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Vook’s Bradley Inman On E-Books, Fiction vs. Non-Fiction, And The ‘Crush It’ Launch

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Multimedia book startup Vook launched its first video books (or Vooks) less than a month ago, but the company has already got the buy-in from its first best-selling author: web personality and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. Vaynerchuk’s new book Crush It details how he used social media and online video to help grow his family’s wine business into a “60 million dollar venture”; it hit the New York Times bestseller list, and now it’s being released as a Vook for $11.99. It’s Vook’s first deal with HarperStudio, a new book division launched by HarperCollins last year.

Vook CEO Bradley Inman — who previously founded online video production and distribution firm TurnHere — talked to paidContent about the startup’s progress thus far, the path to fundraising, how the rev-share split works with publishers, and how his experience with TurnHere is influencing this new business.

Tameka Kee: When I reviewed the Vooks, my first impression was that the hybrid video and text format would better lend itself to non-fiction. The launch of Gary’s Crush It seems to confirm that. What has the reader response been like?

Bradley J. Inman: The video and text application does work really well for books like Gary’s that give people instructions, or content that needs annotation. It’s a natural fit. But we’re not giving up on the fiction Vooks; one of our best-sellers was actually one of the novellas. I think the combination of short-form filmmakers and authors can produce a new kind of storytelling, and this is just version 1.0. We plan to make it better.

About those filmmakers. Most of the Vooks contain about 20 videos or so. Are you working with TurnHere? And do the publishers pay for the additional content up front?

We do use TurnHere because its cost-effective. Our first Vooks had videos that were shot in Prague, London, Tampa, New York and L.A.; leveraging TurnHere’s network of filmmakers is one of the only ways we could have done it in a scalable manner. I can’t talk about the specific revenue split, but we do take care of the technology and video production costs up front. The publishers provide the text, and then we split the proceeds after factoring in the costs.

Has removing the up-front cost helped get more publishers to buy in?

I can’t say whether that’s driving interest; I do know that we got a pretty overwhelming response from Simon & Schuster from the start. Publishers are looking for innovation right now. You can see that by the way that they’re licensing their content for the various e-Readers.

Speaking of which, do you foresee being able to port Vooks to e-Readers?

That’s one reason why we chose to build them in Flash; *Adobe*, like *Apple*, is being extremely innovative in terms of cross-platform applications. We’re already on the iPhone; it’s in our product roadmap to make Vooks available for other smartphones, e-Readers and hardware that’s coming to this market.

Will you need to raise money to scale out?

Vook is self-funded right now. And we’re very confident about the sale potential for our product … If there’s an opportunity to raise money that will help with development with terms that are favorable, then I would consider it. But that’s not on the radar right now.

You mentioned *Apple*, which has turned the iPhone into a haven for indie game developers. Scribd and DocStoc have turned their online document services into distribution channels for indie authors. Do you think the Vook platform could do the same?

Right now, we’re only working with publishers — not authors directly — because we can learn about the book publishing business from them. It also helps us operate in a leaner fashion, which means we don’t have to rush to raise money. It’s the same model we followed with TurnHere; we worked with partners like Citysearch and AT&*T* first, to understand what small businesses needed from online video, but the long term strategy was always to be able to serve the small businesses themselves. If Vook proves to be just as scalable a platform, then we’ll certainly look to working with authors directly.