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PDF Print scaling

In previous posts we have commented on handling PDFs that have large page sizes. The question of how to print such pages frequently arises, so an update on our earlier discussion would seem to be timely. The first observation to make is that most consumers can only print A4 or US Letter paper sizes … less than 10% will have printers capable of handling larger formats, at least, that will the case at home – most offices have a wider range and print shops can handle a very large range of page sizes.

Typically a PDF reader (from Adobe or elsewhere) will re-scale any oversized PDF document to “best fit” the page size supported by the default print device. The re-scaling results may or may not be satisfactory and may vary by printer type, paper etc. In order to be sure of the end results, a simple option is to re-scale the source PDF. Then, when the end user prints the document, there is no re-scaling required and the results are exactly as you expect. If you want the user to be able to see the resulting printout in a larger format, all they then need to do is to photocopy it with a setting to enlarge the document to their preferred size. However…

… for documents that are 2+ times the size of standard paper sizes and/or require very precise scaling (e.g. dress patterns), this still leaves a major issue – re-scaling may be undesirable and/or unreadable. The solutions in this case are either: (i) offer an on-demand in-network print service, with delivery to the customer by post; (ii) offer pre-printed copies of selected documents that are over-sized, e.g. posters, newspapers, technical drawings, dress patterns etc; or (iii) permit the user to have the source PDF printed by a suitable (approved) print shop. Option (iii) is only possible if the source PDF is made available to the print shop and meets their requirements (i.e. a completely unsecured PDF) – in most cases using export settings (e.g. from InDesign) specifying that the output PDF is designed for print production will produce satisfactory results. The key variables are resolution (which must be 300dpi or greater), embedded fonts (to ensure the end result looks correct/uses the correct fonts), and sufficient bleed (2-3mm) to ensure pages can be trimmed to size where necessary. For most conventional documents the trim issue will not present problems. For precision printed documents (e.g. technical drawing to scale, patterns to be cut out) option (ii) is the only practical solution.

Kindle Fire HD – test drive for PDFs and secure PDFs

The Kindle Fire range of devices is Amazon’s answer to demands for a more functional device than the basic Kindle. All the more recent versions run an amended variant of the Android operating system, tailored to be Kindle-like, but also capable of running a wide range of applications. However, these applications are generally only available from the Amazon app store, not from Google Play or other Android app stores. Furthermore, Amazon’s terms and conditions for apps hosted on their App Store include requirements to pay them a substantial royalty if an app from the store is used to “sell” an item, such as a publication or training course materials. So what is the solution for PDF publishers? Well, Javelin for Android will run on Kindle Fire devices – see below for more details.


Javelin for Kindle

The Javelin secure PDF reader for Android is compatible with Kindle Fire (KF) and  is easy to install and run…  The screen resolution on the KF 7inch model is 800×1280, so not bad (much cheaper but not nearly as good as the new iPADs), and its dual 1.5Ghz processor is fast enough for even the most demanding of PDFs. We tested it on a couple of the largest documents distributed by our customers. These books have around 1000-2000+ pages and a large number of images and links. They load in a couple of seconds from completion of downloading, and because the entire document is held in virtual memory, they are almost instant when accessing any page.


Installing and running the Javelin app

Installation of Javelin on the Kindle is quick and simple – full details are provided here. To run the app you simply touch the Javelin icon and the Home page opens. For many users the documents they wish to view will be included within a catalog, either the built-in Catalog or a separate downloadable catalog of books, training materials or other documents. The publisher creates these and explains to end users how to download them. Touching the cover of a title in a catalog then downloads that book or document.For standard PDFs the file may then be opened immediately, whilst for secure PDFs (drmz files) an authorization code is usually required, after which the file may be opened and read.


If the Kindle Fire is your preferred reading device for ePUB books, newspapers and other materials, it can also be used for standard and secured PDF reading. As most Kindle Fire devices are quite small and not very high resolution it is best used for PDFs where the font is larger, the page sizes are smaller than standard, and/or the materials are graphical. It is also good for holding reference documents, where the user wishes to select an item and can zoom in to check details, rather than reading lengthy blocks of text.

Screen capture protection

A very common question we are asked is “can we include protection against screen capture” for our PDFs on a cross-platform basis? The simple answer is “no”, whatever system or supplier you look at and whatever others may claim! A little background should help clarify this.

