And Adobe does it again

Yesterday, a number of sites dedicated to following what’s going on in digital publishing were alive with posts and comments about the latest announcement from Adobe. You know Adobe. It’s the home of such supposedly gold standard programs necessary for publishing of any sort: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc. It is also the company that no longer lets you buy the current version of its programs on disc or even as downloadable content in the generally accepted version of the word. Oh nooooo, you buy a subscription for the program where you can purchase it for a month or a year and then keep paying. Why do you keep paying? Because if you don’t, and if you don’t have your work saved in formats other programs will be able to open/edit, you will be up the creek without a paddle or a boat when you subscription runs out.

I think it safe to say that you can tell I’m not a huge Adobe fan. Part of that is because I absolutely abhor the subscription model. Part is because I remember the days when it was next to impossible to get all the Adobe fingers out of your hard drive after attempting to uninstall an Adobe application. But, to be honest, my biggest issue with Adobe is and has been its view on DRM.

Ask any long-time e-book purchaser and at some time or another, we’ve bought an e-book in an Adobe format. No, I’m not talking about the generic EPUB version that is so prevalent today. I’m discussing the Adobe Reader Edition and its predecessors. I’ve lost access to some of those early e-books because I’ve changed hard drives, machines, etc., and so my new ARE program doesn’t recognize them. Fortunately, those books are few and far between and not anything I’ve cried over.

I can hear some of you out there asking why I haven’t tried to break the DRM on those books. After all, I own the w-book, so I should be able to do whatever I want to with it.

True but, as I said, I’m not that attached to the e-books in question to jump through those hoops.

And that brings us back to the original topic — Adobe and DRM. For those who do follow Uncle Alf and other sites that help break DRM by posting the steps to do so, you know that Adobe has long taken the stand that DRM is good and no one should ever be able to break the DRM, even if you own the e-book in question. Adobe has sent take down notices in the past, iirc, to sites such as Uncle Alf’s to remove instructions on how to break their DRM code.

So, Adobe is not my friend.

All of that is why I wasn’t surprised to read the notice yesterday that Adobe was going to start using a new DRM this summer. But the announcement was more insidious than that. Adobe was “going to start pushing for ebook vendors to provide support for the new DRM in March, and when July rolls Adobe is going to force the ebook vendors to stop supporting the older DRM.” The result would be that all devices using the older version would basically become useless for new books until it was upgraded to the new DRM requirements. It also meant that your third party e-reader apps would face the same limitations.

Why would Adobe do this?

Because it can and because it still thinks it has to treat readers — the customers for both Adobe and those retailers using Adobe — as thieves.

The result, as the article linked above said, was “Adobe just gave Amazon a belated Christmas present. After all, everyone might hate Amazon but we also know we can trust them to not break their DRM.”

After the internet went wild with condemnations for Adobe and readers started remembering all the e-books and other Adobe-related programs they’ve lost access to over the years, Adobe issued a clarification. Despite earlier comments to the contrary, it says it won’t stop support for the previous DRM version. Actually, what they are doing is leaving it to the publishers and resellers to decide when to activate the new DRM. What that means is it will work with publishers to start using the new version as soon as possible (in my opinion.)

Most publishers will jump at the chance of putting a new form of DRM on their books. They don’t understand and, frankly, don’t care that their customers don’t want it. They don’t get the fact that adding DRM actually increases the chance a book will be pirated. DRM is like a red flag. It is a dare to everyone out there that they can’t break the DRM. Guess what. That ship done sailed. Hackers have been breaking DRM from day one and they have no problem posting the steps to do so for others to follow.

Adobe, over the past year, has confirmed what I’ve long suspected — that it is no more in tune with the consumer than legacy publishing is. It hasn’t figured out that most of us use open source software in place of its expensive, and now subscription based, software. It refuses to see that it continues to insult us, our intelligence and our ethics, by adding more and more DRM to its version of EPUB.

I am not telling anyone to go out and start breaking DRM. That could get me in trouble in various countries around the world. What I will say is that there are sites out there that have plenty of information if you want to “read” about DRM and what others have done to get around it.

As for me, I won’t be giving Adobe any more of my business than is absolutely necessary.

About the author

Writer, proud military mom and possessed by two crazy cats and one put-upon dog. Writes under the names of Amanda S. Green, Sam Schall and Ellie Ferguson.


  1. I used to use InDesign extensively for the business. Then, not too long before the partnership broke up, my ex downloaded a trial upgrade for me. Had we kept the business, I would have bought and utilized it… but we broke up. I let the trial expire, and a few months later, when I needed to have some of my design work for a portfolio, discovered to my dismay that I could no longer access ANY of my inDesign files. Now, I owned a licensed copy of ID. The trial was just that, no commitments… but ten years of work was suddenly locked up, out of my reach, just because I hadn’t upgraded.

    I did wind up using my disks to install my copy of inDesign on another computer, reluctantly, but then I found that I wouldn’t have to use it, and I never will again, nor will I willingly install any Adobe products on my computer. I have no nice words for the company, and if it goes out of business (unlikely, but a girl can dream) I will stand up and cheer.

    1. Cedar, I know. Unfortunately, I’ve had that happen with other programs as well. That’s one reason why I tend to save in multiple formats anything I’m working on. It doesn’t matter if it is images, text or something else. But Adobe lost me for all but a very few programs with their stance on DRM. I don’t like being treated like a crook and I hate bullies — which is what Adobe has become.

    1. I use a combination of Pages (Mac program) and GIMP. Sarah Hoyt uses JASC Paintshop, as well. I think you can do a lot more with MS Word now than you could back then, too, but I’ve never been big on MS programs, being a Mac Girl.

      1. I started with MS Word and it was NOT good– I have used InDesign because it reminded me of the typesetter programs I used to use when I was formatting books (I did that in my early 20s). 😉 I don’t have a MAC so… I am not too happy with the subscription idea either with Adobe.

        1. Gimp is fine for things like book covers, that is what I have been using. interior files are a little trickier, if you aren’t using ID, or Pages. Amanda might be able to talk Word or another program up, I haven’t used it.

        2. Cyn, Word isn’t as bad as it used to be. There are tweaks you can use now when setting up for print templates that make it look better than it used to. If you’re talking about prep for e-books, I still use Word but I usually run it through Atlantis and use it to convert to ePub. Atlantis cleans up a lot of the junk code and there is even a plug in for conversion to mobi files (Sarah likes it but I’ve found the mobi files have too many errors. So I take the epub file over to calibre for conversion to mobi).

          For images, I use GIMP. The latest version is very reminiscent of Photoshop. Until this last update, I often used Photoscape for lettering because it was easier, imo, for that one thing.

          While I work with both PC and Mac, I tend to shy away from Apple programs for publishing purposes because of their licensing. I haven’t heard that Pages has any weird limitations in it but one of the other Mac apps for creating e-books does (iirc, you can only use the epub created using the app in iTunes. If you use it anywhere else, Apple is owed a cut of the royalties)

          I do have InDesign, but it is the previous version and not the current cloud only version. I am using it for a few things but only when it is the last resort for making a print project look right.

          1. I was thinking of print projects actually. I use MSWord for ebook, save as html, and run it through mobipocket creator, which works for me. As long as I make sure MSWord doesn’t add those lovely codes it likes to slip into a document.

            1. That’s how I used to do it. But I’ve found I like using Atlantis better. You simply save as a Doc, then open it in Atlantis and export it as an ePUB and MOBI file if you want. It also allows you to set up all the meta tag info at the same time. But, as I’ve always said, if something works for you, keep with it.

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