Received the following email from Gary Young:

Most of the eBooks that I buy these days are “protected” with DRM using the Adobe Adept system.

Does anyone know how much this adds to the cost of a single copy of an eBook?

Obviously, Adobe wants to make money, and they will charge publishers a fee for the right to use their DRM software. How much is that fee?


  1. It costs $0.25 per download, so every time someone buys a copy of a book that has DRM, the publisher gets charged that fee.

    You also have to set up a special Adobe DRM server, which cost $6,500 for the initial setup and then there is a $1,500 a year maintenance fee. Those numbers are approximations, but close.

    Best practice is to try and partner with a company that is set up to do that (i.e. has their own server). We haven’t found a good partner yet though. Overdrive is the big one, but it was a 6 month wait to even get a meeting with them.

  2. The numbers I have from ’09 (so they’ve probably gone up or at least stayed the same)…

    $0.22 per book for a permanent license
    $0.08 per book for an expiring license (like library books)

    Those are the per book fees. On top of that you have $6,500 for an Adobe Content Server license and a $1,500 per year service fee.

    …I looked for more current numbers, but I don’t see pricing on Adobe’s website anymore.

  3. I wouldn’t ignore the cost of licensing the software for your dedicated e-reader, either. I won’t throw out a number as my memory is too faulty, but I’m sure someone can dig it up.

    Of course, the Adobe ePub/PDF implementation offers more value than just DRM…

  4. Who buys this snake oil?
    DRM goes on ($8000 + $0.25/copy)
    DRM goes off ( $0.00
    The look on Adobe’s face when you ask them why you paid $8000 for their DRM when it can be removed for free by anyone with enough skill to click a mouse? Priceless

    Seriously, authors, save your money. Release your books in a DRM free format. You’ll annoy your loyal customers a lot less, they’ll be able to use your book in normal, human ways and you’ll be $8000 richer before you’ve sold a single copy.
    People will buy your book if it’s good, if it’s convenient to buy, easy to use and easy to make use of.
    DRM can’t make your book better, and it actively destroys the convenience and usefulness of your book. It is homeopathic snake oil, and the whole world is better off without it

  5. Seriously, authors, save your money. Release your books in a DRM free format.

    Oh, I agree completely. Our clients don’t. And if that security blanket makes them sleep better at night, we will keep working on it.

    What’s the quote? Anyone with 5 minutes and Google can break DRM?

  6. To sum up the above posts:
    What happens when the seller stops selling books, or starts using different DRM/distribution system, or goes out of business, or gets into financial trouble?
    The servers will be switched off, because it costs $1500 per year to just keep the server switched on. That 1k5 bucks is on top of hosting fees, minimum maintenance administration costs, electricity bills, logistical costs …
    In other words, sucke^H^H^H^H^Hconsumers get locket out when they want to reinstall their PC, or purchase a new reading device, or have to perform factory reset on their reading device, or …

  7. Name (required): it doesn’t matter if the seller goes out of business (Borders, for example). The issues that you raise come into play if *Adobe* pulls the plug. That’s when Adobe Digital Editions will start failing, thereby preventing you from authorizing or re-authorizing computers and devices.

  8. I run Linux, and have a linux based ereader, my computers at work are security “protected” against installing software — the actual cost of Adobe DRM to the publisher, retailer and author — I have just asked for a refund on the last epub where it was not clear it was encrypted and I don’t buy anything that is DRM, because it just doesn’t work on anything except my phone.

    Add in the ebooks not purchased to get any real estimate of the cost of DRM.

    Will someone please write a software cracker for this imposition — seriously, sales would increase and ereading would spread even further.

  9. @Alan
    You are correct that you won’t be able to redownload books from a server that is not there. However as long as you have your own copy of the content, you will be able to authorize new machines to read that content on, as long as Adobe is in business – since the activation server is Adobe’s.

    (also assuming of course that permissions in the book allow for that).

  10. Thanks for the explanation Doug! I really should know better. I’ve not managed to use either the Adobe or Amazon system, and neither of them are completely obvious to an outsider.

    If I had to choose, I think I’d prefer the Amazon model. I think it’s slightly easier to know who you’re relying on, and they’re a better bet for customer support (in theory, as a direct retail operation… and in practice, it seems to be bourne out by their online reputations). From my peculiar POV, competition between Adobe devices doesn’t seem to have been a particular force for sanity; it just means you have a choice regarding which insanity bothers you least.

  11. The last I heard, $1500 is an annual fee and you must also pay Adobe $0.22 each time someone downloads one of your books using the “free” ADE program. I don’t believe there is a limit on the number of books although I could be wrong.

  12. If you are serious about licensing Adobe Content Server for installation on a company website, you should be contacting Adobe’s sales organization, not posting to a 3 year old entry on an ebook forum. I’m sure their presales support could tell you everything you want to know, including server requirements, installation process, fees, annual maintenance, far better than the readers here.

  13. No point in setting up your own DRM server unless you are a technical company. why to divert focus from publishing to DRM – vendors are there for taking that headache. I came across couple of vendors 1. EditionGuard – costly and 2. e-Shabda – much pocket friendly. Besides cost, we evaluated support and terms for licensing.

    my $0.02

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