Like many Adobe Digital Publishing Suite users, I’ve been following Adobe’s latest moves with regard to both DPS and Digital Publishing Solution (DPS2015) with interest. Recently, and I admit, sadly, I’ve concluded that this service is no longer a long-term option for small publishers. While I don’t take that statement lightly, it is fairly obvious that Adobe is now focused solely on the enterprise market.
I’ll back up here for moment just in case you haven’t been paying attention. In the fall of 2014 Adobe announced that DPS Single Edition would no longer be offered to Creative Cloud subscribers nor would it be sold on its own. They also stopped offering the bare bones professional accounts to new subscribers. This past July, DPS 2015 was formally introduced. At that time, Adobe promised to support DPS Classic for “at least one year” though it became apparent rather quickly that beyond fixing serious bugs, the folio workflow would receive no further development (when InDesign CC2015 was released there was no support for folio based workflows), all but reaching end of life status. In the mean time DPS2015 has been receiving very impressive updates every three weeks or so. Fast forwarding to last week we have the announcement that DPS 2015 would be moved under the Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) umbrella with the Digital Publishing Solution name being dropped.
The combined service is more conducive to producing high-end, enterprise-level mobile apps as opposed to “traditional” publishing. With DPS subscribers on a year to year contract, renewals for DPS Pro accounts at $400/month are highly unlikely and while I strongly support any company’s right to do business as they see fit, I also know that many of you will be looking for alternatives for affordable publishing, from InDesign, to app stores. I stress the word affordable here.
I’ve written in the past about Fixed Layout Epub and I remain very excited about that format for many projects but that doesn’t make it appropriate for all. I’ve experimented with several third party DPS alternatives for InDesign-based publishing, such as Mag+, Aquafadas, and App Studio and while all have pros and cons, I’ve concluded that Twixl Publisher is likely to be the best choice for DPS users. Here are a few reasons why:
- Pricing is reasonable. Starting at $850/year for unlimited single issue apps compatible with iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire.
- Multi issue apps are available at costs starting at about $2,000/year.
- While HTML based publishing is on the roadmap, it is still at its heart an InDesign based solution.
- The support, from what I’ve seen is very good. They’re quick to address issues and bugs.
While not quite as robust as DPS, the interactive features from InDesign,and the process to produce them, are nearly identical. There’s even a conversion utility that will convert DPS overlays to Twixl interactivity. While it’s not perfect it does a nice job. This makes it relatively easy to produce back issues or to create a new version of a single edition app.
Given my history with DPS, I realize this post may raise a few eyebrows so let me be as clear as possible. The new DPS 2015/AEM combination is an enterprise solution and carries a very high price tag. It’s a terrific solution for publishing mobile content but it is a viable choice only for enterprise customers with a very large budget.
I’ve intentionally avoided the word competitor when referring to DPS alternatives in this post because the small to medium segment is wide open for third parties such as Twixl. Adobe has clearly elected not to serve this market. While they may compete with each other and in the past certainly did compete with Adobe, I now consider them to be third-party solution providers.
If you’re interested in exploring options, I can help with the transition. Just fill out the form on the contact page and I’ll get back to you.
Great article Bob!
Nicely stated. I am a small publisher that was directly affected by Adobe’s decision in 2014. I elected to go with Twixl and never regretted the decision. They have great customer service, a terrific product, and they’ve helped me create a successful business with their plugin.
Bob, I’d love to see you do a blog post of the comparisons between DPS and fixed layout EPUB.
Because I’m not too sure that anybody except big time magazine publishers should be creating apps
As someone who invested a lot of time and energy into DPS, I’m pleased to know that smaller sized publishing projects can continue to be well-served by solutions like Twixl. Over the years I was on the receiving end of rants from disenchanted publishers who wanted to move titles to the iPad, but were frustrated by the high cost of entry. It’s too bad that Adobe led many (myself included) down a blind path, but this is always a potential problem with new technology.
Boy am I late to the party! Having just finished Sandee Cohen’s great book “Digital Publishing” – I am in shock and disturbed that Adobe would drop the DPS tools from CC. So for $600/year to be a CC subscriber – I can’t create Ipad APPs? I can’t count how many times Adobe has changed or updated software and over the years – leaving paid users like me with the bill, wasted time spent and no support. I refuse to support Adobe anymore and will use my legacy versions to do my work.
I totally agree with Bob. Any company, big or small, is entitled to change its directions. It’s their choice, and especially in this area of media and information, changes and choices are inevitable.
