The Last Word

I am infatuated with new media but my first love is print. I was delighted when the current issue of Paid Content p ointed me to an EContent Magazine article that surveyed tools print publishers can use to distribute content over the Web.

This posting is a brief syopsis a piece by EContent writer Ron Miller, so if the print-to-web shift interests you, do read the original. That article, by the way, is now a year old so some of the information is a bit dated (there are, for instance, references to MacroMedia’s FlashPaper development that don’t take into account its acquisition by Adobe).

Adobe and its ubiquitous PDF format are central to the article. Miller notes that since Acrobat debuted in 1993, Adobe has distributed “more than a half billion” copies of its free Acrobat Reader, which allows document receipt and display with the art and layout intact. The article notes that Adobe’s thrust, with regard to the publisher’s version of Acrobat, is to put “PDF on a Java-based platform and provides a way to build in business logic and XML hooks into a PDF document, making it possible to move information from a PDF into a workflow or to distribute data to databases.” As for the reader, Adobe wants to build in “digital rights management (DRM)” to give publishers greater control over what uses can be made of the content after delivery. (Since the piece is a year old, some of this may already have occurred.)

The EContent piece notes some of the alternatives (again this piece was written before Microsoft made rumblings about challenging Adobe). Miller writes: “most publishers want to use the power of the Web, while preserving some of the look and feel of traditional media. This has resulted in a number of approaches from vendors such as Zinio and NewsStand, which use a reader to download and view publications, or NXTbook, which incorporates the look and feel of a traditional page-turning publication delivered via a Web browser.”

EContent points readers to “Frank Gilbane, publisher of the Gilbane Report, a publication that focuses on content trends” who cited the emergence of RSS as a distribution format but said it was only just being noticed by users. Gilbane told EContent, “Most people don’t even know what it is, and those that do often don’t appreciate the potential.” That statement was made a year ago, and much has happened since then to raise the stature of RSS, but in a funny way and with mild calibration, I think that statement still rings true.

I will return to print-via-web as I notice other developments. I am particularly interested in production methods to pull down stuff out of archives to print customized books or magazines, and will be particularly alert for developments in that realm.

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media