How Reader Extensions should be sold


After an early, abortive attempt at charging $50 for Reader, Adobe Systems quickly determined that distributing the ability to view and print for free would promote sales of Adobe’s Acrobat desktop software for creating, manipulating and managing PDF files.

Indeed, the free Reader was a critical piece of the puzzle. As a result of this and a few other similar choices, Adobe’s PDF format emerged in the mid 1990’s as the de facto final-form electronic document format.

Over time, Adobe added interactive capabilities to PDF, Acrobat and Reader, including commenting, forms, spawning pages, JavaScript and more. As PDF technology became more sophisticated, and as these new features gained traction among users of Adobe’s flagship Acrobat product line, the opportunity to monetize the widely distributed but free Reader was (understandably) irresistible.

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Reader Extensions

Adobe decided that a new business-model, in which a PDF file gains the ability to unlock hidden capabilities in Reader, could make a lot of sense. They called this capability ‘Reader Extensions’.

Put simply, Extensions allow the free Reader to perform functions otherwise only available in Adobe’s Acrobat desktop software.

Until now, Adobe has made Reader Extensions (RE) available in only two ways:

  1. Adobe Acrobat Professional 8 and 9

    Certain Extensions (Reader Save and Commenting) are available for free on a one-file-at-a-time basis via Acrobat Professional, with a EULA limit of 500 users or 500 instances (in the case of a form). It’s all a bit vague, and the EULA is that click-past text that no-one reads when they install the software.

  2. Adobe LiveCycle Reader Extensions Server

    This product allows licensed users to deploy any desired Reader Extensions under the terms of Adobe’s Enterprise or OEM licensing models.

    To-date, Adobe has been relatively successful at selling Reader Extensions to very large corporations and government agencies, far less so with small to medium-sized organizations or departments. The current Enterprise and OEM pricing models are, quite simply, barriers to adoption at every level.

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About the Author: Duff Johnson

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