To Protect Your PDF Ebook From Sharing, Try To Think Both From The Point Of View Of The Author And The Thief. Accept What You Can Do And What You Can’t.
If you are a solopreneur Knowledge Commerce marketer, ebooks may be among your key products bringing you good earnings. We all know that the easiest ebook formats to create are PDFs, because people need no special devices to read them on.
But the perils of unscrupulous people “sharing out” your PDF can be a real theft of your earnings. There are smart ways to prevent – or at least deter – such “generous thieves”, by knowing how they actually do their thievery and what they don’t like.
You have to do two things. First, think like a possessive marketer and do everything you can to protect your ebook PDF. Then, put yourself in the thief’s shoes, and see what methods he has to still crack your system of protection.
At Solohacks Academy, we think authors have to get a bit smartly realistic. There’s only so much you really can do to prevent PDF sharing. Do what you need to, but also see if “sharing” can actually help you rather than harm you. Also remember, many experts now suggest that PDFs may be passé and we need some better formats. I agree, don’t you?
1. Decide on the price of your ebook and see if it’s worth more if shared or not shared
The first question to ask yourself is this: What are you going to price your PDF ebook at, and what purpose is it being created for? This question will help you decide whether your PDF ebook is better off being “shared” rather than not shared. Yes I mean that, seriously.
Here’s the logic behind my argument. If your ebook is being used as a “tripwire product” and is being priced low for that reason, maybe a lot of “unscrupulous sharing” won’t do you any harm at all. In fact, allowing some underhand sharing is smarter than some high-priced advertising or promotion.
What s a “tripwire product”? It is a term used in the electrical field, to indicate a small less-dangerous burst, that can precede a bigger and more life-threatening burst. For example, in electrical wiring, there is usually a thin wire that acts as a first “tripper” so you don’t accidentally get into a trip-up with a larger wire of greater damage to you.
Your ebook in a PDF format may be one that is not worth $49 as a standalone magnificent piece of writing. It may be a $2.99 ebook that you want to promote as a foretaste of a larger online course you want to sell on the same topic for $199. In that case, would it not be a smarter ploy for you to turn a blind eye to the ebook PDF sharing, because more people will get to know they can enroll for your $199 course?
You may well ask: “But then why can’t I give a free ebook to whet the appetite of the audience for my course? Why price the ebook at $2.99?
Good question. But, the fact is that when something is free, people aren’t tempted to share it. They think it’s not worth the effort. So if your stealthy objective is to get the ebook PDF shared to your eventual gain, price it small. This makes people get a kick out of sharing it. They feel as if by sharing that bit of value, they can get some brownie points with their friends and family – and colleagues and social networks – and everybody else they can think of.
Many an author has seen the value of a low-priced tripwire product like an ebook PDF being generously shared around – and felt thrilled. It’s often the best promotion you can give your bigger-priced products.
Don’t count the loss per ebook caused by each sharing – it’s just $2.99 lost per sharing. But think of it as a $199 potential gain if one of the “sharees” signs up for your course. What is a loss of $2.99 per ebook against a potential to earn $199 from that bit of “induced thievery”? Think about it!
2. Two elementary protection tactics to give your PDF ebook a chance at protection
If your PDF ebook is worth more than just a paltry sum of $2.99, and you seriously intend for it to become a big earner, you have to take some elementary precautions to deter thieves from sharing. There are two things you should do:
One, put up a well-drafted copyright notice in the very first page of the ebook
There are lots of samples of such “legal copy” in many good books by top authors. You could use those as samples for your own copyright notice, or you could get a book agent or books-specialist attorney to help you with a good copyright notice page.
A reasonably good template to follow is this one below – plus or minus a few customizations you may want to make to the copy.
Image courtesy: DiggyPod.com
Two, get Adobe Acrobat DC to see that you set permissions for your PDF
Adobe Acrobat DC is available as a monthly subscription product online. It allows you to set a password so unless someone knows what that is they cannot edit the ebook (and make it sound like their own ebook). Also, Adobe Acrobat DC has features that prevent copying of text, prevent the printing of PDFs and so on. You can check out the Adobe Acrobat DC Guide online for their many security options.
3. Two ultra-smart tools that can deter sharing by making it shameful or near-impossible
Note the words “shameful” and “near-impossible”. We are not exactly saying a determined thief cannot crack or forward our PDFs, but we can make sharing either cringeworthy or too cumbersome to do. Here’s how:
First, how to make sharing of a PDF ebook shameful
In my search for a near-foolproof PDF protection system I came across this absolutely nifty WordPress plugin called the WP PDF Stamper Plugin from the company TipsAndTricks.com. Look at the clever little idea it uses …
When a person buys your ebook from your site, he naturally has to give you his postal address, his email address and so on, doesn’t he? Now, at that stage, the PDF Stamper kicks in … and just before he is about to download his ebook, it stamps all the pages of the ebook with his personal data (in the clever guise of licensing the book to him).
