Does the world really need Vooks?

Vooks. It seems to be a trending topic in publishing circles today. A Vook is a book with embedded video as part of the narrative.

According to the website at vook.com

A vook is a new innovation in reading that blends a well-written book, high-quality video and the power of the Internet into a single, complete story.

You can read your book, watch videos that enhance the story and connect with authors and your friends through social media all on one screen, without switching between platforms.

Vooks are available in two formats: As a web-based application you can read on your computer and a mobile application for reading on the go. With the web-based application you don’t have to download programs or install software. Just open your favorite browser and start reading and watching in an exciting new way. You can also download and install the mobile applications through the Apple iTunes store and sync them with your Apple mobile device.

My first instinct was revulsion. When I pick up a book, at least a work of fiction, I seek to avoid all distractions and immerse myself in the words. Embedding distractions into the book is just wrong.

My second thought was that a Vook might be a perfect way to offer a how-to book.  The last time I picked up a book on do-it-yourself plumbing, I actually wished there was video, or at least better images, to illustrate what the authors were telling me to do.

My final thought on Vooks for the day? Not all innovations are going to be good for all genres. ¬†Vooks could turn a steamy romance novel into a porno flick, and a thriller into a bad A-Team re-make. But if Ikea would offer Vooks for ¬†building their furniture in place of those strangely wordless instruction books, I’d be an instant convert.

Are eBooks Too Cheap?

The pricing of e-books is a tricky balance. On the one hand, publishers and booksellers don’t want to undercut their print editions; on the other are ebook buyers who demand lower prices for a digital product that they can’t lend, resell or transfer.

‚ÄúThe concept that because a book is an e-book it should automatically be priced significantly lower than a paper book is one we don‚Äôt agree with,‚Äù said Carolyn Reidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster. ‚ÄúWhat a consumer is buying is the content, not necessarily the format.‚Äù – NYT May 16, 2009 “Steal This Book (for $9.99)

Publishers, who sell ebooks to Amazon for 50% of their set retail price, no matter what the Amazon.com sale price is, are worried that Amazon’s pricing of ebooks at $9.99 is leading to reader expectations of cheap ebooks which may cease to exist when Amazon stops subsidizing the price of Kindle editions.

Simba Information has released a report noting that ebook prices between July 2008 and June 2009 have dropped at both Amazon.com and Sony’s ebook store.

In July 2008, the top 25 titles on Amazon’s bestseller list for the four weeks averaged $9.25 and the top 25 in June 2009 averaged $8.04 after decreasing fairly steadily during the interim. For Sony, after starting at $10.13 in July 2008 then increasing to $11.68 in November thanks to a few well selling bundles, the average price of the top 25 fell to $9.97 in June.

It’s true that a publishers costs do not disappear entirely with digitally delivered books. The costs of writing, editing and marketing are the same no matter how a book is published. A digital edition, while avoiding costs associated with shipping, warehousing, printing, binding and returns, still has some added costs incurred in conversion and testing.

And while sales remain low, those costs might actually keep publishers from earning as much as they’d like with their ebook editions.
However, like all publishing, there is an economy of scale here. If you spend the money to produce an ebook and only 200 copies are sold, each copy has cost you a considerable amount of money, so you’re probably losing money at $9.99 per book. If 2,000 copies are sold, your cost per copy is less and profit is greater.. If 2,000,000 copies are sold, your cost per copy is negligible, and $9.99 is a darn good price indeed.

The problem is that if you begin by pricing your books higher than the ebook buying public is willing to spend, you’ll never reach the scale where ebooks are a major profit center.

So, perhaps Amazon is doing publishers a favor by cutting their prices and taking the hit while it tries to take ebooks to the masses.

Readers have vehemently told the market that after paying for expensive readers with the promise of lower cost digital editions, they’re not willing to spend more than $9.99… even for their favorite authors. Rather than rant about what the market demands, publishers should pick a side. Either stop creating ebooks for Amazon and Sony bookstores, or work with digital booksellers to push sales to a point where the books can comfortably be supplied at the price the market demands.

How to Read ALL Your Favorite Blog Feeds on Your Kindle [For Free!]

