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I've published an ebook in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. I sell this ebook DRM free and take what I consider a friendlier/less obtrusive approach of using a service to "stamp" the customer's name and email address onto each page of the ebook as a way to discourage piracy.

I would like to take this same approach for selling the ebook in ePub and/or Kindle formats. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any stamping services for ePub or Kindle. Is DRM my only anti-piracy option when using ePub and Kindle?

For a reference point, stamps ebooks in PDF format. No, they don't do anything other than PDF.

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The problem with ePub and Kindle formats are that they are not page-by-page like PDFs but really a long mass of text that leaves it up to the eBook reader to turn the text into page numbers. To have it on every page would be virtually impossible. – digitxp Jan 11 '11 at 23:15
What are you trying to defend against here? Are you hoping to be able to identify who leaked a pirate copy? Nag at people who already paid you money to make them feel guilty if they steal from you? Make sure that if a user prints a chapter to share with friends, the friends know where the printout came from? – James Polley Jan 12 '11 at 0:15
I really just want to keep honest people honest. If someone sees his or her name and email address on each page, I figure that person will be less likely to upload it to a file sharing network, send it to every friend they know, etc, because it will get back to him or her. I realize this can be defeated by someone who is determined. That person probably wouldn't buy the book in the first place. I feel like stamping is a better alternative to DRM, which is another way to keep honest people honest. The problem with DRM is that it's also a pain for honest people to use and it doesn't stop pirates – Nick Martin Jan 13 '11 at 18:20
Excellent! Your goals are achievable, which is a good start :) – James Polley Jan 15 '11 at 22:32

ePub and MobiPocket are both superficially quite similar: a bunch of HTML files, with some XML to provide metadata - all zipped up into a single file.

Your options for getting something on each "page" are limited, as these formats reflow depending on screen size etc - so a "page" could be an iPhone screen with a really large font and just a few words; or a 30" monitor with a tiny font and consequently lots of words.

Also, although most devices that read these formats have some limited graphics capability, trying to do something like having text float over a background image is probably beyond most of them.

You could easily insert the purchaser's details at the top/bottom of every chapter; in the book's metadata; or even in some extra files you throw in the zip file. Of course, all of these can trivially be excised by the user - they just need to unzip, edit the files, zip them back up.

Alternatively, you might want to consider a steganographic technique, to hide the embedded watermark in the book content in such a way that you can easily detect its presence, but it won't be obvious to most readers.

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Are you aware of any system that will do anything like this automatically? It doesn't work for me if I have to manually do the work to stamp each copy. – Nick Martin Jan 13 '11 at 18:22
Not offhand, but it shouldn't be too hard to script it; there are plenty of open-source tools that can handle the epub format (and if you can't find something to handle mobipocket as easily, converting epub to mobipocket is easy and should preserve the stamp). Just one example - the ebook-meta commandline tool from Calibre ( will handle something simple, like editing the comments field, out of the box. I'd say "just tinker with the code" but that takes it a bit out of the realm of a superuser question.. – James Polley Jan 15 '11 at 22:38

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