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How to read and preserve your ePub library

The news for the last couple of weeks has been one of frustration and  anger for epub readers as digital rights management continues to thwart readers access to their legitimately purchased ebooks. Adobe announced that it would introduce a “hardened” DRM that most people believe will include some kind of “always on” component.  Initially Adobe planned to move forward with the implementation of its new DRM in July. This DRM was not backwards compatible and some readers reported losing access to older DRM’ed books with the new Adobe Digital Editions upgrade. Sony has announced it is vacating the US and Canadian market and transferring readers’ libraries from Sony to Kobo by March 20, 2014 at 6 p.m. (EST).

When the transfer happens Sony does caution that “highlights, bookmarks and annotations you made in your Reader Store eBooks will not be available after you transfer your library to Kobo” and “in a few rare cases, ebooks purchased at Reader Store may not be available at Kobo for re-download. In these situations, it is recommended that you download a copy of these titles from Reader Store before April 30, 2014.”

I want to be clear before I go on that the only people who are adversely affected by this issue are individuals who have paid money for these books.  This post is for them. To preserve access to your ePub library, particularly from Sony, you need to take the following steps.

1) Download and install Calibre. Calibre is a free ebook cataloguing system. I highly recommend its use to ANY digital reader.

2) Google Apprentice Alf.  Apprentice Alf keeps a collection of DRM related plugins that work with Calibre.

3) Install the plugins.

Step 1: Open Preferences

Preferences Calibre

Preferences icon is found in the upper right hand corner of the main navigation bar. You can also access preferences by using CTRL P (PC) or CMD P (Mac)

Step 2: Open Plugins.

Once the Preferences screen is open scroll to the bottom and click on Plugins:

Plugin button Calibre

Step 3:   Browse for Plugin.

Click on the little blue icon on the bottom right.

Screenshot 2014-02-08 19.04.09

This should launch a dialog box where you can navigate to find your plugin. Highlight the plugin you want to add.   Click the “open” button and then the dialog box will close.

If you are preserving your ePub library, there are no other actions you have to take at this time. In other words, there are no customizations you need to do the plugins you have just added. Simply click the green “APPLY” arrow in the upper left corner and then restart Calibre.

4) Download and install Reader software. It should open in the “My Library” tab. Click on the arrow next to the dropdown box and select “Purchased from local Reader Store.”

Screenshot 2014-02-08 19.08.21

You will be asked to sign in to your Reader Store account. Once your Reader credentials are accepted, another popup screen appears asking for your Adobe ID (use the same ID that you used for Adobe Digital Editions. If you don’t have one, then go ahead and  get a new one).

Screenshot 2014-02-08 19.09.54


(Note: If you don’t remember your Adobe ID then open Adobe Digital Editions and  go to the HELP menu and select “Authorization Information”. A screen should popup and give you the email address associated with your Adobe ID. Often the email address is your Adobe ID.)

Screenshot 2014-02-08 19.11.56

I fought with the Adobe ID screen several times knowing I entered the password correctly. I don’t know if the server was done or what but I had to abandon the process.

5) Once Sony has allowed you to access your purchases, you should have a screen like this. Double click on the covers to download. If Sony says your books have been downloaded by another user, then you’ll need to make sure you’ve entered your Adobe ID credentials correctly.

Screenshot 2014-02-08 19.19.47

Your ebooks will be saved in a folder on your harddrive called “My Books/Reader.” This is usually found in the My Documents (PC) or Documents (MAC) folder.

If you have problems authenticating your Adobe ID (which I did) you can go directly online and download the books there.

Screenshot 2014-02-08 19.26.00

What downloads is a license, not the book. It’s called an ACSM file (and will be unhelpfully named “URLLINK.acsm”) and basically calls back to the server holding the books and says, this computer is okay to deliver the book to. Then the computer gremlins push the book down the internet line into the folder of My Books/Reader. UNLESS! You have Adobe Digital Editions as your primary ebook software, then it will download into My Documents (PC) or Documents (MAC)/Digital Editions.

