No More Passwords on SitePoint PDFs!

By Andrew Gardner
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Earlier this year, Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton said, “I’m a guy who doesn’t see anything good having come from the Internet.” Ostensibly, he was referring to the proliferation of piracy and file sharing that continues to diminish certain streams of entertainment industry income. However, the subtext of this statement has much wider implications, which, unless critically examined, could well prove calamitous for the ongoing viability of the industry itself.

The inability to adapt to shifting customer trends is a death sentence in any industry, especially one centred on technology. That’s why here at SitePoint we’re genuinely happy make the following announcement:

Effective immediately, all PDF books purchased through our site will be free of password protection..

For those interested in the lead-up to this decision, let me give you some context. In the 18 months I have worked at SitePoint, barely a week has gone by where I have not received at least a couple of emails from customers questioning the logic behind our password protection policy. My response, based on the SitePoint philosophy, was always that we were taking an ethical (if largely symbolic) stance on the piracy issue. But how long could we maintain that line while simultaneously placing primacy on the customer experience, as all the while more and more requests to remove password protection poured in.

As a web development resource and learning centre, we know that we must embrace the state of flux — not as a lofty ideal, but as a normative imperative. You can’t claim to be all about the cutting edge when you’re stubbornly clinging to old, outmoded processes — especially when your own beloved customers are urging you to move on. And if we’re not keeping pace with the constantly evolving face of web design and development, then we’re neither a resource nor a learning centre — we’re a museum.

In the spirit of customer empowerment (which the entertainment industry seems so hesitant to embrace, despite apparent incentive to do so), we’re very excited by this latest announcement at We hope all of our PDF customers will enjoy the freedom of accessing their ebooks without the hassle of having to use a password.

We’d like to thank all the helpful customers who have contacted us about the password protection issue, and invite those who have previously bought PDF download material from us to re-download new, improved, password-free copies of our books

You’ll need to enter your order number and email address to log in and re-download.

For further information, please email us at

We teamed up with SiteGround
To bring you the latest from the web and tried-and-true hosting, recommended for designers and developers. SitePoint Readers Get Up To 65% OFF Now
  • Someone

    Wooo!!!!!!!!!! Hurrah! This is indeed awesome news!

  • Kudos are indeed due for going the opposite way to the music industry. Another reason why you’ll still be around when the record labels won’t.

    It’ll be nice to read my PDFs on the train on my phone which doesn’t seem to support passwords in the PDF reader. :)

    It also kind of inspires me to buy SitePoint books more, which I’m sure was one of your goals here too!

  • LFA

    Glad I haven’t bought a PDF-book yet… I would have been disappointed to find a password protection.

  • WebKarnage

    If people were going to share your PDFs, they would do so with the password anyway, so it shouldn’t make any difference to you negatively!

    Good move.

  • Arun Agrawal – Ebizindia

    PDFs with password protection harass real customers while doing very little to reduce piracy as the PDF and password will be distributed together by the ‘bad guy’.

    I sincerely appreciate that you are sensitive to the customer experience.

  • That’s how sitepoint® will survive whereas music majors won’t…

    Well done !

  • Nice move. I expect this will make the PDFs readable on more portable devices that couldn’t handle password protected files.

    I never supported DRM in software. I sell commercial downloadable software & scripts and none of them include any kind of DRM. In my opinion, it harms my customers, who I want to love the product, more than it stops anyone that was going to distribute it from doing so.

    While pirated copies do occasionally get out there, I don’t worry about it, plenty of people are happy to pay for a product knowing they’re supporting the producer and can count on them for support.

  • AndrewCooper

    It did annoy me too slightly hehe, but this is a great move and I’m sure I’ll love opening a PDF version without having to wait for a popup asking for a password.

    I must say, I highly doubt anyone would do the piracy-thing here at SitePoint and start sharing them out anyway, SitePoint and the books they sell are loved way too much for someone to just simply start handing them out with the passwords attached. Silly stuff really.

    Andrew Cooper

  • Anonymous

    The password protection didn’t annoy me. Frankly it is a non-issue as it is not like I have to re-enter it every time I go to the next page.

    Perhaps this is a sign of our internet laziness? You know what I mean right? In the old days it was a lot of work to get out of the chair and goto the bookshelf and get a book to read. But now it is a lot of work to type in a password? What is gone wrong with this virtual world….


  • makoweb

    Great move,
    I had recently purchased a book (php anthology) and was very annoyed and had the same basic thoughts i.e. Are they getting their policies from the music industry?

    I sometimes use a multiple of email address (some throw away) so the scheme caused me an issue.

    Thanks for letting re-download an open version.

  • Nice one – a positive blow for accessibility too :)

  • I never liked password encryption in ebooks, but think it’s 100% appropriate to “brand” them with the purchaser’s name. Books I’ve purchased from Pragmatic Programmer have “Created Exclusively for Brandon Eley” stamped at the bottom of every page. If it’s distributed to anyone else, they know who originally shared it.

  • mattymcg

    @beley Yep, we still do just that. Anyone who is completely committed could probably remove that if they wanted to, but hopefully for most people it’s just easier to buy the thing. We think they’re reasonably priced!

  • @Anonymous – the main point of frustration for people was that the PDFs were actually inaccessible on some readers that couldn’t cater for the password entry.

    @brothercake — I thought you’d say that ;)

    @everyone else – Thanks for all your kind words and support.

  • occam

    Breath of fresh air. Now I can see the covers of the books in my browser and might actually browse into reading them! Thx.

  • You want my order number?!? Good grief! I haven’t saved any of those emails once I downloaded my e-books. I’ve bought a LOT of e-books from SitePoint, too! Am I out of luck? Is there any way I could get my order history (with those order numbers) emailed to me?

  • Andrew Gardner

    @vinyl-junkie If you email us at to advise of the email address/es you would have used when ordering, I’m sure there’s a way we can track them down for you.



  • @Andrew Gardner I sent that email you suggested and within about 45 minutes, I had my order history. I’m a happy camper!

  • Huh, weird. I bought 5 ebooks after the fires in Feb, and none have password protection anyway. Was there an exception for these? It led me to believe that SP did not use password protection anyway.

    Certainly a good move, though. I’d say the jury is still out on whether passing ebooks around is bad or good for sales, anyway (not that I do it, mind). Perhaps SP doesn’t need any more exposure, but for a smaller publisher it might be good advertising. Cory Doctorow has interesting views on this.

  • PS

    Just clicked the link above ( and the message above the PDF links reads:

    “All PDF documents are password-protected using your email address as a password. When prompted for a password to read the PDF file, please enter your email address exactly as it appears on your purchase receipt.”

  • Andrew Gardner


    Yup, the 5 for 1 sale required some tricky footwork which meant there was no password protection on PDFs purchased therein.

    As for the message above the PDF links, that’ll be changed to avoid any confusion. But of course, that text doesn’t change the fact that the password protection is gone for good ;)

  • Thank you. My epaper reader doesn’t support passwords on PDFs, so it took a lot of effort to manage to get it on there. Glad my next purchases will go smoother.

  • Bravo, :)