7 Replies Latest reply on Apr 24, 2012 7:28 PM by VanGrenade

    DPS Feedback From Client: A Book Publisher's Perspective

    fetopher Level 1




      I thought it might be helpful to both Adobe and other publishers to post some real-world feedback from one of our clients.



      But first, some background:



      We are a book publisher moving into the realm of book apps. Our book apps or not at all like their printed counterparts and mix in a bunch of new content and interactive features. Our apps are also not like magazines, which is what DPS feels like it was designed for.



      We've been doing some testing with DPS, especially as it relates to a business model for us and our clients. We've also been testing resolutions, and figuring out the differences between single-issue and multi-issue apps.



      I posted an overview of where our tests led us in terms of single vs. multi, here:




      and I posted some resolutions tests to see if an iPad 1/2 resolution app would look "good enough" on an iPad 3 (or the new iPad), here:




      and finally an overview of what we hope Adobe will do with single-issue apps and renditions, here:




      Below is a continuation of our DPS discovery process. At the same time we are exploring HTML5/CSS3/Javascript development with Baker. Although we've developed our own webapps, run everything in Amazon's cloud (ec2, s3) and have a development team familiar with everything needed to get a book app out via HTML, we are giving DPS a fair shot because we've invested so much money in Adobe's software and we'd rather our production team handle book apps instead of our development team.



      With all of that said as a backdrop, we presented an interested client with the option of publishing two single-issue apps (iPad 1/2 and iPad 3) or publishing one multi-issue app.



      Pricing wise, we kept our design fees the same with either option. The only pricing difference was $395x2 for the single-issue app route vs. a monthly charge to help us offset Adobe's monthly charge for the multi-issue app.



      The questions from the client and answers from us went like this, in roughly this order:



      Q: With the single-issue app, we don't pay an ongoing monthly fee?

      A: Correct. It's just the up-front per-app fee.



      Q: And in the multi-issue app arrangement, it doesn't matter how little our sales trickle in 6-9 months down the line, we're still paying the monthly fee if we want to have the app for sale at all?

      A: Yes.



      Q: Does either option limit us in terms of how long the app will be available for download?

      A: No. Both options allow for ongoing sales of the app. The primary difference being you pay monthly to keep the app "alive" for multi-issue apps whereas single-issue apps live indefinitely with no monthly cost.



      Q: So it seems like single-issue apps are the way for us.

      A: From a pricing standpoint alone, yes, because most of your app sales will occur in the first month or two and single-issue apps do not carry any monthly costs down the line. That said, single-issue apps have some serious limitations.



      Q: Like?

      A: For starters, we would have to develop two apps to target iPad 1/2 and iPad 3.



      Q: So the customer would have to make the choice? We are expecting the customer to get  technical and figure out which app is for their device?

      A: Yes. Renditions only exist in multi-issue apps, currently.



      Q: Let's suppose we can get over that because eventually we will want to develop an Android version and a Kindle Fire version and in that case we are expecting customers to know which app works on their device...

      A: Let me stop you there. Single-issue apps only work for iPad.



      Q: So if we go the single-issue route, we simply can't ever develop an Android or Kindle Fire app?

      A: Not as a single-issue app for any other platform than iPad. If it was essential you release on other platforms, we could look into converting the single-issue app into a multi-issue app later on, although we'd be looking at that monthly charge again.



      Q: Right, which simply doesn't make sense for our app because of its timely nature.

      A: We agree. Let's give up developing for other platforms for now and even indefinitely and focus in on just the iPad single-issue app development.



      Q: Okay. So we release two apps, one for iPad 1/2 and one for iPad 3 using single-issue apps. What if we want to update the app down the road? Do we update both apps at once?

      A: Actually, with single-issue apps, you can't update the app. Once it's submitted to Apple, it's locked in once and for all. Only multi-issue apps can be updated.



      Q: That's another serious issue for us. Are there any other limitations we haven't discussed?

      A: There are two more limitations: 1) Single-issue apps rely on the latest version of Adobe Content Viewer approved by Apple. Currently, version 19 of Adobe's DPS tools work with the Adobe Content Viewer that's approved and live in the App Store. That means we can develop your app using v19 of Adobe's tools but will have to hold off on updating to v20. This isn't so much a real issue as a potential issue. If, for example, v20 has some killer feature you really want to have, we simply couldn't use it. 2) Single-issue apps have no analytics.



      Q: With all of these limitations, we're going to have to discuss internally which way to go. What's your recommendation?

      A: All things considered, we think single-issue apps is the best solution now for your app. We have no exact target sales numbers in mind, but it's almost a certainty you will sell 80% of all app sales in the first 1-2 months. Knowing you want to keep the app available indefinitely means a single-issue app is the only way to go.



      After two days and a few conference calls, the client decided to move forward with two single-issue apps, although a bit begrudgingly. We didn't pull any punches and let them know we expect Adobe to spend some time refining their pricing strategy and unifying the feature set as the technology starts to grow up. At this point, the seemingly wonky pricing structure and feature parity is the cost of being on the bleeding edge.



