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  • iBooks 2 and iBooks Author: Another opportunity & headache

    People wax nostalgic about the smell of books, but no one pines for the smell of textbooks. They smelled like glue, they were heavy, and they were—usually—boring. So we were happy to read Apple’s announcement of iBooks 2 and iBooks Author: finally, a kind of book everyone wants to see go digital fast.

    It’s a great announcement for digital publishing, for readers, and for platform and tool creators like us. It also raises some interesting complications that we’ve spent months tackling. Here’s how we’re looking at this announcement at Vook.

    The Good

    eBooks Really Matter

    Finally, eBooks are coming of age. This was not an Apple announcement about a new app creation platform. This is about eBooks—and we understand and obsess over eBooks in all of their various incarnations at Vook.  Apple really is committing to eBooks. That means great enhanced reading experiences are going to start coming more and more from iBooks instead of the iTunes App store. In turn, eBooks are going to get more attention, more user adoption and more momentum.

    The Complicated

    More proprietary files

    iBooks Author outputs an entirely new file format called “.ibooks.” This is a proprietary file format that only plays in iBooks (edit: it’s not quite epub2 and it’s not quite epub3, nor is it quite XHTML5—plus the widgets are iBooks built-in components rather than open standards JS). As one of our colleagues remarked, “Reminds me of another file format (Amazon’s .mobi, anyone?)”. More file formats—especialy more proprietary file formats (or formats intended for only one device)—means more restrictions for content, more headaches for creators, and less freedom for consumers. The title you produce with iBooks Author aren’t for Amazon, on BN, on Google Books. It’s one channel only.

    The Future

    More problems = more opportunity

    When people write a book, they want that book to be available everywhere. Not just on one platform or device. They want as many people to be able to read their book as possible. Which is why this is announcement has us so happy at Vook.  Our platform allows you to build and create files in ePub and Mobi, for Amazon, BN, iBooks, Kobo and others. Vook is not a proprietary format, though we can produce those files. We serve as many of the distributors as possible, bringing your content—and making sure it looks great—to the vast diversity of existing devices and platforms.

    The titans of digital book delivery seem to be arming themselves for war. It’s like something out of a textbook on World War II. But Vook lets publishers, creators and content holders work with all of the major players. We’re like the Switzerland of digital publishing. And like the Swiss, our technology is absolutely world class.


    Everyday we get requests from people who want to build an eBook with Vook immediately. Everyday we look at what we’re building, what our users want and expect, and what we’ve committed to delivering. Our engineering team is working night and day (which isn’t hyperbole, I’ve interrupted them at 2 AM on our conference line in the past)—and the rest of us are constantly using and testing Vook, making sure it meets our standards.

    On Thanksgiving, I’m not grateful for the elements we can control – our commitment, our resourcefulness, our smarts – I’m grateful for that harder to hit factor: What people want and what we’re building seem perfectly aligned.

    I’m judging that interest by how many people sign up every day for our beta – and anecdotally by how many people have emailed me on Thanksgiving asking if they can use the platform while they have time off.

    And we will ship to our beta users very soon. But today I wanted to share a segment of a clip I found on the Next Web’s Shareables site—a video of Steve Jobs brainstorming with the team at NeXT in the 80s about when they’re going to release their product.

    Steve Jobs and NeXT UPDATE: You’ll want to start watching at the 8:00 minute mark for the relevant section. YouTube Preview Image

    The part I’m focused on starts 8:00 minutes into the video, during a brainstorm/debate/conversation between Steve and the team members, ranging from Product to Tech to Business. I’m not highlighting this clip to swoon over Job’s exceptionalism—but because it clearly shows how product innovation, consumer demands and the abilities of technology interact with and react to each other.

    My favorite part? When Steve, slightly exasperated, says, “I can’t change the world.” Many people would consider that ironic – but I think Steve’s right. This clip shows it’s commitment,  intensity, and smart people pushing each other that make a difference.

    Steve might have said, “I can’t change the world – but my company can.” And that’s the truth.

    Steve Jobs

    When I heard that Steve Jobs had died, I happened to be with the same friend with whom I watched the World Trade Towers collapse from a rooftop in Chelsea on September 11th, 2024. Yesterday was October 5th, 2024—ten years and a few weeks later. Both events made everything else happening seem trite.

    At Vook, we often say, “No one did a better job showing off how our company could light up content than Steve Jobs holding up the iPad.”

    Vook took off thanks to to the world of ereading and enhanced books that Apple helped make possible. Today, I’m writing this post on a MacBook Pro surrounded by colleagues using Apple computers to make software that produces books you can read on Apple devices. I’m texting with my iPhone, following the news on my iPad. From the engineering department, I can hear “Jobs,” “Macintosh,” “My first mac. . .”  We’re all here, working together, because we want to create something exceptional.

    To the Jobs family, we extend our deepest condolences. To Apple, we express our gratitude. To the memory of Steve Jobs and in the spirit of books and literature and reading, we’ll live and work by your example, which could twist even the grimmest existentialism to something brighter:

    Try. Succeed. Try again. Succeed Better.


    Our digital publishing platform, VookMaker, is ever closer to public release — and our vision of an easy-to-use ebook creation, distribution and sales reporting platform. And yes! This is exciting, this platform we have developed. And yes! We are excited. But — a platform is only as good as what people make with it — which is why we’re even more excited that Apple recognizes the high quality, awesome looking eBooks VookMaker can produce. How do we know this? Because they have just launched a 15 TITLE PROMOTION for the video enhanced fitness series we produced with Gaiam. You can see it by clicking here!

