Web App Publishing: Quark PressRun vs. Adobe DPS

Written by Erik Vlietinck

Create a web app with Adobe DPS or use an HTML5-based solution like Quark’s PressRun — here’s how and why.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) recently found a way to present its content to mobile users who don’t have an Apple iTunes account.

Instead of developing with Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite (DPS), the BMJ created a web app with Mobile IQ’s PressRun — now Quark-owned. It built a publishing platform for tablets and other mobile hardware.

BJM claims it’s able to serve more users and avoid Apple’s steep fees.

PressRun under Quark is still a cloud-based tablet and mobile publishing platform  — it uses HTML5 and XML-based workflows to deliver an interactive experience across multiple devices.

The BMJ tablet app is optimised for the Apple iPad and is free to subscribers and, get this, for British Medical Association (BMA) members even without an Apple iTunes account. That’s a lot of people.

It’s a big deal. The BMJ is the first European medical journal to offer a Web application to its subscribers, in addition to an Apple iPad app it launched in 2010. That also was PressRun produced — and it’s at 40K downloads at this writing. Not bad.

ABOVE: This Puck cartoon from November 21, 1888, shows printing devils pouring out of printing presses.

The new tablet web app gives BMJ subscribers access to the journal with video and audio directly from the Web browser on their Apple iPad.

With key content from the weekly print issues designed for tablet reading, the BMJ tablet app also supports offline reading. With about 40 percent of mobile traffic to bmj.com coming from iPad users and just over 17 percent originating from mobile devices with Android operating systems, the BMJ Group opted for Apple’s tablet as the first device to implement their digital publishing strategy. Decent strategy.

PressRun is a cloud-based system for web apps and native tablet apps.

A web app aims to provide the same rich user experience as a native app, but within a browser and without having to go through an app store. Most of today’s publishers use Adobe InDesign to create layouts for print and digital publishing, so a logical thought would be to create such an app with Adobe’s DPS.

But many publishers wouldn’t come near Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite (DPS). There may be several different reasons to choose PressRun over Adobe DPS (or other app builders for that matter):

  • HTML5 instead of PDF: small file sizes, searchable text
  • HTML5-based makes cross platform portability quicker and easier
  • Cloud-based
  • Author-agnostic so content can come from InDesign, directly as HTML5 or as XML
  • Designed for automation. Large enterprises and journal publishers cannot afford to handcraft every piece of content in InDesign. PressRun can paginate app content from XML so that 90% might be automatically assembled with just a few “hero” pages created in InDesign.
  • UK-based Mobile IQ, the original developers of PressRun, have been designing award-winning user interfaces for mobile devices, including apps such as the BBC News app, the one that set the standard for news app interfaces
  • It’s not such a good idea to have all of your content locked into a proprietary system. The risk of lock-in can be mitigated by using a different platform.

In a PressRun XML-based workflow, well-designed templates get filled on the fly and distributed to the iPad app. The app itself is stationed on the PressRun platform and the XML/template streaming portion is part of it.

The whole process uses a high level of automation for which there currently are few alternatives besides creating things manually. PressRun is often used for scientific, technical, medical (STM) and other structured publications, where managed content is a strong component.

For aNewDomain.net, I’m Erik Vlietinck.

Images courtesy: PressRun.com