Kobo acquires French digital software company Aquafadas

Toronto-based e-reading company Kobo has acquired French digital software company Aquafadas, the companies announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair on Wednesday. The terms of the acquisition were undisclosed. Aquafadas, which lets publishers create digital content across smartphones, tablets and other platforms, will work with Kobo to create illustrated digital content. Kobo will also let authors use Aquafadas tools through (Kobo’s) self-publishing platform Writing Life.

The acquisition will help Kobo, which just announced a new tablet called the Arc, compete against Amazon (s AMZN), Barnes & Noble (s BKS) and Apple (s AAPL), all of which sell their own enhanced content. (The new self-publishing tools could also be Kobo’s answer to Apple’s iBooks Author.) “This radically improves our ability to bring illustrated content like magazines, graphic novels, manga and children’s books into a compelling reading experience,” Michael Tamblyn, Kobo’s EVP content and merchandising, told me. “We see a lot of companies trying to do quick and dirty digital magazines that lose the potential richness of that experience. We wanted to find something that made the  format as compelling in digital as it already is in print.”

Aquafadas could also help Kobo quickly convert foreign publishers’ illustrated books into ebooks. Aquafadas already works with international publishers like Egmont International, Lagardere and Mondadori.

Aquafadas tools will be available to authors through Kobo’s self-publishing platform Writing Life, though Tamblyn didn’t specify when the tools will roll out. Writing Life is available in new languages as of Wednesday — German, French, Italian, Portuguese and Dutch — and the company said authors from 82 countries are now using it.

Separately, Kobo announced that it is expanding its presence in New Zealand. The company partnered with New Zealand bookstore chain Whitcoulls in 2010 and has now partnered with New Zealand independent booksellers association Booksellers NZ and book and stationery chain Paper Plus Group. The new agreements bring Kobo devices to over 300 stores in New Zealand.