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The Top 5 Reasons Why Your eBook Isn’t Opening — #4: The DRM Has Gone Wrong Over Time

This is an article series that will explain the most common reasons why ebook users have trouble opening an ebook that was purchased from an ebook retail website. Most of these issues are easily avoided by simply following your download instructions, installing the software you need, and making sure that you’re using the correct ebook format for your eReader. This post covers reason #4: The DRM Has Gone Wrong Over Time.

This particular problem arises when you’ve purchased an ebook in the past. You might run into trouble if you try to use the ebook on a new computer/device, a computer that has had its operating system upgraded/reinstalled, or if you’re simply trying to re-download an ebook that you’d previously lost or deleted.

Like we have in the previous articles, let’s consider this issue in terms of Adobe’s DRM, since Adobe provides the most prevalent DRM system for ebooks. Adobe does allow users to re-download previous purchases and to use their ebooks on multiple computers and devices. However, Adobe’s DRM system must be worked with properly if you want this to work.

Before you download an Adobe ebook for the first time, you must “authorize” Adobe Digital Editions with your Adobe ID. If you do that, then you can authorize Adobe Digital Editions on other computers with the same Adobe ID, and Adobe will allow you to use your ebooks on those computers as well.

Some people try to skip all of that and just email the ebook to their other computer, transfer it via a thumb drive, or something similar. That is exactly what the software is set up to prevent you from doing. The whole purpose of the DRM is to prevent people from sharing the file with others. Whether or not you agree with this is pretty much irrelevant. It is what you have to deal with right now if you want to use Adobe ebooks.

If you don’t authorize Adobe Digital Editions with the same Adobe ID on each computer, you will probably get an error message that says “ebook already licensed to a different user” or some variation on that text. If you’ve gotten that type of error message, you will have to go back to the beginning of the process and start over.

First, install Adobe Digital Editions on the computer where you want to read the ebook.

Second, authorize it with the same Adobe ID that you used when you downloaded the ebook for the first time. (If you did not authorize Adobe Digital Editions with an Adobe ID before you downloaded the ebook for the first time, then you have effectively forfeited your right to use the ebook on multiple computers.)

Third, return to the ebook store where you purchased the ebook, and download it from there to the computer where you want to use the ebook.

If you suspect that you’ve authorized Adobe Digital Editions with the wrong Adobe ID, you can redo your authorization. Learn how to de-authorize and re-authorize Adobe Digital Editions here.

The next installment in this series will be #5, the final part. See all posts in this series.

The Top 5 Reasons Why Your eBook Isn’t Opening — #3: You Didn’t Follow The Proper DRM Procedure

This is an article series that will explain the most common reasons why ebook users have trouble opening an ebook that was purchased from an ebook retail website. Most of these issues are easily avoided by simply following your download instructions, installing the software you need, and making sure that you’re using the correct ebook format for your eReader. This post covers reason #3: You Didn’t Follow The Proper DRM Procedure.

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. It is software security that prevents an ebook, audio MP3 file, or other digital media, from being distributed for free. Most book publishers will not sell their books in ebook format without this security because they are concerned about copyright protection and software piracy.

DRM can cause a lot of trouble for the end-users when they don’t understand how it works, but it can also be dealt with easily and with a minimum of hardship. In terms of ebooks, if a user wishes to read a DRM-protected ebook, he or she must first install a specific program that was created for the ebook format, and register it with a free account.

Adobe (www.adobe.com) provides the most prevalent ebook DRM system in use today: the Adobe Content Server. This DRM system protects both PDF and EPUB ebooks. I am only going to explain how to deal with this system in this article because it is the most widely used, and consequently the most misunderstood.

Before you buy any ebooks, you can identify those that are being protected by Adobe’s DRM by looking at the information posted on the website that sells the ebook. If the website mentions DRM, the requirement of Adobe Digital Editions, or specifies that the ebook can only be used on a specific list of e-reader devices, then you should definitely assume that you will have to use Adobe’s DRM if you purchase the ebook.

Before purchasing an Adobe ebook protected by Adobe’s DRM, follow these steps:

1. Find out whether your computer or e-reader device is supported by Adobe’s Content Server system.

Here is some information to get you started:

Adobe Digital Editions can be used on Windows (XP, Vista, 7) and Mac (10.4-10.6). It does not work on Linux.