With the introduction of screens for interacting with computers in the 1980s it was necessary to provide dedicated hardware components to manage the display of text and graphics. As PCs and similar devices became more advanced, graphical demands became greater and specialized “graphics cards” (and later, “chipsets”) were included to provide this functionality. The cards and chipsets included both processing and memory handling functions, and software tools soon became available that would access the stored information directly. These were initially utility programs, and then rapidly this functionality was included in third party photo/image processing software and built-in tools (e.g. the Snipping tool in Windows 7 and Grab on Mac OSX 10). This allowed users to display information on screen and then “capture” all or part of the screen for subsequent editing. The user did not need to understand where this information came from, just that it was readily accessible. The operating system was essentially bypassed by the screen capture software, which could go straight to the hardware memory to read the information that was displayed visually on-screen.

To prevent such programs from being used to capture screens mechanisms had to be found that interfered with the way they worked. The principal mechanism was to identify that a process was running that was known to have screen capture functionality, and then to refuse to display some or all of the screen until the offending process (program) was terminated. This worked fine for some years, until new devices, operating systems and ways of working were introduced in the last few years.

With the introduction of mobile devices (tablets) manufacturers quickly realized that many customers wanted to capture screens for onward processing. Instead of leaving this to third party software providers they included combinations of buttons that could be pressed to screen grab and save to the local image “Gallery”, in the same way that photographs taken with built-in cameras were stored. This hardware-based screen capture facility meant that information display, such as a PDF on screen, could always be captured and no software mechanism could prevent it. In parallel, more advanced versions of desktop operating systems from Apple and Microsoft started to include screen capture software as standard, running in a background thread or process, that end users were completely unaware of. An example is Microsoft’s OneNote software, which even when closed still retains a background process for screen capture. These changes to the hardware and operating system environment have meant that mechanisms to prevent screen capture either no longer work in a cross-platform world or create more problems than they solve. However, limited scale protection is possible for specific operating systems, notably Windows variants, where systems such as Javelin now incorporate some quite clever procedures for preventing screen capture if this option is specified for secured PDFs.

A further development has been the introduction of much higher resolution screen displays. Until very recently all computer screens were less than 100dpi (dots or pixels per inch). This compares with typical print output which is at least 300dpi, and high quality print and image data which is 1200-2400dpi. High resolution screens require far more memory and processing, which is why they have only started appearing in the latest range of tablet and mobile phone devices (e.g. iPhone6 has a 400dpi screen). Such devices can be scanned or digitally photographed, so the display itself becomes like a paper copy of the source material, and nothing can prevent the use of such external mechanisms from capturing screens at a resolution that enables reading and/or conversion via OCR to structured text.

The only workable cross-platform solution to such issues is to add static and dynamic watermarking to secured PDFs. This information then forms part of the in-memory and on-screen data, and as such will always be included in any capture process, and can be difficult or impossible to remove. It is even possible to include invisible watermarks, using special characters or hidden graphics. The use of watermarking is discussed in another of our blog entries – please see here for more details.

Drumlin Security’s Javelin PDF readers support several mechanisms for content and screen capture protection. The first is the displayed information is essentially just a graphic image, rather than selectable text – there is no facility for text selection nor any support for the clipboard (i.e. copy/paste functions) and all information is held in memory, with no temporary disk files that include decrypted data. The second is support for static and dynamic watermarking, as discussed above. Finally, recently enhanced, there is the screen capture protection option. If you have any questions regarding this blog item, do please contact us or add your own comment to this entry.

VAT rules in Europe about to change for eBook sales

As noted by us back in July last year, VAT rules for eBooks in Europe are about to change – the details are shown below and on the HMRC website for UK publishers:

HMRC UK: “On 1 January 2015, changes will be made to the European Union (EU) VAT Place of Supply rules involving business to consumer supplies of telecommunications, broadcasting and e-services.

Currently, the place of taxation is determined by the location of the business supplier of these services. However, from 1 January 2015, it will be determined by the location of the customer who receives the service.

To save businesses who supply these services from having to register for VAT in every EU Member State where they have customers, the VAT Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS) online service will be introduced to ease administrative burdens and simplify VAT compliance rules. VAT MOSS will give those businesses the option of registering in just one Member State, such as the UK, where they will be able to account for the VAT due in all Member States (at each Member State’s own tax rate) by submitting a single MOSS Return to HMRC.

Although VAT MOSS will not be available to use until 1 January 2015, businesses can register to use it from October 2014.”

Audio and Video usage with PDF files

From our posting on our old blog site last September (because we keep being asked about this issue!):

Monday, September 16, 2013, 06:43 PM

Many people ask us whether it is possible to include audio and/or video files (e.g. .mp3 and .mp4 files) as part of a PDF – or even 3D models. The simple answer is that these are enabled as features of Adobe’s product range, with players for such files (and others) provided within the standard readers. The Adobe reader feature list is very impressive:

For onward distribution of these PDFs this can result in difficulties however. Embedding media files can result in PDFs that are very large and thus cumbersome to distribute. Furthermore, the target user’s reader must be able to process the embedded information – typically this will be fine as long as the end user has a version of the Adobe reader that is sufficiently up-to-date. Finally, restrictions may apply in some corporate environments that specify what may, or may not be embedded in a PDF file.

