What I’m explaining here are two ways to require email before the user downloads a PDF (or other asset). A while, I began sharing the presentation decks from my digital classes at General Assembly via this website. In each case, I used a different method of “hiding” a PDF file behind the requirement to provide an email address.

No Developer Required to Require Email

I’m sure there are dozens of ways to do this, but many of those methods may require a developer. I wanted to share these two ways anyone can require email from users in exchange for a download.


The first is a simple WordPress plugin called – wait for it – “Email before Download.” Yes, they get very creative in their naming. Using this plugin, you host the file (PDF, PPT, or whatever) on your own server. You require users to enter their name and email address prior to seeing the link to download the file. I use this method for distributing the PDF version of my presentation decks when I taught a class. It works flawlessly, and I can update the PDFs whenever I make changes to the content.


The second method is from Mailchimp, and is really, really easy. I used Mailchimp to distribute two eBooks on atlantatechblogs.com. Mailchimp’s documentation is perfect. I completed the entire setup in less than 10 minutes. Using this method, you host the file on Mailchimp’s servers. The file can be delivered via a confirmation email or confirmation page on your website. You do all the configuration within your Mailchimp account.

Now It’s Easy For Anyone to Require Email

I remember how much *fun* it used to be to host and distribute a PDF way back when at CWNP. Back then, we a FT developer maintaining our website. We later moved completely to WordPress so that we would not require a developer. If you want to distribute your content and require an email address in exchange, these two ways are simple and work really well, even for non-developers.

5 thoughts on “Require Email: Two ways to require a subscription before a download

  1. Thanks for the helpful article!

    I currently use Email Before Download, which requires/integrates with Download Monitor. I also have Sitelock (a malware scanner) on my website which recently identified vulnerabilities in the Download Monitor plugin.

    As such I’m considering switching to the Mailchimp method you mentioned above as I already use Mailchimp to manage my list.

    Do you know if there is a way to have a different welcome message/download link go out for different pages? I have a couple of pages where I give away photography presets but don’t necessarily want to give those links to each person who joins my list – I’d rather tailor it to where they entered their email on my site.

    Any suggestions? Thanks in advance for your help!

    • My understanding is that you can, but not from a Forever Free account. That, like letting subscribers choose what list or segment they want to subscribe to, is a paid feature.

  2. Hi Kevin, thanks. I read Email before Download is no longer available. Regardless (assuming a similar plugin is), do you prefer Option A or Option B mail chimp above. Why did you choose option B over option A (WP plugins) for your books?

    • Hi James – I chose Mailchimp because Mailchimp then hosts your PDF (or other download), removing that ‘moving part’ from your blog or website, and enabling Mailchimp’s to deliver the PDF and all the emails around it.

What do you think?