How to Put Library Books from Overdrive on Your Nook: a Visual Tutorial

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS A VERY OLD TUTORIAL. THIS POST WAS WRITTEN IN DECEMBER 2010. It has not been updated except with some images many years back.

(Also, how to return an ebook to Overdrive before the lending period is done. This post has been been moved from an old site of mine, where it was written in December of 2010. I’ve updated it with images of OverDrive’s new look. Additionally, if you have a newer model Nook with app capability, check out OverDrive’s Nook app. This tutorial is for people using older models or who don’t want to install the app.)

[Kindle has put together instructions for borrowing library books here. I now have a Kindle as well as my Nook and find them very easy to use.]

One of the biggest reasons I got my Nook was because of its compatibility with Overdrive, the ebook database to which my library subscribed. It’s very easy to borrow a book and put it on your Nook, but it’s not intuitive and there aren’t many good non-video tutorials out there, so I’m making this one. I’ll demonstrate by checking out Club Dead from my library’s Overdrive system, transferring it to my Nook, and returning it. Click on almost any image to see a full-size version pop up (a few were small enough to fit in the post space).

Step 0. Install Adobe Digital Editions

To begin, you’ll need to download and install Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) on your computer. Overdrive uses Adobe Digital Editions to handle its digital rights management. You should also create a free account, as prompted, so you can authorize your Nook (or other computers) to read the books as well.

A commenter adds: When you create the Adobe account, you must do so with the same e-mail address and the same password as on your Nook, which is I think also always the same as your Barnes and Noble account. They report that if you use a different e-mail (and perhaps also password, though I use different passwords for my ADE & B&N accounts), you may have trouble authorizing your books.

Step 1. Check out your book on Overdrive

Use whatever process is necessary to sign in on your library’s Overdrive website. Mine simply asks for my library barcode. You can search for ebooks without being signed in, but being signed in makes the process faster after you’ve decided which book you want. Once you’ve found the book you want to check out, click “Borrow.” The amount of time for which you’re borrowing it will be set in your Settings area. Your library system will probably give you several options.

A screenshot of the Club Dead entry in OverDrive with the blue Borrow button.

This will take you to your BookShelf. In your Bookshelf, you will probably have the option of selecting the format when you click Download:

A screenshot of selecting the EPUB eBook option from the Download menu in your Bookshelf

Step 2. Download and Open in Adobe Digital Editions

On your Bookshelf, click the download link to download a file which Adobe Digital Editions will use to download the actual ebook (when you select & confirm the format, it should automatically open a download prompt as well). You can save the file to your computer, but since this isn’t the actual ebook and you won’t need it later, you can also just choose to open with Adobe Digital Editions.

A screen shot of the dialog prompt to Download ADE file

Adobe Digital Editions will download the actual ebook and open it on your computer.

Adobe Digital Editions opens the book on your computer

Click on the Library icon (where the red arrow is pointing in the screengrab above) to return to the library view. This is where you’ll transfer the book to your nook. Your library will either display as a list of titles or as images, depending which option you toggle on the upper right-hand side.

Step 3. Transfer the ebook to your Nook

If your Nook isn’t yet connected to your computer, use the USB cable to connect it and turn it on. It should appear in your Adobe Digital Editions library page as shown below:

Viewing your ADE library. The Nook’s position is highlighted

A commenter notes that if you plug in and turn on your Nook and it doesn’t show up in ADE, simply exit and reopen ADE. Before reopening ADE, double check that your Nook is on and is displaying the USB connection screen. If you’re not seeing it and see regular Nook screens instead, you’ve ejected your Nook and you’ll need to unplug and replug it in. Another commenter notes that the Nook Color may show up as “Media” rather than as “Nook” in ADE.

Now, click on the book you want to transfer to your Nook and drag it to your Nook icon as shown below:

Screen shot of clicking and dragging the book to your Nook in the ADE Library menu

If you click on the Nook icon, it should show up as being in your Nook’s library as well. Once you get the hang of it it’s quite straightforward. Check out, download, drag and drop, and voila you’re reading your library book on your Nook!