Assuming none of these issues presents a problem for a particular application then the Adobe option is the one to use, based on no issues of confidentiality or copyright, and no need to amend/update the file or media.

Where any of the above conditions do not apply, alternative approaches are available. The most important step is to separate the media files from the PDF itself, using linking rather than embedding. In this case the media files are simply invoked by clicking on a link or image in the PDF. The files themselves may be located almost anywhere, but typically will be hosted on a web server. Assuming standard cross-platform file formats, such as .mp3 and .mp4 are used, the user’s device will play the linked file in a separate player window (or in the background for audio content on some devices), whilst continuing to display the active PDF page. The major advantage here is that the PDF can be kept small, is easy to distribute, and will work on every technology platform that supports standard PDF viewing. It overcomes the updating issue also, since the central files can be updated without the need to amend the end user’s document.

Where copyright protection is required, the PDFs with linked multimedia can readily be made secure using the Adobe or Drumlin digital rights management (DRM) systems for example, and then be distributed securely. An example of the latter we have handled recently is an academic text that relies on a large number of audio files to enrich and clarify the text. The files have been placed in folders on Dropbox and the links applied throughout the text, wherever required. The end result is a copyright-protected PDF which is less than a Mbyte in size, with linked audio clips amounting to some hundreds of MBytes. The latter are accessed as and when required by the readers, and may be updated and augmented as and when required.

Javelin updates – Aug/Sept 2014

In our Summer Newsletter we featured the new version of Javelin PDF reader for Windows, with its many enhancements. Since that release we have improved it further with updates that improve its print handling. Related updates to print output from the Mac version of Javelin have also been made.

In addition all technology platforms have received updates to Javelin to handle a wider range of languages that use special characters (accented and non Latin-based character sets) in the document body and in watermarks.The Android update is currently in beta testing – if you would like to join our Android beta testing program please contact us. An iOS8 release of Javelin is expected post the release of iOS8 (the current release works with iOS7 but we have a version built for iOS8 with a number of enhancements to the iOS7 release. Again, as per Javelin for Android, if you would like to be a beta tester for our iOS version of Javelin please contact us.

iOS8 release

iOS8: We have recently tested our iPAD apps (Javelin, Taxbooks, NKI and Jee) against the forthcoming release of Apple’s iOS operating system, iOS8. Some may recall the problems caused to many apps by the ill-fated iOS7 initial release last September. All the signs are that iOS8 will not cause similar issues, with the latest beta (Beta 5) working well with our apps. It seems likely that iOS8 will be released on September 10th 2014.

How big is the Global publishing business?

A fascinating insight into the ebook market also comes from the International Publishers Association (IPA) –  from their Global Market report. A copy of their most recent report is available on our Documentation and Publications webpage, from which we have extracted the diagram below. It shows the market share by value, in $Billions, of the global media and publications marketplace. What is notable about this diagram is the continuing size of the publications market, both for books and magazines. Elsewhere in the report they highlight the concentration of publishing in specific countries, and the rise of ebooks and how they can offset some of the loss in revenues from print publications. Have a read of the full report by downloading the PDF on our Documentation and Publications webpage

How to catch the ebook pirates

The International Publishers Assocation (IPA) defines Book Piracy as follows: “Any unauthorised use of a copyrighted work, such as a book or a journal article, is an infringement of copyright, or a case of copyright piracy, unless covered by a copyright exception. Piracy has a harmful impact on the revenue streams of all creators”. But as they go on to say:

“Whether unlawful copies are made with or without commercial interest, by commercial pirates or by private individuals, for publishers the damage can be the same. Any unlawful copy of their book or journal, in paper or electronic form, affects their business as much as the theft of the same work as a book in a shop. Any unlawful copying amounts to a misappropriation of their property. Consequently, copyright laws generally sanction this theft, under civil and sometimes also under criminal law, just like the theft of tangible property. Unfortunately, copyright infringement is not as easy to detect as the theft of physical goods, particularly not in the electronic age where electronic files can be created and widely spread within short time periods. This renders the enforcement of copyright particularly difficult, and makes awareness-raising particularly important.”

