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  • iTunes: The Long Tail Challenge

    Today, Seth Godin announced that his newest Vook, Linchpin, is available as an iPad app, and on sale in the iTunes store. He also noted the challenges of promoting a book in the store when there are so many apps:

    There are more than 24,000 apps listed in the iPad store, and yet the front window (equivalent to the window of a bookstore) shows the user six choices. The spotlight coverflow up top shows another sixteen, fairly randomly. Meaning there’s a little worse than a one in a thousand chance that your app will appear in front of someone interacting with the store at the first level.

    Seth advocates that authors become the “gatekeeper” of their own content. They can’t rely on iTunes store promotions; it’s their job to reach out to their users. Social media and user engagement will dictate how purchases are made, just as they dictate the content that is consumed on the Web.

    There are also apps that help you search for apps, such as Chomp. The Chomp iPhone app serves as a search engine for the iPhone app store that includes user reviews. It blends search, social media and shopping all into one.

    There may be problems with iTunes store model, but there are also talented people ready to develop solutions.

    What Goes on Inside a Writer’s Mind?

    What’s it like to lose your family, die an unjust and tragic death and then come back to life with only 24 hours to exact revenge?

    Personally, we don’t know. But twelve-time New York Times bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon has created an entire world based on that premise–a world populated by the Dark Hunters–creatures risen from the dead tasked with protecting humanity.

    This world is available to the public in the form of the Dark Hunter series, but in the privacy of Kenyon’s mind there are far more complexities than appear in her books.

    When Kenyon decided that it was time to fill in the missing gaps for her readers, she needed a medium that could do justice to the contents of her imagination. She chose Vook.

    In five previously unpublished short stories, accompanied by five original videos, Kenyon reveals the truth about what her characters experience and takes you deep into her fantasy world.

    Check out this Vook for the iPhone, iPad, or Web.

    Or watch this video and find out how painful it really is to be a Dark Hunter:

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    The Power Shift in Publishing

    When a panel on the future publishing includes a robust discussion of HTML5 and a debate on the tenacity of InDesign, you get the hint that things are changing.

    When one of the panelists says that “it’s not the publisher’s job to determine what should be published and what shouldn’t,” the writing is on the wall: there are new power players in this industry, and maybe even a whole new set of rules.

    The panel in question took place at the GigaOm office in San Francisco on August 25th. “Author to Audience: Disintermediation in the Publishing Industry,” was moderated by VP of research at GigaOm Pro Michael Wolf. It gathered industry innovators and experts to assess whether the rise of the e-book spells doom for the traditional publisher.

    Panelists from Adobe, Scribd, Smashwords and of course, our own Brad Inman from Vook never suggested that traditional publishers would be out of the picture, but they did emphasize that now, the real power is the hand of the reader.

    Readers will choose what they read, or as Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords said, “The power of curation is going to shift from the publishers to the crowd- the readers.’

    They will also choose how they read. Brad emphasized, “what we like is that people can choose. You can go to ibooks and get Seth Godin with or without video.”

    Amid the sea of self-publishing opportunities and endless e-readers, audiences will interact directly with authors and determine what content rises to the top. John Warren, Marketing Director, Publications at RAND Corporation, speculated that a time will come when readers can pay writers to change the course of their narrative, or have characters named after them.

    Regardless of whether it gets that far, reader likes and dislikes may come to determine the fate of book authors, just as they do now with content on Web. In the future of publishing, the people have the power.

    Get Seth Godin’s “Unleashing the SUPERIdeavirus” with video in the iBooks store: here.

    Making Friends with E-Books

    This weekend, the New York Times suggested that “E-Books Make Readers Less Isolated.” The article asserts that someone carrying a new e-reading device or tablet is inviting conversation and interaction.

    Strangers constantly ask about it,” Michael Hughes, a communications associate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said of his iPad, which he uses to read a mix of novels and nonfiction. “It’s almost like having a new baby.” An iPad owner for four months, Mr. Hughes said people were much more likely to approach him now than when he toted a book. “People approach me and ask to see it, to touch it, how much I like it,” he said. “That rarely happens with dead-tree books.”

    But the social aspect of e-books isn’t limited to curiosity about devices. People who are reading on tablets are often connecting to internet and sharing content or conversations while reading. Of course, the ability to connect has been a core value at Vook from the beginning.

    One of our earliest Vooks, Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It, drew in readers with relevant hyperlinks and access to Gary’s Twitter stream.  Less than a year later, you can email your friends videos and highlighted passages from within a Vook you’re reading on your iPhone or iPad. The ability to interact with authors and co-readers always seemed like an obvious next step in innovative publishing, but it turns out that it’s also essential to the sharing of ideas, on and offline.

    The benefits of connectivity don’t end inside the binding of an e-book.  Dialogue online creates a welcoming environment for dialogue in person. The Times says:

    Suddenly, the lone, unapproachable reader at the corner table seems less alone. Given that some e-readers can display books while connecting online, there’s a chance the erstwhile bookworm is already plugged into a conversation somewhere, said Paul Levinson, professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University.

