A couple of readers wrote to ask us why we hadn’t published the iPad Buyers’ Guide + iPod/iPhone Book 5 as an ePub download for iBooks. Even though the answer seemed pretty obvious on this end, I wanted to post these shots to give readers a sense of what happens when someone outputs a 150-page PDF-format book or magazine as an ePub document.
The result is between 220 to 328 “pages” long at the minimum font size depending on how you hold the iPad, while missing many of its graphics and all of its original layout. It doesn’t look, feel, or read anywhere near as well as the Book does as originally designed—it’s a glorified text file—and under the best circumstances, there’s a lot of unnecessary extra page flipping to be done, while losing the ability to zoom in on pictures.
If Apple does what really needs to be done to “save traditional media”—namely, to create a universal framework for publishing next-generation newspapers and magazines, complete with easy UI features and a proper development backend for publishers—we’ll be thrilled to offer our publications in that format. But for the time being, PDF is an extremely usable format that allows us to deliver most of the experience we want across multiple platforms. For free. We’ve discussed the idea of turning our Books and Guides into apps, offsetting the added development costs with a small charge, but haven’t done so for a number of reasons. By comparison, ePub strikes us as a huge step backwards for publications like ours, with no benefits apart from iBookstore distribution, and we’d rather give up that added distribution than put out something that looks like this in iBooks. We’d sooner spend any necessary additional development and reformatting work on a more powerful application than on a stripped-down text file. Your thoughts and insights on the topic would be welcome.