Reader’s Corner: Making a Virtual Household Library [Part 1]
Or How to Share (not Lend) eBooks with Your Household
One drawback to ebooks is that unlike with printed books they are not sitting on shelves for other household members to pick out for a cozy read. And no, “lending” or “gifting” ebooks is not the same, not even close. Hmm, well, one of those might serve for a new use.
Among other reasons, lack of sharing books in the household is why some people still prefer physical books, aside from that wonderful feel of an actual book in your hands. Then again, most of you who follow the non-promotional stuff out of NobleDead.org know that I [J.C.] am a tech-head and technophile. I now do most of my (limited) leisure reading on a device.
There is a way to regain the home library through ereaders. In fact, there is more than one way, but we will stick with something obvious for a start…
A Simple “eLibrary”
Yes, your ebooks are your property. You should be able to share them with family without a vendor butting in via some “lending” program. And you can. Unfortunately, the simple approach still requires using a vendor. We will assume that…
- You have a computer and/or device for reading ebooks,
- an account for purchasing such through (at least) one online vendor, and
- people in-house can buy/read ebooks from that same vendor through a similar device –OR– a device that can load an “app” from that vendor.
Not all of these are true from one household to the next, but I am keeping this simple for a start. At a later time, we will delve into other approaches that circumvent some (but not all) of these restrictions. There is also a way to use a local back up to do this, but that is complicated and something for later.
eBook Vendor Accounts and Device Limits
In the recent past, vendors limited the number of devices that can connect to one ebook purchasing account. Not so much anymore, though it varies from one vendor to the next. On this tangent, I cannot cover all such vendors, so these instructions will be generic; you need to investigate the options through your particular vendor/devices.
A few vendors have removed or increased limits on the number of devices connected to any one purchasing account. Take advantage of this, if you wish, but be mindful that there are trade-offs, and the vendor is not the only one getting in your way.
Certain publishers place restrictions on certain (or all) of their ebooks so that such cannot be loaded to more than one device at a time, or even “loaned” through a vendor’s lending/sharing program. In this case, the publisher (not the vendor) has enforced a limit of one ebook to one device per one purchase. The account-based “elibrary” method to follow cannot circumvent this.
Centralize Purchase of Household eBooks
First of all, lower that jerked up knee. You are not putting yourself at risk in trying this. You are not losing possession of your ebooks any more than you lost that physical book off of a shelf to someone in your own household picked it up.
This approach requires looking inside your purchasing account and determining how many devices are already connected to it. Typically, you will see your own ereader or other portable device. If you followed my lead in how to “Back-Up Your eBooks [Part 1]”, then you will also see the pc in which you installed an application connected to that account.
Some vendors (the dinosaurs) still limit how many devices can connect to one account. Usually they allow enough for a typical household, so check that limit. Likely, you have not exceeded it, and there is room for more devices on that list. Are you catching the hint yet?
If you have two “devices” connected, and both can load your purchased ebooks, why not add a few more up to your limit, if there is one? Of course you will need to pick one account to be the household’s central “elibrary” account. It should also be the one from which you took any ebook back-up steps. For other household members with…
- a similar ereader from the same vendor, or
- a device capable of loading an “app” or application from that vendor…
Go into those other devices / applications and change the vendor “Account” settings to match the chosen elibrary account’s login / purchase information. Simple, yes? That other device can now load any ebook purchased through that account. But there are a few more steps to consider before everyone can (should) access a central, household elibrary.
Centralize Previously Purchased eBooks
What about ebooks previously purchased through other household members accounts? Well, most vendors have a way to “gift” an ebook to someone else who is also a customer at that same vendor. If your vendor does not provide this option, then start buying your ebooks somewhere else. Seriously, there is no excuse in this day and age for any vendor to not provide this option. Those are your ebooks—your property—and you paid for them!
Each household member can go online and, through their old account, “gift” the ebooks they purchased to the household’s chosen elibrary account. Simple, but there are drawbacks… and limits.