    This is a front page promotion, sharing the stage with Mark Bowden, Lee Child, and Rin Tin Tin. Our hats off to you, other authors and dog subjects. We are honored to be in your fine company up there on the front page. And we are also so proud of our platform, VookMaker, because it produced these very fine looking titles very quickly. This, ladies and gentleman, is what VookMaker can do for you. And what you can do with VookMaker. Soon! GaiamLargeBrick

    TextVooks Featured in iBookstore

    We’re very excited that Apple is featuring our new TextVook series on the front page of the iBookstore and also on the nonfiction category page. More than 50 TextVooks launched there this week, including 9 enhanced ebooks with our resident genius, Dr. Vook Ph.D. In celebration of this special promotion, we dropped the prices of our enhanced versions to $2.99 and ebooks to .99 cents. Rumor has it that you can also download Psychology 101 and World War II for free. Just type TextVook in the iBookstore to see how to get smart, quickly and become a genius like Dr. Vook, Ph.D with subjects such as jazz, astronomy and art history.


    Vook Announces 57 Enhanced Titles in Apple’s iBookstore

    Today, we made a very exciting announcement: We have 47 titles available for sale in Apple’s iBookstore. In the short time since our launch there, we’ve surpassed all players in the digital publishing space to become the largest and fastest growing publisher of enhanced eBooks in the iBookstore. In fact, we’re progressing so fast that by the time the press release hit the wires, we had 57 titles in iBooks.

    Not only are we moving at the speed of light, but our titles are being received incredibly well. Reckless Road: The Making of Appetite for Destruction was #1 in the Entertainment category. The 90 Second Fitness Solution was featured on the front page of the store and Seth Godin’s Unleashing the SUPER Ideavirus was also highlighted in the Business section of the iBookstore.

    So what’s next for us? We’re going to keep giving you the content you love in the format you want. We’ll be releasing our entire library and all of our new titles as enhanced eBooks in the iBookstore.

    For up-to-the-minute updates on new releases, follow us on Twitter.

    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.

    A Date with the new iPhone 3G S

    I wasn’t going to upgrade. I swear. But my gadget lust got the better of me and I caved.

    So I spent the weekend with a new toy; my brand new iPhone 3G S.

    This is now the third generation iPhone I’ve owned after its launch weekend. Pretty pathetic I know. But I’ve kept my batting record at 1000.

    In my defense, it’s all for research purposes. Yeah, that’s right… research purposes. (At least, that’s what I told my wife)

    YouTube Preview Image

    But it’s true. Vook is betting pretty heavily on the iPhone space and I had to see if our prototypes worked on the new hardware. (Good news, it does!)

    So here are some thoughts on the new handset from Apple.

    The S is for Speed. And well deserved. A bump in memory and processing power means this is the snappiest iPhone to date. I never really thought of my old phone as slow. But going back to it now and it feels like a slug in comparison. Streaming videos and reading pages is a breeze on the new S.

    V is for Video. The new iPhone should really be called the iPhone 3G V. The integration of a video camera and software in the device stands poised to revolutionize the way we see our world. Imagine a scene where everyone has access to a video camera and access to the web to instantly upload and share what they are seeing. Well it’s now a reality and I predict we’re going to see an explosion of new uses of video — to share memories, report on current events and eventually, I suspect, tell stories. Exciting stuff – especially for a platform like Vook.

    If you are interested in upgrading to the new phone, check your eligibility on Apple’s web site. I’d give it an enthusiastic thumbs up.

    Top 3 Vook Readers of the Future

    Here at vook we always have one eye on what’s coming down the pike in terms of hardware. We love our iPhones and Kindles but are anxiously anticipating the day that technology catches up with our dream of integrated video and text. The good news is I think we’re almost there.

    Here’s a handful of devices that are getting us excited right now.

    1. Fujitsu’s FLEPia

    Shown here as a prototype in 2024. FLEPia is color e-paper (which does not play video, yet). Launched commercially in March 2024 in Japan.

    2. Techcrunch’s Crunchpad

    Popular technology blog Techcrunch has been cheerleading a new device in this space and, frustrated by the lack of response by manufacturers, commissioned a product themselves.

    3. Google Android based netbooks

    One of the first Android based netbooks manufactured by GNB – demo’d here in June 2024.

    BONUS! The long rumored Apple tablet

    Much has been bantered about online about a forthcoming tablet device from Apple. Shown here in a rendering made by a fan.

    iPhone 3.0 changes up the eBook game

    If you are as big a geek as me, you spent yesterday glued to the Engadget or Gizmodo live blog of Apple’s WWDC keynote speech.

    As expected, we got a look at the new iPhone (3G s) and some of the new apps that will be launched when iPhone 3.0 comes out in a few weeks time.

    Personally, I’m really excited about the new iPhone – video alone is enough to get me to spring for a new device (though I’m less enthused about AT&T’s uncharitable upgrade options).

    But what really got me excited about iPhone 3.0 is all the new options it presents to developers like Vook.

    On stage in San Francisco, we saw ScrollMotion show off the latest version of their Iceberg reader which has long been one of my favorite eBook apps in the iTunes store.

    The big change in 3.0 is that Apple now allows developers like ScrollMotion and Vook to deploy in-app commerce for their books. What does that mean? Simply that I can now buy additional books from inside the application and not have to go through iTunes anymore. Not only does this promise to clear up the clutter on our phones — don’t know about you, but I have a couple dozen apps on my phone at any given time — but it also kickstarts whole new marketplace for digital content.

    I suspect this is going to only increase the adoption of eBooks (I’m already reading far more on my phone that I ever thought I would) and give consumers a whole new way to begin to access more of their favorite literary works. As has already been demonstrated by the Kindle, instant, on-demand access to content can be a powerful behavioral change. One that bodes well for this medium.

    Now, if only we’d seen the oft-rumored Apple tablet… that would have really made my day!

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