NARR8 debuts interactive reading app

Russia’s NARR8 is looking to break into the fast-emerging digital reader market. The company’s eponymous HTML5-based iOS and Android apps will publish comics and other interactive media in an episodic format.

Covering content from a range of genres including sci-fi, horror, education fiction and non-fiction, the company is working with eight developers producing three different types of content — motion comics, interactive novels and interactive articles. Each content type features a combination of sound, motion, animation and interactive elements. The long term goal for the app is to create a publishing platform for interactive content, and to this end the company also provides a proprietary editing platform designed to make it faster for developers to create interactive publications.

The Moscow-based venture shares several connections with another prominent Russian company — developer/publisher Game Insight. Founded in October 2011, NARR8 received its first $4 million first round of funding from IMI.VC, a Moscow-based investment firm led by Game Insight board member Igor Matsanyuk. Notably, Matsanyuk and NARR8 founder Alexander Vaschenko are both former executives of and Astrum Online, and Game Insight and NARR8 also currently share office space in San Francisco.

We got a quick tour of the NARR8 app starting with J<A>M, a quirky, video game-related motion comic about the video game world. Readers can flip through virtual pages featuring hand-drawn visuals layered with video and audio elements. Next we saw an example of an interactive novel titled Multiverse, a sci-fi story about multiple universes. In this title, users can tap on-screen pop-up buttons for additional information to the story, adding to the ambiance and helping immerse readers in the book’s universe.

The last type of content we saw was what NARR8 called “interactive articles” — educational resources that read closer to a magazine article than a comic book. For example, an episode of a science-related series Paradigm shows readers how improve their photography skills by demonstrating how focus ring on a camera lens works. Another series we saw called Chronographics was an interactive history book. NARR8 plans to expand its educational offerings, most of which will be geared toward adults instead of children.

Episodes vary in length, but will take about 10-15 minutes to read on average, meaning each episode is roughly equivalent to a physical book chapter. Structurally, each series will be broken up into a “season” featuring 10 episodes or so. NARR8 tells us its target audience is 18- to 40-year-olds.

Down the road, NARR8 will be playing with a few different kinds of presentation styles. One such option is the concept of a pilot “episode” that could be expanded into a full series with weekly updates if it proves popular enough. Although NARR8 hasn’t finalized its pricing model, the company will make much of its content free initially, while archived content from previous weeks would cost money. Users will also be able to rate NARR8 series’ and share content socially on Facebook and Twitter.

NARR8’s biggest competition in the digital comic market is comiXology‘s Comics app, which provides a digital platform for both Marvel Comics and DC comics. According to our traffic tracking service AppData, Comics is currently the No. 4 top grossing iPad app and the No. 6 top grossing Android app. 

NARR8 plans to launch its app in Q4 2012, first on iPad and then on Android, with other mobile devices and the web to come in the near future. The Moscow-headquartered company plans to launch the app with more than 30 episodes of content spanning nine different series.