Getting the Library’s PDF eBooks on your Android tablet

…and yes, this is just for Android (sorry iPad users, for once, it’s you that’s excluded!)

Tested on the Samsung Galaxy tablet, Kobo Vox and Samsung GalaxyS Phone:

A recent question at one of our public eBooks Show & Tell courses has got us into deep-thoughts and research mode.  Our patron wanted to know: if gadgets like the iPad and Android tabs have beautiful screens which can display pdf documents georgeously, why can’t they be used to download and display Adobe PDF ebooks, which are best for images?

PDFs vs. ePUBs: A PDF eBook is basically a photo image of the printed book (margins, page numbers, images remain in place) whereas an ePUB has resizable text and margins.  PDFs are great if the design & layout of the page is important to the reading experience (Children’s picture books that mix image and text on the page are a good example). EPUBs, on the other hand, are better for novel reading, because you can resize the fonts and margins to suit your comfort level (PDFs can be resized, but only by zooming in, which usually then requires you to scroll up and down to see all the text – not too comfortable). 

The standard answer is: because they can’t.  The Overdrive eBooks app (available for iPad, Android, Blackberry and Windows) is only set up to download two file types: MP3 audio and ePUB ebooks (What’s an ePUB? What’s a PDF? What’s the diff? See sidebar for more).   We’re not sure what the reasoning is behind the limitation (either it was set up that way because the app was initially designed for iPhones and PDFs just aren’t readable (too tiny) on a phone screen, or the file size of the PDFs is larger, or something) but in the end, because the app belongs to the Overdrive corporation, we have no control over the options.

Of course, we’re not satisfied with that answer any more than you are.  After a bit of digging, we’ve found that the LONG answer—at least for Android tab users—is that it totally IS possible.  You just need to get a different app.

It’s not that we don’t recommend using the Overdrive app (we use it and love it!).  And if you use an iPad, we can’t help you, because we still haven’t found anything that will allow you to load or transfer our DRM-protected PDF files to an iPad(although we’re happy to hear if you’ve found one!).  But if you’re an Android (phone or tablet) user, we’ve found that the FREE Aldiko Book Reader app is an alternative that works just like the Overdrive app (meaning that it communicates with the OverDrive catalogue and lets you download direct to your device), except that it ALSO allows PDF downloads.  If you’re willing to put in the time to get it set up and aren’t worried about troubleshooting things yourself, it’s worth a try!

Instructions for getting Aldiko set up on your Android Tablet:

  1. Download and install the Aldiko app using the Google Play Market (FYI: if you have an older-model Kobo Vox, you may need to side-load the app because it’s not listed in the Kobo market. Luckily, you can download and install it from
  2. Once you’ve got the app installed, find it in your applications menu, open the app and set it up with an Adobe ID (create one for free at if you haven’t got one already).  To get to the Adobe ID screen, go to Settings > Adobe DRM > add your info: 
  3. Next, navigate back to the home page (on a tablet, tap the Aldiko graphic to get there; on a phone, use your menu button). Choose the “Store” option,  and then use the menu button to find “My catalogs:”  
  4. click the “+” symbol and add OverDrive with the exact URL (it has to be that exact URL or else you’ll be directed to the mobile version of the site and won’t be able to search for or download PDF files). 
  5. Click on the link that you’ve just created; OverDrive should open. Search for something fun to download (if you’ve got a title in mind, go find it; if you just want to test it, open the advanced search page, choose Adobe PDF in the format box and then limit to available titles, search and browse the results).
  6. When you’ve found something to download, add it to your cart, login with your card to proceed to checkout, then choose your lending period and confirm the checkout.  Next, click download to start the file transfer.  The file should automatically start to load into Aldiko.
  7. When it’s finished loading, open and enjoy!

Note:  This method only works if you’ve got OverDrive set up as one of your Aldiko “catalogues.”  If it’s not set up, the OverDrive site will try to open the book in the Overdrive app instead, and you’ll get an error message saying that the device doesn’t support PDF downloads. 

When the library book expires, you should be able to go back to the library catalogue, check it out again (assuming there aren’t holds) and download it again to keep reading, just like in the Overdrive app.

Happy eReading!


8 responses to “Getting the Library’s PDF eBooks on your Android tablet

  1. I am SO impressed with this! I have been using multiple devices for multiple functions for awhile now. It is very promissing to be able to do everything in 1 place–my phone! Thank you so much. (Further, I found out about this via Facebook. Just thought you may be interested for marketing purposes.)

  2. how do i get a library card if my library is not in the list?!

    • Thanks for your question, sunlover00! We’ll send you an email so that we can discuss details. The basic answer is: you have to belong to one of the participating libraries in Manitoba in order to download our books; if you don’t live in MB, there’s most likely a library nearby that offers a similar service.

  3. I just tried setting this up. It all works the way it should until I go to download the PDF. I click on the download button and nothing at all happens. All I see is the “address bar” at the top of the window change from eLibraries Manitoba… to

    I followed the instructions step by step and I should note that I’m pretty techy and I can’t figure it out why it won’t download.

    For now the only way for me to get PDFs to work is to download them to my laptop and then transfer them to the Kobo :(

    If anybody has any suggestions I would appreciate them. It’s a pain to have to hook up to the computer.


    • Melissa, we’ve tested your problem out on our Kobo Vox, and we did experience the same issue – tapping the “download” button didn’t seem to do anything. We did however get the PDF file to download by navigating AWAY from the download page, tapping “My eAccount,” choosing “eItems Checked Out” and tapping the Download button on THAT page. Not sure if it’s a site-wide problem or something specific to the Kobo Vox, but it seems to work. If this doesn’t resolve your issue, please send us an email at and we’ll continue to troubleshoot.

  4. Pingback: Tech Tips updates! | Readers' Salon

  5. hi I belong to a libray in new Zealand and can’t download a pdf ebook either. I can’t join your library, but do you know what url I would have to put in for my library to make it work eg the library overdrive website is:

    any ideas?

  6. Sorry Linda – these instructions are out of date. OverDrive used to use two interfaces (regular screen vs computer) but has since replaced that with a page that detects whether you’re on mobile or not, which means that (as far as I know) there’s no way to force it to display non-mobile content (i.e. PDFs) so that you can download them to your tablet. There may be a long convoluted way to do it (involving downloading the file to a computer and uploading it to a non-OverDrive eReader app (e.g. Aldiko or Freading)) but that’s probably more work than it’s worth.

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