      And we are now jumping into developing the app with DPS for our client. I should say, however, we are also working quickly to come up with a viable HTML5 route for publishing to avoid Adobe's system altogether. At this point I anticipate we will move to HTML in the next 2-5 months if Adobe's pricing/features don't start to move toward what we need. If we do jump to HTML, the answer to most clients' questions will be, "we can do that; for cheap; on all devices" and so on, which is a pretty attractive thing.



      This ended up being considerably longer than I had originally envisioned, but my hope is it is useful for Adobe in refining the product and helpful for other publishers just starting down the DPS path.





        • 1. Re: DPS Feedback From Client: A Book Publisher's Perspective
          mobly Level 3

          Hi Chris, are you being fair to your client regarding ongoing monthly fee's, Adobe only charge per download, not a flat monthly fee, so if most downloads come in the first month or so, as you say then there would be litle cost if downloads were minimal, there after.


          Single issue Apps do have analytics if you are a pro-user. I sounds like you will be doing a few apps, so it would make financial sense to invest in the pro-licence, especially as you can pay monthly.




          • 2. Re: DPS Feedback From Client: A Book Publisher's Perspective
            fetopher Level 1




            Agreed. It wouldn't be right for us to pass on Adobe DPS' entire monthly charge to one client, and we have no plans to do so. We are still fine tuning the amount we would pass on to each client.



            From our perspective, we are hesitant to invest anything at all in the multi-issue route because other paths to digital publishing/apps are looking more and more attractive. If we put out a handful of DPS multi-issue apps now (say, 4-5) then jump to HTML in 3-6 months, we will have to maintain Adobe's monthly fee indefinitely for the first 4-5 apps. It's as if we are paying Adobe for the right to be locked into paying Adobe monthly. No thanks.



            From the client's perspective, even if the monthly amount we pass on is minimal, simple math shows at some point monthly sales will not cover the monthly carrying cost. When that point comes is pretty crucial to figure out, but it's likely it will come in month 2 or 3, which means the client would be forced to pull the app from the app store just 2-3 months after its release.



            I keep trying to find a parallel for the business model in this new book app world. What is Adobe's role if we were talking traditional book publishing?



            - The book store? No, that's the role of whichever app store the app is sold through (Apple's App Store, Android Market, etc.).

            - The distributor? Possibly, since you could consider Adobe hosting the files as a type of distribution service (although, I'd prefer to host it all myself). If Adobe is the distributor, $0.30/download seems reasonable.

            - The press? I suppose this could be argued since Adobe takes an input of files and outputs an app like a press takes an input of files and outputs a printed product. That's sorta like a press. But if that's the case, a per app fee (or even a per download fee) makes more sense than a monthly carrying cost. We don't pay our presses monthly after they've printed our books for the right to sell them. 



            Obviously, there's a flaw in thinking about this new world in old ways, but I'd still like to figure out exactly what Adobe's role is and why we (or our clients) would pay Adobe monthly. If, for example, Adobe's pricing scheme was something more like $400 per app created (with all features like renditions, updates, social sharing, etc.) + $0.30 per download to host the file with an option to bypass Adobe's (shaky) hosting service, we'd jump into DPS with no reservations and be publishing dozens of apps per year. Instead, we're dabbling with publishing one app and working as quickly as possible to find other solutions, which would eventually lead to converting our Adobe Create Suite based production team to an HTML/CSS/Javascript team.





            • 3. Re: DPS Feedback From Client: A Book Publisher's Perspective
              Neil Enns - Adobe Adobe Employee



              Thanks for your very detailed post. Sorry for the delay in replying, but I was waiting for yesterday's announcements to happen Hopefully the information about Single Edition being included as part of Creative Cloud in the near future will help with the cost issues you raised above. As for the issues with renditions and single edition publications, particularly on the new iPad, I hear your pain and it's something we are definitely trying to address.



              • 4. Re: DPS Feedback From Client: A Book Publisher's Perspective
                fetopher Level 1



                Thanks for following up on this discussion. Yes, the announced Creative Cloud pricing structure completely wipes out my concerns on pricing.

                • 5. Re: DPS Feedback From Client: A Book Publisher's Perspective
                  fetopher Level 1

                  I meant to go on to say...


                  Now if single-issue apps could include all the features of multi-issues apps, we would be all set.




                  • 6. Re: DPS Feedback From Client: A Book Publisher's Perspective
                    BobLevine MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                    Maybe Creative Cloud CS7? <g

                    • 7. Re: DPS Feedback From Client: A Book Publisher's Perspective
                      VanGrenade Level 1

                      I agree completely that mixing features and pricing structures for products that are relatively similar, is not the way to go. Even the most basic app submission service should include: integration with all InDesign features that make it easy to create versions (either portrait and landscape, or higher res, lower res, or both) without doing it all by hand... and the option to update app information on the Apple store without paying another fee. Not talking about an upgrade but rather something akin to making a series of corrections, adding a free tip, whatever. Maybe put a time limit on it as to how long after the initial update it can be made, and limit it to 1 update so people don't abuse it.