Adobe Labs Cooks Up Worst Ebook Reader in Ebook Reader History

Adobe Digital Editions

Dear Adobe,

I have, often, derided the Adobe Acrobat format for ebooks. I have told people on this blog, in emails, on message boards, that this is my least favorite format and that you should only buy this format when there is NO OTHER OPTION. Buying an Adobe ebook, particularly one that requires authentication to read it, is akin to shaving your head when you are one of the most recognizable people in the world and, at one time, one of the most beautiful people in the world.

You’ve come out with a great new software called Adobe Digital Editions, for those people who love ebooks. And by great, I mean, if the reader was an island and had no choice but to choose Adobe’s software or be eaten by cannibals. You seem to think that readers want Adobe to control the reading experience because we readers can’t possibly know what we want.

Font SizeAdobe Digital Editions only has four font sizes. You can’t type in the percentage you want, it has a small a and a large a and that controls the font size for the book. Adobe assumes it knows exactly what four font sizes you want. It also assumes when you will want two pages per screen or one page per screen. You don’t get to choose.

Smallest Font:

Small Size

Largest Font:

Large Size

You also believe that readers won’t mind that when they use the “page up/page down” keys or the arrow keys entire sections are skipped. And you, paternally, like to believe that readers will WANT to always upgrade to the new and supposedly better version. Because everyone is moving to Vista and everyone has downloaded and installed IE 7, right? Too bad, so sad, for the users of Adobe Digital Editions because it will REQUIRE the reader to download the upgrade before she can read those ebooks she paid for.

Worse yet, is that this reading program is not exactly free. What do I mean by that. Well, in the licensing portion of the FAQ at Adobe’s site, it tells us that the following:

To offset Adobe’s costs in developing and operating Digital Editions and its associated content protection infrastructure, Adobe will provide dynamic context-based ads in the user interface of the Digital Editions application. We hope to make these ads tasteful, minimally distracting, and useful. A premium version of Digital Editions will be available on a subscription basis (price TBD), and content publishers using Adobe DRM technology will have the option to disable contextual ads. NOTE: Ads are not enabled in the initial beta releases.

So, I pay for the book and in order for me to read the book, I still get my special content related ads unless I pay for a premium version or the content publisher disables the ads? No wait, they’ll be tasteful and only “minimally” distracting. I can just imagine the increased uptick in name dropping in books as we get Adobe’s version of Google Ad Words. Adobe’s panties would get wet with a book from Susan Elizabeth Phillips and JR Ward. And what about those Avon Red or Harlequin Spice books. What “tasteful” ads are going to be generated with those stories?

Go you for creating a reading environment that is actually worse than the one you had before. I love it when big companies regress. Thanks, but I’ll sit this program out. It makes more sense to shave my hair off. At least I would be in control of that situation.

Best regards,


By Jane Litte

0 comments on “Adobe Labs Cooks Up Worst Ebook Reader in Ebook Reader History

  1. I purchased my first ebook last month – being naive, I thought Adobe would be the best format, despite my having a Palm. I wanted to be able to read it either on my Palm or on my Mac, or I would have just gone for Palm Reader or something. Ahahahahaha, no.

    Not only did I have to download several versions of Reader (8, and then when this wouldn’t work, 7, which ALSO would not work) with their huge and slow installers, then was prompted to download the beta version of Digital Editions, which was annoying enough in itself, the damn book would not download within Digital Editions. If I tried to open the book without Editions open first, I got a weird error which told me nothing useful. If I tried when it was open I could see the cover of the book… but that was all. I could find nothing on the website to explain any of this, or to report bugs, which this obviously was. Version 7 didn’t work either, for some more strange errors, despite a fresh install.

    What did work? Using the existing Version 6 (Pro) on a work PC. Unfortunately version 6 is not downloadable anymore.

  2. I tried to dl Version 7 a few weeks ago and got the same crap. All the books I already had showed up as garbage. Luckily I hadn’t unloaded Version 6, so I just ditched 7 and went back to what worked.

  3. You know, thanks to you, J, I haven’t had any experience with Adobe at all. This is regression at it’s best. I having no control. What a piece of crap.

  4. The first ebooks I purchased were in protected Acrobat format (my younger self was not well-informed). The experience was not pleasant. I concluded that I didn’t like reading on my computer but FBReader has changed my mind. If I have to read on my computer, I want a reader that I can customize to my own idiosyncratic requirements. So the latest Adobe reduces the user customization and includes ads – bah humbug.

  5. This is a very funny piece. May I reprint a small part of it in a book I am editing on Internet Style, which ends with a riff on the Future of the Book? I’d need permission by tomorrow mornign to make my deadline. We’ll send you a copy of the book when it’s published.

  6. Grin. On one hand I’m sorry you had this experience, Jane. OTH I’m glad since it points out things that we want to AVOID in our own efforts to bring out a reader.

    Sigh, I can hardly wait till April when we should finally be getting some Bookeen units for evaluation. I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop as to how it goes.

  7. We are developing a software suite that helps you publish and read electronic books. The Bytesize reader, the piece currently available, reads Bytesize published documents. We have lots of samples on our web site at You can download the reader and Bytesize published books and documents. You should find that the reader makes the books very easy to read and study. Our main purpose is to provide a reader to ‘intensely read’ books and documents that lets you browse, highlight, annotate, and search in useful ways. We hope you will find the reading and studying experience superior to other readers.

    Down the road, users of the Bytesize suite will be able to import lots of formats into Bytesize format, and publish their own works in Bytesize format. We think it will be very useful to teachers building course materials, ebook authors, and anyone studying lots of documents to create new knowledge.

    We’d love to get input from new users of the software on what you like and how you think it can be made more useful. Our early test users are mostly college and high school level instructors and students. We need a broader base of input. Download the software (free), try some of the free Bytesize documents on the web site, and send your thoughts to Thanks,

    Glenn at Bytesize Systems

  8. I am unable to find the SMALL “a” and LARGE “A” to change my font / text size. I’ve clicke on every available link and have had the screen full size and minmized
    Please advise.

  9. Jane, just a quick word to update you on the NAEB reader. Bookeen has a new site up for those who want to check out their product, it has a picture and specifications.

    Unfortunately, due to one thing and another, they haven’t managed to get our evaluation units to us yet. David says they will just as soon as they come off the production line. Grrr. I hate waiting!

    Bookeen does not sell Individual readers, their minimum order is 200 units, so we are going to be one of the places where you can get them. We hope to be able to give those who buy through us the best deal possible, but that will depend on our buying power and that will depend on how many want to use us to purchase. Right now we have a little over 500 signed in on our “I’m interested” page.

    Once we have the eval units in hand and can give a review of what they are like and how they work we’ll see how that translates into a “I want one” page. Grin. The more we can order at once the better the deal we can get our members from Bookeen.


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