DIY Book/Magazine App Creation

Developing custom apps can be quite a significant cost for small publishers or independent authors, so we thought we’d review some of the leading options for creating book and magazine apps, e-readers and the like. For this sort of app, it often doesn’t make financial sense to build a custom app from scratch.

There are several relatively inexpensive ‘digital publication solutions’ which can take you through the otherwise technical and laborious process of getting your own content mobile. Which option is best really depends on who you are and (unfortunately) the depth of your pockets. However, you should be careful not to overlook the fact that one man’s ‘limited flexibility’ is another man’s ‘simplicity.’ Here are some options:

MagAppZine is basically a web tool which allows you to create a truly standalone brand app. Upload any PDF content and your app is ready for publication. With a Premium subscription the content can be further enriched with custom branding opportunities, detailed analytics and multimedia drawn directly on top of the PDF. Some of MagAppZine’s clear advantages over other services are that it is simple to use and is the most affordable way to get your own app (and even more affordable if you don’t need ‘enriched’ content). Whilst publishers, magazines or authors can easily and cheaply create rich apps, MagAppZine does not offer as much nearly as much design flexibility and does not offer any one-time fixed cost services. However, for some, this will be more than made up for by the ease of use and low cost of entry and exit.

Cost: free to sign up and create apps. A monthly fee becomes payable only when you want submit your app to Apple. This can be cancelled at any time with no cancellation charges.

  • — Basic package: $99/month (excluding $0.30/download charge)
  • — Premium package: $299/month (excluding $0.20/download charge)
  • — Revenue sharing alternatives are also available




Competing with Magplus is the French company Aquafadas which offers a similar full service, guiding you through the process from enriching media to building a fully customised app and managing sales and subscriptions. Unlike Magplus, Aquafadas’ publishing solution can be used with Quark as well as InDesign and supports Android as well as iOS and a variety of devices over and above those made by Apple. It offers detailed guidance to a broad audience, tailored to whether you want to publish magazines, comics, or conventional or innovative books.

Once designed and enriched, your content can be delivered through a custom built app which can for example take the shape of a single paid edition of a book, or a kiosk from which individual chapters can be purchased through an in-app purchase. The process of building In addition there are a series of extensive Webinars showing you every step along the way.

This year Aquafadas teamed up with Quark to produce Quark App Studio which incorporates many of the Aquafadas’ app creation features and tools into Quark Publishing System and QuarkXPress.

Cost: similar to Magplus, Aquafadas does not charge for its creative tools. This allows your apps to be built and tested before any money is spent. When ready, a publication licence and app certificate can be purchased under a range of price plans.

  • — Single one off publication: $500
  • — Bookshelf app with in-app purchase of titles: minimum of $1000
  • — Other options and more details can be found here.


Zipadi resembles MagAppZine in that it is it will guide you through the entire process of app creation to produce a standalone brand app. Rich media and interactivity can be added to your content through Zipadi’s simple drag and drop editing software. However, this simplicity and support comes at a price…

  • — Both iPad and iPhone App: $14999
  • — Branded iPad or iPhone App: $11999
  • — Software-as-a-Service Platform: $399/month


HP’s attractive web-based offering is similar to MagAppZine in that it is based around simple PDF uploads. Users then browse and download uploaded titles within the MagCloud app. The main strength of MagCloud is that users can buy print copies of the uploaded PDF (up to 384 pages), which will then be printed and shipped by HP.

However MagCloud really quite limited by comparison to MagAppZine: no rich content, iPad only, no standalone brand apps and only free digital versions are as of yet available on the MagCloud app. On the other hand, it is the only way to get your media onto an iPad via the App Store for free.

Going one step further than MagCloud is Joomag, a service that will allow you to convert a PDF into a digital magazine. With Joomag’s online editing tools, links, images and videos can be inserted into the magazine. Once ready for publication your content is then available for sale on the web or via the Joomag iPad app. However, Joomag shares many of MagCloud’s drawbacks, with publications only available as an in-app purchase from an ‘app store within the App Store’, and even then only on an iPad.

Cost: only the Gold ($39.95/month) and Platinum ($99.95/month) plans offer iPad support. Free and Silver ($14/month) price plans are also available but do not offer full iPad optimization.

Focussed mainly on magazine publishers and bloggers, Pubisha seeks to provide a one-stop shop for digital media distribution across multiple platforms. Publisha distinguishes itself from other services by offering a template-based service which allows rich content to be published via your branded app, Facebook and the web (Publisha will host your personalised website). Publisha also features ‘deep social media integration’ (read: automatic Twitter and Facebook updates and comment sharing) as well as standard advertising, tracking and analytics tools. Whilst very easy to use, cheap and ambitious, Publisha lacks some of the design flexibility found in other services.

Cost: for as little as $5/month Publisha will help you release a free branded app available to download directly from the App Store. For paid for apps and a forthcoming print on demand service, Publisha offers Medium ($25/month) and Large ($100/month) with the latter offering paywall functionality.


These are simply some of the solutions which for one reason or another have caught our eye. What should be clear however is that whoever you are, it is now easier than ever to share your content digitally, on the web and on mobile devices.

The continuing astronomical sales of smartphones and tablets are evidence that people are changing the way they consume media, and are changing what they expect from their regular print publications. This means that for content creators to remain competitive it is more important than ever to have an app and to be able to distribute content via the App Store or Android market. Hopefully some of the solutions mentioned will meet your publication needs. If not, and you need something more complex or more customised you can always to us at ReignDesign.

Tom Chappatte

Tom Chappatte is an intern at ReignDesign. Tom is from the UK and is based in Shanghai.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share this post