Sunday, August 12, 2012

Managing Adobe DRM for Forgetful People

Here's an old school method to managing digital rights management.

A little over a year ago I wrote about my headache with running out of Adobe DRM account activations. Back in the early days of iPad apps, and before the market had settled on official apps like Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and iBooks, it seemed like a new eReader was being released every month, and they all used Adobe's system to manage eBook DRM (Digital Rights Management).

Adobe links activations with your email address. This can be convenient since one account can be used on any Adobe DRM savvy device. However, after replacing my broken iPad last year I had to reauthorize a score of eReader apps, and I discovered that Adobe put a limit on how many activations one email account could have. Suddenly, I couldn't borrow books from the library anymore because I couldn't authorize the eReader. And I was in the middle of a book! What a pain! I fixed that issue, and you can read about that hassle if you wish, but how could I prevent the same problem from happening again?

Fortunately, the major eBooksellers employ user accounts now to manage DRM. Get a new device, log into your account, get reading. It couldn't be simpler. Associating an Adobe DRM account with Nook or Kobo, for example, is a one time event. Setting up a new eReader device or app doesn't use up Adobe DRM activations since that information is part of your Nook or Kobo account and only used when you download ePub files from their website. However, you can still run out of Adobe account activations by simply restoring your iPad and resetting up your various eReaders. It seems inevitable because of how limited Adobe's system is.

Here's how I am delaying this problem:
  1. Create two email accounts to use with eReaders. Use one for your main Adobe DRM savvy eReaders, and the other for experimenting with new eReaders.
  2. Don't use an email address from work, school, church, or other temporary location. If you lose access to your email address, you can lose access to your eBooks.
  3. Keep track on a note file of all the eReaders associated with each email address. I use Apple's Notes app, but there are dozens of others you can use. I hear little pieces of paper taped to the underside of your desk also work.
  4. Make a backup of that note file.
I have one address I use for Overdrive, Kobo, Nook, &c. and I use the other address for new eReaders I discover. This allows me to experiment all I want without using up activations on my main account. If I decide that I like the new eReader, I reinstall the app and sign back in using my main Adobe DRM account. I don't buy books with the second, temporary account. I just test out the app with free eBooks. When the day comes that I use up the second account's activations, I'll just create a new Adobe account with a new email address.

The trick is to keep track of which apps are linked to which email address. Although I can remember a seemingly infinite amount of useless Internet ephemera, I'm not good at keeping track of how many activations I've used up on each account. It's not information we as users have access to, either. But if I follow this system I don't have to remember which app uses which email address because I've written it down. It's an old school solution to a new school problem, but it's worked out for me for the past year. Whether you have ADHD or are simply overwhelmed by everything you have to remember in the information age, sometimes the old school methods are best.

Thanks for your support. If you want to pitch in, I'm currently outfitting 3 girls for school. If not, please take time to leave a comment or two. I love hearing from my readers.