Adobe has an official list of devices that they support. If your device is not on that list, do not bother buying an ebook for it if it is protected by Adobe DRM.

2. Install Adobe Digital Editions

Get it here: http://www.adobe.com/products/digitaleditions/

3. Create an Adobe ID

Do that here: https://www.adobe.com/cfusion/membership/index.cfm

4. “Authorize” Adobe Digital Editions with your Adobe ID

a. Open Adobe Digital Editions

b. Click on the Library button

c. Click on the downward arrow next to the word LIBRARY

d. Click “Authorize Computer”

After you complete these steps, you will be ready to purchase and download ebooks that are protected by Adobe DRM.

I have more information about how to work with Adobe Digital Editions in the Adobe Digital Editions category of this blog, such as what to do when you get an ACSM file.

The next article in this series will cover more information about how to deal with DRM issues when you’ve changed computers. See all posts in this series.

The Top 5 Reasons Why Your eBook Isn’t Opening — #2: You’re Using The Wrong Software

This is a series of five articles that explains the most common reasons why ebooks won’t open after they’ve been downloaded from an ebook retail website. Most of these issues are easily avoided by simply following your download instructions, installing the software you need, and making sure that you’re using the correct ebook format for your eReader. This post covers reason #2: You’re Using the Wrong Software.

Please consider this extremely common scenario: A person buys an ebook. He is so excited to download his new purchase / very busy and he wants this downloaded now – after all, he bought an ebook so that he could get it now and not wait for shipping / needs to get this downloaded right away for research, that he skips right over all of the download instructions and jumps straight into downloading the ebook. Then when he has it on his computer, it won’t open. He gets an awful error message and now nothing he does will work.

One of the most frequent explanations for this is that the user is attempting to open the ebook with the wrong software. The usual culprit is an Adobe program – either Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader. There is nothing wrong with those programs if you’re opening a regular old PDF file, but if you’ve purchased an ebook from a retail website, it is very likely that the file is protected by DRM. When that is the case, it means that the ebook must be opened with Adobe Digital Editions. No other Adobe software will work.

Now, that is assuming that the ebook purchased was in a format covered by Adobe’s Content Server – either PDF or EPUB. This person in our scenario might have purchased an ebook in an entirely different format, such as Microsoft Reader or Mobipocket. In that case, it would be really wrong to attempt to open that file in an Adobe program.

This entire problem can be avoided by reading and following the download instructions. All websites that sell ebooks will tell you which program is required to open the ebook. The best thing to do is to install that program before you even purchase an ebook. That way you’ll be able to verify that the program can run on your computer before you spend any money.

The next article in this series is going to cover another very common reason why your ebook isn’t opening: You Didn’t Follow the Proper DRM Procedure. See all posts in this series.

The Top 5 Reasons Why Your eBook Isn’t Opening — #1: You Have The Wrong eReader

This is an article series that will explain the most common reasons why ebook users have trouble opening an ebook that was purchased from an ebook retail website. Most of these issues are easily avoided by simply following your download instructions, installing the software you need, and making sure that you’re using the correct ebook format for your eReader. This post covers reason #1: You Have the Wrong eReader.

That might sound a little scarier than it actually is. I don’t want you to think that the ebook reader you bought for $200 is the wrong device. But in this scenario, the problem is that it might be the wrong eReader for the ebook format that you’ve purchased.

One of the first things you should do when get a new eReader is to learn which ebook formats it supports. This will be explained in the user manual. You can also look this up before you even purchase an eReader. It will be clearly shown on the website that sells the device. It might be displayed as “ebook formats supported” or “file types supported” or something similar.

Let’s look at a couple common examples:

Amazon Kindle: Amazon is pretty restrictive about the file types that you can use on a Kindle. Kindle ebooks that you purchase from Amazon are in the AZW file format, and those ebooks are not sold anywhere other than Amazon. If you’ve purchased an ebook on a website other than Amazon.com, it is likely that it will not work on the Kindle. In that case, you’ve got the wrong eReader for the ebook that you bought.

