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Reading Adobe Digital Editions on your iOS Device

E-reader embedded in a print book

If you’re anything like me, you use your mobile devices to get a lot of reading done. I use Read It Later (yes, I’m mentioning it again) on my iPod Touch and iPad to time shift a lot of the interesting web pages that I find online throughout a day’s work. I’ve used both GoodReader (which Ethan has written about previously) and more recently iAnnotatePDF (Jason covered it) to read and annotate scholarly articles, as well as Word documents. And when I feel like it, I’ve got the Kindle app, iBooks, and others that allow me to read something that is both scholarly and fun. So reading isn’t all that hard on my iOS devices…except for one type of text: Adobe Digital Editions.

Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) are PDFs that have digital rights management (DRM) that restrict how the files can be used. DRM is used to prevent piracy, determine the length of time for a library loan, and more. And I’ve found it increasingly in use on scholarly e-books, ranging from the University of Chicago Press’s (awesome!) monthly free e-book to many of my university library’s e-books offerings. It’s not actually very difficult to read ADE on a computer, although you are required to download the ADE software. You must also authorize the computer that you are reading on with your Adobe account (which is free). It’s not the best software, but it works. But there’s not a version of Digital Editions for iOS devices. So how can you take your reading with you on the road?

Fortunately, there are two different apps for iOS that allow you to read ADE content: Bluefire Reader and txtr. Both of these apps are full-fledged e-book readers with storefronts where you can buy texts to read, but they also support ADE content that you can load yourself. In both apps, you will need to login with your Adobe ID. Getting the content onto the app differs, however.

Bluefire is definitely the easier of the two to work with. If you browse into an ADE-formatted text online, you will have the option of opening it directly into the app. If you’ve already downloaded your ADE-ified e-book, you can just move it to Dropbox. From within the Dropbox app, you will be able to open the file into Bluefire. That’s all it takes.

txtr requires a different pathway for getting content onto your device. You will first need to login to their website (necessitating a second login, on top of your Adobe ID), and then upload your files. Then you open the txtr app on your iOS device and download the files. It’s not a hard process, but it takes more time than I would like. Bluefire is definitely the winner in this category. Add to this the fact that I haven’t been able to figure out how to delete unwanted files from txtr, and I’ll pretty much recommend that you stick with Bluefire. The one advantage of txtr is that it’s available for Android devices as well as iOS.

ADE content comes with the same sorts of options, regardless of which app you are using to read. Both txtr and Bluefire support tables of contents for books, full-text searching, and resizing the text. You can also add bookmarks to what you are reading by clicking in the upper-right corner of the app. Bookmarks are then browsable by the page number on which you left them; Bluefire allows you the extra option of browsing bookmarks by the date on which you created them. It also boasts a night-reading mode.

While I’m on the subject of bookmarks, it’s important to mention that they do not sync between devices. So if you create them in the ADE software, they won’t be on Bluefire and vice versa. A still more important caveat is that if you are getting ADE-formatted content on loan (like from a library), it will expire after a certain number of days. You won’t be able to open that file on your computer or iOS device any more. If you check that book out again, it does not renew the license on the file that you already had. Instead, it downloads a completely new copy of the file. This means that any bookmarks you’ve created on the previous copy of the text are completely inaccessible. I have yet to find a way to recover them.

Given these foregoing problems of any ADE content (whether read on a computer or a mobile device), I’d advise you to try to avoid it whenever possible. But if it’s the only method to get what you need for your research, then you at least have some methods to take that reading on the go. Do you have experience reading Adobe Digital Editions on a mobile device? What tips and tricks can you share with us in the comments?

Electronic Book / Timo Noko / CC BY-SA 2.0

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