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Ebooks are commonly distributed as simple PDF files which you can download and then read on your computer using any of several free PDF readers.

I've purchased an ebook, and have received in return a web page, or some kind of pointer in email, that I'm supposed to do something with. It tells me the ebook is a "PDF", whatever that is. For the life of me, I can't figure out the instructions. How am I supposed to get my book?

Ebooks, which is short for "electronic books", are books that you download and read on your computer. The "download" part is fairly straightforward, but it's difficult to give one set of instructions that works for all users. And, to be fair, sometimes publishers make it harder than they need to as well.

Let's see if we can't cut through some of the confusion.

First Things First

In order to be able to read a PDF file, you must have Adobe Reader installed on your PC. Adobe Reader is free, and available here. Follow the instructions on the Adobe site to download and install the Adobe Reader onto your machine.

Now, as to your PDF document, the publisher may have given it to you either of three ways: as a download on a web page, as an attachment in email, or as a direct link in email. Let's look at each of those.

Web Page Downloads

In this scenario, the publisher has directed you to a web page that has a link to a PDF. They may have sent you an email, but in this scenario, the information in that email is simply a link to a web page. More commonly, after you've purchased your ebook, they publisher's shopping cart will simply take you to a page with something that says "click here to download".

Here's an example from an ebook I recently purchased at Ask The Builder. After I completed my purchase I was taken to a page that summarized my order and included this:

ebook download link

Now, depending on where you're purchasing your ebook, your link may look different - it may look like a normal text link that says "click here", or it may look like a full URL (for example http://med.askleomedia.com/ebooks/safeontheinternet.pdf - more on this in a minute). In this case, the site has a graphic button that indicates where you should click to get your ebook.

Don't Click - I know it sounds backwards, but rather than just clicking on that button or link, you should right-click - that is, click with the right mouse button instead of the normal left button. (Mac users shift+click instead). This will bring up a popup menu:

right click pop-up menu

(If you did a normal or left-click by mistake, don't worry. It will download your ebook and open it within your browser. We can still get things to work properly. Go down to the "Email Links" instructions below and continue there.)

Don't worry if your menu looks a little different - it varies depending on the internet browser you're using, and possibly on other software you have installed.

Click on Save Target As..., which may also be Save Link As..., or something similar, again depending on your browser. This will allow you to specify where on your computer to save the ebook you're about to download.

That will bring up a dialog much like this:

save as dialog box

If you know what directory you want to store your ebook in, then simply navigate there and press Save. If you're not sure where to put the ebook, I recommend your My Documents folder. If the Save in: item doesn't already say "My Documents", you can see a list of places by clicking the down-arrow to its right. In the resulting list you should "My Documents". Click on that, and press Save.

Once you press Save, you often see a progress dialog that, when complete, looks like this:

downloading complete dialog

At this point, you can click on Open, and Adobe Reader will open and display your ebook on screen.

Try it! Download a FREE copy of the ebook version of my Ask Leo! article "How do I keep my computer safe on the internet?". You've seen the instructions above, so (right) click here to download the ebook.

Email Attachments

Sometimes ebook sellers will send you your ebook in email, as an attachment. There are several problems with this approach - most notably that spam filters will often prevent the mail from ever getting to you at all. If you don't get the email that you were promised, check your filtered spam - it may be there. If the email didn't even make it that far, your only recourse is to contact the publisher.

Assuming you do get the email, you should see your ebook present as an attachment:

ebook as an attachment

That example is using Outlook 2003 as my mail client. Exactly what you see will vary depending on what email program you are using.

In most email programs, there's an option to "save attachments". In Outlook 2003 one place to find it is on the File menu, Save Attachments... option:

save attachments menu item

Click that and you'll get something very much like the "Save As" dialog we discussed above:

save attachments dialog

As I said, this is my example using Outlook 2003, so what you see may be slightly different.

If you know what directory you want to store your ebook in, then simply navigate there and press Save. If you're not sure where to put the ebook, I recommend your My Documents folder. If the Save in: item doesn't already say "My Documents", you can see a list of places by clicking the down-arrow to its right. In the resulting list you should "My Documents". Click on that, and press Save.

