How to install Adobe Digital Editions on Linux (Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn)

Or the most legal way (yet) to do so if you don’t have access to a Windows computer.

This post is also available in Italian. Questo post è disponibile anche italiano.

PREMISE

I have recently obtained from the (public) library of my (public) University a copy of the book “Apache Maven 2 Effective Implementation: Build and Manage Applications with Maven, Continuum, and Archiva” by Maria Odea Ching and Brett Porter. Alas, the download comes as an Adobe Digital Editions file locked with DRM and it took me some effort to be able to read it on my Linux machine (Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn), I will outline here the steps I had to take.

There are several guides (1,2) (also in Italian, (3)) on the internet about installing Adobe Digital Editions but they tend to get out of date pretty quickly. The advice on Adobe forums is also sparse (1,2). Most of the guides suggest to use Wine but the newest releases of Adobe Digital Editions (v. 4) require you to download Microsoft’s .NET Platform which is, from my experience, a blocking step. I have tried to use the latest versions of Wine, and other derived softwares as PlayOnLinux or Crossover and I wasn’t able to get Adobe Digital Editions 4.0.2 to even finish the setup.

In the end, I found this solution (more aq patch than a solution, actually) that makes use of a Windows virtual machine that you can get legally.

DISCLAIMERS

This procedure will require you to download and install a ton of proprietary software and accept their licenses and terms. Alas, there seem to be no alternative or workaround to that at the moment. I think this is a classic example of the number of reasons of why DRMs are defective by design.

A general disclaimer: the advice you will find here is intended to show what you have to do to read book that you have legally purchased or acquired to these software. The point of this blog post is also to show how much trouble Linux users have to go through to do so, in the hope that this will demonstrate that DRMs are not a solution to the problem of managing how copies of digital works are done. I didn’t review (nor I have the intention to review) all the legal terms attached to these software, but you should review them if you are concerned. Still, this is probably better then downloading software from unknown sources but it’s probably out of the boundaries of what you can do as per the various licenses. Probably you are not allowed to take all the steps below just because you will be “circumventing” DRM. Probably «You’ll be a criminal either way». Use this guide at your own risk. You have been warned.

If you think all of this DRM stuff is nonsense and if your library distributes DRM-protected books, please join the FSF in calling on libraries to eliminate DRM, also consider the possibility of writing them a letter.

STEPS

  1. Head to modern.ie: this is a website by Microsoft1 where you can download perfectly working VirtualBox virtual machines with Microsoft Windows and use them (more)
  2. Choose the version IE7 on Vista and the platform VirtualBox on Linux and choose the download method you prefer (cURL download here2 (Why Vista and not XP?3)
  3. You will download multiple files which in total make aroung 4.1 GB so, if you are on a home ADSL connection, find something else to do for the following few hours.
  4. (optional) If you downloaded the split files with cURL, concatenate them together to obtain a single file
    cat IE7.Vista.For.Linux.VirtualBox.zip.00* > IE7.Vista.For.Linux.VirtualBox.zip
  5. check the md5 sums of the files you just downloaded
  6. unzip the file, you will obtain an .ova file
    unzip IE7.Vista.For.Linux.VirtualBox.zip
  7. Open VirtualBox and from the menu File/Import appliance... import the IE7 - Vista.ova file
  8. Fire up the virtual machine
  9. Install Microsoft’s .NET platform 4, which is required to install the latest version of Adobe Digital Editions
  10. Download Adobe Digital Editions from Adobe’s website, install it by double clicking on the installer.
  11. Download and install Calibre for Windows
  12. Download and install the DeDRM plugin for calibre by Apprentice Alf, if you need more instructions look at this post.

At this point you should be able to open the .ascm file you receive from your digital bookseller or your library, download the files to your virtual machine and then add them to Calibre and get rid of the DRM. Finally¸ you will have in your Calibre library a file that you can read on any machine (and any device,in fact you can use Calibre to convert your book in the format you need).

This guide is already quite long, so I avoided dwelling in details. If there is something unclear please ask in the comments and I will try to answer you and update the post.


  1. don’t take my word for it here’s a whois:

    $ whois modern.ie

    domain: modern.ie
    descr: Microsoft Corporation
    descr: Body Corporate (Ltd,PLC,Company)
    descr: Discretionary Name
    [...]
    person: Benjamin Orndorff
    nic-hdl: AOG516-IEDR
    source: IEDR

    person: MSN Hostmaster
    nic-hdl: AAW572-IEDR
    source: IEDR



  2. # Copy/paste the command below into your terminal to begin downloading all the required files
    # Don't have cURL or want to learn more, visit http://curl.haxx.se/

    curl -O -L "https://www.modern.ie/vmdownload?browserOS=IE7-Vista&parts=5&platform=Linux&virtPlatform=virtualbox&filename=VMBuild_20141027/VirtualBox/IE7/Linux/IE7.Vista.For.Linux.VirtualBox.zip{.001,.002,.003,.004,.005}"

  3. I have tested the installation on Windows XP and I obtain some errors when installing Adobe Digital Editions so, on my second try, I downloaded Vista. Furthermore, also Calibre has problems with XP.

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