Digital Publishing

Ebook Security software: secure ebooks against piracy

Digital Publishing: securing ebooks with copy protection

What is ebook security?

Ebook security is a method of copy protection applied to digital books to prevent users from sharing and distributing ebooks with others.

It can use many different security technologies including encryption, watermarking with the user’s email address, and access controls.  Often, it is implemented by using proprietary file formats.

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Ebook PDF Security Software

  • Stop unauthorized access and sharing
  • Control use – stop copying, editing, printing, etc.
  • Lock ebooks to devices, countries, locations
  • User & ebook expiry, revoke ebooks at any time

Securing Ebooks with Safeguard PDF security

  How to secure a PDF ebook with DRM protection

Using Locklizard to secure ebooks is quick and simple.

Admins protect a PDF file using Safeguard Writer and then add their intended recipients as users in their admin portal.  The system will automatically send them an email with the license file and a link to the Safeguard Reader application required to open the ebook.  The protected e-book can then be delivered however you like, as only authorized users can open it.

Here’s how to secure an ebook against piracy:
  1. Right-click on a PDF on your desktop and select ‘Make Secure PDF’.

    Creating a protected PDF file

  2. Select the copy protection controls you want to apply.  By default, editing, copying, and printing are disabled.
    locking pdfs

    Encrypting a PDF book without passwords using Safeguard PDF DRM

  3. Press the Publish button to protect the PDF.
  4. Select the users you want to give access to your secured document using the cloud-based Admin System:

    Safeguard Admin System

  5.  Distribute your protected PDF document just like any other file.

For a more detailed look at the process, you can read our full guide on how to add security to a PDF.

  Security features & options to secure e-books

Safeguard provides multiple security options to secure your ebooks:

  1. Disable printing, allow printing or limit the number of prints.
  2. Add dynamic watermarks to viewed and or printed pages.  Dynamic variables replace actual user and system data when the ebook is viewed/printed so you only have to secure the ebook once for all users.
  3. Make the ebook expire on a specific date, after a number of views, after a number of prints, or after a number of days from opening.
  4. Allow or stop screen grabbing (even from remote connections).
  5. Track ebook use – log views and prints.
  6. Allow offline use, enforce online use, or allow flexible online and offline use.
Safeguard’s default security
  • Stops users editing, copying and pasting content
  • Locks ebooks to specific devices so they cannot be shared with others
  • There are no passwords for users to enter, manage, or remove
  • Revoke ebooks at any time regardless of where they reside


Ebook security & effective protection

  1. Securing ebooks with passwords is useless because users can share them or remove them with password recovery tools
  2. If printing is allowed, dynamic watermarks can discourage photocopying and distribution
  3. Adobe PDF permissions (stop copy, print etc.) can be easily removed
  4. Amazon, Apple, and Adobe ebook DRM systems have all been broken

“We have been looking for years to find a software company that would allow us to securely sell our eBooks.  Locklizard offers so many options, we are able to fill the needs of all of our customers.  We have used other software providers that had promised the security of our eBooks but they never lived up to that promise the way that Locklizard has.

The support we received has been outstanding.  They are very responsive to our requests and go the extra mile.

I would recommend Locklizard if you are looking for secure ebooks.”

Digital Publishing: Preventing ebook copying, sharing & distribution

If you are publishing an ebook – a book that is represented digitally rather than physically – it is much easier for someone else to copy it.  The most practical security feature of a physical book is the difficulty of making an acceptable copy.  It is significantly cheaper to buy another copy than to attempt a high-quality photocopy, particularly if you believe that time is money.  And at the end of it all, a photocopy is a complete pain to read.

But an ebook is a different story.  Copying an ebook for redistribution is a whole other ball game from copying a paperback or a hardback book.  The very creation of the ebook format, within the necessary limitations of the technology used to make ebooks, introduced issues at a scale never before seen by physical print books.  Suddenly, books could not just be copied 1:1, but done so trivially and infinitely at no cost.  And so ebook security became a core requirement for the formats.

  How does ebook security software work?

Ebook security software relies upon encryption (scrambling information so that only those with the correct key can return it to its original form) to prevent users from accessing content.  In addition, DRM controls can be added to control how ebooks are used by authorized users – for example preventing copying and printing.  Some companies provide social DRM but in reality, this provides little protection.

  What does ebook security need to succeed?

Access to content encryption must be strictly controlled if it is going to be effective.  Where password systems are used, the passwords can be too easily shared between users, effectively syndicating an ebook that is sent to one person to a whole community.

Even registration codes can be misused.  They are just long passwords, and in some systems, valid code generators can be acquired from the internet.  So, if you are going to apply ebook security, you need a cryptographic system where the user is not involved in generating or entering passwords so that the ability to crack the encryption system is significantly reduced, if not completely prevented.

