How to read public library eBooks with DRM on an iPhone


Bluefire Reader is a eBook app for iOS which lets you read digital books in PDF and ePub formats. But what really sets Bluefire apart from every other app available for iOS is that it supports Adobe DRM. And as of today, it supports the DRM used by public libraries, which means you can download free eBooks from hundreds of public library web sites and read them on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. Up until now you could only read those books on a Sony Reader or a computer.

Here’s how it works.

First, you need to find out if your library offers digital books using Adobe DRM. If the answer is yes, then you need to download the Adobe Digital Editions software for your computer and follow these steps:

  1. Install Bluefire Reader on your mobile device.
  2. Login to your library site.
  3. Follow the library’s steps do “take out” an eBook.
  4. Download the .acsm files associated with each eBook.
  5. Click on the .acsm file to download the book with Adobe Digital Editions.
  6. Locate the folder where ADE stores your eBooks (On Windows, it’s probably in My Documents\My Digital Editions).

  1. Launch iTunes.
  2. Click on your mobile device.
  3. Select the Apps Tab from the top of the screen.
  4. Scroll down until you see the File Sharing section, and click on Bluefire in the Apps area.
  5. Select “Add…” from the Bluefire Documents” section.
  6. Browse to the folder where your ADE eBooks are stored and select the book you want to move to your iOS device.

That’s it. OK, it actually sounds like a lot of steps, but once you get the hang of it the whole thing is quite easy.

Bear in mind, when you download a DRMed eBook from your library, it’s a lot like taking out a physical book from your library. You have to read it within three weeks or so, or renew your loan. The Adobe DRM is in place so that when your time is up, you can’t read the book anymore. Each library likely has only a limited number of licenses for each eBook, so when your license expires, someone else can take out the book.

Generally I’m not a huge fan of this kind of DRM, but in this case I’ll make an exception since I am a big fan of public libraries and the opportunity to read books for free.

Bluefire is available as a free download from the App Store.

Update: It looks like there maybe a couple of other ways to get library books onto your device with Bluefire. One reader wrote in to let us know that she downloaded the ePUB using Adobe Digital Editions and emailed herself the file. When she opened the attachment on her iPhone, she was able to import it to Bluefire.

Download Squad‘s Jay Hathaway says he was able to download an .acsm file from his library and upload it to Dropbox. When he used the Dropbux app on his phone he was able to use the “Open With” menu to open the file in Bluefire, which downloaded the eBook.

You can find more screenshots below.

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing. He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since 2006. Brad has also worked with NPR, WHYY, PRI, and AOL.

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