CHOICE membership

Ebook readers and Adobe Digital Editions

Have you had any issues ?

Many Australian libraries now have ebook collections available to borrow. Many ( most ? ) use the OverDrive system to enable the borrowing, and the Digital Rights Management is taken care of by Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) software.

Personally, I bought a Kobo late last year, and started having problems with it being unable to open borrowed books in March. After a great deal of troubleshooting to no avail, Rakuten Kobo replaced the ereader in April. Today, the replacement has started suffering the exact same issue. I’ve asked Rakuten Kobo for a refund, as I specifically bought the Kobo to be able to read library ebooks. My request is being escalated.

It seems I’m not alone. Has anyone in the Community had a similar experience ?

Some links that may be relevant:


Not the same issue, but JB HiFi ran a digital bookshop for a while. I picked up a few books from it (most if not all were freebies), and then they shut down.

They gave users a lengthy and convoluted process by which they could transfer their books to Adobe Digital Editions, but I just couldn’t be bothered about it and let the whole lot go.


The latest response from Rakuten Kobo this morning:
We have reviewed this ticket request, unfortunately our system will not allow us to refund this device order.

It would seem that they have configured their systems to deny Australians their legal rights. I have asked that they escalate my demand further, but I don’t hold out much hope.

For anyone contemplating buying a Kobo, I would strongly recommend that you buy from a local retailer rather than from Kobo direct. That way, if you are entitled to a refund, you will be dealing with someone in Australia, not Canada.


I dont even know how to get my Kobo to get books from my libraries. Is it only Overdrive compatible? I dont think any of mine use Overdrive anymore.

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Hi Sue,

yes, OverDrive is another essential part of the equation. OverDrive is the software that enables you to access your library’s e-collection.

Some Kobos have OverDrive built-in. For those that don’t, you need to access OverDrive via some other web-connected device, like a desktop computer or smartphone.

Your library should have instructions available for using OverDrive, either online or in-person at the physical library. Of course, this only applies if your library has elected to use OverDrive. Some don’t.


Oh well, I guess I wont bother. I think I’ll sell my e-readers. I tend to reach for the phone for ebooks, anyway.


When we looked at the options, it seemed better value to purchase a small tablet device. The value comes with the greater usefulness of a tablet.

The ebook options are broader too!

The trade off is extra weight and shorter time between charging.

I’ve tried using a smart phone with larger screen and it is still too small a display for comfort.

A good smaller sized tablet, eg iPad mini or similar Android device, is more than enough for everyday tasks. They are also easy to pair with a smart phone. No need for a high end version. We have one more mature aged family member who made the switch and ditched the NBN internet and home phone upgrade at the same time.


Interesting. I have 3 sizes of ipad, and find I cant use them for reading, though sitting up at a desk in 2 column mode I can manage for a short time. This is why I use non-branded apps (eg Marvin, Hyphen Reader) rather than Kobo, Kindle, or iBooks. My favourite is Hyphen. I read when in bed, laying down, and I can manage the phone one-handed. Cant do that with ipads. Its horses for courses, isnt it…

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Choice has published their latest review of e-book readers. Given that this thread was put up by the Choice Staffer, @ScottOKeefe why wasn’t this issue a key element of the review?

I wasn’t aware of this thread when it was first posted, ie, Library access using ADE, as I would have added to the response, ie, I share the same issue with Kobo, great concept, but when it stops Rakuten are very unhelpful. The Kobo owner gets stuck between Rakuten, Adobe and Overdrive or Borrowbox, all blaming each other, and no one willing to resolve the issue. It’s not in Ratuken’s interest as they sell e-books!

My library uses both Borrowbox and Overdrive, they both source different books. I find it quite easy to download the acsm file from my library to my desktop, (this is license to borrow for the given period), and it was trivially easy to copy that to my Kobo. But my Kobo no longer recognises the acsm as a valid file. There are many, many posts about this online on the ADE, Kobo, Overdrive and Borrowbox sites. It is a well known problem that all the companies are ignoring.

Other elements of the current Choice review not covered is the size, and the blue screen impact of bedtime reading on poor sleep:

  • Size, many of the more expensive models are too wide to hold in one hand, Orangutan’s could cope! Important as this is one of the key features/advantages of an e-book reader over a tablet or hard copy.

  • Blue screens like tablets, mobiles, etc, cause significant sleep issues, do e-readers suffer from that same health concern?

