Video and Books: Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together?
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on the author’s unapologetically in-your-face personality. You can tell from the text that Vaynerchuk has given some serious thought to how the Internet changes the way entrepreneurs can communicate with their customers. Nonetheless, I’m glad I bought the Vook version rather than the paper or Kindle version, because the videos give Vaynerchuk a chance to share his enthusiasm in a way that his writing alone, which is sincere but suffers from an unfortunate profusion of cliches, can’t quite capture. In the hands of a personal-branding Jedi like Vaynerchuk, the Vook format really shines. (By the way, I’ve met Vaynerchuk and I can assure you that he’s much less of an egomaniac in person than he would seem to be from his wine vlog and the Vook videos.)
From a purely technical point of view, Vook’s titles work okay, although I do have a couple of complaints. First, the sliding-page animation when you page forward through the iPhone versions of Vook’s books is jarringly jerky. Second, the Vook titles, which are sold as stand-alone apps, don’t seem to be bookmark-enabled. If you close a Vook app and come back to it later, you’re deposited at the table of contents, and it’s up to you to find your way back to the place where you stopped reading. There’s really no excuse for these mechanical problems—there are plenty of other companies publishing e-books on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform, such as Amazon and Kobo and Lexcycle, who have gotten them right.
But in the end, I’d say that Vook is off to a promising start. I haven’t sampled the startup’s modern fiction titles or cookbooks, so I can’t comment on how well the video format works for those genres. But it’s clear that as more mobile computing devices begin to double as e-readers, there’s growing room for publishers to experiment with multimedia-enhanced book, magazine, and textbook formats. The Apple iPad and the other tablet devices coming to market this year will greatly expand the possibilities—in fact, I’m sure Vook is working on improved iPad versions of its titles. My prediction is that we’ll see a mixed bag of enhanced-book offerings, in terms of quality. The cost of video equipment and editing software is obviously falling, but it’s still not cheap to script, shoot, and edit a professional video, so there will always be the temptation to cut corners, the way Vook did with its MTV-style Holmes interviews. The best video books, I’m guessing, will be those where the author is telegenic or the subject matter is inherently visual. I’m definitely going to stay tuned.