Simon & Schuster Authors on “Game-Changing” Platform for Digital Book/Video Hybrid with a New “Vook”

By on 09/30/2009 10:09 PM @beet_tv

NEW YORK — In the fast-changing landscape of digital book publishing there is now something called a vook, a product and company which is a hybrid of text and video, delivered on the Web and as an iPhone download .

Simon & Schuster's Atria imprint, is working with Vook, a San Francisco-area start-up, to publish four "vooks," of both non-fiction and fiction. They are Promises, by Jude Deveraux; The 90-Second Fitness Solution by Pete Cerqua; The Embassy by Richard Doetsch and Return to Beauty by Narine Nikososian.

The multimedia products sell for $6.99 and are available on the Simon & Schuster and Vook sites and on the Apple iPhone application store. It is not yet available on Amazon. Vooks wont be available on the current crop of Kindles as they don't support video.

On Tuesday, Beet.TV did an exclusive video interview with Judith Curr, Executive VP and Publisher for Altria Books. We have published the video on this page. 

Vook was conceived and self-funded by Brad Inman, a former San Francisco Examiner business columnist who has created several digital media start-ups.  His most recent company is TurnHere, an Emeryville, California company which creates and syndicates  Web vidoes under contract to customers from hotels to local directories.

TurnHere has created a network of thousands of videographers who produce videos on assignment.  The Vook videos were created by videographers in the TurnHere network.

The deal with Simon & Schuster is not exclusive and the company plans to work with other publishers. 

In a statement, Ellie Hirschhorn, Executive VP and Chief Digital Officer of Simon & Schuster said, "Vook is a game-changing model for reading in the digital age of multimedia, the first viable combination of text and video that is user friendly and that addresses today's multitasking audience and how it absorbs information and entertainment."

Motoko Rich reports on the "bookbending experiment" in Thursday's New York Times.  Here's the story by the Associated Press.

Andy Plesser, Executive Producer

Video Transcript

Judith Curr:  I want my editorial staff to be able to be…have the skill set for the future, which is no longer just going to be about looking at linear text. And even now with promotional aspects of books: they have to be involved in video creation and assets and things so that there's a different way to tell the story. So we're calling these four new things Vooks, so, as opposed to books. And I see them as a sort of aspect for publishing for the 21st century. We're publishing four on Thursday. Two are ficition and two non-fiction and they're four different genres because we wanted to test out the whole experience of it and the idea of it and to learn something in the process rather than just sort of stick with one central idea.

So, for example, with the 90-Second Fitness, which is an exercise program, you're able to see with the video exactly how you should hold your body, exactly how many repetitions you should do when you take your Vook application to the gym, exactly how to make your ingredients for the diet that's contained in Vook, but then there's a lot of other information in there as well: what's the shopping list for all the vitamens that I should have, what are all the ingredients that I should be looking at, how many times do I do each repetition. So you actually need that piece written down so that you can just refer to that constantly. But with the fiction, what it is, it sort of, it allows you to tell a story in a new way. So, for example, you have Jude Deveraux's romance set in South Carolina in the end of the 19th century, you're able to sort of read the story about the young woman making the journey and then you can see the landscape as if it were through her eyes. You can see the costumes that she would've worn and then the story is progressed. If you want to do a side story to find out about the alter-ego of one of her characters, there's a little news reel episode that gives you that information.

Movie: Mr. Ptolemy roams the world! Steven Ptolemy was often misunderstood. Once…

Judith Curr:  So it expands the experience and it's, in a way, a wonderful way to be able to tell a story in a new way. Not replacing either the movie or the book.

I actually think there's a lot of opportunities for these for small hand-held devices because, particularily with the non-fiction and the lifestyle ones, people wait all the time. Women particularily are always waiting; you're waiting for the kids, you're waiting for the doctor, you're waiting, waiting, waiting.  So instead of just wasting that time, you can then have a sort of look at the Return to Beauty Vook and learn something about skin-care and what your shopping list should be and you're not…and you can just shut it down and resume from where you left off the next time you're waiting to pick someone up.

I always believe that you have to start and then the opportunities present themselves. I could see this as a wonderful way to be able to tell a new story without the huge expense of making a major movie because you can write…you can say things in words that are much cheaper than you can make them in film, but then you can add different atmospheric qualities to it, you can show historical material, you can give a back-story, you can run parallel universes. It would be perfect for memoirs and autobiographies because, as you're talking about your life in films then you can actually show a piece, a snippet of that person acting in that film. I think it will allow people to use their imagination in a new way. I think for the 21st century it's all about the content and the story and the information being in the center of something and then it can be expressed as a book, it can be expressed as an audio, it can be expressed as a Vook and people are going to come to the information for either the mood they're in or how they like to be entertained. And so it's endless; it's just about imagination.

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