Taking stock on epublishing

Frankly, this has been a bit of a nightmare! I previously wrote about my plan for exporting the ebook so it was readable on several platforms. It didn’t really work.

One problem is that multimedia PDF is not being supported beyond the end of 2020 (per Indesign warning on export) and doesn’t reliably enable reproduction. This seems to be connected with flash player based content – effectively a deprecated technology. ID includes other legacy functionality, but unless aware of this, it is easy to come unstuck. For example inserting audio using the simple media player and built in icons is also unstable – particularly on Windows. It took hours of messing around to find the problem and then finding out how to use button objects in InD.

However, the 16:9 format seems to work well enough in the web-browser of any device (even the tiny screen of the iPhone) – so publishing and hosting on Adobe’s servers for online viewing works. It can be laggy on slow internet connections but there’s little I can do about this apart from exporting at high (rather than highest) resolution settings – I don’t want to put low res files up.

To overcome the PDF issue (for a downloadable book), I’ve reverted to fixed layout ePub. I’ve successfully exported in 16:9 format, which is good for using ebook readers on a monitor. The limited interactivity I’ve used so far works (for me at least). This would be a backstop for any issues with internet connections when viewing online – ultimately, I’m thinking about assessment. Unfortunately, my efforts at using InD alternate layouts and targeting the 4:3 ipad format came to a grinding holt – my media buttons simply would not stay on screen, despite anchoring, grouping and swearing loudly. I’ll have another go now I’ve moved to button objects – perhaps in the next iteration of the project.

The ePub format seems necessary for offline viewing, with the demise of interactive PDFs. I’m reluctant to try other tools like Powerpoint as its layout and formatting possibilities are relatively limited and it’s not conceived as an online publishing tool – I hope to eventually become a competent InD user as I do have an interest in making books and photobooks. InD’s alternate layouts offer the possibility of efficiently turning an ebook into a paper book (and visa versa). However, the nice page turn effects are application/device dependent – so the iPad and Apple Books is effective. I’ve not seem similar effects on laptops – the ebook does end up looking disappointingly rather like an interactive slide show.

In conclusion, I’m sticking rigidly with 16:9 format for online publishing through Adobe and ePub for offline backup. For the next iteration I’ll revisit the iPad. It’s been a huge learning curve, including remembering things I once did without thinking – there’s little hope of just reviewing the book on a large photography monitor and expecting to get the font size right! Thankfully, I’m left with some appetite to explore further interactivity, but also mindful that I want the book to be a quiet experience. Perhaps other stuff might end up on the microsite, which is also in my next phase.