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Multimedia Books: A Comparison of Publishers

Multimedia ebooks, enhanced books, enriched books, interactive ebooks—whatever you call them, they’re here to stay. As more companies make the foray into multimedia book publishing, authors have greater opportunities than ever to transform their static PDFs into living stories with the addition of audio, video, and graphics.

Below is a comparison of the top multimedia ebook publishers on the market, but keep your eyes peeled. There are new ones popping up every day.

iBooks Author—iBooks Author allows you to create multimedia books for your iPad. Choose a template; drag and drop photos, video, and text; customize the design; add widgets, and voila—you’re an enhanced ebook author.

Pros: No cost to the author. Customizable templates make it easy to use.

Cons: iBooks can only be read on iPads, not on nooks or laptops or any other e-readers. If you want to sell your book through the iBooks store, it has to have an ISBN which costs $125, and Apple will take 30%.

Vook—A pioneer of multimedia ebook self-publishing, Vook launched in 2009 with four books that could only be read on a PC. Today, Vook books (vooks?) are available for the iPad, nook, and Kindle.

Pros: Professional quality ebooks that can be sold through Vook, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Apple.

Cons: Unlike iBooks Author, Vook doesn’t allow you to design your own book. You submit all your materials, and one of Vook’s designers formats your book for you. You have to submit your text, photos, audio, and video before you can get a free quote, and their website doesn’t provide any kind of price range, so I can’t even give you a ballpark figure what it will cost. Here’s the royalty breakdown for each distributor.

Atavist Create—If you aren’t familiar with the Atavist, it started as a publisher of multimedia long-form narrative nonfiction and later expanded into fiction. Soon it will be making its self-publishing platform, Atavist Create, available to the public. Check out my friend James Nestor’s Atavist original, Half-Safe, for an idea of what an Atavist book can look like (but remember that Half-Safe, like all Atavist originals, was professionally designed and published by the Atavist. It wasn’t self-published through Atavist Create.) View a demonstration or sign up to be a beta tester.

Pros: Atavist books are high-quality interactive ebooks that are quite a bit more sophisticated than iBooks Author books. They include maps, timelines, and a full audio book in addition to graphics, videos, and shorter audio clips. Like vooks, Atavist books can be viewed on various e-readers, not just iPads.

Cons: Until Atavist Create is released to the general public, there’s no telling how much it’s going to cost.

Kwik and Moglue—If you’re looking to create “story apps” or “book apps”—particularly children’s interactive picture books for Apple and Android devices—and you don’t know code, then check out Moglue and Kwik, which charge a flat rate of $199-$299 depending on your needs but don’t take a commission from the sale of your book.

While all of these platforms allow authors to add audio, video, and graphics to text-based books, Michael J. Coren, co-founder of MajorPlanet Studios, a production studio for telling multimedia stories, thinks storytelling is headed in a whole new direction. “When television was first invented, we basically filmed radio shows. There wasn’t the knowledge to create something new. With multimedia books, we’re not just creating books. We’re looking at new ways to tell stories. We’re rethinking what that interface should look like entirely.”

Coren cites the New York TimesSnowfall as an example of what can be done with multimedia storytelling. But does this mean the end of traditional books? Nah.

“Sometimes I just want to disappear under a book, no photos, just words,” Coren says. “But when it’s appropriate, each story can find its appropriate form and should be published that way.”

What about you? Have you tried iBooks Author? Have you read a Vook or Atavist multimedia book? What did you think?

19 comments to Multimedia Books: A Comparison of Publishers

  • Everything is evolving so fast how do you keep up with it all. I had no idea of this whole other world. My sister in law is going to appreciate this information. Thanks!

    • meghancward

      M. I'm particularly interested in this now because I just spent the weekend interviewing my father about his life and want to take the audio, video, and text and combine it into a multimedia ebook. Not that he'll be able to read it since he refuses to use an e-reader!

  • Thanks for the list of pros and cons. I had not heard about Moglue for interactive books. I'll have to check it out. One note with Kwik, if I read everything correctly, in addition to the software, you need Photoshop and a subscription to Corona. After the initial investment though, it looks like a great way to control your apps. (I haven't explored any of them personally yet, but plan to in the next few weeks.

    • meghancward

      You're right about Moglue, Stacy. At least I know you need PhotoShop. I don't even know what Corona is. But Moglue is really more for making apps than for making multimedia books. Just depends on what you want to do.

  • Kristan

    Yes, thanks for the overview. I personally have no interest in multimedia books — making or reading, haha — but I'm sure I would have loved it as a kid.

    • meghancward

      Kristan, they're great for certain uses, like how-to books. And my plan is to take text, video, audio, and photos of my dad's and make him a book for his birthday (shh! don't tell him!).

      • Kristan

        Aw, that's a great idea! I'm sure he will love it. It'll be tough keeping that secret, though, because you know how often I hang with your dad. ;P

        (And yes, how-to, and I imagine many other nonfiction books, could get a lot of use out of auxiliary features.)

        • meghancward

          I'm not too worried about my dad reading my blog comments either, since he never did learn how to turn on a computer 🙂

  • Hi Meghan – just attended a 2 day conference on Intelligent Content and came away with a few more apps to check out for multimedia books (from a presentation made by Vook's VP of Biz Dev): Democrasoft, Readmill, Read Social, LeanPub, and Wattpad…haven't delved into them myself yet but perhaps you or your readers wanted to check those out too!

  • Rise Of The Tiger

    Hi Meghan, thanks for this great breakdown. Have you seen Demibooks yet? It's a relative newcomer to the market, and seems to be more on the "animated storybook" end of things–allowing people to animate pieces of static picture-book illustrations for an interactive book experience on iPad. The founder, Stacey Williams-Ng, is a friend of mine.

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