Blog Post

Vook: iBooks Author has limited appeal for writers, readers

Following Apple’s (s aapl) 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(s goog) 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.

10 Responses to “Vook: iBooks Author has limited appeal for writers, readers”

  1. SideStax

    I agree with Cavnar at this point. Apple’s current offering is mostly catered towards students and teachers, not necessarily professional authors. The biggest question mark for me is how often Apple will iterate on this platform. They have the basis of something amazing, but are hampering it’s potential.

  2. Has anyone bothered to read Vook’s EULA?

    For example:

    “Unless otherwise agreed in a writing signed by VOOK, by submitting content, data or other materials directly through the web site (collectively, “Materials”), You hereby grant to VOOK a perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, non-exclusive, fully transferable and sublicensable right and license to access, store, copy, modify, display, distribute, perform, create derivative works from, and otherwise use and exploit all such Materials in any form, media, software or technology of any kind now existing or developed in the future and the right to sublicense the foregoing rights through multiple tiers without compensation to You. You further grant to VOOK a royalty-free right and license to use Your name, image and/or likeness in advertising and in connection with the licensed rights for the Materials. You also agree to indemnify, defend and hold harmless VOOK from and against any claims or costs, including attorneys’ fees, arising from the use or distribution of those materials. You further grant VOOK the right to use Your name in connection with the reproduction or distribution of any such material. While VOOK is not under any obligation to monitor content provided by users, VOOK may, in its sole determination, remove any content that it deems objectionable or offensive or unlawful.”

    • Oh no, that’s not good at all. How can they expect to do that? I was going to use them to publish my children’s book, but I don’t think I will now.

  3. AppleFUD

    next up in news. . ..
    Google, Microsoft, and Oracle now require that if you use Google Docs, MS Office, or OpenOffice, that you are required to use their online stores to sell & distribute your content.


  4. David Allen

    I am sure that you can export the file out and sell to iPad users direct without going through the Apple store. Users only have to drag and drop the file into the iPad to get access to it.

    I tried the authoring software yesterday and got very frustrated but the bugginess of it. There is some way to go before there is the easy seamless experience that Apple users expect from. I can see that the review I will do of the iBooks Author software and the iBooks 2 on the iPad will be scathing to say the least on

  5. Alex Perez

    The funny thing is that even though it’s proven to work (the istore model) people keep saying it’s unfair. Of course it has a limited appeal thats the whole point its for the EDUCATION industry the didn’t mention making books to get rich or that dan brown will suddenly publish the davinci code 2 exclusively on iPad lets face it Apple has done it again.

  6. Muddybulldog

    Apple has given would be digital publishers a near zero cost of entry into the field. This tool will take nothing away from more robust, professional solutions just as iLife didn’t wipe out the photo or video editing, web publishing or music creation industry. This is a chance for those who might not otherwise endeavor, to dip their toes into the water.

    • Shameer Mulji

      It’s only near-zero cost if you already own a Mac. If you don’t own a Mac it’s a lot more than near-zero. Which is why it would be great if Apple had released iBooks Author for Windows.

      I can live with the fact they’re distributing the app for free in exchange for only distributing through iBooks store.