Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reading Library Ebooks on iPad with Bluefire, the Easy Way

There were a couple of people who thought that the instructions I posted for reading library ebooks on the iPad (and similar devices) with Bluefire Reader were a bit complicated, and didn't want to have to download in one place, upload in another, and transfer things around. Bluefire's Micah Bowers offered some help for creating a direct link in the comments, and another reader, Greg from Oregon, wrote a script to make that new link practically create itself.

I'm going to finish off the job by explaining step-by-step how to make a bookmarklet out of Greg's script, following Greg's instructions as well as a process I learned from installing Instapaper (a wonderful, but unrelated app). Don't you love the internet!

1. Open up your iPad (iPod Touch or iPhone) and come back to this page. Remember, the address is http://www.pigsgourdsandwikis.com.

2. Follow this link to jump to a page that contains the script that you'll have to add as a bookmark. (The whole point of this part is to save you the trouble of typing in the script, but feel free if you're so inclined.)

3. You will find a bit of explanation and a block of code. Press in the white space until the Copy command appears. Drag the upper blue dot so that only the red code is selected. Choose Copy.

Copy code for bookmark

4. Click the big plus sign in Safari's toolbar and then choose Add Bookmark from the pop-down menu in order to create a bookmark. Of course, you don't really want a bookmark to the instruction page, but we can't copy in the code until the bookmark itself exists. Click Save.

Choose Add BookmarkSave bookmark

5. Once the bookmark exists, click the Bookmarks icon (next to the Plus sign), and click Edit. Then click the name “Overdrive bookmark” to open up the bookmark we just created.

6. Erase the old link by holding down your finger over the address (the part that starts http://www.elizabethcastro...) and then choosing Select All and finally Cut.

Erase old linkLink erased

7. Press in the link space one more time until the Paste button appears. Choose it! The script is copied to the bookmark. You can click anywhere in the page to close the Editing window. (You don't have to save.)

Script copied in

The bookmarklet is installed and you never have to look at the code again! Now you're ready to go to your library and find a book. Follow the regular procedure (see Borrowing Library ebooks with a Nook if you need help). Once you've checked out your book and are ready to download, instead of clicking the Download button, click the Overdrive Bookmark we just created.

Click Overdrive bookmark link

Rather magically, a new page will appear with a much better link:


And when you click the link, you jump to Bluefire Reader and it downloads your book, verifies your authorization code as normal, and then wonderfully asks you if you'd like to Read it later or Read it NOW!

Download successful

Ah, you may scoff, that's even worse that what I told you the other day. Perhaps. But once that bookmarklet is installed (it's OK to get someone else to do it for you! or for you to install it for your parents or your kids), reading library ebooks on the iPad is a veritable breeze.

Thank you Micah, Greg, and the guy from Instapaper for working this all out!

And a couple of notes. I haven't tested trying to download multiple titles at once. I suspect it won't work. Just download them one at a time. And I haven't been able to get it to work for PDF ebooks. Not sure why not. Maybe you know?

And finally, this does not remove or bypass DRM at all, since Bluefire requires your iPad or similar to be authorized with your Adobe account. Further, I didn't find any information on Overdrive's site that would indicate they care what device or software you use to read their books, as long as you're not trying to override their protection.

One more finally. I was curious if you could get the book back out, say to read on your computer or copy to another authorized device, and indeed you can. Just go to iTunes, click on the Apps tab, click on Bluefire to see the books it contains, and drag the desired book back out to your computer. Works fine.


  1. Glad you found the code useful!

    I was brainstorming last night about ways to clean the code up and ways to get it to work on multiple selections (e.g., from the 'my checkouts' page). I'll also look into the PDF issue you reported.

    I'll provide any updates I'm able to make (probably nothing today...it's a daddy-at-home-child-care day, and my son has little patience for watching me tinker with javascript!)

  2. Thanks so much! Can't wait. (Are you @wlgreg on Twitter?)

  3. This really is cool. Thanks Greg. Hopefully in the near future, the libraries can start offering their patrons means to download directly to their app of choice.

  4. Liz: Yup, that's my Twitter account! I gotta tell you, your HTML Visual Quickstart book was one of the first HTML books I read many years ago, and it's a real kick to have you following me! :-)

    Micah: Thanks for the kind words! And, yes, if we want to stay relevant or even survive, public libraries need to be able to offer patrons electronic resources in a device/os agnostic formats. Don't get me on my soapbox... And by the way, great job on Bluefire Reader. I've been evangelizing throughout our library consortium, and creating staff/patron tutorials as fast as I can!

    I had some time to do a few revisions, mainly cleaning up the code and adding some logic; if you launch from a page (like the "my checkouts" page) which lists multiple available titles, you'll get a list of links (with titles!). if you launch from a page with only a single title showing, it'll launch Bluefire Reader automatically.

