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Ebooks are a popular publishing mechanism that allow you to purchase and instantly download a book to your computer. We'll look at what and how.

Ebook is short for "electronic book", and while there are several variations the most popular form that you might run across on the web is the "PDF" or "portable document format" ebook.

In fact, I have a few myself.

Let's review the process of downloading, saving and viewing a PDF ebook.

The Link

Your experience with an ebook begins with a link. Links to an ebook will generally appear in one of three places:

  • A link on a website, such as this link to my free Internet Safety ebook.

  • A link on a confirmation page after having purchased an ebook on-line:

    ebook purchase confirmation page

    The page you see might be different depending on where you're purchasing your ebook, but the concept is similar: it may contain a link that you would use to download your ebook.

  • A link in a confirmation email sent to you after having purchased an ebook on-line, or perhaps in a support email if you've been having difficulty with the download. That'll often look similar to this:

The Download

Once you have the link, you'll need to download the ebook that the link is pointing to.

Many instructions tell you to simply click on the link. This will typically download the ebook into the browser's internet cache, and then open the document within the browser.

That's not what I recommend.

Instead, right click on the link:

Right clicking on a link to an ebook

And click on "Save Target As..." (in Firefox it's "Save Link As..."). You'll now get a dialog asking you where to place the file:

Save As location choice downloading a PDF

Here you can choose where on your machine that the browser should place your downloaded file.

ebook being downloaded in IE

Once the download has completed, you now have the ebook on your machine.

The Ebook

To view your newly downloaded ebook, you'll need a PDF reader. The most common is Adobe's own Acrobat Reader. Another that I recommend is the Foxit Reader which is typically smaller and faster.

In either case, you'll need one of these programs on your machine. They're free, simply download and install one of them if your computer does not already have a PDF reading application.

Using Windows Explorer browse to the folder into which the downloaded ebook was placed. In my example above that was "My Documents":

ebook downloaded into My Documents

Simply double click on the ebook to open in your PDF reader:

ebook open in Adobe reader

The Backup

You're not done.

You now have an ebook on your computer, and like all data on your computer it could disappear entirely if your hard disk crashes or if you accidentally delete it. Some vendors will let you download it again, but many place the responsibility on you to safeguard the items you purchase.

Fortunately, safeguarding is easy.

Back up.

It could be as simple as copying the file to an additional safe place, or it could all happen automatically because you're backing up your entire machine regularly. Just make sure that it's backed up.

Fate says that if it's not backed up it's likely to be lost.

Article C4310 - May 12, 2010 « »

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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?

May 17, 2010 7:59 AM

There's a very useful and open source ebook management program called Calibre eBook Management. Helps read any ebook format, and copies to any ebook reading device you can think of, even the iPad.

May 18, 2010 9:40 AM

I have over 400 ebooks and they are good as you can read them whenever you want provided you have the software to read them. They come in a lot of different formats also and watch out for the DRM ones as you can only open and read them with the software that you first opened them with and unfortunately the real good free open source program listed in above comment can not read DRM files. Good programs that I use is the one from Barnes and Noble along with the Adobe Digital Editions they both read DRM files but only if they are from certain places so make sure you have the software prior to buying any ebook you like.

Carl Goodwin
May 18, 2010 4:42 PM

I'm wondering if the question relates more to "Kindle" types of ebooks???

Mike Wilhelm
May 19, 2010 4:05 PM

I'm a little surprised the instructions did not include the following instruction:
"Once the download has completed, right click on the document and select scan with xyz antivirus software".

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