Web-based mail note: if you are using a web-based email program, such as Hotmail, Yahoo, GMail or similar, it's likely that the attachment will be presented as a link. In that case you should treat it according to the instructions for Web Page Downloads, above.

Email Links

This is perhaps the most confusing scenario. This is the case where the publisher sends you a simple link to the ebook somewhere on the web:

emailed link to pdf

The problem is that most mail programs do not provide a "Save Target As..." function on links in messages. The only thing you can do is what I said not to do earlier:

Click the link.

This will in most cases:

  • Download the ebook to a temporary location
  • Open your internet browser, if it's not open already
  • Open Adobe Reader within your internet browser
  • Open the ebook within Adobe Reader

It may look something like this:

ebook displayed within browser

Now, you can read the ebook this way, but problem is that concept of a "temporary location" that the document was downloaded to. We need to save the document to a permanent location.

Just above the top of the ebook is a button labeled Save a Copy:

Save A Copy button

Push that, and you'll get a "Save A Copy..." dialog:

Save A Copy dialog

If you know what directory you want to store your ebook in, then simply navigate there and press Save. If you're not sure where to put the ebook, I recommend your My Documents folder. If the Save in: item doesn't already say "My Documents", you can see a list of places by clicking the down-arrow to its right. In the resulting list you should "My Documents". Click on that, and press Save.

Try it! Download a FREE copy of the ebook version of my Ask Leo! article "How do I keep my computer safe on the internet?". You've seen the instructions above, so click here: http://med.askleomedia.com/ebooks/safeontheinternet.pdf to download the ebook. It should open up a new browser window, and display the book. Remember to "Save a Copy".

Web-based mail note: if you are using a web-based email program, such as Hotmail, Yahoo, GMail or similar, it's likely that the link will allow you to right click, and "Save Target As...". In that case you should treat it according to the instructions for Web Page Downloads, at the beginning of this article.

Now What?

Unless you already knew where you wanted the book, the scenarios above simply downloaded your new ebook into your "My Documents" folder. To read your ebook, do the following:

  • Double click on the My Documents icon on your desktop, or click on the Start menu, and then click on My Documents.
  • In the resulting window, double click on the name of the ebook you just received.

That's it! Adobe Reader should start and display your ebook.

Happy Reading!

Article C2410 - August 24, 2005 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

37 Comments
kumbimi
October 24, 2005 11:04 AM

ok

mandy
April 28, 2006 12:51 AM

hihi

blaine McRae
December 30, 2006 6:37 AM

I recently ordered an ebook for crown molding and was unable to download it. Would you kindly help me. Thanks

Leo Notenboom
December 30, 2006 8:59 AM

Did you follow the steps in this article? How did it not work? What part of the process failed? Any error messages?

Gerry
March 10, 2007 1:57 PM

Can I then save the book to a CD? Or are there "things" which will prohibit that? With possibilities of a "crash", I would like to have them / it, more secure.

Thanks

Leo Notenboom
March 10, 2007 2:06 PM

Sure. You can burn a PDF to CD.

John
May 11, 2007 5:28 AM

I will soon be working at a wrokstation that has Outlook 2003 as the email client, by no web browser (to prevent surfing at work). Sometimes I get emails that are meant to bring a document, but in fact the document is simply a link. How do I download the link in the body of the email if I don't have a browser? Will the email client download it itself?

Patricia
September 8, 2007 5:29 PM

I am trying to download ebooks from the library but every time I only get a percentage of the whole document, 65 out of 111 or 160. How do I fix that so I get the whole book?

jessica
September 23, 2007 9:24 AM

hello sir , i need to know from where i will be able to download books . i want a site which allows us to download books . i want a site which will allow us to download and save the books without any cost that is freely. pls reply soon .

malini
September 24, 2007 12:05 AM

I tried to download an ebook which was in the .rar format. (i'm afraid i dont know what that means and cannot explain this any better)i downloaded it and was told i had to extract it to read it. So i clicked on extraction wizard icon and followed the instructions. the file now reads as NRA.zip and every time i click on it i get something like a massive word doc with html langauage. and i also get a pop up window saying that i cant open a document if its not in .doc format. What do i do?

