Sector Mainly trade publishing, also STM publishing, professional publishing
Target Users Publishers selling e-books direct to consumer; webshops selling ebooks
Country The Netherlands
Dimension International
Nature of the initiative Private
  • Icontact BV
Contact Huub van de Pol


BooXtream is the leading ‘Social DRM’ e-book watermarking and personalisation technology. BooXtream started in the Netherlands, but e-book watermarking really took off when UK based Pottermore decided to use it for the Harry Potter e-books in 2012. This created headlines all over the industry. In some European countries, 80% to 90% of all e-books sold are watermarked instead of using Adobe DRM.

The essence is that BooXtream adds ‘hidden’ data in an EPUB e-book file while keeping it 100% valid. A valid e-book means it can be read on any device, with any standard e-reading app. BooXtream adds invisible watermarks and optionally, it also adds visible extra’s like a personalised ex libris page (bookplate), a personalized footer text at the end of every chapter or a personalised chapter at the end of the ebook.

In addition to being a consumer friendly and support desk friendly technology, it’s also developer friendly since BooXtream is offered as an easy to implement, platform independent API based web service.

There is no subscription fee or license fee, it’s free to implement. There is only a small transaction fee for every e-book watermarked. As a free bonus, the watermarked e-book can be converted into the Kindle compatible Mobi format and there is a free repository and distribution platform that can be used to ease the delivery to the end user.

BooXtream offers visible personalisation, which creates new business possibilities and makes the e-book really personal. It can be used to personalise review copies or to personalise course guides and business reports. One of the customers allow their end users to customise the ex libris in their own ebooks, like the personal stamp from earlier times. Others insert personalised messages or dynamically add some banner links in the ebook.

The BooXtream Dashboard offers reporting tools and can be used to send review copies and galleys. This free web tool enables publishers without any IT tech experience to watermark and personalise ebooks, even in large batches. The BooXtream Dashboard adds another dimension to the ease of use of social DRM and watermarked e-books.

Business needs

Support desks of the major e-book web shops and publishers selling e-books direct to consumer say most e-book issues are DRM related. As a result, e-book customers get frustrated and are more likely to look for less legal alternatives. Also, web shops and publishers selling e-books direct to consumer are confronted with high support costs. So more and more e-book suppliers discover that traditional DRM is not the answer to protect e-books. If no protection is not an option, Social DRM (watermarking and personalisation) appears to be the best choice.

For every company supplying e-books to end users, changing from Adobe DRM to watermarking must be easy to implement. BooXtream offers the best possible way to accomplish this by allowing existing shops and delivery platforms to integrate BooXtream by means of a simple RESTful API. Depending of the complexity of the current shop or platform, integration could take only a few days. The BooXtream API is very flexible and supports different usage scenario's. It offers repository features and can even act as a digital deliver platform by creating and fulfilling download links to watermarked e-books.

In countries where Amazon is active, support for the Mobi e-book file format (for Kindle users) is essential. In addition to the EPUB format, BooXtream offers an integrated EPUB to Mobi conversion tool that offers watermarked and personalised Mobi format e-books. The publisher or web shop using BooXtream does not need to create Mobi source files, because BooXtream converts the EPUB source file automatically into Mobi after watermarking and personalisation. These Mobi files can be side loaded on every Kindle device.

The usage of e-books by users who are visually-impaired or have a print impairment can be very cumbersome, partly because of the way DRM interferes with e-book reading applications.  The accessibility of e-books could been vastly improved by dropping DRM and switching to watermarking.

Low operation cost is essential for every business. BooXtream is a pay-by-use system without any start up or fixed subscriptions costs.

The EPUB standard is still being developed. Because watermarking and personalisation changes the internal data of an EPUB file, any new developments in the EPUB standard must be implemented and supported as fast as possible. The BooXtream development team is constantly working to optimise and adapt the algorithms to the latest standards. Since BooXtream is a web service, all new features can be used by all customers without installing new software.


BooXtream consists of a collection of API driven tools and a web based Dashboard. The API supports:

  • watermarking and personalisation of an e-book in EPUB file format (EPUB 2, EPUB 3, including Fixed Layout);
  • management functions for the ebook repository;
  • decoding watermark data from an EPUB or Mobi file;
  • administrative functions like usage reporting, accounting;
  • an integrated download link fulfilment platform;
  • integrated EPUB to Mobi conversion;

The Dashboard offers:

  • a transaction log with detailed reports of API usage;
  • management functions for the e-book repository;
  • manual watermarking and personalisation features for e-books in EPUB file format (EPUB 2, EPUB 3, including Fixed Layout);
  • several batch modes, to watermark and personalise an ebook for a (large) number of end users;
  • integrated template based emailer;
  • an e-book watermark decoder to test for watermarks in the file.

The role of technology

The BooXtream architecture is based on web service API's and cloud based servers. The API's are all REST based to enable simple integration in every client platform. Sample code is provided on GitHub to speed up the software development. The e-book watermarking and personalisation API's are very flexible and support different usage scenarios, like uploading every e-book simultaneously with the transaction (very flexible) or preloading e-books in a local repository (faster). All web based Dashboard tools provided by BooXtream are also available as an API call, so the customer can integrate reporting features in their own back end.

The server architecture uses different self synchronising cloud based servers worldwide, with route optimisation (the server closest to the end user is selected automatically) and auto scaling (more servers are added when the number of transactions increases).


BooXtream is used worldwide by several hundred e-book web shops and publishers selling e-books direct to consumer.

BooXtream technology is also used by public libraries in Belgium, where watermarking offers an extra layer of protection within their app based architecture.

The BooXtream API has been integrated by some system integrators who act as a reseller for the BooXtream technology. One example is the Firsty Group, a technology company that offers digital services to several different publishers in the UK.

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  1. Pingback: TISP : booKstreem business case | ANITEC

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