I’ve ignored the library for oh, I would say 15 years. If you’ve been like me, then it might surprise you that you can borrow books, music and video electronically from the library now. How does it work? It’s similar to how you would rent videos from iTunes or Rogers. You download the electronic file, which can only be played through a certain program (thanks to DRM), and you will have a certain time period to read/view it. Then the file will expire and you won’t be able to view it again.

With the Kindle, I’ve started browsing the library again for interesting ebooks to read. Unfortunately, because the Kindle does not support the format of books that the libraries provide (which are predominantly in ePub format to be played in Adobe Digital Expressions), one has to jump through a few hoops in order to get their borrowed library books onto their Kindle. Along the way, it also becomes very easy (and necessary – otherwise you can’t read it on the Kindle) to break the DRM.

Breaking the DRM may be morally reprehensive (i.e., you are stealing from the library!) but I see it this way:

  1. I’m not doing it to distribute books that I receive from the library, I’m just doing it so that I can read it on a device that I own. It’s like saying, you can borrow library books but you can ONLY read it if you’re on the subway – why can’t I read it in my own home?
  2. It allows me to time shift and get around holds and queues. Even though the books are electronic, each library only owns a certain amount of licenses for each book. For example, if they only own 1 license for Harry Potter, then only one person can borrow Harry Potter at one time. The next person has to wait until the copy of Harry Potter that has been lent out “expires” before they can borrow it. And you can’t return it early. This is a stupid format for digital media and the way to get around it is to request all the books you want to read, and then when they arrive, transform them into a format where you can read it when you please.

In essence, I think I am still abiding the spirit of the library, just getting around arbitrary digital restrictions posed by the ebook framework.

If you agree with this, there are some tools to help you convert format and strip DRM. First you will need Calibre, which is open source software that manages your book collection and converts between file formats. Then you’ll need some Calibre plugins to remove the DRM. I found some here. To get everything to work together, you’ll might want to follow these instructions. Once you’ve set it up once, it work transparently.