If you’re completely new to the world of ebooks, this post is for you. There are so many options available now that it can be confusing for newbies. Kindle, Nook, iPad! Which is the best for you? If you’re not at least basically aware of the consequences of your choices, you can end up with a bad experience. But not to worry! This post will give you enough background on ebooks to get started. I’ve broken it into two sections, for those who already own a device that they want to read ebooks on, and for those who want to get a new device for ebook reading.
A. WHEN YOU ALREADY OWN A DEVICE
This is the process I recommend for you if you want to read ebooks on a device that you already own. This might be your smartphone, iPad or other tablet, or an eReader that you acquired in the past.
1. Do Not Buy or Download Any eBooks Yet
eBooks come in different formats, and not every format can be read on every device. Before you spend any money buying eBooks, follow the next few steps. This will save you money, time, and confusion.
2. Learn Which Types of eBooks You Can Use
If you have an eReader (like a BeBook, Cybook, Sony Reader) that’s not tied to a specific bookseller, the best thing to do is to go to the website that sells that device and look in the specifications to find out which ebook formats it supports. Also look for support for “DRM” (digital rights management) because without it, the types of ebooks you can use will be further restricted. Most eReaders can read PDF and ePub files and some can read additional file types like Mobi, txt, and others.
If you have an eReader (like a Kindle, Nook, or Kobo) that is associated with a specific bookseller you won’t have to worry about file types if you only purchase ebooks from that specific store. However, the Nook and Kobo eReaders can also read PDF or ePub files from other sources.
If you want to read ebooks on your iPhone or iPad, you can use iBooks, which is built into Apple’s system. By doing so you can easily get ebooks in the same manner that you download apps. You can also read PDF or ePub if you get an app that can handle those file types. In addition to that, big booksellers like Amazon and B&N have iOS apps that will let you read their ebooks without having to own a Kindle or Nook device.
If you have an Android phone or tablet, you can read Kindle and Nook ebooks with their respective Android apps. You can also read PDF or ePub if you get an app that can handle those file types.
3. Install Software/Apps If Necessary
E-Ink eReaders like the basic Kindle and Nook eReaders don’t need apps. But if you want to read on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device, you’ll need an app for reading ebooks. The best one to use depends on where you’ll buy your ebooks. I have explained this in more detail in previous posts: Best eBook Apps for iPad and iPhone, Best eBook Apps for Android
4. Find Out Where Your Type of eBooks Are Sold
Here are the basics:
If you have a Kindle then you must buy ebooks from Amazon.
If you have a Nook you can buy eBooks from Barnes & Noble or any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks.
If you have a Kobo you can buy eBooks from Kobo or any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks.
If you have an iPad or iPhone you can buy eBooks from iBooks, use the iOS app from Amazon/B&N/Kobo, or any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks (check DRM requirements – you might need a specific app).
If you have an Android phone or tablet you can use the Android app from Amazon/B&N/Kobo, or buy from any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks (check DRM requirements – you might need a specific app).
If you have another eReader (like a BeBook, Sony Reader, etc) you can buy eBooks from any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks (check DRM requirements – you might need a specific app).
If you have an off-brand cheaper eReader, you can probably use PDF and ePub ebooks, but you might not be able to use DRM-protected files. It’s vital that you check the specifications for your particular eReader.
5. Get eBooks!
Once you’ve done all of the research and learning above, go forth and buy ebooks from your chosen book store.
B. WHEN YOU DO NOT YET OWN A DEVICE
This is the process that I recommend if you don’t yet own a device for ebook reading, or if you’re not yet sure which device you want to use.
1. Do Not Buy an eReader or Tablet First
Don’t buy anything until you have a basic grasp on the options available.
2. Consider eBook Stores
My recommendation is to first figure out where you want to buy ebooks. This will narrow down your device choices. For example, if you really want to buy most of your ebooks from Amazon, you should get a Kindle. (You can also read Kindle ebooks on an iPad, iPhone, or Android device with the Kindle app). Likewise, if you really want to buy your ebooks from Barnes & Noble, you should get a Nook. (You can also use an iPad, iPhone, or Android device with the Nook app). The same goes for Kobo. If you like buying things from Apple and would like to buy your ebooks through iBooks, you should get an iPad. If you’re the type of person who wants to buy from smaller ebook websites, you can pick and choose from a few different sites like ebooks.com, ebookmall.com, or diesel-ebooks.com, as well as others. They will be able to support a lot of devices with the main exception being the Kindle. However, the process isn’t as streamlined as when you buy a specific type of ebook for a specific type of device, like a Kindle ebook for a Kindle eReader.
