Adobe Digital Editions: Error #2038

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Update 2017-12-18: William's comment on the issue

Update 2020-02-08: Workaround using PocketBook

For a year, I had a nice setup to obtain ebooks in EPUB format from my local library. I set up Adobe Digital Editions 1.7 (ADE) on my wine from Xubuntu 16.04.

You have to use ADE since the ebooks are using Digital Rights Management (DRM) which prevents you from using the data as you would like to. DRM is for protecting the property of companies. So you never own any DRM protected data. You only rent it as long as the DRM owner allows you to.

The only way to make it run was for me using winetricks with "install software" and choosing ADE version 1.7.2. Don't even try to install a downloaded ADE exe setup file within wine.

After setting up my Adobe account, I was able to download an EPUB into ADE. ADE then (sometimes) recognized my Kobo ebook reader and transferred the books onto its storage.

This worked somehow until recently:

ADE error #2038 when trying to download an EPUB

Note: Since the setup has to be used by my girlfriend as well, I had to use German language. Therefore, some error messages I only have in German language.

The original error message is:

<Book title>
IO Error on Network Request.
Please check your network connection and try again.
Network Path:
<an epub URL>
Event Detail:
Error #2038

My network connection was fine. So the error message is totally useless in the first place.

Downloading the URL Without ADE

Lucky me, the error message shows an existing URL I can download.

Unfortunately, the downloaded EPUB is not working. It's a ZIP file (as any EPUB) which lacks some files which are relevant to decrypt the DRM. This took me a while to understand.

So the URL is useless as well, when ADE does not work any more. ADE is necessary to download the DRM-encrypted EPUB.

Re-Installing ADE

All the mentioned tricks in corresponding threads on the Internet did not make it work.

I even deleted and re-installed ADE 1.7.2.

No change. ADE still thinks that I've got a network issue.

Re-Installing Wine

I then even purged my whole wine setup including its data, re-installed everything and it still showed me Error #2038.

The same old error #2038 which began to hunt me in my dreams.

Updating ADE

The next approach was to update ADE to a newer version. Unfortunately, my wine did not provide me any newer version via winetricks.

I already did fail multiple times trying to install a downloaded exe setup file of ADE. My despair let me try it anyway. I tried ADE 2.0, ADE 3.0, and ADE 4.5 with no luck. Their wine-installation failed for various reasons or the installed ADE did not start at all.

This was no way to go.

So I purged my wine installation again and upgraded my wine setup according to this directions.

I chose the stable branch which came with wine version 2.0.2 and more options to choose from when you want to install ADE.

This time, winetricks was missing. With help of this page I could fix this and learned that winetricks is just a wrapper shell script, rather independent of wine itself.

So I fired winetricks as usual and saw ADE 1.7 and 4.5 as installation targets. Hooray!

Installing ADE 4.5

In short: it just does not work.

Here is a list of error messages I got in the command line during the installation process of winetricks and ADE 4.5:

I personally like this winetricks error message:

winetricks error message with weird German

It is just bad German which does not make any sense.

Installing ADE 1.7

Okay, since ADE 4.5 does not result in a running installation, I purge my wine data for the hundredth of time and install ADE version 1.7. Maybe the newer wine makes it work.

No luck also this time: Error #2038 was waiting for me at the end of this road as well.

Installing ADE 3.0

Did I already mention my level of despair?

Well, I downloaded the installation exe for ADE 3.0 from Adobe and gave it another try.

ADE 3.0 needs .NET and its setup routine links me to a download which would take six Gigabytes to download which I cancelled.

Dependencies for ADE 4.5

Purge again, restart on installing ADE 4.5 and its dependencies again.

This time, I switched to 32 bit wine because this web page told me to:

 rm -fr ~/.wine
 export WINEARCH=win32
 export WINEPREFIX="/home/USER/.wine"

On the way, I came across following nice error message from .NET I had to show you:

.NET Framework setup error message

Installation routine sill complains about not having .NET and winbind (samba). However, this time, ADE starts or tries to start up with following error:

ADE 4.5.6 is already running

So ADE thinks that it is already running when I start it the first time. This is another well-known ADE error message according to many forum threads which does not seem to help at all.