    Are e-Books bringing us closer together? Tell us what you think in the comments below, or tweet us @vooktv.

    Testing the 90 Second Fitness Solution with Pete Cerqua

    Pete Cerqua’s 90 Second Fitness Solution is one of our most popular Vooks. In it, Pete teaches you easy, 90-second exercises that you can do at home to build strength and lose weight. I always enjoyed the workout in our Vook, but when Pete found out that I was visiting New York this week, he invited me to experience a personal training session first hand. This was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss.

    I arrived at Pete’s studio with running sneakers and gym clothes, but he assured me that most of his clients come dressed for work and don’t break a sweat. He escorted me to the first machine, which would exercise my back and core–and help him to gauge how strong I was.

    He explained to me the philosophy behind the 90 Second Fitness Solution: lift very heavy weights and do as few reps as possible in 90 seconds. This means being strong enough to have tremendous control and solid form. It all started simply enough. I sat down on a machine, clad in a skirt and a blouse. I lifted the weights, and Pete told me I was doing great. Then he added more weight.

    Part of the workout is that as you prove your strength, you lift heavier weights. Ultimately, Pete will help you to lift a weight that is beyond your range, and then have you lower it slowly with control. I’ll admit it–I would have been happy to just cruise. When Pete added weight, it was hard work. There were one or two moments when I thought that I’d be too weak to finish the set, or would drop the weight and completely embarrass myself.

    Amazingly, I didn’t–and I was so proud. The real genius of this workout is that due to its brevity, you can lift more than if you were doing numerous sets. You go deep into your muscles by lifting really heavy weights (I got up to 200 pounds!) but you don’t get fatigued or risk injury. You only have to do it twice a week in order to build compact, lean muscles.

    By the end of the workout, I was feeling like super woman and raving about how great it was. “It also prevents osteoporosis,” Pete told me. “I have 80-year olds who come in and lift the same amount of weight you did.” 80 year olds? I was impressed by Pete’s success, but a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to brag about my Amazon-woman strength. But I’m totally committed to keep working at it–and thrilled that Pete has promised to kick my butt whenever I’m in town.

    You can train with Pete using the 90 Second Fitness solution for your browser, iphone, or ipad.

    Or try this level one workout with Pete:

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    Bridging the Gap: Authors and Apps

    In Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart envisions a not-so-distant dystopic future in which books are artifacts, “Assertiveness” is a college major and immortality is for sale. The book’s protagonist, Lenny, still reads, writes in a journal and thus is essentially a dinosaur. But when the financial crisis hits New York, it’s up to old-fashioned Lenny to save the world with language–and love for a young woman named Eunice.

    The book has been compared to George Orwell’s 1984 for its sharp cultural criticism. And while Shteyngart’s satirical prose comes down hard on the damage computers have done to humanity, the author still has his own iPhone app. Download it and you’ll get excerpts from his writing, bonus content, integration of Facebook and Twitter, video clips and breaking news about the author.

    In context it seems ironic, but it might simply be a sign of the times. Ultimately, apps don’t signify the death of reading–rather, tablets and e-readers are encouraging more people to buy books.

    And often, apps enable readers to engage more fully with the content they’re consuming. Novelist John Reed created a companion iPhone app that lets readers contribute and converse about his new book, Tales of Woe. Tales of Woe compiles true stories of tragedy and misery, and with the iPhone app, readers can contribute their own unhappy stories.

    More and more, apps are a tool that accompany books and represent authors in the mobile sphere. For examples, Karen Armstrong’s decision to create a Vook, A Compassionate Life in 12 Steps, caught the attention of Knopf. Soon, the book version of Armstrong’s Vook will be released. It’s proof that when the publishing industry embraces technology, an infinite stream of possibilities can unfold.

    Choose Your Own Adventure Meets Digital Publishing

    If you listened to the Elitzr podcast interview with our CEO Brad Inman, you know that we’re committed to inspiring creativity through interactivity. By breaking the mold with our format, we make it possible for authors, filmmakers and readers to let their imaginations run wild.

    Today eBookNewser posted an announcement about another company using technology to amp up creativity.  Unknown Tales takes the typical Choose Your Own Adventure model and turns it into a collaborative, digital fiction-writing experience. Choose from a variety of genres, select a story and start reading what others have written. When the text ends, you can opt to reserve the next chapter.

    The site will put a lock on your reserved chapter for an hour–or longer if you need more time. A perfect tool for writers with minimal time, or readers looking for a more engaged experience. It’s kind of like the Wikipedia of digital publishing. We wonder if it will eventually have that far a reach. What do you think?

    The (enhanced) eBook Revolution

    Recently, the New York Times published an article on the growing popularity of enhanced eBooks. Today, Michael Wolf posted a podcast interview with our CEO Brad Inman on what it’s like to be a pioneer in that territory.

    Wolf writes for the site Eliztr.com, which provides “analysis and conversation about the eBook revolution.” With Brad, he discusses the effect of the iPad, authors’ desire to create enhanced books, the role of filmmakers and the future of the book market

    Listen to the full podcast here.

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