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Digital Publishing for the iPad

Compared  to the likes of Wired and Martha Stewart Living, we are a small publisher (100K viewers/month, <2000 downloads/iPad issue). When we heard that Adobe was looking for beta testers for their new Digital Publishing Suite (DPS), we applied and were accepted. Over the course of six months we learned to use the evolving suite of tools and managed to build and publish three apps (2010 Holiday Gift GuideSpring 2011 issue1000 Character Reference).

The Beta program ended on June 8 of this year and the tools are now available for purchase. Unfortunately for us, the current Adobe pricing is WAY out of our range:

  • Startup/recurring fee for using the DPS: $5k platform fee + $495/month,
  • Per issue fee: $0.30/issue, 25000 issue-block minimum, prepaid.

The large publishing houses can afford to front the money and play, but it is unlikely we will ever be able to justify the current Adobe rates for publishing to the iPad. Granted, Adobe is not interested in folks like us at this time, but we suspect that there are plenty of smaller publishers interested and eager to be able to publish to the iPad format.

The one tool which looks promising is Aquafadas’ Digital Publishing Solution. Like Adobe’s DPS, there is still a per-issue cost associated with publishing through them. While we don’t mind Apple’s model of take-a-cut-on-per-issue-sold, we will most likely not bother with any solution which wants a cut before the sale. We’ll still take a look at the Aquafadas tools, but we probably won’t invest a lot of time creating content with it.

What we (and probably others of our size) want is to pay once for a tool that will give us the ability to build issues directly on our desktop, upload them to the Apple AppStore, and sell/give away the issue without any further cost. At present, our only option for creating a magazine app that runs on the iPad is to build it using XCode. Of course, XCode is more geared toward software development and is not currently all that friendly for just converting page layout files into an app. We think there is quite an opportunity for a product which would enable us to do that. We also expect the potential market for such a tool is probably pretty big.

We could use simpler tools such as Apple’s Pages to publish .pdf and EPub versions of the magazine for the iBook shelf. While exporting a file in the .pdf format will preserve the layout, the ePub version will not. Another problem with those formats is that hyperlinks are not handled well: the links can take the reader out to an external site, but getting back to the article is very awkward. Perhaps Apple will someday extend their Pages application to enable easy layout and publication to the iPad. It would be awesome if Apple provided an iLife tool which would enable small publishers to create specialty iPad magazines with the same ease as one can make a movie with iMovie, burn a DVD using iDVD, or a put together a slick photo album with iPhoto! Just sayin…

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