Join Michael Ninness for an in-depth discussion in this video Digital print replicas, part of InDesign CS4: Interactive Documents and Presentations.
When publishers first start to thinking about what it would mean to put their publications online, they tend to go about in one or two ways. They would either create a companion website, but end up losing a lot of the original publication design in the process or they opted to create digital replicas of the print version, even recreating the notion of page turning that's part of the reading experience. This trend continues today and it's relatively cheap now, and an easy method for distributing highly designed content. There are now lots of digital page flipping providers out there and I'm going to walk you through a couple of examples of those in just a moment. What your looking at right now is a Google Maps mashup of digital publications that are being read online, right now, in real-time or at least as I'm recording this video.
These particular publications are being hosted by one of these digital publication providers. It happens to be called Nxtbook Media. And it's a fun way to see what's being read right now across the world. Nxtbooks work with consumer magazine publishers, but also focuses on B2B publications, and digital marketing collateral and catalogs. Now, if I click on any one of these thumbnails, I'll be taken to the actual digital version of this magazine. You'll see it's really truly is just a digital replica of the print version. In fact most of these providers simply start with the final PDF that was used for the printed version, and just take it through various conversion processes.
So let's go ahead and click on this one, Colorado magazine. This will launch the Nxtbook online reader for this particular publication. I can zoom in, I can zoom out, I can pan around and see the full resolution. Zoom back out and if I go to the corner, I can click and get the page turning experience and whatnot. The various providers have different features. They have their own interface for flipping thought the document and so forth. You'll see some of these have hyperlinks to jump to that particular page. This particular magazine is free, so there was no Login screen that came up for asking me to validate or whatever.
So, if this was a paid digital magazine, it would ask you to validate that or you would just get a preview experience. If I go over to zinio.com, Zinio is another provider that's been offering this kind of service the longest. They've spent a lot of energy working with various publishers to create a digital newsstand. The idea being that you would purchase digital subscriptions instead of print subscriptions of your favorite magazines. If nothing else, this provides a convenient way to preview hundreds of different magazines before actually purchasing. So you can scroll through and see the various publications that are participating, and they've got it nicely organized on the left so you can see it by category.
If I click on anyone these thumbnails again, I can take into this one as a page subscription so they just give you a little thumbnail here. But I can go ahead and click to see a preview of that. Zinio lets you preview any of their participating magazines. You get the opportunity to zoom in, I think two or three times before it asks you to start paying. But they've got their own little reader here. It's got different features than the Nxtbook reader. They have this nice little page thumbnail slider here that gives you a preview of each page before you actually turn to it. It's kind of cool. Of course, when you let go, it actually navigates to that particular page, and tells you how many zooms I have left.
I'm going to zoom in and see that particular ad and pan it around. I can do that. But basically the same concept. Now, what's happening is you're actually getting a lot of experimentation going on. I think this trend is most likely going to evolve beyond this simple digital replica of the print version. While the page flipping effect is kind of a nice bridge to the analog version. The web provides an opportunity to completely redefine what a digital publication could be. In fact even within a single publisher you can already see examples of experimentation with adding rich media, making the print replica more interactive and so on. For example, let's take a look at Reader's Digest.
Reader's Digest happens to be the print magazine with the largest circulation in the world. It's number one in the circulation game here. This is the US version of their website. You can see right at the top they've got the current issue up here, and they're promoting the digital edition. Now they're actually using Zinio as their digital edition platform. Go ahead and click on this link. This takes us to something we just saw a few seconds ago, that same experience where you can add it to your cart and actually subscribe to the digital version. You can download that and read it offline, and whatnot. If I go ahead and click on the Preview, again I'll be launched in to their reader and I can start cycling through and seeing the current issue.
Again, I have the little thumbnail interface here for jumping to a particular page. I am actually going to jump to a very specific page here, page 191 because I want to show you something. This is their very popular Word Power article. It's in every issue. It's kind of a way to learn vocabulary. And in the analog version, of course you would pick a pen and you would circle what you think the answer is and then you would turn to a different page and find out how many you got correct. So this is an example of truly a digital replica of the printed version. The experience instead of reading on paper, you are just reading in a browser.
Now if you see the UK version of the Reader's Digest website, they have a tab here for the digital magazine. And we'll go ahead and click on that. The UK version is actually using a different digital provider that's called Ceros and it competes with Nxtbook and Zinion. I'm not endorsing any of these, just kind of giving you an example of the different players out there. Here's the UK version of their current issue. We're going to go ahead and click inside. This actually takes you to what it first appears to be another digital replica of the print version but they've actually taken a different approach here. This is a digital sampler, and they're still trying to get you to subscribe either to the print version or the digital version.