The development and evolutions of DPS have been heavily supported and backed by enterprises and large publishers. Letting mere mortals like individual designers, their agencies, and small publishers into this game, has been not much more than just a by-catch in stead of a thought-out intention. Maybe, if the final ‘baking’ of the app would have been much easier at the time of that free Single Edition, the use of DPS could have gained a long-tail of new and grass-roots digital publishers. But I’ve been told that the numbers of these SE apps stayed sparingly low, so Adobe decided to not only pull the plug on those freebies, but also cut-off all mid-range DPS clients as well. (Ever wondered why the lovely ePub FXL was able made its successful re-entrance in InDesign ? I.m.h.o. InDesign was set free after being strategically committed to DPS until 2014…)
The benefits of DPS 2015 or AEM Mobile as it’s called nowadays, are evident: it’s all about tracking clicks and ticks, counting beans, collecting data, and use that Big Data to manage and market any editorial and advertorial interest. And it’s absolutely obvious that large publishers and corporations need and feed on this approach. Like Klaasjan Tukker (member of the AEM team) once quoted the CEO of a large publishing house: “We don’t simply put out some magazines. We follow our readers, our clients, and our partner’s and advertiser’s clients, from cradle to crave. And we constantly try to understand how we can offer them any kind of information and experiences, at any stage of their lives.” That’s something an ePub FXL won’t do for you !
However, the dawn of Adobe DPS 2015, also saw some larger DPS clients leaving DPS for solutions like Purple: http://www.purplepublish.com/portfolio-items/axel-springer-media-house-the-shift-from-adobe-digital-publishing-suite-to-purple/ And as Bob describes, Twixl is also a very strong, very affordable, and more elegant alternative to DPS on all levels. (I’m glad you digged into it, Bob !)
So don’t worry or complain too much about all these sudden shifts. Find your own way, make your own decisions, for yourself or on behalf of your clients. The number of options always increases, as long as you’re willing to look further than what was hot and happening yesterday.
One thing that Bob and Studea have failed to mention is the historic “from-the-bottom-up” nature of electronic and digital media and tablet applications.
The best example of this was the hundreds of thousands of small, one-person companies that created and posted apps for the iPod, then iPhone, and then iPad in the iTunes and then Google Play store.
These companies were not the large publishers and corporations that eventually came into the market.
But one thing that made the concepts of apps so appealing was the equitable, even playing field of an app. Sandee Cohen’s “Gardener’s Tips” app could compete, without looking small, against Conde Nast’s “House and Garden” magazine. There was no need for an overwhelming print run to blanket the nation (nay world) with copies. The thumbnails in the search results were equal is size. Yes, there were other ways Conde Nast could beat Sandee Cohen, but on the iTunes shelf all apps started out equal.
In fact, with the advent of iTunes’s staff picks, Sandee Cohen could suddenly beat Conde Nast.
Similar economic theory is found with music at the iTunes store, books at Amazon, and now apps for Windows and Mac OSX.
SE DPS was their entry into the market to play against the big boys.
Now, should Adobe have kept supplying a product for these small, one-off publishers? It’s their right to do so or not. I know that it is much easier, and sometimes more profitable, to sell 100 products at $10,000 than 10,000 products at $100.
However, it does not help a company’s reputation when they provide a product, especially a product built into a paid service, and then not only stop development, but yank the product out of the service.
Fireworks is a perfect example of a product that exceeded the features of every other CC app with web export. And it was originally included as part of the CC subscription. But it was frozen at CS6 and has been completely discontinued with no support and no downloads except for a few updaters, but no full download.
SE DPS is another.
This is not the way you build loyalty.
Creating a workflow for a specific output format takes time, experimentation, and training of staff. I feel bad for those companies that invested in the SE DPS workflow. (And there was another product in between Enterprise and SE.) These companies now have to retrain and re-position their workflow for applications such as Twixl.
Are these good alternatives? Some may be better than SE DPS. Some may not.
Do I care about SE DPS? Not a white.
My students loved the effects in DPS apps, but thought the whole export posting process was cumbersome and difficult to implement. When I told them what DPS required, many moved back to interactive PDF (!!) for their planned digital publications. Now, of course, I steer them to FXL ePub.
What it comes down to is a trust issue.
There was indeed enthusiasm for the free DPS SE apps “from the bottom-up”, but development and maintenance had been paid largely “from the top-down”. Adobe was not selling anything at all, it was burning money on it ! With just a handful of new DPS SE apps in a week, it was simply too expensive for them to keep this (free) service up. Loyalty may be priceless, but it won’t pay the bills.
The more appropriate conclusion might be, that it could have given Adobe much credit, when the procedure of ‘baking’ the DPS (SE or ME) app would have been much easier. Users would have praised and touted Adobe for it. So you could blame Adobe for neglecting that aspect. On the other hand, I think ePub FXL, Publish Online, and Twixl have turned out to be much better alternatives – both technically and strategically – for those less-demanding parties in this business.
