Borrowing eBooks is a rather bizarre concept where, like its physical counterpart, you’re obliged to ‘return’ the books at the end of a loan period so they can be distributed to other readers. No real benefit to the library user, only to the publisher of the text who can control the number of electronic copies in circulation.
Reading view shows the text of the eBook on the right, with either a contents list or bookmarks on the left. Bookmarks can be those provided by the publisher or those you add. This you do by highlighting the target text and clicking on the bookmark icon above the eBook page. Also up there are icons for print – assuming you have the necessary permissions – changing font size and a Find function to search for specific text.
A single menu titled either Library or Reading, depending on viewing mode, offers text versions of the tool icons and access to an info panel, which gives details of the publisher and where the eBook is filed.
Down the right-hand side of the reading pane is a slide bar to move you through the text, though at present clicking on either side (top and bottom) of the slider doesn't take you up and down by a page, as is normal within Windows. This is one of a number of known problems with version 1.0 of Digital Editions and will, we have to hope, be rectified in version 1.1.
Interestingly, when you right-click on the main Digital Editions pane, the Settings you’re offered are for Adobe Flash Player, suggesting there’s a strong connection between the two products. The settings include selecting your WebCam and microphone, both of which seem a little incongruous for a text reader. Perhaps Adobe has planned some interesting expansions of Digital Editions.
OK it’s free, but the minimalist design doesn’t help with its primary function, which is to read eBooks. You can see where Adobe is going with Digital Editions, though, even from this fairly basic first version. If it can roll out versions for Mac OS X, Linux and, especially, a variety of portable devices (all of these are promised) it has the marketing muscle to squeeze out the loyal band of eBook readers that already support the various electronic book formats. Could epub be the new PDF?