Barnes & Noble Nook: The Nook is a lot less restrictive, and you can purchase ebooks for it from many different websites. The best formats to are PDF and EPUB. There are a lot of other ebook formats out there, though. Microsoft Reader, Mobipocket Reader, and Palm eReader, just to name a few. With some rare exceptions, if you’ve bought one of those ebook formats, then you have the wrong eReader.

You can easily extrapolate this to whichever eReader you own. If you have an ebook that won’t open on it, the #1 most likely reason is that you’ve got the wrong eReader for that ebook. The only solution for this is to put that ebook onto an eReader that will support that file type. Or, of course, purchase the correct ebook format for your device in the first place.

The next article in this series will cover the second most common reason why your ebook isn’t opening: you’re using the wrong software. See all posts in this series.

You got an eBook Reader as a gift. Now what?

eBook Reading devices were a popular gift item this holiday season. There was a lot of hype surrounding them because some new ebook readers were released and others were being sold at special low prices.

If you got an eBook Reader as a gift, you might not know what to do with it. It will be very important that you learn how to use your device and do some preliminary research before you buy and download any ebooks. Please use the following steps as a guide.

1. Do not buy the first ebook you see.

It might be temping to Google one of your favorite books and try to download it as an ebook, but please don’t do that before you’ve learned more about how ebooks work. You will only cause yourself a headache.

2. Determine which ebook formats and file types your device supports.

Your ebook reader device came with a manual or a user guide. READ IT. You don’t have to read it cover-to-cover, but find the part that specifies which file types your device can use.

You should also be able to find this information on the website for the device. Look for sections called “specs” “tech specs” “features” or something similar.

For example, if you have a BeBook Neo you would go to mybebook.com and find the information for the Neo.

I have posted information about supported file types for many popular devices on my eReader Comparisons page. Look under “File Formats Supported” for each device.

3. Try to find a free ebook in a supported format to try out.

Most ebook readers support PDF files. My colleague at Literature & eBooks recently posted a link to a free download of “The Gift of the Magi” for Christmas. You can still download it for free.

BIG DISCLAIMER: Free ebooks usually don’t have DRM* so they do not behave the same way as an ebook that is protected by DRM. For example, you won’t have to “authorize” your device or software. By testing out your eBook reader with a free ebook, you can make sure that the standard file type works on your device, but you won’t yet be completely set up for ebooks that you purchase.

4. Learn how to transfer the ebook from your computer to your device.

Once you know the file types that are supported by your device and you have an ebook in that format, you need to know how to get it from your computer to the device. The best place to find instructions for this is in the user guide or manual.

Most of the time, you will need to connect the device to your computer via a USB cable that it came with. Your computer will recognize the device similarly to how it would recognize a thumb drive or external hard drive.

5. Find an eBook store that sells eBook formats that are supported by your device.

If you have a Kindle, you will need to purchase Kindle ebooks from Amazon. Do not attempt to purchase ebooks elsewhere, because 95% of the time they won’t work.

If you have another dedicated ebook reading device like a Nook, BeBook, Cybook, Kobo, or Sony Reader, then you can buy ebooks from just about any ebook retailer. Some good retailers include ebookmall.com, diesel-ebooks.com, fictionwise.com, and ebooks.com.

You can also purchase ebooks from the same company that makes the ebook reader if it also has an ebook store. For example, if you have a Nook then you can get ebooks from Barnes & Noble.

6. Verify that your device is supported by the ebook store.

Don’t assume that an ebook that you buy at an ebook retailer will work on your device. It is very important that you check all of the product details before placing an order.

If you know that your device can use PDF and EPUB files, then double-check to make sure that the ebook you want to purchase is indeed in that format. If you can’t figure it out, email the company to make sure.

7. Install and authorize any required software before making a purchase.

There is one more layer of double-checking the format that you must do. It is vitally important that you determine whether the ebook you want to buy has DRM on it or not.

For example, many devices support PDF and EPUB files. Those two formats have become the most common and are generally the standard. However, the publisher of the book most likely has required that DRM be present on the download. This means that you will have to use a program called Adobe Digital Editions to download the ebook and manage the transfer of the ebook from your computer to your device. You will need to download Adobe Digital Editions and authorize it using an Adobe ID. Please see my post about Adobe Digital Editions for specific instructions on how to work with this program.

