Monday, June 24, 2013

Using Ebsco eBooks with an Android Tablet

Our academic library recently purchased over 100,000 eBooks from a collection entitled the eBook Academic Collection from Ebsco.  While the collection looks pretty good, meaning I can find recent and relevant books on various subjects (many offerings for all kinds of topics- not full of filler international titles like many eBook packages), I was curious how the content would work on a tablet, since I had not been able to load previous Ebsco ebooks to mobile devices, which was once maintained by eBrary. 

If you want to read Ebsco eBooks on a tablet, you need BlueFire.

Step One

One of the first things you will need to do on your Android tablet is to download the Bluefire Reader App (you can find the App in the Google Play store and download at no charge).  The Bluefire app will find those public domain eBooks that came with your Kindle app or ones that you have downloaded on to your device.  Downloaded eBooks will appear in your Bluefire library along with the time remaining on your checked-out eBook.

Step Two

You will need an Ebscohost account.  So, you need to go through the process of signing up to Ebsco if you have not already done so.

Step Three

Search the Ebsco eBook collection on your tablet.  Find an eBook that you want to read on your tablet.  Checkout the book (for the book I checked-out it gave me a default period of seven days).  Then, go to your checked-out items and click "Download this item for offline use".  You should see the download item icon in the right lower corner of your Android device.  It took several attempts to get the item to download to my Android (Motorola Xoom running Ice Cream Sandwhich OS).  Once you see the download icon in your notification bar you can open up Bluefire.

Step Four

When you open up the Bluefire App you are greeted with an invitation to sign-up (once again) or log-in to your Adobe ID.  The first couple of times I went quickly and clicked the "I will do it later" button (ignoring the fine print) and went to my library and could not find the Ebsco ebook I had downloaded.  After closing the Bluefire App again and examining the landing page I could see that I was going to have to dig up my Adobe ID or create a new account to access the downloaded eBook.  Adobe apparently handles the DRM (Digital Rights Management) for the Ebsco eBooks.  So, I quickly created an account and indicated to the Firefox browser to remember my account and password since I created a throwaway Adobe ID account (to finally access my eBook!).  Once I successfully created my Adobe ID and entered the credentials I could open the Bluefire library and open my eBook.

Review of Bluefire and Ebsco eBooks

I am a little disappointed about how many hoops you must go through to access Ebsco eBooks for offline use on a tablet, but also understand that it is probably necessary to have the trio of software/ accounts (Ebscohost account, Bluefire App, and Adobe ID) to make it all work and satisfy publishers and everyone.  My concern is that undergraduate students will not take full advantage of these resources and this level of access because of all of the accounts you must generate and all the time it takes to get a book on your device.

The other concern is that while the Bluefire App has some ability to take notes, the features are pretty crude and clumsy.  I was not able to cut and paste from the eBook (which would make citing a bit more inconvenient) and experienced quite a few problems when trying to turn pages or zoom-in on photos.  Sometimes I wanted to go forward and ended up turning pages backwards.  If I happened to place an errand finger on the screen- the page would often get bigger and screw-up the orientation, which I had trouble getting back to normal (not as clean and smooth as a Kindle App).

The eBook check-out process, minus the creation of accounts, is pretty good and I plan on exploring the catalog of eBooks and using it again.  I think the features of the Bluefire App can only get better and perhaps most students already have an Adobe ID (I did too, but don't use it enough to remember the password) making this a "win" for academic libraries and those libraries getting their feet wet with eBooks.  While the access and process might not be as slick as other programs, it is nice that we can finally say "Yes, we have eBooks for your tablet" to students and community library patrons.  What we will probably end up producing is a how to video for students, which will demonstrate the process for Andoid and iPad owners of how to use the eBook collection from Ebsco (because they won't take the time to read an article such as this one).

*Information contained within these pages do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Schreiner University.


  1. Hi, have you run across the error message "No token available" when you try to open an Ebsco Ebook on your tablet? No student has ever been able to open an Ebsco Ebook on an Android Tablet or Ereader. I am a electronic services librarian and I haven't been able to figure it out. Neither has Ebsco technical support; they seem to think it's more of a Bluefire issue.

  2. I have not had that specific problem thus far, though once I downloaded the ebook file from Ebsco, I had to open and close the Bluefire app (a couple times it seemed) to see the new item in the library. The whole process is a bit janky but I was able to read the ebook on my Motorola Xoom, which is by no means a modern tablet. It can only get better. Thanks for the comment.