Again ADE 3.0

Then I purged again and tried ADE 3.0 but failed at installing .NET 3.5 SP1.


I gave up at this point. I invested endless hours of work for shitty software which was developed only to prevent consumers to consume ebooks they are suppose to own, which they don't. In my case, it's really renting books from the library but my point stays the same.

It really seems to be the case that the industry is forcing users of Linux to obtain ebooks from illegal sources. You just have to know a nice URL, download the DRM-free EPUB file and start reading. No hazzle, it just works. Isn't that a shame?

I could silently forget ADE and start using illegally obtained ebooks. Instead, I sat down and wrote about it in order to make a change to this situation. Maybe.

In frustration, I tweeted a bit:

I've spent a whole day in the @Adobe hell, trying to make #AdobeDigitalEditiions work again on #Linux/#wine. I give up. #DRM is a #fail. 😡

— Karl Voit (@n0v0id) August 25, 2017

To my surprise, Adobe responded to my tweets:

Hi Karl, we're so sorry to hear this- have you already searched/posted here? https://t.co/n5mCnecxiU Our community can help! ^Madison

— Adobe Customer Care (@AdobeCare) August 25, 2017

Sorry to know about this, can you please post the issue at https://t.co/lJe4ZDc3yH Thanks ^RB

— Adobe Customer Care (@AdobeCare) August 26, 2017

Hi Karl, we're looping the expert back into this conversation. Please excuse the delay due to weekend. Thanks! ^ZA

— Adobe Customer Care (@AdobeCare) August 26, 2017

I also wrote this blog article so that I can send them my whole journey of pain.

I keep you updated, if something changes.

2017-12-18: no answer from Adobe yet. I gave up and use my business notebook running Windows 10 to download the EPUB files and use Calibre to sync my eBook reader at home. What a shame for Adobe.

Comment by William B. Clay

Thanks for your post, which has saved me from repeating (for the second or third time in a year or two) more-or-less the same disappointing process you so eloquently describe. I, too, happily used ADE on Linux for a few years to borrow books from my (US) library account. Then, it started getting the same error you describe.
One odd detail, however: I CAN download *.acsm titles from commercial publishers (both US and German) ... it's only my library account that fails. I wonder if the hosters for library accounts have collaborated with Adobe to identify and block ADE running on wine at the host end? My Christmas diversion may be sniffing traffic on the two cases to see if I can figure out what's the difference at the TCP level ... OTOH, if they're using SSL (probable!), this idea will fail, too.
I was successfully running ADE under Windoze7 on Oracle (ugh!) VirtualBox for a year or two, but unfortunately while I was abroad the last couple of months, the hard disk with that config died, so I'm back to pure Linux unless and until I can re-install Win7 under VirtualBox (or kvm, if I'm brave enough to give it a whirl).

Workaround: Fulfillment Using PocketBook

As of 2020-02-08, my workflow does not include Adobe Digital Editions (any more).

However, the method relies on the already extracted key file which I was able to get with a working ADE in a previous point in time. I do have no idea how to get the key file without ADE - sorry. If you do, please do comment below!

If you do have the key file, you may use this method to lend books. I'll explain my workflow using my local municipal library:

  1. In the Android app of the library, I lend a book of interest.
    • When I download the epub to my Android phone, this does not result in a standard epub somehow. Therefore, I need something else to "fulfill" the DRM process.
  2. From within the library app, I open the epub using "open externally…", sending it to PocketBook.
    • The PocketBook app then fulfills the epub/DRM process.
    • PocketBook displays the book content.
    • The epub file ends up in: <SDCARD>/Android/data/com.obreey.reader/files/download_drm/
  3. I have set up a Syncthing share for this download_drm directory so that the epub is then syncronized to my desktop computer.
  4. Now, I may copy/sync the epub to any DRM-compliant ebook reader or ebook reader software.

This process enables me to read DRM-encrypted epubs without relying on ADE.

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