I had several requests from various readers for en eBook version of Paradoxal Press titles for both "The COMPLETE Effect and HLSL Guide" and "Practical .NET 2 and C# 2" and unfortunately we don't CURRENTLY offer them. There are a few reasons behind this and I thought a post on the why might by justified. 

The main reason for Paradoxal Press not currently distributing eBook versions of its titles (well with exception to "The COMPLETE HLSL Reference") stems from us wanting to minimize piracy. It is a fact, book piracy is rampant out there and as a small press, even a little piracy can cost us a lot and make business difficult.

Of course, piracy can still exist from a physical book. But the effort required to cut up a book, run it through a scanner and build a decent output from the book make it much less likely. In addition, physical books cannot be as much victims of what I would call "casual piracy". With a book, you pay for a physical copy, you can read it, lend it,... The terms of the copyright in this case are straightforward. But when you get an eBook as (for example) a PDF file, it is much easier to copy the file around and pass it along to your buddies and then there are multiple copies of the book in existence.

So before I release any of our books as PDF files, I have to weigh the different options in terms of copyright protection and find a good compromise that would allow such a distribution without piracy being too much of a burden on our bottom line. The reality is that piracy cannot be avoided. So my goal is to reduce casual piracy and deter other forms of piracy at the same time; of course without adding any significant burden to legit readers. Here are some of the options that I have researched so far:

  • Adobe PDF files have built-in support for encryption. The use for this might be limited since it mostly allows you to control if the document can be printed or modified. But does no where in terms of prevented unwanted copies. In addition, from my research, the encryption within PDF files is fairly weak and can be broken fairly easily. In addition, this approach requires the user to input a password every time they wish to open the PDF file. So this might be considered as a hindrance.
  • There are a fair number of third party PDF encryption software which offer better protection and encryption. However most of them require essentially wrapping the PDF file within some other form of protected file and then using their application to unlock and open the document. Although this likely provides a greater level of protection, it would seem that the need to install a specific application in order to view the document is an added customer annoyance.
  • Another possible solution is watermarking. The idea here is to personalize the PDF file provided for each purchased version of the eBook. The customizations would include specific information about the purchaser spread out in various locations within the document. Note that this does not prevent piracy but is intended to act as a deterrent and would allow us to track back the source of a piracy leak. The big advantage of this approach is that it has no impact on legit users but allows us to deal with piracy if and when it does happen.

At this point, I am strongly considering the watermarking approach as a viable solution and am doing some research into ways it can be practically applied for my titles. If you know of any documents on this, or other possible alternatives, please let me know...