3. Based on Your Store Choice, Consider eBook Readers
Let’s say you decided that you’d really like to buy all of your ebooks from Amazon. That makes it pretty easy because you can get any Kindle model that you want. (Note that Kindle is not synonymous with eReader. A Kindle is the type of eReader sold at Amazon.com.) The same goes for Barnes & Noble — just get one of the Nook models. If you would like more variety, you could consider getting and iPad or Android tablet. That’s a great choice because you can use ebooks from a variety of sources, and you’ll also have a fully functional tablet computer that you can use for web browsing, movies, or whatever else.
4. Buy Your Chosen eReader
Once you know where you want to buy your ebooks and what kind of device you want to use for reading, go get your eReader!
5. Install Software/Apps If Necessary
Depending on what kind of device you’ve chosen, you might need to install an app or other software. E-Ink eReaders like the basic Kindle and Nook eReaders don’t need apps. But if you want to read on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device, you’ll need an app for reading ebooks. The best one to use depends on where you’ll buy your ebooks. I have explained this in more detail in previous posts: Best eBook Apps for iPad and iPhone, Best eBook Apps for Android
6. Get eBooks!
Go forth and buy ebooks.
I hope this guide is helpful for ebook newbies. If you have any more tips for someone who is completely new to ebooks, leave them in the comments.
ACSM files (files that end with .acsm) often cause confusion for those who are unfamiliar with them. This post will tell you what you need to do to open them.
- ASCM files are part of Adobe’s eBook DRM.
- ACSM files are not supposed to be the full eBook. They are small files that manage the download of the eBook.
- ACSM files are made to be opened with Adobe Digital Editions. This is a free program from Adobe that was created for their eBook DRM. Get it here.
- To open an ACSM file, simply double-click it, and it should open in Adobe Digital Editions if you have that program installed.
- Opening the ACSM file in Adobe Digital Editions will allow it to continue your eBook download. When it’s finished you’ll have a PDF or ePub file.
If you’re downloading an .acsm file, it’s probably an eBook with DRM, so you should also make sure that Adobe Digital Editions is properly authorized. I have a post that explains this process for you. Authorizing your copy of Adobe Digital Editions with an Adobe ID will allow you to use your eBook on more than one computer as well as your mobile devices that support Adobe’s DRM.
ACSM files on iOS, Android, or eReaders
Sometimes people will try to download a DRM-protected PDF or ePub directly to their iPhone/iPad/eReader/Android device. That won’t work because the .acsm file can’t be opened in any apps on those devices. The eBook must be downloaded to your computer first, through Adobe Digital Editions. There is no version of Adobe Digital Editions for iOS, Android, or eReaders. After you’ve downloaded the ebook to your computer, you can then transfer it to your device.
Convert .acsm to PDF?
Often when people are unfamiliar with .acsm files they think they should convert the file to a PDF. This is not possible, and it arises from the mistaken assumption that the .acsm file is the eBook and they’ve somehow downloaded a weird file type. If you have an .acsm file, the only thing you can do is open it with Adobe Digital Editions. That will continue the eBook download process, and once that’s finished, you’ll have your PDF/ePub file.
It’s easy for your computer’s file associations to get messed up when you try to open a file in the wrong program. If you’ve downloaded an .acsm file and you tried to open it in, for example, Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat, you might have checked the little box that says “Always open files of this type in this program”. If you did that, you’ve screwed up your file associations and .acsm files will always try to open themselves in the wrong program.
To fix this, you’ll need to edit your file associations. Instructions on now to change file associations on a Mac | Instructions on now to change file associations on Windows Vista & 7
How To Open ACSM Files
There are always three ways to open a file on your computer:
1. Double-click it. It will open in the program that your computer has associated with that file type. See above if you’ve associated .acsm files with the wrong program.
2. Right-click it. Right-click the file, go to “Open With”, and choose Adobe Digital Editions.
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 file on your computer. It should be in a folder called My Digital Editions, which is in the main Documents folder.
