Here’s how Google Play Books works.

So you bought a book using Google Play. You can then wander over to the ‘My Books’ tab, and browse through the books you’ve “bought” — which you have to, even if they’re free.

No, really — you need to provide credit card details for a free purchase, through Google Wallet. Anyway.

So, you get presented with the book’s summary page, which has a variety of tabs: Overview, optionally Reader Reviews, Critic Reviews, and finally How To Read. In the last, there are options to get an app to turn an Android or iOS device into an e-reader, a link to read in the browser, and finally links to download the book as an EPUB or PDF.

So you want to put it on your shiny new e-reader; you download the EPUB.

If you’re trying, as I did, to test this on a free book, be careful. Pride and Prejudice, a logical test for this, doesn’t work: it lets you download a real EPUB. You need to get something a little more modern for it to work.

Chance by Kate Forster is currently the top book on the Play Store’s free list, so I tried to download it. Naturally, as I’m allergic to credit cards, it’s unusable. In some ways, I suppose this is a good thing: I really don’t like chick lit.

The rest of this tale, then, continues from memory.

You select ‘download EPUB’. Instead of the EPUB, it gives you an ACSM — an Adobe Content Server Message. Think of it like a pick-up receipt, which you then feed into Adobe Digital Editions, and it goes to Google’s Adobe content server to fetch the encrypted EPUB for you.

And you can go on your merry way with that ebook on your e-reader.

Easy, right?

Well, no; I had the displeasure of seeing this broken today. One of my teachers regularly comes to me about technical issues — and in this case, it was a spontaneous E_GOOGLE_DEVICE_LIMIT_REACHED from the Google licensing service. There’s no documentation for this condition, especially when there are no devices on the Google Account in question — no Android devices, in particular, and the e-reader isn’t capable of independent, rational thought, or at least, Play Store interaction.

This also isn’t helped by the Google Play Books product forums having disappeared. I think I saw a relevant thread buried in there, but the forums are AWOL.

I give full points for strangeness.