6) Once you have downloaded the ebooks it is now time to drag and drop. For ease of use have Calibre open on one side of your screen and your folder of ebooks open. Simply drag the ebooks onto the Calibre window. Your books are backed up, preserved and able to be read on nearly any device.

Screenshot 2014-02-08 19.35.06

That’s it. I know it seems like a lot but it’s really not. To make life easier for you, you can learn how to use automating scripts so that when you download an ebook, it automatically gets imported into Calibre. Check out our posts for Macs and PCs.

I also recommend you check out our posts on backing up your digital library.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Lin
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 05:29:49

    Ironically, I think DRM actually poses the biggest threat to digital reading. If Adobe continues down this slippery DRM-slope, people might be more inclined to illegally download books, because frankly it’s a lot less hassle than buying them. Surely that can’t be right?

  2. Monique D
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 06:27:20

    Thank you for the info ! I’ll try it. I’ve already copied my ebooks on a USB flash drive. I hope it works. Now I’m really thinking that when I upgrade my readers I’ll stick with Kindle. It’s so much simpler with Amazon and I don’t think Kindle will go away soon.

  3. Lisa J
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 08:40:06

    Sony’s reader software and I have never gotten along. I always open the ACSM files with Adobe Digital Editions and the files are placed in a folder called My Digital Editions. It works great for me. Then, drag, drop into Calibre, and voila, my books are ready for whatever. Calibre is the best thing to ever happen to my e-book library.

  4. Milly
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 10:32:02

    I’ve done this with ALL my epubs – all legally purchased hence I want to preserve my library to read whenever and however I choose, much like a paper book. I’m a bit of a book hoarder so I love digital libraries as I have no space at home for much of anything. I truly think these DRM issues force people into breaking copyright rules without wanting to. All people want is to preserve what they’ve purchased. I think most people truly believe that authors, musicians, artists etc deserve to get paid for their hard work and creativity BUT we as consumers have a right not to lose what we purchase with our hard earned money.

    Question Jane – what other reading apps do you like for a MAC that work like Sony’s or ADE but aren’t as awkward AND don’t store files in SQL’s like Kobo’s. The constant syncing with Kobo slows my computer down and I for one like to download my purchases anyways to back up in Calibre. I find ADE very awkward and really hate it (as much as Sony’s).

  5. Juanita
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 12:13:01

    After much research, I went with epub format (Nook Color) as it was non-proprietary and an industry standard. I still do not regret that decision, although there are a number of issues that ereaders (even Kindle fans) may want to think about.
    Adobe, trying to protect authors from the few individuals that would try to steal ebooks by “stealing” ebooks from all epub readers. Guess they’re not smart enough to develop an upgrade that’s backwards compatible.
    Anyone else thinking Class Actionable?
    Kindle fans: if Adobe gets away with this, can Amazon develop a Kindle format that is non-compatible with older Kindles?
    I’m also troubled with Amazon as a so-called publisher. What bona-fide publisher only publishes in a proprietary format – and what authors are willing to exclude a large potential readership who do use industry-standard epub?

  6. Elaine
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 12:29:46

    I’m a long time Kindle reader so my ox is not being gored at this time. However, the Adobe DRM kerfuffle finally made me sit down and install and test DRM removal in Calibre. I have now transformed any DRM protected files from my Kindle into unprotected mobi format, and spot tested quite a few. I’ve also set up Calibre as a e-book server on our LAN so I can access my books without sideloading. I’ve spent several hours cleaning up the metadata in calibre, and will probably do quite a bit more. I’ve also tested downloading from the LAN server to both my Kindle and my Nexus 7.

    I feel like I’ve gone from a novice user of Calibre (which I’ve used for years) to intermediate user. It’s amazing how powerful the features are when one starts exploring.

    This is something I had planned to do for a while. In fact, I’ve put off buying files to a certain extent because I didn’t want the backlog of unprocessed files to get even larger.

