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  • History Repeating

    rose018_3We opened Vook to our first group of beta users today. We trained the early adopters in online sessions, fielded questions, and handed over accounts.

    The first eBooks produced independently with the new Vook are now rolling off the digital press!

    It’s a big moment for the company — and it’s got us looking back on our precursors.

    The first typographic printed books — produced with Gutenberg’s moveable type press — were called incanabula; which means, ‘the first infancy of printing.’

    But even with the form in its infancy, those early publishers produced some 15 million volumes before 1500. People were more concerned with the plague than content commidification in the 16th century, but it’s evidence: Human beings are going to publish as many titles as they possibly can if they have a way to do it easily.

    Ebooks are the publishing medium of our time. And they’re in their incanabula. Our titles, with customized images, styled formating, and audio and video enhancements, are the modern equivalent of medieval woodcut illustrations.

    Whether it’s the 16th century or today, people want to make distinct, powerful looking titles. They wanted styled books.

    If he was transported to our time, a Gutenberg foreman might mistake Vook for sorcery. But once we started discussing typography, ledding and image manipulation, he’d understand that however much the world changes, people will always want to make better books.

    It’s a grand tradition — everyone using Vook to produce great digital books is now a part of it.

    Innovation Starts with the Author

    In an article for the Huffington Post today, Sammy Perlmutter wrote about the box set of Lynd Ward’s six novels in wood-cut that’s being published by the Library of America.

    Perlmutter wonders if the box set is “a desperate effort, perhaps, to reassert the durability of the printed page in the era of the eBook.” But he also suggests that this “brick” contains lessons for authors looking to innovate.

    Ward’s books are filled with images–they do not contain words. In this genre, a reader is interpreting images and piecing together a narrative. As Perlmutter says, the reader is “interacting” with the book. Authors looking to succeed in the future will need to follow this model of interactivity.

    We couldn’t agree more. That’s why we’re committed to making Vook a platform that enables authors to think outside the box.

    You can view Vooks in “read”, “watch” or “mixed view.” You can make it a social experience using share features,  a research experience by clicking hyperlinked text, and you can consume the content in any order you want. While reading a Vook, readers engage with the content–and its author.

    In his article, Perlmutter asks, “Are eBooks changing the way we read stories, or are they merely changing the way we receive them?”

    At Vook, we feel we’re doing the former. Let us know if you agree.

    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.

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