Leo A. Notenboom
September 25, 2007 12:56 PM

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

RAR is another compressed file format very much like "zip". Various programs
will expand the contents of a .rar file, including 7-zip, which is free:
http://www.7-zip.org/ - redownload and open it with that.

Leo

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)

iD8DBQFG+WfoCMEe9B/8oqERAmKkAJ4uzsRyDT/vUUaHCTojye7gUCBivQCaAl/w
RPO7YEdfYddjnoQVBoQRP68=
=0noJ
-----END PGP SIGNATURE-----

Mike
February 9, 2008 12:32 PM

Are there devices (other then my laptop) that will allow me to take my ebooks with me? I am looking for a portable device like an Ipod that will allow me to read my ebooks when I travel. Any recommendations? Thanks.

Rev. George C. Parsons
February 14, 2008 7:15 AM

Read the article. Not sure if I fully understand everything.

Rev. George C. Parsons
February 14, 2008 7:40 AM

Not sure what you are asking for. Have posted a request for downloading the e-book The Geneva Bible. What do I do now?

Brian
July 7, 2008 9:47 AM

My mac says the ebook I purchased is an exe application when I try to download it. ( link says it's pdf). It won't let me open it. What can I do

Vijayandraa
July 15, 2008 5:19 AM

Where can find the ebook on Mullins L, Management & Organizational Behaviour, 7th Ed.

Mason
August 25, 2008 12:19 PM

How do I stick an ebook on my ipod?

Jay Collins
January 17, 2009 3:02 PM

I have tried, and tried, to download e-books in adobe format. All I keep getting asked is whether my computer is registered to allow this. I have Adobe Reader 9 already installaed but I just keep going in loops to try to access anything that allows me to download. I even contacted Adobe customer service - the person was in Mumbai, India and suggested I go to the Adobe chat room to see how I can do it - they didn';t have any technical services there! Boy, what a frustration but thank goodness for Sony Reader - that's a cinch!

L
June 28, 2009 7:33 AM

First thing is email your questions to the person you purchased the ebook from...they might be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to open it.

s.dombowsky
November 19, 2009 11:43 AM

can down load but request password to save where do i get password
Syd

If an ebook is password protected that typically means it should be purchased, and part of the purchase process is to provide you with the password. Check the source of the ebook.
Leo
20-Nov-2009

mazie
January 9, 2010 3:13 PM

Which are the safe and good sites to download Free ebooks?

thanak
January 12, 2010 5:00 PM

I know at all that how can i download the ebook but the answers that i do need is where can i download the free all ebook eventhough in licence, can't I?
I'm glade that i reap your instruction however i really want get ny answer as above.
Best wish
Thanks...

If you're asking where you can steal ebooks that should be licensed and paid for, I'm afraid that's not a question I would answer, even if I knew the answer.
Leo
14-Jan-2010

Vince Young
January 27, 2010 1:54 PM

Hi Leo,

Is there a way to save your page when reading an ebook? Let's say I stop on page 55. When I reopen the PDF, I'd like to go back to that page. Kind of like a bookmark I guess.

Amy
March 1, 2010 3:26 PM

I bought an eBook through eCampus.com and I downloaded it and everything but all that comes up is a code that I don't know what to do with. I tried your method that you've shown in the article above but it didn't work. All I get is the code. What do i do?

gaurav narang
March 11, 2010 11:33 AM

how do i copy protected pdf file on the internet?

By getting the password via legal means. (Realize that depending on what you mean by "copy", this may also be illegal even if you have the password.)
Leo
12-Mar-2010

Margaret Astbury
April 1, 2010 6:17 AM

Can I download an eBook on other devices apart from my desktop, eg iPad, Kindle etc?

