How to borrow ebooks from the local library on all your devices


When I first got my ereader, my biggest disappointment was no longer being able to pop down to the local library and take out a book. I feared my reading habits were going to end up costing significantly more in the long run since I thought I’d have to purchase all my reading material from now on.

Thank goodness I was set straight and shown how easy it is to borrow ebooks from the library, right on my device. If you’ve got a new ereader, tablet or other mobile device for Christmas, or perhaps haven’t learned yet how to use your device for some free (and legal!) ereading, here’s our guide for how you can start borrowing ebooks from your local library today.

Getting the Basics

To borrow books from almost any library across Canada, you’ll need at least one of two programs. Start by downloading Adobe Digital Editions on your computer and creating an Adobe ID (or using your existing one to log in). You need the Adobe ID regardless of the method of borrowing you use, as the books borrowed from libraries contain DRM (digital rights management) and all loans will be tied to that ID to ensure that only devices you have allowed are accessing the ebooks you have borrowed.

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If you have an ereader, tablet or device with Wi-Fi, you’ll likely need to download OverDrive directly on your device as well. OverDrive is the system used by libraries across the country to allow users access to ebook, audio book and more content directly from their device. There are versions available for Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7.

Follow the instructions on the OverDrive site for installing on your particular device.

Using Adobe Digital Editions

If you have a device without Wi-Fi, chances are you’ll be uploading your books from Adobe Digital Editions directly to your computer. You can check if you’ve got one of the compatible devices on this list.

Open Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) on your computer. Using the USB cord that came with your device, plug in to your computer and you’ll be prompted to ‘authorize’ your device; this means it will be one of the devices associated with the account, so DRM-protected content will be made available on it.

Borrowing Books from the Library

You can borrow library books through one of two ways:

1. Using ADE

Visit your local library’s website, and look for a link to their ‘ebook’ section. Browse the collection and add the books you’d like to borrow to your digital cart. If you are given an option on the format you’d like to download, select the “EPUB” format. Select the time period you wish to borrow the book for (if available). When you’ve selected the books you want, hit ‘checkout’ or ‘download.’

Open up your downloads folder and the ADE program. With your ereader or device connected, you should see a separate shelf in the program for that device. Drag and drop the files (or use the Add Item button in the ADE menu) to add items to your ereader.

2. Using OverDrive

OverDrive lets you look for items and add them to your library directly on your device. Open the app on your mobile device and click ‘Get Books.’ This screen will show you all your Favourite libraries, so you can quickly add ebooks to your collection in the future. If it’s your first time, click ‘Add a Library’ and type in your city, postal code or library name to add a new library to your list.

Once you’ve selected your local library and clicked ‘Favourite,’ you can click on the link to your library’s database and browse their collection. Select the books you want (typically select the ‘EPUB’ format), add them to your cart. When you’re done, hit ‘Checkout’ or ‘Download,’ and the books will be added to your OverDrive library. The next time you open the OverDrive app, your books should appear in a list.

Returning Your Book

Even though it’s digital, you still have to ‘return’ your book at the end of your loan period. If you leave your ebook on your device for the full term of your loan, it will automatically expire. Both ADE and OverDrive show you how many days you have left on your loan.

However if you finish your book early, you can be courteous to other patrons waiting for the book by ‘returning’ it. You can return/delete the book from your library in OverDrive on your Wi-Fi device, or from your ADE library.

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While it might seem strange to have to return a book that you don’t have a physical copy of, there is a reason: libraries purchase a set amount of licenses for the books, and are only allowed to loan out that many copies of the ebook at a time. Forgetting to return or delete a book from your library when you’ve finished it before the end of your loan period means you’re preventing someone else from having the opportunity to borrow it – just like with a physical book.

If you’re interested in borrowing some ebooks from your local library but haven’t decided on your perfect ereader yet, check out our five recommended devices from the ereader gift guide.

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