What’s New With Digital Publishing Tools

Publishing used to be so simple. You created designs for print or the web, each with their own well-defined tools and workflows, and that was it. But designers now face a dizzying array of options for presenting information, from mobile devices like tablets and e-book readers to laptop computers and PCs — not to mention old-fashioned ink on paper.

The hottest gadgets these days are the tablets, with Apple’s iPad and the various Android-based devices leading the way. Newspaper and magazine publishers in particular are eyeing the tablets after seeing their traditional business models gutted by the Internet. Meanwhile, book publishers are routinely making new titles available in electronic versions for Amazon’s Kindle and other e-book readers.

What’s been missing so far have been robust, easy-to-use design tools that let you produce content for portable devices. But that’s about to change with forthcoming releases of QuarkXPress 9 and Adobe InDesign 5.5, both of which provide tools for creating e-books as well as interactive digital publications for tablets.

QuarkXPress 9
QuarkXPress 9, the first major upgrade to the program in nearly three years, will enable tablet publishing via App Studio, a plug-in previously available in the Quark Publishing System. It provides features for adding videos, slide shows, audio clips and other interactive elements to layouts, and also includes a free previewer app that lets you test how a publication will appear on the tablet device. It will be available first for the iPad but will eventually support Android as well.

Once you create an interactive layout, you can hand it off to production staff or upload it yourself and use Quark’s online issue management portal to activate it. Publishers will pay a flat $349 set-up fee for each issue of a publication, and Quark says it will offer volume discounts for multiple issues.

Publishers also must create the actual reader app that allows iPad users to view the content. Each app can host one or more magazine titles. Again, you can hand this off or create the app yourself.

You’ll have several options for doing so, including a Mac-only configuration utility based on Apple’s Xcode developer tools. You’ll have to become an Apple developer and install an iOS software developer kit, but product manager Dan Logan says you won’t need programming skills to use the utility. “It lets you fill in fields to define the application name, description and all of that, and then you feed it graphics,” he explains.

Quark hasn’t determined pricing for the utility, but Apple charges $99 per year to join its iOS developer program.

Once you’ve created the app, you’ll have to submit it along with a sample issue to Apple for approval. Although you’ll need a Mac to create the reader app, QuarkXPress 9 and App Studio will run on Windows as well.

You’ll use a different set of tools to create e-books. For example, one unique aspect of e-books is that a customer can change the font size to enhance readability, which in turn changes the way text flows. So QuarkXPress 9 includes a new Reflow View that allows users to assemble and preview a reflowable version of the text and pictures in a layout. The program can export book layouts to the standard ePub format as well as Blio eReader, a format that accommodates multimedia content such as slide shows and videos.

The upgrade also sports a host of new features beyond digital publishing. These include a Conditional Styles feature that lets you set up rules to automatically add complex formatting to selected paragraphs. Also new are ShapeMaker, which lets you easily create unusual shapes for text or picture boxes; Cloner, which makes it easier to duplicate design elements; and Linkster, which lets you unlink or relink text boxes without causing the text to overflow. And Quark finally added a Story Editor, which lets you enter and edit text without the distraction of a page layout.

QuarkXPress 9 is scheduled to ship April 26 for $799, or $299 for an upgrade from version 8 or 7. App Studio will follow about 90 days later as a free update. The company is offering a free 30-day trial version of QuarkXPress 9, but if you want to test-drive App Studio, you should wait a few months for the latter’s release.

InDesign 5.5
Adobe is making its own play for tablet and e-book publishing with InDesign CS 5.5, which the company announced April 11 as part of Creative Suite 5.5. A new Overlay Creator panel lets you add interactive elements to layouts. You’ll then upload the layouts to Adobe’s separately priced Digital Publishing Suite, which converts them to the new .folio format, which is then delivered to a publisher-branded viewer app on the device. Each folio file corresponds to a separate issue of each magazine or newspaper.

As with App Studio, the Digital Publishing Suite won’t require coding skills, but it’s clearly aimed at medium-to-large publishers. In addition to conversion and distribution services, it includes e-commerce functions for managing single-issue sales and subscriptions, along with tools for analyzing folio downloads, such as how readers interact with content and advertising. Two editions are available: a custom-priced Enterprise Edition for large outfits and the Professional Edition for mid-sized ones. Publishers opting for the latter will pay a $495-per-month platform fee plus $5,500 to $60,000 per year for distribution services depending on the number of downloads (or $0.12 to $0.22 per .folio download, depending on the number of downloads).

This could limit the range of clients who want to take advantage of the service, but Adobe says it is considering options for smaller publishers.

For e-book designers, InDesign 5.5 adds a new Articles panel that lets you determine which page layout elements are included in the e-book, and the order in which those elements appear—you can control the sequence of text, images and graphics in the exported document without changing your InDesign layout. An enhanced anchoring function makes it easier to bind graphic elements to associated text. When you export the e-book to the ePub format, you can map paragraph styles in the layout to ePub tags.

New Pricing Options

In the past, Adobe has shipped new versions of its Creative Suite design applications on an 18-month cycle, but with CS 5.5, it has embarked on a new strategy of shipping a full “milestone release” every two years, followed by an interim release about 12 months later. CS 5.5 is the first of these interim releases, and it’s not a free maintenance update, but a substantial upgrade with new features (in some of the apps) and pricing to match. For example, upgrading from CS 5.x Design Premium to CS 5.5 will set you back $399, and upgrades from CS4.x are $649. That will buy you new versions of InDesign, Dreamweaver, Flash Professional and Flash Catalyst, plus the existing versions of Photoshop, Illustrator and Fireworks. The bundle also includes Acrobat Professional X, the latest release of the PDF production software.

All of the upgraded programs have new features aimed at mobile devices. Dreamweaver CS 5.5 has enhanced tools for creating web pages in HTML5 and CSS3, and Flash Professional makes it easier to adapt Flash presentations for different screen sizes.

For designers (and their bookkeepers) who find the prices too steep, Adobe has introduced a subscription option that lets you pay for the Creative Suite applications on a monthly basis. Under this scheme, the monthly fee for Design Premium is $95 if you commit to a full year and $139 for a month-to-month plan, which lets you add or remove copies as your business fluctuates. Either way, you are billed on a monthly basis. Adobe is offering similar subscription plans for individual applications within the suite.

Creative Suite 5.5 is scheduled to ship within 30 days. Although Photoshop remains at 5.x, Adobe plans to provide a set of developer tools that will enable tablet apps to interact with the image-editing program. In early May, the company expects to offer three inexpensive apps — Adobe Color Lava, Adobe Eazel and Adobe Nav — that showcase the new technology.

Stephen Beale has been writing about computer technology since dinosaurs roamed the earth. He’s the author of seven books on computer applications in the graphic arts and a former news and reviews editor for Macworld.  He’s currently editor of a website for public relations professionals in health and medicine. For more information,
see his website www.sbealeonline.com.




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