Reader’s Corner: Back-up Your eBooks! [Part 1 from J.C.]
Nearly all major e-book vendors have a so-called “cloud” service attached to purchase accounts. What many readers do not know is that this is not adequate protection against loss of your purchases. This technology (first conceived and born in the 1990s) is not all that we think it is. Nor does it always give you completely unaltered access to your e-books when and where you wish. Your e-books are not fully and safely yours… until you take control of them yourself.
FACT: Cloud accounts have legal loopholes; these holes have not been fully plugged by legislation at either the national or international levels. This applies to more than just e-books, and some of the plugs applied so far may not favor you, the reader.
Laws have not caught up with ownership rights for the present status of virtual / electronic property of all types. Your rights are not completely protected. Any claims to the contrary are false in generalization. And such are generalizations.
In addition, new “leasing” models for online web-based software “suites” are catching the eyes of a few e-book vendors. Some wish to toy with terminology, looking to imply that “purchasing” an e-book is permanently “leasing data” for a one-time fee. A “lease” is not outright ownership of your copy of an e-book. Further details on these matters is a topic for another time.
Whether you have a few e-books or a big e-library, it is time to archive them locally. Yes you can, even ones that are DRM protected [encrypted]. First and foremost, you do not have a true backup of your purchases if they are not under your exclusive control. Just like with (expensive) software purchased by download or installed directly through an “app” store, that is a misconception, so time to correct it…
The “True” Truth About Backups
FACT: Nothing should ever be called a “backup” unless under your exclusive control. Anything else is a “copy” available for convenience… or sometimes not convenient. Unless you control it completely, it is not a backup!
Time to get savvy, dear readers. Before we continue, perhaps grab a cup of coffee, tea, or anything else. (My preference is “White Peony,” which I am sipping right now.) This time out, we take a cursory look at perhaps the (semi)easiest way to backup your e-books, though it has limitations.
Install an eReader Application
If you purchase e-books through a vendor that offers a free e-book reader application for your pc, then download and install it now. This is the first step in what might be the easiest method for a rudimentary backup process.
FACT: “PC” means “personal computer,” which includes a Mac(intosh) / Apple computer, netbooks, etc. Disregard term manipulations by technocrats and sketchy arguments from brand worshippers. I try to stick to true meanings where they count.
WARNING: Never download an ereader application from an “app” store unrelated to the vendor of your purchased e-books. There have been multiple reports over the last three years of unusual anomalies.
In a number of cases, app store version numbers on pc-based ereader application were incorrect for whatever reasons. Sometimes the number was older than the application’s true nature; other times, the opposite. Either case led to issues when the application tried to update itself. It also left users confused and at a loss for workable fixes. In some cases, an app store version would only update through the same said app store and not the vendor’s site.
Always download and/or install pc ereader applications directly from the pertinent e-book vendor! Where possible on Android and iOS, do the same for any “app” installed in your portable devices. Do not be lazy; go to the app’s true source!
Some people use pc applications as their primary purchase system for e-books. They even install multiple ones, shop wherever they please, and “side-load” their purchases to whatever device. [Side-loading will be covered in the future… and no, it does not always mean plugging an ereader into a pc.]
I side-load ebooks to my Android tablet along with converting all e-books to EPUB format; that way, no matter where or what I purchase, all of my e-books are available to read on any of my electronics as well as in my ereader app of choice — Mantano — which has a free and purchased edition. You can guess which version I use.
Once you have the selected application installed, and with your computer still online (connected to the Internet), the application should automatically load any e-books you have purchased from that vendor. During installation, you were likely asked to provide / create your purchasing account credentials. If not, look for “preferences,” “options,” or “settings” in the applications menus to enter this information. You may then need to manually “sync” the application with your purchasing account if it was not newly created.
Any e-books you have not moved to your purchase account’s “storage” will automatically load to your application (and pc). They are still available in your ereader as well. And no, simply downloading e-books into a pc is not a backup; those e-books are still not under your exclusive control.
