I know through past questions and some researching that the four most widely used DRM formats for e-books are: Amazon's DMR, Adobe's Adept DRM, Apple's Fairplay, and Marlin's.

I am just wondering how widely social DRM models have been adopted by e-book publishers and if there are any prominent examples.

Also are there any good sources of information to look through if a publisher were trying to decide between technical DRM and social DRM?

  • 1
    Just some data points: DriveThru, Tor, Baen and bokus (e-store of a major Swedish bookstore chain) all sell with what you call "social" DRM. (It is, I guess, not truly DRM. I'd say "watermarking".)
    – Raphael
    Apr 13, 2014 at 14:48

2 Answers 2


Most of my experience with social DRM has been through smaller tech publishers like The Pragmatic Bookshelf, where they embed the purchaser's name into the title of the book, like <dc:title>Programming Ruby 1.9 &amp; 2.0 (for [name])</dc:title>.

Probably the biggest titles to use social DRM, though, are the Harry Potter books through Pottermore. Here's a link to an article that goes into detail about it: http://copyrightandtechnology.com/2012/04/08/the-harry-potter-watermarking-experiment/ and a relevant chunk:

The EPUB version that I downloaded is not DRM-protected; instead it contains two things: “This book is watermarked and was acquired by user ec107c00b9577436d6354e54cd9da5c9 on 31 March 2012″ on the copyright page, and various bits of data inserted invisibly into images and other places inside the book.

As far as pros and cons of social DRM vs. more traditional DRM: there's lots of info out there that suggests that DRM in general is not terribly useful, but there are strong feelings on both sides of the issue. I'd suggest checking out what tech publisher Tim O'Reilly has to say: http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2011/0411/focus-tim-oreilly-media-e-book-antipiracy-steal-this.html.


In Italy small publishers tend to use Social DRM - when I published for 40k, for example, my book was sold with a page stating the name of the person who bought it (or in case of a gift, the person who it has been given to)

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