Or, you may be working with a different file type, such as a Mobipocket eBook or a Palm eReader eBook. Check out the other types of ebook software that I’ve reviewed for more information.

8. Follow all download instructions to the letter.

Even if you think you have the software that you need, or you think you don’t need to create a special account, go ahead and follow the instructions anyway. In most cases, you really do need to do what you are being told to do. eBook retail websites don’t give you unnecessary instructions. If you ignore the instructions you will mess up your download.

9. Use these steps as a guide but use your own judgement and follow posted instructions.

These steps are very general. I can’t give you specific instructions here because I don’t know what kind of device you have. Always read your manual and follow the instructions given to you by the website where you are buying your ebooks.

* What is DRM?

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. It is the method by which ebooks are protected from being distributed freely to others. The software ties the ebook to your account so that you can’t give it away. The details will vary depending on the software. This security is required by book publishers because they want to protect their copyrights.

Are eBooks Printable? Should They Be?

Are eBooks Printable?Here is the quick answer: Most ebooks are not printable, and if you’re not sure whether an ebook is printable, it’s best to assume that it is not.

This question regarding whether ebooks are printable or not seems to have become less of an issue over the past year or two, as more ebook reader devices have become available and as they have become more popular. Before that, ebooks were being used on the computer more than they are now. Also, people would often purchase an ebook with the intent of downloading it to their computer and then printing a copy.

Personally, I think that’s pretty silly. I am guessing that the idea behind this method is that you could buy an ebook and print it faster than you could buy a paper book and wait for it to be delivered. But when you consider the cost of printer paper and printer ink, I don’t think it makes much sense.

Another situation that might lend itself to printing an ebook is when an independent author has self-published his/her book as an ebook, but it’s not available as a paper book. In that case, a person might be interested in the content of the book but not want to read it on a screen. In this situation, printing an ebook makes a little more sense, but it still seems like way too much trouble to me.

The majority of ebooks that you’ll buy are not printable at all. Let’s consider each popular ebook format separately:

Kindle AZW Format:

I don’t own a Kindle or use Kindle ebooks (I have a BeBook Neo) so I’ve never tried to print a Kindle ebook. However, I searched Amazon’s Kindle Help section and I couldn’t find any information about printing at all. This leads me to believe that Kindle ebooks don’t have a printing function. Since they are designed to be read on Kindle devices, or other Kindle apps for your computer or mobile devices, it makes sense that a printing function would not have been built into the software.

Microsoft Reader Format:

Microsoft Reader ebooks are not printable at all. Microsoft did not build a printing function into the software.

Mobipocket Reader Format:

Mobipocket Reader ebooks are not printable at all. Again, Mobipocket did not build a printing function into the software. This makes sense because even though Mobipocket ebooks can be read on a Windows PC, they were primarily designed for reading on mobile devices like Blackberrys, Windows Mobile, Palm OS, etc.

Palm eReader Format:

Again, same story. There is no printing function because this software was designed to be used on mobile devices.

EPUB Format:

EPUB ebooks are printable by default. If the EPUB file is being protected by DRM, such as with Adobe’s Content Server DRM, then the publisher of the ebook can disable the printing function. If you’re not sure whether this has been done, it’s safest to assume that you won’t be able to print the ebook. Don’t buy an ebook with the intention of printing it if you’re not sure whether you will be able to print it.

PDF Format:

PDF is the most likely candidate for printing, but you still have to make sure that printing hasn’t been disabled by the publisher of the ebook. When a PDF file is created with Adobe Acrobat, the creator of the file can change the document security so that printing is not allowed. (Other features can also be disabled, such as the ability to copy text from the document.)

Other Formats like Word, txt, HTML:

Microsoft Word files, plain text files (.txt) and HTML files are printable. But like I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t consider these files types to be real ebooks.

Should eBooks Be Printable?

My answer is: I don’t think that ebooks need to be printable. One of the main differences between an ebook and a paper book is that the ebook is not printed on paper. If you buy an ebook and then print it, you lose some of the benefits of ebooks like the fact that they don’t use up trees, and the fact that they are digital files that don’t take up physical space.

Many book publishers don’t want their ebooks to be printable because they are concerned about copyright violations. Printing an ebook multiple times with the intention of re-selling it is much easier than scanning a book and then printing off multiple copies.

