By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid
After nearly four months in private beta testing, Vook has launched to the public a version of its cloud-based e-book production and distribution software.
The Vook platform is meant to be easy enough so that aspiring self-publishers can use it, but robust enough for enterprise use. It was designed to be able to create and automatically distribute both text-only books and multimedia enhanced e-books to the Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iBooks e-book stores.
Call it iBooks Author without the marriage to Apple.
“The whole idea is that making a great looking e-book is now as easy as making a great looking blog,” said Matt Cavnar, vice president of business development at Vook.
Unlike iBooks Author, the tool isn’t free to use. For single users, Vook offers a la carte pricing that ranges from $79 a month for limited access to basic services, including e-book production, storage and distribution, to $299 a month for greater access to those same services (see comprehensive pricing chart below).
For companies that want to make Vook their e-book publishing platform, prices are not immediately available and depend on a series of factors, according to Cavnar. Vook has been targeting companies that want to publish e-books but don’t want to deal with the complication associated with building an e-book production operation from scratch – like NBC or Google, which have both worked with Vook.
“It’s a publishing house in a box,” said Cavnar. “You can start producing e-books and we give you the distribution-ready files with all the metadata.”
Vook produces EPUB and mobi files. In addition to automatic distribution to the major sales platforms, Vook allows you to take the files and manually distribute them to other booksellers. Users can track sales among the major retailers through a tracking tool.
Vook believes that users and companies will choose its tool over others because of ease of use – drag and drop video, for instance – combined with powerful capabilities like a CSS styler, an interface that controls the advanced styling of a book page, creating complicated code using easy-to-understand dials and buttons.
While out of private beta, Vook is still working on the tool. Currently, features that might appeal to more-demanding users like automatic price updating, collaborative work tools for producers sharing work around the world and versioning (keeping track of older versions of a file) are not yet available – but they’re on the horizon, said Cavnar.
Some of the tool’s easy-to-use features include dragging-and-dropping images, video and audio directly into a book as well as uploading Microsoft Word .doc and .docx files directly into a book.
Vook was launched in September 2009 as an e-book production and publishing company that would create “vooks,” essentially what we know today as multimedia enhanced e-books.
Since then, it has produced over 800 books, published some on its own, and spent time building its publishing tool. Until March 26, the tool was only available for use for 800 “closed beta” users.
The company is backed by several venture-capital investors, including Vantage Point, and has received about $5.25 million in funding. The company’s founder, serial entrepreneur Brad Inman, told Digital Book World in early March that the company had no imminent plans to sell itself.
According to the company’s website, if a user cancels their Vook account, say, after initially producing and distributing their e-book, they would need to maintain a “maintenance” account to continue to receive royalty payments for e-books distributed with Vook (Vook pays out 100% of royalties to authors and publishers). Such an account is $59 a year.
In addition to the features listed on the chart, a Vook subscription includes an e-book conversion tool, use of the authoring and editing tool, a style editor, a metadata management tool, style templates and ability to use audio and video enhancements.
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