Adobe Digital Editions: I’m Really NOT Impressed

Last week, I purchased an eBook from Adobe Press (Flash CS3 related) because I wanted to get back up to speed with Flash since I’ll need to use it for upcoming projects. This was the first time I bought an eBook and the only reason I did was because I wanted it right away and didn’t want to wait for delivery.

When came the time to download it I was prompted to install a new reader application called Digital Editions. That already bugged me quite a bit because I already have Acrobat Reader 8.1 installed and I quite like it but apparently, Adobe decided that unlike Reader versions 6 and 7, version 8 would not support and would not be able to open eBooks. Why on earth did Adobe think we needed yet another piece of reader software when we already had a perfectly good one that can do the job?

This new Digital Editions things is just a far from subtle effort on Adobe’s part to push their Flex/RIA platform. For me, Digital Editions was slower than Reader and had a clunky interface… plus it’s all black and you cannot change that. I HATE100% black user interfaces, especially in a utilitarian piece of software like this. But at least, it enabled me to open my ebook and read it. That was until today…

This morning I tried to fire up Digital Editions to keep reading my eBook and I was prompted with a dialog forcing me to download the final release. The version I was using before was a beta. I won’t even go into the braindead decision to force customers who buy eBooks from Adobe Press to install and use beta software on their work machines. That’s a whole other level of stupidity I’m not going to get into here.

The thing is, after installing this so called "final" version, it crashes right after I start it. No matter how I uninstall and reinstall it, reboot or delete its config folder, that piece of junk just will not start and keeps crashing almost as soon as I start it. To say that I’m pissed that I apparently wasted $40 on an eBook I cannot even open is an understatement. Way to go Adobe! I will definitely go back to buying paper copies only of any future books I buy. At least they will always be available when I need them…

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17 thoughts on “Adobe Digital Editions: I’m Really NOT Impressed”

  1. The funny thing about companies jumping through all these DRM hoops to restrict what you do, they end up losing sales. If they had just sold you a standard unencrypted PDF, you’d instead be here raving about how nice it was, and telling us all to buy a copy.

  2. Hi, the protection against content-copying has indeed changed over the years, and the different generations of user-agents have communicated with different generations of servers. I’m not sure yet of the best link for background, but here are some starting points:

    I agree with you that paper, polycarbonate, or other hard storage still offers unique advantages. Both approaches are helpful.


  3. Hi Stephane, I’m sorry for the hassle. I remember that Bill McCoy advised in some messages that beta versions of Adobe Digital Editions should be uninstalled before installing the final. If there’s currently a problem, have you tried running the system-level uninstaller, and then reinstalling? Might get us back to readability quickly. (Bill’s at, if a clean install doesn’t work.)

    I’ve still got the action item to make sure that the question "Why doesn’t Reader 8.x include the older ebooks capabilities?" has an answer in the public record… it might already be in the public record, but it should be easy to find as well. I’m sorry for the hassle in the meantime.


  4. Hi John,

    Thanks for helping. I truly appreciate it. I have indeed uninstalled the beta version but not before having been forced to install the "final" version. When I fired up DE yesterday morning, the app gave me a dialog right away saying I had to upgrade now and I did. I assumed that the installer would recognize the beta that was installed and warn me of any potential issues of installing 1.0 over it. Apparently I assumed wrong but I don’t think this is the problem.

    First is that, you’ll see in my growing thread on the forum that other people have done fresh instals of DE 1.0 (without a prior beta present) and they have the same issue as me. Also, I have indeed tried uninstalling from Add/Remove program and cleaning up everything I found related to DE (which wasn’t much) and that didn’t help.

    As I said in the thread, I have crash logs (.mdmp files) I could send anyone that would have a use for them to track down the problem. They are similar files as the Dreamweaver beta used to save on the desktop when it crashed.

    Also, thanks for pursuing why the ability to support eBooks was removed from Reader 8.x. I’m very interested in that info although, at first glance I really see no valid reason to remove choices for users.

