Some very interesting news yesterday from Digital Book World. The New York Times is partnering with Byliner and Vook to produce a series of e-books.
I first heard about Byliner about a year an half ago when I spent a month at the Banff Centre, hanging out with Robert Boynton, director of NYU’s literary reportage program. We were part of a group of eight literary journalists spending the month working on long projects. We Canadian journalists were feeling dour. 2011 seemed another grim year in the slow death of newspapers and magazines. All around us, at the Centre, were young dancers, musicians and artists, all working towards their dreams. I can’t speak for everyone, but I felt like we were the last dinosaurs in a slowly rising ocean of busy fish indifferent to our impending extinction.
Robert, however, was upbeat. All kinds of things were happening, he insisted, in the world of long form journalism. He pointed to byliner as an example. The San Francisco startup was building a digital magazine that worked almost like a cross between Amazon and iTunes. Byliner linked up commissioned digital journalism with traditional long form journalism to create something close to a bookstore that would prompt people towards long essays in subjects or by writers they enjoyed. It was hard to tell at the time if this was something that might break the worsening glut of undervalued high quality journalism, or one more project that would only contribute to it.
Vook on the other hand, I already knew about This was a digital publisher that creates special interest books by combining print and video. A few months before, I’d bought one of their most popular titles for my son, Tae Kwon Do for Kids. It was an ingenious book/app that combined both text and video demonstrations of basic moves. For someone who struggles with co-ordination like my son, it was an invaluable resource alongside his regular Tae Kwon Do classes.
At the time I saw more potential for the Vook than the Byliner model.
But in the last year I’ve started to notice more and more magazines (The Walrus for instance) head out on the e-book production trail. It’s beginning to sound a little more like Christmas. Which is probably because it’s ten days before Christmas. But for now I’m going with the flow of possibility.