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Wordworm
08-31-2006, 02:38 AM
The Toronto Star announced today that they will be the first North American newspaper to begin publishing portions of the paper in PDF and offering this as a free download.

For the last several years I have championed PDF as a wonderfully versatile publishing format and have delivered numerous presentations on the benefits I see in utilizing rich media PDF (if you don't know what this means, you can download samples from gxo.com). Now I would like to ask whether anyone out there has any views on the commercial potential for PDF publishing, and rich PDF in particular. From my standpoint, I feel like Adobe has put PDF on the back burner while they sort out integrating it with Flash (i.e. the Apollo project), but I still see this format as being more than just something for forms and the rather lame generation of digital magazines that have appeared over the last year or two.

Has anyone else produced books or articles in rich PDF? Does anyone know of publications that are really selling PDF editions or selling ads in digital versions? How about books in rich PDF?

(closing in on #50)

RG570
08-31-2006, 05:36 AM
I think a lot of it might depend on devices one uses to view the PDF. Most people hate reading on computer screens, but once the price of units like the iRex Iliad come down to a reasonable level, maybe that'll change. Of course, people are so stubborn to give up traditions, even if the new ways are better. I think it'll be a hard sell to get the masses to buy PDF files instead of dead trees.

It'll take a long time, I think. But I'm all for it.

K1P1
08-31-2006, 06:30 AM
I think a lot of it might depend on devices one uses to view the PDF.

I've started buying eBooks from FictionWise for download to my palm pilot. I can carry dozens of novels with me when traveling and they don't take any extra room in my suitcase. I've also been downloading text and pdf files from the Gutenburg project and converting them to pdf for the palm. While I'd rather curl up with a book, the palm is a good second choice for certain situations. Readers that are inexpensive, flexible, have options for text direction, can be held and pages changed with one hand, and are well lit, would make all the difference.

Wordworm
08-31-2006, 06:43 AM
RG, I'm not sure what you mean by "devices one uses to view the PDF". All PDF requires is Adobe Reader.

I agree that reading ink on paper is far superior to reading on screen. That's a physiological fact: reflective light is easier on the eyes than transmissive, and high resolution type beats low resolution screen text any day. Besides, it's a lot more comfortable to curl up and read than stare at a screen. In fact there a whole list of advantages that ink on paper has over monitors or handheld devices.

But as K1P1 observes, sometimes it's a matter of convenience. What I am especially keen on is leveraging the capability to add live web links, video clips, virtual reality, animations, music, voiceovers, and other rich media elements to provide extra dimensions to a PDF. That's what rich PDF is all about.

Medievalist
08-31-2006, 06:51 AM
Check out Take Control books

(http://www.takecontrolbooks.com/)

dclary
09-01-2006, 06:27 PM
I'm not a big fan of PDF, but it has its purposes.

maestrowork
09-01-2006, 09:52 PM
downloadable digital versions of newspapers have been around for years. The analysis is that people rather read the actual physical paper format, or visit the papers online version.

I also read magazines using Zinio... while I like the convenience and the quality and the ease of use, I ABSOLUTELY prefer reading the print version.

Wordworm
09-01-2006, 10:33 PM
No argument here about preferring print to the screen for what you might call "serious" reading. I think we all made that point.

And yes, PDF has been around for years...fifteen, to be exact. It was announced at a 1991 Seybold conference, and started life under the name "Camelot", then changed to "Carousel". And it's been ten years since PDF 1.2, which added prepress support.

I absolutely hate what Zinio has done with digital magazines using its proprietary PDF reader. Defeats the whole idea of an open file format.

But what continues to make me a bit depressed is that none of you have acknowledged the subject I actually raised, which was rich PDF...although quite honestly, I'm not trying to criticize anyone for not picking up on the topic. Unfortunately, I understand all too well...most people don't realize how much can be done with the PDF 1.5 spec (in truth, multimedia has been supported in PDF since v1.1). I've been trying to raise awareness of rich PDF for the last three years, but without much success.

And to be entirely fair, this is a writers' forum, so I suppose I shouldn't expect there to be a lot of awareness. I was just raising the subject in the off-chance it might stimulate a discussion. As far as digital publishing goes, I think it's worth looking at other ways to supplement the written word with added content or reader benefits.

Medievalist
09-01-2006, 10:41 PM
But what continues to make me a bit depressed is that none of you have acknowledged the subject I actually raised, which was rich PDF...although quite honestly, I'm not trying to criticize anyone for not picking up on the topic. Unfortunately, I understand all too well...most people don't realize how much can be done with the PDF 1.5 spec (in truth, multimedia has been supported in PDF since v1.1). I've been trying to raise awareness of rich PDF for the last three years, but without much success.

