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    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.


    I raved yesterday about going to the National Book Awards; now I’m trying to catch up on reading the winners I didn’t grab from our table display — and I’ve hit a problem.

    Only 3 of the 4 National Book Award winning titles are available as eBooks—Nikky Finney’s collection of poems Head Off & Split is not available digitally. Dianna Dilworth also sharply caught this at eBook Newser, and I wish it was more widely remarked.

    I run into this issue when I’m trying to get more obscure titles — but I’m a book nerd and I can live with my tastes being off beat and not always digitally available. But this seems an oversight that’s bigger than my interests.

    Head Off & Split is a National Book Award Winner. And yes, I know, I can get it at a bookstore and support my local independent, but I like supporting the new digital publishing start-ups, and I don’t like going back to print. So, I want this in digital.

    Which is why, because our platform’s so easy to use, if publisher Triquarterly or Nikky or anyone associated with this project would just send me the manuscript –just send me a word document! or paste it into an email! — I’ll produce a high end, nicely formatted flowable eBook for them in a few days, for free. I’ll do it myself. Again, for free.

    I’ll even type the book into our tool if that’s what it takes—if they ok it.

    Just someone, let me know. For my own sake. And note that this is an encouraging sign for 2024–you’ve got someone pleading to read a book of poetry as an eBook. Viva culture.

    Matthew Cavnar



    How Can We Help You?

    A post at TechCrunch by Eric Ries this morning  caught my attention — it speaks to a core issue we’re wrestling with as we engineer new features and functionality into our digital book creation platform, VookMaker. Ries asks the question, “How do you know you’re building the right product — if you’re not talking to your customers?” Of course, he asks a lot of other things — but I’m going to focus narrowly on the bit relevant to us, so read the article yourself to experience its larger points.

    At Vook, we’ve gone from creating a large volume of titles for our partners and others to creating a platform they can use to make excellent digital books. They can also track sales, analytics, enhance, enrich, review, publish to multiple marketplaces — hopefully anything you’d want to do as a digital publisher. Which is the crux of this — what do people really want to do as digital publishers? We think we know –  but I’ve also championed a version of the Velveteen Rabbit with embedded YouTube videos of cute bunnies — so we’re aware we could use outside input and affirmation.

    Which is why, as part of our business development process, our first step is to shut up and not talk — but find out what our potential partner or associate might need in a digital book creation tool that’s not immediately obvious.

    Here’s some of the questions we’re asking:

    • “Where is your greatest pain point with digital book creation?”
    • “If you had to choose one function that would be most helpful in creating, managing, publishing and tracking your digital books, where do you need the most help?”
    • “Do you want more control of your digital books — or do you want better outsourcing of conversion?”
    • “If you could have the ability to control one aspect of the digital books you produce from your computer today, what would it be?”

    What kind of questions do you think we should ask? Where are your needs? We’re building a tool that will help solve problems that exist today — and could get worse tomorrow. So write Matthew@vook.com and have us get started addressing them. Think of us as your solution builder.

    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.

    The future sound of books

    by Sabrina Jaszi
    Once Vook gets into the world, the potential for even unexpected industries to take advantage of it could be vast. Just look at how digital books are helping out the classical music industry. Classical musicians have been mourning the loss of establishments selling sheet music for a while. Stores like this once gave musicians the chance to mingle, and the opportunity to stumble upon music by composers great and unknown. Maybe the rent’s too steep (how much can you really charge for a couple of pieces of paper, after all) or maybe the tunes of centuries past are simply no longer in vogue, but either way, the Amazon Kindle may have a solution. As of July 10th, they’ve begun releasing sheet music for their tablet—over 20,000 pieces so far. You won’t find any buried treasure on cob-webbed shelves, but the works of major classical and popular composers are there for the taking. There are a few glitches: who can read those itty bitty little notes and how do you zoom in without poking yourself in the eye with your bow? Perhaps this product would be better suited for a larger device, music stand included. And if you had video of the orchestra playing the piece alongside it? It’s something we’re keeping an eye on at Vook.

    Source: http://ireaderreview.com/2009/07/08/kindle-sheet-music/

    Google Moves the OS up in the Clouds

    Big news this morning. Google announces a brand new operating system based on its Chrome Browser – Google Chrome OS. Details on what it’ll look like are bit sketchy, but there is no doubt. This is huge, huge move for the search giant to make.

    Why, you ask?

    The New York Times categorizes this as a first leap into the clouds where ultimately all applications are hosted online.

    Google’s plans for the new operating system fit its Internet-centric vision of computing. Google believes that software delivered over the Web will play an increasingly central role, replacing software programs that run on the desktop. In that world, applications run directly inside an Internet browser, rather than atop an operating system, the standard software that controls most of the operations of a PC.

    Put more succinctly, Michael Arrington, writing at Techcrunch, sums it up best. He says:

    The Internet Is Everything. All the OS has to do is boot the damn computer, get me to a browser as fast as possible and then stay the hell out of the way.

    Google expects to put this free (yes, free) operating system on millions of computers starting next year.

    For us at Vook, this is especially exciting – the new Chrome Browser and Google’s vision for cloud-based computing dovetails exactly with our vision for taking digital books and bringing them to the Internet.

    When we first started talking about this project we often referred to Vook as putting books in the cloud.  And today we are even one step closer to making that a reality.

    Whoda thunk it?

    Who could have predicted that one of the largest public endorsement of digital books would come from none other than the Terminator himself? Yesterday, Ahhhrni The Governator Schwarzenegger officially opened the door to e-books on a state educational level. Sure, he’s talking about generation 1.0 books — and his agenda is clearly about saving the money hemorrhaging state money — but it’s still a coup. And pretty forward thinking . . Sounds like other states and companies can’t be far behind. .

    Digital lands at BEA

    Vook wasn’t the only e-book outfit at BEA, but we were one of the most visible, hanging around the floor and visiting lots of publishing folk to demonstrate our product.   I’m a veteran of this book fair, but I have to say I have rarely encountered such enthusiasm, especially for a product that’s a little “out of the box.”  For all the fretting that the book business is archaic and hidebound, there were dozens of “that’s cool”’s and “I want in”s, especially after Vook CEO Brad Inman spoke on the Big Ideas panel.   The BEA organizers are enthused about new technology, too, having organized, for the first time,  a special “digital area” at the otherwise old-fashioned fair.   Some people worried that this was ghettoizing, but I thought otherwise;  with traditional book publishers pulling back on what they spent at the fair on booths and parties and such, it seemed a natural progression for technology to take more of center stage.  (And, by the way, give one of the few great parties at the Fair)

    Speaking of ghettoizing, I couldn’t help but notice that in the business section of the  Wednesday’s  NY times there were two, count em two, stories about technology and media.   This might not seem all that unusual, but we media hounds in New York still remember the Circuits section, now disbanded:  Now, that was a ghetto.   I think it’s a great sign that we’re all up there next to GM (and looking a whole lot better than GM, I can’t help but notice) — finally,  forward thinking companies are allowed to sit at what Woody Allen once quipped (in another context) was the “grown up”’s table.

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