After debuting the service in beta at last year’s Tools of Change Conference, Inkling CEO Matt MacInnis returned to New York to publicly relaunch Inkling Habitat, a free multimedia authoring platform, designed to allow publishers to create multimedia-enriched digital content and distribute it through major e-tailers. In a presentation at Time Warner Center, MacInnis previewed the new software tool, coupled with the Inkling Content Discovery Platform, a new platform that indexes Inkling content to Google searches and turns search results into a web storefront for e-book sales.

Inkling is a San Francisco-based digital publishing vendor specializing in creating multimedia content for the iPad. Originally focused on converting traditional print textbooks into multimedia-enriched texts, Inkling has raised the ante with the full release of Inkling Habitat, offering publishers the ability to easily create multimedia versions of print textbooks as well as original digital-first content. Coupled with the Inkling Content Display Platform, launched last month at Digital Book World in New York, Inkling can offer an easy-to-use, free authoring tool that can produce all kinds of multimedia content--from textbooks to cookbooks to travel guides—in a manner that challenges the utility, economy and convenience of Apple’s iBooks Author software tool. Indeed Habitat is the latest in a growing number of “self-service” multimedia authoring tools released over the last year.

In addition, Inkling's Content Display Platform is a blatant challenge to’s dominance of e-book retail. Speaking at the Inkling presentation, MacInnis said Inkling is looking for ways to “build new content and sell it differently.” In an earlier interview he made it clear that ICDP was designed as an “end run” around Amazon. Inkling has partnered with Google to create the ICDP, which structures Inking content so it can be retrieved by Google web searches, and links displaying Inkling content will take the consumer directly into an online version of the book (all multimedia content, video, animation, sound, etc. also function in the online version), and also allows the content to be easily purchased in whole or by chapters, on the spot. “There’s no Amazon between you and your customer,” MacInnis said to a audience of about 300 or so publishing professionals at the Time Warner Center.

Habitat is a collaborative software authoring tool, MacInnis said, and production and design teams that may be spread around the country or the world can work together to create multimedia content. On top of all that, the software tools for Inkling Habitat, available here, are free to download, Inkling takes a 30% commission on all sales and all Inkling-created titles are automatically indexed to Google searches, free of charge. Inkling also offers Habitat for Enterprise, a for-pay option used by Inkling publishing partners like Pearson and Wolters Kluwer which allows publishers to integrate the software into their production systems. Habitat for Enterprise eliminates the 30% commission—partners pay upfront and get access to the Inkling API, allowing publishers to more easily scale up to produce hundreds or thousands of titles using the tool while creatively deploying the content through their own site and a variety of etailers.

MacInnis emphasized Inkling content can easily be amended or changed—publishers can login to the Habitat network, add changes, new multimedia or text content, and update the content across all distribution platforms with a click. Inkling content can also be converted into an Epub file and distributed through any device that supports Epub to all the major e-book retailers.

In addition to announcing new publisher partnerships—among them HarperCollins, DK and Lonely Planet—MacInnis announced plans to support Creative Commons licenses for Habitat, which allow the publishing of open resource content. Inkling also has a partnership with the 20 Million Minds Foundation to create and distribute 50 open source textbooks—economically priced textbooks developed by the foundation—including the first three textbooks on statistics, physics and sociology coming in the spring. And the digital vendor also plans to release and Android version of Inkling Habitat sometime this year.

MacInnis will present Habitat and ICDP again at the Tools of Change Conference on Wednesday.