As the capability of tablets and eReaders increases so does the demand of the consumer for higher quality content. The response has led to the development of methods for creating fixed layouts that preserve and render pages as they would appear in a printed document. To take advantage of the higher resolution color capabilities of its iPad, Apple became the first to focus on the fixed format. Then, with the release of its color version, Nook followed suit. As of November of last year, Amazon introduced its Kindle Fire that adapts well to the fixed format.
The critical difference between fixed layout and ePub is that the ePub allows the reader to change font size for better legibility. This flexibility comes at the expense of design and artistic merit. To answer the need for legibility, fixed format readers offer a means for magnifying the content. With the iPad, the user zooms in on text and images with standard iOS touch gestures. The Kids Book Builder for Nook is effectively a PDF that works off of page spreads and hidden text boxes which, when double-tapped, magnify the type for improved legibility. Built on HTML5, the children’s book format for Kindle Fire allows the reader to double-tap on text regions for magnification. Additionally, magnified regions can be set up to display alternate text.
Although the devices are similar, the requirements for their fixed layout format books are not. So what do you recommend for the client who wants to produce an effective sales piece for all three of these devices and possibly others. Adobe answered the need somewhat when it released the Digital Publication Suite. Sadly, the recently-released Single Edition only outputs to iPad’s format. On the other hand, if you have the Professional or Enterprise version, you can create custom viewer apps for Android and Amazon devices in addition to iPad. But it is not all that easy. You still need to build multiple renditions for the different devices.
On iOS viewers, content is scaled up to fit the screen. For Android, content is never scaled up. If you were to view a 1024×600 Kindle folio on a 1280×800 Android device it would appear with black bars on all sides. The iPad only accepts folios with a 4:3 ratio.
As of October 2012, Android device manufacturers appear to have settled on three model sizes: 1024×600, 1280×800, and 1920×1200. Devices that support 1024×600 are Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7, Kindle Fire, and Acer Iconia Tab. The list of supporting devices for the 1280×800 size include the Galaxy Tab 10.1, and 8.9, Motorola’s Xoom, Nexus 7, Kindle Fire 7″ HD, and Sony Tablet S. Then there are the XLarge screens (1920×1200) found on the Kindle Fire 8.9″ HD, Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, and Acer Iconia Tab. On the high side, there are rumors of a 2560×1600 Android device on the horizon.
On top of it all, you need to consider features not supported on the various devices. Panorama overlays, PDF articles, and inline videos are not supported on Android devices. I have yet to see what DPS overlay features carry over to the Kindle Fire. HTML content that works great on an iPad may be sluggish or unresponsive on Android devices.
This all makes the promise of Adobe’s Edge line of products even more interesting. Once you have created your Edge masterpiece, the PhoneGap Build service reportedly will be able to deploy the app to PC, Mac, iPad, Android, Nook Tablet, Blackberry and more.