Here is an example – the website claims to have links to over 2 Billion books for free download and over 20 Billion articles (another widely-cited example of this kind of search engine is Library Genesis). I searched on BookZZ website for the Life of Pi, by Yann Martel (see below). There were 28 hits – the first two links indicated that the pursuit of the hosting site by the legal owner has resulted in the download links being deleted – but many others on this site remain available, with downloads offered for the Life of Pi in ePUB, HTML and Text formats as entry #21 below shows. Clearly breaches of copyright and hard to eliminate.

So what do you do if your publications has been pirated, or your suspect this to be the case? Maybe you have issued them with limited security (e.g. Adobe-based PDF security with no DRM) or via a major DRM-enabled channel, such as Amazon or Apple, that has not provided the protection you expected? The answer is a three-fold approach:

1. Pursue the pirates by all means available;

2. Improve the level of protection you apply to your publications; and

3. Minimize the commercial impact of piracy on your business, if possible. We look briefly at these elements below, but please investigate the links provided for a fuller picture of the options available.

1. Pursuing the pirates can be a difficult and potentially expensive process, but specialist law enforcement units and commercial and trade bodies can help a lot. On the law enforcement side there are organizations like the UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), and the US Govt National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. Then there are working groups, seminars and even summits on how to tackle piracy (see for example the annual Anti-Piracy and Content Protection Summit), Finally there are commercial providers of anti-piracy services (stopping the abuse of your copyright) such as Digimarc Guardian and Rightscorp. These latter organizations take a pro-active approach to copyright abuse, seeking out websites and services that distribute material illegally and implementing a multi-step approach to removing the links and identifying the perpetrators.

2. The second part of the process is to try and improve the protection provided to your PDF publications. One key mechanism is to use a combination of static and dynamic (intelligent) watermarking to make any attempt to copy your material extremely difficult without inclusion of these watermarks. Of particular value are watermarks that uniquely identify the end user, as this provides a means for directly pursuing the individual or corporate body responsible. Our blog article on watermarking is a useful starting point. A strong DRM is also vital (Drumlin for example, but there are quite a few to investigate), but that is not always possible because distribution channels like Amazon and Apple have their own, proprietary DRMs. For those not dependent on such channels a powerful DRM combined with watermarking and strong Warning Notices is the preferred option. And where proprietary material is provided to Corporates, make it clear in your contracts that the Corporate will be held liable for any copyright abuse by their staff – which will encourage them to police their own staff and advise them of the sanctions available if such actions occur.

and finally…

3. If your publications are commercial, making the access to the material fast, simple but secure, and making the per copy cost reasonable (depending on volumes and content of course) may well help – this is how the big players in the ebook world, video and audio-media distributors, and games world have tackled the problem – basically they accept that piracy will occur but seek to make piracy pointless – worthy of consideration, always assuming that your business model can support this approach!

Secure PDF Printing

One of the security features many PDF publishers want to see is control over printing of their PDFs. This turns out to be rather more complicated than it might seem at first. Essentially there are two main options: (i) do not allow printing of any kind; and (ii) allow printing subject to some restrictions. The first option is the most common situation, and applies to many different types of document, especially ebooks. It is relatively easy to handle by not providing print facilities in the reader software or by disabling such facilities if they exist. In the case of standard (Adobe-style) PDFs this can be defined via the Security settings options in Adobe Acrobat. But remember that non-Adobe PDF readers may not respect these settings (i.e. ignore them with the result that the file is not actually secured at all) or may be subject to breach if the security settings are attacked using widely available software.

The second option has many variants, and these have become more complicated in the last 2-3 years. This is due to the rise of printers that are indirectly linked to the PC or Mac or other device, so may or may not appear to be real, physical devices… often they appear as WiFi “air” printers or in-network print server software packages. In general PDF publishers who permit printing wish to limit some aspects of this facility, such as:

(i) never allow printing to PDF or Image virtual printers
(ii) only print to local devices
(iii) only permit printing a certain number of times
(iv) only permit printing of a certain number of pages
(v) include an intelligent (user/computer/date/file-specific) watermark on some or all pages

This functionality has been supported as standard in  Javelin PDF readers for a long time, but the rise of the printer-that-is-not-obviously-a-printer has led to problems, especially with requirement (i). Within Drumlin v6 and the matching Javelin releases, this issue is handled by selecting the “Relaxed printing” flag in the Permissions form when creating a secure PDF. This flag uses a less strict algorithm than is the standard ‘strict’ version, with the result that the newer devices should be accepted as valid printers. If a warning message “Error -30” is issued it means that currently the Javelin reader being used cannot recognize the print device as valid – email us with full details (printer/print software Make, Model, version etc) and we will ensure it is included in our “Relaxed printing” facility.