Going from InDesign print layouts to iPad publications

Twixl media is the Belgian developer of Twixl Publisher, an iPad publishing solution. Twixl Publisher is an InDesign based solution for transmigrating a printed publication to the iPad. That made me think: how do Adobe-based software vendors understand this transmigration anyway?

Twixl media developed a solution to translate print design into digital design by integrating interactive content such as photo slideshows, animations, video and more into a seamless iPad blend. In that respect, Twixl media isn’t much different from what most Adobe based iPad publishing software vendors deliver.

By simply migrating print to digital design, Twixl media delivers what most publishers want. However, publishers make a mistake when they think a publication will benefit from just transmigrating one channel into another. Some of the early adopters of iPad publishing have found this out the hard way in 2011.

Digital publishing requires a completely different mind set. What publishers need to realize is that digital publishing consumers want a rich user experience.

No print-to-digital migration tool is capable of translating the print experience into the rich user experience an iPad publication that has been programmed like an application can provide for. As a result, publishers who haven’t yet will soon find this strategy to be a dead-end. Just adding a couple of interactive components — like Twixl media and the Adobe solutions do — does not deliver the rich user experience a programmed app can provide for.

The Twixl Publisher solution does not deliver searchable text. Instead, the basic layer is a static JPEG. In essence, the company converts the InDesign layout with content to a JPEG image without adding a searchable text layer. Asked about this, the company’s spokeswoman stated: “Adobe’s own solution works the same way.” However, Twixl media plans (no time frame given) to replace the JPEG by a searchable PDF. Twixl media’s claim on its website that “an image-based application with native controls offers the best and most fluid experience” therefore should be construed as relative.

It currently leaves the publisher with a crippled solution with no semantics whatsoever. In contrast, Aquafadas’ AVE online platform — the same one as used by Quark in its QuarkXPress iPad publishing plug-in — does provide for live text. The result is a searchable publication with a nice semantic layer. This makes an Aquafadas based iPad publication a lot more interesting from a user experience point of view. You could say Twixl media’s publications are currently meant to be thrown away after use, while Aquafadas publications (and publications based on solutions like it) are meant to keep and can be referred to later on.

The only real advantage of Twixl media’s model therefore is its price model. The company charges no setup fee for their solution. They also do:

  • not charge an additional fee per issue
  • not put a time limit on the number of issues purchased
  • not make you pay a fixed cost per month
  • not charge a fee for downloaded issues.

The company only charges the license fee. Depending on the type of license you purchase, you are free to publish as many issues as you want without any additional fees. Maintenance and upgrades are free of charge for the first year and can be extended after the first year by paying a 20% surcharge. With fees starting at €2500.00 and going all the way up to €7500.00, Twixl Publisher is not really cheap, though.

Twixl Publisher works in tandem with Adobe InDesign CS5 or CS5.5, has a simple and user-friendly interface, and lets publishers quickly build a basic iPad publication. There’s no doubt in my mind the solution (and others like it) will appeal to a large number of publishers. As long as they don’t understand that content repurposing means a lot more than copying incompatible channels between each other, they’ll keep threading the easy path — and lose in the process.

Twixl media’s showcase list includes companies like Levis Paints, BNP Paribas Fortis bank, and the Vienna International Magazine.