Case Studies

Online Reading: Protecting Content & Reducing Consumer Support Questions

Situation (Challenge)

While Digital Rights Management (DRM) offers publishers protection of their content from unauthorized purchases, it can also result in an increase in support related questions from consumers to the publisher. Traditional eBooks with DRM require consumers not only to download an eBook file, but also to install software that will allow them to access and read the purchased content. As such, consumers who are unfamiliar with the software may experience difficulties with this dual download process and often become frustrated and call the publisher for assistance.

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) was one such publisher who, after successfully launching a Sheridan Connect eCommerce platform to sell eBooks in 2015, began fielding recurring DRM related questions around installing and utilizing the software necessary for viewing purchased eBooks. While enjoying the increase in sales from offering a new format, AERA needed a better solution, one that would still protect their content while simplifying the purchase and reading experiences for consumers, while lessening the need for customer support. Enter online reading.


Aware of AERA’s desire for an alternative solution, when Sheridan added online reading as an option to their eCommerce platforms, AERA was one of the first publishers notified. 

With an existing Sheridan Connect eCommerce platform in place selling eBooks, AERA and the Sheridan eCommerce team collaborated to make the purchasing and reading experience as easy for consumers as possible.  It was also important to AERA that they still be able to sell traditional DRM enabled eBooks, if a purchaser should request it.  Using the existing eBook files already converted by Sheridan, the Sheridan eCommerce team made the appropriate system setting changes to enable the sale of the eBooks for online reading. 

When a consumer purchases an eBook for online reading, built in software allows the consumer to read the file directly in their browser – eliminating the cumbersome steps of having to download the eBook and additional software. Consumers can now simply log in to access their eBook from any device with internet connectivity and begin reading.  Should a consumer want to purchase a downloadable eBook, they simply would contact AERA who would send a link to the downloadable file.

AERA customers who had previously purchased an eBook were not impacted by the change.


By offering eBooks for online reading, consumers enjoy this simplified purchasing and reading experience, and AERA has seen a significant reduction in the amount of customer support required from their staff.

“The outcome of switching to the online reading platform has been extremely positive,” comments Jessica Campbell, Publications Associate at AERA.  “The number of questions we have received from customers about how to access their eBooks has decreased drastically, and the online format has many of the features and added functionality (such as highlighting and note-taking) that users felt were missing in the previous DRM system.”

Products and Services Used

  • eBook Conversion
  • Online Reading
  • Sheridan Connect

Company Profile

American Educational Research Association

With over 25,000 members, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) is the nation’s largest professional organization devoted to the scientific study of education. Founded in 1916, AERA aims to advance knowledge about education, to encourage scholarly inquiry related to education, and to promote the use of research to improve education and serve the public good.


About Sheridan

Sheridan is a leading provider of print, publishing services, and technology solutions to publishers, associations, university presses, and catalogers. A division of CJK Group, Inc., Sheridan has nine U.S.-based production facilities; each location has a market specialty that supports books, scholarly journals, reprints, magazines, or catalogs.