Join Mike Rankin for an in-depth discussion in this video Interactive PDF, part of Adapting a Print Layout for Digital Publishing.
- In this chapter, we'll look at the various digital publishing formats you can use to re-purpose your existing print content. Let's begin with PDF, a format that's had a long history of success, for use both in print and digital publishing. PDF is, without a doubt, the most important digital file format in the history of publishing. It was created by Adobe more than 20 years ago and millions of publications of every imaginable kind have been created with PDF. PDFs are compact, cross-platform, and they can reliably represent richly designed layouts.
With PDFs, you can control what your readers will see. Furthermore, you never have to worry if your audience has the software to view a PDF. Virtually every computer and mobile device in existence has some capability to read PDFs. PDFs can contain live text that can be searched,copied, and read aloud. PDFs can contain fonts and vector artwork that's resolution independent and will look good no matter how much you zoom in on it. PDFs can also include interactive features like hyperlinks, forms, and audio and video.
And they can be made accessible to people with disabilities. And creating PDFs can be a very simple, low-cost publishing option. Many applications allow you to export directly to PDF so you don't have to buy or learn any new software and you don't have to invest a huge amount of time, money, and effort into publishing your content in a digital format. Okay, so those are the benefits of publishing with PDFs. What about the downsides? Well, one major downside is that the layout of a PDF is fixed.
The size of the page and the position of the content on it do not change when viewed on different devices with different screen sizes. In other words, PDFs are not responsive. And the software for reading PDFs on mobile devices is not as robust as it is on desktop computers. So interactive features that work on the computer, might not work on an iPad. And your publication might not look very good on a small screen. Type might be too small to read, users might have to zoom in just to see small parts of a page, and they might have to be scrolling constantly around, which is not a good user experience.
And there's no way for users to fix this problem themselves. They can't change the style or size of fonts or the color of content, like they can with a format like Reflowable ePub. They might even decide that your content's just not worth the trouble if it's too hard to read. And importantly, publishing with PDF will limit where you can sell your content. You can't sell a PDF in the Apple iBookstore or on Amazon.com. So, if either of those is a requirement, then forget about PDF. So to sum up, PDF's strengths come from its long legacy as a print file format, it's easy to make, and it can accurately and consistently render complex layouts the same way everywhere.
But those strengths can also be a liability when it comes to digital publishing on mobile devices, where you might need a format that can adapt to different screen sizes and be sold in the major online bookstores.
- Choosing the right format
- Evaluating assets
- Making design and editorial decisions
- Scanning assets
- Adjusting layouts
- Adding new media