  5. David,

    You are exactly right. I’m usually a fan of Adobe (and Macromedia) and I’m not the kind of guy that complains about that sort of stuff, at least not publicly. And I would probably be singing the praises of the book I bought or Flash itself. But right now I’m dead in the water. I can probably figure what I need to know about Flash CS3 without the book but I paid for that book and I should be able to open it in any way I can. I mean, with a paper copy, there are no restrictions on how, when and where I can crack it open and read it. Why should eBooks be any different in that regard.


    Thanks for posting on my modest blog and thanks for the links. But my basic complaint is not about DRM itself, it’s about the seemingly arbitrary decision to remove choice from users. If Adobe had not decided to remove eBooks support from Reader 8.x, I would not be complaining about Digital Editions here. If people had not been FORCED to use what is basically still an unfinished piece of beta software and given no other choice other than uninstall Reader 8 and reinstall 7.0.9 then I would not have posted this entry. I haven’t gone back to Reader 7.0.9 yet and would really prefer not to.

    I’m waiting to hear back from someone who seems to be an Adobe support person or a member of the DE team on the DE forum (the new one, not the one on Labs) and I’ll see how it goes from there. Could you see if you could push things internally for the DE team to look into this issue as I’m apparently not the only one with the problem. 3 other people replied with the same issue in the thread I started there. That’s on a brand new forum that is not 24 hours old yet so the problem may be quite widespread.

    Also John, if you could find out why did Adobe decided to remove the ability to read eBooks from Reader 8.x and if it could be considered to add it back. Like I said, I really don’t understand when a company removes choices for users, especially to replace it with immature and fragile technology like Digital Editions…


  6. I have baught e-books using Adobe reader and it was wonderful. I then downloaded Digital Editions and have never had the misfortune of having to deal with such a terrible program. My problem is that I can not figure out how to uninstall it and neither Adobe or the company I buy my e-books form will help me. I really do not want to have to erase and reinstall my entire operating system. Please if anyone could help me I would really appreciate it. I am using mac OS 10.4.10.
    Thank you

  7. If I buy anything I expect to be able to use it where and whenever I want to. With these Adobe Digital Edition eBooks you can ONLY use it on the computer where you downloaded it. By the way, there is no advance warning about this restriction on their sales page. And they have provided no way to transfer the license to another computer easily as some software vendors have done in their attempts to protect their software. Now I can’t use it on my laptop, I can’t use it at school, I can’t print it off on a color printer because the printer is not attached to this very computer, and I can’t use it for reference while working on lab assignments. They have taken a very good product and made it virtually useless to me because it is not portable for viewing…not even by the person that paid hard solid cash for the product!

  8. Just thought I’d add my two cents…..I never noticed the small print that said Printing was off. In fact I thought I was buying a plain old pdf file until after I bought the "pdf", I realized I had to get Digital Editions to be able to read the book. I hate reading from computer screens and like to read wghile traveling, so I always print the chapters I want. I have actually gone and done screen saves on the first 50 pages and saved them, which I later printed……

  9. I’m sorry if my English is not good, I’m temporarily working in the US for a project, English is not my mother t.

    Yes, you may say this is not exactly relevant to this article, but this is my experience since last year I bought a laptop under Windows XP OS. I’m talking about both MS, Adobe and PC/hardware manufacturers.

    I said, I bought a laptop under Windows XP OS early last year. Then, I bought (1) Canon scanner. I bought (2) Acrobat 7.0. Then, I bought (3) some ebooks at Amazon.

    I admit it’s my fault, everything happened since I dropped my laptop by mistake lately, the screen was out of function. I asked if I can repair LCD but they said it would cost $900 for LCD repair (for the laptop I bought at $1,700).

    I had to buy new lap top, I didn’t have OS choice because all laptops were equipped with Windows Vista, it’s OK, I don’t like brand-new OS since I don’t like to be early adapter and beta tester, but what other options I have? I usually change OS after 4 years market old but this time, I can’t.

    So I bought brand new laptop equipped with Windows Vista OS.

