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Is DjVu Right for Your Project?

Technically speaking, DjVu is superior to PDF for converting paper documents to electronic form. No doubt about it. Smaller files with better quality at lower cost. In fact, some projects that have been completed with DjVu were just not feasible using PDF. But is DjVu right for your project?

Let us start with the attributes that make a project a good candidate for PDF.

You should use PDF if:

  • Your content is not compelling. The giant hurdle DjVu must overcome is that the PDF plug-in is pervasive. Everyone has it already. Chances are that for a time your customer will need to get the DjVu plug-in just for your material. They won't do it if your material is not important to them.
  • File size doesn't matter. We recently completed a 10 CD DjVu project. It would have been 40 CDs if we had used PDF. We joked to the graphic artist doing the artwork for the CD wallet that he'd be doing the artwork for a suitcase it we had used PDF! But if your project is small and will fit on your targeted number of CDs with PDF, or if you have a low traffic website and your documents are small, stay with PDF.
  • Your documents are black and white with only line-art graphics. The real power of DjVu comes when dealing with photos, color, and complex graphics. Unless your project is very large and file size crucial, PDF is adequate for most of these projects.
  • You have a large budget. It is possible to make small, high quality PDF files from scans, but it is very labor intensive and therefore expensive. It is worth it for some projects though.

The converse of these attributes make a project a good candiate for DjVu.

Use DjVu if:

  • Your documents have photos and/or colors and/or other complex graphics.
  • File size is important. Examples are a set of CDs or a busy website with customers downloading your documents over dialup modems.
  • You have a large project and a small budget. Again, to get small PDF files from scans, especially if they are not just black and white, is costly.
  • Your content is compelling. If you are putting information on the web that is important to your visitor, they will put up with the minor inconvenience of getting the plug-in.

Perhaps both?

PDF conversion may or may not be expensive, depending on the nature of the material and the amount of labor involved in getting the desired result. Fortunately, DjVu is always an inexpensive option. In a DjVu project, the largest component of the cost is the scan. It follows then that for many projects it is quite reasonable to provide customers with files of both types since the incremental cost is minimal.

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