There are some cases in which an ebook needs to be printable. Some ebooks contain maps, charts, or other graphics that might need to be printed. There are also ebooks that contain plays or sheet music that might need to be printed by the person who is using them. In those cases, it is important that the book publisher leave the printing function available for the consumer. But like I said above, if you are buying an ebook with the intention of printing it, check with the seller before placing your order.

In a nutshell, you can determine fairly easily whether an ebook will be printable or not if you consider the format of the ebook and whether or not it is protected by DRM. If the ebook is EPUB or PDF, it will probably be printable if there is no DRM present. If the ebook is in a format that was designed for use on e-readers or other mobile devices, then it is not printable. If you’re buying a current popular ebook from a mainstream ebook retailer, you should assume that the publisher of the book requires DRM on the download, which will disable printing in most cases.

Bottom line: If you want a printed book, buy a printed book. Don’t buy an ebook.

ACSM Files – What they are and how to work with them

ACSM files are a source of much confusion for people who buy ebooks that are protected with Adobe DRM. I’m going to go over a few of the most frequently asked questions about these files, and I hope it will clear up the mystery for everyone.

What is an .acsm file?

ACSM stands for Adobe Content Server Manager. That name gives a clue as to the purpose of these files — they are download manager files. They manage the download of your ebook.

The majority of the time, you don’t even see the .acsm file when you download an Adobe ebook. Usually the only time you see it is if you haven’t properly set up Adobe Digital Editions, or you don’t even have it installed. I can’t stress this enough: before you buy Adobe ebooks, whether PDF or EPUB, install the software you need! If you haven’t installed the correct software for any file type, your computer won’t know what to do with it.

If you do have Adobe Digital Editions installed and authorized correctly, then you won’t even see the .acsm file at all. It will do its job in the background of your ebook download. The purpose of this file is to communicate with Adobe’s content server and register the ebook to the Adobe ID that you have used to authorize ADE. If you don’t know how to do the authorization process, read my post about it.

What is the purpose of associating an ebook with your Adobe ID? That is how Adobe’s DRM system allows you to use your ebooks on more than one computer or device. If you authorize Adobe Digital Editions with the same Adobe ID on each computer/device, it will let you download the ebook to each of those locations.

This might be a pain sometimes, but it is what we have to live with, at least for now.

How to convert .acsm to .pdf?

You don’t have to convert the .acsm file to another file format at all. That would be quite impossible. This question is based on the mis-assumption that the .acsm file is the ebook. It is not. Let me make that clear: the .acsm file is NOT supposed to be the ebook. It is just a little file that manages the download of the ebook.

The idea that you could convert an .acsm file to a .pdf file is based on the assumption that the .acsm file contains all the text of a book, and that it’s just in the wrong format. That might be true if it was a .doc file, or any other text-based file. That is not what an .acsm file is.

There is no need for you to do any conversion. If you have Adobe Digital Editions installed, then all you have to do is open the .acsm file with that program. Then, the ebook download will continue. When the download is finished, you will have your PDF file.

I tried to download my ebook and all I got was this 1.4 KB .acsm file! That can’t be the entire text of a book!

This is the standard freak-out message that people send. This is usually the result of a person skipping over all the posted software requirements and instructions. Any website that sells ebooks in Adobe’s DRM-protected format will tell you ahead of time that you must use Adobe Digital Editions. If you skip over all those instructions, and you don’t install the software you are told that you need, then of course your computer won’t know what to do with this .acsm file.

As I mentioned above, the .acsm file is NOT supposed to contain the entire text of a book. It is not the ebook at all. It is a small file that manages the download of the ebook through Adobe’s content server.

Still confused?

I hope not, but just in case you missed all of the information above, this is what you should do if you have an .acsm file: open it with Adobe Digital Editions. Do not attempt to open it with Adobe Reader, Acrobat, or any other program.

For the super-confused …

The next question I get from those who have ignored all posted instructions and ended up with an .acsm file that they don’t know what to do with is: But how do I open it with Adobe Digital Editions?

I really have to bang my head on my desk for this one.

Ask yourself this: how do you ever open any other file? There are always three ways:

1. Double-click it. It will open in the program that your computer has associated with that file type. If you have messed up your file associations and the .acsm file is trying to open in the wrong program (like Adobe Reader, for example) then you need to try a different method.