It depends on the device and format. Everything on the Kindle, for example, is technically an electonic book (ebook), but in their proprietary format. There are ways to read PDFs on Kindles depending on the version (check out Kindle's support forums). I also have a PDF reader on my Blackberry. No idea about the iPad yet, but I'd be shocked if PDFs didn't work there.
Leo
01-Apr-2010

Sue
April 19, 2010 1:31 PM

I bought a couple of e books a while back. I've read your article and I think I was given a weblink to download them (of course the most confusing option.)
I did manage to read them and saved them in my documents folder (I have a MAC) but now I can't open them to read them again. I can open the jpegs for the cover and such but I can't seem to find any of the text.
Should I have saved them in a certain format or something? Have I basically lost my ability to read these books again because I did something wrong? I don't want to buy more e books if I only get to read them once.

Thanks.

priyanka
July 24, 2010 8:09 AM

It depends on the device and format. Everything on the Kindle, for example, is technically an electonic book (ebook), but in their proprietary format.
I bought an eBook through eCampus.com and I downloaded it and everything but all that comes up is a code that I don't know what to do with. I tried your method that you've shown in the article above but it didn't work. All I get is the code. What do i do?
adventures of huckleberry finn

As you've pointed out with the proliferation of different readers different software or tools might be needed. I'd need to know what kind of file you have in order to make a guess as to what you need.
Leo
25-Jul-2010

Ellen
December 10, 2010 1:09 AM

Thank you for your to teach us for the download of e-book. However, I still have some problem in downloading e-book from this website:

http://www.coursesmart.com/9780321544476/partchap01#X2ludGVybmFsX1BGUmVhZGVyP3htbGlkPTk3ODAzMjE1NDQ0NzYvMTY=

Can you teach me how to do that?

Ashleigh
February 28, 2011 5:23 AM

My university's library has many E-books on the database. But you have to be connected to the internet (the library's database) to read them, and even then, the reading is not easy, because I have to zoom in just to see a section of the page.
Is there any way to save the E-book as a PDF or atleast make the E-book read-able offline as a webpage?
Thanks

This will depend on the security that is in place on the ebooks. If they do not have security on the books then the solution is as easy as opening the ebook and saving it to your computer to be read later.

More than likely, however, the ebooks are protected and it is intended that you read them in only on campus. In that case saving it to your computer is much more difficult, and would be an infringement of copyright laws. Can't help ya there.

Best is simply to ask your librarian for assistance. He/she would know both the rules in place on the ebooks, and the methods of accessing them.
Leo
28-Feb-2011

mq
June 14, 2011 12:34 PM

i have an alturek pro libre. i have downloaded my books for my daugher, but it doesnt carry over to the alturek...it says it cant open the file

Jack
August 29, 2011 1:55 PM

I downloaded an ebook which was sent as an attachment in an email; when I tried to open it and read it using the Adobe reader, there was an on-screen message which said that Adobe couldn't open it as it had been sent as an attachment by email and was either unsupported or had not been decoded.

I can't find any other advice on how to solve this. Please help, Leo...

Mark J
August 29, 2011 2:08 PM

@Jack
If Adobe is unable to open a PDF sent by email, it's not because Adobe doesn't open emailed PDF attachments, as millions of PDFs are sent by email. Most likely the PDF was damaged in the sending or was defective in some other way. Try to have the PDF re-sent.

GRAEME BULLAS
December 14, 2011 1:45 AM

Your explaination was very thorough but I think it is directed to Windows users. I have as ASUS which has an Android OS. Can you advise if you can taylor your instruction for users such as myself?

Marike
January 9, 2013 11:25 AM

I Have purchased an eBook, but when I open it, the screen displays "eBook file protected!" How can I open and read my books ?

Mark J
January 9, 2013 1:57 PM

@Marike
You'd have to be more specific about which website you bought the eBook from, and which format was the eBook file (the letters after the dot)?

Jennifer
March 2, 2013 9:40 AM

Hi
I just purchased an ebook that came as an attachment in an email. The directions instructed me to download EPUB and for that I needed a Nook or Kindle. I downloaded the free Nook ap from B&N, but the book has not downloaded. It now says I've exceed the two clicks and the book has been disabled. I contacted the publisher, but have not heard back.

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