Aquafadas, a French digital publishing company, has launched a platform that allows publishers to build multimedia apps for children’s books, comics, magazines, and newspapers. Using Aquafadas’s Ave AppFactory desktop application and Adobe InDesign, publishers can produce apps that offer a variety of multimedia and interactive content without hiring a programmer.

The Aquafadas digital publishing system lets publishers download a suite of authoring tools to build the apps, and there is no charge until the publisher is ready to publish. Publishers can produce single-title apps for books or magazines or digital newsstands and bookstores offering multiple titles for sale through the Apple iBookstore. Apps can offer read aloud functionality, games, hidden content, drawing, and social media sharing. The company has created ComicComposer, an authoring tool especially for creating and displaying multimedia, interactive comics that can produce a slide show that lets the user play the comic through panel by panel.

The company is based in the south of France with a marketing and sales office in New York City and has a staff of about 50 people. Rainer Heckman, Aquafadas’s general manager in New York, said the company has about 50 “large, institutional” clients, including five of the largest publishers in France, in addition to “thousands” of users. While the company has about five medium to large American clients—among them, Design Central, Kelby Media Group, and Andrew Harper magazines—they are looking to build up their U.S. base.

During an interview at the PW offices, Heckman said, “Developing multimedia apps can be expensive. We support any kind of publication. We’re focused on books, children’s material, and magazines, markets that have consumers ready to buy.”

Heckman said Aquafadas’s digital publishing platform has a number of advantages: “automation,” so that publishers can start with PDFs and publish an app with no manual intervention; “it’s a complete solution,” that can produce multimedia books, newspapers, magazines, children’s books, comic books, and corporate communications; “control” of the whole process by publishers from app creation to publishing; and “no upfront investment,” as Aquafadas authoring tools are free for use to create and continually test apps, until ready to publish. Aquafadas also offers analytical tools to provide feedback to publishers on consumer use of their publications.

In the Aquafadas digital publishing system, publishers first build an app, then fill it with content. Once an app is ready for publication, the publisher must pay Aquafadas both a one-time fee for the app and a one-time fee for the content published through it. The fee to unlock and publish a single-publication app through the bookstore is $150 and the fee for the content is $350. For a bookstore app (or newsstand for a single serial publication) that will allow a publisher to display and sell a list of titles, the app fee is $750. And for a newsstand offering multiple serial titles, the app fee is $1,500. There are also special packages with bulk content rates for publishing multiple issues/volumes.

Aquafadas offers “a clear business model that offers an easy way to budget with no download fees, just a one-time fee per app and per publication,” Heckman said. “While we do reach out and target the top 100 publishers, many of the largest publishers have already made decisions about their digital strategy for publishing to tablet devices,” he said. “Medium-size to smaller publishers are usually still looking for solutions and asking questions, and we think this is an untapped market.”