It takes his personal data from the data he gives you at the time of purchase, to complete the purchase online. What is this personal data that gets stamped on all pages of the ebook like a license? Look below to see the result …
Image courtesy: TipsAndTricks
Who’d ever want someone else even seeing this ebook? Stealing and selling it, or lending it out to friends, is hard when very personal details are indelibly stamped on every page. The buyer (who is often the first culprit of re-distribution) will be your safest ally – because he has to protect his own personal details from other eyes.
Isn’t this kind of preventive tactic far better than suing thieves after they have done the piracy? Works for me every time.
Second, how to make the sharing of a PDF ebook near-impossible
There are plenty of solutions in the market to protect ebook-file-sharing via email, but you have to know what to search for. What most of us authors would like, ideally, is that if we email an ebook after purchase to a customer, they alone can see it and read it, but if they forwarded the email very generously (and unethically) to another “friend”, that person shouldn’t be able to see or read the PDF ebook.
To find the solution I’m giving you below you have to search Adobe or Nitro PDF for the term “Digital IDs”.
PDF converter tools like Adobe or Nitro PDF allow you to create Digital IDs which act like certificates that can be given to any one person who has them.
That person alone can use those credentials to see the PDF file he receives, and he can see the PDF on any device he decides. But no one else can see and read the PDF file even if he gives them his Digital ID credentials to use. That is because the Digital ID can be used only by a single user, who will register himself, and his devices, for the first time when he receives the PDF file.
4. Two more smart ways to distribute PDFs so sharing gets out of the question
There are two ways to prevent PDF ebook sharing by allowing buyers to read it but not get the ebook by email or as a download. Here are these two “distribution-method” related protections:
If you are on WordPress, you can use the PDF Embedder Premium Secure plugin.
There is a free version online – but the Premium version, at a cost of $30.00 for a single-site license, makes the plugin perform beautifully even on mobiles. It’s extremely easy to “embed” a PDF ebook into a page or post on your WordPress site, by simply uploading the PDF file to your media library (where it creates a sub-folder on its own called “securepdfs”) and then you insert that item into your post or page. Presto, you get the embedded PDF, readable only online at your site and not as a download.
You can make the pages scrollable, and it renders superbly on mobile too. If you go to the Settings page of the plugin, you can disable download, right-mouse-click, and so on. So when someone purchases this ebook from you, you give them a link to the page where the PDF is embedded. They have to read it on your site. As far as I have checked, people don’t mind this as much as we think they would. After all, even a PDF is often read through a browser, so why not at your website URL instead of from a downloaded file?
“But what if people share the link with their friends so they can all read the ebook PDF free at your site?”, you may well ask. That’s why there is this second distribution solution below …
Curtail access to the book by making it a Pay-Per-View product
Haven’t heard of Pay-Per-View? Here is a quick step-by-step explanation of how it works:
- A visitor arrives on your site and sees a purchase button for some Pay Per View (PPV) ebook.
- The visitor makes a purchase using the purchase button.
- The visitor then gets an encrypted link in the email (optionally you can also show the links on the Thank you page).
- The visitor clicks on the encrypted link which sends him to a WordPress page and allows him to see the content embedded on that page.
- If the visitor directly goes to this page without clicking on the encrypted link first, no content will be shown to the visitor.
- The visitor would not find it useful to forward that email or link to someone else because the number of views allowed for the price of the ebook may be limited to once, twice, or thrice – and no more.
- The visitor would have to pay again for more views – when he would get fresh encrypted links.
In one way, the cost of an expensive book could also feel more affordable to a buyer, since he is paying per view, and therefore much less than the cost of downloading the whole book.
5. What thieves can still do to share your PDFs – and how to get resigned to it
Despite everything you do, there are two ways thieves can still get your ebook PDF if they take a little trouble. You should be warned that some of them don’t mind taking that trouble. But if you know how thievery can be done, you can at least resign yourself to it rather than get gypped by being too naive. Both these methods can be used if you have not disabled the right-mouse-click or the “print-screen” feature on devices. Here are a hardened thief’s methods:
The thief can take a print-screen shot of the pages of your ebook, one page at a time
He can then and compile the screenshots into a whole new pdf. This is by far the most commonly used method if a thief simply wants to share parts or the whole of your ebook without altering it in any way. But if he wants to alter it, he can use this method below …
The thief can take a print-screen shot of the pages of your ebook, and paste the image into Microsoft OneNote
Alas, Microsoft OneNote has a feature that allows “Copy Text From Picture” … which can read text off an image (plus or minus a few small faults). The thief has to simply paste the screenshot of your ebook page in Microsoft OneNote and then right-click on the image pasted … one of the options would be “Copy Text From Picture” as shown in the image below.
He would then get the whole text from the screenshot in the clipboard memory and he can paste it into Wordpad or MS Word and then edit and use the text as he wishes. This is the route that a thief takes when he thinks he can tinker with your ebook copy a bit to make it look more like his own work before he shares (or sells) the ebook he’s created.
Moral of the story? What cannot be cured has to be endured!
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
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