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What’s Cool About Adobe Digital Editions 1.0

Today Adobe Systems announced the release of Adobe® Digital Editions 1.0, a new desktop application for “acquiring, managing and reading eBooks, digital newspapers, and other digital publications”. There’s so much that is cool about this app that it is hard to know where to start. But before diving into that, I should mention that Bluefire provided experience design and Flex development services to Adobe for the 1.0 version effort, so I’m not exactly “impartial”.

A good top level overview of the app can be found in Adobe’s press release, so I won’t regurgitate that in detail, rather I’ll give you a couple excerpted highlights of it, and then dive into my own personal (slightly more geeky) perspective.

“Leading publishers, online retailers and channel partners have announced their support for Adobe Digital Editions today (see separate quote sheet).”
“With native support for Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) and XML-based publications, Adobe Digital Editions already works seamlessly with more than 150,000 commercially published titles.”
“Adobe Digital Editions works in conjunction with Adobe Digital Editions Protection Technology (ADEPT), a new, hosted content protection service to guard publisher’s rights while maintaining superior ease-of-use for consumers.”
“Adobe Digital Editions now enables users to annotate content through bookmarks, highlights and text notes.”
“The library view offers advanced organization with multiple bookshelves.”
“The Adobe Digital Editions 1.0 download is less than 3MB and leverages Adobe Flash Player technology to enable quick installation as part of the content download.”
“…support for Adobe Flash® software promises to enhance digital publications through the integration of rich audio and video.”

OK, so here’s what I personally think is cool about it:
*It is an RIA: Adobe Digital Editions (ADE ) is a desktop application built on Adobe’s own RIA platform - talk about walking the walk.

*PDF in Flash - as in you can take a standard PDF file that you have on your machine and import it into the ADE library, and read it - not in Acrobat Reader, but in this Flash Player 9/Flex 2 based application itself. Now THAT is cool. This is one of the many fruits of the less than 1 year old Adobe/Macromedia union, and portends great things in the future for rich media developers.

*DRM: Ok, not everyone thinks DRM is all that cool, but as an owner of a company that does content and software development, I see some real upsides to having the OPTION of protecting digital assets - both from a retail distribution standpoint and as a means to easily exchange, distribute and view “private” digital content with more controls. And as a consumer, I like the idea that publishers might feel more comfortable offering their content in a digital format if they have a means to protect it from pirates. There is a ton of great print-only content out there that I personally would buy in digital form if I could.

*Flash media support: Flash content in digital books, magazines, newspapers, etc is a huge new opportunity for designers and Flash developers - essentially a new medium with large established players to engage. And I am personally excited about the prospects for great new forms of children’s content - both as a dad and as an experience designer. Now, add DRM to this mix and it gets really interesting. Here is a way to distribute (read “sell”) Flash based content to consumers. What can Flash do? Well, there’s images, photos, animation, video, sound, and interactivity there in the mix. I think there are a few commercial opportunities…

*Open standard file format support: I’m a big fan of open source and open standards. So it is great to see Adobe putting its substantial weight behind IDPF OPS (Open Publication Structure) by supporting it in ADE. Having an open standard helps the whole ePublishing space gain ground. And as it is an XHTML based format, it enables re-flowable content. This is big for Mobile devices -which will be one of the more compelling environments for consuming eBooks (imagine hanging on the beach in Belize with your entire library at your fingertips with light reading, travel guides, language dictionaries, etc)

*Bookmarks on steroids: ADE 1.0 allows you to not only bookmark a page location, it allows you to bookmark a single word, a sentence, or any block of text. When you do that, it highlights the bookmarked range so that you can easily find it later. Also, when you select text and bookmark it, you get an excerpt of the selected text automatically added to your bookmarks list. This is a really powerful feature that makes adding useful bookmarks almost effortless. And you can add extended notes to your bookmarks. Later you can view both the document location and the notes by clicking on the bookmark in your list, or by double clicking on the highlighted text in the content.

I look forward to seeing what people do with it!

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