    Still a work-in-progress, and still only tested via Oregon's Overdrive site. File is available at: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1572127/bfr_bookmarklet_1.1.txt

    (Liz, if you prefer, instead of continually posting updates here, I can just send/tweet links to revised versions as I get them done. Let me know what you prefer.)

  5. This is absolutely wonderful!!! Thank you for sharing it. And, thanks Micah, Greg, and "the guy from Instapaper".

  6. I tried to get this to work with my iPhone 4, but Overdrive recognizes the device and loads their mobile site by default. When I get to the download page, instead of a download link, I see the text: "This title is not available to download from our mobile site." The iPad apparently displays the full site, but is there any way to get there from an iPhone/iPod Touch?

  7. It is possible to do this with an iPod, but it does make you appreciate the mobile site. :-) In the url, replace the “/40/20” with “/10/435”. That will force it to the full version of the site.

  8. This seems to missing a step. Please help. I am trying to get this to work on my ipad. I can get as far as cutting and erasing the book mark. But when I go to paste it keeps pasting in the same code with elizabeth something. What is the new code that needs to go there?

  9. @Anon: Did you copy in the code from step 3? That's what you have to paste into the bookmark when you edit it in step 7.

  10. Worked great for downloading from DC public library on my iPhone with one change - to force the browser to use the full site (thus getting the download links) in the URL replace "/40/20" with "/10/391". Not sure why this is different from eriesberg's comment. Nonetheless, THANKS EVERYONE!

  11. I wrote my local library network (C/W Mars in Central and Western Mass) and they contacted Overdrive and then told me that the link to the main site from a mobile device was http://digitalbooks.cwmars.org/10/344/en/Default.htm, yet another variation on the same theme. So, if none of these work for you, contact your library and ask them if they can find out what the link should be. It's really nice to be able to get books directly on the iPhone.

  12. @eriesberg and @Jonathan, I'm curious how you figured out the new URL. Did you ask someone?

  13. It looks like those numbers might be different for every library. Ours was /10/551 (taken from the URL that appears on a PC).

  14. I sent a message to Overdrive support re: the new default, mobile versions of the website showing up on iPods/iPhones (with no links to eBook offerings). Their response was:

    "The mobile site is now active for all mobile/portable devices exclusive to their device. The new mobile sites show patrons only the formats that they are able to directly download using the OverDrive Media Console app. At this time, the OverDrive Media Console Apps do not allow eBook downloading. Suggestions have been made to Incorporate a 'View standard site' link be added to the mobile sites. This has been passed on to our development team for further consideration."

    I've been working on updating my bookmarklet to overcome this obstacle. I know that you can spoof the site by having your browser "impersonate" a desktop browser (by sending a different UserAgent string), but mobile Safari doesn't seem to allow this (by contrast, Atomic Browser, available for $0.99 in the app store, allows UA spoofing).

    I haven't been able to spoof the UA via javascript, but I'll keep trying (there are a couple of approaches I still want to try). Maybe I can figure out some way to automate the URL replacements outlined above, but without a full database of each library's codes, I'm not sure how one could build a universal solution.

    I think Overdrive is doing all this as they are supposedly releasing their own iPhone app "soon", and want to direct users towards it. maybe they will incorporate a "view full site" link (as, apparently, many have requested), but I'm not holding my breath.

    PS: For Oregon users, the "full site" id to use in the URL is /10/397

  15. I am having the same problem as anonymous. I know that the code is copied, because I was able to paste it into an email. But it seems when I cut the URL, that takes the place of the code I've copied. What am I doing wrong?

  16. @Kathy: After you cut the original URL, what happens when you paste into email? Maybe you're copying the URL instead of cutting? I just click the little x in the circle. Does that help?

  17. It worked perfectly for me to download PDF books from the library. Thank you!!

  18. For people having trouble making the bookmark on your ipad: it might be easier opening up Safari on your laptop, making the bookmark on your laptop browser and then using itunes Sync Bookmarks feature to sync it to your ipad's Safari browser.

  19. OMG It works ! Thank you so much Greg!

    I love the internet. You guys are awesome

  20. Greg and Micah,

    You guys are great! I just downloaded several ebooks to my iPod touch. The bookmarklet worked like a charm.


  21. I installed the newest version of the bookmarklet and got to the page with a list of 4 links of books download. Clicked on one, blue fire opens, signed in with adobe id and then as the book starts to open I get this message "another user has licensed this book. You no longer have access to it." I am on iPad iOS 4.2. I checked the books out on my pc and downloaded them to digital editions but I thought I could also get them on my iPad at the same time. Anyone have any thoughts about this? Thanks for this blog post and the bookmarklet!

  22. @Kristi. It's not a problem with having it out already on the PC. I have read books simultaneously on both my iPhone and iPad and Mac, I think you're allowed up to five devices.

    Are you sure you have signed both books out with the same Adobe ID?