  7. Rachel
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 17:19:49

    From somewhere downunder where the price of books is shameful and Kindle prices/freebees are the saviour (for me, if not the household), a question: does Calibre allow conversion as well as DRM management? I have a friend who was given a Kobo reader for Christmas, but she is constrained by NZ pricing and a lack of freebees; if she bought from Amazon, does Calibre allow you to convert kindle/mobi format to epub (and vice versa for me with the Kindle to get Kobo coupon discounts)? I know this isn’t directly on the topic but we’re both e-reader novices and trying to figure out how it all works and DA has been remarkably helpful with e-readers, Calibre and DRM – THANK YOU!!

  8. library addict
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 17:33:23

    @Rachel: Yes, you can convert from just about any format to any other format. You can also correct any formatting issues.

  9. LauraB
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 17:37:17

    Does the same process work for Nook Books? I have a large collection of them and am worried that Nook is going to disappear.

  10. Debbie F.
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 17:54:54

    @Jane (or anyone else who can help), Christine in the original Feb 7 thread suggested that I do not need to go the DRM stripping route because I have all of my books (purchased from Sony and elsewhere) downloaded to my laptop, backed up by Carbonite, and uploaded to my Sony T2 Reader since I intend to continue reading on epub friendly devices. However, all of this is making me nervous enough to perhaps strip the DRM anyway. I have a few questions:

    1) As I also mentioned in the prior thread, my virus protection is screaming at the plug in installation, and in fact I have not been able to install it. Do other users turn off their virus protection during the installation?

    2) Since I already have my books downloaded to my laptop and the Sony software library the laptop, am I correct that I do NOT need to re-download them? Is it ok to move them to calibre prior to putting adding the plug in, or does the plug in need to be in place prior to moving my library to calibre?

    3) If worse comes to worse, will I be able to read these books on my laptop and/or tablet, even if I can’t on anther dedicated ereader, if I do nothing?

    Thanks for your help and what you are doing to help readers protect themselves. This reader is just not very savvy about the technology of ereading. I just buy them, download them, and read them! Thanks!

  11. Statch
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 18:10:31

    Jane, it’s very good of you to post this, since I know you have been sensitive in the past to posting details about stripping DRM. I think it’s definitely justified in this case, since Sony is saying that not all purchased books may be available via Kobo. And I learned something new — I’ve been using Calibre for years and didn’t realize you could drag and drop files! I used to have Calibre set up to automatically upload new books I bought, but I started having problems with it duplicating books so I do it manually now. I should try it again with the latest version.

    I buy most of my ebooks from Amazon but occasionally buy from Kobo with coupons, so Calibre has been a lifesaver. I know you’ve recommended the Calibre forum on before but I didn’t see you mention it this time, so just FYI for people who weren’t aware of it. (They won’t discuss stripping DRM but are great for everything else, and Kovid Goyal, the creator of Calibre, hangs out there.)

  12. Kaetrin
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 18:40:57

    @Debbie F.: You don’t need to re-download your books if you already have them. Just install the plugin to Calibre and import them again. The important thing is that you import to Calibre AFTER you install the plugin. For books that are already in Calibre the plugin does nothing. The DRM is stripped as you import the file into Calibre.

    My virus protection didn’t have any problem with the plugin import so I can’t answer your question there I’m sorry.

    If you have the files on your tablet/laptop and you don’t upgrade Adobe DE, you should be able to read your books on those devices. However, if you do upgrade Abode DE you *may not* then be able to open those files on your devices. Also, if you tablet breaks or your hard drive goes kaput, then the books are gone and once the Sony Store goes, you may not be able to re-download them. Back up. Back up. Back up. (This is so even once the DRM is stripped – back up your books to an external HDD or to a cloud etc so that if your PC breaks you have your books nice and safe.)

  13. Debbie F.
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 21:00:47

    How can I tell if the DRM has actually been stripped from my books after installing the plugin and transferring my library. Downloading the plugin was a harrowing experience. I ended up needing to disable my virus protection. However, I think the download was successful and I installed the plugin in calibre. When I restarted the virus protection, it began sending me all kinds of messages and quarantining all kinds of things. I am concerned this may affect the work of the plugin. Thanks in advance for your help!