Gifting is not Lending / Sharing
Those ebooks are moved—not “added”—to the chosen elibrary account. They will no longer be available in the individual accounts. I cannot offer you options to duplicate the ebook to the elibrary account, leaving the original copy where it is (through this method)… and I should not. That would be “piracy / theft,” so do not think about it.
And since you have an elibrary, you no longer need those other accounts. But it might be good to keep them around, just the same. Your choice.
About What You Do Not Want to Read
A known reluctance for this approach is that not everyone in the household reads the same type of materials. Certainly Barb does not want my tech-head stuff in her ereader, and I am not into her preference for historical fiction. Each person should be able to pick and choose which ebooks they want loaded to their device.
Any worthwhile vendor provides per device loading of ebooks of choice. And if not… move to a better vendor, because the one you are using in that case is a dinosaur… and should be relegated to a tar pit!
There is no excuse for not having your ebooks your way in all ways through all separate devices, apps, and applications. The best vendors already know this and have setup their system to accommodate you. Others are trying to catch up. Any that do (will) not have this feature do not deserve your patronage.
Take that to heart from an author who believes that your ebooks should not only be your property but also be treated like the printed ones on your shelves. Any vendor who does not agree is not the vendor for you. Leave them immediately without a kiss goodbye.
About What Others Should Not Read
There are ebooks that adults purchase which are not for readers of certain age groups. If you have children or even “young adults” in the house, then be mindful that the above approach executed unmindfully allows all household readers full access to the elibrary. Well, at least with this method, but we will get into other approaches at another time.
Typically, those young ones with devices of their own are purchasing with a household adult’s credit account number. This is necessary in many cases, not only for purchasing ebooks but for accessing an account to load previously purchased ebooks. There is one simple answer that should suffice.
- Go into into the device / app account settings of any household member who should not have unrestricted purchase / loading access.
- Delete the vendor account’s password but leave all other information in place.
- If the account settings has an option to “save” the password, then turn that off.
Yes, if and when that young reader wants a new ebook, that account password has to be entered for the purchase. Better yet, the one or more adults in the household with direct access to the account (and password) should be the one(s) purchasing any ebooks for the elibrary.
About Secure Passwords
Do I really need to mention this? Yes! Over the last 30+ years, I have repaired or white-hacked accounts for lazy people who had their passwords hacked (not stolen). And yes, I know some of you are among those types.
Many online systems now have time-outs / lock-outs for too many password failures; that is not good enough. Password resets are also not enough. Such might not be possible if other account information was changed during a successful hacked access. Your password should typically use…
- more than 8 characters,
- at least one capital letter, and
- at least one allowed non-alphanumeric character.
Just these few changes increase the potential variations and difficulty in hacking your password by a factor of x2080 or more. This applies whether the hack is done manually or by a brute-force script/utility, sometimes called a “claymore” by us old-schoolers in IT circles. And yes, those scripts/utilities can be rigged to bypass some forms of system lock outs for too many password failures. Online system security measures will not protect you from your own laziness!
A Multi-Vendor eLibrary
I know that a lot of people prefer just an ereader and nothing else. Any other functions in that device (email, web, etc.) are secondary. The problem is that such devices cannot (always) let you shop where you wish. That is changing with newer ereaders, which are closer to true “tablets” into which you can load “apps,” such as ones for other vendors.
If you have the latter kind of ereader or better yet (my own preference) an actual tablet not sold by an ebook vendor, then all steps mentioned above can be repeated in each app / application for each different ebook vendor where you shop. No matter where you buy an ebook, loading the app for each vendor into all like devices for household members will give you an even bigger household library. And freedom!
The household library should not be anymore beholden to one vendor than those physical books you had/have on your shelves. Get out of the mindset that you are limited to one-stop shopping. There is only one stop for you; what you have in that device in your hand… which should lead to the full world wide web in your shopping as in all other things. Do not get trapped into thinking that the brand name on your device is the only brand of ebook product you can purchase.
And that’s that for now. More to come in the future concerning your ebooks, dear readers in my corner.