Thursday, June 09, 2011

Trouble with Adobe DRM: Too Many Activations

Originally published at Absentminded Author, v1.

Having trouble with Adobe DRM? Are you unable to authorize new eReading apps on your smartphone or iOS device? You’re not alone.

You may want to hold off installing that new eReader app on your iPhone or iPad. You may not realize this, but Adobe will only let you play with so many eReading apps on your device before you run out of allotted authorizations. Or worse, if you’ve installed too many apps, you may be in trouble when you restore or replace your device.

I have been a longtime supporter of eBooks. Although I didn’t leap enthusiastically into them in my Palm Pilot days, I did have a few that I read. I especially loved to have the scriptures on my PDA. So convenient, and I loved those power searches!

When I moved to the iPhone in 2007, I became enamored with eBooks with the release of Classics. I paid the full $3 and despite the bellyaching going on about how these books were available for free
already on Project Gutenberg, I loved the app. I loved the fake page flipping. I loved reading the eBooks.

I remember asking an editor in June 2008 at a writers conference if her publisher had plans for supporting eBooks. I will never forget the tight, pained look in her eyes and the panicked smile as she blathered weakly about how they’re taking them into consideration. I knew then that the writing was on the eWall for the traditional publishing industry.

Then I bought an iPad, and suddenly reading eBooks began to crowd out my paper book reading. I wasn’t alone. By Fall 2010 there were new reading apps coming out every few weeks to target the excited iReading populace. I happily downloaded all of them and tried each one out, looking for the perfect eReading experience. Then I ran into a problem.

My iPhone wouldn’t let me authorize any new apps that utilized Adobe’s DRM. I had run out of the allotted authorizations. By March of this year, I began to contact Adobe to fix the situation, but each web case was “withdrawn”, which is to say “dismissed without solving”. I called tech support on multiple numbers and each time I was told that they only supported Adobe Digital Editions via the web. Some helped me open a case for Tier2 support, yet each of those web cases was withdrawn.

By the end of May, my iPad developed a video issue and I returned it to the Applestore for a new unit. Thanks to Apple’s top notch iTunes syncing, I was restored and reading eBooks in no time without a hitch. Then Overdrive, an app that lets one read eBooks from the local library, hung at launch. No amount of rebooting or force quitting could fix it. I had to delete the app and reinstall it.

As I feared, this caused problems when reauthorizing with Adobe. I got the dreaded “Adobe Activation Request Error 2004”. I was locked out of my library book. I started calling Adobe again, getting the usual runaround. The one time I thought I finally got help was when a tech said he would happily reset my account, but just reset my password instead. Today I got another “Withdrawn”. Adobe would not reset my activation account for love nor money.

I have a few options. One is to just read paper books. Another is to create a new Adobe DRM ID. Then I’ll just have to request the eBook from the library again since the it is taken out with my other ID already. I’ll have to remember two IDs, however, so this is not the greatest solution. I’ll likely keep a throwaway Adobe DRM ID, but delete all my Adobe authorized apps and just use iBooks and Kindle for purchases. I have no guarantee that I can continue to use my Nook or Kobo software since I will likely lose/replace one of my iOS devices again in the future and run into this problem all over again. In fact, from what I’ve read this is the ultimate fate of ALL Adobe Digital Editions users over time as they use up their allotted activations with each replacement or even upgrade of their machines. It would be easiest if Adobe stopped being so antiquated in their oppressive DRM policies.

My recommendation for Adobe is to implement the ability to reset one’s list of activated machines. Apple allows five machines to have access to the same music and media. If one uses up those authorizations due to upgrading or replacing of computers, one has only to reset the authorizations to zero and start over from scratch. This is what I was asking Adobe to do, and something that they can do if they feel so inclined. Amazon’s Kindle and Netflix go even further, showing a list of each authorized device and allowing the user to pick and choose which one has access to the content.

Adobe DRM is a dinosaur.

What I found humorous about Adobe’s customer support page was that there was a link there to report piracy. As far as I could see, piracy was the option most people took when getting locked out of eBooks they had purchased. The process can be complicated, but for those dedicated or determined few, stripping DRM provides continued access to their content. Adobe’s problem is that not very many of those folks consider what they are doing to be illegal. It would be in their best interest to not make their DRM so obnoxious.

In the meantime, I opened up another web case and provided even more information than before. Now to grab a paper book. I’m sure I have a few of those still lying around.