Issuu: Cool online publishing (if you want to give your content away)

Just began my nightly ritual of scanning more feeds in Google Reader and discovered yet another fabulous tool for delivering content online: Issuu.

Issuu is the place for online publications: Magazines, documents, and stuff you’d normally find on print. It’s the place where YOU become the publisher. Upload a document, it’s fast, easy, and totally FREE. Within seconds you’ll have a super cool online magazine you can post anywhere on the web and share instantly with your friends.

Like Techcrunch said today, “Issuu is a PDF viewer that doesn’t suck.” Read the post and you’ll see that Erick Schonfeld actually, well, liked it.

So do I. A lot.

I have one problem with Issuu though: not everyone wants to give away their content for free. Some content? Yes. But the really valuable stuff people work hard to produce and we would like some value in return for that hard work (and there isn’t enough ad revenue to feed everyone). As it stands now, Issuu is clearly going for the YouTube-like crowd and trying to build a critical mass of users sharing, embedding and uploading (hopefully not other’s copyrights) content and everyone will be happy.

But I’m not happy. I want this tool but primarily to deliver published content, privately (e.g., subscribers only).

What I’ve said before publicly (and privately to heads of startups and established Web companies in content and tools) is that I’m incredibly enthused about public sharing sites and of having a place to deliver content for free. The network effect can clearly bring good content to the attention of potential customers. But Issuu, give those of us who have to monetize SOME or MOST of our content a “pro” version that we can pay for so high value content can be provided only to those willing to exchange value in return for it.

Of course, when I discuss this publicly I get into the inevitable argument with many ‘net-heads that insist that all content should be free, I should just get over it (my wanting to make money on content) and content value is falling to zero like long distance telephony. Curiously, these folks are the same ones I love to confront by asking, “So….you’re a top-flight programmer. Would you build my new web site for free and have it ready in a month?” Usually they’re stunned I’d ask such a question and their answer is, “Well…ahh…no!” I then rest my case.

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  1. claude on February 7, 2008 at 3:01 am

    Great post. I clearly follow your issues on value-exchange. But I could imagine that battling the established publishing industry would be like battling the music industry in the early days of mp3. They just don’t get it. There’s already an online site for commercial stuff called zinio, and I don’t think that ever will be a mainstream success because people can’t co-create with that site (only pay up and consume magazines that are flooded with ads).

    I think you are missing a fact about the Issuu project. I quick search online will show you there’s a lot of B2B companies that charges bundles for converting pdf to flash. By giving that away for free (and what a player Issuu has!) you could actually argue that there is in fact an exchange of value – namely that of content-for-presentation/exposure. And I assume you can always delete your stuff like you can on YouTube?

    OK – long comment, sorry! but as a former librarian I’m really interested in following this through.

  2. Steve Borsch on February 7, 2008 at 8:11 am

    @claude: I know about many of the other PDF-to-Flash conversion offerings, but there are few that offer easy one-stop-shop capabilities with embedding anywhere.

    I agree with, “you could actually argue that there is in fact an exchange of value – namely that of content-for-presentation/exposure” but I have at least 2 or 3 people a week contact me asking to “pick my brain” or get offers monthly to be on an advisory board. I can get all the work I want if I do it for free (and yes, I selectively choose some) and I can give all the content away I want for free too.

    The issue is that there are few, powerful AND AFFORDABLE tools to deliver high value, embeddable and reasonably secure, content delivery containers and Issuu has a nice container if all you want is exposure.

  3. Panzer on February 27, 2008 at 5:09 am

    I found a tool that let you convert your pdf file with more cool features than Issuu: Smartpaper.
    It’s copy protected, downloadble to your own hosting and accepts iperlinks!
    You can try it at

  4. john b on February 29, 2008 at 2:54 am

    i have to agree with you – in fact i wrote to issuu and asked them “so when can we have a paid version?” their response?

    “”””Features like the one(s) you mention are currently not on our drawing board, but if we see if a high demand for it we will consider supporting it somehow.

    Please stay tuned to our blog, where we post news and updates regularly.”””

  5. Kim T. Rasmussen on March 12, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    OK – we made the press release one week earlier in Denmark and PC Word, Denmark praised our service….the viewer don´t sucks and pur service is VERY complicated with online purchasing and license control – and a CMS for our customers.

    You can add value for business as customized welcome text – linking, download the 3D publication for local publishing (you can password portect this) and a free version for private and non-commercial associations – try the fully functional version for free –

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About Steve Borsch

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.