REVIEW: Adobe Digital Publishing Suite

Prices and Editions

The major complaint against Adobe Digital Publishing Suite when it was first released was the price—thousands of dollars in annual fees and hundreds of dollars in monthly fees, which restricted the product to top-tier publishers. Adobe later announced a DPS Single Edition product with a much-reduced price, but the product is still priced for serious publishers.

The DPS Single Edition is $395 and covers one edition of a publication or book. Content is built into the publication so ending the service does not kill the published product. All the services included with the DPS are available except the Analytics Service, and they are restricted to a single edition. Not only that, but the Single Edition also published to only the Apple iPad. Very small publications might find the price too high—a publication with a cover price of $1.00 will need to sell almost 400 digital copies to break even. Publications with advertising on the page can do better by promoting their extended reach in digital publications and earn more revenue that way.

I think Adobe will need to get the price down even further if they want the DPS to be as ubiquitous as Acrobat and Photoshop, but I also understand why they want to target major publishing markets, where revenue opportunities are the highest.

Serious publishers can purchase the DPS Professional Edition, which is the primary product in the DPS lineup. Users can publish multiple editions and publish to all devices including Android and BlackBerry. Standalone apps can also be published, suitable for books and one-shot publications that don’t need periodical distribution. One really nice perk is the ability to rebrand the Content Viewer with custom icons and splash screens. DPS Professional Edition is priced at $495 per month plus an annual service fee contingent on the number of edition downloads a customer needs. 25,000 downloads is considered small and priced at $5,500 per year, while a major publisher needing 500,000 downloads will pay $60,000.

Publishers who need even more flexibility and distribution can buy into the DPS Enterprise Edition, which is $3,995 per month for up to three publications or $8,995 per month for unlimited publications. This includes only 5,000 downloads but can be upgraded to one million downloads for $80,000 or a whopping $300,000 for five million. These numbers sound astronomical but Enterprise customers get a lot for their money, including API access for custom integration with commerce and subscription systems, Adobe tech support, customization of viewers and storefronts, application development, mobile ad integration, workflow automation and volume discounting.

The DPS Professional and Enterprise Editions come with a caveat. Because the product is usually a single app with multiple publications being pushed to it, discontinuation of the DPS can result in an “empty” app with no editions available. In some cases, end users can download content directly to the device and retain it locally.

The Future of the Digital Publishing Suite

Adobe seems to be doing well with the Digital Publishing Suite in terms of top-end market penetration: 14 of the 20 top-grossing publications in the iTunes Newsstand are produced with Adobe DPS. These include:

3. New Yorker Magazine
4. Men’s Health
5. National Geographic
7. GQ
10. Consumer Reports
11. Wired (DPS launch title)
12. Martha Stewart (DPS launch title)

Adobe also has several features on its roadmap to include with DPS in future versions:

  • Customizable tables of contents
  • Search across multiple editions
  • Social integration
  • Liquid layouts
  • Location and Gyroscope API access for location- and orientation-aware publications
  • Ad workflows and ad server integration on Android and RIM devices

Some goals in Adobe’s roadmap have changed in light of the discontinuation of Flash Player on mobile devices and the difficulties RIM is having with weak PlayBook sales and general loss of market share. It’s fortunate Adobe adopted a cross-platform approach early on with the DPS and continues to publish to iOS devices such as Apple’s iPad, which I think will continue to dominate the tablet market for the foreseeable future.

Conclusion

It’s hard to put a rating on such an expansive service like the Digital Publishing Suite. There are so many components to it that judging the whole process seems to do a disservice to the product. I will say that no one part of the DPS stood out as a weak link—almost all the services and apps are solid and quite robust for being such a young product. There is a lot of room for improvement however, particularly in streamlining the user experience in InDesign and making it a fun process for graphic designers, and also adding new functionality to the web applications.

It’s a very exciting time to be a publisher, and I wonder if this is the beginning of a major transformation in the industry like what desktop publishing did in the 1980s and 1990s. Those days seem long gone now, though they have never really left us. I think “cloud publishing” could be the next transformation. Adobe calls it “digital publishing” but I think they are very similar, and I think Adobe is in a good position to succeed with it.

Adobe Digital Publishing Suite
Adobe Systems
US$395 and up
Rating: 8/10