A new kind of e-reader?

Vook imageAs many publishers and newspaper professionals contemplate the death of traditional print, along comes another format to participate in its demise, The “VOOK.”   The Vook, Simon and Schuster’s new hybrid book/video combination will be available on computers, iPhones and iPod Touch and allow you to read a book interspersed with videos that add to the narrative, or offer a visual aid for training and education purposes.

Vook’s marketing promises that you can read your book but also watch videos, view how-tos and connect in that social media way with authors and other readers. In fact their big push is that you can “do it all in one place…[no more] switching between applications or websites.”

So I bit. I created an account on vook.com and for a micropayment, logged on to a beauty themed vook, “Return to Beauty, Old World Recipes for Great Radiant Skin.”

Rather then download to my iPod, I choose to view online and it brought me to a nicely configured interactive site where text, video and social media capabilities where all integrated nicely.  It didn’t really feel like something that different then a well designed blog or social media site…except that there was a lot of text available to scroll and read.  The video content on this particular experience played more like an infomercial, with the author talking about how she came to discover her skin secrets.

From a “replacing a book” perspective, I think there are still many challenges. I love my iPod but i think it’s just two small to read text in an enjoyable manner and while I didn’t test it this round, you would be hard pressed to enjoy the robustness of the interactive features on such a small screen.  At least with the Kindle or eBook, you’ve got a book like sized device to read from.  Also, like everything else we explore in the new media space, it’s all about content.  The initial video content will face the same challenge that a lot of the newer platforms face…who will make the content, what’s the right length, how do you make it engaging and not cheesy.  And frankly, what’s the business model to cover the costs of creating these newer assets.

On the positive side, I’d love to see Clinton or Obama talking and narrating their books, or see real demos from famous cooks or a “how-to” directly associated with a manual.  Or perhaps hear from an author on how they came to create a certain character or plot point.  and you can definitely see community developing around that type of content as fans, hobbyists, avid readers discover their Vook communities.

From an advertiser’s perspective, the Vook does offer some interesting opportunities.  You could get contextual with ad inventory based on the themes of the Vook; pre and post rolls or other interactive links would also work in a connected environment.  And again, going back to the old Colgate hour, an advertiser could sponsor a Vook in a way that would fit nicely into the format and create the business model.  You could see a whole new content skill set emerge from this merger of video, audio, text and sponsorship messages.  But who will fund the video content?  How will this affect rights negotiations? And who will create the content, what formats will really work and how will this expand or collapse on the writer’s responsibilities?   And do I need a Vook from a well establish publisher?  Doesn’t this open yet another door for self publishing?  Or for white labeling content on a site that desperately needs content to attract eyeballs?  Right now there are only four titles available on vook.com and for $4.99 to $6.99 you can explore.

We are still a bit away from understanding what the market is in this space but innovation always requires a bit of patience.