I’ve been both inspired and confused by the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite and the eBook format wars.
I admit there’s a lot to be happy about with these new tools. At a reasonable cost, we can become producers and marketers of content. What’s disconcerting is the onslaught and repetition inherent in the new-chaos-is-the-same-as-the-old-chaos story that appears to be playing out.
The Designer: Dazed and Confused
First, the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite presentation at the Washington DC InDesign User Group on Tuesday night clarified a lot of confusion that sprung up around the release of pricing for the just-released Single User Edition.
Adobe Digital Publishing Suite allows designers to produce interactive magazines. Adobe InDesign remains the content creation tool, but the Digital Publishing Suite is the software that allows you to compile and export the content into the format for Apps and digital magazines.
The steps and processes for exporting the content to the new digital formats had changed a few times during the public beta and it initially appeared that the $395 per App price for each digital publication you wanted to distribute was going to be cost-prohibitive for small design firms.
The speaker, Noha Edell, quickly clarified that designers and developers would be able to upload Folio-format files to an online Folio Producer and then download them to an iPad for testing in the free Adobe Content Viewer App. The confusion stemmed from the the removal from the Digital Publishing Suite of the simple side-loading process for transferring content to local devices for testing and forcing content creators to send their content into the Cloud before you could view it on your device. Once it was clarified that the $395 cost is just price to have your publication submitted to the Apple App store for distribution to the public and that content creators, the mood of the room calmed down. After all, $395 is lower than most printing costs for a typical brochure and can certainly be budgeted for any client-based project.
The Consumer: Different Device, Different Format. Really?!
Second, how do you feel as a consumer when you’re downloading music, an eBook, or other content online? Have you compared what you might get from iTunes with the same product from Amazon? If you feel it should be a bit easier. You’re not alone.
For eBooks, you’ve got the EPUB-format, PDF, or MOBI-format for the Kindle. This week, I bypassed Amazon for the first time and purchased three digital media design books from A Book Apart. After entering my payment details, I was sent to a page were I was given the option to download the book in all the available formats. This lead to the discovery that each of these formats provides a different reading experience. One small example is the higher-fidelity of the images in the Apple iBook version along with embedded videos that illustrate the text. It’s kinda cool, but the Kindle experience for the same book is different: No embedded videos and a lower resolution images.
My husband, who is an music aficionado, has seen major differences in the formats and options that iTunes will offer versus what Amazon or the record labels themselves will offer. Amazon offers MP3 formats for music. MP3 is a flexible format that can be played on different devices from different manufacturers. iTunes uses a format that only works with Apple software and devices. OK for him since he has a number of Apple gadgets, but what about a consumer who is less adept with technology? You also get different extras when you buy from the different distributors. From Apple, you may get a visual booklet and extra songs, and from Amazon you may get extra songs, but they won’t necessarily be the same ones. The name is the same, but the product is slightly different.
Third, there is a lot of hype about our future in the “cloud” but not everyone has access to broadband 24-7 everywhere they go and most providers have caps on bandwidth that result in users paying exorbitant fees when they exceed their monthly data limits or cross into “roaming zones”. Multimedia books are nice, but old-fashioned “dead tree media” still has some advantages in this modern age.
What’s your experience of our new digital future?