Youtube for PDF: embedding documents

PDF Documents

Playing around with embedded Google calendars and reading “Google Apps and the power of embedded functionality“, I got to thinking: what would be other good candidates for a 1-click-embedding provider of other types of documents. I wondered e.g. whether there was something like Youtube for audio (yes, there is. is one example). But then I thought of a document type we all have learned to love and hate: Adobe’s Portable Document Format or PDF.

The idea behind the PDF file format is valuable: create a cross-platform standard for exchanging and printing documents that includes the text, images, fonts and their layout. The Acrobat Reader is a free application, and while Adobe’s PDF Writer is a commercial product (from $299), there are enough free alternatives to counter that. The thing is: PDF is great for printing, but not for browsing.

When you click on a PDF link, one of multiple things might happen:

So you are screwed if you don’t have Acrobat, if it is a really big document or if you access through a misconfigured browser. This is the equivalent of clicking on a .AVI movie file without a clue of how big the movie is, whether you have the necessary audio and video codecs to see it, and whether it’s worth it. If that was largely solved by a service provider like Youtube, what would a similar service for .PDF files look like?

Youtube/Flickr for PDF files

Let’s call this web site PDFViewr. When you want to embed a PDF into your web site / blog, you first upload it to PDFViewr. There the document information is extracted (title, author, # pages, filesize, fonts, …) and a preview of the first page is generated as a JPG/PNG image. You can edit that info and add tags or notes (e.g. “Skip the first 15 pages, the juicy bits are page 16 to 23”). You are then given a short piece of code that you can embed into your own site. The result would be like this (taking an example from a 13MB PDF from

Taschen magazine</p>
Title: TASCHEN Magazine Summer 2006
Info: 92 pages, 13.8MB, full color
Tags: taschen, magazine, germany, art, erotic
Read in AcrobatRead as HTMLSlideshow
Download PDFDownload ZIPSave for later
Send to friendPrint & bind

Actually it wouldn’t be that hard to set up:

Any ideas?

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