  23. @Liz: I do have two Adobe IDs (which I didn't realize until your comment) and sure enough the books are checked out to the other one. I don't know why I have 2 accounts so I think I'll just clean that up to avoid future confusion. THANKS for taking the time to point me in the right direction. I now have four checkouts sitting on my iPad in Bluefire. Woo hoo! This is right up there with getting AirPrint to work on my printers (not the HP) and running Mac osx on my pc in a virtual machine just to see what it is like before I buy a Mac. My brain hurts from all the exercise because I am not a real techie but just pretty good at following directions.

  24. @Kristi, so glad you got it working. Isn't that a great feeling! And you don't have to be a techie. Nice.

  25. Hi Liz & Greg et.al.

    Works great on my iPod Touch.

    However after testing the "return book" in bluefire which worked fine... when I checked out and downloaded the same title again (it was now available again of course) I got the "This loaned item can no longer be accessed" message in bluefire.

    It was "returned" & checked out again on the same day so I'll try again tomorrow just in case bluefire is getting confused.

    Any ideas?



  26. @Karl. Hmm. When a book expires, it doesn't disappear. So if you download it again, you'll get a new file, but the old one will still have expired. Could you be trying to open the old one?

  27. Tried the original bookmarklet and it worked. So for that a big Woohoo & Thank you. I already had multiple books checked out so I was curious to be able to download them all. Tried Greg's alternate bookmarklet and only got an invalid page request within the digital library website.
    (Using Greater Phoenix Digital Library)

  28. I've gotten several reports like Karlos' and it looks to be a bug. We'll try to fix that.

  29. @Liz. I waited a day and deleted the book in bluefire. Then went back to my overdrive downloads page and used the script link. The book downloaded to the iPod Touch again but displays the cover as a grayed out circle with a line through it, and I still get the "can't be accessed" message.

    Looks like once read, an eBook is impossible to read again :(

    Has anyone had a similar experience?

  30. Liz,

    This is the problem Karl is describing (I think). I've run into it too.


    Basically you "return" the book through Bluefire. It gets deleted by Bluefire. You re-borrow the book and it contains both the new and old authorization.

  31. Hey, I am having issues getting this formula down, can you help me please, I think all is going well and when I go to my library page and press the overdrive bookmark icon it leads me back to the page where you get the formula.. What am I doing wrong..please help...

  32. Been using this bookmarklet in Mobile Safari on my iPad for awhile now. It opened up the saved file in Bluefire, and I enjoyed reading it there. Thanks for that, it was easier to do it all on the iPad, and not have to deal with my laptop, DropBox, etc.

    I put myself on the waiting list for a book "The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal"from my local library (this is the book that "The Social Network" movie was based upon) and just today got an email that it was my turn to borrow it.

    I tapped the link in the email on my iPad and it took me to the library's website. It appears to have been redesigned to be much more iPad friendly, better layout, optimized for the tablet screen. Very nice! When I reached the page to download, I noticed the bookmarklet didn't work... however, tapping the page's own Download button launched the Overdrive app instead, which downloaded the title directly, and I was able to start reading. The Overdrive app seems perfectly fine, very responsive, and iPad native too. The workflow is certainly easier now, in my case the bookmarklet's not even necessary.

    Thanks very much, just wanted to share today's discovery!

  33. I am trying to get this to work with the overdrive service from my library in London, UK. The Overdrive app itself works on the iPad, but I cant get this to work, I have created the bookmarklet but when I activate the bookmark, nothing at all happens.
    I am at llc.lib.overdrive.com if that is any help.

  34. bookmarklet has been working great but my library has reformatted their ebook website... i can add ebook to cart, checkout, andget to download section, but bookmarklet no longer works!! Help! I love reading ebooks on Bluefire on my ipad. I read a book every 1-2 days and Bluefire allows me to return andget another... Overdrive has only 7day or 14 day checkout periods, and too bad if you get done with the ebook early! You are stuck with it for entire period...sigh... Please let me know if you know of any fixes.... I wouldgreatly appreciate any and all help!
    Frustrated in MD

  35. Basically, Overdrive has modifed its code so that iPad gets the mobile version of the site.

    Ugly hack to get around that:
    1) Visit your library's e-book site on a computer.
    2) Note that the URL has two numbers before the page (en/Default.htm or whatever). Note those numbers.
    3) Visit your library's e-site on your iPad. Notice that the URL has 40/20. Replace 40/20 with the numbers you noted.

    You'll now be able to use the Bluefire thing above.

  36. Also the gentleman who came up with this is updating constantly. I'll post a link to his latest when he fixes this.

  37. The guy from Instapaper is Marco Arment (http://www.marco.org), by the way.

  38. several months later:

    this worked on my iphone 3gs for a while but now seems to not work. I couldn't get it to work on my daughter's ipod 4. :) We are using netlibrary with our local public library, www.spokanelibary.org



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