The need to redefine products and retrain workflows is a valid argument against innovating. But hey, that’s what innovation should be about, isn’t it ? I trust Adobe on their sheer will to innovate. If their capacity fits that desire, is another question. But at least they try…
I agree, Peter. Almost every one of the DPS SE apps that I’ve seen would have been better as an FXL EPUB.
But I think that offering it as an enticement to subscribe to Creative Cloud and then pulling it two years later while leaving those with apps in the store no way to update them left a bad taste in some mouths. Then you have the touch apps which came and went and then came back. Edge Animate was a huge deal and now it’s dead, wrapped up into a rebranded Flash. Ask the Freehand and Fireworks users how they feel, too.
I think Publish Online is a great service but I’m left with a just a little bit of doubt as to whether I can truly count on it being there in two years.
I agree with everything you say! As a freelancer, I felt very disappointed by Adobe’s cavalier attitude in dropping SE DPS. However, the overriding issue now, is trust.
Whilst I really like Publish Online, I can’t help but wonder how long it will take for Adobe to pull this service.
As far as I’m concerned, they have dropped too many services and cannot be trusted. Loyalty is a two-way process and I’m afraid Adobe is too short-sighted to see this.The company’s sight is clouded by the dollar sign.
Over-confidence and believing in one’s own hype is foolishness at the best of times. Adobe should have learned from the Quark experience. Perhaps it will, when it’s too late!
I think Publish Online is a great service but I’m left with a just a little bit of doubt as to whether I can truly count on it being there in two years.
Oh God, no Bob!
It’s true that Adobe is looking at and counting the number of PubOnline users. And the only way to ensure its survival is to get as many people as possible to use it. I try my best but I’m only one woman.
At first I thought that PubOnline would be OK when it moves out of Preview Technology. But given how quickly applications and services come and go, I’m not sure at all.
Here’s the thing. I think Adobe needs to stop trying to duplicate things that already exist. I’m not saying that Publish Online fits in that description but let’s look at some of the debacles of the recent past. Buzzword? Couldn’t come close to Google Docs. Forms Central? Google Forms blew it away. Share my screen? Remember that one?
Now? I look at Creative Cloud storage and I won’t touch it. Not nearly enough storage space and no where close to Dropbox or OneDrive in features and more importantly reliability.
Adobe needs to concentrate on innovating in new areas, not trying to compete with services it simply can’t compete with.
I can add Version Cue to the list.
But let’s concentrate on PubOnline.
What product, at no additional expense for Creative Cloud users, come close to the ease, convenience, and functionality?
I’m not being sarcastic asking this question. You know so much more than I do about web-based presentations.
Like I said, Sandee. I think it’s great.
That’s not my point. My point is, will it still be there in two years. I’d like to think yes, but there is a doubt in mind here.
But is your doubt because PubOnline duplicates a service/software that is already out there doing a better job?
I thought PubOnline was innovative. It needed and still needs improvements. But it doesn’t fit the category of “someone else is already doing it.”
It’s more along the lines of if they can’t figure out how to at least break even on it, they’ll kill it.
I have taught DPS for a few years for students who want to turn their InDesign newsletter into an ipad version.
But obviously I can’t get the content viewer with Adobe air to work. but are you saying they can be viewed if published on the device? Suggestions for an end of year assignment. :(
The Adobe Content Viewer for devices still works, yes, but the entire folio workflow is on life support. If it’s still available by the fall I’ll be surprised.
I’m seriously let down by all of this. I’d like to find the best system so that I can teach it to my students… Do you all agree that Twixl is best?
I’m not even sure that’s the right direction, anymore. What type of students are we talking about?
Twixl is a terrific InDesign based solution but you’re still tied to apps and app stores. Fixed layout EPUB is going to free you from that but there’s still a matter of solid reader applications for all platforms. If you’re going to teach something, that’s the direction I’d go in at this point. Most of the skills anyone would need for that would be transferable to other publishing platforms.
Hear, hear !
I’m also exhausted and actually just fed up by all the digital publishing hoopla.
Dozens of suppliers with hundreds of different features, offerings, and problems…
And be warned about the nifty interactive and animations features offered built-in in InDesign – not everything works in every kind of document, even or especially with ePub FXL. It’s still quite a lot, but definitely not everything you’d want or expect. So beware not to promise your students “the sky” ! Stick to what’s technically possible.
Resort to proper animation software (like Tumult Hype) for more fun with interactive animations.
Resort to a website when the navigation or sheer volume gets more than ePub FXL can handle.
I have to state an interest in this (as I’m the founder), but we’ve done a load of migrations from Adobe DPS to Pugpig over the last couple of years, from the entire Conde Nast portfolio in the UK, to Foreign Affairs here in the USA and many in between – it’s a simple, fast and painless process :)
Thanks for stopping by!
For anyone following along, I can vouch for Pugpig. It’s a terrific publishing platform.