Get some free ebooks!
Today the folks at Bluefire posted a nice set of instructions for installing Bluefire Reader on your Kindle Fire. The instructions go like this:
The instructions below guide you through the steps for installing Bluefire Reader for Android on your Kindle Fire. Note that you should open this page in the browser on your Kindle Fire before you begin.
- Tap “Settings” on your Kindle Fire (it’s the icon that looks like a gear)
- Tap “More”
- Scroll down until you see “Device”
- In the Device tab, set “Allow installation of Applications” to ON, and tap OK when you see the Warning prompt
- Tap here to download the Bluefire Reader APK (the Android app)
- Once the app has finished downloading, tap the Menu icon at the bottom of the screen and tap Downloads
- Tap on the file named “BluefireReader.apk”
- The Fire will ask if you are sure you want to install the app…
- Tap “Yes”
- The installation process will start…
- After the installation is complete, look for Bluefire Reader in your Apps collection
2) The latest version of Bluefire Reader (Version 1.2.3) will be installed on your Kindle Fire. However, the app is not automatically updated. You will need to check back here from time to time to see if there’s an updated version of Bluefire Reader for Android available.
3) This shortcut is offered as is–without any warranties or support.
This is fantastic for users because it means you can read your Adobe DRM ebooks (PDF and ePub) on your Kindle Fire tablet. But while this is an excellent set of instructions for side-loading Bluefire Reader onto your Kindle Fire, I wonder if it’s too complicated for the average user. They even include a note saying that they’re not going to offer support for this. If you have tried this, what did you think of it? Was it easy or difficult for you to do?
It’s really unfortunate that Amazon (and Barnes & Noble as well) aren’t allowing all apps from the Android Market to be installed on their tablets the normal way. In wanting to force people to use their own apps they’re just crippling their own devices.
There are lots of people who unwrapped shiny new eReaders over this past Christmas weekend. This blog is largely written for those who are new to the world of ebooks and e-reading devices, so I try to help folks out with learning the basics.
Perhaps the best place to start might be with my post of eBook Terms for Newbies. That will help you get familiar with some commonly used terms that you might not have been aware of before. Making yourself comfortable with those terms will help you when you start trying to follow instructions for downloading ebooks and using your eReader.
Last year I wrote a post titled “You got an eBook Reader as a gift. Now what?” It gives you a solid set of guidelines to use when learning how your new eReader functions. I really recommend reading that if you’re using your first eReader. The information will help you avoid many of the common problems that people run into, and it should also generally help you learn how to work with your eReader.
My “Top 5 Reasons Why Your eBook Isn’t Opening” is a good place to look when you’re having trouble. It covers hardware issues, software issues, and DRM issues.
If you need help with Adobe Digital Editions, or would just like to learn more about it before you use it, check out these posts:
Adobe Digital Editions — An overview of authorizing and using the program.
How To Authorize Your eReader for Adobe Digital Editions — Step by step instructions.
ACSM Files — What they are and how to work with them. Hint: they are not ebooks!
How To Change the Authorized Adobe ID — Learn how to switch the Adobe ID that your computer is authorized with.
If you’re using a new iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, and you want to read ebooks with Adobe DRM (that were not purchased through Apple’s iBooks) I recommend Bluefire Reader. My Bluefire Reader post has really detailed step-by-step instructions for how to authorize it and how to transfer your ebooks to your device through iTunes.
Likewise, if you’ve got a new Android toy (smartphone or tablet) you can take a look at my post about Aldiko, the recommended app for ebook reading on Android.
If you’ve got pretty much anything other than a new Kindle, you can download some free ebooks here. That’s a great way to test out your eReader since if you make a mistake it won’t cost you anything.
Overall, here are my most basic recommendations for using a new eReader:
1. Learn which ebook formats your device is able to read.
2. Before buying any ebooks, make sure the website you’re using can support your eReader.
3. Take a moment to read your manual and learn the basic functionality of your eReader.
4. Always follow posted instructions! Don’t skip anything.
Google launched their ebook service a while ago, and I’ve been planning on writing a post about it but I hadn’t had a chance to thoroughly check it out until today. I wanted to find out which ebook formats the ebooks are offered in, which types of devices they can be used on, and what is involved in the downloading process.
