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Ubiquitous PDF: Market ready for 'rich-PDF' magazines, says pioneering publisher

December 13, 2004

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While a fair number of folks still cringe at the notion of using PDF for anything other than designed-to-be-printed documents and publications, at least a few broadband-minded publishers and content creators are advocating a more interactive approach to and user-experience with the Portable Document Format. Among them is Dan Brill, publisher of Graphic Exchange -- aka gX -- magazine, based in Canada.


gx magazine cover The recent fall issue of gX, like the previous summer edition, is available for download in two PDF versions, depending on the user's ...

  1. bandwidth
  2. version of Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader, and
  3. interest in and viewing apps to support a variety of rich multimedia file formats

As described on the Graphic Exchange Web site, the differences are as follows:

  • FOR ADOBE ACROBAT 4 OR 5

    Graphic Exchange in basic PDF 1.3 lets you enjoy a full-screen magazine experience and includes hundreds of Web links -- but no video, VR or other rich media. Viewing this edition requires only Adobe Acrobat Reader 4 or 5 on any Windows or Macintosh operating system.


  • FOR ADOBE READER 6

    Graphic Exchange with embedded rich media is for those who want it all -- video, 360-degree VR, live links, and complete portability with no dependence on Web connections. The full embedded version contains 15 videos and QTVRs which can be viewed anywhere, any time.

Another comparison: the "Basic Version" weighs in at a mere 8 MB while the "Full-Embedded Version" tilts the bandwidth scales at roughly 10x the size of its no-frills option, at slightly more than 80 MB.

Not long ago one could have pitched a wager -- and likely won a jackpot if there were any takers -- that few people would even bother downloading the XXL edition. Not so in today's increasingly bandwidth-enriched world, according to Brill, who recently proclaimed there have been more than 10,279 downloads of the fall issue to date, about 75 percent which have been for the fully featured, interactive, horizontally designed edition.

"The success of gX in rich PDF has demonstrated that the market is ready to experience a downloadable rich media publication with video, virtual reality, music, Web links and other interactive features, and that in this new era of broadband delivery, file size is not an impediment," says Brill.

Feedback (about the summer issue) published in the latest gX supports his claim, including the following accolades and observations:

  • "I have to say the cross-media page was a completely new experience. I never used to like reading from a computer screen. I would get bored 'visually' after one paragraph. This time it was different. Articles were enriched with video clips, the Gallery became a virtual reality. Sounds and video clips made articles memorable and so much more interesting. This is definitely a huge step into the future of publication. I also like the new print dimensions, or rather "computer display" dimensions. Personally, I enjoy this format because the images are larger. Four-column articles are easier to read, since I can bend my issue in half and make it a regular size book format, which I am more comfortable with. Easy to hold and flip. Graphic Exchange used to stand out with its digital content, now by the way it represents it. Amazing!"


  • "I spent about 1.5 hours going through the rich PDF version of gX today, and I can say that I really enjoyed the exploring. I experienced the magazine differently than the printed version in that the rich media really drew me in. I used the videos to decide whether to read further, and I liked the way that the video in the Jeanne Beker piece was an excellent summary of the article. The Web links were great. I rarely put down a magazine to type in a referenced URL -- but today, I clicked on about thirty! Also, strangely, the ads seemed way more compelling than in the printed version. Don't know why. Maybe I'm not used to the format yet and my brain hasn't learned to filter them out. Your advertisers should really like this -- particularly if you can track click-thrus coming from your mag. Keep up the great work.


  • "This is the most beautiful use of the PDF format I have ever seen. I just got my first free issue of InDesign Magazine and I wrote them with my impressions and I will be sending them your PDFzine to show them the possibilities of this format. You guys hit it on the head."

gX pdf portfolioThe multimedia-rich versions of gX have been produced in collaboration with Bob Connolly and BC Pictures, pioneers in multimedia PDF publishing and new media production. Connolly is also the author of an article titled "So you want to be a professional digital photographer" in the fall issue, subtitled "With digital cameras evolving at a breathtaking pace and Adobe Reader now on three quarters of a billion computers, it's time to think beyond JPEG and assemble your best portfolio in PDF." The female model in the article's cover spread can be rotated (see below) via Quicktime Virtual Reality (QTVR); several related 'sidebar' items are offered as Quicktime-based movie clips.


gX qtvr photos"What many people don't know is that PDF is now a file format that can do virtually everything that can be done on a web page or a television screen, on almost any computer or hand-held device," says Brill. "But what really sets PDF apart is the added ability to print pages with full color and resolution, including all type and graphics. There is simply no other file format in existence that can match this."

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