Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bluefire Lets You Read Library Books on the iPad

Woke up to a lovely morning tweet: "@lizcastro Done.  Update available now in App Store that supports library books." from @micahsb, a developer and entrepreneur. He was referring to the fact that the new version of their Bluefire Reader app for the iPad can display Adobe DRM'd EPUB format ebooks that you've taken out of the library.

And it works! I connected to my library, and quickly did a search for Adobe ePUB, “took out” and then downloaded The Mysterious Benedict Society, which we're in the process of reading, and clicked OK when I was asked if I wanted to open the file in Adobe Digital Editions. This converts the download file into a Bluefire-compatible Adobe DRM'd EPUB file and places it in the Digital Editions folder, within the Documents folder (or My Documents folder on a PC).

Download for ADE

Next, I opened iTunes, connected and selected my iPad, chose the App panel, selected Bluefire at the bottom of the window in the File Sharing section, clicked Add..., chose the book file from where it was copied—in the Digital Editions folder within the (My) Documents folder—, and then clicked Sync.


I then opened Bluefire Reader on my iPad, and there was my book! Absolutely lovely.


  1. "Our" library had a great talk last night. On vaulted tile ceilings. This guy did the ceilings at BPL. Also Ellis Island, and part of Grand Central terminal in NYC.

  2. Nice! I found more info on him at Wikipedia as well: He was from Valencia, just down the road from where I am now. Everything's connected, just like those tiles.

  3. Yes, Bluefire does allow reading, but look at all the techie steps you detail, including words that makes my blood run cold, "Adobe Digital Editions." I've had people who work for Adobe admit to me that ADE would be much better if it didn't have to meet every DRM requirement wanted by every publisher. The result is a mess. The last time I tried to look at an unprotected ePub file with it, ADE ran off and began rebuilding the DRMed titles in its library. "Hey, I didn't ask for that."

    Keep an eye on the goal. Ebooks need to be for everyone. Acquiring one should be as non-technical as checking a print book out of the library and reading one should be as easy as pulling a book down from the shelf.

    That's not impossible. The Kindle does it with titles Amazon sells and even other books only require drag and drop. There's no reason for checking out library books on an iPad to require more than the two necessary steps.

    1. Find the book at the library.

    2. Click to check it out.

    That's when reading on an iPad will become "absolutely lovely."

    And yes, I know Amazon wants us to buy books from them and not check them out of a library. That's why I suspect the Kindle will never be as versatile at the iPad. But versatile should not mean unnecessarily complicated much less geeky.

    Look at your first graphic. Its the sort of panel that geeks love, compete with tangled file names, obscure html references, and jargon-ridden choices. There are people, millions of them, who are quite intelligent and literate, who are paralyzed by that sort of thing.

  4. Thanks for this and the Phone Disk app recommendation. Definitely looking for a better reader than iBooks.

    Hugh Lang

  5. Libraries can offer links that download eBooks directly into Bluefire Reader if they want. It has only been out for hours...

  6. They don't even have to do anything special. Just need to stop forcing ebook download links to be handled by the Overdrive app, which does not even support eBooks (yet). Just a standard fulfillment link would allow the user to choose what app they like to read in (when Bluefire is no longer the ONLY choice)

  7. @Micah: Can you show us what such a link might look like? The last time I wrote an article about taking books out of the library, I got in touch with one of the tech guys at the Boston Public Library... and maybe they could implement that link, and show others how to do it.

  8. Just a regular .acsm link should work to get the browser to offer the open-in UI with Bluefire as an option if installed. If one wanted a link that fulfilled to Bluefire Reader only/directly they would add: "bluefirereader://fulfill/" to the beginning of their .acsm link - e.g. just before http:// as in - bluefirereader://fulfill/http://blahblah.acsm

  9. here's another tip to make transfer easy - if you have wifi. In mobile Safari type into the Adress bar: bluefirereader://nav/transfer Bluefire should launch, then follow instructions for wifi transfer - via your DESKTOP browser. - unsupported hidden feature that we essentialy did for ourselves but cool enough to share..

  10. Brilliant! As 1) an avid iPad user and 2) a public library employee that has to constantly apologize to patrons for Overdrive eBooks not being readable on Apple devices, I'm just tickled pink.

  11. I have put together a *very* rough bookmarklet that one can use in mobile Safari to get .acsm files from Overdrive to Bluefire without the need for iTunes and/or emailing the .acsm file to yourself. I threw this together pretty quickly, but it should serve as a proof-of-concept that could be improved/developed further.

    NOTE: I am only able to test with Overdrive in written, this won't work with other library eBook providers, and might not even work in Overdrive implementations in other states (I have no way to test).

    1) Create a bookmark in mobile Safari with the following javascript as an address:

    (NOTE: since I can't post HTML tags, replace square brackets with angle brackets in the following code)

    javascript:$(document).ready(function() {
    hrefs = '[p][a href=\"' + 'bluefirereader://fulfill/' + szGetDownload + '\"]Link[/a][/p]';
    var bfdiv = '[div]' + hrefs + '[/div]';
    var sourceWindow ="about:blank");
    var newDoc = sourceWindow.document;;
    newDoc.write("[html][head][title]Bluefire Ready![/title][/head][body]" + bfdiv + "[/body][/html]");

    2) Log in and check out an ebook as normal.

    3) When you get to the page where you would normally click on the 'Download' button to download the .acsm file, select the bookmark you just created.

    4) Safari will open a new page, and on that page will be a single link. Clicking on the link should launch Bluefire Reader and start your download (no need for iTunes sync or emailing the .acsm file).

    Overdrive (at least in the state of Oregon) stores the URLs for the .acsm files in a variable called szGetDownload. This javascript basically gets the URL, appends the "bluefirereader:\\fulfill\" prefix, opens up a new page in Safari, and creates a simple HTML page with a properly-formatted Bluefire link.

    Again, this isn't very pretty at the moment (it's late, I'm tired, and it's been a few months since I did any javascript/jquery coding), but perhaps it will prove useful to others.

  12. For heavens sake! @mike's right. Is that what I have to learn to borrow an ebook from a library? It's enough to learn trying to create one. Now this too. and as for @greg being tickled pink :-(

  13. @mark, These are just super early adopter hijinks before the libraries get set up to take advantage of the fact that there are now library capable mobile apps. Give them a few weeks at least before passing judgement.

  14. I'm doing something wrong. It only downloads the first book I've checked out and the rest won't. Any suggestions?


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