When you first get to the ebooks section of Google Books, they show you a selection of three free ebooks that are already in your account. I chose Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to use for my testing. The first thing I did was click on the cover image shown, and that brought me to the online reading option, where you can read the ebook in your browser.
This is a screen capture showing where the default three free ebooks are shown on your initial visit to the “Google eBookstore” storefront:
The images at the top change every time I go there, so you probably won’t see a screen that looks exactly like this.
I clicked the image for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and was taken to the online version of the ebook, which looked like this:
That’s nice, but not exactly what I was after. I clicked the “< Back” link at the top of the page, and was taken to the main overview page for the ebook that has reviews and other information. That looks like this:
Clicking the big blue “Read Now” button on that page took me back to the online reading option. I figured it would, but I just wanted to test it out.
Next I clicked the “Read on your device” link to see what that would get me. It took me to:
It lists “Smartphones and Tablets” with Android and iOS as the options. Then “Laptop and computers” which just takes you back to the online reading option. Last is “eReaders and other devices” with EPUB and PDF options. These can be read on devices like the Sony Reader, Nook, BeBook, etc. Google doesn’t mention it on this particular page, but they can also be read on Android or iOS with the appropriate ebook apps.
I decided to download the EPUB version:
It chose Adobe Digital Editions as the default program to open the file. That might not happen on your computer. I have Adobe Digital Editions set to be the default program for EPUB and PDF files because, as you probably know, part of my work involves that program. This is what it looked like when the ebook opened in ADE:
For some reason the cover image is way too large. The text of the ebook was normal, though.
Next I decided to get the iPhone app.
Clicking the “Download app” button is supposed to launch iTunes. This started about a half hour’s worth of work with iTunes, which is one of the reasons why I stopped using my iPhone about a year ago. Anything I have to do in iTunes is very slow and tedious. It took about five minutes before it even launched, and after that it wanted me to download an update to iTunes. After that it wanted to sync and backup the iPhone, and after that it wanted me to restart the computer, at which point I had to save all of the screenshots that I’d been gathering for this post, bookmark the Google books iPhone app page, and restart.
Once I returned from the restart, I had to go back to Google Books and start the app download again. This time I was able to download the app, and then send it to the iPhone. This is what you get in iTunes:
You start the download by clicking the “Free App” button.
What I really wondered at this point was whether I’d be able to download ebooks directly from within the app, or if I’d have to download them to my computer and then use iTunes’ file transferring ability to send them to the iPhone.
Upon opening the Google Books app for the first time, it asked me to sign in with my Google account.
After signing in, I was shown the same three free ebooks.
I chose Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and got a normal-sized cover screen, and then the rest of the book, which all worked fine.
Now I wanted to find out how buying an ebook would work. Tapping the “Get eBooks” button takes you to the Google Books website. I decided to download a sample ebook, and I was instructed me to sign in again. After that I got a screen saying that the sample was now in my library, with a “Read Now” button.
I tapped the “Read Now” button, which took me back to the Google Books app, and the sample began to download.
This particular sample that I got was basically just a table of contents. That might have been disappointing for someone who actually wanted to evaluate the ebook. But that wasn’t the point in this case — it answered my question regarding whether I would be able to download ebooks directly into the iPhone. Between a combination of the iPhone’s browser and the Google Books app, that was successful.
The process for the iPad will be pretty much the exact same thing. I don’t have an Android device so I can’t provide any kind of walkthrough on that, but I’m sure it’s very similar to any other Android app.
Google eBooks Summary
All in all, Google Books seems to be a competent ebook delivery system. I like the fact that it is not tied to or dependent on one particular device. Everything I did went smoothly except for the use of iTunes, but that is not the fault of Google. You won’t have to deal with that on an Android device or a dedicated ebook reader.
I don’t know how Google is handling technical support issues. Google doesn’t strike me as the type of company that has a great customer support system, mostly because they are such a large entity and most of their services don’t require direct communication with their users.
Since I only downloaded a free ebook and a sample, I didn’t run across DRM. I do know that Google allows publishers to determine whether DRM will be on their ebooks, and Google supports Adobe Content Server 4 for those publishers. That means that what I’ve covered in the past for Adobe Digital Editions will apply to those downloads.
I’d recommend Google Books for reading ebooks on any of the devices that they support. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it above other ebook systems, but it’s certainly worth giving a try.