You can have up to 6 devices authorized with the same ID.

Software (such as Adobe Digital Editions) and apps (such as the Bluefire Reader) will usually need an Adobe ID entered in order to open eBooks.

How do I get an Adobe ID?

You will need to sign up by filling out a simple form. Remember which email address you sign up with, and what your password is!

What is the "Vendor ID"?

If you are prompted to choose a "Vendor ID" in Adobe Digital Editions or another program, select "Adobe ID".

Additional Accounts

Different eBook platforms may require for you to sign up for an account in addition to your Library account in order to access content (typically to download). We have specific instructions on ebrary and EBSCOhost.

Software for Computers

Most  eBook platforms have a way to display eBooks on-screen for reading (some may require installing a browser plugin). Additionally, many offer the option to download a chapter or range of pages as a PDF, which can usually be viewed with a simple PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader. However, if you are downloading a full eBook to read offline, you may require the below software in order to open the DRM (digital rights management) protection on it.

Adobe Digital Editions - required to view certain PDF files and the EPUB format on your computer, as well as to transfer to an eReader. Free download. Recommended for library book use. Requires Adobe ID.

Bluefire - a Windows (7&8) version of the popular app, which allows you to download PDF and EPUB format books and read them on your computer. Syncs with the Bluefire app, so you can keep your page between your computer and mobile device. Recommended if you want additional functionality. Requires Adobe ID.

Calibre - a library management tool and viewer that can handle PDFs and some EPUBs, without DRM (Digital Rights Management). Free download. Also able to synch with eReaders, and provides conversion options. Requires Adobe ID.

Apps for mobile devices

Some eBook platforms such as EBSCOhost have their own apps, which allow for viewing and dowloading of eBooks.You can also download the following apps to read and organize PDFs and EPUBs.

Bluefire Reader - a nice app capable of opening DRM PDF and EPUB files and organizing your eBooks library. Available for iOS and Android devices. Can sync with the Windows version.

Aldiko - another app for reading and organizing eBooks. Only for Android.

Conversion software

Calibre - also has the capability to convert files of different types to EPUB (with varying degrees of success).

Downloading on a Mobile Device

Mobile devices are those that can connect to wifi and install apps, such as smartphones, Andriod tablets, iPads, and other tablets. (Most black and white eReaders, even if they can connect to wifi, do not count. Pleease follow the separate instructions below if you have an eReader that cannot install apps.)

It is possible to view eBooks on-screen/online on mobile devices, as well as download apps for viewing books offline when possible.

1) Find a book

You may discover an eBook when doing a regular search, or you may look for eBooks on a specific platform (see eBooks @ U of W for more info). Click on the "Find Now" link to open the eBook.

2) View onscreen

The eBook should automatically open on your device. Depending on the eBook format, it may not work well with smaller screens. Some platforms, such as EBSCOhost, have their own apps for viewing content that you can install.

3) Download

Many publishers allow downloading a chapter of an eBook that you can store on your device, so you can read offline or at a later date. Some allow for the full download of a PDF or EPUB (see the Glossary) file of the book. Your mobile device mave have come with a PDF reader, but we recommend downloading one of the suggested apps for reading eBooks, and keeping your digital bookshelf organized.  In order to use these apps with DRM content, you will likely need to authorize them with an Adobe ID.

Note: PDFs on mobile devices can be difficult to read, as they are essentially a photograph of a page of a book, and can be quite small on smaller screens.

Due Dates

If you have checked out the eBook in order to download it, it will likely have a due date. Most PDFs, however, do not. You do not need to do anything to return the book by its due date - it will automatically stop opening on your device.

Most academic eBooks are designed to be read onscreen, so are well designed for computers. Additionally, some titles can be downloaded, so you can read eBooks offline, on either your personal computer/ laptop, or an eReader.

If you have an eReader that can't install apps (like most black and white ePaper readers, like the Kobo Touch), you will have to first download the book to a computer, then transfer to your eReader using software.

Reading/ Downloading on a Computer

1) Find a book

You may discover an eBook when doing a regular search, or you may look for eBooks on a specific platform (see eBooks @ U of W for more info). Click on the "Find Now" link to open the eBook.