Although I mostly use my Kindle for reading books and galleys, I also like to read the feeds from my favorite blogs on the go. While I can’t always keep up with my favorite blogs and news sites during the work day, I like the ability to scan the new items on my Kindle when I’m lounging outside on the weekend or waiting for dinner to cook during the week.

Amazon handily offers subscriptions to many blogs delivered by Whispernet, but unfortunately, not all my favorite blogs are available, and the cost to subscribe to all the blogs I’d like to receive would start to become prohibitive at $1 t o $2 per feed per month.

Since I don’t really require feeds to be delivered wirelessly — I’m quite happy to plug in my Kindle via USB while I’m working and not using it — I have been using an entirely different solution.

I have been using a piece of software called Calibre to manage my ebook library as well as delivery of ALL my chosen feeds, completely free of charge.


Calibre¬†automatically detects your Kindle when it’s attached, and it works much like iTunes does with Podcasts to update it’s feed list and sync your Kindle with the new content.


I update daily with the entire list of blogs from my Google Reader list, plus some Amazon forum feeds, and a few other feeds made available automatically by the software.

You choose when to update your feeds (I do it at 11am so that my Kindle is updated with the latest news and posts before I head for lunch), and everything else is automatic. ¬†There is a huge list of feeds that are built into the software, including the ability to grab your whole Google Reader list of blogs, and you can also create a custom source from any feed you want, from forums to your family’s blogs.


Calibre also works with many other ebook readers. Currently the SONY PRS 500/505/700, Cybook Gen 3, Amazon Kindle 1/2, Netronix EB600, Ectaco Jetbook, BeBook/BeBook Mini and the iPhone  are all supported.

How to Convert PDF files into Kindle Ebooks

The Kindle can display files in four different formats:

  • .TXT files (HTML files can be viewed if you change the extension to .txt as well)
  • .AZW files – Amazon’s own exclusive ebook format for the Kindle
  • .MOBI files – content formatted for the MobiPocket Reader
  • .PRC – These are the exact same format as .MOBI but were designed to be compatible with Palm PDAs

Odds are, though, that the bulk of the documents you have on your computer that you might wish to read on your Kindle are in PDF format. If you’re like me, you’ve got a lifetime of reading stored up in PDF files that you’ve been meaning to get around to “some day soon.” Adding them to your Kindle library would be a good way to make them more accessible, and make it far more likely that you’ll get around to reading all those files at one point or another.

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can convert your PDF files into formats accessible to your Kindle.

The first is by emailing your PDF file to your Kindle account email address. If you want the resulting ebook to be sent wirelessly, send the PDF as an attachment to yourusername@kindle.com (replacing yourusername with your actual Kindle username, of course). You’ll be charged a fee of 15 cents per megabyte for having the file delivered this way.

If you want to get your converted file without a fee, send the PDF as an attachment to yourusername@free.kindle.com. The converted file will be sent back to you via email for free, and you can then transfer it to your Kindle via USB connection.

This method is not foolproof. Some files come out somewhat mangled, and you can’t use this method to convert any file that is very large or that has a password or DRM securing it.

The other method to convert PDF to Kindle-compatible files is the one I use most often. It works with some DRM-enabled PDFs — I use it with NetGalley files, for example — and does a pretty fair job of keeping the content, including images and tables, intact.

To proceed, you’ll need to download and install the MobiPocket Creator Publisher Edition from the Mobipocket.com website.

Once you’ve started the program, there’s an option to import a PDF file. After running the import feature you will have generated an HTML file which you can then “build” into a .prc file immediately, or you can choose to add a cover image, a table of contents, or metadata to the ebook first.

Once you’ve built the file, it’s a simple job to drag it over to your Kindle over a USB connection.

MobiPocket creator does a great job of reflowing the layout and removing headers and footers which would otherwise mar your newly created ebook.

Confused about the Google Book Settlement Agreement?

If you’re anything like me, the 300 page Google Book Settlement document is more mumbo jumbo than you want to read.

Be grateful, then, for legal minds who can pull ten pages of the most important points out of the mammoth agreement. Attorney Joy Butler has posted a ten page annotated summary of the document, and is making available a teleseminar on the subject for free.

Access it from her blog, Guide Through the Legal Jungle

If you’re a book publisher, don’t put this off. There’s only 20 days left to opt-out.