Innovation in business often means throwing out the old rulebook and beginning from scratch with a new direction. That’s exactly what Brad Inman, founder and chief executive officer of the start up Vook had in mind with his company, which could have users closing the book when it comes to paper and even powering down the Amazon Kindle in favor of going with a downloadable app. In addition to browser based offerings, the digital publisher just launched its
first apps for the Apple iPhone in October.
The question is whether consumers will demand more, and whether apps such as Vook could influence the design of smartphones going forward. We talked with Inman about the state of mobile readers and apps. Here is what he had to say.
AllBusiness.com: It is safe to say that people aren’t exactly reading the way they use to, and Vook’s mobile apps could change that even more. Do you think Vook will be able to compete with the major “e-readers” such as the Kindle from Amazon.com?
Brad Inman: Yes, reading habits are changing; people digest multimedia on the Internet now, text, video and images. Vook brings those elements together in one single application. Yes, we are competing with Amazon very effectively. On Crush It sales, our Vook represents 3.8 percent of total sales while Kindle is 5 percent. Not bad for a start-up that launched a month ago.
AllBusiness.com: There have been a number of transitions for books of course, including the books on tape and then Audible, but clearly digital is changing things. As far as apps go, how are the publishers reacting and adapting? Because I think what could stop this from working would be if a publisher or respected author didn’t want “an app for that.” Do you see this a potential problem?
Inman: It is not for everyone, but we are overloaded with interest from publishers.
AllBusiness.com: The biggest hurdle I’ve seen with the e-readers is that these require the user to be a little tech savvy, so it certainly doesn’t seem like this is for your 80-year-old grandmother necessarily, and I would see Vook having the same problem. Is this something you might be trying to address?
Inman: If you can use a computer or an iPhone, you can read a Vook. If not, you cannot.
AllBusiness.com: The other issue with e-readers in my mind is that these have issues, such as battery life, you need to shut down for takeoff on a plane, and again these are the same problems that you face. Is this just part of the issue of going from paper to digital?
Inman: True, all problems that will be solved with time.
AllBusiness.com: I would also ask whether you think the Vook apps might encourage the phone makers to change their devices. Already some apps are held not by the functionality but the usability with the device. Do you see Vook as a type of convergence technology that might inspire new designs for mobile handsets, especially smartphones?