PDF In-Depth

How Reader Extensions should be sold

About the Author
Duff Johnson picture

Duff Johnson

Since 2011, Duff has worked in the ECM industry specializing in PDF technology since 1995. An industry leader, Duff co-chairs the international committee that manages ISO 32000, the specification for the PDF file format. Responsible for marketing and product...  More




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.

Reader Extensions options

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.

PDF In-Depth Free Product Trials Ubiquitous PDF

Debenu Quick PDF Library

Get products to market faster with this amazing PDF developer SDK. Over 900 functions and an equally...

Download free demo

Five visions of a PDF Day

In the world of PDFs or as we like to say Planet (of) PDF, a year isn't a real PDF year without an intense few days of industry knowledge sharing.

May 15, 2018
Platinum Sponsor

Search Planet PDF
more searching options...
Planet PDF Newsletter
Most Popular Articles
Featured Product

Debenu PDF Aerialist

The ultimate plug-in for Adobe Acrobat. Advanced splitting, merging, stamping, bookmarking, and link control. Take Acrobat to the next level.


Adding a PDF Stamp Comment

OK, so you want to stamp your document. Maybe you need to give reviewers some advice about the document's status or sensitivity. This tip from author Ted Padova demonstrates how to add stamps with the Stamp Tool along with related comments.