October is ebook appreciation month #1: How to borrow ebooks from the library

October isn’t really ebook appreciation month, but I’m sick of posts about horror books.

A lot of people talk shit about ebooks, but I think they’re great. I’ve been reading them since I got my first ereader in 2010, but I borrowed my first library ebook just a few months ago. Now, I almost always have a library ebook on the go. It’s a great way to try out a new author or genre, or sample an award’s longlist. Hot books from a season or two ago are easily accessed, and even new titles come up pretty quickly. I’ve even borrowed books I own in print, so I could easily count the number of times certain words appeared. It’s handy!

Some of my  recent library ebooks include Giller and Alberta Reader's Choice shortlisters

Some of my recent library ebooks include Giller and Alberta Reader’s Choice longlisters

Commercial ebooks are expensive (up to $15.99 – $21.99 for new titles) and trading epubs with friends is sketchy. Here are my tips on ereading for free.

How to borrow an ebook

Borrowing ebooks from the library is hard, especially if you are An Old like me. I tried following the instructions on my library’s website, but got hung up with an error in Adobe Digital Editions. I waited months before swallowing my pride and asking a librarian for help. She helped me find an older version of ADE that worked, and I was off to the races within minutes.

Even when it works, the process is pretty clunky. Your library or device may vary, but you’ll probably need to follow a process like this to borrow an ebook and read it on an ereader:

  • On a laptop or computer, go to your library’s website, sign in, and find yourself an ebook
  • Download an epub file
  • Open the epub file in Adobe Digital Editions (if it doesn’t work, try downloading an older version)
  • Connect ereader to computer
  • Move the epub from the computer to the ereader.

If you can’t figure it out: ask a librarian! I can’t stress this enough, people.

Advanced topics in ebooks

I figured out the basic borrowing process, but I still had questions. I followed my own advice and talked to a librarian. Thank you to Edmonton Public Library’s Pam Ryan for filling me in.

Why do libraries limit how many people can borrow an ebook at the same time?

Blame publishers! Pam said that “publishers set the limits and public libraries do their best to provide the best service we can within those restrictions.” EPL tries to maintain the some number of digital copies as paper copies, but it’s often much faster to get an ebook of a hot new release, I find. If you’re interested in how libraries are trying to make ebooks more accessible, check out Fair Pricing For Libraries.

Why is is so hard to borrow an ebook?

The Digital Rights Management layer (like Adobe Digital Editions) is what makes ebook borrowing such a pain in the ass, and prevents it from being seamless. But right now, it’s the only way libraries can lock down the access and control borrowing periods, as required by publishers. It is getting better though – even I figured it out! Eventually!

Do authors get royalties from library ebooks, like they do with print books? (in Canada, anyway – through the Public Lending Right)

Not yet, but they will as of 2016. So you’ll be supporting authors when you borrow from the library. It’s all good.

Ereading in Edmontonobyeg

This post was inspired by One Book One Edmonton, one of those whole-town-readalongs. If you’re in Edmonton, you can read an ebook of Etta and Otto and Russell and James by hometown girl Emma Hooper for free, but the process is a little different than described here. Stay tuned for more about that, or start reading, the first section is up!

Has borrowing ebooks changed your life? How do you eread?



  1. TJ @ MyBookStrings

    Seeing how ebook prices are creeping up, I know I’ll borrow more and more from the library (which, thankfully, has an ever-growing catalog of ebooks). My library recently switched to 3M for epub books, and with the app, it’s super easy to borrow.

  2. Karen

    What a great post! In fact, I loved it so much that I immediately went to my public library’s website to see how I can start borrowing ebooks 😉 Unfortunately, it looks like they’re only compatible with the Kindle Fire, whereas I’m using a different version of Kindle. Sad days!

  3. Naomi

    I don’t know if I’ll ever own an ebook, but that’s just me. But, I’m happy for others to borrow ebooks from the library, so the print versions will be there when I want them! 🙂

    • Kristilyn

      My problem with print books is that I’m TERRIBLE at returning them on time. Especially in the winter. And especially now with kids. Ebooks get automatically returned, which is great.

      • Naomi

        I can see that being a definite advantage if you have a hard time getting to the library. For me, returning books is a good excuse to go in and look around, even when I really don’t need anything more to read. 🙂

  4. Brie @ A Slice of Brie

    I read ebooks from the library on my phone all the time. It’s super easy to borrow on your phone (you have to use overdrive). You can even access the library directly from overdrive app so while I can’t compare to another device, on your phone, it’s pretty seamless.

    • lauratfrey

      You’re right, I didn’t address reading directly on your phone here because it’s not my preferred method… I am going to do another post about phone reading though. I just get annoyed by the screen blacking out before I’m done the page, but I bet I can change that in settings… and of course the battery life and backlighting isn’t as good.

  5. Pingback: Ebook appreciation month #2: One (e)Book, One City | Reading in Bed
  6. Kristilyn

    Oh my goodness, I read SO MANY books on my ereader right now, it’s ridiculous. However, holding a physical book and nursing a baby takes the kind of skills I don’t have. I LOVE that my library has Overdrive for ebooks. Plus, they have Hoopla. Both of those services gives me a HUGE selection of audiobooks and ebooks, which is wonderful, plus Hoopla usually gets the brand new music I like within the week its released. My sister-in-law who doesn’t use her library card gave me her info so I can log onto EPL which is fantastic and it gives me even more bookish goodness per month (since Hoopla for me currently only gives me 5 downloads a month – now I have 15!). EPL’s Overdrive selection is quite bigger than what I currently have access to AND I was going to sign up for my local library (since I currently sign up one town over since I worked at that library) to have even more ebook access. I think the wonderful thing about ebooks is that they’re automatically returned. If you have a hold on something, you’re going to get that book when it’s returned, it’s not going to get lost, and I think that helps the library. I think we’re pretty lucky where we are, too, that we have such great access to e-material since there are some libraries across the country that are sorely lacking in digital material for their patrons. Can you imagine if libraries were still in the dark ages? How we have evolved!

    • lauratfrey

      I never figured out the nursing/holding book thing either. I know people do and necessity would probably be the mother of invention there… pun intended 🙂

      It’s great when libraries do this kind of thing, because they’re all about access and not about profit…

  7. Pingback: Spring break at Edmonton Public Library: a guide for working parents | Reading in Bed

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