It’s a brave new world in digital publishing. How does one decide where to commit precious resources at the start of the project?

Enter: the ebook Spectrum (or Digital Publishing Continuum, if you prefer).


If you can determine where your project falls within this spectrum, you’ve overcome a large, practical hurdle.

On the left side of the spectrum are formats like EPUB (non-fixed-layout), which focus on text content and readability. These formats are generally best served on an e-reader like the Amazon Kindle. This kind of device includes reader-friendly features like a display that emits no light (easy on the eyes), and the ability to adjust the size and flow of the text. In this format, where a page breaks is arbitrary. The layout—relative positioning of text and images, colors, specific typefaces, page alignment—is forsaken for the experience of the reader. This end of the spectrum serves a format like the novel quite well, because the page layout is of little consequence in most novels.

On the right end of the spectrum are formats that permit greater layout fidelity (apps, HTML5, HPUB). These formats are best served by light-emitting, highly interactive devices like an iPad or Android Tablet. This end of the spectrum is much better at serving a format like a digital magazine that includes complex graphics, colors, and typefaces, as well as interactivity.

If you know ahead of time what device(s) you’re targeting, it may help you place your project within the spectrum. Once you’ve determined where you project falls on the spectrum, as well as which device(s) you will target, you have a solid foundation for choosing a tool or technology that can help you complete your project successfully.

Let’s looks at a few examples. Let’s start with InDesign as the source of our layout and content because of InDesign’s advanced tooling and flexibility.

  • If your project is solidly on the left end of the spectrum, your InDesign project simply has to be laid out as connected textframes, and you can export directly to EPUB.
  • If your project falls on the right end of the spectrum and you’re producing regular periodicals for paid subscribers (e.g., The New York Times or Martha Stewart Living), then DPS offers you a direct route out of InDesign.
  • If your project falls on the right end of the spectrum, but you want/need to distribute your content to a wider array of devices, or you don’t have paid subscribers, or you don’t want go through an app store (or can’t), etc…well, this is the reason we created in5 (InDesign to HTML5).
  • Going the other direction, perhaps your project needs are extremely specific. Perhaps you’re only targeting Apple devices. Apple (used to) provide a free design tool called iBooks Author.
  • Or perhaps you need interactivity that exceeds what the current authoring tools offer. In this case, developing a custom app may be your best option.

Because digital publishing is still in a form of infancy, the road to a successful project can be a long and winding one. If you can determine where a project falls in the spectrum, you can start addressing some of your technical needs early and save yourself some trouble and unnecessary effort.

So, where does your project fall in the ebook spectrum?

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  1. Paolo says:

    Thanks for your crystal clear post.
    Actually I’m testing your extension because in Italy there are very few publishers who can afford DPS due to initial low digital revenue. If you hadn’t gone toward html5, another smart move could have been to pick up the .folio format from InDesign and make it easy to publish without going through Adobe servers.

  2. Justin says:

    Thanks for your comment, Paolo!
    That’s a good idea too, but I think we’ll leave the folio format to Adobe. 😉

  3. Paolo says:

    Hi Justin,
    I gave the Baker export a try and I got a strange result because a page looks different from its thumbnail (2 pages test). Another question: the “In5” protection logo forced you to convert the page to jpeg but I assume the licensed extension will maintain the font. Is it right? Could you make a check on my exported files? Thanks, Paolo

  4. Justin says:

    Hi Paolo,
    Chances are that is related to the demo restrictions. If you want to link us to your exported files (and perhaps your INDD) we can take a look. You can use the contact link or email us support (at) ajarproductions (dot) com.

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