Mar 24 2014

Fast And Easy: Publ.com Brings Your Offline Content To The Web

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Your catalogue is ready, has been sent to the printery and waits to be turned into a physical product. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just take the same data and turn it into a full-fledged online version of it? It’s a pity, you can’t. Instead you are likely to produce a PDF and offer it for download. Or you’ll omit to put the offline content online completely. Publ.com can serve this and other requirements easily, thus turning out to be a good alternative in many regards. The more so, as it is incredibly easy to convert offline to online with it.

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Publ.com and FlippingBook in a Nutshell

Publ.com is a two-part cloud-based service. Part one is the FlippingBook Publisher, a Windows software. You’ll need to install this software locally and will then be able import next to any already available content and turn it into a FlippingBook. FlippingBook is how Publ.com calls the offline-to-online converted contents. Part two is Publ.com itself. Publ.com is a cloud in which the converted content, the FlippingBooks are hosted. The service works on Amazon Web Services, which guarantees a stable, fast and highly available environment for small to large projects. Reader apps for Android and iOS round off the offer.

Producing a FlippingBook is a matter of a few steps only. In our catalogue example we would simply import any print files, today almost always PDFs, into the FlippingBook Publisher, adjust a few parameters and export the results. We’d then have created a FlippingBook, which is named after the characteristical pageflip effect and its sceuomorphic looks on turning a page.

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This FlippingBook can now be made available in a variety of ways. You could publish it to your FTP server or store it locally. Or you could create a CD/DVD publication. In the latter case, FlippingBook will create the book as an .exe for Windows and an .app file for Mac OS. The best way to publish your FlippingBooks though, is the Publ.com cloud.

I don’t know about your FTP server and its capacities. Yet, if you publish large books on it, you might soon run out of space and delivery could turn into a waiting game. Publ.com lives in the highly scalable Amazon cloud, to make sure your content is distributed from the nearest possible location at the highest available speed. Publ.com also makes sure, that your customers need not download all the 2,500 pages of your fly-fishing supplies catalogue before they can even see one product. Publ.com loads your content incrementally and continues to do so in the background while your customers are browsing freely.

Content hosted on Publ.com can be consumed via reader apps for Android and iOS. The so-called Publ.com-Reader takes the content and resizes it perfectly for mobile clients. This addition has you reaching the widest possible audience. Just to get things straight. The Publ.com-Reader is not mandatory, as you can always read FlippingBooks from the web in HTML format. If you want to see the full desktop version or need to read offline, you should definitely give the free reader app a go.

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Screenshot from the Android app

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Another screenshot from the Android app

FlippingBook Publisher, Authoring Tool of the Bundle

FlippingBook Publisher comes in different flavors, with all of them depending on the Windows OS. Go for your own impression by downloading the free 30-day-trial software. The trial software is limited to ten pages and will embed a FlippingBook branding an each page, but already lets you use the Publ.com cloud service. The account is automatically closed after 30 days.

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The publishing software is always part of the various paid service plans on Publ.com, yet the feature set differs. The plans Basic, Professional and Business show sharp distinctions. What they all have in common is, that they function across platforms, are full text searchable, carry no ads and are SEO optimized.

If you want to import random file formats, embed Google Analytics, integrate a bookshelf for your various publications, deliver via HTTPS or restrict access to persons who know a special link url, you’ll need to choose FlippingBook Publisher Professional. This version allows you to host your content on a sub domain of Publ.com. As soon as you want to host your publications in multiple languages, password-restrict the access or create en editorial workflow for your team, FlippingBook Publisher Business is what you need to go for.

I downloaded the trial version of Publisher and did a quick test with a print-ready PDF. Although this file, originally created for the printery, had quite some weight, Publisher finished the import flawlessly and fast. By changing parameters from the properties bar to the left side of the application window, I was able to adjust the most crucial options quickly. Various pre-defined skins care for the basic design of your publication. All the available skins let your content look decent.

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Publisher works in WYSIWYG mode. While you edit, you can already see the final product. Whatever changes you make, the preview pane in the middle of the application window shows the final layout. To the right side of the content area you’ll find options to quickly browse between different pages of your publication as well as to quickly change the properties of single pages e.g. background color. Changing the background color – for that matter – will obviously only work on transparent imports, not with my completely print-ready PDF. Having imported several files into your project, you are entitled to decide whether these files shall be offered as additional downloads alongside their respective FlippingBooks.

With a little love, lust and tenderness you are able to create a visual experience, that comes as close to a real book experience as it can. Sceuomorphism has found a new refuge, now that Johny Ive is about to eradicate the concept. It’s not only books, though, that you can create with Publisher. The welcome screen has some proposals for you.

