How to Read Library E-books on the iPad – A Tutorial

Our Rating:

Price:free
Publisher:Bluefire Reader
Categories:iPad Books
Version:1.4
Try App:Download here
Reviewed on 02.20.11 by

We’re taking a short break from straight app reviews to walk you through how to load a library e-book on your iPad. Sounds like it would be straightforward, but no so. The topic came up through a comment thread on an earlier post, and I felt it was worth sharing. This is kind of a janky method – but the app suggested by libraries does not work on iPad. So until they fix it, or a credible book rental service comes on the scene – this is a good workaround. The solution I’m presenting today uses a free app called Bluefire, and I’ll run through what you need to start enjoying free e-books on your iPad!

Libraries Are Staying Relevant

(To jump straight to the instructions click here)

Most public libraries are getting on board with loaning e-books. From a survival standpoint, it’s a necessity. But it’s not just a last ditch effort to stay afloat – it’s a long term plan to stay relevant, just like when they transitioned from cassette tapes to CDs. And just like paper books, libraries have a finite number of e-books available per title. It may be as few as 1 so be prepared to wait your turn. The current industry standard for managing these licensed e-books is the ‘Adobe digital edition’. And there’s a companion app called OverDrive, which allows you to view these e-books on your desktop computer or mobile devices. If you’re tracking with me, no doubt your next question is – how do you return the e-book when your time is up? That’s the beauty of it: no more late fees. The book will simply stop working (aka self-destruct) when your loan time is up.

The Problem(s)

Since there’s an established desktop solution, I naively assumed that checking out e-books from the library to my iPad would be simple. Boy was I wrong. It came down to a host of problems with Overdrive: there’s no iPad app yet, so you’ll be installing the iPhone version. And just when it looks like you’ve made it, bam – error message. Lest you think ok, no problem..I’ll just sync it to my iPad and read it with iBooks – wrong again. The initial file linked from your library is essentially a padlock over the e-book. And it’s specific to Adobe. So most readers have no idea what to do with it. The cherry on top? The army of sweet librarians who want to help, generally aren’t experts on apple devices or apps either. So you’re pretty much on your own.

What You Need

  • A free account at adobe.com This is assuming that the books they offer at your library are Adobe digital editions. If they suggest Overdrive, then this should definitely work.
  • The free app called Bluefire – they have a version designed for the iPad. It will ask you to authorize it using your adobe account.
  • Delete OverDrive if you have it installed – for now, it appears to be completely useless and it will just interfere with Bluefire.
  • In Safari (on your iPad) load this tutorial in a new tab where you’ll go once you know the plan.

How to Make it Work

At the time of this writing, you can’t download library books from inside Bluefire; you’ll still have to use Safari on your iPad to access your library account. But the tutorial at pigsourdsandwikis.com will help set up the bridge between them. It’s called a bookmarklet – similar to a bookmark but a little more sophisticated. It remembers and performs a specific set of actions. In this case, when you’re ready to download an e-book, you’ll trigger the bookmarklet telling Bluefire to download the e-book into your iPad library.

A word of warning: the bookmarklet is tedious to set up, but you only need to do it once. And Safari’s interface has changed slightly since the tutorial was put together, but no matter. It works the same in the end. When it’s all done, you should see a new bookmark labelled ‘Overdrive bookmark’ in your iPad’s Safari bookmarks.

To set things in motion, go to the page in your library account where you can download the e-book. Instead of tapping the button to download, open your bookmarks and select the OverDrive bookmarklet. From there Bluefire will take over and give you another step or two – and then automatically open with your e-book sitting in its library. It’s worth noting that this method doesn’t work well when there’s multiple download links on a page. But hopefully your library will let you drill down to the individual book.

I was able to get this Bluefire solution working in about 5 minutes once I understood what it was doing behind the scenes. It may take longer depending on how accessible your library account is through Safari on the iPad. In the end, reading in Bluefire still isn’t as nice as iBooks but I’m hopeful that they’ll provide some updates to the app interface to make it more like the iBooks we know and love.

Good luck! And leave a comment if you found this helpful or if you couldn’t get it working using the directions.

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  • Moe Hong

    Have you tried the new Overdrive Media Console, which came out for the ipad a week or two after you wrote this? I think it addresses all your concerns … well, most of them at least.

  • Anonymous

    To be honest, it was so useless at the time I tried it that I uninstalled it. I’ll give it another try though. Figures… :)  

  • Burak2102

    So can you read rented books in bluefire readers?