New Zealand’s Kiwa Media Pioneers Multi-lingual, Multi-media (and Maori) E-books for Children

In Digital by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

ipad ebook app

AUCKLAND: Looking for an enhanced e-book that you can read in English, Spanish, Japanese, Italian Chinese or . . . Maori? Kiwa Media, a software developer in Auckland, New Zealand has has what you need.

Throughout 2010, Kiwa Media has launched some fifteen enhanced e-books for children -– dubbed QBooks –- that function like typical illustrated e-books, with the addition of the ability to allow readers to select from multiple languages. Other enhancements include the ability to record the text in your own voice for a child to playback, have a word spelled aloud, and use an on-screen palette to color in illustrations like a digital coloring book. A child can change the language of a book mid-stream, or display the text in one language and have it read back to them in another.

The company’s founder Rhonda Kite is Maori and the firm got its start producing Mac software for the film industry that is used for dubbing films into multiple languages, as well as for dialogue replacement. It moved into e-books last year, prompted in part by Kite’s desire to give the Maori community in New Zealand -– which numbers some 800,000 strong -– access to digital learning materials in their native language.


Currently there are a half-dozen titles available in Maori, including several in the Milly and Molly series and One Day a Taniwha (a story based on a Maori myth).

Kiwa Media positions itself both as an e-book publisher and as a conversion company and is aggressively courting international clients; it has set up offices in both London and Mexico City. Ariadna Madrid, Kiwa Media sales manager for Latin America, said that despite being half-way across the world, “Kiwa Media remains on the cutting edge of e-book technology,” and noted that the company “can turn around an e-book conversion in as little as a week,” provided the title does not require enhancement.

Publishing partners has so far been largely limited to New Zealand and have included work with internationally-known writers, including Australian children’s author Christopher Cheng (author of QBook Zoo You Later Monkey Business), narrators, such as actor Sam Neill, and multinationals, including the Penguin Group, for whom Kiwa has produced five titles. QBooks are currently available only for Apple platforms, though Android apps are currently in development.

While Kiwa Media’s project might not be as radical as it is exotic to many, their attitude approach to e-book development is instructive to app developers across the globe. “In some ways what we do is closer to producing a movie than publishing a book,” said Ariadna Madrid. “Our approach is kinaesthetic, tactile. It’s important not to think of a title as just a book, but also as an immersive, interactive and instructive experience for the child.”

DISCUSS: Tell Us About the Top App and E-book Developers in Your Country

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.