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RovingBird ePublisher: From InDesign to iPad

updated 09:10 pm EDT, Thu October 7, 2010

Builds App-Store-ready, interactive publications

A Belgian software house has announced a public beta of RovingBird ePublisher, a two-step solution that takes Adobe InDesign CS5 publications and turns them into apps ready for the App Store without users knowing or seeing a single line of code. Interactive features, live links, ad-hoc distribution or submission to the App Store and more can be part of the finished application.

The program consists of two components; a export and interactive-feature module that plugs into InDesign CS5 and allows substitution of static elements for interactive ones (such as live links and picture galleries or video) which then exports the InDesign file to the Builder application that turns the file into an iPad program. An iPad simulator lets users preview how the application will look. Users create InDesign layouts in both horizontal and vertical orientations, then export using the plug-in.

The company will launch two editions of Rovingbird ePublisher on October 19th; a "Standard" version (1000, or about $1390US) which limits users to previewing the application only; if desired, Rovingbird will then build the app and distribute it (and/or submit it to the App Store) for a cost of 500 ($700) per publication.

The "Advanced" version (5000/$7000) lets the user build the final app and submit it to the App Store themselves if they wish (or use alternate distribution methods). A "Pro" version offering advanced features like in-app purchasing is planned for December.

The public beta now available limits uses to 4-page publications and no app-building, just previewing. It includes an example file so that testers can see exactly how the process works. The preview relies on the iPad simulator that is part of an iOS SDK, meaning users will need to have an iPhone Developer Account to use the product. Rovingbird ePublisher requires Adobe InDesign CS5, Mac OS X 10.6.4 and the iOS SDK.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Rolando_jose

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Sounds good

    Too bad is so expensive, wonder if theres an academic version for Universities...

  1. Inkling

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Color me unimpressed

    After just learning how to use the Mac software that Amazon recently released for creating Kindle ebooks from an InDesign source, I was intrigued by this scheme to create an iPad book-app from InDesign. Could we be much closer to my dream of format once (in InDesign) and publish in many formats?

    Probably not. Amazon's Kindle export from InDesign works quite well for a first version. It ignored the formatted I applied to poetry, crashed with one book having about 200 paragraph styles, and the contents it created from InDesign's own table of contents, while impressively functional, was ugly beyond belief. But otherwise it worked quite well. An uncomplicated pair of William Morris novels in InDesign became a quite attractive book for Kindles and Kindle apps on other devices. There's even a Kindle Previewer to show me (roughly) what the result looks like on different devices. And everything is free. Thank you Amazon. InDesign, a page layout app, can now create ebooks in the two major reflowable formats. That is very good news.

    Then there is this Roving Bird product: $1400 just for a 'preview' application that still requires their paid assistance to publish. That's more than an entire Adobe suite. Beyond that, there is $7000 for an application that can actually create a iPad-ready application, and that's not factoring in all the labor costs to create all the interactivity that's apparently the hallmark of this application.

    Color me unimpressed and dubious. First by the high price and second by the same mismatch between application and product that was Adobe's major mistake with InDesign CS 5. Books are a static medium. That is part of their very nature. The action takes place in our heads not before our eyes. Making them interactive in some fashion makes as much sense as trying to turn your car into a boat or a plane. The result is something that fits well in no medium.

    It is also impractical. For interactivity, it makes much more sense to start with something interactive like Adobe's Flash, and go from there, perhaps using the Flash-to-iOS apps that Apple is likely to soon be approving under their new, Droid-driven relaxation in policy.

    RovingBird may be mismatched for those realities. Traditional books adapt poorly to interactivity and the costs of even creating a clumsy adaptation is high. Adding interactivity and multi-media is like making a movie and that is very expensive. If they haven't already, book publishers will soon discover that.

    On the other hand, interactivity does work well for educational uses, particularly in math and the sciences. But there's less money there than in creating an 'interactive' version of Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings. This product might be useful for teaching, but only if the price of an academic version, as Rolando Jose mentions, is much, much less than this commercial version.

    --Michael W. Perry, author of Untangling Tolkien

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