Returning An eBook

Today, while I was looking for something else on the Seattle Public Library website, I discovered that it is possible to return a borrowed eBook. Until today, I’ve been keeping finished eBooks until they expire – tying them up while other people are waiting.

The processing is simple, but not obvious. I was actually skeptical that it would work. I’ve just now tried it, and it does, indeed, work. All you do is go into Adobe Digital Editions, right click on the book cover, and select “Returned Borrowed Item”. Somehow, the library knows I’ve returned it. I’ve checked my account, and The Bedwetter is no longer checked out to me, even though I had 14 days left on my borrow.

The whole process of electronic library books fascinates – and somewhat confuses – me.

Here’s how the system works, in case you’re unfamiliar with it. The library has a limited number of copies of an eBook. (That makes sense, since the library has to buy them.) If all the copies are checked out, I have to place a hold if I want to borrow that eBook. So far, it’s just like a physical copy of a library book.

Once the eBook I want is available, I download a copy onto our computer. Then I drag that copy into Adobe Digital Editions, which processes it into a readable form. Then I upload the eBook into my eReader, and it’s mine for 21 days. (Then the files expire.) Here’s what fascinates me, though: I now have two copies of that eBook – one in my eReader and one in Adobe Digital Editions. How many of my friends can now upload that eBook into their eReaders? (Does this defeat the limited copies the library has?) I’ve never actually tried it – it seems dishonest, somehow.

Of course, it’s not all that different from borrowing a physical book and passing it around to all my friends. It is different, though – we’re not all carrying around a copy at the same time, reading it at the same time.

Now that I’ve learned how to return an eBook early, the opposite question occurs to me: Can I upload the eBook into my eReader and then immediately return it for someone else to read? As long as I don’t connect my eReader, the eBook will still be in it, right?

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