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Where Does Adobe Acrobat Fit in Publishing?

© 2002 Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D.

Last month, Mary Embree mentioned that it's best to prepare your book files for the book printer by using Adobe Acrobat, and Mary is absolutely right. The experienced book printers now prefer to receive book files in Acrobat PDF format. Why? Because that format translates well from computer to computer and from printing device to printing device. The digital printers who print extremely short runs use the PDF files directly to print out the books. The longer run printers use the PDF files to create the plates necessary for their presses.

Why is this a big deal? In earlier years, when we sent Word or PageMaker files directly to a book printer, we saw font and pagination problems. Our bluelines flew back and forth several times, and only FedEx benefited. Our printing schedules were slowed every time we ran into a new problem in the printout.

Thank goodness for Adobe Acrobat. Now, whether we use PageMaker, Quark or Word to prepare the book files initially, we can set Acrobat to embed the fonts and prepare the PDF files for a press printing. After we print the PDF files to confirm the pagination, we send off those files knowing that they should print the same way at the printer. (Of course, we check the digital proofs or press bluelines anyway, just to be sure.)

Adobe Acrobat Files For E-Books

The e-book industry is young and still using several different electronic formats, but a large proportion of e-book publishers are publishing in PDF format. PDF files have the advantage that everyone can read them on a PC or a Mac without additional investment. The files are reasonably small when they contain only text, so they download quickly.

After an e-book buyer simply downloads and installs the free Adobe Acrobat Reader (, he can read every e-book in PDF format. This sure beats the formats requiring a $300 investment for an e-book reader!

Adobe Acrobat Files for the Web

Web pages are built by using HTML to format pages containing text and graphics. These pages are built specifically for viewing on a monitor, and they often don't print out well. This is not a problem for most pages, but when the Web site owner wants his catalog or price list or press kit to print the same way on every printer, he won't be happy with Web pages in HTML.

Here we have another situation in which the publisher of the information wants to control the way his information prints out on someone else's printer. Again Adobe Acrobat fills the bill. Whenever we want to publish online so that every viewer can print a well-formatted copy, we can use Adobe Acrobat to create a PDF file, then add a link to that PDF file from our Web page. Using our PDF files, every viewer can print out our catalog as beautifully as we can.

The $249 cost of Adobe Acrobat sounds a bit high, given that we don't use it for hours at a time. The value of the service Acrobat provides, however, is very high. Adobe Acrobat allows us to prepare an electronic file readable by anyone with a PC or a Mac and printable on every printer. That's value!

~ Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D. is an Information Architect who publishes both in print and online. Contact her at or visit her Web site at



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