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e-books @ MSU: e-book formats and downloading

This guide is designed to give users information about accessing and downloading e-books provided by the University Libraries.

DRM - Digital Rights Management

DRM is the method e-book providers use to prevent copying, sharing, or to limit the amount of time you can download a book. It is different from the file format and set by the site where you download the e-book.

Different e-book providers use different DRM schemes which can limit which device you can use.

Common DRM schemes:

  • Adobe Digital Editions (encoded PDF)
  • Amazon (Kindle or Kindle apps)
  • Apple iBooks (iOS only)
  • Barnes & Noble (Nook)


PDF files can be read on most any device. However, many e-book providers add Adobe e-book DRM restrictions to the PDF files which require you to download Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) or an ADE compatible app like BlueFire Reader.

Compatible devices:

  • Apple Devices (ADE)
  • Android Tablets (ADE)
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Nook (ADE)


Amazon e-books use the AZW file format and Amazon's DRM. You must use a Kindle device to read it.

Amazon offers Kindle apps for most tablets and smartphones and a Cloud Reader to read e-books from your PC or Mac.


ePub is a free and open e-book standard format. It is compatible with most eReaders and tablets with the exception of the Amazon Kindle.

Compatible devices:

  • Apple devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch)
  • Android devices
  • Kindle Fire
  • Nook
  • Sony Reader
  • Kobo