Over the past week or so I’ve been playing around with ways to publish to the iPad and potentially to other mobile devices. I’m not terribly impressed by eBooks and what interests me is creating books in app form – bookAppsTM which could be marketed through Apple’s AppStore. Check out William Neill’s Yosemite app for an inspiring example.
One interesting route I mentioned a few weeks ago is Aquafadas, which publishes to an app via their InDesign plug-in. While a downside is that it is limited to the Mac, the pricing isn’t ridiculous – $150 for a single publication – making it possible to test the water. They also offer apps more geared to repeat publications and this has been used by Kelby Media to produce their Light It magazine app, for example. While I didn’t find Light It’s content of great interest to me, was turned off by its written style, and think there’s not enough separation between ads and content, where it really succeeds for me is in keeping the navigation simple (see this interview). You can only scroll through it horizontally, and I think that has a couple of effects. Perhaps the obvious one is that you always know where you are, but going beyond navigation is how it provides a good sense of what you’ve already read – and of what what you haven’t yet seen. I contrast that with the new British Journal of Photography app (done via Mag+) where there’s both horizontal and vertical scrolling and you’re never sure that you haven’t missed something. This app had much more interesting content – though an article of Anton Corbijn and mention of Joy Division gave it an unfair advantage – but I found it cluttered and at times infuriating. Too often I would swipe the screen with my fingers and have to wait a second or two for the page to scroll, and the delays were so long that I kept thinking I hadn’t swiped properly.
I’ve also been keeping my eye on using Flash to create my own bookApps. After all, I put a lot of time into learning Flash and ActionScript – just before Steve Jobs decided he couldn’t/wouldn’t allow it on the iPad – and I’d quite like to build on that knowledge rather than learn ObjectiveC from the ground up. Flash also offers the opportunity to target other tablets, if any become widespread enough to matter. I think it’s hard to argue with this Economist article‘s view that there isn’t really an alternative to the iPad, but the article does point to the possibility that Amazon can build on their existing content delivery business and make the beefed-up Kindle a worthy competitor. I’d like to keep my options open, so last week I downloaded the Flash CS5.5 trial and had a crack at producing an AIR for iOS app, drawing heavily on Lee Brimelow’s tutorials. A couple of hours later and “Ugh World” was running on my iPad, and the next day it had crawled out of the swamp and was standing on all four legs with pictures and video. Basically, what I could do greatly exceeded what my expectations and proved the concept well enough to justify upgrading to Design Premium CS5.5.
Since then I’ve been digging around Adobe’s proposed workflows. This is a good overview of Adobe’s digital publishing workflow, and I’d also recommend Terry White’s recent InDesign podcasts on publishing via FolioBuilder to the iPad. Once you’ve got Adobe’s Content Viewer app, you can share multiple “folios” for free (this is new – until last month you could only publish one for free). The trouble is, you can only sell these folios by subscribing to the Digital Publishing Suite and the pricing model is prohibitive for the small guy. My hunch is that sooner or later they’ll drop those prices….