Want to Read the New Issue of ‘Charlie Hebdo’? There’s an App for That.

The digital edition will come as a single 3 euro download with optional pop-up captions in English, Spanish, and Arabic.


Or there will be very soon — hopefully by Thursday.

There’s sky-high demand for the first issue of Charlie Hebdo since the attack that killed eight members of the French satirical weekly’s small staff last week. The first 500,000 copies in France sold out within minutes of newsstands opening on Wednesday morning, Jan. 14. Another 4.5 million copies are on their way, but it may take a while for any to trickle into the United States, where the magazine has not been sold in the past few years.

To solve that problem, Charlie Hebdo plans to launch an app on its website this week that will make the issue available to readers around the world.

The app will run on iPhones, iPads, Android tablets (though not Android phones), and Windows computers. It will feature a single 3 euro download of the French original with optional pop-up translations in English, Spanish, and Arabic, said Emmanuel Saint-Martin, the founder of the U.S.-based web magazine French Morning, who is familiar with efforts to develop the application. Saint-Martin said that in the days following the attack, he has been inundated with questions from his readers about how to get a hold of a copy of the so-called “survivors’ issue” of Charlie Hebdo. He’s now helping coordinate efforts to deliver copies of that issue to U.S. readers.

A wide range of organizations and companies have volunteered to help with international distribution, Saint-Martin said. Reporters Without Borders translated the English and Spanish versions, while Le Monde Group’s Courrier International did the Arabic translation. Air France has agreed to transport copies of the magazine to the United States free of charge, and another group is at work on a Chinese version. Outlets like Libération helped with the app, a new feature for the magazine.

With the cash-strapped magazine’s small staff stretched thin after the massacre, this assistance has been vital in helping scale up from Charlie Hebdo’s usual output of about 60,000 copies. “They didn’t have any resources at all,” Saint-Martin said. The man who usually managed Charlie Hebdo’s online presence was badly injured in the attack and is still in the hospital.

“I think they knew from the start that there would be huge demand, but again, they don’t have the infrastructure, they don’t have the teams, to think about how many copies they’re going to send to the U.S., to Brazil, or to China,” Saint-Martin said, stressing that he did not speak for Charlie Hebdo, but only as someone trying to help get the new issue to the United States.

“You know, they had to deal with doing the issue first,” he said, “and they’d lost all their friends, so they did that, they put it out, and the deadline was on Monday night. It’s all done now — they’re not going to publish another one next week. This one is going to stay on the stands for a few weeks. And then they’re trying to see what they’re going to do for the next step. It will obviously take time.”

The first copies in the United States will come from LMPI, a Montreal-based distributor, which, before the attacks, would order just a few dozen copies of each issue. LMPI has now managed to secure the delivery of 1,500 copies of this issue, though they haven’t yet arrived, Saint-Martin said. Initially, it will send to the United States only 300 copies (100 of them to New York), which should go on sale on Friday, and distribute the rest in Canada.

Saint-Martin, in cooperation with French press advocacy organization UNI-Presse as well as Air France, is working to have more copies delivered to the United States, but they won’t arrive before next week.

Logistically, it has been hard to speed up the process, partly due to the fact that “in the U.S., they stopped selling it a few years back,” Saint-Martin said, “because they didn’t have any demand.”

That has clearly changed. But for Charlie Hebdo‘s surviving staff, it’s the worst kind of popularity.

Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Justine Drennan was a fellow at Foreign Policy. She previously reported from Cambodia for the Associated Press and other outlets. Twitter: @jkdrennan