Tablet publicationAnother startup is attempting to bring the WordPress treatment to tablet publishing. Launching today at BlogWorld in Las Vegas, Los Angeles-based startup Readz hopes to make tablet publishing as accessible and affordable for small- and medium-sized publishers as it is to create a website or blog.

Unlike the recent trend towards micropublishing or “subcompact publishing,” a lightweight publishing movement led by writer-designer Craig Mod and Marco Arment’s The Magazine, Readz is betting that people still want rich reading experiences in apps.

Founder and CEO Bart De Pelsmaeker, a Belgian who previously worked in business development and marketing for Agfa Graphics and IBM, came to the US to start Readz after realizing that the iPad was a game-changing reading device that demanded its own publishing parameters. Too many publishers were just porting PDFs to the tablet, he noticed, while native publishing platforms were highly expensive.

And so he came up with the idea for Readz, a theme- and template-based platform that offers standardized layouts with drag-and-drop simplicity for people and organizations to easily create tablet publications. De Pelsmaeker wanted to lower the tablet publishing barriers for people or organizations that don’t have budgets to pay for technical staff, or can’t afford to outsource the digital work to third parties.

His prime targets are traditional small-circulation publications – such as those from associations that have traditionally had print magazines or newsletters – and brands that want to communicate with their customers. Early Readz customers include personal branding publication YOUnique and the Association of Media and Publishing’s Signature magazine.

For casual users, Readz is free, offering a template-based platform for up to five users and up to 5GB of content served per month. It also has a paid version, however, which offers more customization options for unlimited users and 200GB a month, costing as much as $500 a month. The platform provides users with the ability to integrate rich-media content, including videos, graphics, and interactive ads.

De Pelsmaeker sees his main competition as the expensive Adobe Digital Publishing, responsible for many of the major titles that feature in Apple’s Newsstand, and other tablet-focused platforms, such as Mag+ and TapEdition. However, Readz’s most fierce rival might be the open Web, especially because of the increasing prevalence and affordability of responsive design, which allows websites to automatically adjust to whatever browser they are being displayed within, be it on a smartphone, a tablet, or a desktop computer. (For an example of responsive design, look no further than PandoDaily.) Many publishers, as Technology Review editor Jason Pontin argued in an essay last May, have soured on apps because they are not only expensive but also require constant maintenance and resources additional to existing publishing processes and products.

Readz will also face tough competition from New York-based Onswipe, which makes websites touch- and tablet-friendly and offers its software for free. Onswipe has $6 million in venture backing.

Rather than create websites, however, De Pelsmaeker believes that it’s important to focus on building a reading experience that is much more like reading traditional magazines. “It’s also like a guided experience so you stay within a focus and context,” he says.

In the works are companion products for smartphones and the desktop. Readz is backed by funding, which De Pelsmaeker declined to disclose, from private investment firm Parana Management Corporation.

[Photo by Johan Larsson]