2) View onscreen

The eBook should automatically open on your computer. You may be prompted to install a free browser plugin to read onscreen.

3) Download

Many publishers allow downloading a chapter of an eBook that you can store on your computer, so you can read offline or at a later date. Some allow for the full download of a PDF or EPUB (see Glossary) file of the book. You may have to create a separate account (in addition to your Library account) in order to download part or all of a book.

Your computer may have a PDF reader, such as Adobe Reader installed, which will work for PDF files. However, some platforms deliver books in EPUB or DRM protected PDF (see Glossary) formats, which require you to download and install the free Adobe Digital Editions software (or another form of computer software options) before you will be able to open the book. You will then need to authorize your computer with an Adobe ID.

Transferring to an eReader

4) Transfer to an eReader

After you have downloaded and opened a book in Abode Digital Editions, you can transfer the book to an eReader. Plug the eReader in, while Digital Editions is open.

*Note: On some eReaders, a message will appear on the device asking if you want to connect to the computer. Choose “connect”.

Once an initial device setup has run, your eReader should appear in the menu under Devices. Your eReader and computer must both have the same AdobeID to successfully transfer eBooks.

Due Dates

If you have checked out the eBook in order to download it, it will likely have a due date. Most PDFs, however, do not. You do not need to do anything to return the book by its due date - it will automattically stop opening. However, the title will still show up in Digital Editions (marked "Expired") and possibly on your eReaders as well; but you will not be able to read further. It is also possible to return eBooks early using the "Return" feature in Adobe Digital Editions.

DRM - DRM stands for "Digital Rights Management". It is one way publishers attempt to make sure eBooks are not copied or distributed to people who do not have permission to view them. DRM on eBooks can prevent users from opening an eBook unless their software is properly 'authenticated', and may mean that an eBook ceases to open past the date it is due.

Special software or apps are required to open eBooks with DRM on them, usually requiring an Abode ID as well.

DRM is set by the publishers of the eBook. It is not something the Library can change or remove.

PDF - PDF stands for "Portable Document Format". It is an easy and inexpensive way to make digital content available, but has limitations as an eBook format. PDFs are essentially images of an entire page, so the entire page (not just the text) needs to be enlarged, increasing the need for scrolling to see all of a page. This means that reading PDFs can be difficult on smaller screens, and some eReaders cannot open them. PDFs can have DRM protection on them, but most do not.

EPUB - EPUB is short for 'electronic publication'. This file format is more flexible than PDFs, as the text 'flows' similar to the way it does in Microsoft Work when you increase the text size. Most apps/ software that allow you to read in EPUB allow you to customize not just the size of the text, but things such as font or colour, to make reading easier. EPUB is read by most eReader software, except for Amazon Kindles. Many EPUB eBooks are protected by DRM, meaning you will need an Adobe ID to open them, but not all are.

MOBI - MOBI is the proprietary format that Amazon Kindle's use. Almost no library books in Canada are available in the MOBI format. Unless you have a Kindle Fire, which acts like a mobile device and can install apps, you will not be able to read Library books on your Kindle.

.acsm - This is an 'Adobe Content Server Message' file. It is not an eBook file in itself, it is just the way some eBooks are delivered. This file contains the authentication information necessary to open the eBook. You need Adobe Digital Editions to open this file type, and it should be opened rather than saved. Once this file is opened by ADE, the full download of the eBook will begin.

Mobile device - Mobile devices are those such as smartphones, Android tablets, iPads, and more that allow users to install "apps". Where you get apps will depend on what type of device you have.

eReader - eReaders come in a variety of forms. Some (such as the Kindle Fire and Kobo Arc) have shiny dark screens, wifi abilities, and are able to install apps. Most, however, have matte screens with black and white text (eInk), and even if they are wifi equipped are unable to install apps. These eReaders will require plugging into a computer to transfer files. Most eReaders will be able to open the formats that Library eBooks come in, but not all can open all formats.

eBook platform - Library eBooks are often hosted on eBook platforms - an interface for finding eBooks, and often viewing or downloading them.  Because the Library gets content from many different publishers, there are many different eBook platforms you make come across. Each is a little bit different in how it works, so be sure to explore! You can find some of the popular ones by going to the eBooks @ U of W tab at the top of this page.

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