Vook: Then and Now

Disclaimer: I started using Vook when they first launched. Recently they gave me an opportunity to review one of their latests series, Tom Peter’s The Little Big Things. I am a big fan of the company and what they are trying to do; however, I don’t have any financial ties to them.

vook screenshotVook – I have talked about the company a few times on my blog. For those of you who might have missed those posts or are new to this site, Vook is a publishing company that is putting a new spin on books. Instead of relying on print, they have taken the digital book and added video to it. It is a great idea and what they are doing with it is incredibly powerful. What I thought I would do in this post is walk you through my experience with their products and throw out a few ideas that came to mind as I have used them.

Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk

Crush It! was my first Vook. I purchased it about a year ago and was instantly a fan of the company after trying this book out. If you have ever watched Gary in action, you know just how dynamic he can be. Between Gary’s crazy good tips and suggestions in his regular print book and the Vook’s additional videos, I can’t imagine a better way to experience the true power of what a Vook can do.

I did run into a small annoyance with this Vook. I downloaded it to my iPhone and would read it wherever I could. Since I was on the road a lot at the time, I found myself constantly pulling it out for a quick read here and there. What I ran into was that every time I started the app up, it started from the beginning of the book, not where I left off. But the problem was quickly fixed. Here’s how.

Shortly after discovering the flaw, I sent the Vook team a tweet about the problem. Seriously, it wasn’t even a day later that I heard from them and they were working on a fix for the issue. I can’t remember what the timing was like on the fix, but it seemed like I was about mid way through the book when the problem was finally resolved. It was great to see them react so quickly. It has been a while since I looked at that first Vook, but as I remember it offered a few cool features:

  1. Book
  2. Intro videos for each chapter
  3. Highlighting of text
  4. Links out to related content
  5. Ability to copy and paste text

As I remember, that first Vook was pretty simple, but still very cool. Oh, but how things have improved…

Unleashing the Super Idea Virus by Seth Godin

This was my second Vook (purchased about 6 months later). Again, this was a great read. I have read and reviewed a number of Seth’s other books, but I will say that this was actually my first chance to see what he is like in person. The content was great – great writing and the 16 accompanying videos added a ton to the experience. But it was the evolution of the Vook’s features that I was really impressed with:

  • Seth’s Vook offered a “connect” feature that provided additional info about the author and links to his various online sites and projects
  • There were separate buttons that allowed you to read the book/watch the videos inline or you could watch the videos independently of the text.
  • Because the Vook resides on your iPhone, iPad or desktop it can take advantage of you color screen and use dynamic and colorful charts and diagrams.
  • This was my first Vook that really offered you the chance to share content. Unfortunately, it was limited to emailing links to the videos and quotes via email. (no social media support)

I loved the evolution between these first two Vooks. In relatively a short amount of time, the company had demonstrated a clear commitment to enhancing their products and being innovative.

The Little Big Things by Tom Peters

Several months after purchasing and reading Seth’s book, Vook contacted me and gave me the opportunity to read Tom Peter’s latest work, The Little Big Things. I am not going to dive into Tom’s Vooks here, other than to say the content is superb; however, I did want to take a minute to highlight the progress Vook has made on their product.

I am reading Tom’s Vook on my iPad and the improved features are dramatic:

  • The user interface is gorgeous.
  • Inline videos allow you to watch them as if they are embedded in the text or you can expand them to fill the entire screen.
  • Highlighted text can be emailed, tweeted or posted to facebook.
  • There is now an option that allows you to switch between black text on a white screen or white text on a black screen (nice option if you are trying to read in bed and your wife does not want to be kept awake by a glaring white screen).
  • Text resizing is available.
  • A great info tab that provides additional info on the author, relevant links and more information on Vook.

What excites me the most about Vook is that they are continually innovating. I am incredibly impressed with the amount of progress they have made with their products in such a short amount of time. This is a great company and one you should look at. The Vook is a cool idea and with the success of smart phones and the iPad, they are poised to do quite well. I am curious to see how they might compete with Apple now that they have enable their iBooks to share video. Luckily, Vook has a bit of a head start and I hope they are around for a long time.

Improvements I Would Love to See

With Vook continually evolving their products, it is hard to say where they will go next. But as I have been reading the Tom Peter’s Vooks, a few things have come to mind. Here’s a list of what I would like to see:

  1. Add a screen brightness adjustment – the black text on white screen to white text on black screen adjustment is nice, but let’s be honest, reading white text on a black screen is taxing on the eyes and, if I remember right, it actually slows down the reading process. Let me dim the screen and cut down on the intensity of the white background. Another way to accomplish this would be to stick with black text, but offer different screen colors, perhaps a light grey or sepia background.
  2. Add a bookmark or dog ear feature – I read a ton of material and absolutely love marking up my books with notes. The better the book, the more destroyed it gets as I read it. None of the Vooks I have used so far have offered the ability to add notes or permanently highlight text. What would make this feature even better would be the addition of verbal notes. If I could then click on a notes tab in the contents of the book, I would be taken to all of my notes in one place indexed with page numbers and links back to the original text. No one has done this yet and it would be a killer feature.
  3. Push the video content to its fullest – Every Vook I have tried simply has an introductory video at the beginning of each chapter. Often, these videos act as an overview of what is to come. This is good, but why not go further with this concept. Could the video show up in the middle of the chapter? All three of the Vooks I have read so far had a number of case studies in them. It would be great to see videos sharing company profiles, links to related talks the author may have given about the book, interviews with the leaders and innovators mentioned in the books, etc.I can imagine some great “call to action” videos that would be appropriate at the end of certain chapters as well.
  4. Turn the Vook into a complete learning experience – long before I got into marketing, I was an elementary school teacher. I would have killed to have had a tool like the Vook to share with my students. The Vook has a limitless possibility to revolutionize how we read and, more importantly, how we learn. Obviously, I’d hate to see Vooks end up with so many features and videos that they would die because of bloat, but I still feel like there is more they could do to enhance retention and actual action. Introductory videos are cool, but what if you added interactive charts? Could links to online reviews or quizzes help with reading retention? What about chapter notes, highlights or summaries? Would we see more readers take action on a books suggestions if the author provided tips for putting her ideas in motion via a video at the end of the chapter? What about providing links to online content at the end of each chapter that would enhance the reading?
  5. Offer a Behind the Scenes Look at the Writer – the about the author tab is a great feature, but why not use this opportunity to share an interview with the author?

The book publishing world is in disarray. Ebooks seem to be where reading is going. Vooks are where they should go. I can’t image a better tool to help readers and life-long learners expand their knowledge. Vook is definitely onto something and I look forward to watching them grow, improve their products and move the reading world into a whole new direction.

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