A thought-provoking podcast from Brooks Jensen on PDFs, over at Lenswork. Brooks pitches the PDF as the next big thing for publishing and the medium where photographers who are interested in working on the cutting edge should be publishing their work. I've heard Brooks talk about PDFs in the past as a great means for publishing but he seems to be going further this time. I assume that's the experiences he's gained with the Lenswork Extended product. Typically photographers think about the published, physical book as the ultimate end goal, but here the PDF is put forward as a better option, particularly as a means of distribution. I've produced a few PDFs and it is a good experience to go through, making the selections, doing the layout and editing. It does always feel home-made - without that stamp of authority that a publisher, other than yourself, gives to work.
But here the argument is made that the PDF is worthwhile goal in of itself, which certainly matches well with the goal of SoFoBoMo. Even there, the PDF decision often can feel like a forced compromise - we'd all really like to have it be a 'real' book, not an electronic file. But perhaps the PDF can be thought of as a higher goal than a printed book. More opportunity try new things. Perhaps even mix in audio with the images. Also, thinking on last year, I was able to see over 50 photographic books, that I'd never be able to see if I had to buy them - because of the cost, and the physical space required to store them. PDF certainly enables more people to see the work. Given how few of my pictures see print, PDF probably makes even more sense. There is the downside that the resolution of a PDF isn't currently as good as physical book. Also you've got the issues of controlling the viewing environment - you have no idea what sort of screen or calibration is being used to look at the end product.
At the same time, photography always feels like a successive series of disappointments, or reduction in quality. The images in your head aren't often as good as the image on the back of the camera. Those small images on the back of the camera often don't live up to the full size version on a screen. Once it's been processed, the prints are always one step removed from how it looked on a screen. Each stage reduces the quality of the image, real or imagined. PDF removes one of those levels of transformations. Maybe it can even be a truer representation of the image than a print, if we can sort out these resolution and calibration quandaries.
So what do you think? Is a PDF a good end in itself, or just something to settle for when you can't make a real book?