    (1) Firstly, I tried to use my Canon scanner but it didn’t work. The message said the equipment has known issue with the OS so it doesn’t work! MS web site shows incompatibility, Canon also said no plan to support Vista. What? I can’t use my hardware (Canon scanner) just bought last year since I upgrade the OS? Is this Canon’s problem or MS’s?

    Anyway, I had to buy another Canon scanner, costed me $100. Canon earn money from me due to MS’s market dominant status.

    (2) Secondly, I installed Acrobat 7.0. It worked strangely. I make security documents (with digital signature) for m work, but my personal identities were cleared whenever I started Acrobat 7.0. I found what the problem was after I visited Acrobat web site. They "proudly" announced that "Acrobat doesn’t have a plan to support Vista for Acrobat 7.0". What? The Acrobat I bought last year can’t work with this year’s OS? They don’t even have a plan to support?

    Anyway, I had to buy another Acrobat, 8.0 professional upgrade, costed me over $180.

    (3) I thought everything had been settled after (2). My life was supposed to go easy again. But not now. Thirdly, I tried to read some ebooks I bought. What happened? Whenver I click the ebook files, it took me to the web site, introducing "Digital Editions". What’s tihs? Then, I found I may not use the ebooks I bought any more, I read some articles here.

    I had a dilemma when I firstly tried to buy ebooks. I can be looked as well-gadgeted man if I read ebook on my PDA. And it has no weight and no need space to store. I can carry anywhere, that’s what I thought and later, that proved to be false. I was firstly surprised almost no price difference between paper book and ebook. Hmm.. what’s this? Paper book has actualy materials, papers, delivery cost but almost same with ditital book which has no actual materials and delivery cost? Hm.. yes, content rules and is important so their prices are almost same, I thought. But I should have bought paper book, if I bought paper books at that time instead of ebooks, I could read the books just right away whenver I want, just go to my libarry, I won’t be bugged to download and install new software whenever reader has been changed or updated, because my eyes are always working. Book and its content are important, why am I taking care all the time for reader itself?

    I’m pretty upset what I’ve done, that was my fault, I broke my laptop. But the happenings since then, that is not my fault, I had to pay extra money and forced to do so.

  10. Hi Will,

    Sorry to hear of your laptop troubles. Let me address a few points you raise.

    You say: "I don’t like brand-new OS since I don’t like to be early adapter and beta tester, but what other options I have? I usually change OS after 4 years market old but this time, I can’t."

    Using Vista now is not being an early adopter or being a beta tester. Vista was released to manufacturers over a year ago and had been in public beta testing for about 3 years before that. It’s probably the most widely tested piece of software Microsoft ever released. It’s a stable OS, much more so for me than XP Pro ever was. There is really no need to wait 4 years to use a "new" OS. Doing so may actually put you at risk since security updates become less frequent and older OSes become unsupported (Win 98, Win ME, Win NT, Win 2000). Furthermore, you are denying yourself the use of real productivity improvements. I was skeptical about Vista until my XP machine broke last summer but I really would not go back now.

    Regarding your point 1. The decision not to release Vista drivers for your scanner was Cannon’s so they are entirely responsible for this decision. Again, Vista has been in public beta for years before release so Cannon had plenty of time to see it coming and prepare suitable drivers. Also, it’s not like Microsoft releases a new major OS upgrade every year. XP was originally released in 2001. Personally, the only peripheral that didn’t work for me in Vista was my Epson scanner but it was older than yours. Even the latest XP drivers for it re several years old. That’s OK, I keep it hooked to my XP box and it woks for me.

    Regarding your point 2, this is quite common in the software industry to stop supporting older releases in new operating systems. I agree with it for the most part because resources allocated to developing point updates to older versions is resources not used to develop new features. But I have to say that most of my software that worked under XP still works in Vista. If Adobe programmed Acrobat in a way that it won’t work in Vista it’s their business… and responsibility. Microsoft are renowned for being very good at backwards compatibility. In any case, if you earn money from your craft and tools, I don’t think $180.00 is unreasonable to keep current and being able to serve your clients better. Acrobat 8 is a clearly worthwhile upgrade from version 7 IMO as are all the CS3 suites apps.

