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Bluefire Reader app unlocks your public library

by on December 16th, 2010

The iPad certainly doesn’t lack for book reading apps.

There’s the big two of course — iBooks and Kindle. Not far behind is Canada’s own Kobo. And there are others competing for their share of the limelight, like Stanza, Free Books, MegaReader and 100,000 Free Books.

Not too bad for a device produced by a company whose CEO once infamously said “the fact is that people don’t read anymore.”

Despite all these options, there’s good reason to add one more e-reading App — Bluefire Reader.

Bluefire offers the usual links to out-of-copyright free books and low cost self-published and indie titles that Stanza and some of the others offer. But its real advantage is the ability to read ebooks that you’ve checked out from your local library.

These books come in ePub format, but it’s a protected file format that can’t be read by iBooks or other ePub-compatible apps. Bluefire allows you to read these locked files — at least until your loan expires, at which point you’ll no longer be able to open the book from your Bluefire bookshelf.

The process is, unfortunately, a bit convoluted at present. You have to go to your library’s website on your desktop machine, find the link to the digital books section (here in B.C. you can also go directly to the British Columbia Libraries’ “Your Library Without Walls” site at downloads.bclibrary.ca), find the ebook you want, download it, open it in Adobe Digital Editions (available free from Adobe), close Digital Editions, locate the epub file (in your-home-directory/Documents/Digital Editions on OSX; in your-home-directory/Documents/My Digital Editions on Windows) and then transfer the file to the iPad through iTunes.

Then when you open Bluefire on your iPad and select the book, Bluefire will ask for your Adobe digital ID, verify that you have permission to read the book and then open it for you. Thankfully, you only need to do this once with each book you borrow.

Bluefire is the only iPad-specific app that I know of that allows you to access library ebooks. There is an iPhone app, OverDrive Media Console, that lets you download library ebooks and audiobooks directly onto your iOS device, but it doesn’t take advantage of the iPad’s larger screen so reading is not a pleasant experience. Hopefully, OverDrive will come up with an iPad-specific app soon, but in the meantime, while it may be awkward to transfer library ebooks to Bluefire Reader, at least it beats paying $9.99 + tax per book in iBooks, Kindle or Kobo.

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Posted under: App Store, Reviews, Tutorials

  • DFL

    I’ve used it in Ottawa, and it works awesome! A little of a pain to install… but it was FREE!

  • Edge

    Overdrive with Retinapad works great.