Last week, I said we’d look into downloading books onto the Nook, but I realized that before I could do that I should do some research on e-books and especially library e-books.

The standard format for e-books is ePub (except for Kindles which use Mobi) although some ebooks use pdf.  There are many desktop, iOS, Android, and even Blackberry apps that read ePubs.  You can even find plugins so that you can read ePubs on your browser.  In general, any ePub reader will also be able to read a pdf.  ePub e-books are nice because they repaginate when you zoom in; they also let you change background color and have other cool features.  If you zoom in on a pdf, you have to scroll around to see the different parts of the page.

The problem is that (both public and academic) library e-books come with DRM or Digital Rights Management to limit copying, printing, and sharing of e-books since the library and not the reader owns the book.  Therefore, to read a library e-book, you need to have a reader that is compatible with DRM.  Adobe Digital Editions (for both Mac and PC) is the only desktop reader I can find that can handle DRM.  BlueFire (for both iOS and Android) also works with DRM as do the native applications on various eReaders (Nook, Sony eReader, etc. but not Kindle).

Libraries get their e-books from e-book distributors.  Public libraries general use OverDrive.  At Baylor, we mainly use Ebrary and EbscoBooks.  We also have a significant number of books from myLibrary, Safari (ProQuest), and Knovel.  We also often buy books directly from the publisher (Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, etc. for STEM books).

OverDrive generally has books in both ePub and Kindle formats and occasionally in pdf.  Not all Ebrary, EbscoBooks, or myLibrary books are downloadable.  If they are, they are in .pdf format and have DRM.  Sometimes, you can only download a chapter or a set number of pages at a time.  Ebrary also has both a desk application and a mobile app for both iOS and Android that can read pdfs but not ePub.  Ebsco has plans to make books available in ePub format and is developing mobile apps.  myLibrary allows downloads through Adobe Digital Editions.  Safari books are not downloadable unless you use the Safari iPad app which allows you to read one book at at time.  Knovel books often have interactive features which are only accessible through a web browser, but the text comes as unrestricted pdf.  Books we buy directly from the publisher are less likely to have DRM if they are downloadable.

Next week, actually reading library e-books on the Nook!