    Regarding your point 3, this is where things are different because you are now given less choices and are being forced to use a new piece of software you may not care for. But my eBook did open in it once I was finally able to start DE without crashing. It should work for you as well.

    Regarding whether this was your fault or not, consider the fact that you can wipe Vista off your current laptop and reinstall XP on it. No one is preventing you from doing that. But I would stick with Vista, for me it’s well worth it and I would have upgraded my Adobe apps anyway.

  11. Hey Stephane,

    I noticed you said you did screen shots to print off…that’s the only printing solution I’ve come across so far as well, was wondering if anyone else out there has any better solutions.

    Another problem with Digital Editions is it is used by libraries for distributing ebooks…with a 10 day rental period and no renewal options. So annoying when I don’t get to finish a book in that amount of time or want to refer back to sections.

    At least a physical book from the library I can make copies of certain passages. Aargh.


  12. Hello Rebekah,

    I haven’t used Digital Editions in months and it’s no longer installed here so I don’t know if Adobe changed its printing policy with it. I actually ended up bitting the bullet and re-buying my Flash CS3 book as a hard copy edition. The constraints of using Adobe eBooks and Digital Editions are just too great and I do not intend to repeat the experience. David above had it right. Those ridiculous constraints companies place on eBooks end up loosing them sales. A simple PDF download would have been ideal, even if it were password protected. At least I could print it, use it on more than one computer and it would not depend on a crappy piece of software like Digital Editions.

  13. I’ve just had the same experience! Based on the fact that there is actually very little price difference between the eBooks (promoted as
    "Adobe PDF" downloads, not "flaky, impossible to work with, tedious DRM" downloads) and hardcopies of a text, I had assumed that I’d be getting a regular PDF that I could print sections of – silly me! I can’t believe there’s less than 20-30% reduction in costs between an almost unusable eBook that can only be viewed in Adobe Digital Editions after an activation process and a hardcover printed book – the publishers are clearly making a murderous profit margin on eBooks… But like Rebekah and Stephane, I’ll only make the mistake once! The way we absortb written information on paper and on the screen differs, and I for one like to commute with a bit of reading to occupy my time. I don’t want to be tied to having to bring a single laptop with me and squinting at it’s display just to read something… I thought eBooks were meant to be a convenient instant-delivery means that was eco-friendly (those who are happy to read on the screen do, and those that only need small sections printed can save a few trees) – Adobe’s DRM implementation is hideous! Never again! 🙁

  14. I just downloaded a Cisco ebook and wanted to print some of it to read at home tonight after work. The Digital Editions software (which is damned ugly and I didn’t know I had to install before I bought the ebook – never again) only let me print 30 pages max. Okay, so I decide to sacrifice a few pages and just choose the 30 I will read tonight. I click print, and wait… nothing happens! And now the print icon is greyed out and I can’t print ANYTHING! Presumably I’ve already used up my print quota – despite the fact that it didn’t work. My God I hate Adobe…

  15. Hi Peter,

    Sorry to hear about your troubles with Digital Editions. In my case, I haven’t used it since this post. I bought paper copies of the eBooks I had bought and I have not reinstalled DE since I reinstalled Windows a few weeks ago and don’t plan to reinstall it. I don’t know if the newest Adobe Reader (Acrobat Reader) now supports Adobe Press eBooks or not as I have not purchased any since this fiasco happened. I don’t plan to in the future either.

    I’m not an open-source fanatic but but I really hate it when a vendor choose to remove flexibility and choice and completely lock down the usage of something as basic as a book into a completely proprietary piece of software that doesn’t even work correctly to begin with. Like they say “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”? I won’t get fooled twice… 😉

  16. Adobe Digital Editions is nothing new, just a little remixed adobe pdf reader with probably less options. I don’t like it at all you dont enjoy reading in digital editions.

    I highly recomend book room instead.

  17. Hi. installed Adobe Reader Digital Edition today and it keeps crashing approximately every 30 seconds. So it crashed about 20 times during my attempt to add my pdf documents. It is really an extremely bad product.


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