Will Readers Embrace the Vook?

Vook logo / review of Vook / http://vook.comVook offers an enhanced, alternative reading experience by publishing books combined with videos into desktop and iPhone applications called Vooks.

Sounds simple enough, but what do readers think?

So far I’ve downloaded two Vooks and I’m mostly impressed with what I see. There are a few areas for growth, which I’ll get into. First, the good stuff:

What strikes me about a Vook is its downright remedial simplicity: a story in text complimented with video. We’ve been doing this for years with blogs, but never have we seen it constrained and packaged into linear book format.

vook screenshot of Unleashing the Super Ideavirus by Seth GodinI’m about halfway through the desktop version of Unleashing the SUPER Ideavirus Vook by Seth Godin. I turn pages using arrow buttons, can switch between full-screen text, full-screen video or a hybrid of both, and each chapter has a play button for a short 1-2 minute video that  features people embracing the ideas of the chapter.

The Vook also lets me change font size, bookmark pages and — I’m sure they’re still testing this — share my thoughts via Facebook Connect and Twitter API apps built into each title.

Social connectivity is definitely where Vook plans to leverage its power, which is not only wise but inevitable for any publisher in this digital age. Vook’s latest blog post describing a Facebook fanpage chat with Anne Rice and her fans (she just released a Vook of her own) sums up the notion:

[Anne Rice] would certainly agree that Vook was great outlet, not just as medium for creative innovation and inspiration, but also as a way to reconnect with her audience.

I could and should talk more about how the social graph is vital to publishing, but that’s for another post…maybe even a manifesto.

Now for areas some of improvement:

The Vook desktop app runs in Flash, which is a drag. The developers have it set so I can’t select or search the text. This gives the Vook a waxy, sterile feeling — like being in a place where you can you look at but not touch the goods (several examples come to mind — use your imagination).

If they’re doing this to deter piracy, it’s at the cost of someone using their Vook  for research who would need the text to be pliable and portable and, ultimately — shareable. The same thinking applies to highlighting and annotating text, which Vook doesn’t yet offer (but the Kindle does).

Despite the addition of video, Vooks are actually pretty static. I don’t get the impression my Vook would be automatically updated if a new version became available. It doesn’t save my page if I get logged out, and a few times I’ve come back to my Vook to find it’s been reset to the beginning (the cover).

The social media “engaging” tools are certainly pioneering but at the same time primitive in relevancy. You can post a Facebook update or tweet from within the Vook, but there’s no clear, living connection between posting an update and the content itself.

In other words, I’m not automatically compelled to share my thoughts on what I’ve read in my Vook just because there’s a place to do it.


Don’t take my criticisms too seriously, though.

I’m in the middle of reading Jason Fried’s new book Rework (affiliate link) which is about the ultra-streamlined, guerrilla-style, ass-kicking approach to launching a business.

I have a hunch Vook is following this line, and as attention and demand tilt in their favor, they’ll be sure to turn up the mojo for their readers.

7 Replies

  1. Rachel Reply

    Thanks so much for this incredibly thoughtful review! It’s so great that you point out the simplicity–we really like to think of Vooks like that as well–filling a gap opened by all the technological possibilities.

    And thanks for your point about social media. We’re definitely still tweaking the product, and input from early adopters like you is such a help!

    • Charles Reply

      Great to hear you’re listening and responding, Rachel. I really like Vooks, and can’t see you guys going anywhere but up from here.

  2. Matt Perez Reply

    Good review and pretty much in line with my findings.

    Compared to other iPhone readers (Kindle, Stanza and 140-Characters), Vook is the most primitive: Can’t highlight, can’t add notes, can’t bookmark.

    I bought a couple for a test run, Seth’s and Gary V’s, and I didn’t find the video that compelling. At least, not compelling enough to make up for the other limitations.

    I am sure that given time, the goal of making multimedia books will prove a winner for Vook, but they still have a ways to go.

    • Charles Reply

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Matt. I got the same 2 Vooks you did and have only worked my way thru the Godin one.

      Yeah, the concept of Vook is great, but they need to advance. My impression is they wanted to enter the market ASAP and did so. Now they have to refine the product…their future depends on it. I’m confident.

  3. Kat Reply

    I went to a conference about works like this in 1995, and it was already old hat for some of the participants. Now, just because it’s not new doesn’t mean it’s not any good (look at the paper-bound book format!), but the one thing I learned at that conference and that doesn’t seem to change is that you can’t shoehorn a story into a format it doesn’t want to be in. If using a combination of text and video works to best tell the story, then great! Otherwise, find another way to tell the story. That might be plain text, or it might be plain video, or a podcast, or just sitting around a table at a cafe with friends who want to hear it. But the story has to lead.

    • Charles Reply

      Way to put this into the reader’s perspective, Kat. Not enough (publishers) care to see this. I will say that in a search for a more progressive and socially-connected reading platform, the Vook is a good start but certainly not revolutionary. But yes: story rules.