Claudia Zimmer is Aquafadas’ President and founded the company with Matthieu Kopp in 2004. Aquafadas started with video editing software and later became Europe’s leading solution provider for the creation and distribution of digital comic books, which can be consumed on video game consoles, computers, smartphones, and now tablets. Long before tablets hit the market Aquafadas established its foundations for their latest development: An end-to-end publishing solution dedicated to digital publishing on tablets and smartphones. Aquafadas’ solution will be launched on March 17, 2011, at the Paris Book Fair and at a worldwide Web event.
In this interview Claudia Zimmer speaks about the importance of digital publishing across media and industries, the business challenges of digital publishing, and the technical obstacles presented by new tablets and mobile operating systems, and she provides insights on how Aquafadas’ approach to digital publishing is different.
Digital publishing is on the agenda of every publisher and many corporations. From your point of view, what are the main challenges in digital publishing?
Smartphones and digital tablets let us take our music, pictures, videos, emails, and now books, magazines and newspapers with us everywhere. And we expect convenient, innovative, and easy-to-use reading solutions. Publishers and enterprises across industries must solve a new, but core business problem: How can they publish interactive content to multiple digital devices – simultaneous to print and Web publishing – without increasing cost and staff? They need tools that allow them to publish quickly and economically on paper and digital. They need to solve three core problems: Designers, not programmers, need to create digital publications while they create print and Web publications. Second, digital publishing must be automated in order to be cost effective. And third, the distribution problem for digital publications must be solved. Our digital publishing platform provides the answer to those needs.
That sounds encouraging — can you tell us a bit more about your platform?
Our platform covers all steps of publishing to smartphones, tablets and the Web. We help our customers to create digital content and generate apps for the iPhone®, iPad®, and Android™-based devices such as Samsung™’s Galaxy. And we enable our customers to distribute their apps and content. Our platform supports freelance designers just as well as book, magazine, and newspapers publishers, and even communication agencies and companies for their marketing materials, catalogs and documentation.
Digital publishing through apps usually requires technological skills or a cooperation with a specialized service partner. What level of software development skills does your platform require?
That’s the good news: Our solution can be used without writing a single line of code to create a fully interactive, digital publications. With our fully integrated plug-ins for Adobe® InDesign® and QuarkXPress®, it is very easy to adopt our solution. Even better, several people can work on a project simultaneously. The platform also includes a service to easily generate apps through ready-to-use templates. We also offer a distribution portal, which enables anyone to track sales, update apps with new content, and much more. Our platform guides our clients through every step of their digital publishing projects. That way digital publishing becomes very easy and affordable.
Although still in its early stages, digital publishing evolves rapidly. Is your platform specifically designed for the creation of new content, like The Daily, an iPad-only newspaper from News Corporation?
Our platform is a solution for simple as well as complex needs. Our tools enable companies to accomplish ambitious projects, like the creation of an entirely new digital publication. However, our tools also offer a wide range of options to quickly adapt existing documents designed for print, and reuse them with high quality for digital publishing. In the first case a designer creates the design, content, and elegant navigation for an exceptional user experience from scratch, just by using InDesign or QuarkXPress. But that’s not all, publishers can also use existing publications, which were once created for print, and enhance those with videos, slideshows, image galleries, resizable text, and more. This process can even be automated, as we did with La Tribune, a daily newspaper in France, whose print edition is automatically enriched and converted into an iPad app. By using our platform anyone who wants to enter the digital publishing market now, can quickly produce a large number of digital titles without reinventing everything.
You say you enable your customers to create their apps without the need of custom development. But some companies already have their own apps, can they also use Aquafadas’ solution?
Yes, because we also offer software components that enable our customers to integrate the digital content they create using our solution, with their existing app. This is a very important option in our offer. It also means that system integrators and advertising agencies are able to use our technology for developing custom solutions for their customers.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas a multitude of new tablets were introduced, and new devices appear constantly. Will companies have to continue to invest in new apps for each new device that hits the market?
Our solution is built in a way that makes it future-proof. We will continue to adjust our digital output format and reader technology to new devices, so our customers don’t have to. We already enable publishing to multiple devices and formats: iPhone, iPad, Android tablets and smartphones, and the Internet. Instead of investing in new apps and reader technology whenever new devices are introduced, our customers simply can update their apps and content.
How can publishers and others access Aquafadas’ digital publishing platform, and what does it cost?
Our platform will be accessible online and will let you download the tools you need, for instance the plug-ins for InDesign and QuarkXPress, for free. We want our platform to be available for everybody, because we want to promote ambitious digital creations. Our customers can play with, create, and test digital publications as much as they want, using our platform. Our business model is that our customers only pay when they actually publish. Our pricing model is simple: You pay for a single publication, such as a book, or a single magazine issue. However, for everyone who publishes frequently, we offer publishing packages that cover, for instance, all issues for a whole year. We don’t sell apps, and we don’t ask for a share of our customer’s revenues. Our platform is easy to implement with no upfront investment, which allows our customers to manage their budgets according to their needs and goals. We make digital publishing easy and accessible for everyone.