From InDesign to iPad: An Overview (Part 2)
In Part 1 of this article, I reviewed the options for publishing on an iPad, focusing on the ePub and Kindle formats. But those formats are best for text-heavy documents with a linear flow, such as novels. We need to be able to publish other kinds of documents on the iPad, too, including photo essays, magazines, catalogs, manga/comics, newspapers, and more. These documents tend to demand a greater sense of page design.
That leaves us with three options: PDF, iApp, and a Content Delivery App.
The iPhone/iPad OS has a PDF reader built into it — probably the same as Mac OS Quartz — that’s why you can open a PDF inside of Mail or Safari. Unfortunately, the PDF isn’t stored locally, so it takes a long time to open each time you click on it. A better way to view PDF files is a PDF-reader app, and the best I’ve found so far is the surprisingly inexpensive GoodReader.
Here’s an example of Adobe’s 10th anniversary book (by Pam Pfiffner) rendered in GoodReader. (You can, of course, make the navigation elements go away with a tap.)
But however you view the PDF, there’s a bigger problem to deal with: the PDF reader in the iPhone OS. I don’t know all the technical details, but I do know this: It’s a good PDF reader, but not a great PDF reader — not nearly as robust as the Acrobat Reader. That’s why InDesign Magazine (and many other online pdf mags) say “Don’t use Mac OS Preview! Use Acrobat!”
For example, the built-in PDF reader (and GoodReader and other apps that rely on the iPhone OS to display) has a number of limitations:
- Buttons created with InDesign don’t appear at all. Or, if they do, they don’t work. That means navigation buttons (very common in interactive PDF files) must be replaced with hyperlinks (which do work). You can make page-anchor hyperlinks on every page, but it’s very tedious.
- Some images disappear. This is probably due to the images being encoded by Acrobat in the JPEG2000 format. If you force Acrobat (or InDesign) to use JPEG instead of JPEG2000, they usually re-appear. (In fact, in the PDF shown above I had to re-optimize Adobe’s PDF in Acrobat Pro in order to get several images to show up.)
- You can’t use any PDFs with DRM, videos, audio, Flash, or pretty much anything else interesting.
So what’s to do? There is currently no Acrobat Reader for the iPad. As one Adobe employee told me, “Even if we do make Reader for the iPad, there’s no guarantee that Apple will approve it in the iTunes store.” There is, however, Acrobat for Android — so at least Adobe is working on mobile versions of their product. I’m hoping that we will see a true Adobe PDF reader on the iPad soon (though given the restrictions on the iPad, I’m not holding my breath).
That said, one of many cool things about GoodReader is that you can copy PDFs to it in many ways, including via dropbox. The easiest way, however, is to select GoodReader icon in iTunes (in the Applications tab, when your iPad is plugged in) and drag the PDF into iTunes. The PDF is copied over immediately, without syncing. (Thanks to Jeff Carlson for pointing out that GoodReader can also display other file formats, including movies! So sometimes the fastest way to get a movie onto your iPad is to drag it into GoodReader/iTunes and play it from there.)
In my mind, PDF is the most logical choice for publishing on the iPad, and documents look beautiful laid out on the iPad display. However, the limitations I noted above severely restrict the kinds of PDFs you can view.
The second way to get non-linear layouts onto an iPad is to build an iApp — that is, someone needs to actually develop/code it and then submit it to the Apple iTunes store to be accepted (you hope). This is not currently a task for the faint of heart or the small of wallet. In fact, you’re not so much publishing a document as designing, implementing, and distributing a piece of software.
That said, the results can be phenomenal. At the Print and ePublishing Conference, I demoed Alice for the iPad from Atomic Antelope . This app is a beautiful example of how static design and subtle (and not-so-subtle) interactivity can work together.
[A personal story: I recently handed Alice to my son (who is just old enough to be reading this book) he was somewhat bored with the first page or two (“Not Alice in Wonderland again!”) but as soon as I had him flip the page to the first interactive element (a watch that moves as you tilt the iPad), he was hooked. He started just playing with the watch, dragging it around, and so on. Soon he was flipping to the next page to find more elements to play with, but quickly got caught up reading the words of the story, too! He loves printed books, but he lit up in a different way while using this app.]
I don’t know how Alice was created, but the background art (the static part with the text) could easily have been laid out with InDesign, exported as JPEG, PDF, or FLA, and then used by the developer.
