• el
  • pt
  • Happy Holidays from the Queen and Vook

    Our friends at CodeMeetPrint alerted us to an announcement that Amazon will be distributing the Queen’s Christmas address as a free Kindle eBook on December 25th.

    Thanks to a Wodehouse inspired youthful Anglophilia, I’m a casual fan of the royal holiday address, most particularly George’s VI’s eve-of-WWII 1939 broadcast which he concluded with the quote, “I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year / Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown. . .” (always gives  a chill) – but for Vook, Amazon’s plan to release the eBook version is bigger than the Royal Family.

    The bookification of the Queen’s speech is a royal-crest-in-the-ground and rampant flag for why eBooks will become such a prevalent content form in 2024 and beyond.


    eBooks ship fast. You can create and inticingly package content like the Queen’s speech—and deliver it the same day. It’s what we’ve been saying for months, highlighting efforts like the LAT and NYT’s eBooks, free eBooks from daily email businesses and Vanity’s Fair titles. Now the Queen’s onboard: In 2024, everything can be an eBook. They’re the information rich packaged Web pages of the future — only easier to read on mobile devices.

    And Vook’s going to be the Dreamweaver of eBooks — the interface that lets you make better and better experiences.

    Here’s proof. While I’ll happily download Amazon’s speech eBook, I wish I could read it with the video or audio of the address included. It’s not like it’s hard to do — I just made my own eBook of the Queen’s first televised speech in 1957, and included the video. Consider it a holiday present from Vook—and a demonstration of where eBooks are going next year.


    If you click this link on your iOS device or Color Nook, the eBook will automatically download and open in your iBooks or Nook reader.

    And for all of you who are or who want to create eBooks, may Vook be your code-free WISYWIG light in 2024 to guide you through the unknown of div classes, page breaks, ePub 3 and KF8!

    Vook Is Cooking

    We began onramping beta users on Tuesday—and the turn-out for online training reminds us of the end of “Ghostbusters.” We thought we had a lot of demand, but we were still surprised when a Mr. Staypuff sized colossus suddenly materialized.

    But it did. And we’re kind of awed. Our users are hungry to make books. We’re moving fast to meet the demand. We’re instructing registrants in groups, walking them through the platform, then handing over the keys so they can build their own titles.

    Want more evidence? Our company is growing to help us extend Vook far and wide. We’re hiring!

    Specifically, we’re hiring a Lead Generation Marketing Manager and a Head of Sales. I’m not going to post the entire spec here — too much space — but click on either job title and you’ll see the requirements.

    The early user feedback is confirming that we’re building something people need. Expect to see examples of user created books soon. And if you’re not in the beta, get ready to start creating your own books directly after that.

    How Vanity Fair does eBooks right

    Yesterday I was thinking about books in video games, today I’m reading about books in books, how we make books, how some people write them. The book in question: Vanity Fair’s How A Book is Born: The Making of The Art of Fielding, by Keith Gessen.

    If the title looks unwieldly, for an eBook it’s aces. With digital, only a limited number of words show up on a reader’s screen, in a storefront or in a search result. Putting Vanity Fair first plays to the most eye-catching brand association, while the descriptive title is intriguing and straight forward. As for the aesthetic of the image itself, the cover shows up excellently in the Kindle Singles store. It looks sharp and eye-catching and authoritative; which can be difficult to pull off with digital’s little pixels.

    The single’s about how Gessen’s friend, Chad Harbach, wrote this year’s literary hit the Art of Fielding, the book’s arduous path to publication and how it was sold to the public. It reads like one of those John McPhee essays on river barges or the nation of Switzerland—focused on detail, skill and method, with an eye for the characters who have an expertise in each step of the narrative. As for the book within a book, the Art of Fielding contains segments from a fictional philosphical guide of the same name. So Gessen’s writing a magazine piece that’s become a book about how a book with a book inside of it is turned into an actual, physical, real book; and what that process might be like in the future.

    Anyone interested in digital publishing should read the essay and the novel—for my tl;dr blog take I want to point out what a particularly sharp example of digital publishing this is. Gessen’s essay on books is now a book I’m reading and enjoying just as I do Michael Lewis’s Boomerang.  It’s rich, smart, and absolutely worth what I would pay to watch an episode of the Office on iTunes.