  14. Jules
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 21:02:11

    @LauraB: I think its in general the same process. I used these instructions over at The Digital Reader. It looks like it’s the same plugin though.

  15. Jane
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 21:30:42

    @LauraB: Nook uses the same set of plugins but requires modification. You need to locate the plugin and highlight it. Press customize and then you’ll need to enter your name and last 8 digits of the CC associated with the account.

    @Debbie F.: If you can double click on the book and it opens in the Calibre program, it’s been stripped.

    @Milly: I actually like the iBooks app and read on that on my Mac, if I do read on the computer.

  16. library addict
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 21:31:40

    @Debbie F.: If you can open the book in Calibre’s reader the DRm has been removed. It’s the magnifying glass icon on the toolbar which says “View” (if you have both icons and text displaying on your toolbar).

    My virus protection doesn’t do that. I hope the tools installed okay for you as turning off your virus protection every time you want to use Calibre is not a good answer.

  17. Debbie F.
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 23:37:21

    Thanks, everyone, for your help. My virus software has calmed down, and my library has been transferred to calibre. The books open in calibre, so the DRM has evidently been stripped. Thanks to all who have helped me…I would never have figured it out without you.

  18. Claire
    Feb 10, 2014 @ 02:14:43

    I only really use amazon but all this has given me the motivation to finally strip all my ebook and put them on calibre as well as backup somewhere. The problem I am havin is when I copy them into calibre only some are having the drm stripped, is this just becuase I am trying to do over 600 books at one time, do I need to copy smaller batches? Thank you for all the useful posts, they have helped a huge amount.

  19. nasanta
    Feb 10, 2014 @ 02:28:42

    @Claire: I don’t think so because I have one stubborn DRM protected Kindle book which I have tried to strip but it just didn’t work. I’m guessing even with Kindle files that certain books have slightly different DRM protection. :\

  20. Christine
    Feb 10, 2014 @ 12:15:55

    @library addict: @Claire I think (and someone correct me if I’m wrong) that not all books sold by Amazon have DRM attached. I know that some of my books from KOBO, Sony estore and itunes are DRM free. For example books from Smashwords have no DRM. So if you import books into calibre and get see them in the ebook viewer and no DRM is stripped, it’s likely that it had no DRM on it. My understanding is that it’s the publisher that attaches the DRM to the book. And usually it’s the big name publishers, not the indie ones.

  21. library addict
    Feb 10, 2014 @ 16:52:29

    @Christine: Right. Not all books have DRM. Books from publishers like Carina Press and Samhain are DRM-free if purchased directly from the publisher, but Kobo, Sony, and Amazon sometimes add their own DRM to them. Not always though. Sometimes they are DRM free when purchased via these places as they are meant to be.

    The Big 5 and Harlequin add DRM for the most part. But again, sometimes when they do freebies the books are DRM-free. All of the free books Harlequin had for their 60th anniversary celebration as an example were DRM free.

  22. Latisha
    Feb 11, 2014 @ 06:23:38

    Great post.

    My weblog concerning technological know-how: (Latisha)

  23. hapax
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 21:18:46

    Or, as I have now bookmarked this post, How I Spent My Three-Day Weekend.

    It didn’t help that half my ebooks are Nook, a third are Sony Reader, and the rest a mishmash. So I got the last two categories all right, but I didn’t pay close enough attention to customizing the plugin, and had to delete and re-download all my Nook Books AGAIN. (Mind you, my ebook collection is about 500 titles, a tiny library compared to a lot of folks!)

    But I think I’ve got it okay, and I’m very grateful for these detailed instructions. Any book that I can’t get at now, I have officially declared Not Worth Reading.

  24. ms bookjunkie
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 02:48:33

    Jane, thank you. Thank you thank you thank you!

    Note to self: I had to go the CMD P route to find the little blue icon.

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