Like a ring binder, a DPS multi-folio app is empty until the user downloads the content.

Like a ring binder, a DPS multi-folio app is empty until the user downloads the content.

Despite the best efforts of Adobe to educate their customers one of the questions I see posted quite often in the User to User forums revolves around the difference between Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) Single Edition and the multi-folio apps like those found on Apple’s Newsstand.

The best analogy I can offer is to compare a hard cover book with a ring binder where Single Edition is the hardcover book and the multi-folio app is the ring binder. How so?

The Single Edition apps are self contained. There’s the viewer that is akin to the cover and the folio which is the content of the book. These are permanently bound together while a multi-folio app is actually empty and has the ability to download issues which will appear in the app library.  Like a binder, it can contain whatever it is that you put in it. If you’ve used the Adobe Content Viewer, you should be very familiar with the library view.

Let’s compare a couple of apps on the iTunes app store to see examples, and a bit of evidence of this difference. First we’ll look at a single edition app that I worked on last year, The March of Dimes, My 9 Months app. Check out the size of this app; it’s 105 megabytes. This is a dead giveaway that it’s Single Edition app.

Now let’s check out Bob Bringhurst’s DPS Tips app; it’s only 11 megabytes and unlike the Single Edition apps, when you launch it, you’ll see a library of folios available to be downloaded as shown in this screenshot:

This is the library view of Bob Bringhurst's DPS Tips app. An example of a multi-folio app.

This is the library view of Bob Bringhurst’s DPS Tips app; an example of a multi-folio app (click for a larger view).

Which one is right for you? That depends on two primary factors; your content and your budget but for InDesign production purposes both have the same functionality. Two key points to keep in mind:

  • Single Edition is iPad only. If you want to target Android devices or iPhone, you will need to do so with a multi-folio app.
  • You cannot sell or give away subscriptions with a Single Edition app nor can you have in app purchases. If you have a series of apps, they’ll all be treated individually by Apple just as multiple books by the same author would sit side by side in a book store.

As for cost, you can create an unlimited number of Single Edition apps as part of a Creative Cloud membership. They are $395 each otherwise (a big selling point for Creative Cloud). Multi-folio apps require a professional or enterprise level account from Adobe at prices that start at $500/month and you’ll have to pay for each issue that is downloaded after using up the allotment of folio downloads included with your plan.

Finally, you cannot distribute any app, whether Single Edition or multi-folio, privately unless you have enterprise level accounts with Adobe AND Apple. All other apps require submission to the iTunes App Store.