2. Right-click it. Right-click the file, go to “Open With”, and choose Adobe Digital Editions. If that doesn’t do it for you …

3. Open manually from inside the program. Open Adobe Digital Editions. In the upper left area, find LIBRARY. Click the downward arrow next to Library, and click on “Open”. Find the eBook on your computer. It should be in a folder called My Digital Editions, which is in the My Documents folder.

(Those instructions are for Windows, but if you’re on a Mac, you get the general idea.)

Summary

ACSM files are not ebooks.
ACSM files manage the download of Adobe DRM-protected ebooks.
Always follow the posted download and installation instructions for any software you purchase.
ACSM files must be opened with Adobe Digital Editions.

Get some free ebooks!

How To Choose an eBook Format

There are currently many different ebook formats from which to choose. As the ebook industry develops, the amount of formats will probably decrease, as some become standard and others fall away. We’ve already seen this happen to some extent with older e-readers being discontinued and their ebook formats disappearing with them.

These are the most common current ebook formats:

PDF — .pdf
EPUB — .epub
Microsoft Reader — .lit
Mobipocket — .prc
eReader (Palm) — .pdb
Kindle — .azw

There are other formats that can usually be read by e-reader devices, such as .txt and Word files, but I don’t really consider those to be actual ebooks. It’s nice that e-reader devices can display those types of files but they’re really just general text files that you use on your computer.

The best way to choose the format that’s best for you is to make your decision based on what kind of computer or e-reading device you’ll be using. Here is list to get you started:

PDF — Windows, Mac, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, Cool-er, Cybook, BeBook, Pandigital Novel
EPUB — Windows, Mac, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, Cool-er, Cybook, BeBook, Pandigital Novel
Microsoft Reader — Windows, Windows Mobile
Mobipocket — Windows, Windows Mobile, Palm OS, Blackberry, iRex iLiad, Nokia
eReader (Palm) — Windows, Mac, Palm OS, Windows Mobile, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad (Apple devices with Stanza)
Kindle — Amazon Kindle

You should always check the tech specs for your particular device to verify the ebook formats that it can use.

eBookMall has a useful comparison chart that shows many devices, the best ebook format for each, and some tech specs like size and weight. Also, there is a huge chart on Wikipedia that shows a comparison of devices and their supported formats.

I used to recommend that people consider whether they need to print the ebook when choosing a format, but so few ebooks are printable now that it’s almost becoming a non-issue. Your best choice for printable ebooks is PDF, but many (if not most) book publishers disable the printing function on their PDF files because they are concerned about copyright protection. In general, if you need a book on paper, it’s best to just buy the paperback.

The formats listed above are the most common that I’ve seen. If you have an e-reader that reads a different ebook format, please leave a comment and mention it. That might be helpful for others who are trying to figure out which ebook format they should use.

How To Change the Authorized Adobe ID

What do you do if your copy of Adobe Digital Editions is authorized with the wrong Adobe ID? This can happen if you’ve started using a different Adobe ID or you somehow messed up the authorization in the past.

If you’re trying to open an ebook when Adobe Digital Editions is authorized with the wrong Adobe ID, you’ll get an error message like: “License fulfilled by a different user” or something similar referencing licensing or authorization.

Important note: If you have some ebooks that do require your current authorization, those will become unreadable if you authorize with a different Adobe ID.

deauthorize

The first thing to do is deauthorize Adobe Digital Editions. This will remove your current authorization.

1. Open Adobe Digital Editions

2. On your keyboard, simultaneously press the Ctrl, Shift, and D buttons (if on Windows) or the Cmd, Shift, and D buttons (if on a Mac)

3. Click the “Deauthorize” button

Deauthorize Adobe Digital Editions

4. After this you should close Adobe Digital Editions, and then open it again.

re-authorize

If you’ve followed the steps above, your copy of Adobe Digital Editions is no longer authorized.

1. Open Adobe Digital Editions

2. Adobe Digital Editions will behave as if you’ve just installed it, and will prompt you to enter your login information for your Adobe ID. Use the Adobe ID account information that you want to use to authorize Adobe Digital Editions.

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