Full disclosure BTW, Scott isn’t just a CHOICE staffer, he is our ereader tester ! :slightly_smiling_face:
The fact that he can personally highlight the horrible treatment by Rakuten to him as a customer and still perform unbiased testing of the Kobo ereader is testament to his professionalism. The challenge with testing is that the unit performs well during the test period and so must be given the appropriate score.
It’s difficult to bring up an individual experience as a reason to pan a product universally when it performs well in our test. This is where the CHOICE community is so valuable in highlighting the full gamut of experiences with a product. However most Forum processes tend to attract the feedback of things going wrong.
On the flip side, my partner and her mother have been using ereaders for many years and bought Sony’s first ereader because of its support for borrowing ebooks from the local library with Overdrive. It delivered everything they could ask for over several years until Sony decided to get out of the ereader game and they moved over to a Kobo without a hitch. They share three library cards and borrow books every week.
One thing they do complain about is that when it goes wrong with the borrowing process it goes completely wrong. According to my partner, the staff at the local libraries can be very helpful in this regard and seem only too happy to help.
Regarding the final two points, it’s as if you have been reading over my shoulder as I finish my first draft of the ereader story going into the Feb CHOICE Mag. The theme for the issue is health and I mention the importance of a: Getting off your devices that emit blue light well before you want to go to sleep. b: Check to see if your ereader can deliver a warmer light which helps in encouraging the appropriate body chemistry to fall asleep.
“The need to tend to our mental health has never been more important in these trying times and reading a book, rather than watching TV or staring at a smartphone for hours, has been found to be a more effective way to relax, particularly before sleep.
Studies have shown that exposure to red light before going to bed can improve your sleep and encourages the production of melatonin. So, by the time you’re ready to fall asleep, your body will be too.
The Kindle Oasis is the only Amazon brand e-reader with support for the warmer or red light setting, with the other two models on test able to adjust the light brightness only. The Apple iPad has a range of lighting settings to suit night time reading, however the glossy screen and LED display is still not as good a reading experience for the written word. All the Kobo models except the newest and cheapest Kobo Nia delivers a range of light temperatures from blue to warm amber lighting. The remarkable 2 is the only model on test without any lighting at all.”

Regarding the size
“Both the Apple iPad and reMarkable 2 are large devices that are not easy to hold with one hand. Also, as many of us have nodded off to sleep while reading, imagine the damage that can be done when you start to nod off in bed and get whacked on the nose by a device that weighs twice as much as the largest e-reader from Kindle or Kobo.”


Perhaps because it isn’t an ebook file. The acsm file permits downloading of the ebook to a PC. It’s then fairly simple to import the ebook into Calibre and convert it to whatever format is best for the ereader in question. The legality of much of what Calibre does might be questionable, but it’s almost invariably necessary in my experience.

On my Windows 10 machine, Adobe Digital Editions stores downloaded ebook files in Documents/My Digital Editions. In my case they’re epubs, but Calibre couldn’t work on them without cracking the DRM.

For what it’s worth, my ereader is a Kobo Clara HD.


Thank you. I’ll have a look at Calibre.

Re: thoughts about acsm file. They are definitely e-books from he libraries.I don’t see any reason to think the downloaded acsm files from my libraries have fundamentally changed, neither do the libraries. Everything works fine until a specific moment, then stops altogether for every subsequent download. Rather something has changed at the Ratuken/ ADE/Overdive/Borrowbox internals or interfaces. As it seems independent of Overdrive and Borrowbox it suggests Ratuken and/or ADE.

With the separation of Choice and Choice community, ie, the former being the review, but the latter the means of commenting, I couldn’t see whether @ScottOKeefe or anyone else was the tester or not. Point taken about his professionalism, and lack of positive feedback, but the context from Scott was poor performance.

But, the current review doesn’t detail the library book use of the e-books, none get any grading of that aspect of performance. I think they should.

I too have found my library only too willing to try to help and endeavour to resolve it, but like me are frustrated they can’t do anything about it. An interesting sideline.

So, regarding Blue light is the current e-book review going to be edited to discuss e-book readers performance, vs say a tablet, and the aspect of night time reading. I don’t have any issues with normal room lighting at night.

Regarding Kobos width, several models have increased width from about 110mm to 145mm, ie comfortable to uncomfortable stretch.

@Drop_Bear feedback re Calibre is interesting, is it worthy of Choice following up?

My comments to him indicate that as it impacts both Borrowbox and Overdrive acsm library e-book downloads it implies an ADE and Ratuken issue.

Are you sure? From the link that I posted above:

ACSM stands for Adobe Content Server Message. It tells Adobe Digital Editions to download the ebook file which (in Windows) is then stored in the default location mentioned above. Any file downloaded via an ACSM message should be in that location. What operating system are you using?

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The file download process is triggered by each library, ie, it is the license for that particular library user (Library User id and password) to access that particular e-book, owned by that library, for a specific period. The format .acsm is a ADE designed file structure. Importantly, Adobe are not the owner of the book or license, merely the providers of the software that manages the process.

The acsm files are all stored in the file, on the specific hard drive, I selected at the time of setting up ADE, and every ADE upgrade since. When I request a library loan and download it. The file exists in that desktop directory, with all the other acsm files that worked fine. The book exists within ADE library view on my desktop, the transfer process on the desktop to my device, is triggered and seemingly completes. Failure only is apparent after Kobo disconnect process, ie, seeking permission to disconnect the Kobo USB, disconnect the cable, opening Kobo, and finally trying to open the book that is visibly on the device, but fails with an error message, re the validity of the licensing details.

Like everyone, and there are many online over the years, I’ve gone through the many potential solutions, resetting, reinstalling, relicensing, reactivating a/c, downloading older ADE versions, etc, etc.

The .acsm file contains licensing and server details. It controls download of and access to content. If the .acsm file is not on the device with the ebook file (epub, pdf, etc) or is on the device but not accessible to the DRM software, then ADE will prevent it being read. Hence perhaps:

The process is complex, with many potential points of failure. Fail, it often does. The most successful way around it is to crack the DRM and just read the ebook file directly (without the .acsm file). Of course, that’s illegal.

You might also do a web search for Apprentice Alf. I don’t use it but many do, just as an effort to be able to read on the device of their choice.

I use Calibre for managing my own, purchased, books.
Worth looking at is the intro video on the website. Its of a much older version but it gives a great overview of what Calibre can do for you. (actually, that one is not loading for me at the mo, so just in case, heres a link to the youtube version