Vook: iBooks Author has limited appeal for writers, readers

iBooks Author

Following Apple’s unveiling of e-book publishing platform iBooks Author Thursday, I reached out to Vook, the startup founded in 2009 by Brad Inman that provides a top-to-bottom publishing experience using a Software-as-a-Service model. Vook is currently in private beta post-pivot, but it plans to offer push-button publishing and distribution using a drag-and-drop interface. That should sound familiar after Apple’s earlier announcement.

Vook’s VP of Business Development Matthew Cavnar told me on the phone that while the company is “kind of flattered” by some aspects of iBooks Author, since they look very similar to its own product, it isn’t fearful of being elbowed out of the market now that Apple’s decided to play.

Cavnar says iBooks Author helps raise the status of e-books in general, and helps promote them as a valid alternative to apps, which is good for Vook and other e-book publishers. And while the e-book creation tool “looks great,” in Cavnar’s opinion, it’s an option that comes with trade-offs many content creators and publishers won’t be able to swallow. Specifically, he sees a problem with the portability and limitations of the e-Books Author ultimately produces.

“When people want e-books, they want e-books anywhere,” Cavnar told me. In light of that, he believes any cross-platform solution inherently holds more appeal for publishers, since they also hold more appeal for end-users. Being platform agnostic appeals to what Cavnar calls “the switcher demographic,” which is basically anyone who works or plays on more than one company’s platforms.

iBooks Author won’t be as appealing to those users, since it creates a file that’s not quite epub2, not quite epub3, and not quite XHTML5, according to Vook’s blog, which makes it “one channel only,” or essentially proprietary. Also, while Apple will let you distribute the book independent of the iBookstore, if you want to make any money on the product, you have to go through the iBookstore and the iBookstore only. Exclusivity as a requirement won’t likely go over great with authors.

Apple is clearly trying to encourage writers and publishers to go all-in on its platform. If it had done this before Android rose to a majority position in the world’s mobile market, it might have had an easier time convincing folks that was acceptable. Now, however, cross-platform solutions like Vook still have a good chance of staying in this fight, by being where customers are, instead of where the big players would like them to be.

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