Sneak peek at Vook - the digital book future

Bambi Francisco Roizen · June 10, 2009 · Short URL:

Founder Brad Inman shows how he's marrying filmmakers and authors with his new startup


What's the future of a digital book? Will the written word give way to video and dialogue? Possibly. Vook, which combines books, video and dialogue, is expected to be launched this September. In this segment, Bambi Francisco interviewed Brad Inman, CEO and founder of Vook, a startup that brings life to books in a new way. Inman also gives Bambi the first sneak preview of Vook, and talks about the economics of the Vook and how publishers can get involved.

BF: The idea of reading on a digital book, thanks to the Kindle, is becoming a bit more acceptable. But you want to take this one step further.

BI: It's exciting because words are moving to the Internet whether it be a Kindle or a laptop or the Netbook or the iPhone. But what we haven't done is taken advantage of the full power of the Internet such as putting words on the Web instead of leaving it in books. That's what Vook is about. It's taking great authors and adding video and social media, to create a whole new experience which is actually a whole new product. Different than a book and different than a video. They integrate together in a way that people are really going to get excited.

BF: I love reading books with the actual hard covers. Now, I'm reading from this Kindle. I can't imagine how video and dialogue enhances the experience of a book. So how does video and a Twitter-like stream add to this?

BI: Great point. If this just becomes chatter and noise on top of a great book, we've ruined a great book. The key here is people can read just like they normally can do. Then they can get an enhanced set of words and they can actually have a dictionary and a Wikipedia, or they can experience the narrative in video. Imagine reading an historical novel and it takes you to the place or the location. It can also be a bridge where you're reading and then there's a video to take you to the next chapter. So imagine there is a novel with a suicide note all of a sudden you see that person reading a suicide note.So it's not to detract but an experience in a different way.

BF: It's like pictures enhancing.

BI: Exactly. When it started, there was controversial but now, people realize the value.

BF: Where can you read this? I know you can read this on the iPhone and it's available on the Kindle. But where else can we access this?

BI: You got the scoop here, Bambi. We're not launching until the fall but we are in development. We did some tests. We took the book The "Adventures of Sherlock Homes" and we actually vooked it. We also did a cookbook as our beta. We're launching in the Fall with multiple partners and some really exciting books. But once that happens, you can see it on the iPhone. We're using Adobe air so it's multi-platform for all smart phones. You can see it on a laptop or Netbook. You can download the text to Amazon but the integrated media requires video and that's something that Amazon doesn't provide.

BF: How many publishers or books will you have available?

BI: This year we're looking to do as many as 50 titles. We're launching in September and then there's going to be a series of titles coming out after that.

BF: So nobody has actually really seen this Vook?

BI: What we're going to show you is a demo of this integrated functionality which people still don't know what I'm talking about which is what we want Vator's viewers to see.

BF: Let's take a look.

BI: So on the iPhone, if you go to the application, you will see the cover of the book. For example. let's look at this Japanese cookbook. You can read the menus and go through the recipes but often you read these recipes and you need a little understanding. So you click on the video link and here you have the author which in this case is the Japanese chef in a video showing you how to do it. This is an example of a simple concept of integrated words with video in a seamless, elegant way. We partnered with TurnHere. So they produce videos from around the world that create high quality video in a very formal way.

BF: So you've partnered with this book publisher of this Japanese cookbook and you tell them that you are going to "vook" this book to help produce their books.

BI: We have something called "captain book." Imagine when movies came around in the 20s when there wasn't a movie producer. We are marrying the best filmmakers and really good authors. We are bringing the video and the technology and the publishers are bringing the author and the distribution.We are co-publishers. We're in effect a new modern publisher to this world of e-books.

BF: In another interview, we are going to talk about how this is changing the publishing industry and how Vook can benefit them. But let's talk about the cost of a Vook.

BI: Right now, we are not sure. We think it's similar to a micro-payment of 99 cents to maybe $49.99.This is a brand new product that has never been used and right now we're trying to figure out through some user testing. What is the value to the consumer? They're getting more than a book.

BF: But Amazon charges $10 dollars for a book; hardcovers are usually $25.00. You would actually sell for 99 cents?

BI: It could be more. I don't think it could be 99 cents. I was just being somewhat fecicious. The point is that we are creating a whole new product that we don't know what the value is yet.

BF: Where is this best applied? Cookbooks? Fitness books?

BI: When we come out, you're going to see this incredible variety. But we're really hot on the educational and instructional technology category because it's clear that online eductation is needed. A lot is moving to the Internet except for the standard text books. But we're experimenting with novels and many others so it is exciting.

BF: How do you make money?

BI: So the idea is we are co-publishers. We're selling books to the consumer and we make our money by selling the books.

BF: What would that margin be?

BI: It depends on the pricing. We understand our cost and the publishers understand their cost and we blend them. It's a new product so keep in mind that it's not an e-product but a different book. So ultimately it's what the consumer would pay and we split on top of that.

BF: How much does a Vook cost to make?

BI: The technology is a very scalable application. Then there's production and video which is high quality so you're talking thousands and thousand of dollars. But the beauty is they have a very efficient production model.

BF: So for one book, how much do you think it costs?

BI: It depends on if it is novel where we have to create a fancy storytelling, it's a lot more. If it's a cookbook in one setting where we produce all of them, it's a lower cost.

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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Vook was created in 2008 by Internet entrepreneur Bradley Inman, with the vision to unite the disparate worlds of books and videos into one complete, blended story.

Vook has created an innovative platform where all forms of media come together to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Vook weaves together content from incredible writers and professionally shot and edited videos by filmmakers from TurnHere. Vooks also enhance the community and discussion associated with reading great books and watching great films.

You can read your book, watch videos that enhance the story and connect with authors and your friends through social media all on one screen, without switching between platforms.

Vooks are available in two formats: As a web-based application you can read on your computer and a mobile application for reading on the go.

With the web-based application you don't have to download programs or install software. Just open your favorite browser and start reading and watching in an exciting new way. You can also download and install the mobile applications through the Apple iTunes store and sync them with your Apple mobile device.


Bradley INMAN

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