Flipbooks seem to fare better than large PDF files. So what’s the catch?
Two of my clients regularly publish sizable .PDF files, yet download rates of the files keep falling.
In both cases the documents are free and don’t require registration, so the barriers aren’t cost or a hyperthyroid list of questions.
Instead, I’d guess one or more of the following apply:
- Readers are increasingly using mobile devices (which are memory & bandwidth constrained, making large PDF files undesirable)
- Website visitors fear malware exposure
- Readers want to quickly view the first page of a document to judge its relevance, and large PDF files don’t facilitate quick viewing
- PDF files are static (for better or worse, people want eye candy)
- PDF files are still difficult to navigate and read
To try and boost the viewing rate, we converted several PDF documents into a flash-based flipbook format (the toolbar still offers the option of a PDF download).
It’s too early to run victory laps — we’ve barely begun marketing the format — but viewing numbers for one client are up, and reader feedback has been positive. (Here’s a sample document from client #2.)
Testing has been easy; the conversion from PDF files (still offered as a download option) to flipbooks has been largely pain-free, thanks to this software.
If your PDF is in good shape, conversion is relatively fast, and it generates a folder of items which we simply upload to our own web server. (For now we’re avoiding paid flipbook hosting sites; we prefer hosting our own long-term files instead of placing them on a service that may someday disappear.)
Simply put, we’re off to a good start. But we’re suffering a few growing pains.
Issue #1: Smartphones
Our PDF ==> flipbook software reverts from flash to HTML on mobile devices, which is OK for 10″ tablets, but not for smartphone screens where the text becomes unreadable. I suspect the files won’t be legible on the coming wave of 7″ tablets.
To beat this issue, we’re looking at HTML5-based solutions, which are intriguing but still pretty new. Almost all mobile browsers support HTML5, which does allow these files to translate nicely to the small screen.
Unfortunately, we’re still looking for the right product, and creating multiple versions of the same flipbook for different devices feels inelegant and expensive.
We’re not there, but I suspect we’ll find a solution soon.
Issue #2: Longevity of Flash
Flash-based flipbooks are common today, but what happens in five years? In many ways, Flash is already becoming a legacy technology (it’s not used on iOS devices). According to my web developer friends — who uniformly dislike it — when your browser crashes, odds are it was Flash.
HTML5 offers the oomph to neatly replace it, and without Adobe’s meddlesome presence. Yet HTML5 is still an immature standard.
Life, it seems, is hardly ever simple.
Today’s Lesson: Never Sit Still
We haven’t whipped this one yet; the flipbook solution is a decent stopgap and the client thinks we’re wizards. Also in the plus column; we haven’t spent a lot of money and we retained control of our files.
Both clients want to expand our use of flipbooks, and we’re creating a workflow that will minimize the time investment.
But we’re still failing when it comes to small mobile devices.
When we find a solution, I’ll tell you.
Flipbooks For Copywriters?
The PDF-to-flipbook conversion works nicely; I might even incorporate it into my online portfolio.
Using PDF files to display writing samples impressed, but a flipbook — which easily showcases the overall document yet allows zooming to read text — might be just the ticket.
The “pro” version of the software also allows you to embed video, creating the potential for a nice online portfolio where you offer on-demand explanations of your work (or your capabilities, or maybe just to make excuses).
Keep writing (and testing new stuff), Tom Chandler.