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Q&A with Brad Inman, founder of Vook

After the widely-covered Gary Vaynerchuk launch, we caught up with Brad Inman to see what Vook was going to do next.

LJND: So what’s on tap for the Vook now?

BI: We’ve got a Japanese cookbook coming out, where we’ve worked directly with the author. There will be a series of other publishers getting involved – we’ve found lots of publishers dying to do it.

LJND: So the response has been enthusiastic?

BI: The response has been overwhelming, and we’re still learning & trying to figure it all out. We’ve got mass production planned for next year – we’re still working out which genres are best, the best places to get distribution. We’re experimenting with pricing and business models. We’re new to the book business – in our industry, you get proof of concept, you do experimenting and testing, and then once you have a vein you think you can tap, you get really aggressive. We are seeing that there’s an opportunity here – book, ebook, audiobook, vook.

LJND: One of your other businesses is TurnHere, the book video company. Does Vook use Turn Here footage – is there a natural outgrowth here?

BI: We’ve always viewed Vook as an extension of TurnHere – we shoot very high quality video at very low cost. This gives us great leverage and scalability in the market. Simultaneous production gives us great capacity to scale the business. We’re going to do hundreds or more book videos next year.

LJND: How did the "Crush It" Vook come about?

BI: Gary’s publisher came to us when they saw the article in the NYT in the spring – they thought he was perfect for it. They have a series of other titles we’re negotiating with them on. The Vook is natural for his audience and his crowd.

LJND: What sort of book is ideal for the Vook?

BI: The fan base needs to be there on the internet – and it can be a book from a traditional author, because the internet is so comprehensive. There are some authors that don’t have any internet fan bases and they’re not authors we’d want to do – this is a way to expand the audience of the book publishing business: tons of people are watching video all day and not reading. So if the author (or genre) doesn’t have an internet fan base, that’s a problem. We’ll be taking two of the Sherlock Holmes stories out of the public domain – we shot the videos in London with the cooperation of the Sherlock Holmes Society. The title has a huge fan base and they helped us shape the video – which is an annotation to the stories.

Another example: recently we had a newsletter that’s focused on losing weight, where they send out to a list every day – in that case, our author had no connection to this group, but the fan base around the genre is huge – it’s about a 90-second workout. You unsurface a whole new distribution channel on the internet than by only going to B&N.

LJND: It sounds like what Mike Shatzkin has to say about vertical markets , about niches.

BI: We think verticals/niches is really the way the internet works. The internet is already organized around subjects. The general, mass-market shotgun approach – from news, television, books – these sales channels haven’t been very organized. And the internet is made for verticals. Users are affiliated with a group; they’ve personalized a page.

LJND: Obviously Vooks can’t play on ebook readers – how do you see people accessing them?

BI: We seem people using smaller devices – phones. It won’t be long before everything’s browser-based, so there are no closed systems. Universality is making sure your app is universally accessible. If you’re in all the devices, the global population can find you. Once you’re universally available, you can then use the power of segmentation of the internet.

Our iPhone app is our best seller. Of every 100 sales, two-thirds are iPhone apps. Apple’s gotten behind us in a big way – two of our apps are in the top 10 for books that turn into apps. Our apps get featured. Apple’s seeing the value of our multimedia. That’s really what we’re building to, is the market for these devices. They embrace multimedia.

Everything’s going to come together by the end of next year. There will be a multiple selection of computers and devices that we can choose from, all browser-enabled. And there will be more competition – the good thing about B&N coming out is all the competition. They’re going to have to add features and content, and that’s going to enable all kinds of creative enterprises.

LJND: Now that you’ve been working with publishers a little, what final observations do you have?

BI: We bring video and technology and internet marketing and relationships – but the foundation of all of this is good books; we depend on publishers and authors for that.

We’re in the first inning of something that’s much bigger than people realize. Handwringing and fear don’t get us anywhere. There’s a huge new opportunity. The key is to experiment – with us or others – but the only way you’re going to be part of it is to participate.

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