Last year, when Sony introduced its new line of Digital Readers, the company also announced support for EPUB. Unlike the proprietary format Sony had utilized up to that point, EPUB is a free and open standard developed by a third-party, the International Digital Publishing Forum. These devices joined a growing list of eReaders that can read the format, and hundreds of libraries and independent bookstores now offer eBooks that aren’t restricted to a single device.
With a steady stream of new eReaders and eBook stores popping up, consumers now have a wide range of choices when it comes to purchasing digital books. But even though most devices can read the EPUB format, it’s not always clear whether books purchased for one reader will work on another. If you shop around and find the book you want at the lowest price in Barnes & Noble’s store, will you be able to read it on your Sony Reader? Will your device be able to open a book if it’s locked by DRM? Or, if you decide to buy a new eReader, can you transfer your books over or are they lost forever? We have the answers.
Most major eBook stores sell EPUB books protected by Adobe’s digital rights management. The two prominent exceptions are Amazon, which sells books for the Kindle in a proprietary format, and iBooks, which sells EPUB files protected by FairPlay DRM. This means you won’t be able to transfer or move books with DRM purchased for the Kindle or iPad between eReading devices, with the exception of Amazon’s smart phone and tablet apps. Nor can you load protected EPUB books onto the iPad or Kindle. These proprietary restrictions don’t apply to other popular eReaders and stores, even companies that sell both devices and eBooks, such as Barnes & Noble.
However, to take advantage of eBook portability among non-affiliated eReaders, users need to download Adobe’s Digital Editions software. With ADE users can manage their EPUB and PDF libraries, read eBooks, and transfer digital rights to compatible eReading devices.
To test the flexibility of ePUB, we purchased books from four eBook stores—Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, Powell’s Books, and Sony eBookstore—and attempted to load all of the titles on four eReaders: the Alex eReader, Entourage Edge, Barnes & Noble nook, and Sony Reader Daily Edition. In each case we were able to successfully upload and read titles from every store on every device without any problems.
Adobe’s system does involve some limitations, but they aren’t overly tight. With an Adobe ID, you can authorize up to six eReading devices and six computers. For owners of Barnes & Noble or Kobo eReaders, this includes any device you sync to your account, including smart phones. If you exceed six devices or no longer own a previously authorized device, Adobe will increase the number of authorizations. Just contact support to request this change.