This video includes a look at features, strengths, and weaknesses of PDF as a publishing format. An issue of InDesign Magazine is used as an example, and features like hyperlinks, interactive table of contents, and fixed-layout format are highlighted. Also discussed are the fact that support for interactivity is mixed on mobile devices and the issue of selling PDFs.
- [Instructor] In this movie, we'll take a look at PDF publications. And our example here is an issue of InDesign Magazine, for which I'm Editor-in-Chief. Not surprisingly, InDesign Magazine is created almost entirely with InDesign. It's got a fixed layout, it has hyperlinks on the cover that you can click to jump to featured articles, it has bookmarks for navigation, and it also has navigation buttons to go the Table of Contents and other pages. And some issues in the past have also included interactive quizzes and videos.
So let's take look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of PDF as a digital publishing format. One the most important benefits of using the PDF format, is that you can completely control the look of your design. The position of all the elements, the fonts, and the size of the type and so on, will be just the way you made them in InDesign. This is not the case when you use other formats like reflowable EPUB, which give the reader control over the fonts, and can also cause the text to reflow. With PDF, you know what your publication will look like to every reader.
And in terms of production workflow, you can't beat the simplicity of PDF. If you have InDesign and know how to use it, that may be all you need, although in some cases, you may need to do some touch up work in an application like Adobe Acrobat. Another great strength of PDF, is that software to view PDFs is ubiquitous, and it's free. Nearly every computer in the world has the software to view your publication when it's in PDF. With PDFs viewed on a computer, you also get a good amount of interactivity.
You have hyperlinks and cross references, you can embed media like audio and video. Elements like tables of contents and indexes can also be interactive. And you can create buttons that people can use to navigate through the publication, and to show or hide content. The downsides of PDF, or digital publications, are that support for interactive features and media are inconsistent on mobile apps. Some PDF readers will play an embedded video, others won't. Some apps fully support buttons, other apps support only some kinds of buttons, or none at all.
Another downside of PDF is related to it being a fixed layout format. A PDF is not responsive, meaning that it won't adapt to the different screen size or orientations that you might encounter, so it's sometimes necessary for the user to zoom in or out and to scroll around to see the content. Something like a reflowable EPUB on the other hand, can adapt to the container that it's being viewed in. And finally, if your goal is to get your publication to the Apple iBooks Store, BarnesandNoble.com, or Amazon, you won't be able to do that with just a PDF.
iBooks and Barnes and Noble use EPUB for their ebooks, and Amazon uses their own, exclusive Kindle format. While you can upload a PDF to Amazon and convert it to the Kindle format, you will have additional cleanup work to do to get the book in shape to sell. So to sum up, a PDF can be great for digital publications when you must have control over the appearance of the layout, and you want some interactivity and media to be viewed on computers. PDF is not as good on mobile devices, where a lack of responsive design and full support for interactivity can make your publication seem a lot less impressive than it does on a computer.
And a lack of access to online retailers, like Apple and Amazon, give you limited options for where you can sell a PDF publication.
- Overview of interactive document types, including PDF and EPUB
- Creating interactive objects
- Setting up hyperlinks, cross-references, and a table of contents
- Working with media
- Publishing documents with Publish Online
- Creating EPUBs
- Following workflows for interactivity: interactive PDF, reflowable EPUB, and fixed-layout EPUB