FACT: Through some of these applications, the vendor can make changes and alter access to your e-books whenever you access you purchase account. In some cases, if you have not properly attended to system and application-specific security, the ereader application will seek the vendor’s site the instant you go online. It then executes awaiting commands from the vendor.
By the way, any “app” in a portable device you use can do the same thing. That’s another good reason to backup your e-books… your property… elsewhere. Now that you have your e-books loaded onto your computer, you must take another few steps.
Access Your Storage
Make sure that when you do backups that you first load all (or as many as possible) of your purchased e-books from your account “storage.” Any e-book you have in storage, archive, etc. that does not load a copy to your ereader application will not be part of your backup.
Ereaders and like portable units may have limits on how many e-books they can store. If you use one of these, you likely already know if you had to shuffle out some e-books to storage in order to load new ones. It is time to change that for the moment when you access your account through a pc application. Yes, you must, to get all of your e-books downloaded to that application… and backup all of them.
Prepare Your “Backup” Storage Area
Since your e-books are already downloaded through the application, copying them to another location on the pc is silly. I strongly suggest a USB stick or “thumb-drive” as a minimum option for your e-book library backup. All true backups are on external storage and not inside your pc. This way you can even carry your library with you.
Most USB sticks come preformatted for use with any OS on any pc. Almost all e-books are relatively small in size and do not take up much space. Sticks of 8, 16, 32, or higher gigabyte storage are relatively cheap and should easily hold the average e-book library. Another option is a folder on a full size, external USB drive. Perhaps you already use one for you personal data backups.
External storage outside of your pc is a must in case the machine goes “poof!” Oh, um, you are backing up your personal files as well… yes? And that backup is also external to the pc… yes? Now you need to locate where the ereader application stores your downloaded e-books.
Find and Copy Your eBook Library
The location of downloaded e-books will depend on (1) the vendor’s application preferences and/or (2) the specific operating system you use. In other words, there are some variables involved. Do not let that daunt you.
First check the application’s “preferences,” “settings,” or “options.” Quite often this contains a field for where the downloaded e-books are stored. It might even be a field in which you can enter your own default directory. If the latter, I suggest “eBooks” as a subfolder inside your “Documents” directory.
NOTE: If you are already backing up your personal data, including your “Documents” folder, to an external storage unit, then you likely will be backing up your “eBooks” directory as well. But check and see to be certain after your next backup cycle. If that is working, then likely you do not need to use a thumb-drive as well.
In some cases, the default directory might be hidden by either the application or your OS; a notorious practice that I despise. Search out instructions for your OS about how to “show hidden files or folders” if need be; you can search for this in the “help” of any decent OS. Such answers are also widely available through an online search.
Unfortunately, I have heard that Apple’s OS X is the worst in this issue and (worse still) varies from version to version per each major e-book vendor. I long ago overrode such nonsense, so it is difficult in the moment for me to investigate this for you. I have noted that is more common when installing from an ereader acquired through an “app” store instead from the e-book vendor’s own site.
If you cannot relocate your e-books folder, but you do find it… copy it to your prepared external storage. Only then do you have a real backup of your e-book library.
The Stuff I Did Not Mention…
Obviously I skipped over quite a bit. This includes differences (like the e-books folder) when combining Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Sony, etc. applications with Windows (XP, 7, 8), OS X (too many numbers), Linux, Android, ChromeOS, etc. And yes, Android and ChromeOS can run on PCs.
Between just those mentioned above, we have no less than 35 combinations. This is why I could not (yet) present specifics for where to find that e-books folder. In the future, I hope to get more specific. For now, those willing to do some of the work themselves can at least start taking (true) ownership of their e-books. You have the right to do so… so do so!
Hopefully I can share with you again in the near future to expand on our new “Reader’s Corner” series. For now, thank you for taking a little time with me.