Adobe has Killed e-Readers


Adobe has issued a proclamation that starting in July, the vast majority of e-reader apps and hardware devices will not be able to read purchased eBooks anymore.

This announcement stems from a massive upgrade to the encryption system Adobe has implemented in their new Digital Editions 3.0 and will have reverberating effects on ePub books all over the world. Unless thousands of app developers and e-reader companies update their firmware and programming, customers will basically be unable to read books they have legitimately purchased. In effect, Adobe is killing eBooks and e-readers.

Adobe will be lobbying e-reader companies and app developers starting this March. The main intention is to get them to add in the support for the next generation of ePub and PDF format. When July rolls around, if companies have not made the adjustments, their device/app will be unusable to read digital books.

The big drawback to the mandatory Adobe upgrade is all of the old e-readers, reading apps, and older bookstores that will never make this change. An e-reader issued by a company three years ago, is likely never going to receive the firmware update to read protected ePub or PDF Files. This will result in thousands of devices sitting on store shelves, that will not be able to read books right out of the box. Not to mention, all the companies with perfectly good devices, like the Entourage Edge, Cool-ER Reader and others, whose companies have gone bankrupt. Finally, the bulk of non-brand name e-readers on the market do not even have the ability to download firmware updates over WIFI. Customers will one day turn on their device and not be able to read books they purchased.

Thankfully many big eBook stores and e-reader companies did not lie in bed with Adobe, like Sony has. Apple, Amazon, B&N and Kobo all use their own book encryption and are not reliant on Adobe. Amazon uses their own book format, and the other players have all developed their own off-shoots of ePub and PDF. This is normally why if you buy a Kobo book, it is incompatible with Nook e-readers and vice versa.

Adobe is betting that their new book encryption will not be broken, due to them not sharing the source code of the new book format. They also hope to unveil a new “always online” form of DRM within the next two years. This will function the same way most games work, that require you to always maintain an internet connection to verify the authenticity of the book.

Michael Kozlowski (5212 Posts)

Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about electronic readers and technology for the last four years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the Huffington Post, CNET and more. Michael frequently travels to international events such as IFA, Computex, CES, Book Expo and a myriad of others. If you have any questions about any of his articles, please send an email to

  • antiplex

    right – someone certainly understood the concept of ereading by requiring an internet connection in order to read a drm protected ebook 😉
    congratulations to adobe to giving drm an even worse name, i’m confident that enough people may avoid these hassles which hopefully will lead to a significant loss of marketshare for the adobe-drm-system which in turn may finally help adobe to understand what customers demand.
    in the meanwhile users with older devices may download their content from questionable sites as they cannot legally acquire digital editions 3 material with drm-protection which probably will serve as a welcome argument for adobes responsible cto to justify some disappointing sales figures…

  • Matt Nicholson

    That is one of the most overblown headlines I’ve ever seen. As the author admits, in his penultimate paragraph, neither Apple, Amazon, B&N nor Kobo are affected by Adobe’s decision, and that must account for well over 90 percent of the e-readers in use today. The idea that “Adobe is killing eBooks and e-readers” is simply not the case.

  • Max Hodges

    yellow journalism sensationalist bullshit

  • Yet Another Geek

    You mean we will will have to ditch PDF and be given a legal reason to strip DRM?

    The horror! How will we cope?

  • AMC

    Weird, weird article. Why all the hand wringing? You really think developers are not going to upgrade their products? And why take aim at Adobe? They’re not the publishers who are electing to DRM their ebooks. How about the publishers remove DRM so their readers can access the books they bought? Rail against them. As far as I can tell, Adobe is updating its Adobe Content Server (pdf/epub DRM) to offer new features, just like any other software company. What is the big deal.

  • Michael Kozlowski

    Look at the Google Play market for one. There are hundreds, if not thousands of reading apps that have the ability to read DRM protected PDF files or EPUB Files. Most are version 1.0 or version 1.1 and have only been updated once. I doubt those developers will ever update the app again, therefore relegating that app to crapware.

