Looking to offer publishers an alternative to online retail channels like Amazon, Apple or Barnes & Noble, YUDU is a cloud-based digital publishing platform that provides the tools to create media-rich interactive apps that can be distributed directly to consumers. While YUDU also serves clients in the consumer book and magazine trade, the company is also focused on the education market and the importance of maintaining direct relationships with educational institutions and students.

YUDU is among a burgeoning group of software platforms like iBooks Author, Skyreader Studio, Inkling and others that offer publishers an easy-to-use authoring environment to convert their content into multimedia apps or create original interactive content for mobile devices. YUDU allows publishers to create container apps offering a list of titles for sale while using the publisher’s e-commerce site and APIs to sell directly to students or institutions. YUDU lets its publisher-clients sell or rent downloadable apps while bypassing the giant retail aggregators (and their commissions) and maintaining control of the retail and usage data the apps generate.

YUDU CEO Richard Stephenson said the company is targeting the education sector because, “education is different. Unlike the trade, there are relationships between publishers and educational institutions and we can help publishers maintain these channels.” In a phone interview from London, Stephenson said “the big aggregators like Amazon and iBookstore are popular with consumers. They offer a variety of benefits but they also own the customer. But in today’s market everything is about data and end-user relationships. Content and how it is used is vital to defining the next generation of content and educational publishers need to link to students. They can’t just do it though aggregators.”

YUDU offers publishers the ability to convert their print list into enriched interactive apps with video, audio and interactive functionality as well as design original content for mobile devices. YUDU clients include Random House, John Wiley & Sons, Weldon Owen, HarperCollins, Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press.

Professors can add customized content to digital textbooks and students can add notes (and export and keep them when notes are added to rental texts) and YUDU generated content is designed to run across multiple platforms such as Apple, Windows 8, Kobo, Android, Nook and Kindle Fire operating systems. Stephenson said the cost for a container app setup starts at $15,000 to $20,000, though designing original content is more expensive. And while the company touts direct selling, YUDU does offer distribution through the all the major retailer channels if a client wants. The company also offers unique access codes that allow publishers to partner with physical retailers to offer and sell downloadable content through their stores.

Stephenson is a technology investor and entrepreneur who said he spotted YUDU in 2003 in a digital incubator community. The company has about 40 employees spread between offices in England, Cambridge, Mass. and the New York City office which opened in October 2012. Stephenson said about 30% of YUDU’s business “comes from North America and we’re looking to grow it.”