Adobe Digital Editions – DRM for EPUB and PDF DRM Security
The term Digital Edition has been applied to almost any work (book, picture, music recording, film recording) prepared in a digitized form. For Adobe, the compound term means, “part of the end-to-end Adobe ebook platform for authoring, protecting, and delivering ebooks across devices.”
And the focus here really is the ebooks, specifically the PDF and (more heavily), the ePub format.
Though the ePub format was meant to be an open, vendor-free format, Adobe quickly became the main ePub DRM supplier. Open formats like ePub are therefore not necessarily as “open” as stated, being contingent upon closed-source software to function at a commercial level.
Adobe ePub is a popular format for displaying e-books and it can be readily converted into the Adobe PDF document format (ePub to PDF). It is far from perfect, however – with even Wikipedia listing methods to remove the ePub DRM security (Adept) from Adobe Digital editions and its derivative formats. These include Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Sony.
During its relatively short life so far (at least, as compared with physical books) Adobe Digital Editions has gathered a number of adherents, and copies in this format are still being sold at the time this article was published. So, it seems that the failure of the DRM technology itself has not completely turned the market against the format. Adobe Content Server is used as the host management system, but available hacks of the Adobe ePub DRM system were widely available from the offset. Adobe announced with Adobe Content Server 5 & Adobe Reader Mobile SDK 10 an improved and hardened DRM solution to protect PDF and ePub files from unauthorized viewing – this basically forces users to use an eReader built on RMSDK 10 and above. However, many ePub DRM removal products remove even this protection because they crack the ePub file directly rather than relying on a specific version of an eReader.
It is difficult, then, to obtain a secure ePub document, and ePub security continues to be problematic. The concept behind Adobe digital editions, to be able to publish eBooks in a ‘standard’ format (ePub eBook or PDF eBook) and have them reproduced faithfully on a wide number of different platforms, is very good. But the implementation of ePub DRM or PDF DRM using Adobe Digital Editions has not had a similar level of success. ePub DRM has not proved to be effective, and whilst Adobe Digital Editions will continue to be used for its convenience, it may never provide effective ePub security or eBook DRM.
According to Adobe’s official webpage, Adobe Digital Editions is “available as a free download”. This, however, is misleading. While the Adobe Digital Editions app is indeed free for consumers to download, the cost to publishers is significant. You will need to pay for Adobe Content server to apply the DRM protection, which will set you back $10,000 for the initial license, plus $1,500 in annual maintenance fees, a development and deployment cost of $5,000-$10,00, and a $0.20 fee per ebook download.
All of this for protection that is not even effective. Let’s compare this to a perpetual Locklizard Safeguard license:
Should you publish ebooks to PDF or ePUB format?
Choosing the format you publish in (ePub ebook or PDF file) is very important, and comes down to whether you are willing to trade multimedia and interactivity for security and consistent appearance across multiple devices.
The ePub format (XHTML) was developed specifically for internet publishing:
The ePub format, however, lacks the cross-platform consistency of appearance (form and format) of the PDF and many subtler controls.
Adobe ePUB DRM & PDF DRM, privacy concerns and ebook piracy
If you are concerned about ebook piracy, then Adobe DRM for ePub and PDF formats is not suitable. It will not protect ebooks from piracy due to its insecure implementation and poor key management.
What protection are your ebooks getting against piracy and theft if the security can be easily removed?
If you trust users not to use Adobe DRM removal tools, then you might equally trust them not to share your ebooks with others and therefore have no need to implement DRM protection to begin with.
Users have also expressed concern regarding Adobe collecting data regarding their reading habits and transmitting this information to Adobe’s servers in plain text. This is another issue to consider if opting to publish for Adobe DRM, particularly with regulations such as GDPR and CCPA.
Adobe Digital Editions suffers from a history of critical vulnerabilities, which include repeated arbitrary code execution and information disclosure issues. A list of Adobe Digital Editions Security issues can be found on Adobe’s website. So, not only can Adobe DRM protection be easily removed, but forcing users to install Adobe Digital Editions could put their systems at risk. You need to think about whether you want your brand potentially associated with such incidents.
Removing the DRM from Adobe Digital Editions ebooks is not a difficult task. The Adobe ADEPT DRM that Adobe uses for Digital Editions was cracked years ago. Freely available tools such as Epubor and Calibre’s DeDRM plugin exist without legal repercussions, relying on the fact that in many countries, DRM removal is legal under limited and specific circumstances.
The result? It only takes a few seconds to strip the DRM from Digital Editions ebooks:
Users can then print the document, send it to an unsupported device, or freely share it with others. Epubor software can also be used to convert Adobe Digital Editions to PDF and other file formats when stripping the DRM.
Why Locklizard as a secure alternative to Adobe DRM?
Locklizard takes your ebook protection seriously, protecting your ebooks from piracy regardless of their location. We protect ebooks published in PDF format with US Gov strength AES encryption, public key technology, DRM and licensing controls.
See our customer testimonials and read our case studies to see why thousands of organizations use Locklizard to sell their ebooks securely and protect them from piracy. To prevent sharing of your ebooks, digital publications, and other digital content take a free 15-day trial of our DRM software.