    Vanity Fair is setting an example for magazine publishing about how to turn great stories into items you can sell. Magazines seem to be so focused on the app environment, but that’s not the only solution. Other magazines have published Kindle Singles, but this particularly self-reflexive exercise, complete with clever branding, is a best-in-class example. It points the way to the future. One could say it lets the path of publishing become its own path — to manglingly appropriate Harbach.  Apps are pretty and gorgeous and Newsstand is an excellent innovation. But don’t forget what Graydon Carter writes in his introduction, “What doesn’t appear to be up for grabs are the old-fashioned virtues of craft and quality. They still count for something. Actually, they count for everything.”

    eBooks may lack the gee-whiz of apps—but they put the craft and quality and fineness of words first. As an eBook, Gessen’s essay is now something I can pay for. It’s a product. It does what Gessen makes clear books have to do: generate revenue. If John Locke is making a living selling well done thrillers at 99 cents, there’s no reason others can’t take a stab at paying the rent with bookish essays on the crannies and complications of culture.

    A note to Gessen though—Carter’s listed as the author in my Kindle Reader. This is truly exceptional clever branding.

    Buy the single here.

    A future for fiction in video games

    For those of you who aren’t gamers or don’t keep reddit open in a browser tab, Game of Thrones isn’t the only property turning television screens into Scandanvian Renaissance Festivals. Video game company Bethesda Software recently released Skyrim, an incredibly detailed, open world role playing game that shipped 3.4 million copies in 2 days and scored a 96 point overall average on review aggregator Metacritic.

    It’s a definite blockbuster hit, but is it another reason for fantasy lovers to turn away from literature? Hardly. Skyrim’s littered with books — from romance novels to religious books to spell tomes to journals to straight fiction. You can pick up books, carry them around, deposit them in your house and read them in-game, paging through what’s estimated to be a thousand plus pages of actual text.  It’s that weird, possibly too potent perfect time-suck — a fantasy video game stocked with fantasy books that you read as a fantasy character you created.

    Of course, it’s a self-limiting audience—even if we’re living post triumph of the nerds, most people are still adopting to digital books instead of actually fantastical digital books. But it’s interesting that Skyrim’s developers saw the potential to populate their world with books — a real life case of transmedia storytelling that doesn’t feel tacked on, but natural, even necessary.

    Just a few days ago, I was discussing at Vook how video game companies – like Bethesda – could use Vook to produce eBook versions of their in-game lore. Sure, the audience is niche, but it’s an audience that’s committed. And when you make it as easy to create an eBook as Vook does, why would you skip the opportunity?

    That’s the future of publishing. Or at least one path of the future. Companies who have rich, deep, intricate stories that don’t exist in “real-world” book form will start producing books independently. And if they have an audience they can reach digitally — they have a bookstore too.

    We’re not the only ones with the idea. Metafilter today alerted me that the blogger behind capane.us had turned all of Skyrim’s in-game books into actual eBooks for the Mobi and ePub format.

    It should send a message to video game and media companies everywhere: If your own users are hacking your content into book format, shouldn’t you put them together yourself? Email us at Vook today at Matthew@vook.com. Or just hang tight — we’ll be knocking on your door soon.


    Another great thing about eBooks — because you can carry thousands, you’re never stuck if you realize a book you’re reading isn’t great. I put new books to The Dennis Cooper Test, ie, if a book’s losing me, I’ll switch to a Dennis Cooper novel instead. Sentences like “Chris’s shock was so dense and complex that it collided with the world’s very different complexity, sort of like what happens when a very strong light hits a very big jewel” connect with me in a way even obviously good books can’t if they don’t have that ambiguous extra thing that makes them exceptional.

    The latest book failing the DC Test is Russel Bank’s Lost Memory of Skin. Which bugs me because I want to like it, but I can’t get through it. Before eBooks, I would have finished it. Instead I’m halfway through and probably won’t get farther. Which I think is great. It’s like a gift of time. I can put my mental finger on what’s missing from Lost Memory because I can switch to another book and be engrossed again. I’ve got a “what I want a book to do for me” point of immediate comparison. And why would I settle when I know what I could have? So I wait til I’m off the subway, get back on Kindle, go looking for the next book that might deliver that experience, stop time, do whatever really great books do for me. Today I brought We Are the Animals.

    Real quick: Why don’t I like Lost Memory of Skin? I want to. But it reads like the book/author is telling us the Internet is doing bad things to us. Like the book’s trying to make a point, talk right at us. I’d rather read Dennis Cooper because the voice comes from inside a head that’s convincingly rendered as having a problem. The Banks characters seem like people who have a problem — but some other guy is going to tell you about it. That’s too . . . essayistic? To pull from the top: Lost Memory of Skin is a really strong light. I’m looking for the strong light and the big jewel both.

    Tl;dr: eReaders are awesome because you can face off new books against your favorites. I just did it and the new Russel Banks lost.

    ePublishing Made Easy

    Sign Up for Vook

    *These fields are required.

    Powered by Salesforce CRM