Ebook security must also be comprehensive if it is to be effective.  It has to prevent not just the easy copying of the file content, but also printing, or at least high-quality prints.  Some ebooks are talking versions, so screen copying is not a very practical way to compromize their security, and others can contain video sections as well as static pictures and text.  So, a thorough approach is required if it is to be successful.  In practice, that means having different options available to provide ebook security so that it will fit the specific requirements of the media.

Why Locklizard for Ebook Security?

Locklizard provides many advantages over Apple, Adobe & Amazon ebook security & ebook DRM systems

  • No Passwords

    No passwords or 2FA codes for users to enter, forget or share, or for you to manage and distribute.

    Keys are automatically, transparently, and securely transferred to authorized devices and locked to them.

  • PDF ebook format

    Protection of PDF files rather than proprietary ebook formats for a consistent display across multiple devices.

  • DRM Controls

    Control ebook use with effective DRM controls that cannot be removed using Epubor or similar DRM removal software:

    • Stop screen grabbing
    • Stop copying and pasting
    • Stop editing and modifying
    • Stop printing (or limit the number of prints)
    • Expire ebooks after a number of days use, views, prints, or on a fixed date
    • Revoke ebooks instantly (regardless of where they are) if a chargeback is made
  • Device & location locking

    • Automatically locks ebooks to devices to stop users from sharing your ebooks with others
    • Optionally, lock ebook use to locations.  For example, you may want to ban use in specific countries
    • Control the number of devices your secure ebooks are installed on
  • Dynamic Watermarks

    Add permanent and dynamic watermarks to identify users.  Watermarks are automatically inserted with user-identifiable information at view and/or print time to discourage the distribution of photos and photocopies.

    You only have to secure your ebook once for all users. You don’t need to secure ebooks individually for each user in order to display unique user information (name, email, etc.).

  • Secure Distribution

    • Secure ebooks on your local computer – no uploading of unprotected files to a server where they could be easily compromised.
    • Distribute secure ebooks just like any other file – upload them to a cloud server; your website; send them by email; or distribute on a USB, etc.
  • Simple to use

    Our ebook security software is simple to use – secure ebooks by right-clicking on them in Windows Explorer.

    Manage customer and ebook access via our cloud-hosted administration system (hosted by us or by you on your own premises).

    Automate ebook protection and integrate with your ecommerce system for automated user account creation and ebook access.

  • Cost Savings

    No charges per ebook sold – just a one-off fee for unlimited ebooks and users.

Locklizard takes your e-book security seriously.  Sell ebooks securely without insecure passwords or plug-ins, and enforce access, location, expiry, and usage controls.  Our DRM technology ensures your ebooks remain safe regardless of their location with US Gov Strength encryption, licensing, and DRM controls.  Ebook content is decrypted in memory and no temporary files are used.

Epub vs PDF for ebooks

The format (or indeed formats) you publish your ebook in is not a decision to be taken lightly.  It will affect everything from compatibility across devices to the platforms you can publish on, content layout, and security.

We want to make it clear that despite offering eBook security software for PDF files only, Locklizard does not believe that everybody should publish in the PDF format.  There are some legitimate advantages to the epub and mobi formats, including:

  • The ability for text to “re-flow” to fit the device dimensions – which means no zooming on mobile devices.
  • Support by a number of popular ebook platforms, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
  • It is based on well-known web formats (HTML and CSS) and does not require additional plugins or particular epub readers to support video or audio.
  • They are usually smaller in file size.

  Epub and Mobi security

From a security perspective, epub and mobi ebooks are at a major disadvantage.  The common use of PDFs in the enterprise has led to a much more robust security ecosystem.  Unlike epub or mobi, it supports DRM that cannot be easily bypassed or removed and even has rudimentary password and certificate protection as part of its core feature set.  However, there are other reasons you might choose PDF:

  • PDF’s fixed content layout is better for certain types of document.  As text and images do not reflow, you can be certain that the design elements you carefully and thoughtfully placed in its original format will remain there.
  • You can export to PDF from any application that supports printing, giving you a wide range of free and paid tools that you can use to create your PDF ebook.
  • Due to PDF’s long history, there are more mature and easy-to-use PDF editing applications than there are epub ones.
  • PDF readers almost universally support annotating, highlights, comments, etc.  In most cases, epub files are read-only.
  • PDFs are more print-friendly due to their fixed layout.  You know that anybody who prints your e-book at its designed size will end up with the same number of pages with the same layout.  This is especially useful in non-fiction ebooks as users may need to refer to specific pages and sections of pages.

