Vook changes the way we consume knowledge

Bambi Francisco Roizen · July 7, 2009 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/921

How will books evolve? Vook CEO and founder Brad Inman gives us his vision

In this segment, Bambi Francisco interviewed Brad Inman, CEO and founder of Vook, a startup that brings life to books in a new way. They discussed how the digital book is changing the industry and the way people consume knowledge and entertainment. 

BF: I'm going to ask you to talk about what's happening in the publishing industry and why publishers and authors are drawn to the concept of combining video and Twitter dialogue with the written word.

BI: Sure. One thing that's happening generally in this industry is that book sales are down and so the industry itself is struggling with that. Some of that is economic conditions but also we're in a transformative period in this industry. It's really changing and part of it is because of what's going on with digital media and how many people are consuming media. I would consider the traditional book industry very challenged right now. And they're racing to come up with new products and new ideas to enter this new digital world. It looks like the Kindle has taken off. We don't have numbers to prove it but it looks like there are more and more e-books are selling on the Internet.

BF: It's a $200 million industry.

BI: It's small relatively speaking but people are consuming media. A lot of people are reading books on the iPhone. So there's a genesis to something that is transformative to the Internet. Unfortunately the industry is stuck with an old model which requires warehouses, printing presses, office space, and legacy systems. So they are trying to adapt.

BF: Google is launching a bookstore. How is that going to affect your business or create opportunities that change the industry?

BI: We think all of these things, such as the innovation by Amazon, iPhone, the Netbook, and all of the things being done by Google, making it easier and better experiences is good for us. We are not in the platform and device business so that just enables us to provide more outlets and create better ways to consume the media we are creating.

BF: Let's talk about the publsihers and the authors. When you're selling a book for t$10, and not for $25 for, the margins are squeezed, and the publishers are getting less. So, when you evolve into a book which is even more expensive to produce. What are the margins?

BI: It's premium content. There are 25 movies, integration with videos, and the elegant user experience. HBO is premium content. People are willing to pay for it so when we create premium content, we shouldn't apologize for charging for it because people are willing to pay. That's what this is about. It's not about a zero sum game with the traditional book. This is a brand new product that has value. We have to figure out what that value is to the consumer and they ultimately will tell you that it has real value and we believe that strongly.

BF: Maybe you should charge like HBO.You should charge subscription.

BI: I think it's a great idea. There may be a different model here when you start thinking of this different form of media.

BF: We were talking about earlier about how I am in the newspaper industry and how that has changed a lot. Now I am trying to create something with VatorNews where we combine video with text, much like yourself. It seems like a lot of people still prefer bits and pieces. That's why Wall Street Journal turned into USA Today. That's why people are consuming Twitter. Who is the market for such an elaborate production?

BI: First of all, the experience itself is simple and elegant and you can do what you want with it. But what you just described is important. This could actually help long form because if you think about books, they could actually help long-form journalism, reporting or writing. And yet I come from the same background that you do.  It also is true that people consume media in the way they want. It used to be that we stood there and told them how to do it in the newspaper and the book industry. Now, with digital media, they can move it around by going to the last chapter or the middle chapter. This is how people want to consume media. This is even more inventive than that way but if we create a market that long form can actually be used in a new way, then long form will survive. If you look at Vook, we chop it up by chapters. It's in smaller bits but can also use it in long form. But it gives the user the power to do that.

BF: It's great to give power to users but I'm not sure if I want to give children the power to do things is a good idea. You want them to read and it strikes me that they enjoy reading more if they have these elements. Do you think this will get the 10 and under crowd to read more?

BI: We should always encourage children to read to get that experience of appreciating the long form narrative. On the other hand, it's clearer that children are on the computer and they're digesting media differently whether we like it or not. But imagine good writing and good authors giving it in a form that they're familiar with may inspire them to read.

BF: I think you're right. We can tell them to get away from the video games because we have something more entertaining. I'm sold. So this is creating debate among literary circles I imagine. What kind of criticism?

BI: Were movies in the 20's then end of great books? Absolutely not. Were audio books the end of great books? This is just about using technology to leverage the power of the written word of great authors. If I thought of doing anything else, I wouldn't be doing it.

BF: We will end it there. This is not the end of great books. It's the beginning of a new chapter.

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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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