Another really interesting example of an iPad app is the issue of Wired Magazine which came out last week and promptly sold about 25,000 issues at $5 a pop. Unfortunately, it’s about 500 MB huge, made up of thousands of images held together with bubblegum and duct tape. It’s a wonderful proof of concept and version 1.0 of a way to put content on an iPad, but I don’t think it’s sustainable over time. You can see a video about it on Adobe TV.
You’ve probably heard that Wired (with lots of help from Adobe) had to cobble this together at the last minute because their primary publishing plan fell through: Adobe had a great InDesign-to-Flash-to-iPad story, but Apple put the kibosh on that just before CS5 shipped. Fortunately, there’s some good news: a) Adobe says that InDesign was at the hub of the Wired workflow; and b) they’ve made it clear that they are planning on releasing some technology they’re calling the Digital Magazine Solution later this summer.
(In Adobe’s own words: “The WIRED Reader showcases how Adobe is enabling magazine and other publishers to deliver groundbreaking experiences across tablets, smartphones and other devices. Soon, the company plans to deliver software on Adobe Labs that will help publishers transform InDesign CS5 layouts into compelling applications like WIRED Reader.”)
There’s one other iPad app solution you should be aware of: Woodwing (makers of a number of great plug-ins and workflow management solutions) has a set of plug-ins and server-based systems that allow you to add interactivity to your InDesign document (slide shows, navigation, etc.), then convert the whole kit-and-kaboodle to an iPad app. Here’s a video that shows you their process, which Shawn Duffy briefly showed at the conference. This is an impressive workflow, but due to its costs is currently only accessible to large publishers.
As I’m typing this, I see that Apple has now shipped over two million iPads… and I just received a press release that vjoon (makers of K4) are also working on an InDesign-to-iPad solution based around Adobe’s Digital Magazine Solution. Well, as I said in the last post, 2010 is the year of announcements, and I expect to hear many more companies throwing their hats into the ring before too long.
Content Delivery App
The final method for publishing to an iPad is an offshoot of the last one: Build an iApp, but make it a container/viewer/browser into which you can flow your content. The classic example of this is the New York Times Editors’ Choice app, which downloads and reflows new content (including ads) each time you launch it:
Of course, this app has nothing to do with InDesign (as far as I can tell), but it is easy to read, easy to use, and a good example of what you might want to create for your publication. Granted, it’s not as nice as the AIR-based NY Times app (running on Flash), but it’s good enough for now. (The funniest part of the NY Times app for me is a little bug that gives the last line of every paragraph the wrong leading.)
Another great example of a Content Delivery App (or Container App, or whatever you want to call it) is the Marvel app which lets you read comix on the iPad. I only wish I could scan my old comic books and load them in manually somehow.
The last example I want to share is the very popular Zinio magazine reader. I believe the Zinio workflow is basically: You upload a PDF of your magazine issue to them, they convert it and make it available for purchase, and the user can download it to their Zinio reader (whether on the desktop or iPad). Zinio on an iPhone would make no sense, but it’s beautiful on an iPad! Here’s a page from one of their sample magazines:
As you can see, the layout is clear, clean, easy to navigate. My main complaint is that the Zinio reader has an incredibly annoying opening splash video, but I can probably get over that.
If you feel like the earth is shifting under your feet and you don’t know what to make of all this: That’s Normal. The publishing world is in transition and there are no clear answers yet. Until we have better answers, I want to leave you with a few basic thoughts:
First, though I don’t work for Adobe, I am clear of one thing: Adobe has a long history of making the best tools for creative professionals and I am quite sure that Adobe is currently building the tools that we (the non-programmers) will be using in the future — for ePub, for apps, for PDF, for containers, and more.
Next, I’m quite sure that ePub will get better and easier. It has to. There are too many frustrations, too many limitations. It may take some time (standards always evolve too slowly), but there’s good stuff to come.
I also believe strongly in the future of HTML5. It’s not a replacement for Flash; it’s another way to do things. There is much sturm und drang about this now, but by this time next year we will have a better sense of how it’s all playing out.
Finally, I want to point out that we have only seen iPad version 1.0! Not only is the iPad product immature, but the world into which it has been born is immature. Yes, it’s exciting, like any new baby or toy, but the real fun will be coming in iPad 3.0 (it’s almost always v3 that gets it right… just like QuarkXPress 3 did in 1990 and InDesign CS did in 2003).