  • Michael Kozlowski

    Most e-readers, if not all of them, have Adobe built right into them. This allows you to purchase a book and read the book right on the device. Many companies who have this technology, in Europe, South America, South Africa, Asia and Japan are either out of business, never update their product lines, or their devices don’t have the ability to update via wireless. This means, as a customer, you will talk into a store, buy the reader, and be like WTF, i cant read books. The average customer will not know enough about DRM in general or know where to go to download a firmware update to fix the issue.

  • Matt Nicholson

    The fact still remains that, according to your article, well over 90 percent of the e-readers in use today aren’t affected. Most people who own a Kindle, the most popular e-reader on the market by far, download books from the Kindle Store – they don’t read DRM-locked PDFs.

  • Michael Kozlowski

    Well these are the mainstream brands. For example, Nook uses their own system, but is only relevant in the UK and US. Amazon basically controls 79% of the entire global eBook market, Kobo likely in second place overall. Sony uses stock Adobe DRM, Same with Ectaco, Pocketbook, Onyx Boox, Wexler, Icarus and many more. These are the brands more popular in Russia and Eastern Europe. If you look at the emerging markets, such as Ukraine, Russia etc, the top brands do not really have a presence there. Same with countries such as Norway, Sweden, etc. If these countries are using alt.brands, it will hamper their growth. Pocketbook WILL not update their really old models or even models released two years ago. Same with the other companies. I doubt Ectaco will update the Jetbook Mini, because they aren’t really selling them anymore, but have sold over one hundred thousand globally.

  • Bart_at_EB

    I agree. A major problem is the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) such a move engenders. It shows how helpless one is to the whims and vagaries of vendors. A market like ebooks depends on trust, and Adobe just betrayed it.

  • librarians unite!

    Long live the REAL book!!!

  • Shameer Ayyappan

    Hi Michael, I’m the Sr. Product Manager for the ebooks business at Adobe. I wanted to clarify Adobe’s stand on some of this:

    Background: One of the biggest concerns publishers and resellers had with ACS4 was about the easily available DRM hacks on the web. We addressed this with the latest version of ACS (v5) and RMSDK (v10).

    We will leave it to the discretion of our resellers and publishers to set the DRM flag in ACS 5 (thus enforcing the need for RMSDK 10 based readers to download books via ACS 5).

    Bottomline- Resellers and publishers will benefit from the hardened DRM if they use ACS5 and their customers are on RMSDK 10 based readers. If their customers are on RMSDK 9 based readers, they will continue to be able to deliver books- but without the hardened DRM. i.e, people with older readers can continue to purchase or read new books.

    And Adobe has NOT discussed any plans for an ‘always online’ form of DRM.

  • Michael Kozlowski

    I hear what you are saying. Many of the top brands using your form of PDF and EPUB DRM will start delivering books in this format. So, if someone buys a book from Sony and wants to read it on a old Jetbook Lite, they can do that now. Once Sony switches over to the new form of encryption, unless the Jetbook Lite firmware is updated to support it, they wont be able to read the new books. This is a problem with many older device models that simply wont/cant update their old devices to read new books produced by resellers or bookstores that sell the books with the new hardened encryption.

  • Tom Daigon

    Thinking of signing up for the @adobe Creative Cloud? Some of these horror stories might change your mind.

    Remember to change your passwords and check your bank account for the next several month to make sure the hackers that got all that sensitive data from Adobe don’t access your accounts..

  • Bart_at_EB

    Hello Shameer,

    I think the shock is because this was a rapid, unilateral decision by Adobe. If the decision only affected an Adobe product, well okay, it’s your product and your customers. However the Adobe DRM is part of the infrastructure that ebook companies and customers rely upon.

    And books are far more than just another commodity like Twinkies or carburetors. They are integral to our culture and people have strong feelings about them.

    The ebook market relies on trust. We trust that the e-books we buy today will be easily accessible five years from now. If you live up to that trust, then I think customers will go along with you, even if they don’t like this or that feature. If people feel that their trust is betrayed … that’s when people go ballistic.

