Stephen King and PDF II: Honesty v. Security
Will Readers pay for unlocked installments?

Stephen King fired a "Bullet" over the heads of the book publishing world earlier this year, creating record commotion for those who wanted to buy and download his first electronic book (novella). The overwhelming response crippled some publishers' and distributors' Web servers, which in turn left many potential readers wanting.

The famed horror author is back now with his second unpublished, downloadable offering -- again in PDF -- but with a new, simplified distribution scheme. Left out of the process this time, some publishers and security technology companies may feel like they're in the direct path of King's second electronic bullet.

During the initial release of "Riding the Bullet," some were foiled *after* downloading when they discovered the book utilized a security system that made it inaccessible on their preferred (Mac) platform. Not surprisingly, that only inspired and challenged some to try hacking the encryption. An unsecured version soon became available on several Usenet newsgroups.

The Plant by Stephen KingKing is short-circuiting a repeat of history by abandoning the notion of security, instead making "The Plant" available in unlocked format -- but with a twist. He'll upload at least two installments of the novel, asking readers to pay one dollar for each -- based purely on the honor system.

If at least 75 percent of those who download installments one (July 24) and two (August 21) pay up, King promises to continue the experiment. Anything less, he writes on his official Web site, he'll pull the plug.

King hopes his trust in the honesty of his fans will be rewarded. Although there's no technological barrier to anyone printing and giving away -- or even selling -- copies of The Plant, King implores that his copyright be respected:

"Two reasons: first, it's against the law, and second, it's nasty behavior," King says. "Respect my copyright. As a writer, it's all I've got."

Installment One is now available -- only from King's Web site. According to the file's Document Info fields, the 20-page, 142 kb, unoptimized PDF was produced in QuarkXPress and converted with Acrobat PDFWriter 4.05 on an Apple Macintosh.


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Two Passwords Are Better Than One: The Low-Down On PDF Security

For people who don't spend their time looking at PDF files in text editors*, PDF security is a sometimes misunderstood beast.

For example, those document restrictions that PDF files sometimes have -- no Printing, Content Copying, Page Extraction, etc -- are essentially useless unless the PDF also has a User Password.

January 09, 2014
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