paidContent.org - E-Reader, The Sequel: Startups Try To Redefine What A Book Is
Tuesday, April 7, 2009; 2:07 AM
With Kindle buzz prompting everyone from Hearst to Plastic Logic to try their hand at launching an e-Reader, innovation in book publishing has mostly been on the device end. But there's a fresh crop of startups that are trying to transform the notion of what a "book" is, per the NYT, from just linear, text-based content, to a multimedia experience complete with text, video, and even?wait for it?tweets. The idea is to try to make books as interactive as the devices we use to read them on, without alienating authors (and publishers) already wary of the way the internet is transforming the industry.
Vook is the most ambitious of the startups, with its plan to help authors tell stories using text, video vignettes and social-networking tools that would be accessible online, on multiple e-Readers, and via mobile phones. Founder Bradley Inman previously launched video advertising and production firm TurnHere (which has partnered with companies like Simon & Schuster for the Bookvideos.tv portal), so he has the industry connections to at least get Vook in front of a sizable audience of authors and publishers.
Inman told the NYT that there was a "real urgency in publishing to innovate with new kinds of content," particularly since e-Readers stripped books of features like custom jackets, fonts and the "satisfying feel of quality paper" as a trade-off for digitization.
Meanwhile, Fourth Story Media is aiming at the younger set, with the beta launch of the Amanda Project, a storytelling platform that will let readers create their own characters, upload artwork and follow clues that tie in to the forthcoming book series from HarperCollins. It's storytelling for kids that have grown up with and are being shaped by technology "in ways we can't even imagine," Fourth Story founder Lisa Holton, a former Scholastic exec, told the NYT.
Other startups trying their hand at evolving the way people "write" books include e-book sharing site Wattpad and collaborative writing site WEbook; this follows best-selling crime author James Patterson's contest to create a "crowd-sourced" novel, Airborne, in mid-February. Photo Credit: Noah Berger for the NYT