  • Good E-Reader

    updated this post with a video update

  • Shameer Ayyappan

    Even if resellers or bookstores sell books with the new DRM, customers with an old RMSDK 9 based reader ( the old Jetbook Lite) can still purchase, download and read these ebooks.

    On the other hand, if a customer purchases and downloads a book using the new RMSDK10 based reader, this book cannot then be moved-to or read on an older RMSDK9 based reader. We’ll have an FAQ posted on the Adobe Content Server website with a table detailing these scenarios.

  • doubleshuffle

    Shameer, you talk about downloading with a reader. What about downloading on the computer per ADE? Will tbe possible to transfer books purchased with ADE 3 to RMSDK 9 readers?

  • splicernyc

    I wonder how long it will take for a workaround to strip the DRM will be found. Probably as long as it takes for someone involved in the project who secretly hates DRM to get the “secret” out.

  • klas82

    This article finally made me pay attention and looked into getting rid of the DRM on the books I already bought. Even without this new ultra powerful encryption adobe DRM and Amazon for that matter is incredibly restrictive. The amount of times I’ve run into the senecio where I wanna read a book with my kobo reading app but find out kobo doesn’t sell that book or it’s cheaper to buy it somewhere else. I prefer using the kobo app but I shouldn’t be restricted in where I get my books from, I’m sorry that’s backwards and it’s not in my best interest as a consumer.

    Imagine if you bought a car and only the manufacturer was allowed the fix it and they charge you three times the price of the mechanic you prefer to go to or you buy a telly and the store tells you can only use it for the streaming service they provide put you wanna use it to watch a movie by one of there competitors.

    Now I’ve stripped away all my DRM and I can read my book wherever and how ever I want. I hope authors and publishers start to see that this will eventually bite them in the ass.

  • klas82

    Another thing with all this, because of amazon and adobes lack of support for the various LINUX OSes I am forced to either use MAC or PC. I can’t afford a MAC and I just can’t stand Windows 8. So I have to find work arounds for those obstacles too. It’s very annoying from my point of view.

  • Nathan

    Adobe sucks! :(:(:(

  • Rolf Magnusson

    An update to post should be provvided. It would be useful for readers.

    On 4 Feb (same day this post wend live) Adobe announced that they are delaying the implementation of program discusssed.

    “Adobe does not plan to stop support for ACS 4 or RMSDK 9. ACS 5 books will be delivered to the older RMSDK 9 based readers”, according to Shameer Ayyappan, Senior Product Manager at Adobe. “We will let our resellers and publishers decide when they wish to set the DRM flag on ACS 5, thus enforcing the need for RMSDK 10 based readers.”

    Timeline is now for implementation in July but if pushback is strong enough it might change.


  • Mac

    The only online req is hard to implement since it is not always possible to be within the telecomms range. The new drm will be hacked. The only way to keep the drm working is to tie a book to a store profile, i.e. any bookstore connects to a usb device, finds its folder there and syncs (timestamps) files on it so a file can be opened for a certain amount of time without syncing it to a store library.

  • anosrep

    You shouldnt’ be supporting *ANY* form of DRM.

  • Fair&B

    How is this worse than the fact that I can’t update my 1st gen Apple iPad with the newer iOS and therefore I can’t update apps I purchased years ago? Adobe isn’t doing anything worse than other companies.

  • Melvin Clarke

    it isnt worse…but does it have to be in order to say its wrong.

  • Melvin Clarke

    adobe sucks wang shameer………ur a book nazi

  • Melvin Clarke

    we will see

  • Max Hodges

    as @disqus_rP39qNvJFk:disqus wrote: That is one of the most overblown headlines I’ve ever seen. As the author admits, in his penultimate paragraph, neither Apple, Amazon, B&N nor Kobo are affected by Adobe’s decision, and that must account for well over 90 percent of the e-readers in use today. The idea that “Adobe is killing eBooks and e-readers” is simply not the case.