On the Adobe eBook Platform – Part 4 of 10: What is the Reseller Model Anyway?

This is part 4 of a 10 part series by Micah Bowers, Co-Founder and CEO of Bluefire. Click here to read the first post in the series.

The software reseller business model is a model in which the developer of a technology product (such as Adobe) authorizes other companies to sell licenses to their products. The reseller has the ability to offer services and support that are related to those products. In the case of enterprise products, these authorized resellers are often focused on a particular, sometimes very narrow market vertical. Sometimes resellers are also “systems integrators” – offering integration services for the software they license.

This reseller model has a long history at Adobe, both in the packaged software sold via retail channels, and – more to the point here – in enterprise software. For example, the Adobe PDF Library is a Software Development Kit (SDK) that has been licensed via the reseller channel for many years. Licensees use the SDK to incorporate PDF functionality into their systems, often with the help of an Systems Integrator who has special expertise in PDF related software development. A similar model is employed by Adobe in a variety of verticals, such as education and government.

In the case of the Adobe eBook Platform, resellers provide important services such as consulting, support and systems integration that help retailers and publishers entering the rapidly evolving ebook marketplace make good strategic and technical decisions, while lowering overall costs and time to market.

Adobe announced the transition of their eBook Platform technologies to this reseller model on February 14th, 2011. They are working with a growing group of highly capable resellers with deep expertise in the digital publishing industry, including Bluefire. Products now sold through the reseller channel include RMSDK, ACS4, and Adobe Vendor ID. This switch to a reseller model takes time. It’s nearly a year after the announcement and the transition is still underway. Resellers are being added in new markets as demand warrants. The switch to a reseller model is indicative of a platform that is reaching maturity.

One downside of this transition is that it has at times caused some people in the ebook world to wonder whether Adobe is somehow “abandoning” the platform, as Adobe has transitioned their sales efforts to other areas and inquiries to Adobe about the products are referred to the reseller channel.  That is certainly not the case.  It is incumbent upon the reseller channel companies to promote the products they license, provide product information and deploy sales and support teams. We and others have been doing just that. The ebook marketplace is expanding so incredibly rapidly, with so many companies entering the market recently, that the bulk of our focus and energies have been spent on these new customers. We all have to get out and evangelize the platform to a larger audience.

Bluefire is aggressively pursuing our current business strategy because we believe that Adobe is actively supporting their eBook ecosystem. Supporting our belief is the fact that Adobe has continued to make significant enhancements to the platform throughout this transition. I described these enhancements in the previous post in this series. Adobe provides excellent support to the reseller channel and we talk directly to the developers and product management team at Adobe on a weekly basis. Based on this demonstrated history of support, it is my expectation that Adobe will continue to innovate in the digital publishing arena with solutions for magazines, newspapers and books. To learn more on what’s going on at Adobe visit http://www.adobe.com/solutions/digital-publishing.html.

In my next post in this series I will look a bit deeper at Adobe Vendor ID which enables developers to create RMSDK based desktop and mobile apps that don’t require the use of an Adobe ID.

– Micah