If you ask most publishers of any content (books, journals, magazines, newspapers, etc.) if their content is mobile compliant, almost 100 percent of them will say yes. They would say that being mobile ready means being optimized for mobile, PDF, EPUB, and mobi formats. Well, there are many levels and definitions for anyone’s content as being ready for mobile. Each of the options above have their strengths and weaknesses, but most important is how their limitations affect the reader’s ability to have a full multimedia experience on a mobile device.
A good industry friend of mine, Max Riggsbee, the chief product officer of Gadget Software, has studied the art of reading via mobile devices over the last few years. He developed a hypothesis around the best practices for publishers to present their content on mobile devices, establishing the following four rules:
Since the launch of the smartphone in 2007, its capabilities have moved from simple texting and phone calls to managing our banking, streaming music, movies, videoconferences, and so on. The mobile device has emerged as the dominant medium for communication. ComScore has reported that mobile-device sales have surpassed 4.2 billion units globally, and mobile represents 58.7 percent of the overall media minutes between mobile, desktop, and tablet. One cannot dispute the data that smartphone technology has changed the world user community’s behavior. Paul Armstrong’s book Disruptive Technologies provides a detailed definition and examples of technology, behavior, and data. The data shows us the path of the behavior and how technology has led the way.
Let’s take a look at each of the current reading options for the mobile, small-screen device.
The PDF is now a quarter century old. Established in 1993, it was born out of the PostScript page-description language. While the PDF serves several functions and acts as a very reliable container file that can be sent, received, and stored on multiple devices, it does not provide an optimum reading experience on a small-screen device. Even Phil Ydens of the PDF Association has admitted that the PDF is not the best format for such a device (watch his keynote talk from the 2015 PDF Technical Conference, available on YouTube). To read a PDF on a small-screen device, you have to do a lot of pinching and zooming and must move the PDF object around to read it in a linear fashion. Forget about having multimedia mobile features within the PDF.
The beloved EPUB format has many advantages over the PDF, but it too has its limitations on the small-screen device.
There are some strict requirements for creating the archive for EPUB, and creating documents does take some prior knowledge. You must understand the syntax of XML and XHTML 1.1 as well as how to create a style sheet.
A user with the proper software can create a PDF document without any programming knowledge at all; however, with EPUB, you need to know the basics of the associated languages to build valid files (see https://www.lifewire.com/epub-vs-pdf-3467286). Just as important, the EPUB format does not make it easy to add multimedia functions to the environment.
The mobi format that Amazon uses for its book platform to provide the reader text-only material is pretty good; however, it has limitations. It lacks the multimedia features that smartphones provide to the user community.
A couple of years ago, Google recognized that mobile usage was surpassing desktop and tablet usage, and it wanted to ride the mobile wave. To stay in step with the dramatic increase of mobile usage, it established Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (Google AMPs). The Accelerated Mobile Pages Project is an open-source initiative that makes it easy for publishers to create mobile-friendly content once and have it load instantly everywhere.
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