Ultimately, there are some legitimate reasons to choose epub, mobi, or azw over PDF, but it is clear that security is not one of them.  PDF is the natural choice if preventing unauthorized sharing, editing, and use of your books is a top priority, particularly if you can pair it with a PDF DRM solution such as Locklizard.

  Download ebook software to secure e-books

Secure Ebooks with Locklizard DRM software: stop piracy & theft

Download ebook security software with DRM controls that protects ebooks published in PDF format and does not rely on passwords for security.

Through the use of US Government strength encryption (AES) and digital rights management controls, you prevent unauthorized use and misuse of your ebooks and control can view them, what they can do with them (copy, print, etc.) and when they can no longer be viewed (expire).

Read our customer testimonials and case studies to see why thousands of organizations use Locklizard PDF security to securely sell ebooksprevent piracy & theft, and increase their revenue streams.  Ebook DRM security made simple.


Is digital publishing the way forward for books?

Digital content has not yet overtaken physical copies despite the advantages of decreased costs, environmental benefits, access to a wider audience, and instant delivery.  A study in 2022 by Stora Enso found that 65% of people still read physical books.  However, the Kindle e-reader and other tablet devices have been rapidly adopted by the younger generation and ebooks will become the future norm.  The main issue with digital publishing is protecting IP (intellectual property) since digital content can be readily duplicated and shared.

How do I securely sell ebooks/How do I avoid ebook piracy?

The only way to securely sell ebooks is to distribute them in PDF format after protecting them with PDF DRM software such as Locklizard.  All epub, mobi, azw, etc. DRMs are easily removed using free online tools so they provide no protection against piracy.

Once you have secured your PDF ebook with Locklizard Safeguard DRM, you can distribute it via any channel and be certain that only authorized users will be able to access them.

Are pirate ebooks a major issue?

Piracy in the ebook industry is rife.  Pirate ebooks have been available on the internet ever since the medium’s inception and in 2017 Nielsen estimated that 33% of the ebook market in the US is lost to pirates, costing it $315 million per year.

Piracy proponents argue that piracy does not constitute a lost sale because those users could not have never afforded the product anyway.  However, this is not the case with ebook piracy.  Studies have revealed that ebooks are overwhelmingly pirated by those higher socio-economic brackets, with just 13% of pirates earning under $30k a year.  The conclusion, then: ebook piracy will absolutely eat into your revenue or royalties if you do not take the steps to prevent it.

How secure is a PDF ebook?

The security of your PDF ebook depends entirely on the protection you choose to apply to it.  If you protect it using basic PDF password or certificate protection, then users will still be able to bypass the security to share it with others.  A PDF ebook protected with Locklizard, however, will be very secure indeed, with users unable to share, edit, print, screenshot, or copy and paste the document.

Does good ebook security lead to more sales?

While most companies do not publish exact statistics about online publishing, our ebook customers report in their testimonials that they have seen an increase in sales. Locklizard has also allowed them to open new markets and digital product lines when selling ebooks online.

Locklizard also simplifies the management of ebooks with an easy web portal that does not require specialist training.  This often brings costs down and the labor hours required to manage distribution.

That said, it is still important to understand that ebook security is not a golden bullet.  Naturally, it will only lead to more sales if customers are willing to pay the retail price for your book.  Ebook security can’t create demand for a product out of thin air, so you should be realistic with your expectations.

Does Locklizard Safeguard DRM allow me to offer ebook subscriptions?

Yes. In fact, Locklizard makes this very convenient.  You can make use of our e-commerce API to automatically add customers to your admin portal and assign access to ebooks they have purchased.  When you protect your PDF (manually or automatically through the command-line) you can choose to expire a PDF after a certain date or a number of days after the first open.  You can also group ebooks into publications for simpler subscription management.

How do I stop users from using my ebook in a country where it is not licensed?

In your Safeguard admin panel, select your customer or customer group and, under the “Restrict Location” heading, select the countries where you want to allow use.

Alternatively, you can tick “Auto Detect & Restrict” to have the system automatically detect the country the user first opens their ebook and restrict it to it.  Or, set a global geo-lock in your geolocation settings (this will be overridden by any per-user settings).

Doesn’t the DMCA or intellectual property office provide content protection?

The DMCA can help with copyright infringement and getting pirated content removed but is not a catch-all measure.  E-book pirates can share them without a website or upload them to one that ignores takedown requests.  If you want complete control over how your ebooks are accessed and used you need to apply e-book security.  See how to publish an e-book securely.

Do flipbooks offer better security than epubs or PDF?

Though flipbooks offer some advantages, such as a more interactive experience, their security is not much better than epubs. Users can bypass content controls to print the flip book to PDF, download an unprotected copy, and more.

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