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running words around
design education and visual communication
authored by chris m hughes

Too Far Ahead of the Game

Friday, 28 January 2011

iPad Adobe Air content

Towards the end of 2010, Adobe, as ever ahead of the game, announced their Digital Publishing Suite – a new hosted service that builds on the foundation of the Creative Suite, especially InDesign CS5.

The new technology allows publishers to transform magazines into updateable interactive content, published direct to mobile devices. This has already been used successfully by magazines such as WIRED and The New Yorker.

Adobe has made some tools available now for designers and producers to get started and create, preview and share their content in the new format. The tools include the Digital Content Bundler, plus the Digital Publishing Plug-in for InDesign, which allows InDesign to interface with and transfer information to the Digital Content Bundler.

In essence, it's now possible to assemble a digital publication, publish it, and add interactivity, new content and updates on the fly via InDesign. Everything is uploaded into the Adobe cloud, then distributed direct to consumers and their apps.

The Digital Publishing Suite will be released in the second quarter of 2011, probably in conjunction with a CS5.5 point release update.

It all sounds rather awesome, and my first instinct is to embrace yet another emerging technology and start thinking about how new skills can be delivered to design students.

But there is a big caveat, which occurred to me today.

My HND 2 students are currently all on 4-week work placements at various agencies in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin and even Antwerp, and today I visited a student at a small, successful agency in Edinburgh. During my chat with the MD, it became apparent that CS3 was still being used in their agency. No great surprise to me, because it does just about everything that's required for print and for web. So for this company, despite missing out on the joy of Illustrator's multiple artboards, the cost of upgrading has not been economically viable.

And I think that's where we are at with Adobe.

The cost of using the Digital Publishing Suite service is a monthly payment - currently about $700 per month - and that's a substantial amount of money for a product being delivered almost exclusively to early adopters. A difficult investment for many agencies who have yet to make the financial commitment to upgrade fully to CS5, let alone design for the new generation of tablets and e-readers.

The predicted gradual reduction in cost of the iPad and its tablet rivals has yet to materialise, and the economic climate here in the UK makes the Digital Publishing Suites uptake look very marginal for the time being. But worth learning.