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Embedding PDFs on WordPress sites

embed pdf to repurpose content

Not enough people got a chance to hear Jennifer Bourn speak at WordCamp Phoenix. Let’s just start with that. When her video is live, trust me, I’ll write another whole post about it. It’s a message I’ve been talking about (in terms of repurposing content) for a long time. Only she did it way better – and with sparkles on her shirt. So there’s that.

Don’t believe me? Check this out.

The Trick is Repurposing Content

In her talk she spent a good amount of time walking the audience thru various ways of leveraging the content they’d already created in new ways. So the videos or photos or Word docs or emails you’ve already created can easily be repackaged into other mediums and delivered to other parts of your audience (or the same part who learn better in another medium).

Her focus was helping her audience generate easier and faster revenue.

I want to talk about one of the technical challenges associated with repurposing.

Embedding PDFs on WordPress sites

One of the challenges of repurposing comes in the form of PDFs.

Imagine you were creating an online course. And in this course, you want to leverage the content of your PDFs. You want to create a nice viewer on your WordPress page that shows off your material, but in this case, you also want to make sure that:

  1. The file can’t be downloaded (and passed around)

  2. The file can’t be printed (to a PDF that can be passed around)

In that case, you’re going to want this neat trick.


I know some of you are going to say that the moment the file is online, someone can figure out how to pull it down and steal it. You’re likely right. I’m just showing you how to solve the non-edge case where your member isn’t also wanted by the NSA for hacking servers. 

Google Drive or Box.Net

If you’re like me, you haven’t heard news from the world in a long time. DropBox took center stage and I almost forgot I had an account with them. Plus, these days there’s Google Drive.

  1. Both offer an ability to embed an iframe into your web page.

  2. Both give you the code to do it.

  3. Both give you an option to protect against downloads.

  4. Both protect you from letting clients print the file (if you protect against downloads).

So you might think they’re even. It’s what I thought.

Which is why I was going to use my existing Google Drive account and move on.

Until I saw the result.


On top of that, when I right-clicked on the file, I could open the page as an image. And then I could print from there.

So, all in all, I wasn’t happy with Google Drive.

Why I chose Box.Net

I resurrected my old account. Turns out they will give you a free account that stores 10 GB of files – which is a lot of PDFs, if you ask me.


Then it’s a quick matter of protecting it from downloads


and getting the embed code.


  1. It can’t be printed.

  2. It can’t be downloaded (by normal folks).

  3. It doesn’t have the preview.

  4. It’s a free solution.

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