CONTENTdm is proprietary software, so the source code cannot be edited and customized to your own collection (Kroski, 2013).
Because it is proprietary, it’s not easy to test out CONTENTdm as a student or someone deciding which collection management system is a good fit. We would have liked to have tested CONTENTdm for our collection but could not do so due to this limitation.
The system costs many thousands of dollars per year for a license and maintenance (Kroski, 2013) .
It could be difficult to set up and maintain CONTENTdm. The Digital Initiatives Liaison Librarian at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library at San Jose State University (Higgins, 2012) described her first-hand experience creating a digital collection of 12 images from the university's Special Collections & Archives using CONTENTdm. The King Library hosted CONTENTdm in-house on a library server that was managed by their technology department, who was responsible for all installation, updates, maintenance, and troubleshooting, but if you do not have the support of an IT department at a large organization or academic institution.
CONTENTdm has a limit of 50,000 items. This may seem expansive, but, if you are an institution working with others to create a combined collection, you may quickly run into CONTENTdm’s license limit, which is what happened to the College of Charleston when it was creating The Lowcountry Digital Library with eleven partners. They hit the license limit after just three years of using CONTENTdm (Gilbert & Mobley, 2013).
When uploading your items to CONTENTdm, you must follow specific steps, and it can be difficult to go back and change what you’ve entered. The King Library at San Jose State experienced this when uploading their collection to the system. They originally uploaded their images as TIFs, but CONTENTdm will only display jpegs. When they deleted the images, they lost the entire record and had to re-enter all of the metadata for the items, not just the image. Luckily, the had a small collection of just 12 images, but this could be very frustrating for a large collection.
The final drawback of CONTENTdm is that subject headings can only be chosen from the controlled vocabulary within the CONTENTdm system. You cannot create your own controlled vocabulary to use if you have specialized or local content.