One of the Apple iPad’s many uses is for reading eBooks, as is the iPhone, just to a slightly lesser extent. Apple provide the excellent iBooks app and its associated book store for just this purpose, plus other eBook retailers such as Amazon and Kobo both have dedicated apps too.
However, these aren’t the only places to buy eBooks on the Internet, so what if you’ve purchased books from other stores, or rented them from a local library, and still want to read them on your iPad?
You’d think that Apple’s own iBooks would be well-equipped to assist you, plus its excellent interface and wide range of user configurable features make it the best choice; except iBooks refuses to deal with .epub files sealed by Adobe’s DRM protection system.
It’s a particular pain, as iTunes lets you transfer the books and even pops them into the iBooks menu, but when you come to open them, you get a message saying the file is not recognised, or that it’s invalid. Neither of these things are true, it’s just iBooks only likes Apple’s DRM, and not Adobe’s.
If all this sounds a bit confusing, and you’re not sure whether the eBooks you own are protected by Adobe’s digital rights management, there is an easy answer to the problem. If you use Adobe Digital Editions to download your books – after grabbing a .acsm file from the retailer – then chances are your eBooks will be protected by Adobe’s DRM.
So what can be done? Until recently, there wasn’t really much of a choice, with many readers deciding to use special software to strip out the DRM so they could be read by iBooks. It’s hardly the most ethical, or the most user-friendly solution to the problem, but when you’re faced with not being able to read a book you’ve legally purchased on a device designed to display it, it can be a frustrating situation.
A far more sensible solution is now available though, in the shape of the Bluefire Reader, a new app designed for the iPad.
At its heart, it’s a simple eBook reader for Apple’s tablet, but what makes it so special is that it’s compatible with Adobe’s DRM system, so all those books that iBooks won’t let you read, have finally found a good home.
Firing up Bluefire for the first time sees you advised to enter your Adobe username and password, which once completed, communicates with the Adobe Content Server to validate your eBooks.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll want to upload some books. This is slightly more complicated than using iBooks, but all it takes is one go to perfect the process. Here’s how it works: Using iTunes, select the iPad and then its Apps tab (where you’ll find a list of all the apps installed on the tablet).
Scroll down this page and you’ll see the File Sharing window. Here you may see apps such as Skype and Google Earth, but we’re looking for Bluefire Reader. Once located, highlight it, and to the right you’ll see an empty window with a button marked Add at the bottom.
Click this, find your eBooks on your computer and finally, press Apply to sync them with your iPad. All the eBooks you selected can now be found inside Bluefire’s library.
Like other eBook reader apps, the titles are displayed in either a grid or list form, and a tap selects them. There are several different options to modify the reading experience to your liking, from adjusting the size of the font to the brightness of the page, plus there is a night mode and a choice of page turn animations. It’s worth noting that not all these features are available if you’re reading a PDF file though.
Additionally, you can add bookmarks as you go, make use of the search feature, and even access free public domain books to download. Overall, it’s not quite as comprehensive as iBooks, but it covers the basics, and it’ll be more than enough for the average user.
A considerable benefit is the introduction of Retina Display support in version 1.7 of Bluefire, so if you’re lucky enough to own the latest iPad, text looks as crisp as it does in iBooks. The app is universal for the iPad and the iPhone, but sadly it doesn’t support iCloud, so you’ll need to authorise the app again and re-upload all your books too.
Otherwise, it’s a great reading experience. Page turns are handled well – but sometimes there is a little delay – and the text looks great on the screen. Some users have reported crashes, but the app was perfectly stable on our new iPad and the iPhone 4S.
As a solution to the problem of how to read Adobe DRM protected content on the iPad, Bluefire Reader is ideal, and perhaps best of all, it’s free to download too.