Whether you publish a magazine, newspaper, catalog, journal or newsletter, you may be asking the same question most publishers have: how do I decide which digital publishing platform is right for my publication? With so many options, from custom designers to self-serve platforms, choosing the right one can seem overwhelming.
Firstly let’s answer the question: What types of digital publishing platforms are there?
You can broadly fit digital publishing platforms into three different categories:
- Flipbook style platforms
- Custom creation platform
- Digital publishing workflow solutions
The decision will ultimately come down to the one that offers the features you want in your digital publishing platform, but also how much time you want to spend on creating a digital version and how much control you want over the visual layout.
Flipbook style platforms
There are countless flipbook style digital publishing platforms and software systems in the marketplace. Realview of course is an example. They all start with a PDF and through software or an online dashboard the platform will convert the PDF into a flipbook.
The features and configuration options vary quite a bit so it will be up to you to decide which features are important to you. Of course pricing is quite varied as well, but you should expect to pay something for a half decent platform.
A big consideration though is the support you get with your chosen digital publishing platform. Often you just want to upload your PDF yourself and let the magic happen, but it’s good to know whether there is a real person available to help you if you need it, or if you want someone to produce your digital publication for you. Often with software you are completely on your own when it comes to learning or getting support on the platform, so if customer service is more important to you than self service, then keep this in mind. However, if you have PDF, sometimes all you need is to run that through a platform that produces a good quality flipbook edition. There are many of these platforms available online and one thing to be aware of though is that you may need to perform some pre-processing on your PDF before you upload to your chosen digital publishing platform. This can involve removing crop marks, adding all pages into a single PDF file and splitting double page spreads into single pages.
Some flipbook style digital publishing platforms are now offering the ability to create mobile friendly editions from a PDF. This is a real benefit as more and more readers are consuming content on mobile devices, and flipbooks don’t render well on mobile. If you know a lot of your readers are using mobile devices, then this is something you should definitely consider.
Custom creation platform
IF you are not starting from a PDF, then you may prefer a platform that allows you to create a digital publication experience from scratch. The approach is similar to having a web builder build your site using custom code, versus using a template like WordPress, and the time investment can be large. The upside is that you can create a beautiful bespoke digital experience for your audience. However, this approach is not for everyone, as each time you want to publish an edition, you need to come up with a brand new layout. You need to measure the engagement of your audience and think about whether a hand crafted approach to publishing is warranted. For most publications, often you can achieve the same level of engagement and features by creating a mobile responsive versions of your content, or simply using a website.
Even though there is a lot more work involved, there is a place for bespoke interactive digital publications, just don’t overdo the animations for the sake of having something moving. There is a fine line between looking cool and annoying your reader.
Digital publishing workflow solutions
If you are creating a lot of PDFs in house, then you should probably consider a digital publishing workflow solution. Focused on content rather than layout, workflow solutions help you collaborate on creating content rather than the medium it will be published on. The workflow solution takes care of output whether that is a print publication, a website or a mobile experience. Typically high-end, quality companies, workflow solutions offer you the tools to design and build your digital publication as part of a publishing workflow. However, this particular commitment involves changing the way you produce your PDFs and knowledge of design and the time to learn how to use new design tools. It is a great option if you have the time and resources to spend on it. If you already have a design process or have a designer that produces your print PDF then this is not the way to go.
So, which digital publishing platform?
Overall, the most important question to ask yourself when choosing how to publish online is, what does my ideal reader want to experience and how can I best achieve that at the lowest possible cost to my publication without sacrificing value. This formula will help you invest in the smartest way, without questioning whether one type of platform is better than another.