We receive a lot of questions about Adobe Vendor ID, what it is and how it relates to Adobe’s eBook technologies, Adobe Reader Mobile SDK (RMSDK) and Adobe Content Servers (ACS). This is a two-part series. In the first part, we will cover the business aspect of the Vendor ID service. Then devote our attention to some technical details in the second part.
Vendor ID is a customer (vendor) hosted authentication service that allows for an activation and authentication process requiring only a vendor’s login credential; that is, it does not require users to have Adobe ID. Datalogics licenses these capabilities, and works with customers and Adobe to enable its features. In this article, we will focus on Vendor ID within the context of a complete Adobe Content Server System and how it impacts the elements involved.
Before we start with the details, we need to define the terms used in our diagrams and throughout this article. Mainly, there are four roles in a typical system:
• A Publisher, who generates the original (unencrypted) content (PDF or EPUB).
• Adobe Activation Systems, which provides activation and authentication services, and licensing-signing services. This is hosted by Adobe.
• An ACS Operator, who hosts an Adobe Content Server. The Operator performs the encryption of the ebooks, performs the fulfillments to the users, and in this case manages the media server that hosts the bookbytes.
• A Distributor (ecommerce or library site) that actually handles the users’ requests (for example, purchase or check‐out). The distributor in many cases have their own ACS servers but may also utilize other ACS services.
For some businesses, multiple roles might be performed by a single entity: for example, the Publisher, Operator and Distributor roles might be performed by a publishing house that operates and maintains its own online bookstore. In this instance, the steps listed below remain the same but are merely internalized within that company.
We will start with some visual representation of what Vendor ID services mean.
Figure 1 shows a typical set up for a reader. This setup has four distinct systems: a web store, an ebook reader application built with RMSDK, an ACS server, and finally the Adobe’s Authentication Server. A customer usually logs on to the store, with the store’s credential (aka Vendor’s credential). The user then browses and purchases an ebook. The user activates the reader application with an Adobe ID, which is then authenticated by Adobe’s Authentication Server. The reader application fulfills and downloads the ebooks to the customer’s device from a content server after the Adobe ID is authenticated. If a user does not have an Adobe ID when they purchase their first ebook from the vendor, the user has to go to Adobe.com to create an Adobe ID account.
This is a very common setup for most eBook vendors. This system can work well. However, this requires that a user goes to Adobe.com to acquire an Adobe ID account; and also, this user will need to use two credentials to complete the browse-purchase-read cycle. And for some targeted market, having a user (in this case, a younger student for example) managing an Adobe ID account can be cumbersome.
Vendor ID is provided to solve some of these issues. Vendor ID allows a user to use the Vendor’s credential to activate a reader. Figure 2 illustrates a Vendor ID authentication system. The differences between this and the Figure 1 are marked with the red boxes and lines.
The box labeled as Vendor represents the Vendor ID web services implemented and hosted by the vendor. When Adobe Authentication Server recognizes an activation request using a Vendor ID account, it sends a request to the corresponding Vendor ID service, which then responds with a valid or an invalid credential.
In Figure 2, we draw a link between the web store and the database of store accounts in the Vendor box, as well as a link between the Vendor ID Services to the same database. It is not a requirement per se, to use the same database to authenticate a user for reading and purchasing; but rather, a common practice in order to unify the credentials used in both purchasing and reading of an ebook.
Advantages of using Vendor ID
Seamless reading experience
An obvious advantage of deploying the Vendor ID service is to provide a more seamless experience for your customers (aka end users). Your customers can now purchase and read ebooks with the same account without the hassle of managing a separate account.
More coherent branding
If you have the option to create your own brand of reader application, whether through your own development or through the branding service DL Reader provides, you can create a branded reader with your own persona and the ability to activate with the vendor (store) credential that the customer is familiar with, further encompassing your brand image.
Better account management
Having the Vendor ID service moves the responsibility of managing user credentials from Adobe to you. This creates many options and possibilities. For school children, you can create user credentials programmatically. You will also have the ability to help manage these credentials for students and schools.
Better information management
You can also build a reader application with other capabilities, such as progress tracking and data synchronization with cloud storage. Having the Vendor ID provides an easier way to identify a user and thus gives you the ability to bring more services from your reader application to your customers.
This concludes our part 1 of the series on Vendor ID. In our next part, we will answer some of the common questions and also present a more detailed workflow diagram.