And to be entirely fair, this is a writers' forum, so I suppose I shouldn't expect there to be a lot of awareness. I was just raising the subject in the off-chance it might stimulate a discussion. As far as digital publishing goes, I think it's worth looking at other ways to supplement the written word with added content or reader benefits.

You know, you might check around a little before you jump to conclusions.

.pdf isn't really a good vehicle for "rich media," or multimedia; it limits you. it doesn't even support all the features of QuickTime. It's still too tied to print media; Adam and Tonya Engst's Take Control books are some of the best uses I've seen for .pdf. Others, aside from scan-and-dump, are the facsimiles of incunnabulae, with additional linked resources.

But it's not rich media. We were doing stuff in 1992 at Voyager using HyperCard that you still can't do with Acrobat or .pdf; that was "rich media."

And John Warnock et al came to Calliope in 1994 and 1995 to learn what had to be done to really make "rich media."

They decided it wasn't a financially viable option. Right now, I'm looking towards NightKitchen hoping maybe they can swing it with Sophie, but I've got some serious UI concerns there.

Wordworm
09-01-2006, 11:12 PM
Say, Med, I really wasn't trying to get into a brouhaha about PDF. I just raised the subject of rich PDF in case there was anybody else who had any experience or opinions about its usefulness as a publishing format.

However, in response to your remark about "checking around"...

I looked at the Take Control, and although I saw a pretty good list of Mac-oriented books, I couldn't see where there was any use or reference to rich PDF publishing. I must have missed something.

As far as PDF being limited and not supporting all QuickTime features, what features doesn't it support?

I think a more important drawback is the weak support for Flash. My personal frustration comes from the fact that ever since Adobe bought Macromedia, rich PDF development and the tools to create the kind of rich PDF pages I like (i.e. through InDesign) seems to be at a standstill while they work on Apollo and try to unify the PDF and Flash platforms.

As far as being "too tied to print media"...this is actually one of the key advantages of building on PDF. PDF is now the standard for prepress and final page output in the printing and publishing industry. Doesn't it seem logical to expand page creation for the screen using the file format that's now so commonly used to go to press? It's what publishers are using anyway, and as I'm sure you know, PDF is what every single digital magazine service provider asks for and starts from, whether for downloadable editions or online.

And yes, I'm sure HyperCard could do lots of things. So could Macromedia Director. I wasn't trying to present PDF as the greatest thing since...well, HyperCard.

The point is, Adobe Reader comes already pre-installed on almost every computer being sold today. It's free. There are somthing like 750,000 copies of Reader floating around, and PDF is an open standard in use all over the world by governments, corporations and publishers everywhere. Why not leverage the fact that it's a de facto standard file format that everyone recognizes?

As for me jumping to conclusions...well, I've been publishing in rich PDF since 2004, and I like the potential I see. The problem isn't so much with the format itself as it is with acceptance, awareness, and especially as far as commercial publishing goes, a corresponding lack of support or interest from advertisers and ad agencies.

Wordworm
09-01-2006, 11:16 PM
Oh my goodness...I just noticed I'm about to hit the big 5-0.

Should I expect fireworks, or a girl jumping out of a cake, or what?

dclary
09-02-2006, 01:27 AM
I used to get a Zinio rag too... Computer Age I think. I hated it. Hated the fact that it had to tell me there was a new version I had to download. Hated the fact that it was so insistent that I read it. It was really, really nifty, and I never read past issue 1, because I hated it.

Medievalist
09-02-2006, 01:56 AM
I looked at the Take Control, and although I saw a pretty good list of Mac-oriented books, I couldn't see where there was any use or reference to rich PDF publishing. I must have missed something.

Yeah, you did, but I'm not sure you'd know unless you've had one of the books on screen.

The books are written with the assumption that readers will likely read them on screen; so that they are designed in terms of structure to be linked, to Web sites, and to internal pages.

The books start with a one page overview that is rich with internal links so you can locate what you want to read first, if you don't want to got front to back.


As far as PDF being limited and not supporting all QuickTime features, what features doesn't it support?

QuickTime files are time based; that means you can access the file's time codes at 1/1000 of a second.

So if you've got a .pdf score of Beethoven, you ought to be able to click on a measure and hear the score from that point on.

Here's the kind of thing I want to be able to do, and that .Pdf just can't handle:

http://www.digitalmedievalist.com/bibs/mackers.html