Archive for June, 2007

Adobe Delivers Digital Editions 1.0

Today we announced the release of Adobe Digital Editions 1.0. Digital Editions is a lightweight consumer-focused application for acquiring, reading, and managing eBooks and other publications, and is the centerpiece of Adobe’s expanded digital publishing strategy. Free download here, or better yet experience the streamlined “install and read” of a free sample eBook from our sample library.
Digital Editions has many unique characteristics. The fact that we squeezed native PDF support, Flash support, and a consumer-friendly user interface into a 3MB download ought to be enough to turn some heads. But what I’m most excited about is that Digital Editions supports the new EPUB format in addition to PDF. EPUB (aka OPS), is an open standard, a reflowable XHTML-based format, packaged in a single-file container, that I believe will do for dynamic documents what PDF has done for paginated final-form documents. It will take a little while for publishers to fully adopt EPUB, but we’ve provided a key enabler by supporting one-button EPUB authoring for Digital Editions as a feature of the new new InDesign CS3. With PDF for final-form content and EPUB for “liquid” content that adapts to the user’s display size and preferred font size, I believe we have achieved an open standard format platform that the industry as a whole will rapidly adopt, and finally end the “Tower of eBabel” of competing proprietary formats.
And as mobile devices become more and more prevalent, and as content needs to be sliced and diced and augmented in new and different ways that don’t necessarily mach up with paper-like pages, I believe EPUB has the potential to be at least as important to the future of portable documents as today’s PDF.
Getting back to the product, the commercial release of Digital Editions is a huge step forward from our Adobe Labs public beta releases. It adds support for bookmarks, highlights, and text notes (stored in an open XML format to facilitate future social networkign features), multiple bookshelves in Library view, and sports a reworked user interface that improves reading navigation, TOC display and addresses a host of issues. Publisher and content distributor support has been very strong.
The Labs beta process was definitely a tremendous accelerant – enabling us to engage with customers and partners and evolve the product much faster than a traditional shrink-wrapped software development cycle. We had close to 400,000 downloads during the 9 month process: a bit more than is probably ideal to experience the “first pancake off the griddle”, especially when some of them were users who hadn’t necessarily made an explicit decision to use not-ready-for-prime-time beta wares, but had simply upgraded to Reader 8 and therefore needed our Digital Editions companion software to read their eBooks. Certainly it’s a very different way to deliver software to make 4 public releases over an 8 month period. But overall our users have been patient with us, and as a result the 1.0 release benefits from customer-feedback-driven changes that make it, in my mind, signficantly more mature than a typical 1.0 process. We probably were a bit too ambitious in the changes we decided to make from our beta to 1.0 – but I’m really impressed that the team pulled it off.
The 1.0 release is available for Mac (PPC & Intel native) and Windows (XP, Vista, and Windows 2000). And today at the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference we are also demonstrating a desktop Linux version that will be in public beta soon. Mobile/device support is also coming, as evidenced by our announcement today that Sony wil be incorporating Digital Editions capabiliities, including EPUB and Adobe DRM support, into the Sony Reader product line.
For those publishers who require DRM capabilities, we have also debuted a new hosted service for content protection, Adobe ADEPT. More later on ADEPT and all the issues around DRM. I also want to highlight the Flex-based development of Digital Editions, which in many ways is Adobe’s first AIR (aka Apollo) style application. But that will also have to wait for another post.