Today Toronto-based Kobo, owned by Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten, announced its acquisition of French company Aquafadas, in an effort to expand its current digital media offerings to include magazines, comics, and children’s books. Aquafadas helps publishers produce digital content without knowing how to code, both for tablets and smartphones, as well as through HTML5 and video content.
Kobo’s EVP of Business Development Todd Humphrey said the acquisition, the terms of which were not disclosed, came as a response to both industry projections, publishers’ needs and responding to consumer insights and demands. “As the global e-reading industry continues to expand and does so rapidly we really view digital content to be a variety of different media, whether its comics and magazines, newspapers, kids books. All those elements need to be part of our solution,” Humphrey said in an interview. “Our long term vision of course is to bring e-reading to billions of people around the world, and we can’t just do that with books. Therefore, this acquisition allows us to move even faster to include rich media content into our offering.”
The acquisition of Aquafadas, the first for Kobo, will let the ebook publisher integrate the company’s technology with their own publishing solutions to help both publishers and authors produce richer content. It will also look to leverage Aquafadas’s existing client base and partners, giving them access to Kobo’s distribution channel and base of customers in over 200 countries.
“We get the advantage of all of what they’ve built, whether its technology or partnerships, so there will be an integration on both of those things on the business side and the technical side. The publishers we’ve talked to are super excited about Aquafadas as a tool and a development platform, and this now allows them gain access to over 10 million customers, so this really is a win-win,” Humphrey added.
Kobo also announced it has made its self-publishing platform, Kobo Writing Life, available in German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch and with the integration of Aquafadas it strives to make the it the go-to platform for authors.
“Giving authors the ability to then turn any piece of content into the piece of content they want, rather than teaching them to code, the Aquafadas solution really takes that hard work away from them, it allows them to simply make that conversion into rich media content,” Humphrey said. Writing Life competes with startups like Publification, which aim to help authors design and publish their own ebooks. With Aquafadas’ offerings, they could have an edge by allowing authors to design for multiple devices.
With new startups tackling all aspects of book publishing, from crowdfunding to connecting with influential readers, it’s clear that companies like Kobo can’t just work with larger authors if they want to stay relevant. This acquisition is a timely one given consumer expectations around cross-media consumption, and the increasing number of DIY tools for authors. Kobo appears to be on the right track in looking to provide that experience on a single platform, and this acquisition means they can set their sights on different types of content producers, and ultimately different segments of readers.