But they've kind of taken a different slant on this. Let's go ahead and zoom around. You can see they've got a video welcome here from the editor-in-chief, and they have a different guided interface here. They've got a lot of interactivity and animations. So it's not just the static content, they're actually trying to make it more engaging. I want to grow and just kind of experiment here, and you can see here I've an animated spread coming in, and just kind of a nice way. Now, here's what I want to show you. Here is their Word Power, the digital version of that. But you can see that this isn't just a picture of the actual form. This is actually an interactive version of Word Power.
So we can actually start interacting with this and making our guess. So, coalition, what is that? That's a political alliance. Hey, look at that! I got it right. It colors it green. It gives me the full definition. Then I can go ahead and close that. Oligarchy, what is that? That's a rule by the few. Hey, look at me. I've got some good word power. It's giving me a score, and updating that. So, hopefully you are starting to see if you'd combine the beauty of print design and print publication of design with the benefits of interactive and online media, you can actually start getting a pretty compelling package here. I personally think this is where it's going to go in the future.
I'll go ahead and click the one that's wrong. So a directive, that's a location. Well, no it's not. So it tells me that's wrong and I get it red. It shows me what the correct answer is and it gives me the full definition here. So, there you have it, just kind of a brief snapshot of these digital replica providers. But also a hint about where it might be headed in the future, and how to actually make it more compelling, and go beyond just a print version being hosted online.
- Configuring a custom InDesign workspace for designing digital documents
- Building slide navigation buttons for interactive presentations
- Adding reflection effects to images within a presentation
- Using InDesign to build an interactive mood board
- Creating an interactive digital spiral-bound portfolio
- Using InDesign and Flash Professional to build and animate a digital magazine
- Adding a video file to an interactive document
Skill Level Intermediate
Q: After exporting a portfolio in InDesign, as instructed in the tutorials, the portfolio items appear fuzzy. The letters typed into the InDesign document look fine, and the PDFs placed into InDesign look as they should, but once the items are exported, the type is fuzzy. What could be causing this?
A: The problem described occurs when a PDF is placed into an InDesign document and then scaled on the page. When the final SWF file is then exported from InDesign, the PDF graphics end up looking “soft and fuzzy” because they are being downsampled to a lower resolution.
First, be sure to update InDesign to the latest CS4 dot-release from Adobe. There was a bug in the shipping version of InDesign CS4 that caused images in SWFs to always go out as low-quality JPEGs regardless of the settings chosen in the SWF Export dialog. This issue was addressed in a subsequent release. To initiate the update from within InDesign, choose Help > Updates.
When images, including PDFs, are placed into an InDesign document and then exported to SWF, the images will all be downsampled to 72dpi and saved in one of two file formats, JPEG or PNG. The JPEG file format is a "lossy" file format, and depending on the image quality setting chosen, the final images quality could vary wildly. The PNG file format is "lossless", in that it does not add distracting and ugly artifacts to images.
In the SWF Export dialog, the default setting for Image Compression is set to Auto. Change this setting to "Lossless (Do Nothing)". It is unfortunate that this option is named this way. The three choices should be listed as Auto, JPEG and PNG. Adobe has changed in this in InDesign CS5, but for CS4, one has to know that "Lossless (Do Nothing)" really means “save the images as PNGs.”
The plus to using PNGs is that the images will end up looking great. The minus to using PNGs is that the file size of the SWFs will be larger because the images are not being compressed.
2. Choose High or Maximum JPEGs
If file size is a concern, then switch the Image Compression option to JPEG, but choose a higher quality setting from the JPEG Quality pop-up. The default is set to Medium. Choose High or Maximum instead. The higher the quality setting, the better the images will look, but their file sizes will be larger. That said, the file size of a maximum quality JPEG is usually smaller than a PNG.
3. Resample in Photoshop and Import JPEGs
The method that gives the user the most control over image quality and file size is to downsample the images in Photoshop to the exact pixel dimensions desired before placing them into InDesign. Open the PDFs (or any other image file formats) in Photoshop and size them to the desired pixel dimensions. If opening a PDF, Photoshop will display an Import PDF dialog first where the pixel dimensions can be set. If other file formats are used, resize them in Photoshop by choosing Image > Image Size. Then make sure the Resample Image checkbox is turned on, choose Bicubic Sharper from the pop-up menu at the bottom, and enter the pixel dimensions in the Pixel Dimensions section of the dialog box (not the Document Size section).
Once the images are the correct size, save them as JPEGs, and set the quality desired level.
After the final JPEGs are placed in the InDesign document, do NOT scale them. Place them at actual size (100%). If a JPEG goes into InDesign at 100% and nothing else is done to them, they will "pass through" to the final SWF untouched. Meaning, they'll go out exactly as they came in. This also means the JPEGs cannot be altered in any way that would cause them to be resampled during SWF Export. Examples are applying transparency effects, drop shadows, etc., to the JPEGs in InDesign.
See the examples below, where a PDF was placed into InDesign, scaled to 50% of its original size, and then various SWFs were exported, changing the Image Compression and JPEG Quality options as described in items 1 and 2 above.