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Well about time. Adobe finally understands the digital universe, it seems. In practical terms, anyone who has tried to read a double column pdf document online knows what I mean. It’s almost pointless, except for those producing photocopiers and for publishers fearing for their lives.

Ted Nelson, recently a visiting fellow at Oxford, has been talking about the misapplication of the digital alternative for years.

(see comment 4)

But of course it could have been Adobe and pdf’s point and attractiveness to investors in the first place – effectively slowing the digital environment enough for the likes of Murdoch to catch up with it.

Locking digital to the print universe is as dishonest as the inflated cost to consumer of a hardcover (hardcovers and paperbacks have always been close in terms of production cost), but the exploitation of consumers’ naivete continues. To print publishing this sort of talk is heresy, even more to the owners.

The truth is, print and digital both will benefit from freeing digital from print constraints – and publishers won’t lose, they will get another very productive arm to their business. Look at film and DVDs. There is always talk of piracy, but in real terms very little of it overall shows up. Still, the retro-heads of the print publishing industry bang the doom drum because they can’t see round the digital corner.

But if life were as simple as fitting solutions to problems London would be filled with bicycles. Instead middle aged out-of-condition novelists with nothing better to do go on radio to denounce cyclists for the ‘appalling’ dangers they present (to my knowledge not one person has been killed by a cyclist…since 1920 how many have cars killed?).

It’s the same with digital publishing, many discoursing dangers that have never existed.



  1. Right on! For years Adobe has been churning out these unreadable pages online.

  2. Glad someone agrees. We should stop using the format, force them to change their ideas.

  3. That was kind of fun when I approached Ted Nelson with a PDF version of his books. He replied, “I am extremely prejudiced against PDF and want nothing to do with it.”

    Further recommended webwatching (1h30 at U of Oxford):


  4. Ted believes my publishing approach is not going into it enough and said:

    I think it’s deeper than that. The public, and publishers,
    and executives everywhere, have believed what the tekkies
    told them. The package delivered by PARC (which I call
    the PUI, or PARC user interface, and others call the
    Modern GUI) turned the computer into a paper simulator
    and “desktop” because
    – Xerox was a paper-walloping company, could only think
    in those terms
    – the abstraction of “desktop” and “folders” was not for
    the man in the street, as they claimed, but for Xerox
    upper management, who were clueless (I have this confirmed)
    – Bob Taylor, head of PARC, needed to please his bosses
    – Taylor, long on organization but short on imagination,
    accepted (and selected) what the lads presented him.

    Chuck Simonyi (with Bravo, later called Microsoft Word)
    and John Warnock (with Interpress, which became Adobe)
    were only bricks in this facade.

    However, I am still trying to find out why they kept point sizes–
    wouldn’t you like to increase things by a percentage?
    My suspicion is that Warnock wanted to make an alliance
    with the type foundries to build his empire.


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