Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Flip Books. Hey, I want to make a flipping book!

Some predict the digital age will wipe out print books. For a fresh point of view that challenges this assumption, see Books in the age of the iPad by Craig Mod.

Two clients are integrating digital publishing, one for books and one for employee manuals and the flipping pages effect came up. Apple put the spotlight on this feature with the iPad's page-turner (heh). A little history: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/01/apple-tablet-ebook/

What is it?  Flip books create the sensation you are reading a paper book by turning pages rather than scrolling through content online. My partner gets confused these days from swapping between her iPad and hardcovers -- she occaisionally taps a book on the upper right corner and wonders why it won't turn the page.

Flip books in action
Product catalog
- includes table of contents, bookmarks, email, download, print
Glossy Magazine - embedded hotlinks, video, social sharing
Educational Book - add your own notes, bookmarks, highlight

Who is this for? If you publish brochures, catalogs, manuals, magazines, adding a flip book can make it more enjoyable, sexier and more useful with the ability for visitors to add their own notes, share and download the content.

If you are a book publisher (or  have decided to take advantage of digital technology to become one) getting into digital means understanding the formats and how to produce them. Start with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_e-book_formats  Next, Google "ebook publishing services" and "ebook publishing software". Adobe seems to be in the process of creating a comprehensive service http://www.adobe.com/digitalpublishing/

Have a story you always wanted to tell? These three articles are for you:

Review of Flip Book Providers 

Virtual_Paper _Online_Publishing 

Virtual Paper

The first provider had very nice glossy magazines in the showcase and a well-branded name: Virtual Paper Online Publishing Platform.

Check out Mlle Figaro magazine. Click on the table of contents items to go to a page.  Very slick.  There is a 14-day free trial, and to publish one book (which you can embed on your site as well as their hosting it for a year) is only $119 a year at this writing. Such a deal!

The representative emailed me back with answers to my questions within a working day.

Requirements: You have to provide your content in PDF format. They will convert it to HTML web pages with Flash.  Oh no! Steve Jobs does not like Flash anymore.  It is okay, the content is visible (but not flipping) for iPhone and iPad users and is also SEO friendly.

What's special about this one?  Ideal for commercial magazines and publications. Beautiful presention, designed to be seductive and shared.  Navigate through content via a table of contents that displays a screenshot of each page. In other words, image-media-rich content.

I did not dive into the 14-day trial but will add the results here if I do.

Flip Viewer

The second well-referenced site was Flip Viewer, another on-line flip book publishing service.  Not as slick, but they offer a Flip Book for $99 a year with hosting, or again, the option to add the book to your own site. You can also download and put the book on CD's, USB keys and your computer. A cool feature was the ability to add notes and a text table of contents in addition to the thumbnail navigation.

What's special about this one?  I liked the Grammar lesson book because it demonstrates bookmarks and a nifty yellow highlighter. This is very user-friendly for training or educational materials. 

I did not dive into the 7-day trial but will report back if I do.

Flipping Book aka Page-Flip.com

Flipping Book is a Web 2.0 friendly software provider who has publishing software you download, plus plugins for WordPress and Joomla! CMS.  The software price is competitive with the online services starting at $199.

Although only basic technical skills are needed, for power users there is an extension for Adobe Flash (but you would have to know how to use Flash, and that is like having a commercial pilot's license). Dreamweaver and I are closer than my nearest relative, but I can just barely change an image in Flash.

The demo kitchen catalog has a pretty display of thumbnail or chapters 

Being a big Joomla! fan, I downloaded the Joomla! component and installed it. Now to make the book. You need to translate your pages to .jpg or Flash files (.swf). Flipping Book provided the great tip to use a free tool to convert PDF to SWF - awesome!  Works on Linux - more awesome! We love you SWFTOOLS.

Following the How-To, I had my first book converted from .doc to .pdf (via Adobe Photoshop) and from PDF to .swf (with SWFTOOLS), uploaded to the site, ordered the pages,created a book and linked to it from the menu in a flash...  You can also use any image file, like .jpg if you want to skip the Flash part. But then the PDF has to be opened in Photoshop and each page saved separately as a .jpg in the right size. Beware: 
you have create a .jpg in two sizes if you want a small book and a zoom. So budget time depending on the amount of pages to produce.

What's special about this one? The plugins for Joomla! and WordPress make this a convenient way to add a flip book to your blog or site. The site provides more details about the benefits and differences between using their software and the online services.

Conclusion:  Flip book technology has matured to a point where it is not too difficult or expensive to add a smoothly-functioning, user-friendly version to your own digital offerings.