Step 4. Return the ebook from your Nook and computer

Your library book will expire after the lending period is over and you won’t be able to access it on your Nook any more. But if you want to return the ebook before the lending period is over, either so that you can check out more or just because you want other people to have access to the ebook, you can also return it just like you would a regular book.

Returning it easy in Adobe Digital Editions, but it has to be done from both your Nook and your computer.

First, plug in your Nook and turn it on. Click the icon in Adobe Digital Editions to view your Nook’s ebook library. Click on the little arrow in the upper-left-hand corner of the title image and select “Return Borrowed Item”:

Screenshot of return your Overdrive book using a little arrow in the upper left-hand corner of the title image and selecting Return Borrowed Item

Once the book disappears, click on the “All Items” bookshelf in Adobe Digital Editions, find the book, and repeat the returning process. If you go to your library’s website and visit Overdrive, your book should no longer be on your bookshelf either. If it is, go back to Adobe Digital Editions and check any of its bookshelves for copies of your book.

Note: If you have a lot of books on your Nook or in your ADE, you may find it useful to sort by date added to find the book in the list and return it. To do this, simply click the words “Date Added” at the top of the column, and the books will re-order by when they were added. They may first order from oldest to newest, so click a second time if needed to re-order from newest to oldest.


Here are some helpful troubleshooting suggestions as provided by commenters. I haven’t tried or tested all of them and therefore can’t endorse all of them, but I thought I’d pull them out of the comments section and organize them.

1. Is Your Nook Turned On?

Ok, this wasn’t a commenter one, but it’s something I periodically forget when plugging my Nook into my computer. If you want to manage the books on it, you have to turn it on when you connect the USB. Unlike a thumb drive, it doesn’t automatically power up.

2. How to Finish a Book That Needs to be Returned

You can’t (and shouldn’t) keep a library book forever, but if you’re not quite done with a book, then you can do the following to finish it:

Do not close the ebook to look at another book or adjust a setting. Change your Nook to be on airplane mode so that you don’t drain the battery as fast (and because this may cause it to turn off the library book like rebooting it would). Rather than powering off your Nook, only let it sleep. Do not hook the Nook up to the computer or otherwise charge it.

According to one commenter, this will keep the book from expiring. Of course, you’ll eventually have to charge it, but if you’re lucky you should be able to get it done before you’re done reading. A better idea is to always check out your Nook ebooks for 21 days, since you can return it if you finish early. And do return if you’re done early because it’s kinder to everyone.

3. If You Can See the Book in Your Nook’s File System But Not When You Turn On the Nook

One commenter noted that she could see that the book had been added to her Nook when she checked the Nook’s folder system (should show up in My Computer like a USB does) but it wasn’t showing up on her Nook. She said that she had to move it from the Adobe Digital Editions folder into the My Documents folder. A simple cut-paste should work. I haven’t tried this method, but I also haven’t yet run into this problem.

4. If Adobe Digital Editions Won’t Prompt to Authenticate

One commenter said that they weren’t getting the prompt to authenticate their Adobe Digital Editions. This apparently turned out to be because there was already an Adobe Digital Editions folder on the Nook from a failed attempt to authenticate. They deleted it, opened ADE, plugged in the Nook again, and it prompted them to authenticate. Everything went smoothly from there.

5. If you’re getting the “User Not Activated” Message

Try looking at your Nook’s folders via My Computer / Nook and look for the one titled .adobe digital editions (probably has a period in front of it). If you don’t see it, click “View” and opt to see hidden files (Google should have answers on this) just in case. If it’s there, try deleting it and then do the transfer again. Whatever login you set up on your computer’s ADE will be the same one you use on your Nook when it asks for authorization. If you haven’t set up a login on your computer yet, do that, then make sure you delete any folders titled .adobe digital editions, then try the transfer again.


I’m not a representative of Overdrive, Adobe, the Nook, or your library system, so I can’t help with error messages or tell you why a particular book won’t check out or what’s wrong with your Nook. I haven’t used mine in years so I’m afraid I’m not accepting comments.

If you’re a librarian or serve in a similar capacity, feel free to use any images or instructions from this post for your library. I release all copyright for this particular post because I think it’s important for patrons to have.

Ruth Kitchin Tillman
Cataloging Systems and Linked Data Strategist

Card-carrying quilter. Mennonite. Writer. Worker.