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I decided to go with the project type "Catalogue", which is recommended while you intend to publish business reports or – obviously – catalogues. Other types suit better for magazines or books. One template allows for the creation of a photo gallery with the guarantee, that nobody will be able to steal your images…

Take a look at examples of the different project types over at Publ.com.

FlippingBook Publisher: Where There is Light, …

Publisher is a handy tool. It is easy to use, fast and reliable. Results are not a matter of long hours of overtime, but can be achieved in a reasonable amount of time. But, just like always, not all that glitters is gold. There are a few weaknesses we shall not withhold.

One downside is the use of the proprietary Flash technology to base a FlippingBook upon. You might have already guessed it, as I spoke about the classical pageflip effect. Of course, still today all the browsers can handle Flash and the mobile world is covered by the reader apps for Android and iOS. Still, the future will definitely not be Flash. I don’t expect we’d need to argue on that…

Publ.com knows and automatically creates additional HTML versions of the FlippingBook contents. Although you don’t see it at first glance, just try it and open a publication in Mobile Safari. Is your browser capable enough, an HTML5 version will be loaded, if not you’ll see a basic HTML variant. This is not as nice as the Flash or HTML5 version, yet nobody gets left behind ;-)

If the publication is your product and you need a solution to sell your publications, Publ.com is not the best service to rely on. Of course, you can opt for the most expensive service plan and password-restrict your FlippingBooks, so that only people who bought them can read them. Yet, this is not a comfortable or even established solution in the self-publisher industry. You’d need to be able to sell your publication through the range of conventional platforms as well as the app stores for mobile devices. This is not what Publ.com can have you achieve.

To be fair I want to stress that the latter is not where Publ.com is aiming at. The target group of Publ.com definitely consists of those who want to distribute catalogues or other free publications with the sole pre-condition to spread them as far and wide and fast as possible. And that’s exactly what Publ.com does with no restrictions.

Publ.com, The Content Cloud

Alongside the different versions of FlippingBook Publisher, Publ.com offers three different paid service plans. The plan Basic of Publ.com including FlippingBook Publisher Basic sets you back 29 EUR monthly. Included are all the features of FlippingBook Publisher Basic plus 1 GB storage and 50 GB traffic. You are entitled to use the product on one single computer.

Cash out a monthly 39 EUR and you are subscribed to the Professional plan, including Publisher Professional plus 2 GB storage and 100 GB traffic. You are allowed to use the product on two machines simultaneously. Shelling out 69 EUR buys you the best standard service plan named Business. With 5 GB storage space and 250 GB traffic there shouldn’t be much, that you could be missing. This plan entitles you to use the product on three machines backed by an editorial team of up to five members. I already mentioned that you are able to rebuild your usual editorial workflow with this plan.

All prices are valid for six-month contracts. If you tie yourself to the service longer, you can claim discounts of up to 25 percent.

Publ.com is as easy as its desktop companion Publisher. A single click is sufficient to publish the finished FlippingBook to Publ.com. I couldn’t think of a much easier process. Even technical laymen are able to handle the solution without too many risk and effort.

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Not to be withheld are the numerous options to share the content with others. The reader apps allow you to share directly to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr or even vKontakte. Do you like a third-party publication, simply use its embed code to integrate it into your own website and support its distribution.

Especially interesting for product catalogues are features to embed videos and web links or even integrate a shopping cart directly into the publication or – the other way round – trigger an online shop from within a FlippingBook.

Conclusion: With Publ.com everybody is a publisher. Getting your content online is fast and easy. Even unexperienced laymen will soon achieve professional results. This is mainly due to the streamlined workflow of the very good FlippingBook Publisher. As far as Flash is concerned, Publ.com does not necessarily rely on a technology of the future, yet with additional HTML versions this flaw is ironed out. Even not so fresh browsers are supported without you having to take special care of it.

Publ.com is great in scenarios where very large amounts of contents need to published fast and wide-spread. The service is not so suitable for industries where the publication is the product in itself. Selling publications as such is not part of Publ.com’s DNA. Yet, if you are part of the target group, you cannot go completely wrong deciding between one of the various paid service plans…

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About the Author

Dieter Petereit is Noupe's Editor-In-Chief and a veteran of the web with over 25 years of experience in the world of IT. As soon as Netscape became available he started to do what already at that time was called webdesign and has carried on ever since. Almost a decade ago he started writing for several online publications, some well, some lesser known. Dieter is a heavy G-Plusser, so why not meet him over there?

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