image Hmm. Doesn’t Adobe Digital Editionsshown in a desktop incarnation–rely on Flash? If so, just what should we make of the news that Adobe is still struggling to bring Flash to the iPhone? Adobe and Apple are collaborating to get Flash there. But even Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen admits that this is a "hard technical challenge."

In a Bloomberg video—the iPhone-Flash discussion begins at 3:25—Shantanu sensibly won’t promise any immediate miracles. And yet iPhone owners want to enjoy already-bought books now. Despite the hopes of some, will we seen Flash running on the phone even by the end of 2009? No guarantee. And when will Digital Editions itself follow for the iPhone?

image If Adobe can’t overcome the Flash challenge in a timely way, will the company offer something other than Digital Editions for The Phone? Alas, if not, you’ll be out of luck if you use an iPhone or iPod Touch and want to read an Adobe-DRMed e-book, either a new one or an old favorite. This is yet  another reminder that with DRM, you lease rather than own. The result? Thanks to DRM, the Adobe brand will lose some value on one of the fastest-growing e-book platforms.

Now let’s say Adobe instead were focused on social DRM, a concept wisely talked up in the past by the company’s Bill McCoy; then people could at least enjoy their ePub books on other readers. And when Adobe came up with the competitive solution that I believe it’s capable of, they could happily switch back to Adobe and use it on the iPhone. Same for PDF books, which, if DRMed, can generally be read only with Adobe software.

Tough questions for consumers

Some tough questions arise here in an iPhone context, even if Flash is running on hundreds of millions of nonApple cell phones. Should Adobe rely so heavily on a problematic approach like DRM to keep people using its e-book software? Shouldn’t it instead align its interests closely with consumers and strive to create a better interface for the iPhone than, say, the one that Stanza offers.

But back to the current mess. May be in the end, if the Flash delays persist, that will mean a retreat from the present vision for Adobe Digital Editions, at least for the iPhone. If so? Not the greatest tragedy for Adobe, with all its talented people. The key is for Adobe to remember that, as important as Flash and its overall strategy are, publishers and consumers  should come first. Go with a nonFlash app for the iPhone if need be—perhaps even through a partnership with the Stanza or eReader people. The market is big enough to justify it.


  1. Many thanks, Hadrien. It would be nice if the Adobe material were clearer. What’s more, is it possible that the mobile edition for the iPhone is to be Flashed-based?

    At any rate, the big issue remains. If Flash isn’t an issue, then why is Adobe taking so long to bring out an iPhone e-reader? At least on Mobi’s case, we can speculate about Amazon’s possible fears that the iPhone will be a Kindle-killer.

    Any, big thanks for speaking up! And if someone from Adobe cares to join in, then so much the better! Just what does Adobe have in mind as an e-reader for the iPhone? And is Flash involved?


  2. David,

    We cannot make statements about the future.

    Hadrien is right that Adobe EPUB/PDF engine does not depend on Flash.

    Peter Sorotokin
    Digital Publishing
    Adobe Systems Inc.

  3. Here’s a stetement I wrote for you Peter:

    “We care about our customers and we are working towards an ebook model that does not totally disregard their wants and needs.”

    I was just hoodwinked into Adobe Digital Reader by purchasing an ebook at They got their $16 but thats it, never again. Plus, now I am upset about Adobe’s reader that I just married and am about to divorce along with any other new adobe products I encounter. Oh yeah, I am a photrapher Peter.

    I look forward to the next Adobe Yoda quote.

  4. interesting article.
    adobe really has a flawed business model here.
    do they really expect consumers to purchase drm-ed ebooks without a mobile platform on which to easily transport them to.

    dont get me wrong, i think de is a great peice of software. it is everything i could want in a DESKTOP ebook reader. but the fact remains, unless i an using a netbook, i am not going to what to read my ebooks on a full blown pc, i am going to want to port them to a portable media player (iphone/itouch etc.) so that i can enjoy them in a comfortable location of my choosing.

  5. Eric: things have changed since the article came out.
    Adobe is now shoving their DRM SDK out to any and all comers and there are at least a half-dozen dedicated ebook readers promising Adept comptatibility Real-soon-now. I wouldn’t holding my breath just yet but the stampede unto the Adobe DRM bandwagon is on. Now, if your definition of potable devices is limited to the iPhone/iPod, you may have to wait until Stanza implements Adept-compatibility but most dedicated ebook Readers should be “infected” with Adobe’s DRM by the end of the year. 😉

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